Last fall I shared a list of some of the new books coming out that I was most looking forward to reading. As is often the case, wanting to read and actually reading are two different things. I was actually able to read most of the books, but still have a few to get to. Some were more impactful than others, with the book, You Lost Me by David Kinnaman being the stand out of the group and one that I will be mulling over for some time to come. Now that the new year is hear, I thought I would once again share a list a books that I am looking forward to reading and why.
Jim Cymbala, senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, is one of my favorite authors and it has been a while since his last book. His best selling book, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire had a major impact in the evangelical world at the time that it was released and in my life. How powerful it was to read about a church that made their midweek prayer service the highlight of their ministry and the power of the gospel to return Jim’s prodigal daughter to him. This book, Spirit Rising, promises to be a balanced treatment on the Holy Spirit in a world that sometimes rejects the gifts of the spirit as valid for today or overindulges in unbiblical emotional extremism. I have always appreciated Jim’s commitment to the word of God, his love for reading widely and especially his appreciation of classic authors who still have much to say to this generation. I look forward to learning what he has to say about the vital role of the third person of the trinity in our lives today.
The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski is a highly anticipated new children’s storybook Bible by New Growth Press. Marty is the Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. This wonderful new book which I have had a chance to look at is reminiscent of the Jesus Storybook Bible with more content and probably geared to a slightly older child. The illustrations are really captivating and the concept of connecting the story of the gospel to many of the key stories and people of the Old and New Testaments ties the whole book together. By showing how each story ultimately points to Jesus, Marty has written a book that really may answer the question, “Can a Bedtime Story Actually Change Your Life?”
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson is one that has just come out and is already making several of the “must read” lists by key evangelical bloggers and magazine writers. Mark is the writer of one of my favorite books, In A Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. He is the pastor of the very innovative National Community Church in Washington D.C. and a great writer. This book promises to challenge my prayer life as he writes about understanding the impossibly big dreams God is calling me to and how I can draw a prayer circle around it. The story begins with Honi, a legendary Jewish figure from 1 BC, whose faith and prayer saved the generation before Jesus by calling upon the God of heaven and earth to provide rain in time of near- fatal drought. Honi drew a circle in the desert sand, took his place, and called upon God to let it rain. And rain it did! As someone who has lots of impossible dreams and needs a kick start to effective prayer in 2012, this promises to be an important book in my life this year.
What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert is a book that came out last fall and is on my list because I like Kevin’s books and because I am curious about the controversy surrounding it. Kevin is one of the prominent new reformed writers that have been making significant inroads in evangelical circles with books like Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys That Should Be and Don’t Call it a Comeback. This books deals with the tension in the current evangelical church world between the role of the church in social justice and preaching the gospel. This is an issue that has touched the church as far back as the fundamentalist/ modernist controversies of the 1920’s and is still a challenge for us today. I am particularly interested in seeing how he deals with the reality of being both proclamational and incarnational in a world that often criticizes the church for being “one big mouth” as Rick Warren has been quoted as saying rather than the body of Christ with many parts and many roles.
Why Jesus? by Ravi Zacharias is coming out at just the right time from my perspective. As our world continues to value tolerance and customized spirituality, many people seem to want to pick and chose what they believe about Jesus. Ravi Zacharias is one of the smartest evangelicals alive today and yet is able to write in such a way that the average person can understand what he is saying. I suspect that what he writes about in this new book will be a challenge to both believers and non believers just like Jesus was himself. Every time I read the gospels, I am astounded at how little I really know about Jesus and how different His message is from what is often presented by those that want to water down what He actually said. I look to forward rediscovering “His Truth” for myself one more time just as I did when I first read Mere Christianity and discovered a faith that was worth dying for.
I Am Second by Doug Bender and Dave Sterret caught my attention from the title alone and incredibly compelling cover art. The book uses compelling real life stories about the dramatic changes that have taken place in people’s lives as they have learned to “get off the throne” and put Jesus first in their lives. In a day and age when books like Your Best Life Now seem to push us in the direction of thinking that life really is all about us and what we can become, this book should provide a refreshing change of pace. It follows in the recent tradition of books like Same Kind of Different as Me and Radical in presenting a powerful new narrative for living the Christian life and one that seems far more Biblical from where I sit. The book is supported by a great website www.iamsecond.com that provides videos of the people featured in the book and seeks to launch a new movement of Christians who want to put Jesus first in their lives.
Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll is one that I debated about including in this list because of the controversy that is currently brewing about their explicit discussion about married sexuality and other topics. Mark is no stranger to controversy and has been known to be outspoken, raw and very direct in his preaching. His church, Mars Hill in Seattle, has grown significantly over the years and has wide influence in a variety of evangelical circles these days including through the The Gospel Coalition. What caught my eye about this book was the way that several reviewers have pointed to Mark and Grace’s honesty about their struggles and their emphasis on friendship as a key to the success and sustainability of their marriage over the years. I am always interested in reading books that can strengthen and encourage strong Christian marriages, but I am also wary of books that create this much “buzz” for what are potentially divisive reasons. As with all books, I will read it with the Bible as my filter and my eyes open to discern what the Lord wants me to hear and what I should ignore.
Keep Your Head Up by Anthony Bradley promises to be an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about the role of the church in the African American community. “The black community is in trouble,” writes Bradley. Systemic issues are perpetuating a chronic plague on not only African-American society, but the black church in particular. Continuing the renowned “Cosby Conversation,” first started in 2007 by Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Bradley has assembled a team of pastors, scholars, and leaders to address specific issues within the black community. Bradley’s new book features contributions from himself, Vincent Bacote, Ralph C. Watkins, Eric M. Mason, Anthony Carter, Craig Mitchell, and others. Keep Your Head Up covers a variety of topics, including victim mentality, hip-hop, masculinity, and the prosperity gospel.
Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham, Jr. is a book that I need to read and one that I suspect will affect me for years to come. As the father of two teenage boys, I am always looking for good books on parenting and family life. What excites me about this book is the premise that it will provide practical guidance on equipping me and the men that read it to be leaders in our homes in a fresh new way. I am sure that I am like many Christian fathers that find it easy to be distracted by the cares and pressures of this world and who desire to be better dads. Hopefully this book will spur me from simply doing research to doing the hard work of leading my family as the shepherd that God calls me to be.