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I promised to post my top ten books of 2012. I didn't read nearly as much as I wanted to read, and there is a stack of books on my desk that I started, grew bored with and put down, but I still find them interesting enough to pick up again some day soon when I have more time. This was a year of biography for me. I'm not sure why, but I felt that for some reason God brought me into a season of story. As a result, my purchases and reading centered around historical biography and less on deep theology as in years past. However, as I considered which books impacted me the most this year, as usual, it was the theology that moved my soul and stirred my spirit. But there were still some good biographies that I read. Without further ado, please consider the list as you think about purchasing books for your reading next year.
This book did a terrific job in shifting the conversation from a very polarized understanding of how God works through history within the various covenants mentioned within Scripture. The authors steered a correct and Biblically faithful path between two extremes, dispensationalism and covenantal theology. At the same time they offered serious criticisms for those two camps and displayed the logical inconsistencies and subtle departures from Scripture that are inherent within both systems. All in all, this book clarified much of my thinking regarding covenant and promise and the way God works through His various commitments to His people. This is a great book, but it is technical and academic. So it is not for the faint of heart!
I do want to offer the comment that, contrary to so many other reviewers of this book, this is not the first time this doctrine has been espoused. In other words, it is not groundbreaking!! Either the many reviewers of this book have not read much theology or they play really fast and lose with the word, "groundbreaking." I commend to you as a more reader friendly treatment of this topic, "Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament," by British theologian, Christopher J.H. Wright. His work was alos not ground breaking, but I believe he was the first person to treat on the topic late during the 20th century as a helpful correction to the dominance that had been gained by the dispensational camp. Read his book if you want something easy to digest, and read Kingdom through Covenant if you want the technical and hefty powerhouse arguments.
This book really surprised me! It opened my eyes anew to the wonders of the Trinity. I have read several books on the Trinity in the past and have always enjoyed reading them. James White’s The Forgotten Trinity and Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are biblical, systematic and powerful. I’ve read them, benefited from them, and often recommended them. I will continue to do so. The unique angle—and unique beauty—of Delighting in the Trinity is that it looks less at a concept and more at a relationship, less at a doctrine and more at the persons of the godhead. It is, at heart, an introduction to the Christian faith and the Christian life that seeks to show that both must be at all times rooted in the triunity of God. All that God is, all that God does, flows out of his triunity. It is the essential Christian doctrine.
If you’re looking for an in depth treatment of the issues surrounding the Gospels' interpretation, you need to check this book out. Whether or not you agree with everything Pennington recommends (which you may not; I didn't...), you will greatly benefit from his careful, balanced approach to the books of the Bible that most clearly unveil King Jesus. The major issue that I have is that this book tended to convey the idea that you should read the Gospels with a view towards application in your life, with which I agree. However, it seemed to over-emphasize that truth to the neglect of the primary truth that we should read the Gospels with a view towards knowing and worshiping King Jesus. I wonder if the author is not concerned about a pendulum shift towards the knowing of Christ that might lead believers to neglect striving to be like Christ? This is my only concern with the book. Other than that, it is a great read!
This is by far and away probably the most thought-provoking book I read this year. It is written by a self-professed Buddhist. I'll pause and let that last statement sink in for a second... Now on with the disclaimers and caveats. First, he is a Buddhist which means that his interpretation of certain data comes through a Buddhist lens. This means that you should not read this book with a view towards agreeing with his conclusions. However, you must absolutely read this book for the challenges it raises, scientifically and biologically, to a number of issues that are critical to the Christians life!! Conventional science has long held the position that ‘the mind’ is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Christians pastors and counselors have also imbibed this strange thinking, and for years have been supporting the notion that the Brain is something simply beyond our control and as such, it impacts our mind or soul in a way that we cannot change or control at all. Christians and non-Christians alike have suggested that antidepressants, stimulants, and all other manner of psychosomatic drugs are necessary to help us adjust our thinking, our emotions, and our behavior. However, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley’s groundbreaking work, The Mind and the Brain, argues exactly the opposite: that the mind, or soul, or spirit (call it whatever you want) has a life of its own independent from the brain. To put it into a more Christian reference, these medical doctors inadvertently stumbled upon the inner workings of the soul impacting and altering the chemistry and composition of the brain! Fascinating!! Dr Schwartz, a leading researcher in brain dysfunctions, and Wall Street Journal science columnist Sharon Begley demonstrate that the human Mind (or soul, spirit, etc.) is an independent entity apart from the Brain that can shape and control the functioning of the physical brain. Their work has its basis in our emerging understanding of adult neuroplasticity–the brain’s ability to be rewired not just in childhood, but throughout life, a trait only recently established by neuroscientists.
