Monday, March 1, 2010

Books I Read in February

Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions by Mark Driscoll - Although I have often enjoyed learning from Mark Driscoll via the web (more so in the past), this is the first book of his I have owned. I received it free through christianaudio.com. It took me close to ten hours to complete which is quite a bit longer than previous audiobooks I have listened to. Pastor Mark asked his predominately young, male, Mars Hill congregation in Seattle to submit to him their burning questions, and after nearly 900 questions were compiled, Driscoll addressed the top nine questions. These questions at times include material that should only be discussed by mature adults and are handled very candidly. Questions cover a hodgepodge of topics including birth control, humor, predestination, grace, sexual sin, faith and works, dating, the emerging church and the regulative principle. I find Driscoll's style to be rather entertaining at times, but at other times I find him to be a little too direct. This shouldn't surprise those who are even a little familiar with Driscoll. Religion Saves is a book that has portions that will definitely offend some conservative Christians. This is a book that you don't have to read chapter by chapter so skipping around won't create confusion. Reading only the chapters you feel you would most benefit from might be a good option for some.

Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll - This 48-page book can be purchased for eight bucks, but I suggest downloading it for free at http://www.theresurgence.com/. I really don't think the paperback is worth purchasing, but I do think distributing it online would provide many men the scriptural insights for fatherhood we need to hear. Pastor Dad is the edited transcript of an eighty-one-minute sermon originally preached by Pastor Mark back in 2001. It consists of seven very short chapters - Worshiping the God of our Fathers, The Fruitful Vine, Cultivating Kids, The Masculine Duty to Provide, Instruction Followed by Correction, Protecting From Sin and Folly, and Countering Culture. Despite the short length of the book, it contains many verses, especially from the Book of Proverbs. It should be noted that the book is written from a middle-class western perspective and those from the Eastside might not always be able to relate to the examples given.

Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon - This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Professor Gordon's book covers a topic that I have not come across, and I found it fascinating and straightforward. It is clearly evident to me why all 13 Amazon reviewers of Why Johnny Can't Preach gave it five stars. Professor Gordon explains the causes of the disappointing preaching that is found in many churches across America. What I really liked about the book is that it is not simply a book for seminarians and pastors, but it is a book for all Christians. Gordon tells us how we can be more effective communicators. I would like to improve my reading, writing and speaking skills, and Gordon provides simple and clear answers to what we do and do not need to do. If you desire to direct others toward Christ in your speech, I recommend Gordon's analysis on the state of preaching in America and how the electronic media culture affects it.

How Sermons Work by David Murray - This e-book was written for four kinds of people - seminary students, pastors, elders, and non-preachers. Most of us do not fall into the first three categories, but if you worship at a local church, you can still benefit from this quick read. This book will only help us better understand the Word of God. How Sermons Work is just 64 pages long and is divided into ten chapters entitled preparation, selection, interrogation, variation, introduction, organization (I and II), application (I and II), and presentation. Reading this book helped me better understand all of the work a pastor does (or should do) to prepare his sermon and what I should do if I am led to preach one Sunday morning.

The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper - After receiving The Roots of Endurance from a colleague of mine one year ago, I decided that one day I would read The Legacy of Sovereign Joy. Both of these books are part of a five book series from John Piper called The Swans are Not Silent. I have completed nearly a dozen Piper books, and each time I have come away having benefited tremendously. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy examines God's triumphant grace in the lives of three giants of the Christian faith - Aurelius Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. God used these men powerfully to teach his church what grace really means. Reading about these men reminded me that they certainly had their flaws and that I am to only exalt our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, these men had a white-hot passion for the sovereign joy of God, but it is God who put that in them. If you are interested in learning more about how God opened the eyes of totally depraved men helping them to overcome their struggles to become God-glorifying men of the Word, I highly encourage you to read The Legacy of Sovereign Joy.

The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper - I received The Future of Justification from a colleague a couple of years ago, and I finally got motivated and made a goal to finish the book this school year. This is by far the most academic of the Piper books I have read, and I had to take my time reading it. I read certain portions of the book more than once in order to gain a fuller understanding of what was being stated. Although the book was not one of the more enjoyable Piper books I have read, I realize I need to read more books like this. It covers a topic that I teach and a topic that all of us need to better understand. It is not surprising to see such a range in the reviews of this book, but I do feel that Piper is Christlike in how he responds to Wright and the `New Perspective on Paul.' Keep in mind that Pastor Piper read an 11,000-word response from Wright himself as part of the detailed critical feedback he received to improve the first draft of this book. The 240-page book is organized into eleven chapters and contains six self-standing appendices that were not written in response to the work of N.T. Wright. If you read The Future of Justification like many leading scholars have done, you will be taking a serious look at the biblical doctrines of justification and imputation.