Posts Tagged ‘Books’

More Used Books…

I can stop anytime I want.  But last Friday, I found a few more books to add to my library at two used bookstores:

Like most library systems, the Huntsville-Madison County Library has a Friends of the Library bookstore.  Here is what I found there:

  • Promise and Deliverance, Vol 4 (Christ and the Nations). by S. G. De Graaf:  I was most excited to find this hardback volume of an out of print set that shows the Christ-centeredness of all of Scripture (Redemptive-Historical) , with selected passages from Scripture.  We were encouraged to use this set in seminary.  Now I just need to find the other three volumes – which I can do for a price. ($1)
  • Whatever Happened to the Human Race? by C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer:  published in 1979 and 1983, this book deals with human life issues (abortion, infanticide, & euthanasia) and what it means for our society.  (25 cents)
  • A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus (revised by Dargan in 1898):  This is a 1926 hardback edition of a classic work on homiletics. (75 cents)

Then at The Booklegger, my new favorite used bookstore in town, I bought a couple of other books.

  • Reaching Out:  The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen:  I have been blessed by a couple of Nouwen’s other books that have helped me to think about pastoral ministry and spirituality.  ($3)
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell:  I have greatly enjoyed Gladwell’s previous two books and was delighted to find a used copy. ($4.50)

Now, if I can just find some quiet time to read…

I Heart McKay (and used bookstores in general)

Like most pastors, I love books.  Consequently, I love used bookstores. At least, the ones like McKay’s.  McKay’s has that rare combination of great prices and great selection.  So, a couple of weekends ago, on a trip up to Knoxville to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday, we stopped ever so briefly at the Chattanooga location of McKay’s.  We had a limited time inside the store – about ten minutes each, while the kids ate lunch in the car.  Here’s what I picked up on Saturday.

Galatians by R. Alan Cole:  This is a part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Series.  I am not familiar with Cole, but I like this series in general.  ($3.75)

The Book of Isaiah – EJ Young:  This is a three-volume set.  Young taught at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. ($3.75/volume)

Deuteronomy by Christopher Wright:  I enjoyed reading Wright’s book Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament in seminary and have relatively few commentaries on Deuteronomy. ($3.75)

The Practices of  Healthy Church:  Biblical Strategies for Vibrant Church Life and Ministry by Donald MacNair:  I actually already had this book on my shelf, but I was not sure.  In cases, like that, I find someone to give the book too if I do indeed already have it.  I was glad to be reminded of this book, as I am beginning to use with our Session to think through our health at North Hills.  In having just read the preface and first chapter, I appreciate MacNair’s emphasis on church health, rather than “church growth”. ($2)

Encountering the New Testament by Elwell and Yarbrough:  I wasn’t sure about getting this, since I have other New Testament Overviews or Introductions, but I was sucker for the price ($3).  It also came with a CD, but I have not checked that out.

It is a good thing that a). I didn’t have more time and b). that we don’t live any closer to these locations.  Even at great prices, I would go broke buying books!

July Books

With getting more situated and settled at our new home and the rest, I have been able to return a bit to my reading.  I am thankful for that.  Here are my brief thoughts (not necessarily a full-blown review) on the books that I completed reading during the month of July.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  Much like Hosseini’s previous book The Kite Runner, this book takes place in Afghanistan.  This alone is a great reason to read these books, as they can give more understanding into the land in which so many of our soldiers continue to fight against the Taliban and radical Muslims.  Of course, these books would not be as popular or worth the reading if the literary elements were not up to par.  In that regard, I very much enjoyed the story and the author’s construction of the plot, characters, and timing.  There were several times I was absolutely captured by one of his descriptions of an event or feeling, most often when he employed the use of metaphor.  The final reason I found this book worthwhile reading stems from my reflection on the religion of Islam, particularly in comparison with Christianity.    I do not know the author’s intent in this regard, though the book seemed to draw a large distinction between radical Islam (especially as practiced by the Taliban) and Islam in general.  Whether there is an apologetic in play or not, I still walked away from the book thankful that the Lord (Yahweh) is merciful and His mercy is displayed through the life & death of Jesus Christ.  This is in stark contrast to Allah who is said to be merciful, but there is no guarantee of that mercy – even if you are faithful in practicing the five pillars of Islam.  In this regard, the radical and the moderate muslim are in the same boat – without assurance of mercy or pardon.  Again, this was more my reflection, rather than something overtly present the book.  For the two previous reason, I would recommend the book, though it takes place in the real fallen world and some elements of plot and character reflect that.

