The Books I Read in 2016

A Christian's Pocket Guide to Loving The Old Testament: One Book, One God, One Story

A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament by Alec Motyer

As a pastor and expositor, I lament how little the Old Testament (OT) is preached in so many evangelical churches today. That explains why so many professing Christians today have so little understanding about the OT, how the New Testament (NT) is connected to the Old, how the gospel does not start with Jesus in the NT but in the Old, and most of all, how so many fail to see Jesus or make Christological connections in the OT.

This 130-page pocket sized book provides solutions to some of those issues. It is a fairly easy reading with short chapters. Definitely recommend this book.

Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

In his preface, the author writes, “If it is true that Christians don’t get depressed, it must mean either that the Christian suffering from depression is not truly depressed, or he is not a true Christian. But if this notion is false, what extra and unnecessary pain and guilt are heaped upon an already darkened mind and broken heart!”

The 112-page pocket sized is not an academic writing as the author admits (though the author is a seminary professor and pastor). Rather, the book is immensely pastoral and practical. The author interacts with some of the conservative counseling movements (e.g. CCEF) and other notable writers, offering both positive and negative critiques. As already implied, this is an easy reading and a very helpful resource.

New Life in the Wasteland: 2 Corinthians on the Cost and Glory of Christian Ministry by Douglas F. Kelly

Christian ministers need to be reminded time to time what Christian ministry is all about. To help with that, I would recommend this book. This is not a typical Bible commentary (technical, exegetical, or scholarly). But it is a helpful one with much warm and devotional tone as the author helps the reader to consider the cost and glory of Christian ministry.

A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miroslav Volf

This book offers several implications and applications to Ephesians 2:10. It is an important work though caution and discernment should be given. (But again that should apply to all reading.)

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The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented by David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn

Perhaps one of the better books for someone who is new or interested in the subject. It is always refreshing to read it again. I often assigned this as a require reading for Sunday School.

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The Five Points of Calvinism by Herman Hanko and David J. Engelsma

The book is very polemic, especially, critical of the doctrine of common grace and other Reformed denominations. Other than that, it is a good read.

TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture by Duane Edward Spencer

A much shorter reading than Steele, Thomas, and Quinn’s The Five Points of Calvinism, but helpful nonetheless.

The Five Points of Calvinism: A Study Guide by Edwin H. Palmer

Besides Steele, Thomas and Quinn’s work, this work by Palmer would be my next recommendation on the subject.

The Deacons Handbook: A Manual of Stewardship by Gerard Berghoef and Lester De Koster

I recommend this book for three reasons: 1) books on the ministry of diaconate rarely focuses on stewardship as this one does, 2) helps to see the ministry as a means of evangelistic and outreach ministries, 3) offers myriads of practical implications, and 4) it is written in the Reformed tradition.

Deuteronomy (Tyndale Commentaries)

Deuteronomy by Edward J. Woods

Like many of books in the TOTC series (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), this one will not (overly) burden the readers with many technical terms and academic language, and cause to be bogged down by many details. It is concise and readable.

Deuteronomy (NICOT)

The Book of Deuteronomy by Peter C. Craigie

Although it is one of the older technical commentaries on the last book of the Pentateuch (1976), it is considered one of the bests.

Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction by Jonathan T. Pennington

I wish this book was available when I was preaching Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John many years ago. It is possible that one can preach the Gospels but not preach the gospel.

This book is perhaps one of the best books on how to read, interpret, and preach and teach on the Gospels. For a detailed review, you can read Dane Ortlund’s.

 

Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians by Bruce Riley Ashford

Written by a theology prof for laymen in regards to Kuyperian Christian life. If you need clarity on Christians engaging the culture via work, entertainment, education, or what have you, this book is a good start.

Confessing the Faith: A Reader's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith

Confessing the Faith: A reader’s guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith by Chad Van Dixhoorn

This is perhaps the best commentary on the WCF. I already gave a brief comment on this book back in 2014 when it came out. If interested, you can click here.

Harmony of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms by Morton H. Smith

“The Westminster Standards are unsurpassed among confessional statements in precision and comprehensiveness and few would deny that they deserve close reading and careful study.” Yet many Christians today have little or no exposure to the Standards. Hence, to combat against such shame, this work offers helpful guide by dissecting each section, chapter, question, and points.

