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New and Notable Books
July 04, 2016

When it comes to good books, we are spoiled. We have access to more good books than previous generations could have even dreamed of. That is true whether we want to read Christian Living books or read deep, academic works. Here is a round-up of some of the new and notables that have come across my desk in the past few weeks.

Ephesians by Richard Phillips (A Mentor Expository Commentary). Richard Phillips has written some key volumes in the Reformed Expository Commentary series—Hebrews and John—and both have been of the highest quality. There is no reason to think his volume on Ephesians in the Mentor Expository Commentary will be any different and, in fact, with comes with commendations by Derek Thomas, Guy Waters and others. Thomas says it “easily rises to the top of recommendable books on Ephesians.” Here’s hoping it quickly makes its way to Logos. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion: A Biography by Bruce Gordon. The publisher says this: “John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a defining book of the Reformation and a pillar of Protestant theology. First published in Latin in 1536 and in Calvin’s native French in 1541, the Institutes argues for the majesty of God and for justification by faith alone. The book decisively shaped Calvinism as a major religious and intellectual force in Europe and throughout the world. Here, Bruce Gordon provides an essential biography of Calvin’s influential and enduring theological masterpiece, tracing the diverse ways it has been read and interpreted from Calvin’s time to today.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

What Christians Ought to Believe by Michael Bird. I like the look of this one, though I haven’t been able to dive into it yet. The publisher says, “Bringing together theological commentary, tips for application, and memorable illustrations, What Christians Ought to Believe summarizes the basic tenets of the Christian faith using the Apostle’s Creed as its entryway. After first emphasizing the importance of creeds for the formation of the Christian faith, each chapter, following the Creed’s outline, introduces the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and the Church. An appendix includes the Apostles’ Creed in the original Latin and Greek.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Michelangelo for Kids: His Life and Ideas by Simonetta Carr. I have appreciated many of Carr’s books and am glad to see this one. “Michelangelo Buonarroti—known simply as Michelangelo—has been called the greatest artist who has ever lived. His impressive masterpieces astonished his contemporaries and remain some of today’s most famous artworks. Young readers will come to know Michelangelo the man as well as the artistic giant, following his life from his childhood in rural Italy to his emergence as a rather egotistical teenager to a humble and caring old man. They’ll learn that he did exhausting, back-breaking labor to create his art yet worked well, even with humor, with others in the stone quarry and in his workshop. Michelangelo for Kids offers an in-depth look at his life, ideas, and accomplishments, while providing a fascinating view of the Italian Renaissance and how it shaped and affected his work.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by Andrew and Rachel Wilson. As one whose life has been impacted by special needs, I can attest that there are too few Christians books on the subject. “Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Andrew and Rachel Wilson know what it means to live a life they never expected. As the parents of two children with special needs, their story mingles deep pain with deep joy in unexpected places. With raw honesty, they share about the challenges they face on a daily basis—all the while teaching what it means to weep, worship, wait, and hope in the Lord. Offering encouragement rooted in God’s Word, this book will help you cling to Jesus and fight for joy when faced with a life you never expected.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians by J.A. Medders & Brandon Smith. “In Rooted, Medders and Smith make theology practical for Christians who want to grow in their faith. Rooted covers the most basic and crucial areas of theology: the Trinity, Scripture, redemption in Christ, and eternity. The authors bring the deeper things of God to light, but without the complexities often associated with theological works. Whether you read this book on your own or with a group with friends, you will have a better understanding of theology and why it matters for your life.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Preaching Illustrations from Church History by Ron Prosise. “Preacher and homiletics professor Steve Brown once said, “If you get one good illustration out of an illustration book, it’s worth every dime you paid for it. Preaching Illustrations from Church History is a ready reference of over four hundred choice illustrations for use in preaching and teaching.” Here’s what John MacArthur says about it: “This is a priceless treasury of illustrative vignettes culled from church history. The anecdotes themselves make profitable, edifying reading. As sermon illustrations, they are provocative and effective. Their greatest benefit is that they will promote a deeper interest and a more thorough knowledge of church history among pastors and lay people alike. … This is by far the best of all the recent illustration books I have seen.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

