Books

WHO IS IN CONTROL, YOU OR YOUR PHONE?

We love our smart phones!

The convenience,  the connectedness, the amazing apps!

I no longer wear a watch, have a camera or use an alarm clock. My smart phone keeps me connected to friends around the world, it provides many forms of entertainment, and it allows me to answer virtual any question that comes up.

So go ahead and celebrate the genius of your smart phone. However, along the way, we should be aware that these phones have side affects. Some of these are good and others are subtly unhealthy.

Tony Reinke helps us to think through the effects of our smart phones with his new book “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”. Reinke’s purpose is to help us maximize the benefits and carefully minimize the costs that come with using one of the most amazing and powerful gadgets ever invented.

 

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.

HELP FOR EXCESSIVE SELF-EXAMINATION

A few weeks ago, I attended a book launch for my good friend, Jared Mellinger, who was celebrating the release of his first book, “Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection”. Jared is Senior Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA

I was eager to read my copy right away. I knew that anything written by Jared would be biblically sound and Christ exalting. What I didn’t know is whether he is a good writer.

It turns out that Jared is an excellent writer. His book is honest, insightful and gets to the point quickly without getting bogged down. There is plenty of practical wisdom to go along with his clear analysis of where we lose perspective.

“Think again” is written for those who are overly introspective. If you spend a lot of time focusing on self-examination, self-pity, or self judgement, this book is a must read! Jared also confronts some of the fear of man and people pleasing issues that are common to us.

Virtually anyone would benefit by reading “Think Again”. Jared’s insights will help you understand how to help those who struggle with introspection as well as serving your own soul.

 

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

HOW DO YOU WALK INTO CHURCH?

What Christian needs to read a book entitled, “How to Walk Into Church”?

Tony Payne, who wrote just that book, thinks all of us need to reflect on the topic.

I heartily agree!

I did miss church my first Sunday on this earth, but after that, my track record is pretty good. I estimate that I have attended nearly 5000 Sunday morning services. If the math doesn’t seem to add up, it’s because I have attended multiple services for decades.

Even after my immersion in Sunday church life, I found “How to Walk Into Church” to be helpful.

Payne’s purpose is to help us to approach church life and specifically church attendance, thoughtfully. And at less than 50 pages, “How to Walk Into Church” is a packed book!

Among the stimulating thoughts:

We should walk into church praying about where to sit.

When does church start?

When does church actually finish?

Whether you have attended 6 church services or 6000, “How to Walk Into Church” will not only help you, it will equip you to encourage other Christians in an age when church attendance is increasingly thoughtless and sporadic.

 

HELP FOR THE OFFENDED

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I read books in heaps.

But it is not often that a book impacts me as strongly as the one I am recommending to you this month.

After a few pages, it was hard to concentrate on the book, because I was so excited about reading and recommending it.

Let’s get right to it.

Beg, buy, borrow (please don’t steal), “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better” by Brant Hansen.

Here are some reasons you should make reading “Unoffendable” an immediate priority:

 1.  Being offended is a common occurrence. We are all regularly touched by offendable stuff, and we need help in maintaining a godly attitude.

 2.  Being offended has become a profession. There are people who appear to get offended as their main purpose in life.

 3.  Being offended is seen as a right. It’s not.

 4.  Christians polish their ‘offendability’ by telling themselves it is righteous anger. Brant does an excellent job clarifying what the Bible says in this area.

 5.  Brant writes well, with a sense of humor – which always helps. Unless that offends you.

 6.  Your life will be challenged in good ways, because you will be encouraged to live with a focus on serving Christ rather than your own sensibilities.

MESSY GRACE

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“Messy Grace” is an unusual story

The author, Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by a militantly lesbian mother and a homosexual father.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually helpful story

Caleb helps us to think about how Christians come across to those who are outside the church community. You will be challenged in how God uses you in the lives of those who are broken.

“Messy Grace” is an unusually powerful book

If you have a heart to reach people with abundant grace and uncompromising truth, this book will help you. And if you are not interested in those things, then you probably should read it twice!

I benefited by reading “Messy Grace” and I have been recommending it ever since. One of my small groups found that this book stimulated wonderful and needed conversations.

Buy it

Read it

Use it

MY FAVORITE READS OF 2016

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I can still remember how exciting it was for me when I learned to read. Ever since, reading has been a central part of my life and a major use of my time. Here are some of my favorite books from 2016

 

CHRISTIAN LIFE

Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

Reinke draws from Newton’s bountiful writings (primarily his letters) to present Newton’s theology of the Christian life

One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm

A short book that presents the use of one to one Bible reading as an outreach tool

Habits of Grace by David Mathis

There are many books on the disciplines of the Christian life. This may be my favorite.

