It has been another wonderful year for me here at the Trough. As many of you know 2017 has been a year packed with transitions as we relocated from Texas to New York to plant a church. The plant is coming along nicely and God has been so incredibly faithful in providing abundant grace to us during this time. Despite all the shifts the Lord did not stop nourishing my soul through his word and other timely books that shaped my soul this year. Below I will give the title, author, publisher and a brief synopsis of each.
1. The Art of Marriage, by Family Life, Family Life Publishing.
Marriage is something that you are never finished working at. So often we put our marriages on the back-burner for jobs, kids, ministry and other things and don’t realize the condition it is in until something terrible is said or done. This workbook (with accompanying DVD courses) acts like a tune-up for your marriage. It is well worth the time. These materials will teach and equip each person in the marriage to strive for oneness and the glory of God.
2. To Be Continued?, by Samuel Waldron, Calvary Press Publishing.
In this short book on cessationism, Dr. Sam Waldron gives us “The Cascade Argument” by which he seeks to prove that the miraculous gifts of the Apostles have ceased and are no longer in operation today. Whether or not you agree with his argument, it is clearly presented and well reasoned, providing ample biblical and academic support. It is good to challenge the views you hold and explore what others are saying about some of Christianity’s most debated topics and for that purpose this book is valuable.
3. Biblical Eldership, by Alexander Strauch, Lewis & Roth Publishers
The definitive work on the subject, Strauch is technical and comprehensive. This book makes the emphatic case that the Bible is not silent when it comes to how churches are to be run and by whom. The only question is, are we open to listening to Scripture? This book is a challenging read in that if you are not apart of an Elder-led congregation and your leadership is not open to it, it can create a frustrating situation. This book has usefulness as a tool for reforming existing churches but its real value rests in starting new churches. If church planting is something you are being called to explore, then this book is a needed resource.
4. Chosen By God, by R.C. Sproul, Tyndale House Publishing.
R.C. Sproul recently went from labor to reward so right after he passed, I felt the way to remember him best would be to pick up one his classics and reap the benefits once again of the theologian’s wisdom. Chosen By God certainly didn’t disappoint! Dealing with the difficult and misunderstood subject of predestination, R.C. showcases the reformed view of predestination and masterfully contrasts it with the Arminian and Catholic views. He addresses this complex doctrine in a way that is accessible to all. Sproul also tackles many of the objections and difficult verses in the Bible related to predestination. If you have struggled to understand this biblical doctrine, as so many have, this is a good book to pick up.
5. George Whitefield, by Arnold Dallimore, Banner of Truth Publishing.
This was my first adventure into a serious biography and man was I glad I took the leap. There is so much that is gleaned by reading the account of a man God used greatly for his glory. You see doctrine in practice, you become familiar with the little choices and small acts of providence that help shape these men into the giants they are. You get to read sermons, letters, and other correspondences that create a kind of distant kinship you feel with the individual even though, in this case, he is long dead. You get to, in some sense, walk in the person’s shoes and it is a walk well worth the time and effort. If you’ve never read a good biography I strongly recommend adding one to your reading list…you’ll be glad you did.
6. The New City Catechism, Crossway Publishing.
I picked this up this year at the TGC 2017 national conference where it was being rolled out to the public en mass. I was excited to get a copy and incorporate it into our family devotions (which we did!). The catechism is broken into three sections: 1) God, Creation & Fall, Law 2) Christ, Redemption, Grace 3) Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace. Two things stand out about the catechism, the first is that it has answers for both kids and adults to read. In each question, part of the answer is colored (Orange, Blue or Green) and that colored portion is the kids’ response. But because the kid’s response is embedded in the adult answer you don’t have to do a lot of flipping pages for the whole family to use. Secondly, there is an app you can download onto your personal device to avoid having to buy multiple copies in print. The cool thing about the app is that most of the answers come with a kid-friendly song you can play. My kids loved this feature. This is a wonderful resource I would highly recommend for a person of any age.
7. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever, Crossway Publishing.
As many of you know I am in the midst of planting a church and this book has proven to be an integral part of that endeavor. It’s simple and straightforward and does a nice job of giving just the right amount of information on each of the nine marks without flooding the reader with more than they could handle or hope to implement. This is a necessary book for anyone in, or interested in, church leadership at any level.