2016 Reading Challenge
July 01, 2016

This year I have been participating in the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine), I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I completed in June and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton (A book about sports). An excellent new biography on Olympian and missionary Eric Liddell.
  2. The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Taunton (A book about worldview). Taunton describes his friendship with atheist Christopher Hitchens while focusing on the fascinating spiritual conversations they shared immediately prior to Hitchens’ death.
  3. God Took Me By the Hand by Jerry Bridges (A biography). Jerry Bridges, who made a great impact on me through his books, tells of God’s kind providence displayed all throughout his life. While by no means destined to be a classic memoir, it is still well worth a read.
  4. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (A book about the natural world). Jahren’s book is essentially a love letter to botany. She loves plants and loves to tell of her love for plants. She is also quite profane at times and antagonistic toward the Christian faith.
  5. Rescuing the Gospel by Erwin Lutzer (A book about the Reformation). As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches, this is just one of many books that recount those events. Lutzer’s work is a great introduction to Martin Luther and the Reformation he sparked.
  6. How the Gospel Brings Us all the Way Home by Derek Thomas (A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle). Derek Thomas focuses on Romans 8, one of the sweetest and most significant chapters in the Bible. In its own way, Romans 8 tells the story and theology of the Bible.
  7. Operation Thunderbolt by David Saul (A book with at least 400 pages). Saul recounts the 1976 commando operation that rescued Jewish hostages in Entebbe.
  8. Reset by Nick Hall (A book about evangelism). Hall provides an ecumenical call for young people to “reset,” to turn around their lives by turning to Christ.
  9. The Matthews Men by William Geroux (A book about the Second World War). Many of the men of Matthews County, Virginia, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during the Second World War and Geroux uses them to talk about an important and overlooked service that allowed the Allies to win the war.
  10. 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost (A book about writing). Though outdated in some ways (“Buy a set of encyclopedias and keep them near your desk”) there are many excellent tips for writers in this work.

You can see my previous updates for January, February, March-April, and May.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☒ A biography (Good Took Me By the Hand)
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☒ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle (How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home)
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☒ A book for children (Good Picture, Bad Picture)
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (William Carey)
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☒ A book with at least 400 pages (Operation Thunderbolt)
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☒ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers (Red Platoon)
  • ☒ A book about church history (A Great Blessing to Me)
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☒ A book of poetry (Sojourner Songs)

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (Conscience)
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview (The Faith of Christopher Hitchens)
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☒ A book with 100 pages or less (God and Politics)
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☒ A book about money or finance (Living in the Light)
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☒ A book about music (Unashamed)
  • ☒ A memoir (Skyfaring)
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☒ A self-improvement book (Habits of Grace)
  • ☒ A book by David McCullough (Brave Companions)
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☒ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended (The Whole Christ)
  • ☒ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you (Black and Reformed)

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☒ A book published by The Banner of Truth (J.C. Ryle)
  • ☒ A book about the Reformation (Rescuing the Gospel)
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☒ A book about productivity (Your Days Are Numbered)
  • ☒ A book about or relationships or friendship (The Lovers)
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☒ A book with magic (The Snow Child)
  • ☒ A book about prayer (Moving Mountains)
  • ☒ A book about marriage (Tying the Knot)
  • ☒ A book about a hobby (Floodpath)
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☒ A book about the Second World War (The Matthews Men)
  • ☒ A book about sports (For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton)
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☒ A book about suffering (When Breath Becomes Air)
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☒ A book about homosexuality (Messy Grace)
  • ☒ A Christian novel (Jump)
  • ☒ A book about psychology (Imagine Heaven)
  • ☒ A book about the natural world (Lab Girl)
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☒ A book about the Bible (A Peculiar Glory)
  • ☒ A book about a country or city (One Child)
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☒ A book by a woman conference speaker (Hope Heals)
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☒ A book about leadership (Zeal Without Burnout)
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☒ A book about science (The Sleep Revolution)
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☒ A book about writing (100 Ways To Improve Your Writing)
  • ☐ A book about evangelism (Reset)
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☒ A book about the church (Discipling)
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☒ A photo essay book (Humans of New York)
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Uncategorized

  • Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith
  • Core Christianity by Michael Horton

