Brief Thoughts on Seven Recent Books

I read quite a bit, but even so, can't keep up with all of the new books being published these days. I buy a lot of them, dip in and skim over many, and read a few cover to cover. Here are several that have occupied my time over the past couple of months. All of them are fairly new. Most of them I've read through. All are good. A couple might be worth your investment of time and money. Here, briefly, are my thoughts on each.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. This is a short and fun book on the problem of busyness and what to do about it. DeYoung writes with his usual wit and practical wisdom, rooting it all in solid pastoral theology. I enjoyed this book and think lots of people who would benefit from it. One chapter in particular exhorts parents to quit worrying about their kids. DeYoung suggests that we may be over parenting and should try to get the big things right and not over think or fret too much about the rest. Good advice. It releases on September 23rd (I was sent an advance copy.)

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David Murray. Interesting and accessible, this is the latest tool for developing a Jesus-centered hermeneutic for reading and interpreting Scripture. There are several things I liked about this book: it is unpretentious, written as one student of Scripture to another, (even though Murray is a seminary professor); it covers a wide range of literary genres in the Old Testament, even including some thoughts on how to read the Song of Solomon; and it includes lots of examples for how to apply the principles being taught. I thought the chapter on typology was especially helpful. But I would like to have seen more interaction with some of the recent work done on biblical covenants (for example, Paul Williamson's Sealed with an Oath and Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum's Kingdom through Covenant) as opposed to a simple rehashing covenant theology. Readers should just be aware that Murray presents one interpretation of the biblical covenants that has its merits, but is not without its flaws. That said, this is still well worth reading and is an excellent entry-level book for ordinary Christians who want to read their Old Testaments with eyes peeled for Jesus.

The Pastor's Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Family Ministry by Brian and Cara Croft. This is a wise and helpful book written for pastors and their families about the unique challenges ministry can pose to family life. The Crofts write from their own experiences and include both biblical instruction and practical suggestions for navigating the choppy waters related to the pastor's heart, the pastor's wife, and the pastor's children. I walked away from this book with two takeaways. First, gratitude for my present post. I'm blessed to be in a really good church that has been easy on my family. Second, conviction about the need for more intentional discipleship of my children. The Crofts have set a wonderful example in this.

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. This book made a splash when it first came out. Though I was interested in reading it then, I only recently picked it up, after reading an engaging shorter version of this story on Christianity Today's website. It really is an amazing story about the deep and thorough conversion of a very liberal, very secular, Lesbian English professor. I especially loved reading about the unusually wise and winsome Christians the Lord used in the author's life to provoke her interest in Christ. The book is also beautifully written. Less enjoyable to me was her harping on the regulative principle of worship with its exclusive use of a cappella psalm singing.

Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes by R. W. Glenn. Are the beatitudes "be happy attitudes" or something else entirely different? Glenn contends that we have turned these indicatives into imperatives, thus turning the beatitudes on their heads. He offers an alternative reading, rooted in the good news of God's free grace in Christ. "The Beatitudes in their simplicity are not commands to be followed, principles to live by, or attitudes to adopt. They profile people who have crucified their own morality in Jesus' death, resurrection, and rule." This is good, winsome, and often humorous, exposition.
Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty by Brett McCracken. This may be the most important book on this list, one that I looked forward to for months, and then enjoyed reading after it arrived. McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity, takes on the vexing issues of gray areas: food, music, film, and drink and does a great job of stepping on just about everybody's toes! McCracken is obviously no fundamentalist and boldly chronicles his own experiences at music concerts, film festivals, and English pubs. But he also writes with an appropriate dose of humility, raising questions about some of his own choices and provoking careful thought about how Christians should be in, but not of the world. No one is likely to agree with everything they read in this book, but I can't think of any believer who wouldn't benefit from it. Whether you listen to Coldplay or not, frequent R-rated films or not, and drink beer or not, this is a book worth reading and heeding. We could all do with brighter minds and warmer hearts when it comes to these gray matters.

The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson. Finally, this is a book I've been slowly reading as food for my own soul. This book, written by a pastor for pastors, focuses on heart and life application of the gospel, rooted in Peter's instructions to elders in 1 Peter 5, along with the five solas of the Reformation. It is both convicting and hope-giving. I'm grateful for it.

1 comment:

mwh said...

Thanks for the reviews. These are helpful. A friend just brought up in an e-mail this week, a suggestion to read Paul Miller's book "A Praying Life". I was able to recall favorable comments from you regarding it, and it helps puts these things in broader perspective.