8. Perspectives On Family Ministry, by Paul Renfro, Brandon Shields, Jay Stinson, B&H Academic.
Of all the books I read this year, this was perhaps the most interesting. I say this because of the style the book is written in. The book is essentially a written conversation between three church leaders on the issue of family ministry in the church. Each brings a different theological and procedural approach and as they each have a turn to share their view, the book then gives the others the chance to rebut the argument and then the original author of the argument gets the final say. This back and forth dynamic makes this book especially thorough and you feel like you get the chance to ask the questions you would want to ask and actually have them answered in detail. Whichever of these views you might agree with no one can doubt the importance of families to God and the local church and thus how the church relates to them is vitally important.
9. Preaching & Preachers, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Zondervan Publishing.
This is a classic compilation of a series of lectures Dr. Lloyd-Jones gave to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1969. In this volume edited by Kevin DeYoung, Dr. Lloyd-Jones presents a comprehensive treatment of the act of preaching and the preacher himself. His decades of experience lend tremendous weight to the theological and practical insights for the preacher this book contains. Dr. Lloyd -Jones wisdom is a true treasure chest that has proven itself to be timeless. If you are a preacher serious about preaching, this book allows you into the mind, heart, and practice of one of the best.
10. Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper, Crossway Publishing.
This book more than any other on this list represents the shift in my theological views toward the worship and glory of God. Piper’s main point in this work is that the glory of God is on display in the Bible and that this glory is revealed through the natural act of reading. However, Piper contends that since the Bible is not an ordinary book, natural reading alone is insufficient and thus necessitates a supernatural reading of the text which involves a deep dependence on God to open or illumine “the eyes of our heart” to see the glory God has placed in the words and phrases in our Bibles. The importance of this book is immense because it calls us all back to the place we should have never left…our Bibles. If we love God and love his glory, then we will love to read our Bibles. I am thankful for this work.
11. The Truth War, by John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson Publishing.
In the unmistakable style of any Macarthur work, Pastor MacArthur takes up sword and shield to both defend the nature and the reality of objective truth against the post-modern onslaught while simultaneously using the Book of Jude to equip the saints to defrock false teachers, heretical doctrine, and the waves of apostasy that are diluting the church. MacArthur leaves little untouched in this work. All that remains is for each of us to catch a passion for the defense and expansion of the truth of God and his word.
Books of the Bible Read This Year:
First Samuel: My main takeaway from reading this OT book again this year was that I am much more like Saul than I am like David. Prayers appreciated.
Hosea: Through this book, God reminded me that he tears and heals, strikes down and builds up (Hos 6:1). It’s been that kind of year but God has been faithful through it all.
First Corinthians: God used this book to show me the pastoral heart Paul had for this young church (4:15-16). Through his correction of their error (5: 5-7), his admonishing them to righteousness (6:20), his instruction on proper church conduct (11-14), and his grounding them in the reality of the coming resurrection (15) Paul gives us a clear picture of his pastoral care for them. I am thankful to God for showing me this picture this year.
Galatians: This book was used of God to show me two things: first, that there is no other Gospel than the one presented to us in the Bible and anyone who alters it or preaches another gospel is an enemy of the faith. Secondly, God used this book to demonstrate expositional preaching at its best as I listened to many excellent Bible teachers teach this book all the way through over the course of two and a half days.
First & Second Peter: I lingered over 1 Peter 1: 3-9 for weeks. Perhaps it was a consequence of reading Piper’s book on reading the Bible supernaturally. Whatever the reason, it is a wonderful portion of Scripture that is worth a long look as is the rest of the book. The same is true in 2 Peter 1: 5-10. Pondering the relationships and possible progressions between the items Peter lists was a rewarding experience.
Jude: Lastly, God used this short but powerful book to remind me, “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This is a needed exhortation as Gospel clarity becomes more muddied within the ranks of our own Christian communities and churches.
Well, that’s all. I hope this look back at my reading from this year will cause you to do the same and if you feel inclined, leave a comment sharing books or other resources God used this year to feed you!