2016 Reading Challenge
May 30, 2016

This year I have been participating in the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine), I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I completed in May and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. Living in the Light by John Piper (A book about money or finance). Money, sex, and power: three great gifts of God that can be used to such noble ends or abused to such ignoble ends. Together they form the subject for Piper’s latest book.
  2. Discipling by Mark Dever (A book about the church). This is another excellent little book in what is becoming an indispensable series. Though I have thought deeply about discipling and have committed a lot of time to it, the book still sparked new ideas and an increased belief in its centrality in God’s plan for his people.
  3. J.C. Ryle by Iain Murray (A book by the Banner of Truth). Murray’s latest work is a biography of the great Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle and its release was timed to coincide with the two hundredth anniversary of its subjects birth. Considering Ryle’s legacy and influence there have been surprisingly few accounts of his life. I’m glad to see Murray remedy that.
  4. Hope Heals by Catherine & Jay Wolf (A book by a woman conference speaker). Though it deals with the difficult subject of suffering, this book was both encouraging and inspiring.
  5. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton (A photo essay book). Based on the ultra-popular photo blog, this book is a lot of fun. Stanton has an eye for interesting people and for getting their stories. Not all of the photos are one hundred percent appropriate.
  6. Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson (A book for children). This book is designed to help parents protect their young children from pornography by both teaching their children what it is and by instructing how to respond when they see it. I thought it was quite well done.
  7. Core Christianity by Michael Horton. This immediately takes its place as one of my favorite introductions to the Christian faith. It is one I will recommend often and distribute widely. 
  8. Sojourner Songs by Ben Palpate (A book of poetry). If you are looking for a book of poems to read in 2016, I don’t think you will do much better than this. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  9. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (A book with magic). It starts out hauntingly beautiful and, to my mind, begins to lose some of that beauty by the end. Still, it is clear why this was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
  10. Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha (A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers). This is the account of a terrible, costly battle fought in the mountains of Afghanistan. It is written by one of two soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for his actions and he tells the story well. Note: It is a military memoir and hence contains a lot of profanity.

You can see my previous updates for January, February, and March-April.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☐ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☒ A book for children (Good Picture, Bad Picture)
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (William Carey)
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☒ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers (Red Platoon)
  • ☒ A book about church history (A Great Blessing to Me)
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☒ A book of poetry (Sojourner Songs)

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (Conscience)
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☒ A book with 100 pages or less (God and Politics)
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☒ A book about money or finance (Living in the Light)
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☒ A book about music (Unashamed)
  • ☒ A memoir (Skyfaring)
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☒ A self-improvement book (Habits of Grace)
  • ☒ A book by David McCullough (Brave Companions)
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☒ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended (The Whole Christ)
  • ☒ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you (Black and Reformed)

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☒ A book published by The Banner of Truth (J.C. Ryle)
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☒ A book about productivity (Your Days Are Numbered)
  • ☒ A book about or relationships or friendship (The Lovers)
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☒ A book with magic (The Snow Child)
  • ☒ A book about prayer (Moving Mountains)
  • ☒ A book about marriage (Tying the Knot)
  • ☒ A book about a hobby (Floodpath)
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☒ A book about suffering (When Breath Becomes Air)
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☒ A book about homosexuality (Messy Grace)
  • ☒ A Christian novel (Jump)
  • ☒ A book about psychology (Imagine Heaven)
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☒ A book about the Bible (A Peculiar Glory)
  • ☒ A book about a country or city (One Child)
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☒ A book by a woman conference speaker (Hope Heals)
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☒ A book about leadership (Zeal Without Burnout)
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☒ A book about science (The Sleep Revolution)
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☒ A book about the church (Discipling)
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☒ A photo essay book (Humans of New York)
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☒ A book about business (Disrupted)
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow

Books Without a Category

  • Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith
  • Core Christianity by Michael Horton

A Secret Way to Kick-Start Your Theological Library
May 11, 2016

It’s no secret that building a quality theological library is a very expensive proposition. Compared to popular-level books, theological works come at a premium cost. But I’ve got a secret to share with you that will help kick-start any theological library: You can build an electronic library of excellent theological journals and magazines without spending a dime. These journals are full of excellent articles by top writers, scholars, and reviewers. Some are targeted at academics while others are written with a general audience in mind. There is something for everyone!

