2019 Pastor’s Reading List
1. THE PREACHER’S CATECHISM, by Lewis Allen (2018). This is an excellent tool that I will use, I hope yearly, written specifically to pastors. There is some typical “Reformed” Baptist thinking in this book but nothing that takes away from the powerful message and help this book can be for pastors especially of the Reformed persuasion. He seeks to help do away with what is called today as “pastoral burnout”…with his conclusion that this might happen when we pastors take our eyes of the prize and our preaching and teaching becomes a “job”…so he seeks to give aid to pastors for as he says the church needs pastors who will last and who can thrive. He seeks to give us “our” own catechism…hence the name. Fashioned after the Westminster Shorter Catechism he re-works 43 questions and answers that are meant to keep the pastor focused on his own spiritual development in the midst of seeking to do that for God’s children. Reading through this I thought I was reading the work of a contemporary pastor…but Lewis Allen lived preached and wrote from 1890-1954. This book will be at the top of my kindle list every year going forward when I assess my call.
2. THE GREATEST FIGHT: Spurgeon’s Urgent Message for Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists, (1892 and then re-compiled and annotated in 2018). Towards the end of his life, Spurgeon was set on making sure that the Church had sound and healthy pastors. It seems that given the timing of both of these books being published that there was a need then just like there is now for pastor to re-assess themselves and be challenged to re-think what they are doing and why they are doing it. In true Spurgeon fashion he breaks this speech turned book into a 3 point message concerning his the pastor, teacher and evangelist can Fight the Good Fight ahead of them. First, he speaks about our armor which is the Word of God, next he speaks about our army…the Church of the living God which we are to lead effectively for God’s glory, and then thirdly, our strength, which is found in wearing the armor and wielding the sword. It is a short book at this point but it is one that must be read slowly just to be able to take in and comprehend the totality of his message which is not a hard message to follow but an extremely important one not to rush through. He says concerning the armor and our strength; "Whoever may have been the person who said it, or whatever may have been the book in which you read it, it was not man’s word, nor man’s thoughts upon God’s Word, but the Word itself, which made you know salvation in the Lord Jesus. It was neither human reasoning, nor the power of eloquent speech, nor the power of moral persuasion, but the omnipotence –the all-powerful authority –of the Spirit, applying the Word itself, that gave you rest and peace and joy through believing. We are ourselves trophies of the power of the sword of the Spirit; He leads us in triumph in every place, the willing captives of His grace. No one should be surprised that we stay close to it." One last thought from him concerning our army, "Our mission, like our Lord’s, is to gather out the chosen of God from among men, so they may live to the glory of God. Every saved man should be –under God –a savior, and the church is not in a right state until she has reached that concept of herself. The elect church is saved so she may save, cleansed so she may cleanse, blessed so she may bless. All the world is the field, and all the members of the church should work there for the great farmer. Wastelands are to be reclaimed, and forests broken up by the plow, until the barren place begins to blossom as the rose. We must not be content with holding our own; we must invade the territories of the Prince of Darkness." Good and timely stuff to be sure.
3. PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVISES, by Thomas Brooks (1652, 1968, digitally 2018). The amazing thing about this book is the sheer number of ways he lists that Satan seeks to cause the Christian to stumble with the intent purpose of our eternal fall (because he knows no better, or he still fashions himself stronger than God since his own evilness blinds him of his limitedness). But then if that wasn’t enough information, there are an amazing number of “remedies” (for every devise of Satan upwards to at least 7 remedies are given) against Satan’s wiles that are afforded to the Christian in this life because of the power of the Spirit with in us. There is filled with amazingly helpful information for the Christian even of today. There are so many books out there today that have spoken to this (think spiritual warfare) but none speak to Satan’s ultimate and absolute defeat and our ability in Christ for sustainable victory in this life. It is not about our ability to withstand Satan…but the Spirit within us that withstands Satan. Brooks shines the light of scripture forth so that we can all understand the power in the word and the Spirit. One quote on one of the remedies for when Satan seeks to convince us of a nefarious reason for affliction in the life of the Christian: “Afflictions serve to revive and recover decayed graces; they inflame that love that is cold, and they quicken that faith that is decaying, and they put life into those hopes that are withering, and spirits into those joys and comforts that are languishing. Most men are like a top, which will not go unless you whip it, and the more you whip it the better it goes. You know how to apply it. Those who are in adversity, says Luther, do better to understand Scriptures.” This is a free read through Monergism for those who wish to wade into this wealth of edifying information from a pastor/scholar who lived over 400 years ago.
4. THIS KIND OF WAR: The Classic Military History of the Korean War, by T.R. Fehrenbach (1963 and re-published 2014). This book on the Korean War has way too much philosophy and biased opinion to even be consider a history of the Korean War...oh, it tells the story of the War but with way too much personal bias for me. He spends way too much time trying to give answer for why our politicians did what they did and what our fighting force did with not nearly enough sourced information. There is simply too much of this in this long work; “The far frontier is not defended with citizens, for citizens have better things to do than to die on some forsaken hill, in some forsaken country, for what seems to be the sake of that country." I sought to wade through this book but to no avail. After getting about half the way through and he still hadn’t gotten past December 1950 -because of too much extra material- I gave up…and I don’t “give up” on books unless they simply seem like a waste of time. It is interesting to me that here is a soldier (served in WWII and in Korea) who speaks more like someone aloof from what went on. There is a fine commentary on the work in the Kindle library but this is one I simply don’t agree with. Gen. James Mattis recommended this book, which is why I picked it up…but I have put it down now, never to be picked up again.
5. THE POINT OF IT ALL: A lifetime of great loves and endeavors ... essays and speeches by Charles Krauthammer, edited by Daniel Krauthammer (2018). William Buckley, Charles Colson and Charles Krauthammer…3 very different men, but 3 men with a passion for people and helping people see the truth about the world and themselves. All three wrote stirring articles, essays and speeches that influenced a generation of thinkers. The world was a better place with these men in it. Now this book was compiled by Charles Krauthammer’s son, Daniel, while he was still alive so that many more people would actually be influenced by His father. I was not of a mind to actually read this book when I first saw it, even though it was published just after Mr. Krauthammer’s death. I had listened to Charles a few times on Fox News and found that while we might agree on somethings his style and his positions just didn’t move me. But then I received his book as a gift and picked it up and I couldn’t put it down. This book is a real tribute to one of America’s great minds and columnist. The articles and essays dating all the way back into the 1980’s were compelling and caused me to think through subjects differently. I fashion myself… rather arrogantly I now see… as someone who seeks to keep up with stuff in my world and the world around me…but once again just like when I read James Rosen’s compilation of William Buckley’s thoughts on people of the 20th century entitled A Torch Kept Lit (see review in pastor’s reading list 2017) and Charles Colson’s My Final Word,(see review in pastor’s reading list 2018), I found myself finishing up this book realizing that there is so many meaningful things that I miss. So, I am grateful for men like this that seek to help us out who really don’t know much. A great read.
6. THINK:THE LIFE OF THE MIND AND THE LOVE OF GOD, by John Piper (2010). I don’t know how I missed this book when it first came out. During that period I was reading virtually everything that Piper came out with…especially when he was talking about Jonathan Edwards as he does in this work as well. Anyway, I saw it last week on the church “library” shelf, picked it up and was delighted and moved by this work. It reminded me of a more scholarly work that was done in 1972 by John R.W. Stott entitled YOUR MIND MATTER: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life. Both books written decades apart focused on the fact that it is a good thing for Christians to think…properly with God’s Word as our standard for truth. Thinking can be used for many good things, but as both men observe unless this thinking’s purpose is to first of all glorify the LORD than it won’t in the end get God’s approval. Piper’s aim is to encourage serious, faithful, and humble thinking that leads God’s people to the true knowledge of God Himself which will lead as he says to a greater loving, honoring and glorifying of God on our part, but also will lead to us loving others as God has commanded. For the first 11 chapters, he presses the immorality of rationalism and even the anti-intellectualism within the Church. The latter part of the book he supports biblically and rationally the point that objective, absolute truth does exist and it can be known by the power of the Holy Spirit. Education, learning, thinking does not exist as a means unto itself…its God given purpose is to aid us in our loving God and others as God prescribes. Short of doing this, it is useless and it puffs up our own ego according to the Word of God. It is longer than Stott’s Book. Stott’s book was roughly 90 pages (depending upon formatting) and Piper’s book is 222 in its hardback form…but there is more biblical referencing and more up to date examples which makes this book worthy of reading for the believer …thinker or non-thinker. (Which he lovingly defines in this book as well…see where you fall.) Maybe read both!
7. WORDS OF COUNSEL(Updated, Annotated): For All Leaders, Teachers, and Evangelists" by Charles H. Spurgeon (this annotated form of Counsel for Christian Workers was digitally published 2018). I read this years ago from the non-annotated version called Counsel for Christian Workers which was originally written sometime in the late 1800’s probably after he left the4 Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon had a real heart for the lost and in this volume he speaks to Christian Workers...those in full-time vocational ministry as well as the members of the Body of Christ. He was convinced if everyone carried out their role in sharing the gospel wherever God placed them that so many would be saved to turn the world upside down for Christ. This book as I remembered it speak long and a lot about the virtues of Sunday School, Sunday School teachers and the children in which we are given charge…the precious little ones that God has entrusted to us to save! His language sounds Arminian in many cases …as if we can save anyone…but his Calvinistic zeal is such that that is how we should approach our calling. It is an encouraging book and a call to arms for the Christian worker reminding us we have nothing to lose and everything to gain! "Whether we are servants or masters, whether we are poor or rich, let’s take this as our rallying cry: as to the Lord and not to men (Ephesians 6: 7). May this be the engraving of our seal and the motto of our coat of arms from this point forward –the constant rule of our life and the sum of our motives. In advocating this gracious goal for our lives, let me say that if we are enabled to adopt this motto, it will first influence our work itself, and secondly, it will elevate our spirit concerning that work." This annotated version is just a little over 128 pages depending upon which format you find to download. And it is free from Monergism.
8. 1942: THE YEAR THAT TRIED MEN SOULS by Winston Groom (2005). This is an interesting work…one that was written by a child of a War World II vet who was never too curious until later in life when he began to see the significant ways this war impacted the culture and the people. He said many times throughout this book, "For years, even until they were aged, they spoke passionately, as my parents’ generation did, in terms of “before the war,” “during the war,” and “after the war,” as they began to forge their own brave new world." I have to use his words to explain the reason for this book as he brought the book to a close, “It is almost a military axiom that wars are generally fought in unpleasant places, and this certainly went for the year 1942: scorching deserts, pestilent jungles, endless mud fields, freezing mountain terrain, or the brutal cold landscapes of Russia, and in those days most of the men who died were buried near to where they’d fallen. Today on both sides of the oceans remain the military cemeteries with their neat white “crosses, row on row” that mark the places, cared for in perpetuity by the Allies’ graves commissions. The great admirals and generals are all gone now, and the youthful soldiers, sailors, and marines who fought this long-ago war are going fast themselves. It had taken a full seven years of war to corner Hitler, who shot himself, and Mussolini, who was finally killed by his own people and strung up on a meat hook, and Tojo, who swung at the end of an American rope. But the world at last became rid of these misguided creatures and their cronies and henchmen, and this was accomplished, in some fine measure, because of the extraordinary sacrifices of those raw, untried, and wondering men who served and fought, and died, in 1942." He speaks of their sacrifices, hardships and unwavering commitment to push back the invading hordes to make the world a safe place from people of only evil intent. He talks of unusual but necessary alliances like with Russia and parts of the Vichy government to turn out Hitler and his armies from Europe. He clearly communicates the cost that we might have liberty and freedom…what would have been lost if the Axis had prevailed. This book is right up there with Ray Bradbury’s FLYBOYS and Hampton Sides GHOST SOLDIERS, Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN and E.B.Sledge’s WITH THE OLD BREED.
9. THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE, by John Flavel (republished many time since the mid-1600’s but in this free digital form 2018 from Monergism Books) this is supurb collection of sermons on God’s providence, in which he speaks exclusively to Christians who are living like pagans...in that they are not sure if God is there or if there even is such a thing as Providence. This is a book that I will need to re-read in the near future, for each section needs thorough study…not that they are hard to understand for they are not but because they are so full of encouragement for the believer in this world who struggles with the realities of a God who is personal and active today! This was written over 300 years ago but these sermons are so pertinent today. I love this reminder; “Be well satisfied in that station and employment in which Providence has placed you, and do not so much as wish yourself in another. ‘Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called’ (1 Cor. 7. 20). Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident it has suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do had you been left to your own option.” He also gives as an evidence for Providence our salvation but also the more involved ways God gets involved as well. “The scattering of ministers and Christians by persecution from cities and towns into the ignorant and barbarous parts of the country, has been the way of Providence to find out and bring home some lost sheep that were found there to Jesus Christ (Acts 8. 1, 4). The like signal event has since followed upon the like scattering of godly ministers, of which there are many outstanding instances at this day.” When he talks about the work of Providence for the Saints he says this…classic…and very timely; “Walk therefore suitably to this obligation of Providence also. And see that you thankfully own it. Do not impute your escapes from sin to accidents, or to your own watchfulness or wisdom.” Again taking the time to read these “old guys” enable us to see the Church across time and how we have faltered in our time…and yet we realize that people have struggled pretty much the same way in every time. Interesting comment from about ¾ of the way through the book; “I beseech you consider what an effectual means the due observation of Providence will be to overpower and suppress the natural atheism that is in your hearts.” This is free from Monergism as well.
10. THE HEART OF EVERYTHING, by (Samantha) Lynn Wallace (2018). This was a fun and rambunctious read. It was hard to put down because the dialogue was so compelling you just wanted to stay in the room on the run or in most interesting places with these “people”. It continual references to pop culture (movies, books and sayings) kept you looking for these as if they were little nuggets of gold that added to the humor and intrigue of this wonderfully written and engaging story. It was a bit Twilight-esk for my liking (though I never actually watched the movies or read the books) but the characters were so much fun I had a hard time putting it down and as a pastor I loved these last lines…"Jesse had been wrong all along. The salvation of his soul could never have been accomplished by magic. Salvation wasn’t something that could be earned or achieved—it was given. Years of a front row seat in the pews hadn’t prepared me to witness this firsthand. I suddenly felt very, very small in the face of such power, such planning—as well as very, very grateful. I reviewed Jesse’s words inside my mind: “God went through a hell of a lot of trouble, just for the likes of me.” Maybe that’s the whole point, I told myself. It didn’t matter how lost you were or how many sins you committed. Christ had died for our sins so that anyone could be saved, regardless of what you thought you deserved. Because deserving had nothing to do with it." I am thankful for this book and hope Lynn (Samantha) keeps writing.
THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, by T.H. White (1958). This book brings together 4 books into one…books published between 1938-4, concerning the Arthurian lore. The 4 books within this one are The Sword and the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind. Much of the book seems to use as its main source of “research” and “basis in fact” the work of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur) which was itself a reworking of tales concerning the Arthurian lore of the time (1485…and a work much loved and discussed by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who were huge fans of the Arthurian lore). In the books first form it was titled The Whole Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table. I was a fan of The Sword and the Stone as a child…and later on had read Sir Thomas’ tome on Arthur but had never read the rest of the book published by White before this reading. The Sword and the Stone would be a “prequel” to Sir Thomas’ work today giving us a look at the early life of Arthur/Wart just before he pulls the sword from the stone. However, from the beginning it seems that this was meant as a fantasy tragedy concerning the Arthur of myth and legend. While The Sword and the Stone is mostly whimsical there are glimpses of what is coming that are detailed well in the following books up to the death of Arthur. Now there is another book by White that supposedly wraps the story up that was published posthumously (The Book of Merlyn written in 1941 but not published until 1977), but it is said that most of the details are found in the first couple of these books. This is an amazingly well written tale…moving far better than even the updated versions of Sir Thomas’ work. I enjoyed reliving my youth with this medieval tale of Arthur and even the points of Christian doctrine that finds its way in the work… I especially liked this little quote, “Do you know, I shall be talking about God a great deal, and this is a word which offends unholy people just as badly as words like ‘damn’ and so on offend the holy ones." And one more, "Funny,” said Lancelot, “how the people who can’t pray say that prayers are not answered, however much the people who can pray say they are.” Faith is actually highlighted a lot in White’s rendition of this tale…Bors, Galahad, and even the faith of Lancelot and his on-going and continual struggle with God and Arthur and Guinevere. Also, the books are filled with excellent metaphor and irony...like the image of an ugly Lancelot. This is a good classical read that every person young and old should read…this is much more than a story of love and tragedy or a story of a man name Arthur…it is a story of King David, and it is a story of each and every man who thoughtfully struggles with the darkness in which we live seeking answers with God and without God and the consequences and blessings for both. (Just as an aside: I hold to a more ancient view of “Arthur”. The more contemporary view is about a 6th Century warrior who would become a sort of king that defeated the Saxon’s on Baden Hill. Artorius which means the Bear may have simply been a title or a nickname of an actual man who ended up ruling in a region historians think Camelot may have existed for over 50 years. There are many books which have come out in the last 2 decades that look to this man as being the Arthur of lore and legend.) (Approx. 650 pages)
12. ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS, by Andrew Peterson (2008). This is the first book in the Wingfeather saga (a group of 4 books all told). It is well written. One can see the influence of two of the Oxford Inklings (C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien…probably more so Lewis… thinking of the Chronicles of Narnia) to be sure. As I said, this is well written…but literally it took till the last third of the book to get interesting enough to keep reading (thankfully they are short chapters). My son says that the rest of the books are better since the entire back story is out of the way now…but I wonder. My favorite character, Peet the Sock Man runs throughout the book, and right when I thought we were going to learn even more about the man the book ends. And, the toothy cows are said to be feared, but I have no idea why. I have to say that in the beginning of the book I found the description of animals and other things to be amusing, but they distracted me from the story completely. The side notes that pop up was an interesting idea, but once again they ended up distracting me, and didn't really add to the book, so I just stopped reading the side notes after a while which leaves you wondering later if you have missed something. So, to re-cap this 300 plus page book: Slow story at the beginning followed by a quick paced story in the end. Danger in the shadows versus shadows that come out and grab you. Will I read the next 3 books…jury is still out…(at $9.99 for the kindle editions, probably not for a while.)
13. THE RETURN OF PRAYERS: A Treatise, Wherein This Case: How To Discern Gods Answers To Our Prayers Is Briefly Resolved: With Other Observations Upon Psalm 85.8 Concerning Gods Speaking Peace, by Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679). This is this well-known and loved Puritan pastor’s attempt in this treatise to convince believers of the grand importance of this duty, which is so full of gain: to discover the causes of neglect of prayer, and to remove temptations and discouragements in the practice of it. In his epistle’s dedicatory, he describes prayer as a "thriving trade of intercourse with God. The returns are better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. It is the praying Christian that alone employs the riches of the promises, which we usually let lie by us, like dead stock, unimproved.” But just to be clear this treatise is not some much about how to pray as it a book about what to make of God’s answers to prayer and how we, believers, know God answers prayer. It truly is an easy read…though some of the language may cause some to slow down…but if you read the Puritans regularly it will be of little concern. What ii found most helpful is his rather lengthy sections on what we are to do when it is clear that God hasn’t answered our prayers and what we as Christians should discern from that. He is almost exhaustive in discussing God’s reasons for both how we can know God has answered prayer and what to discern from Him not answering prayer… and He does all of this in less than 250 pages. As usual Rev. Goodwin lives up to his reputation of having a wonderful ability to shed light on some of the obscure passages of Scripture making them crystal clear for his readers no matter the generation.
14. THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL: A Discourse on Colossians 1:26-27, by Thomas Goodwin (digitally remastered in 2019 from Monergism Books). This is a wonderfully written treatise for the Christian struggling with assurance of faith, which Christians are prone to do in all generations. As we seek to have the assurance that he talks about in this treatise, he emphasizes the use of scripture and how without it we will be tossed to and fro like the waves…but, along with the Scriptures he makes a great claim in our faith journey: “Therefore if God have revealed this mystery unto his saints, we must acquaint ourselves with saints, not only with saints living, but dead; and we may have a great deal of knowledge from their writings, for it is the ordinance of God that the body in all ages fitly joined together should increase by that which every part supplies. We have had a great deal of knowledge from the age before, and that which is coming shall have much knowledge from us; and so one age being fitly joined to another, doth cause the body to grow to the fullness of the stature of Christ.” This is an excellent work revealing the center piece of the Gospel in us…Christ! It has been said that one needs patience to read Goodwin but I find his style of intertwining the scriptures and proving his point over and over again to be refreshing. He truly is a pastor to his readers trying not to give any room to nonsensical questions that might lead back to a lack of assurance in the Scriptures and in the Christ he so loved and knew very well.
15. THE OXFORD INKLINGS: Lewis, Tolkien and their circle, by Colin Duriez (2014). There has been so much written about these men through the years and how the changed the flow of discussion on literature in the early to mid 20th Century. This book winds us through the relationships of these men in such a way to leave the reader thinking on many occasions that we were there at the Kilns (Lewis’s home) or in one of the many pubs having discussions concerning the culture and the literature of the day. The times of honing each other’s craft with their readings of each other’s work was a moment (or two) that caused me to wish I actually was there. To hear the early drafts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ early poems and Out of the Silent Planet would have been extremely stimulating to be sure. The trust between these men through two World Wars and beyond is an amazing testimony to their love for one another. Their Christianity was yet another aspect of their connection which probably was the root of their ability to trust one another. There are many quotable section but I believe this is the authors whole point for writing this book, "So were the Inklings simply a circle of C.S. Lewis’s friends? They were a circle of Lewis’s friends, but not simply that. For Lewis and his friends, friendship itself was a rich and complex relationship, with roots in an older world, and with the power to enable what is best in our humanity, if not misused. How ought friendships to be lived? That question was at the heart of the work and concerns of the Inklings, however imperfectly they practiced and embodied friendship." The influence of Charles Williams upon Lewis was a component that I found rather interesting and look forward to reading one of his works (The Place of the Lion) that is often discussed among the group as well. What would the world have done without such “dinosaurs”? Praise be to God for the gift of these men and the author’s book.