Church Dogmatics, Volume 1 by Karl Barth

This massive volume (500 pages in the first volume alone) tackles the subject “The Doctrine of the Word of God,” which contains the prolegomena, the criterion of dogmatics, and the doctrine of trinity in relation to the revelation of God. Since this particular volume is highly technical and academic, it is not recommended for average laymen or beginners of theology.

The Books I Read in 2015

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By God’s grace, unlike previous four years, I did the most reading in 2015, totaling about 6,600 pages. However, I failed to include biography and other genres in my reading project.

Because I’ve been teaching through the Pentateuch to our congregation in the past year, I was forced to interact with various commentaries, which was a huge blessing. The resources have helped me to see the continuity of the redemptive drama in the Pentateuch, including unceasing sinfulness of man and unceasing faithfulness of God.

Besides one or two books (maybe three), the majority of the books have not been wasteful. The best reading under 50 pages have been Ash’s Listen Up! The best classics are Augustine, Bunyan, and Calvin.

The following are my list (in the order they were read) with brief comments.

Can I Trust the Bible? by R. C. Sproul

This 65-page book provides helpful exposition on The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The book is divided into six chapters: 1) the Bible and Authority, 2) the Bible and Revelation, 3) the Bible and Inspiration, 4) the Bible and Inerrancy, 5) the Bible and Truth, and 6) the Bible and You. I would highly recommend this resource for bibliology.

Faith as a Way of Life by Christian B. Scharen

One of the pressing needs of the moment is to convince and cultivate that Christian faith is not simply a set of propositions to believe, but also an orienting force that impacts every aspect of daily life as employers and employees at work, parents and child at home, politicians and others in various fields that God has called. This book provides some helpful discussions in the applications of faith.

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg R. Allison

The author takes the reader through the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then he summarizes and assesses Catholic doctrine from the evangelical perspective. There is simply no other book like this presently. It truly is a gift to the church. That is why Roman Catholic Theology & Practice is in the list of notable book for 2014.

The Arrogance of the Modern: Historical Theology Held in Contempt by David W. Hall

Many people appear to have forgotten the wisdom of the past generations. If not, they hold the past in contempt. In this series of essays, the author addresses various topics such as, church heresies and orthodoxy, welfare reform and politics – all in the context of biblical worldview. This primer for the use of church history to diagnose modern issues will be a huge benefit for students, teachers, ministers, and thinkers.

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barbara Hughes

According to the authors, many in the church have misguided expectations for success. For example, if you will do this one thing well (e.g., music, website, easy parking, etc.), your church will grow. That one thing may even include something good and worthy. For instance, if you preach the word effectively, your church will grow. However, many today equate success in the ministry to mean growth in attendance or number. According to the authors, that’s dangerous. This book was definitely refreshing to hear. Every pastor and church leaders (new or seasoned) need many good reminder that this book presents.

Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice

Unlike any other books of the Bible, Genesis is utterly foundational. That explains the reason for the three volume commentary set. In this first volume, Dr Boice gives thorough expositions in all the critical sections within the first eleven chapters of Genesis. His expositions are intentionally doctrinal and devotional. Perhaps one of the most helpful tools to preach Genesis.

Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture) by John L. Thompson

If the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) offers various comments by many of the classical exegetes, this volume provides illuminations by various exegetes of the Reformation era (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others). Like the ACCS, this volume is truly invaluable.

The Book of Psalms, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Intro) by Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner

One of the major works on the book of Psalms that was recently published. The volume is the result of collaborated works of three distinguished psalmic scholars. Like most of NICOT series, it is written mostly for scholars and pastors.

Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons by Christopher Ash

This 30-page booklet is a real gem to pastors, congregants, and churches. According to Mark Dever at Capital Hill Baptist, “We give Listen Up! to all our new members.” After reading this, you’ll understand why. However, I wouldn’t give this booklet to new members only, but to all members. It’s that important. It would help the pastors and their congregants. It’s a win-win. Perhaps the best $4 investment you’ll make.