In just a moment I will give you a long list of journals and magazines that are freely available to download. Before I do that, though, you need to make sure you have an information management system that can store and search Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. I recommend Evernote as a system that will allow you to not only store and search the files, but also to read and annotate them, though annotation may require an Evernote Premium subscription. Once you download the files you can add them to your information management system which will, in turn, allow you to search them and use them for reading or research. Click them, download them, store them, use them. It’s that simple. (Alternatively, you can just download them as you do any other file and read them that way.)

Here they are:

9Marks Journal. “9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches.” To that end, they want to see churches characterized by nine marks of health: expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, church membership, church discipline, discipleship and growth, and church leadership. The 9Marks Journal is a quarterly publication that offers topical articles and reviews of relevant books.

CCEF Now. CCEF Now is a magazine associated with the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. (They also publish the Journal of Biblical Counseling which is not a free publication.) The goal “in publishing this magazine is to encourage, equip, and inform you. As you read the articles we trust that you will be encouraged in your own walk with Christ, equipped to better serve others, and informed about the present work of CCEF.”

Credo Magazine. “Credo is a free, full-color, digital magazine that is published quarterly and includes: Articles by some of the best pastors and scholars today on the most vital and pertinent issues in Christianity; Columns engaging pastoral issues in the church and monumental figures in church history; Interviews with important pastors and scholars on both their ministries and their new books; Reviews of some of the most recent books in Christian theology and literature.”

Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry. “The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry is published biannually by The Center for Christian Family Ministry” which is associated with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The journal includes both articles and relevant book reviews.

The Journal of Global Christianity. “The Journal of Global Christianity seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity. The journal addresses key issues related to the mission of the Church in hope of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply the biblical teaching on various challenging mission topics.”

The Journal of Missions and Evangelism. “The Southern Baptist Journal of Missions and Evangelism is published annually by the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Each edition features articles by Southern Seminary faculty as well as pastors and missionaries from around the world.”

Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. “The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (JBMW) is a semi-annual, academic journal dedicated to facilitating a scholarly conversation on gender, marriage, singleness, personhood, family, and the many intersections that exist between these topics and biblical studies, church history, and systematic and practical theology.” Each issue contains a number of articles and reviews of books related to gender studies.

The Master’s Seminary Journal. “The Master’s Seminary Journal (MSJ) is a ministry of The Master’s Seminary. The purpose of MSJ is to offer scholarly yet understandable articles that uplift Jesus Christ and equip the Body of Christ to understand and apply biblical truths to their lives and ministries. MSJ is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and the promotion of sound Bible teaching along with the refutation of doctrinal errors. Its primary areas of focus are Bible, theology, church history, and apologetics.”

Mid-America Journal of Theology. “The Mid-America Journal of Theology is a collection of scholarly articles and book reviews published once a year, typically in the fall [by Mid-America Reformed Seminary].”

The Midwestern Journal of Theology. “The Midwestern Journal of Theology is a scholarly journal written to assist Christians and churches in making disciples throughout the world. Published twice a year, each issue includes theological and exegetical articles, inspirational sermons, and reviews of important books.”

Puritan Reformed Journal. “The Puritan Reformed Journal (PRJ) is a biannual theological journal of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. The purpose of the PRJ is to provide the church with biblically grounded and historically informed, Reformed experimental theology. At least two things make this journal stand out. First, the PRJ seeks to minister to the whole person by instructing the mind, warming the affections towards the Triune God, and changing the lives of its readers. The premise of the journal is that all theological study should bring us into closer communion with God, greater dependence upon Christ, and the pursuit of holiness through the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, the journal seeks to minister to the church at every level. While it includes well-researched articles by respected scholars, the PRJ intentionally includes simpler and shorter articles designed to appeal to Christians of every level of growth as well.”

The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal. “Readers will find this exclusively online journal to be both scholarly and pastoral in its content and approach, reflecting the tagline of RPTS, Study Under Pastors. ‘We pray that this semiannual journal will be helpful to the church as we seek to raise up shepherds who feed the flock and minister to the souls of all who are under their care,’ notes RPTS President, Dr. Jerry O’Neill.”