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

A top book of the year.  Kaltenbach was raised by a militant lesbian mother and a homosexual father.  His book helps us understand how Christians come across to those outside the church community, and how to touch lives that are broken.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

Eswine uses the writings of Charles Spurgeon and the Psalms to bring help to those who suffer from depression

Everyday Church by Tim Chester

Helping churches become Gospel communities on mission

Awe by Paul Tripp

Another excellent book by Tripp on living with a Biblical perspective through remaining in awe of God

 

BIBLICAL STUDIES

Child in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson

Thoughtful messages on the birth of Christ

The Christ of the Empty Tomb by James Boice

Thoughtful messages on the resurrection of Christ

Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

This is an exceptional collection of writings on the person of Christ.  One of my favorite books of the year, which I have given to my children.

A Peculiar Glory by John Piper

I highly recommend this book on Piper which helps the Christian understand how the Bible was put together and how it reveals its glory and truthfulness

 

BIOGRAPHIES & MEMOIRS

Not Forgotten by Kenneth Eae

The powerful story of a Korean American believer who was imprisoned in North Korea

God Took Me by the Hand by Jerry ‘Bridges

Jerry Bridges uses his life story to teach truths on the sovereignty of God

 J. C. Ryle by Iain Murray

An excellent biography on an influential pastor and writer of the 19th century

The Man Who Moved a Mountain by Richard Davids

The story of Bob Childress, who was a pastor in the rough and wild mountain communities of Virginia.

 J. I. Packer by Leland Ryken

A biography on one of the most influential Christians of the last fifty years.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Christopher Catherwood

This book is part biography and part description of the impact of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ life written by his grandson.

The Diary of a Forty-Niner by Chauncey Canfield

A description of what life was like during the California gold rush in the 1850’s

A Pastor in New York by John Thornbury

A biography on Spencer Houghton Cone.  Cone was not someone I had heard of, but I love biographies on pastors

Darkness Visible:  A Memoir of Madness by William Styron

An accomplished author gives us an inside view of his struggle with mental illness.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuel Sson

The memoirs of a world-famous chef born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and cooking in America.

 

HISTORY

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

The fascinating story of the brothers who invented the first airplane that worked.

Dinner With Churchill by Cita Stelzer

An interesting look at how Winston Churchill used dinners to conduct policy, particularly during World War II

The Greatest Knight  by Thomas Asbridge

The true story of William Marshal, the most famous and powerful knight of the Middle Ages

 

NON-FICTION

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Gaffigan captures the humorous idiosyncrasies of parenting, especially with multiple children.  It’s a book best listened too.

The History of Diners in New Jersey by Michael Gabriele

Diners and history in one book, what more needs to be said?

 

FICTION

The Scarlett Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

A classic that was fast paced and enjoyable. What I never knew is that this is the first in a series on that character.

One Man’s War by P. M. Kippert

An accurate description of what it was like to be a rifleman on the front line during World War II.  Be warned:  foul language abounds.

THE INSANITY OF GOD

My book recommendation this month is inspired by Mission Conference week.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken (recently released as a movie), tells some of the most powerful stories that I have ever read!

The author during a season of discouragement over the condition of the world, decided to initiate a couple year project in which he would interview Christians in the most persecuted places in the world.

He wanted to find out how they could persevere in such conditions.

The project ended up taking over 15 years!

Ripken tells extraordinary stories from believers in then Soviet Russia, China and the Middle East.

This is a book that will educate, inspire and challenge you.

I hope you don’t miss reading it.

 

 

KNOWING CHRIST

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This month I am strongly

vigorously

heartily

robustly

stoutly

decidedly

and joyfully recommending the book “Knowing Christ” by Mark Jones.

I first heard about the book through watching a conversation between the author and J.I. Packer on the importance of this book and its topic.

After that I saw many recommendations of “Knowing Christ” by highly respected church leaders. It became a ‘must read’ for me.

After reading the first chapter, I bought more copies to give away.

I like that Mark Jones combines challenging depth with approachable clarity. Mark wants to honor Christ by having the reader think more deeply about Christ.

However, the book does not overwhelm the reader. The 27 chapters are short (under 10 pages), so the book can be read as a daily devotional. In fact, I recommend that you not read more than one chapter at a time. These are rich truths that deserve careful attention.

No subject will reward us more richly than to learn more about Christ. The Apostle Paul has this to say about Christ in Colossians 1:15-19

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

Every one of us has the need to love and honor Jesus more. A necessary part of doing so, is to know more about him.