We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr by Douglas J. Moo

This 14-page booklet was the presentation that Doug Moo gave at last year’s ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) meeting in San Diego. Although I had the privilege of listening to him when he gave the talk at the dinner for the 50th anniversary of the NIV Bible, the booklet is better. He offers not only the history of the NIV Bible, but convincing reasons for the project. Everyone should read his perspective on Bible translation, hermeneutics, exegesis, and exposition. It is quiet refreshing.

Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Lawsuits: A Legal Guide for Churches, Christian Schools, and Christian Ministries by Alliance Defending Freedom

This 40-page electronic book (pdf) is a helpful resource to churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries. With the recent interpretation by the SCOTUS, this resource offers practical ways to protect religious organizations from lawsuits.

Leviticus, TOTC by R. K. Harrison

This 254-page commentary is perhaps one of the most comprehensive commentaries on one of the most neglected biblical books. Like many of books in the TOTC series (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), this one will not (overly) burden the readers with many technical terms and academic language, and cause to be bogged down by many details. It is concise and readable. Although it doesn’t offer verse-by-verse commentary, if offers very helpful section-by-section commentary. The author doesn’t shy away from explaining controversial topics such as homosexuality (250-54).

The Book of Leviticus, NICOT by Gordon J. Wenham

This 362-page technical commentary is well balanced between exegesis and theology. Every chapter concludes with the relationship between the biblical chapter of Leviticus and the NT, whether it be to point out some aspects of the gospel truth, Christology, or theological continuity/discontinuity. Perhaps one of the better exegetical commentaries on Leviticus.

Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. edited by John S. Feinberg

This 410-page book contributed by thirteen noted evangelical scholars shows agreements and disagreements between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism in their theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises.

Is Jesus in the Old Testament? by Iain M. Duguid

This 45-page booklet offers basic help in understanding the Old Testament. The author also offers helpful list of suggested reading for anyone who want to learn further in how to see Christ and preach Christ in the Old Testament.

Saint Augustine’s Confessions (translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin)

Anyone who knows John Calvin knows that there is no one who influenced him the most than the writings of Augustine. When you read Augustine’s Confessions, you’ll know why. This 347-page book is perhaps one of the best devotional books I ever read. The book is very personal (reads like autobiography or personal journal) and at times he is explicitly transparent of his past life (after all, it’s called Confessions). However, unlike many today’s devotional books, Confessions is not without substance. You will experience one of the greatest philosophical and theological minds that God produced in the history of the church.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This 238-page book received many accolades (e.g., L.A. Times, New York Times Book Review, etc.). Amazon rates it “#1 Best Seller” in journalism. Recently, even many professing evangelicals jumped on the bandwagon in praising her. In fact, one of the prominent evangelical websites recommended the book if one desires to improve his/her writing. Since I wanted to improve my writing and also wanted to know what the fuss was all about, I purchased the book.

The book is very easy to read. In fact, you can read its entirety in one setting. However, just because a book is easy to read doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth the time and money. I was sorely disappointed with the book. I was hoping to get some instructions on writing. After all, the subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” The book contains more of her worldview on life than instructions on writing.

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

This 173-page book provides the author’s philosophy and methods of Christian discipleship. Although not everything is agreeable in both perspective and practices, the book does offer helpful and refreshing approaches to fighting sins with like-minded men or women in small groups setting.

Genesis for Everyone, Part One (Chapters 1-16) by John Goldingay

This is part one of the two part series of commentary in Genesis. It is not technical and exegetical commentary like the NICOT series. Rather, it reads like a devotional book. Although it is titled “Genesis for Everyone,” I would not recommend this book to just anyone or everyone. Without having some working knowledge of Genesis as a whole, one would be confused or misunderstand. This 197-page book is ideal for pastors who maybe looking for some sermon anecdotes or fillers that most technical commentaries lack.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

I have fallen love with the Pilgrim’s Progress (PP) all over again. Outside of the Bible, it is the most read literature. I am convinced that every Christian ought to read it (and re-read it). There is no other book that depicts what Christian life is like than PP. However, just because one would read the book doesn’t mean the reader would understand PP because it is filled with myriads of allegories. Hence, one should read the book with others in a group setting with their elder or pastor who knows how to properly interpret what Bunyan is trying to say. I would also recommend getting a better edition than the one that is listed here. The Desiring God edition has too many spelling errors and typos. Also, this one does not contain the second half of PP. Hence, I recommend you get a better edition like the one by Banner of Truth.

Revelation and Inspiration by Benjamin B. Warfield

This first volume of the ten volume set is considered by many as Warfield’s magnum opus. Many topics are covered in the book, such as, the biblical idea of revelation, the biblical idea of inspiration, and the real problem of inspiration. The two topics in the appendix are helpful too: the divine origin of the Bible and the canon of the New Testament. Most of the essays seem academic and written for theological journals. Although lay people may certainly benefit from the book, it is more for scholars and seminary students.

Numbers (New American Commentary) by R. Dennis Cole

Perhaps one of the better exegetical commentaries on the book of Numbers. It is similar to Gordon J. Wenham’s commentary on Numbers (TOTC) though a little more details.

Numbers (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Gordon J. Wenham

This was most helpful in preparation for teaching the book of Numbers during our midweek Bible study. It is concise without lacking substance. Offers good chapter analysis with redemptive-historical perspectives of various topics.

Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey

J. I. Packer is right. He said, “This is the fullest, most realistic, down-to-earth, and genuinely spiritual exploration of God’s call to pastoral ministry that I know.” I wished a book like this existed over twenty years ago when I first sensed God’s call to ministry. This is perhaps one of the better books on the subject.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 2 by John Calvin (Edited by John T. McNeil)

Volume 2 begins with Calvin’s Book 3.20 on “The Way We Receive the Grace of Christ,” specifically, on the nature and value of prayer. And the volume ends with Book 4.20 on “Means of Grace: Holy Catholic Church,” specifically, on the church’s responsibility to obey human government (whether good or bad magistrates). However, Calvin notes, “Obedience to man must not become disobedience to God.” Like Volume 1 of Institutes, this 885-page may seem intimidating and daunting due to its sheer thickness, but it is easy reading like a devotional book. These two volumes are simply classic.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin

This 172-page book is a fairly easy book to read with one Patristic figure in one chapter. The author introduces men like Ignatius of Antioch, Diognetus, Origen, Cyprian and Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and Saint Patrick. The author also provides what he calls “Reading the Fathers: A Beginner’s Guide” at the end, which is very helpful. This is definitely a welcome addition to anyone’s library, especially, to help introduce the church fathers.

Notable Books of the Year (2014)

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Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A reader’s guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014), 484 pp.

In Confessing the Faith, Van Dixhoorn offers a helpful commentary on what is considered the first rank of great Christian confession. The book is easily accessible and digestible into bite-sized sections. Most of all, the book is written by one of the few scholars whose expertise is the Westminster Assembly. In fact, the author in 2012 published The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653 (5 Volume Set), which Amazon is currently selling the set for over $1,000. That’s because there is no other work like it in the world. Also, the author currently leads Westminster Assembly Project. All that to say, the book is written by one of the highly credentialed scholars in the Westminster Assembly and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Confessing the Faith is truly one of the 2014 notable books.

Gregg R. Allison, Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 493 pp.

The author takes the reader through the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then he summarizes and assesses Catholic doctrine from the evangelical perspective. There is simply no other book like this presently. It truly is a gift to the church. That is why Roman Catholic Theology & Practice is a notable book for 2014.

R. C. Sproul, Everyone’s A Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Sanford, Florida: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014), 357 pp.

I don’t know any contemporary theologian who writes a systematic under 400 page. That’s not because Sproul lacks depth or ability to write more. As John MacArthur says, “R. C. Sproul is a consummate teacher, especially skilled at explaining difficult theological concepts in uncomplicated terms.” Unlike other systematic theology books, Everyone’s A Theologian is not written for academics. Rather, it is written for everyday people. It is a brief, comprehensive summary of systematic theology that is biblically faithful and theologically masterful.

If anyone is familiar with his earlier work Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), Everyone’s A Theologian shares similar contents though there are some differences and improvements. If anyone desires to read or study systematic theology, but feels intimidated by the sheer size of some of the books, I would highly recommend this new book by Sproul.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2015

The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1 Edited by Stephen Yuille

This 832-page book is the first installment of ten volume works of William Perkins, the father of Puritanism. Both Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas serve as general editors of this massive 10 volume series. The complete Works have not been in print since the early seventeenth century! That is why this highly anticipated project is creating a lot of buzz. This first volume is scheduled to release on December 31, 2014.

The Book of Psalms, NICOT by Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner

This 1080-page book is perhaps the thickest one volume NICOT I know. According to many it is the most complete and detailed one-volume commentary available on the Psalms. Written by collaborated efforts of three OT scholars, this looks very interesting.

Books I Read in 2014

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Here’s my list (in the order I read):

Should You Believe in God? by K. Scott Oliphint

If you’re looking for a concise, Van Tillian like apologetics, this one helps. Only 25 pages.

The First Book of Samuel, NICOT (Intro) by David Toshio Tsumura

A good exegetical commentary on the biblical book. The author interacts with various views as many in the NICOT series do.

Numbers, TOTC (Intro) by Gorden J. Wenham

Rarely Christians understand or preachers excited about this inspired, canonical book of the Bible. Yet as the author points out one would see the glorious attributes of God, especially, through the essence of ritual and the substitutionary aspect of sacrifice. Although it is not technical as NICOT series, TOTC series do interact with others and offers helpful and concise treatment of the text in sections.

The Battle for the Beginning by John MacArthur

The subtitle implies what the book is about: “Creation, Evolution and the Bible.” Like  typical MacArthur, the book has sermonic and polemic tone. He offers thorough exegetical and theological arguments throughout. Very enjoyable read. Anyone who is planning to preach or teach on the first three chapters of Genesis should definitely consult this book.

Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell

The subtitle implies what the book is all about: “How to preach God’s word and keep people awake” (emphasis theirs).

The book was recommended to me by David Helm of The Charles Simeon Trust. All I can say is that if you (who preach) haven’t read it, you need to read it (and perhaps re-read it once a year thereafter). It is concise, yet packed with gems. Also, if you haven’t been to workshops by The Charles Simeon Trust, you need to (especially, on how to preach Old Testament narrative).

The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT (Intro) by Peter C. Craigie

Although a number of commentaries on Deuteronomy have been published since Craigie’s work (e.g., Wright, Merrill, Block, Grisanti, etc.), this is still one of the better works. He offers helpful sections on the background, unity of composition, date and authorship, occasion, canonicity, theology, interpretive issues, and more. Definitely worth having it in your library for anyone who’s serious about studying the last book of the Pentateuch.

Numbers, NAC (Intro) by R. Dennis Cole

The author posits that the Book of Numbers has been neglected in evangelical circles. Preaching from it often has been about Balaam, the rebellious spy, or occasional reference to the Nazirite material to support a sermon on alcoholism or some other moral lessons. Rarely the book gets expounded to show the nature and work of God, especially, on his holiness and faithfulness. This book offers helpful exegetical and theological exposition on Numbers.

Leviticus, TOTC (Intro) by R. K. Harrison

As noted in the author’s preface, Leviticus is a book that is read all too infrequently by Christians – let alone hear sermons from it. Yet a closer study of the book reveals insights into the character of God, particularly his holiness. Like other commentaries in TOTC series, this commentary helps the student to understand what the text says and what it means. Moreover, the work is done by one of the highly respected Old Testament scholars in his field. A good resource to have.

The Book of Leviticus, NICOT (Intro) by Gordon J. Wenham

Unlike Harrison’s Leviticus (TOTC), this one is more technical and exegetical as in all of NICOT series. It is considered an older work in Leviticus, yet many of the newer works cite and interact with Wenham. All that to say, it is a standard exegetical work on Leviticus for any serious student.

Aliens in the Promised Land by Anthony B. Bradley (editor)

The subtitle is telling: “Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions.” This work is contributed by Christian leaders from African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American communities. Racism is a hot topic. But rarely it is addressed in conservative evangelical churches. Many are oblivious it even exists within conservative Bible teaching churches, conferences, or in denominations. Here’s a book that at least helps start the conversation. Everyone (especially, white Christians and their leaders) ought to read this.

Church Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley

The subtitle hints what the book is all about: “How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things.” This is a fun book. It is also painful. But you have to read it to understand. Overall, it is encouraging and hopeful. Every pastor (or lay folks) who are thinking about church planting or revitalizing needs to read this book.

Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims by Daniel R. Hyde

The word “Reformed” can mean different things to different people. It can be something pejorative or positive. In layman’s terms, the author briefly sketches the historical roots of these churches, their biblical and confessional basis, and the ways those beliefs are practiced. It is as the author points out “a road map for those encountering this new world for the first time and a primer for those who want to know more about their Reformed heritage.”

What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton

The Bible tells a single story – one that begins at creation and will continue until Christ’s return and beyond. The author introduces this narrative and the worldview of the biblical writers so that the readers can read the two testaments as those authors intended. According to Hamilton, “Studying biblical theology is the best way to learn from the Bible how to read the Bible as a Christian should” (19-20). This book will help understand Scripture’s unified message and find your place in the great story of redemption.

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

This book explains the biblical qualifications for the two office bearers in the Pastoral Epistles. And it does so by offering practical questions in what/how to look for in the potential candidates.

What to Expect in Reformed Worship: A Visitor’s Guide (2nd Edition) by Daniel R. Hyde

If Hyde’s other book Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims gives a general picture of what a Reformed church is, then this booklet focuses specifically on what Reformed worship is like.

Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology by I. Howard Marshall

This book includes three scholarly essays from three notable experts in hermeneutics: I. Howard Marshall, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Stanley Porter. Marshall first offers guidance in how the Bible speaks authoritatively to contemporary issues in ethics, doctrines, and practices. The other two scholars then respond to Marshall in where they agree and disagree.

Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D. A. Carson

This is a biographical book of D. A. Carson’s father, Tom Carson. You don’t have to be a fan of D. A. Carson to enjoy this. However, if you are a fan of faithful pastors who persevere through difficult challenges, hardships, discouragements, disappointments, and even depressions in dark times, this book will bring much encouragement and appreciation for those who faithfully serve.

The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

In connection with the Awakening of 1735, Edwards preached a series of sermons to his congregation in 1742 and 1743 to help discern what are genuine marks of a work of the Holy Spirit and on the revival. As a result, those sermons were published in 1746 as the Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. Edwards is challenging to read by many contemporary readers due to his wordiness and what some may perceive as circular reasoning. But if the reader can overlook those challenges, he/she will find many gems in the book.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

This is perhaps one of the better books on the ministry of deacons. While many Christians talk about “doing the work of justice” (so often independently or in disconnection with their local church), this book provides biblical and practical ways of doing the work in the context of their local communities through the local church.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

This is a fun book to read in helping writers to overcome issues that many face (e.g., fear, lack of motivation, etc.). It is short and easy read.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (25th Anniversary Edition) by William Zinsser

Unlike The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, this book has more substance and actual how-to’s. The book is divided into four parts: 1) principles, 2) methods, 3) forms, and 4) attitudes. If you’re serious about writing well, consult Zinsser’s work. Although this book may seem like a textbook, it is easy to read.

MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response by Samuel E. Waldron

At the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, John MacArthur delivered a controversial message entitled, “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.” In this book, Sam Waldron addresses the assertions of MacArthur exegetically, theologically, and historically. Most of all, Waldon does so respectfully and graciously. A good example of how Christian debates should be – in a Christian manner.

The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World by David W. Hall

In this short and easy reading, the author presents ten ways how modern culture is shaped because of John Calvin, for instance, in education, care for the poor, ethics and law, freedom of the church, politics, economic, church music, etc. The book also offers helpful biography, and mentions notable evangelicals (past and present) that have been greatly influenced by Calvin. Highly recommend this book if anyone is interested to have an easy access to Calvin.

Also, if you’re interested, here’s my list of Notable Books of the Year (2014).

Books I Read In 2013

Unlike past three years (2010, 2011, and 2012), I did not read a lot in 2013. Perhaps this is due to all the time and energy that went into church planting work, and not to mention, my new found hobby (i.e., going to A’s game). The following is the list of what I read in chronological order:

  • The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
  • Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
  • The Acts of the Holy Spirit by A.T. Pierson
  • The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love by Jonathan Leeman
  • Transforming Prayer by Daniel Henderson
  • Intro in Exodus (New American Commentary), by Douglas K. Stuart
  • Intro in Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary by Victor Hamilton
  • Is Jesus in the Old Testament? by Iain Duguid
  • Let Us Pray: A symposium on prayer by leading preachers and theologians by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, etc.
  • The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson
  • Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp
  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller
  • Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell
  • The Secret Providence of God by John Calvin

Hence, this year I read 15 books, totaling 2,926 pages. Of course, this does not include commentaries, theological journals, and other reading for sermon preparation.