The Southeastern Theological Review. “The Southeastern Theological Review is the faculty journal of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. STR is dedicated to publishing articles of high quality by young and established scholars. We desire to publish material written not only by those living inside and outside of the United States, but also by those actively involved in denominational life that extends beyond the Southern Baptist Convention. Our hope is to facilitate lively and informed conversations on a wide variety of topics of interest to Christians around the globe.”

The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. “The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is published quarterly and features insightful articles by the faculty of Southern Seminary as well as leading evangelical scholars from around the world.”

Themelios. “Themelios is an international, evangelical, peer-reviewed theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith. Its primary audience is theological students and pastors, though scholars read it as well. Themelios began in 1975 and was operated by RTSF/UCCF in the UK, and it became a digital journal operated by The Gospel Coalition in 2008. The editorial team draws participants from across the globe as editors, essayists, and reviewers. Themelios is published three times a year.”

If you download some (or even all!) of these journals, you will very quickly have the beginnings of an incredible research library. And it won’t cost you a thing.

Individual Articles

As a bonus, you may be interested in these publications which do not release their journals in PDF format but which do release some or all of the articles in HTML or ISSUU formats.

Covenant (ISSUU). Covenant is a quarterly publication from Covenant Theological Seminary.

Tabletalk (HTML). Tabletalk is Ligonier Ministries’ venerable monthly publication. Each month they release a selection of the issue’s articles.

Towers (HTML). Towers is a monthly magazine associated with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. All of the feature articles are available online.

Union (ISSUU). Union magazine is a brand new publication from Union School of Theology.

Image credit: Shutterstock

2016 Reading Challenge
May 01, 2016

Late last year I announced the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine), I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I completed in March and April and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. One Child by Mei Fong (A book about a country or city). Mei Fong writes about the short-term and long-term consequences of China’s horrific one-child policy.
  2. Habits of Grace by David Mathis (A self-improvement book). This is a powerful guide to the spiritual disciplines. It offers basic instructions to new believers while bringing fresh encouragement to those who have walked with the Lord for many years. It is a joy to commend it to you.
  3. Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker (A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with). Tucker’s book makes a case for egalitarianism but deals too little with the biblical text for it to be a strong case. It makes a case against something as well, but not against complementarianism, not as I hear it described, not as I see it lived out in my home and so many others’.
  4. A Great Blessing to Me by Grant Gordon (A book about church history). Gordon’s latest work looks at the little-known but important relationship between John Newton and George Whitefield.
  5. Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker (A memoir). Vanhoenacker is a commercial airline pilot who is also a skilled author. He writes about his love of flying and the simple joys of slipping the surly bonds of earth.
  6. A Peculiar Glory by John Piper (A book about the Bible). Piper’s first major work in a number of years explains why and how he has such deep-rooted confidence in the Bible. He sets out to answer this question: How are we to know that the Christian Scriptures are the word of God?
  7. Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith. Patrick Smith is another commercial airline pilot who enjoys writing. His book deals less with a passion for flying and more with some of the questions people ask and the fables they believe. Your enjoyment of this book will probably vary directly with the amount of time you spend in those little aluminum tubes hurtling through the sky.
  8. Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash (A book about leadership). Can you have genuine zeal for God without having it lead to burnout? Is there such a thing as a sustainable, non-complacent zeal? Ash believes there is and he speaks with a voice of experience having twice allowed his zeal to drive him to the very brink of a breakdown. He writes for all zealous followers of Jesus.
  9. Disrupted by Dan Lyons (A book about business). Lyons writes about his almost-too-bizarre-to-believe-it time at an Internet startup company. He survived with his sanity intact, but only barely. This one needs a language warning.
  10. Your Days Are Numbered by John Perritt (A book about productivity). Of all the gifts God gives to us, few are more precious and few are more fleeting than the gift of time. Your days are numbered and you are responsible to faithfully steward each one of them for the good of others and the glory of God. This book will teach and encourage you to make the most of the time God gives you.
  11. Unashamed by Lecrae Moore (A book about music). For a number of years Lecrae has been the leading Christian rapper. This book explains his humble and difficult origins and how he rose to become a star. Readers may be well served to know that at times the descriptions of his pre-conversion sin can be quite frank. Lecrae fans will be especially interested in reading his rationale for his recent decision to break a little from the Christian music genre.
  12. Black & Reformed by Anthony Carter (A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you). Black & