Thursday, September 20, 2018

Literature Every Christian Should Read: Top 10

1. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (translated by Constance Garnett).
     This is a lengthy work of incredible depth and beauty. In this novel, Dostoyevsky aptly depicts the dimensions of our full humanity: Dmitri - the hedonist, Ivan - the rationalist, and Alexei - the spiritualist. Weaved within the intricacy of character and plot development is Alexei's realization that, "I, too, am a Karamazov." The author's message brilliantly directs the gaze of our hearts and minds to the profound need that we all have for the love and grace of our Heavenly Father.

2. The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton.
     Perhaps one of the most perplexing matters of our lives revolves around the existence of God in light of the problem of evil and the presence of suffering. Chesterton writes a philosophical and metaphysical mystery to demonstrate that God is too vast for our finding out. Some questions we will not be able to answer in this life, but the majestic beauty of God ultimately transcends all our queries and doubts.

3. The Forged Coupon, by Leo Tolstoy.
     In Tolstoy's last novella, the author contrasts what life looks like lived apart from the principles of Christ's beatitudes (Matthew 5) set up against the transformation that takes shape in the world through individuals who live out the Lord's teaching. This is short, but readers will need to read it slowly in order to make all the connections that unfold among the book's characters as a result of a forged coupon.

4. Gilead: A Novel, by Marilynne Robinson.
     Robinson has written a novel that will resonate with persons of all walks of life as it deals with issues common to families and explores the complexities of faith. While the unfolding story is sometimes deeply tragic and sad, Robinson's prose will grip you and leave you eager to learn what will transpire next. Amid it all, she will also force you to wrestle along with the characters in the novel about who God is and the way He works.

5. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien.
     Those who are not into fantasy fiction might too quickly dismiss this recommendation. However, Tolkien's classic is replete with amazing allegories that point to the ongoing battle for the souls of humanity. To get the full effect of Tolkien's use of Christian symbolism, read all four books (which really form a united whole). Don't just watch the movies.

6. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride.
     'If you don't have faith and education, then you don't have anything.' That was basically the message McBride's converted white Jewish mother preached to her children. And in this moving tribute, McBride reveals how his mom not only successfully instilled that message into her 12 children, she lived it out. Yet, behind it all is the glorious reminder that God is the color of water: He sees neither race nor culture, but He looks on the heart.

7. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
     Yes, this is the same book you likely refused to read in high school because of the difficult antiquated language and because the plot just seemed dry. Well, work through the language and realize that your English teacher could have failed to teach the book properly. Chillingworth ("cold") is bent on revenge, and Hawthorne shows what that does to a person's heart. Hester is caught up in the spirit of humanism, which is found lacking at the end of the book. Dimmesdale ("blind') is the true protagonist, for his conflict runs through the entire novel while Hester's is resolved midway through it. And that which haunts Dimmesdale is an improper view of the nature of God (Hawthorne's true criticism of his Puritan forefathers). Friends, our God is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us (Eph. 2:4). Dimmesdale came to see that. Do not remain "dim" yourself, but confess your sin and receive the full forgiveness that only Christ can provide.

8. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
     Amid all the blubber and whaling references (and that can be a bit tedious) is, excuse the pun, a whale of a tale. It's hard for me not to see behind Ahab and his fight against the great sperm whale, Moby Dick, the symbolism of human hostility toward God. While the name Ahab represents one of the most wicked kings in Israel's history, Melville ascribes a certain mysterious, incomprehensible transcendence to Moby Dick. What we have, then, in this incredible novel is the warning not to lash out against the Lord in hostility but to seek Him out in humility (even if He has taken a leg from us).

9. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
     I remain convinced that Gatsby is a representation of Fitzgerald himself. A quick glance at his life-story reveals Zelda Sayre, who eventually became his wife, was his green light. The green light in the novel represents the sirens of Greek mythology, which call sailors to their demise as they crash into cliffs. For Gatsby, Daisy was his siren. The warning in the novel for everyone is the danger of forging idols in American culture, which can so easily allure us to our deaths. What is your green light? Will you learn a lesson from the 'Great' Gatsby? The narrator Nick wasn't too optimistic, explaining, "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther ..."

10. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, by Flannery O'Connor.
     Grim, dark, disturbing, how can O'Connor's short stories speak to our faith lives? You would be hard-pressed to find a better treatment of the depravity of humanity than to read O'Connor. She offers a honest critique of the bigoted South in her time, a stinging indictment of the glaring hypocrisy of people, and a sad portrayal of the hard-heartedness of the unregenerate. Some stories are better than others (my personal favorite is "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"), but they are all full of symbolism, and they are all painfully real.

Doctrine of Bible: Bibliology

View of Scripture:
1. The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives, edited by John MacArthur.
2. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, by John Piper.
3. Collected Writings on Scripture, by D. A. Carson.

Interpreting Scripture:
1. Knowing Scripture, by R. C. Sproul.
2. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.

Bible Study Resources:
Survey:
1. Best Old Testament Survey:  A Popular Survey of the Old Testament, by Norman L. Geisler.
2. Best New Testament Survey:  A Popular Survey of the New Testament, by Norman L. Geisler.

Systematics:
1. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Volumes, by John Calvin.
2. Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkzof.
3. Systematic Theology in One Volume, by Norman L. Geisler.
4. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Theology, by Gregg Allison.
5a. A Sure Thing: What We Believe and Why, by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
5b. The Heart of the Gospel, by Robert E. Coleman.

Bible Handbook:
1. The MacArthur Bible Handbook, by John MacArthur.

Bible Concordance:
1. The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong.

Bible Word Studies:
1. Old Testament:  The Interlinear Hebrew/Greek-English Bible, 4 Volumes, by Jay P. Green.
2. New Testament:  W. E. Vine's New Testament Word Pictures: Matthew to Acts, and Romans to Revelation (2 Volumes), by W. E. Vine.

Apologetics:
1. Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis.
2. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World: The Completely Updated and Expanded Classic, by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell.
3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller.
4. The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: Three Essential Books in One Volume, by Francis A. Schaeffer.
5. The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel.

Daily Devotionals:
1. New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp.
2. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, by Sarah Young.
3. My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.
4. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman and James Reimann.

Best Children's Bibles:
1. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
2. Read and Learn Bible, by American Bible Society.
3. Jesus Calling Bible Storybook, by Sarah Young.

Doctrine of God: Theology Proper

God:
1. Knowing God, by J. I. Packer.
2. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God, by John Piper.
3. The Existence and Attributes of God, by Stephen Charnock.
4. Discovering God in Stories from the Bible, by Philip Graham Ryken.

The Names of God:
1. Knowing God by Name: Names of God That Bring Hope and Healing, by David Wilkerson.
2. The Power of God's Names, by Tony Evans.

The Attributes of God:
1. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer.
2. In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character, by Jen Wilkin.

God as Triune:
1. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, by Michael Reeves.
2. The Trinity, Practically Speaking, by Frank D. Macchia.
3. Dogmatics in Outline, by Karl Barth.

God as Creator:
1. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, edited by J. B. Stump.
2. There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, by Antony Flew.

Love of God:
1. Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, by Francis Chan.
2. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller.
3. God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children, by R. C. Sproul.

Problem of Evil:
1. Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain, by Henri Blocher.
2. God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain, edited by Chad Meister and James K. Drew, Jr.
3. The Message of Evil and Suffering: Light into Darkness, by Peter Hicks.

Suffering of Humanity:
1. Where is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey.
2. Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff.
3. When God Doesn't Make Sense, by James Dobson.

Doctrine of Humanity: Biblical Anthropology

The Origin of Humanity:
1. Created in God's Image, by Anthony A. Hoekema.
2. The Christian View of Man, by J. Gresham Machen.

The Fall of Humanity:
1. The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, by Christopher J. H. Wright.
2. Fallen: A Theology of Sin, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson.
3. Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Humanity and Covenant:
1. The Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson.
2. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: Revised Edition, by Pascal Denault.