Cult of the AmateurHow blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values by Andrew Keen:  I picked this book up while browsing at the library and decided early on that I would either not actually read it or liked it.  Well, I did read it and liked it to a degree.  The great majority of the book is dedicated to illustrationg how the Web 2.0 is changing our culture and our institutions (e.g. newspapers, reliable news outlets, the arts) and not for the better.  What surprised me was how strongly Keen advocated for values that have seemingly been chucked out the window in our so-called “post-Christian” culture.  Keen spoke of the devaluing of truth and basic morality (such as the idea that stealing is wrong, still) and showed how those values have been disregarded or ignored in our brave new world.  Keen is convincing to a degree, though he never provides a convincing apologetic for how things were in the past or for thsoe values that have been lost.  My major disappointment with the book was with the pittance of recommendations on alternatives or ways to use what we have and improve upon it.  Keen spends a woefully small and last chapter on this topic.  In that way, the book felt like one big complaint with exhibits A-Z.  That said, it was interesting and possibly a cautionary work.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan:  I listened to the audiobook version of this book (compliments of during my commute (all of ten minutes or so) and found much worth thinking upon and much that challenged and/or encouraged.  I appreciated that the audiobook was read by the author – there are any number of audiobooks that I have not listened too because I did not like the voice of the reader.  That was not the case here and it made me confident that the reader’s inflection fit with the author’s intentions – since they are the same.  I think the strength of this book is in the first three chapters where Chan describes who God is and how we tend to relate to Him in the wrong ways or on the wrong plane.  What was lacking for me (a result of listening rather than reading?) was a clear outline or structure to the whole book.  Of course, that may very well be intentional, as the book felt a little like stream of consciousness.  Could also be the result of listening in chunks.  After the first three chapters, Chan spends most of the rest of the book challenging luke-warm Christianity.  Hopefully, Chan was not just preaching to the choir, but reaching some of the scores of cultural Christians that fill our churches.  That is not to say that I wasn’t challenged or that true believers wouldn’t be, but I would hope that the message of the luke warm would reach the luke warm.  I think it should also be noted that Chan was not legalistic, rather presented the love and  grace of God in the Gospel.  Overall, a very good book and my issues may be more related to the context of my reading/listening, rather than the book itself.

The Narrows by Michael Connelly:  It had been a while since I had read a Bosch detective book by Connelly.  As usual, I found this book to be engaging and entertaining.  At the same time, it didn’t really cause me to reflect upon anything more deeply either (Connelly’s books have in the past).  That said, I did enjoy this one just on the basis of it being a good detective story.

Inspirational Profile: Jesus

Yesterday, I began a mini-sermon series within our series on the Book of Colossians from Colossians 1:15-23.  I am attempting to ask and answer this question:  Who is Jesus? 

Here’s how I introduced this series:

There is no doubt that there still remains uncertainty about who Jesus, whether with regard to his person (that is, who He is) or His work.  Take for instance this book that we received as a parting gift from friends in Norfolk….  The World’s Best Bathroom Book: An Inspirational Collection of Wit, Wisdom, Humor, and Fascinating Facts – a book published by a well-known Christian publisher.    Sounds interesting regardless of where you read it.  I am thankful for the kindness of this gift, but I was discouraged by what I found inside.   The first main section is a collection of about 50 or so alphabetically organized “Inspirational Profiles” starting with Neil Armstrong and ending with the Wright Brothers.   So, where does Jesus of Nazareth fit in?  Well, under J of course.  The first sentence is thus:  “Jesus Christ, to the Christian, is the Hero of all people who make a difference”.  The profile does go on to proclaim the Gospel of Christ clearly, but in my mind the damage is already done.  Jesus is just another Inspirational Profile, in between Galileo and Martin Luther King.

Paul has something radically different to communicate to the church, than that Jesus is just another good ______ (prophets, teachers, heroes, examples), in a long line of other good _______ (prophets, teachers, heroes, examples).  What Paul tells us about Christ, in line with what Christ said about himself during his public ministry, will not allow us to be so casual.”

If a Christian publisher doesn’t distinguish Jesus from other “inspirational” people, how can we expect those who don’t believe in Christ to trust Him with their lives?  Why should they?  If the Church is going to be unclear about the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ, how can we fault others for being clear that they don’t need Christ?

Quote: Churchless Christianity

From Ministry Today Magazine:

QUOTE: “I see the church derided with mockery and scorn. I see critics exaggerating her weaknesses and incapable of affirming any of her strengths. I see many leaving the church instead of loving her for better or for worse. I see lots of my peers who have 20/20 vision for the church’s failings, but are nearsighted to their own pride, self-importance and mutual self-congratulation. … Increasingly, we hear glowing talk of a churchless Christianity. …These days, spirituality is hot; religion is not. Community is hip, but the church is lame. [But] we don’t want Christians to give up on the church.” —Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., on why he and a member of his congregation decided to co-author the book Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion [, 7/20/09]”

DeYoung has turned into a prolific blogger, especially compared to this one, with great original thinking and reflection.  I read the first book that DeYoung authored and loved it – hopefully I can pick this one up sometime soon.

May & June Books (2009)

I failed to do a post for May, so here are the books that I completed reading in May & June of 2009:

May Books

Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon:   Gordon is a professor at Grove City College and he wrote this book while he was undergoing treatment for cancer.  As a result, he indicates that his tone may come off as direct as blunt, but he hopes no less heartfelt.  In reading this book, I found that both were true.  It is clear that Gordon loves the preaching of God’s Word and laments its current state within the church (“ordinarily poor”).  In reading this book and Gordon’s lament, I reacted on a couple of levels:  personally and professionally.  On the personal side, I was a little offended and wanted to defend my preaching and that of others I know.  Professionally, I know that Gordon is largely right and that my own preaching suffers from some of what is described in this book.  I am glad I read this book and has made me think seriously about my communication and how our current culture hinders that.  My one concern with this book is that I feel Gordon may have very specific and limited view of what might constitute good or great preaching (e.g. preaching that would be right at home in the 19th century, but might be foreign in the 21st).  That said, so much of what Gordon says is right on and I believe he proves his point with regard to the state of preaching (and of communication in general) today.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield:  This book is something of a literary mystery and was an excellent. The books centers around a famous author and her book-shop worker turned biographer.  The mystery lies in the author’s true past and the events, people, and forces that shaped her life.  One of my more recent favorite quotations comes from this book:  “to see is to read.”  Those were the words of the biographer in describing her love and need for reading.

July Books

Interred with their Bones by Jennifer Carrell:  Another literary styled mystery (and in this case, a thriller complete with murder and mayhem).  The mystery of this book centers around the identity of Shakespeare and a lost play.  Apparently, there is some debate about who Shakespeare was and the true identity of the author of the works we know as Shakespeare’s.  This book builds off of that premise.  It wasn’t as much of a page-turner as it suppose to be, at least for me.  Slow in spots and the entire premise seemed a little far-fetched.  Maybe, due to my slow pace, I had too much time to think about the plot.  Good, but not great read.

Free Audiobook: Crazy Love

Christian Audio, as they do each month, is offering a free audiobook (use JUL2009 as a promo code).  This month’s selection is Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless Love.

I have heard a little about this book and it has sold a lot of copies over the past year.  Anybody read this book?  I’m going to try to give it a listen during my commute (all of 8-10 minutes!) over the next few weeks.  Let me know what you think.

April Book(s?)

Apparently another casualty of our current lives (see previous post)  is the lack of reading and/or my inability to remember or write down what I finished reading.  As it is, here is the one book that I have written down that I finished reading:

  • The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by RC Sproul:  this book was used in a brief sunday school class.  This is standard Sproul, making difficult topics accessible and understandable, without shying away from difficult topics or ideas.  Helpful book and definitely recommended, though personally I may prefer Sinclair Ferguson’s more in depth The Holy Spirit.

Not sure if I read something else or haven’t been reading as much.

March Books

Here are the books that I completed reading during the month of March:

  • The Innocent Man by John Grisham:  I’ve read just about every book that Grisham has written (The Testament is one of my favorite novels) and this is another of his legal thrillers with one major difference – it’s a non-fiction account surrounding one particular individual that, as you can figure from the title, was innocent of crimes that he was convicted of in a small Oklahoma town.  I enjoyed reading this book and considering the various “characters” – no shortage of sin and the effect of sin at any number of levels.
  • A Gospel Primer for Christians:  Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent:  I loved reading this book and am so thankful for it’s contribution to my understanding and glorying in the truths and outworking of the Gospel (of which Vincent spend significant time describing).  There wasn’t anything that I haven’t necessarily heard before, but Vincent shows how deep the Gospel is and the place of the Gospel in the life of the believer on a daily basis.  I have loaned this book out and when I get it back I will post a few things from the book to give a flavor of it’s content.  This book is highly, highly recommended.
  • A Test of Wills by Charles Todd:  This is the first book in Todd’s series of mysteries featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge set in England after the First Great War (WWI), a war which has left deep marks on Rutledge.  I enjoyed aspects of this novel and found the mystery to be sufficiently surprising, I think it left something to be desired – possibly in the pacing and flow of the book.  I will likely try the next Rutledge novel and see how things progress.
  • A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church:  I really enjoyed reading this mystery, featuring Inspector O, which is set in North Korea.  This novel is a little bit of murder mystery and a little bit of North Korean national dynamics at work.  Part of what I enjoyed reading about was the context created by the communist government of North Korea – it is not hard to imagine that things are the way that Church writes (Church is the pseudonym for a former Western Intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia, according to the author byline).  I have the next Inspector O novel and may start it soon.
  • Mortgage Confidential by David Reed:  I found this to be a very accessible and helpful book.  Although, we have gone through the home-buying and mortgage application process before when we came to Norfolk, I thought it would be helpful to understand the process a little better.
  • Repentance & 20th Century Man by C. John Miller:  Hosea 6 & 7 got me thinking about the topic of repentance, so I borrowed this book from a friend.  This is a great little book on repentance – I especially appreciated Miller’s discussion of a false or man-centered repentance early on in the book.  As a whole, Miller drives the reader again and again to the person and work of Jesus Christ.   This book has been republished under the title Repentance:  A Daring Call To Surrender (available through Westminster Bookstore).

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

St Patrick is worthy of celebrating – just not in the way that this has come to be.

Read St. Patrick’s Breastplate here.

I enjoyed reading about St. Patrick in Thomas Cahill’s good book How the Irish Saved Civilization.