The other important thing that I want to point out is that it provides a scientific basis for understanding why the Scriptures suggest to flee from temptation, to take every thought captive, and to rejoice even when you're sad. This book really opened my eyes to the amazing machine that is the brain, and more importantly to this truth: our brain governs our body, but our soul governs our brain. This book also raised a serious challenge to determinism and provided a scientific and biological argument for the necessity of free will. You simply need to read this book.
I read through this book in an effort to better understand the effect of truth upon emotions, and specifically to better understand the emotion of anger from a Christian and Biblical Theological approach. The book is well written, and anyone who has friends, family members, or may themselves struggle with anger from time to time will benefit from it. I recommend it as the definitive resource in my office on understanding the emotion of anger from Christ's perspective and for working out the sanctification of this emotion in the life of the Christian, which can be used for good as well as destructive purposes.
Okay, I'll be honest. I did not actually read this book. I've ordered it, and I'm still waiting for it to arrive in the mail. I put this in my top ten list, without having read it, because I believe that all Christians need to read this book. I am constantly amazed and horrified at the sermons I sometimes hear or the way that a study of the Scriptures is sometimes conducted in which the basic literary function of prepositions is completely ignored, and the meaning of the verse is completely altered as a result. It is downright horrifying! It makes the interpreter or teacher look rather clever as he stumbles upon some hidden (and actually forbidden) meaning of the Scripture, but it confuses the true meaning of the Scriptures and makes God look small. This book promises to be a wonderful companion to any teacher's Bible Study toolbox, and because I am acquainted with the author, I am comfortable recommending this work as an essential item for your purchase without having read it myself.
So, the great commission is all about making disciples of the nations. How about we start doing this by starting with our very own next door neighbor? So simple. So easy. So ignored so much of the time. This book said a bunch of stuff and all of it was very helpful and good, but the truth is you could boil it down into probably one twenty-page chapter of significant material, and the gist of it is this: do what Jesus told you to do with your very own next door neighbors. From a practical stand point they suggest neighborhood block parties, dinner parties, shoveling your neighbor's driveway, etc. and all this with a view towards daily sharing the Gospel with your neighbor as a faithful servant of the Great Commission. So go ahead and get this book and read it. It will challenge you.
The following biographies were ones that I picked up due to recommendations from friends, and I was not disappointed! These men exhibited tremendous Christian character, fortitude, and the courage of their convictions. I do not necessarily agree with everything they believed, but I admire these men for having the courage of their convictions and the faith to fight for what they believed to be true.
This book was a terrific read on a man who withstood terrific pressures of incredible times. President Truman drafted and implemented the policies of a brave new world, a world that knew the horror of nuclear war. He was the original proponent of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, and he implemented a policy that safeguarded America during the heights of the Cold War, crafting a foreign policy which every subsequent President would embrace and which would guide American for the next half-century. It was Truman's blueprint which Ronald Reagan used to ultimately crush the Soviet Union.
It was the domestic policies of Truman which deserve more critical evaluation. He left office with a muddled bag of nuts and bolts regarding the treatment of the post-war American economy. Read the book, meet the man, and judge him for yourself.
This book opened my understanding to the truth that the American Revolution was fought largely based upon a Puritan's theology. There is no doubt that John Adams was the single most influential man who drove the American Revolution, pushed for independence, and struggled to craft a Constitution that would enable all men to be equals before God. What few realize is that he was a deeply religious Puritan, and it is a Puritan theology which drove the ideals of the American Revolution and lead to the founding of a country which stood for religious freedom and equality before God. Before entering Law, Adams studied at Harvard with a view towards becoming a minister. His father in law was a pastor.
Perhaps Abigail Adams, John's wife, says best what Adams believed when she wrote to him in a letter the following sentiments,
"If a people should fall from a King, they would not cease to be a people. But if a King should fall from his people, would he not cease to be their King?"
The quote is a double entendre intended to suggest that Jesus is the true King of the colonies and that He will never cease to be their King, while the King of England has become a tyrant and has fallen from the hearts and affections of his subjects located in the colonies, therefore ceasing to be a king at all.
It's Dietrich! It's World War II! 'Nuff said.
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