We are half way through 2013. This year seems like it has flown by. Maybe it’s just all the traveling, house repairs, and baby excitement from the first part of the year. I don’t expect the second half to slow down at all. I wanted to share my favorite books of the year so far. These are ones if your books budget is limited or you don’t read a lot you will want to pick up.
Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor (Penguin/Dutton)
Keller has done it again--another book that I loved and couldn’t put down. Every Good Endeavor is a Neo-Calvinism manifesto on the beauty of work and the creation mandate. Keller says,
The material creation was made by God to be developed, cultivated, and cared for in an endless number of ways through human labor. But even the simplest of these ways is important. Without them all, human life cannot flourish. (p. 50)
What I really loved about this book was the practicality. These pillars above are truths Keller has implemented at Redeemer Pres (p. 166 and Introduction & Epilogue). These aren’t dry, academic, or impractical theory. They are truths that literately impact every one. We all work.
J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity (David C. Cook)
I love Cold-Case Christianity. It’s true I’ve been reading a lot of crime thrillers this year but that’s not the only reason I love this book. Jim writes a compelling book that’s beneficial for every believer. He provides a reasoned case for the hope that we have in Christ. He starts,
I used to think of faith as the opposite of reason. In this characterization of the dichotomy, I believed that atheists were reasonable “freethinkers” while believers were simple, mindless drones who blindly followed the unreasonable teaching of their leadership. But if you think about it, faith is actually the opposite of unbelief, not reason. As I began to read through the Bible as a skeptic, I came to understand that the biblical definition of faith is a well-placed and reasonable inference based on evidence. I wasn’t raised in the Christian culture, and I think I have an unusually high amount of respect for evidence. Perhaps this is why this definition of faith comes easily to me. I now understand that it’s possible for reasonable people to examine the evidence and conclude that Christianity is true. While my skeptical friends may not agree on how the evidence related to the resurrection should be interpreted, I want them to under- stand that I’ve arrived at my conclusions reasonably. (p. 51)
Too many Christians retreat when discussing faith with non-believers. In answer to the skeptics skepticism, they don’t provide a reason for their faith. They might say something like, “I just have faith. We don’t need reasons.” How wrong. I don’t know about you but my faith is well reasoned. Christianity is logical and reasonable in my estimation. That’s the point Jim is making in this book. Faith is reasonable.
Aaron Youngren’s Illustrated Puritans The Bruised Reed (St. George Rides the Dragon Press)
I will offer a brief overview of the text of The Bruised Reed itself but mainly I will be urging you to purchase this particular edition of Richard Sibbes’s classic tome. First about the text itself. The Bruised Reed may be the most life changing book outside of Scripture I’ve read. I’m sure part of that has to do with my own constitution. I’m prone to feel very much like a bruised reed or a floundering flame. Sibbes provides gospel rich pastoral care for those kinds of souls. I’m prone to believe we all experience these kinds of feelings to some degree or another in our life. Maybe some to a greater extent but life in a fallen world will produce sadness at times.
For those times you should read this book and store it away to read again when you are in the midst of the storm. This book is an exposition of Isaiah 42:3 “a bruised reed he will not break, / and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; / he will faithfully bring forth justice.” But in the typical Puritan style Sibbes expounds this passage through a gospel story lens. You will see as you read through that this book is stringently trinitarian. He focus relentlessly on Jesus’s finished work on your behalf and on his mediatoral role as our high priest; on the Spirit’s work as comforter; and the Father’s work as sovereign orchestrator of your salvation. I could liter this review with quotation after quotation filled with trinitarian gospel delight.
Mike Cosper’s Rythms of Grace (Crossway)
You may see the title and subtitle and think Rhythms of Grace is only about music in the church. Mike Cosper does talk music but he approaches worship more holistically. As a matter of fact, he says,
Today, when many worship services are reduced to preaching and music, it becomes very easy to equate music with worship--and that’s a dangerous slope to park your car on. (p. 153)
I’ll give you three reasons you should read this book--even if (especially if?) you don’t lead worship in your church. First, Cosper exerts great effort in making the Trinity central in worship.
Sam Storm’s Kingdom Come (Christian Focus Publisher)
I have a smeared history with eschatology. I grew up in dispensational churches and honestly the topic of ends times never gave me much hope. I never had a longing for the end. I lived in fear and doubt. I was afraid of being left behind (ironically, that turn of phrase has made some authors a lot of money). After studying Scripture and finding myself reformed I knew I wasn’t dispensational anymore but I was so turned off the topic of eschatology it was until recently, I gave any attention to read anything excluding Scripture on the topic. It didn’t interest me because I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Sam Storms’s Kingdom Come provides hope, longing, and points to Jesus Christ as the hero of all the story (pp. 6-30 are superb). That’s what I took away most of all. The end times--all about Jesus. The OT promises--all about Jesus.
Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God (IVP Books)
Formed for the Glory of God is my favorite book of June. It’s odd reading Kyle describe the struggle he had to find a publisher. They said a book written from his perspective would sell, but not from Jonathan Edward’s. Thankfully Kyle dismisses that non-sense and continues to pursue a publisher for the book he finally writes.
Formed for the Glory of God centers on the pursuit of God. Kyle writes,
Spiritual formation is about a life oriented to God in Christ by the Spirit. Since spiritual formation is not, ultimately, about us at all, but about God, we must set our minds and hearts on him rather than our problems, our shortcomings or our desire to change. (p. 13)
Those sentences are a compass for the enter book and a breath of fresh air. It hints at some explicit themes found later in the book--spiritual formation is God centered and spiritual formation is trinitarian. He frequently uses that kind of Trinitarian formulation as he explores our union and communion with God as seen through the vision of Jonathan Edwards (pp. 31, 32, 37, 42, 48, 50, 52, 64, 66 and I could go on).