If you are like me, reading is a pain and a luxury.
I am in seminary right now, and reading is a pain. The problem is not the books we have to read, but the fact that we are forced to read them. I usually end up reading less during the semester than I do when we are on break.
Reading is also a luxury to me because I truly love learning. I want to know what other minds think, feel, and believe about a subject. I know I don’t have this whole life figured out, and I don’t believe just because someone wrote a book, that they do. God created us to do this life together, and books help with that.
Disciples of Christ should be willing to learn so that they can do. So I have compiled a short list of some books that have been helpful to me. The reason I chose these particular books is that I think they are some that you may not have read or even heard of some of the authors. There are a couple that are fairly popular, but nonetheless, should be read. I would not say these are my seven favorite books I have ever read, but they have made a lasting impact on me and my ministry.
God saved me when I was 18. About a year later, He began to give me a passion for reading. The Pursuit of God was one of the first five books I bought along with Tozer’s The Purpose of Man. Tozer has had many published works, but The Pursuit of God is probably his most popular. This book gave me a hunger to know God more. It drove me to His Word. Tozer expresses his thoughts on the Lord like he knows Him, and it’s contagious.
“The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of that foul revolt, and to bring us back again into right and eternal relationship with Himself. This required that our sins be disposed of satisfactorily, that a full reconciliation be effected and the way opened for us to return again into conscious communion with God and to live again in the Presence as before. Then by His prevenient working within us He moves us to return. This first comes to our notice when our restless hearts feel a yearning for the Presence of God and we say within ourselves, ‘I will arise and go to my Father.'” p.23
Matt Papa is a worship leader that tours around doing conferences and camps. I first heard of him at a youth camp in Dothan, AL called Wired. It was all week, so we really got to spend some time together. Some worship leaders don’t truly lead you in worship, they just stand up there and sing songs. Matt Papa is a lead worshipper. I was so impressed by him that I made sure to get his book. The subtitle to the book is “Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ.” If that doesn’t make you want to read it, then I don’t what will. This book really helped me to better understand what it means to “fall short of the glory of God.” Also, the chapter entitled “Glory and Suffering” is perhaps one of the best, concise dealings with suffering and the character of God I have ever read.
“At the cross we see a God who not only works for our good, but who also suffers for it. Bleeds for it. Look at Him. The Infinite Innocent, suffering in the place of the Barabbas race… If He ordered a bloody cross for our eternal salvation, will He not order our every little prick and tear for our benefit? This is Romans 8:32’s logic: ‘He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?'” p.194
Whitney is famous for his Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life book that has been used in seminaries and by Christians all over the world. This is his newest book, and it is incredibly helpful. Using the Bible as a prayer book is not a revolutionary idea, as Whitney admits in his book, but he gives the read a great framework to use. He pulls out passages and explains how it can be easily done. Most Christians’ problem with prayer is that we pray about the same old things the same old way. Using the Bible explicitly in my prayer life has dramatically changed the way I talk to God. If you want to start, this book is the best resources I know available.
“I have enough confidence in the Word and the Spirit of God to believe that if people pray in this way, in the long run their prayers will be far more Biblical than if they just make up their own prayers. That’s what people usually do: make up their own prayers. What’s the result? We tend to say the same old things about the same old things. And without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read Scripture.”
Alvin Reid is within my top 10 favorite authors. He is the professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry and Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. That sounds fancy, but this man has lived it. Anything you can get by him (especially if you are in student ministry, get As You Go) grab it and eat it up. This particular book is pretty stout, coming in at 468 pages. However, there’s not a wasted page in it. It has perfect balance of the theoretical and the practical. Every Christian should be sharing their faith, and with all the great resources out there (let’s not forget the Holy Spirit who empowers us) we have no excuse.
“The early church lacked so many things the Western church has today. They had no completed Bibles, no PowerPoint, no killer worship bands, and no teams of songwriters. Yet the worshipped well. They had no Christian bookstores, Christian schools, or Christian parachurch groups. They did not even have church buildings! Yet they grew disciples. They had no great influence in the culture, no seminaries to train their ministers, and no tax-exempt status to encourage believers to give. They lacked so many things we have. But they seemed to have one thing we lack: much power in the Holy Spirit! In fact, if you take the Holy Spirit out of the book of Acts, it would be hard to imagine them becoming anymore than one more religious sect that arose and then quickly faded away.” p.151
I said at the beginning of this blog that this wasn’t a list of my favorite books, however, I would rank this book in my top 5 books. I bought this book when a revival group came to my church. I saw the power of revival first hand and wanted more. Ravenhill was a famous revivalist in England and later in the States, and I have personal friends who spent time with him. He was a true man of God. This book is more specifically geared toward preachers, which is why it hits so hard on me. I read this book yearly as a reminder of how deeply prayer affects my life, ministry, and the souls of those around me.
“No man is greater than his prayer life. (Note from Josh: That quote is among the most powerful I have ever read) The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off. Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.” p.25
Wilson is someone I became familiar with through Matt Chandler. If you have read some of Chandler’s books like The Explicit Gospel, The Mingling of Souls, or To Live is Christ to Die is Gain, then you have read some of Wilson’s writing. He has a very distinguished vocabulary so you can tell when he chimes in during Chandler’s books. Gospel Deeps was the first book I bought solely by him and now I’m hooked. He presents things in a very articulate yet clear way. This book takes the Gospel beyond (not more than) the typical Sunday morning sermon about the Gospel. He holds the Gospel up like a diamond so we can examine all of its multi-faceted greatness.
“Even the bigness of union with Christ is a reflection of the bigness of God’s saving design. At every angle of the gospel’s narrative stands God the Author. We are saved by his grace, not our works. We are saved not merely from disability but from his wrath. We are saved not through our goodness but through his Son’s. We are saved not to wander but into reconciliation with him and the fold of heaven. We are saved not primarily for our glory but for his. In short? We are saved by God from God through God to God for God. The idea for our salvation is the Father’s; the work of our salvation is the Son’s; the dispensing of salvation is the Spirit’s. So that in all God will get the glory.” p. 161
I have my fair share of concerns about Peterson, however, he knows how to be a pastor. Everything he writes is out of pastorally care. The first half of this book is about Jesus’ parables in Luke, the second half deals his prayers throughout the gospel. Thats nothing groundbreaking, but the uniqueness of the book is in how Peterson handles these aspects of Jesus’ ministry. He focuses on not what Jesus said but how he said it. He dissects the language Jesus uses to lead people to truth, rather than beat them over the head with it.
“I want to tear down the fences we have erected between language that deals with God and language that deals with people around us. It is, after all, the same language. The same God we address in prayer and proclaim in sermons is also deeply, eternally involved in the men and women we engaged in conversation, whether casually or intentionally. But not always obviously. God’s words are not always prefaced by “Thus says the Lord.” It takes time and attentiveness to make connections between the said and the unsaid, the direct and the indirect, the straightforward and the oblique. There are many occasions when the imperious or blunt approach honors neither our God or our neighbor. Unlike raw facts, truth, especially personal truth, requires the cultivation of unhurried intimacies.” p.4
What are some books that you would recommend to the Broken Shepherd staff and others? Share in the comments below or tell us on Facebook!
Happy reading in 2016!