Summer is a season of recalibration for me. In just about every category—physical, spiritual, and mental—I head back in the right direction. One way in which I work to make this happen is by selective reading.
Below are seven books that have risen to the top of my pile. Seven that I will begin to tackle tomorrow. Seven that I know will challenge and convict. Seven that I will likely go back to again and again.
1. One Race One Blood: A Biblical Answer to Racism, Ken Ham and Charles Ware
The authors argue from the text of Scripture that there really is no such thing as different “races.” As we are all one race (“one blood” in Acts 17:26), the human race. Much of this error originated from the thinking behind Darwinian evolution, implying that certain “races” are more ape-like than they are human. They write:1
Ideas are like seeds. They might seem small; they might seem insignificant; they might even go unnoticed by all except those who hold them in the moment. But let there be no doubt: both ideas and seeds are incredibly powerful. From seeds dropped in fertile ground grow the mighty oaks that anchor the land, altering the course of the rivers and wind. And from ideas planted in the fertile soil of the human mind grow the thoughts and convictions of mankind, altering the course of history for the world and the individual…
Evolutionists like Hitler treated the Jews, Gypsies, and other groups as inferior. He therefore argued that they needed to be eliminated. Today, depending on the country, marriages between different people groups often result in persecution for the parents and the children. Current attempts at “ethnic cleansing” are the result of hatred of one particular people group toward another. Even within segments of the Church, intense prejudice can be seen toward those whose skin is of a different shade.
All of these problems and many others concerning racism and prejudice could easily be solved if new seeds of truth from God’s Word (properly interpreted alongside scientific fact) were planted and cultivated in our minds.
This book was recently given to me, and I’m eager to begin turning its pages. Dr. Albert Mohler interviewed the Junior United States Senator from Nebraska on his program Thinking in Public this past May. Give it a good listen and you’ll soon see why it is on my summer list. Here is an excerpt from Sasse’s book:2
When I was little, mom would leave detailed lists of chores on the kitchen counter each summer morning for my siblings and me to complete before we could play baseball, ride bikes, or go swimming. And when I arrived at college, basically everyone with whom I became friends, a group from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, had also done real work growing up.
Not everyone had worked in the field like I had—most had spent summers in retail or taking orders at a fast-food place or sorting the mail or doing some other kind of grunt work at a local office—but it was at least a job with certain expectations and set hours. Because these new friends were from all regions of the country and because they confirmed my own childhood experiences of regular toil, I arrived at young adulthood in the early 1990s assuming that work was a near-universal component of American upbringing and maturation. I didn’t presume everyone was as gritty as Elda Sasse, but I knew that my siblings and I hoped we would one day prove as perseverant as she was—and I honestly believed that this was a universal aspiration.
Without deliberate reflection, I assumed that basically all young people everywhere had similar placeholder role models in their minds, and thus that the transmission of a work ethic to each next generation was more or less inevitable. This chapter is about how painfully wrong I was in that assumption.
3. The Kind of Preaching God Blesses, Steven J. Lawson
I have heard much about this book over the past few years, and now have it in my possession. In it, Dr. Lawson addresses the poverty of modern preaching, the priority of biblical preaching, and the power of the Spirit in preaching. He writes:3
The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit…. In this present hour, preaching that is devoid of the person and work of Christ is all too often commonplace. Such lifeless words are a snare into which many pulpits have fallen, the deadly trap in which the Lord Jesus is minimized, if not altogether absent.
Rather than giving Him the central place of preeminence, Jesus is demoted to the periphery. Instead of being in the spotlight, Christ is left standing in the shadows.
In many pulpits, there is compelling communication that captivates the attention of the listener. There is logical thought with a coherent flow. There is a well-structured outline, an attention-grabbing introduction, and excellent exegesis. There are spellbinding illustrations and relevant applications. There are insightful observations and perfect cross-references. There is even a dramatic conclusion. But if the sermon fails to exalt and elevate Christ, it has missed the mark.
Such preaching has everything except the one thing necessary—the person of Jesus Christ, presented by the power of the Spirit. Sure, the name of Christ may be mentioned. But only in a polite manner. Such speech may even be energetic, exciting, and enthusiastic. But if it is devoid of Christ, it is a mere noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. The sad reality is that these barren pulpits are impotent to save and unable to sanctify.
4. Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius, Bill Pennington
My love for the history of this team is big. I was thrilled to see Martin’s bio on a discount pile (and pointed it out to my family, “lookie-lookie!”). Each year it is my aim to read at least one Yankee’s book at the beach; and so I’ve set my sights on this 500-page tome.4
Billy Martin is a story of contrasts. He was the “other” second baseman in New York in the 1950s, playing nearly every fall opposite Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson. He spent sixteen seasons managing in the big leagues and is considered by anyone who knows the sport to have been a true baseball genius, a field manager without peer. Yet he’s remembered more for his habit of kicking dirt at umpires, for being hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five separate times, for his rabble-rousing and public brawls on the field and off. He was combative, fiery, intimidating, bombastic, and yet endearing and beloved by the everyday fan. He was hard on his players and even harder on himself. But he knew how to turn around a losing team like no one else. And how to entertain us every step of the way.
5. Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture, Editors Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert
We never stop learning. I’m grateful for this resource from a previous Shepherds’ Conference, and expect that it will further shape my approach to helping others. The book is chock-full of documented cases including sexual abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, homosexuality, addiction, and adultery.
Dr. John MacArthur writes in the foreword:5
If you want to read firsthand examples of caring, wise, and biblically sound counsel being applied to those who are struggling with the perplexities of living in a fallen world, then read on. The approach to counseling modeled here comes from experienced men and women who believe that God’s Word is totally adequate to handle anything and everything the world, the flesh, and the Devil may throw at the believer.
6. What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
I have always understood the church’s mission as one of evangelism and discipleship. predicated on Christ’s words in Matt 28:16-20. But what does this look like? How does it play out theologically and practically? DeYoung and Gilbert write:6
The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey His commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father. We believe this is the mission Jesus gave the disciples prior to His ascension, the mission we see in the New Testament, and the mission of the church today…We go, we proclaim, we baptize, and we teach—all to the end of making lifelong, die-hard disciples of Jesus Christ who obey everything He commanded.
7. Pulpit Aflame, Editors Joel R. Beeke and Dustin W. Benge
Last, but certainly not least, is a collection of essays in honor of Dr. Steven J. Lawson all dealing with the subject of preaching. Contributors include MacArthur, Mohler, Sproul, Thomas, Ferguson, Godfrey, Mbewe, and Godfrey—to name a few. Wow!
Dustin W. Benge writes on Lawson in the first chapter:7
In every generation, God providentially gifts His church with men who are committed to His Word, passionate about His glory, and dedicated to His calling. One such man for our current generation is Steven J. Lawson. His life has been dedicated to biblical exposition and the proclamation of the truth. His desire is to train a new army of gospel heralds who will be unleashed upon a sin-soaked world. His heart is to call the modern evangelical church back to the biblical command to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Have you read any of them? What’s at the top of your book pile? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note via email or comment on social media and let me know what you are planning to tackle.
Last year’s list can be found here: 6 Books for the Summer of ’16.