Humanity and Church:
1. Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community, by James C. Wilhoit.
2. Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry, by David P. Setran and Chris A. Riesling.
3. Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church, by Kenda Creasy Dean.
4. Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith, by Catherine Stonehouse.

Humanity and Culture:
1. The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, by Rosaria Butterfield.
2. The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, by Scott Klusendorf.
3. Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life, by Makoto Fujimura.

Humanity and Causes:
1. The Hole In Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World, by Richard Sterns.
2. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire.
3. The Justice Project, edited by Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla, and Ashley Bunting Seeber.

Humanity and Creation:
1. Our Father's Word: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation, by Edward R. Brown.
2. Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World, by Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Doctrine of Christ: Christology

The Person of Christ:
1. The Incomparable Christ, by John Stott.
2. The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey.
3. The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology, by Donald Macleod.

The States of Christ:
1. Jesus Divine Messiah: The New and Old Testament Witness, by Robert L. Reymond.
2. Jesus Journey: Shattering the Stained Glass Superhero and Discovering the Humanity of God, by Trent Sheppard.
3. The Lord from Heaven: A Study of the New Testament Teaching on the Deity and Humanity of Jesus Christ, by Leon Morris.

The Life of Christ:
1. Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour, by Sinclair B. Ferguson and Derek W. H. Thomas.
2. Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God, by Timothy Keller.
3. Jesus: A Gospel, by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

The Offices of Christ:
1. Christ, Our New Covenant Prophet, Priest, and King, by John G. Resigner.
2. Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Christ as Savior (The Five Solas Series), by Stephen J. Wellum.

The Atoning Work of Christ:
1. The Cross of Christ, by John Stott.
2. The Work of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology, by Robert Letham.

Encountering and Knowing Christ:
1. Jesus Loves You this I know: No Matter Who You Are or What You've Done, by Craig Gross and Jason Harper.
2. Knowing Christ, by Alister McGrath.
3. Follow Me: Experience the Loving Leadership of Jesus, by Jan David Hettinga.

Teaching and Preaching Christ:
1. Living by the Book, by Howard and William Hendricks.
2. Getting the Message: A Plan for Interpreting and Applying the Bible, by Daniel M. Doriani.
3. Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture, by Zack Eswine.
4. American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Michael Warner.

Doctrine of Salvation: Soteriology

Coming to Salvation:
1. Hand in Hand: The Beauty of God's Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice, by Randy Alcorn.
2. Determined to Believe? The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, and Human Responsibility, by John C. Lennox.
3. Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, by Michael Horton.
4. Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach, by Kenneth Keathley.

Order of Salvation:
1. Basic Christianity, by John Stott.
2. Free Grace Soteriology, by David R. Anderson.
3. The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, by Sinclair Ferguson.

Doctrine of Justification:
1. The God Who Justifies, by James White.
2. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification (The Five Solas Series), by Thomas R. Schreiber.

Doctrine of Adoption:
1. Children of the Living God, by Sinclair Ferguson.
2. The Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Adopting:
1. Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches, by Russell Moore.
2. Fields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living, by Tom Davis.
3. There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children, by Melissa Fay Greene.

Doctrine of Sanctification:
1. Holiness, by J. C. Ryle.
2. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, by Sinclair Ferguson.

Spiritual Disciplines:
1. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.
2. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, by Eugene Peterson.
3. The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, by John Ortberg.

Spiritual Life:
1. Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies: Reconciling Deeply Held Faith with Honest Doubt, by Stephen Shortridge.
2. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis.
3. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul, by Hannah Anderson.

Outreach & Evangelism:
1. The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman.
2. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J. I. Packer.
3. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, by Mark Dever.
4. Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly By Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly, by Will Metzger.

Mission:
1. Faithful Witness: The Life & Mission of William Carey, by Timothy George.
2. Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, by Paul G. Hiebert.

