Tag Archives: books

Books I’m Reading This Summer

Books function in a very interesting way. The author portrays images, settings, and plots that we can visualize as we read their words. Most of us will probably never have the privilege of talking with John Bunyan or John Piper, but we can sit down with them by reading their books. Their message can be engraved in our hearts by spending time with the books that they poured their energies into.

I think it is spiritually beneficial to read many, many books. And for those of us who love to read, we typically spend our free time in the Summer months reading. Of course, I play tennis, sweat doing yard work, plan ministry events, and other things that ministers do during the Summer. But I make it a priority to prevent myself from being so busy during the Summer that I neglect reading books. If I’m too busy to spend some time with some of the greatest authors in the literary universe, then I’m too busy. So I have a list of books I’m reading this Summer I wanted to share, and encourage you to add them to your list if you haven’t compiled a list already. Many of them I have already begun reading. So here they are:

Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

I have heard this book referenced from pastors in sermons to scholars in commentaries, but I never read it. I started reading a few weeks ago, and this is a must read book for any Christian seeking to see his Christian pilgrimage in a different light. The author, John Bunyan, tells of a pilgrim named Christian on a journey to the Celestial City and all of the obstacles that he meets on the way. The theology of this book is deep. Written in 1661, Bunyan allegorically teaches the basic tenets of the Christian life by way of a pilgrim on his way to a great city, with the Lord as King. It’s a good book for college students like myself who are used to reading systematic theologies and textbooks, because it is a fiction book. It’s just a story, but it is the story of our lives as Christians, and this is easily seen from the first few sentences.

Mueller, George. Answers to Prayer (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007).

The editor writes on the back cover, “When George Mueller could not get it out of his mind to open a house for orphans in late 1835, he purposed to do so “that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith.” George Mueller was a man of prayer and great faith.  Recorded in this book are thousands of answers to his prayers. When Mueller endeavored to open these orphan houses, he was only provided for by God and by the prayers he prayed. This book is a great encouragement to unceasing prayer.

Hamilton, James M. What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).

The Bible tells one big story: God’s redemption for His people. That’s what Hamilton’s book is all about (from what I’ve read so far). In it, he provides a guide to interpreting the Bible’s clearly recognizable patterns and symbols that tells us about the big story of the Bible. There is a way that God intends for us to read the Bible, that is, in light of its big story. That’s what this book is all about: how we can read the Bible the way God intended. This book is endorsed by some of the greatest Bible teachers in our day.

Sproul, R. C. What is Reformed Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997).

I’ve never read a book by Dr. Sproul that didn’t help me grow in my faith. I won’t write here about my struggle in my beliefs about the sovereignty of God (it’s a long story), but I have found Dr. R. C.’s teaching the most helpful on the subject. Long ago, when I fought against Calvinism and all tenets of reformed theology, I would never read anything by Sproul or any other author I suspected was reformed. But through the years, and through countless reading and study, I have come to accept reformed theology as entirely biblical. One of the books that helped me realize the truthfulness of reformed theology was Dr. Sproul’s book, Chosen by GodHe explained the grandest truths of Scripture like election, and man’s responsibility in easy-to-understand terms. Reading this book led me to desire a wider reading on the subject, so I picked up this book to read on the subject further. Now, I have tons of books on reformed theology ranging from Calvin to Horton, but I felt like Dr. Sproul is very gifted in explaining its deep content in a way where lay-readers and students can understand clearly.

Lee, Trip (William Lee Barefield, III). Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015).

Trip Lee is a Christian rapper and committed follower of Jesus who has greatly impacted the lives of thousands of people. One of things you immediately recognize about him is his fervor against cultural identification and the need for standing out as a Christian. His latest album, Rise clearly reveals this. This book is the companion to that album. And the foreword is by John Piper, so you know it has to be good. It is also endorsed by a few of the greatest NFL players today.

Murray, David Philip. Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

I’ll be honest: I struggle when I try to preach from the Old Testament. I simply don’t have the experience preaching in the Old Testament like I do in the New Testament. But it is my conviction that the Old Testament is just as much the Bible as the New Testament is. Paul says that “All Scripture is inspired by God,” (2 Tim. 3:16), and that includes the largest portion of the Bible: the Old Testament. The area I struggle with the most is finding out how an Old Testament narrative or prophecy relates directly to Jesus. I know that it does, for all of the Bible is Christ-centered. I just want to know how. That is why I picked up this book. From the reviews I have read, it looks like it will do the trick.

Mohler Jr., R. Albert. He is Not Silent (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Dr. Mohler has impacted my life in more ways than I can count, and especially in the area of preaching. He is one of the leading voices in the evangelical world today for the need of expository preaching in our churches. Expository preaching is proclaiming the Bible the way the authors intended for us to proclaim it. It is preaching the true meaning of biblical texts that is relevant to everyday life. From reading Mohler often, I felt I needed this book. It seems that in it, Mohler provides a theology of preaching and presents the real necessity for expository preaching in our day.