February Books

Here are the books that I completed reading in February.  These aren’t review exactly…more like my impressions:

  • The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever – This is one of the best books on evangelism that I have read (not that I have read a ton).  It is a relatively small book but it is packed with great thoughts and encouragement.  This is a book that I want to think about getting into the hands of other Christians (maybe a book of the quarter).  Here are the chapter titles (with author’s emphasis):
    • Why Don’t We Evangelize?
    • What Is the Gospel?
    • Who Should Evangelize?
    • How Should We Evangelize?
    • What Isn’t Evangelism?
    • What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
    • Why Should We Evangelize?
  • Soul Circus by George Pelecanos:  I picked this book up cheap at B & N after reading a brief review of a more recent Pelecanos novel.  This novel takes place in the inner-city of DC with an investigator/private eye as the main character.  I was not particularly moved by this book – it kept my attention, but there was nothing that really grabbed me.  In addition, due to the context of the book, it was fairly gritty and raw in some places.  Based on this one book, I am not sure I would read any others by Pelecanos.
  • The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller:  Keller wrote one of my favorite books last year (The Reason for God) and this one was published late last year.  I think this is a very important book for American Christianity to read and consider.  Many people think they have understood the heart of Christianity, but have really only experienced a poor facisimile.  So, with this book, using the story of the prodigal son (or Parable of Two Lost Sons) presents the gospel of Jesus Christ to the irreligious (the younger son) and the religious/moralist (the older son) – for both need to hear and respond to it.  Just recasting the meaning of prodigal was important for me to understand.  I loved this book and have given it or recommended it to others many times over.
  • Tripwire by Lee Child:  This is the third Jack Reacher book by Child.  Reacher is a former military policeman who helps people in trouble.  Child writes an enjoyable yarn and Reacher is an interesting character who has no personal ties, nor does he want any (in light of how we are relationally designed by God).  Child’s book are fairly formulaic, but are well written with elements of suspence, thriller, and mystery.
  • Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson:  Once I got into this book, I really enjoyed reading about Carson’s father – Tom.  D.A. Carson uses Tom’s own journals to tell his story.   Tom, was by all accounts an ordinary pastor in Canada who labored faithfully in a difficult place with precious little by way of visible results to his ministry.  Tom Carson was no pastor mega-star, but more than worthy of considering how he sought the Lord in his work.  He certainly was not perfect and D.A. does not shy away from pointing out some of the ways his father may have failed or not understood well the grace of God.  I was just about brought to tears by the end of the book and was encouraged in a number of ways as a pastor to read this book.  (Thanks Joel!)

Recommendation: Westminster Bookstore

I use Amazon for the great majority of my book purchases based on the quality of their service, speed of shipping, and price (both shipping and product).  I am sure I will continue to use Amazon, but recently I made my first two purchases from Westminster Bookstore and I am impressed.

  • First order:  I placed this initial order because they had a commentray in stock that Amazon did not have.  While I was at it, I ordered a couple of other books that I have had my eye on.  My order came in a couple of days.
  • Second order:  I ordered 11 copies of The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller  on Wednesday.  Got the books yesterday (Thursday).  The cost was about $1.50 less than Amazon.
  • Shipping:  There is no free shipping option (a la Amazon) – they have a flat $4 shipping fee.  And in the case of my second order, the shipping cost was more than defrayed by the cost of the books.

So, for these reason, you might give Westminster Bookstore a try next time you need to order some books (especially: “Reformed Christian Books and Resources”).

January Books – Book, actually

This will be a very short list, as I only completed reading one book in January.  Not only was January a light month for posting, it was a light month for reading (I wonder if those are related or simply indicative of what is going on in my life currently)

  • Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck:  This book made a lot of Best of 2008 and did not disappoint – I will not be surprised if this ends up being one of my favorite books that I read during 2009 at the end of the year.  This book is assessment and critique of the emerging/emergent church movement that has gained some momentum within Christian church, but I believe the authors do so in a humble and winsome way.  They trade chapters with DeYoung tackling the more in depth theological discussion, with Kluck writing from a more experiential/relational point of view (often quite humorously).  While there may much to commend within the emerging church, there is also much to be wary of with regard to historic, orthodox Christianity.  This isn’t just an old vs. new, traditional vs. contemporary, etc… discussion of practices, but a conversation (to use a favorite term on the emerging church) about fidelity to the Word of God and the teaching within.  This book is extremely valuable, regardless of one’s personal experience (or not) with the emerging church.