Doctrine of Perseverance:
1. Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved, by J. D. Greear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Pneumatology

Person and Work of the Holy Spirit:
1. I Believe in the Holy Spirit, by Michael Green.
2. The Holy Spirit, by Charles C. Ryrie.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit:
1. Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today, by John Stott.
2. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism, by Ralph Del Colle, et al.

Spiritual Gifts:
1. Discover Your God-Given Gifts, by Don and Katie Fortune.
2. Spiritual Gifts Pamphlet, by Rose Publishing.

Spiritual Warfare:
1. 3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, by Clinton Arnold.
2. Victory in Spiritual Warfare: Outfitting Yourself for the Battle, by Tony Evans.
3. The Spiritual Warrior's Prayer Guide, by Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock.
4. The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis.

Readings on Prayer:
1. The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, by E. M. Bounds (Prince Press).
2. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, by D. A. Carson.
3. The Battle Plan for Prayer: From Basic Training to Targeted Strategies, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.

Readings on Revival:
1. Rivers of Revival, by Neil T. Anderson and Elmer L. Towns.
2. Revival Praying: An Urgent and Powerful Message for the Family of Christ, by Leonard Ravenhill.
3. A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, by Collin Hansen and John D. Woodbridge.

Readings pertaining to Worship:
1. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, alongside The Pursuit of God, both by A. W. Tozer.
2. Recalling the Hope of Glory, by Allen Ross.
3. Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, by Harold M. Best.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Doctrine of the Church: Ecclesiology

General Overview:
1. The Church: Contours of Christian Theology, by Edmund Clowney.
2. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, by Gregg R. Allison.
3. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith, by Richard J. Foster.

Church History:
1. Church History in Plain Language: Fourth Edition, by Bruce Shelley.
2. The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1 and 2, by Justo L. Gonzalez.
3. The Black Church in the African American Experience, by C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya.

Church Polity:
1. Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age, by Mark Dever, et al.
2. Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity, by Chad Owen Brand, et al.

Church Administration:
1. Church Administration: Creating Efficiency for Effective Ministry, by Robert H. Welch.
2. Gods of Management: The Changing Work of Organizations, by Charles Handy. (Not a Christian book)

Church Unity:
1. A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness, by Gene Edwards.
2. Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, by Christine D. Pohl.
3. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Church Membership:
1. I Am A Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference, by Thom Rainer.
2. Membership Matters: Insights from Effective Churches on New Members Classes and Assimilation, by Chuck Lawless.
3. Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe, by Erin S. Lane.

Baptism:
1. Baptism in the New Testament, by G. R. Beasley-Murray.
2. Baptism: Three Views, edited by David F. Wright.

Lord's Supper:
1. The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, by Thomas Schreiner.
2. Spreading the Feast: Instructions and Meditations for Ministry at the Lord's Table, by Howard Griffith.

Ministry & Pastor:
1. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp.
2. The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life, by M. Craig Barnes.
3. The Preacher's Portrait: Some New Testament Word Studies (1988), by John Stott.

Ministry & Layperson:
1. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer, by J. Oswald Sanders.
2. An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence, by Alan Fadling.

Ministry & Women:
1. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Redesign): A Response to Evangelical Feminism, by John Piper, Wayne Grudem, et al.
2. Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught About Men and Women in the Church, by Alice Matthews.

Ministry & LGBTQx:
1. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill.
2. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, by Preston Sprinkle.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Doctrine of Last Things: Eschatology

The Four Main Eschatological Views:

1. Best book on Amillennialism:  Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, by Sam Storms.

2. Best book on Postmillennialism:  He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology, by Kenneth L. Gentry.

3. Best book on Historic Premillennialism:  The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture, by George Eldon Ladd.

4. Best book on Premillennial Dispensationalism:  Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, by J. Dwight Pentecost.

Three Helpful Eschatological Resources:
1. The Millennial Maze: Sorting Out Evangelical Options, by Stanley J. Grenz.
2. All You Want to Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God's Final Solution to the Problem of Sin, by Steve Gregg.
3. Heaven, by Randy Alcorn. (Speculative)