If I had to pick top two books from 2013 it would definitely have to be Dangerous Calling and Christ-Centered Worship. The former is written for pastors by a pastor. It truly captures sobering reality why some are in ministry and why some (actually, many) should not be. It was a powerful reminder that giftedness does not equal to godliness or maturity. In fact, here is one of my favorite quotes:

Maturity is not merely something you do with your mind (although that is an important element of spiritual maturity). No, maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and be very immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and be in need of significant spiritual growth…There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom (25-26).

If there is one book every pastor (and every wannabe) needs to read it is this.

The latter is written by a former seminary president (now a pastor) on perhaps the most important subject in today’s church – worship. To be more specific, corporate worship. I have read a lot on this subject (and still do) because how we worship as a church is reflection of what we believe. Our theology is best expressed not only in our doxology but also in liturgy. All that is to say, not only who we worship is important but also how we worship matters.

One of my pet peeves is the inconsistency between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. I meet people who say they love the doctrines of grace and Reformed faith, yet have no clue what that looks like in corporate worship service. The average church goers do not ask, Why do we worship the way we worship? Some will say that is because that’s the way it always have been. But that does not answer the question why. How is it possible to love Calvinistic soteriology and Reformed faith, and love man-centered worship service?

In Reformed faith, corporate worship tells the gospel by the way we worship. According to Chapell, “Christian worship is a ‘re-presentation’ of the gospel. By our worship we extol, embrace, and share the story of the progress of the gospel in our lives” (116). Even the “order of worship” conveys an understanding of the gospel (18). Our liturgy or the way we worship indeed communicates something about God, ourselves, and the gospel. The author says, “Because they have not been taught to think of the worship service as having gospel purposes, people instinctively think of its elements only in terms of personal preference: what makes me feel good, comfortable, or respectful” (21).

Christ-Centered Worship is a must read for all Christians if you seek to understand this vital subject biblically, theologically, historically, and practically.

 

Books I Read In 2012

The following books are in the order which they were read. The list does not include ebooks, journal articles, and commentaries and others for sermon prep. The total pages of reading this year is 4,129.

Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business

How do you reconcile making money and the Bible? If you’re a business owner or interested in knowing your role as a Christian in the business world, then this book will be helpful.

Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Century

Perhaps the best book on church planting.

The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

A book that every Christian should read and apply.

"I Believe": Exploring the Apostles' Creed

A good introduction to the Apostles’ Creed.

Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tommorrow

I always enjoy reading Carl Trueman. Here’s my review.

What to Look for in a Pastor: A Guide for Pastoral Search Committees (Ministry and Mission) (Ministry Mission)

A book that every pastor search committee ought to read before they advertise.

The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission (Biblical Theology for Life)

An excellent biblical theology on the church’s mission.

The Letters of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

Perhaps the most helpful commentary on John’s Epistles.

The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary

Not your typical commentary on Acts but very helpful.

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry

An excellent biblical theology on the subject of idolatry.

Why Do We Have Creeds? (Basics of the Faith)

Part of the “Basics of the Faith” series, which helps to introduce some tenets of the Reformed faith. This particular booklet attempts to answer why have (or ought to have) creeds in the local church.

A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, Realized for All Nations (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series)

One of the best scholars in Luke-Acts.

The Creedal Imperative

Carl Trueman offers some of the best arguments for the usage of creeds/confessions in the church (and why it would be stupid not to).

Simply a classic!

Refrigerator Rights: Creating Connections and Restoring Relationships - new preface

A great reminder why we are not created to be alone and why we need relationships. Easy reading.

Worship by the Book

Presents three traditions of church worship: Anglican (Mark Ashton), Evangelical (R. Kent Hughes), and the Reformed (Tim Keller).