What are you reading this Summer?

A Review: Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael A. G. Haykin

The significance of studying the church fathers cannot be measured. Their defenses of Christian doctrine against the earliest heresies, their rich interpretation of Scripture, and their brilliant philosophies are definitely worth careful consideration. Rediscovering the Church Fathers is a great place to start. As Michael A. G. Haykin walks you through the lives of the most important key figures in church history, you will find yourself captivated by the godly lives of these men who devoted their time and effort to edifying the body of Christ. This book is for anyone desiring to have a beginner’s understanding of the lives and writings of the early church fathers.

Haykin begins this book by stating its purpose in the first chapter: the need for studying the fathers among evangelicals. Haykin states that we should study the church fathers for such reasons as freedom and wisdom, understanding the New Testament, correcting mistaken views about the fathers, apologetic reasons, and for spiritual nourishment. The second chapter considers the life and thought of Ignatius of Antioch. He was known mainly for his martyrdom, and some even call him insane for the way he viewed his sure death. As Haykin brings out, Ignatius was willing to die by martyrdom because he “is certain that his martyrdom will please God” (p. 42). The argument of this chapter is that the Christian message was “so central [to] Christian orthodoxy, that it was worth dying for” (p. 48).

Chapter 3 is an examination of the apologetic writing, The Letter to Diognetus. Haykin walks you through the significant points of this letter and demonstrates how apologetically minded the author of this letter was and how this letter contributed to the shape of the early church in that it “permeated the ancient church’s witness to a sin-shaped culture” (p. 67). Chapter 4 is a study of the life and thought of the great exegete, Origen. Haykin gives a detailed biography of Origen’s early life and his contribution to the life of the early church by writing commentaries, books, and pioneering interpretation of biblical texts. This is one of the best balanced treatments of Origen that I have ever read. Chapter 5 is a look at the lives of two men who helped thrust religious piety towards the Lord’s Supper: Cyprian and Ambrose. Haykin shows the ways in which they both contributed to a biblical understanding of the Eucharist. Cyprian’s contribution was that he viewed the Eucharist as “a place where the believer knows afresh the forgiveness of the Lord and as a result is suffused with joy” (p. 97). This, of course, is the more reformed view of the Lord’s Supper. Ambrose’s contribution however, was that he identified “Christ’s words of institution as the means by which a change is effected in the elements of bread and wine” (p. 100). Ambrose’s thought would lead to a confusion of symbol and meaning, but nevertheless, both Cyprian and Ambrose are good representatives of the shifts in thought about the Lord’s Supper during that time. Haykin brings this out very well.

Then chapter 6 is a lengthy examination of the life and thought of Basil of Caesarea. This chapter is full of great quotes and rich writings from the pen of Basil, and Haykin shows what a great monastic reformer he was. Haykin mentions Basil’s defense of the Holy Spirit’s deity, during a time of controversy by noting the greatest work from the pen of Basil, namely On the Holy Spirit. This too, like the treatment of Origen, is one of the greatest readings on Basil of Caesarea. Chapter 7 is the last of the church fathers that are studied in this book, and it consists of a brief biography of Saint Patrick. Haykin tells us what the economic and social setting of that time was, and then proceeds to talk about Patrick’s career and his conversion. This is one of the most beautiful conversion stories in the history of the early church. What Haykin writes about Patrick’s conversion is worth getting this book. Haykin also notes what Patrick is most known for: his great missionary efforts. And Haykin concludes this chapter with a brief look at the impact he had on the Celtic church.

In chapter 8, Haykin gives a personal testimony to his encounter with studying the fathers. He talks about his honored mentors who introduced him to Patristics (the study of the church fathers), and encouraged him to further study. Then Haykin describes his doctoral studies on the life and thought of Basil and Athanasius. The appendixes of this book are also helpful. Haykin asks the question, “Where does one begin reading the fathers?” (p. 157). He then lists a number of helpful books that would aid anyone in their understanding of Patristics. Haykin concludes this book with an examination of one of his mentors, Jaroslav Pelikan, and his thought in Patristics. This part of the book is very touching because you get to see the personal life of Dr. Haykin.

What Haykin attempts to accomplish throughout this book is to give an outlook of how these early Christian figures have shaped our understanding of theology. They have contributed through their preaching, their many books, and in some cases their deaths. Haykin gives a new perspective on these great Christian thinkers by showing the different ways in which they have shaped contemporary Christianity.

Get Rediscovering the Church Fathers $9.39 for Kindle, or $13.82 Paperback.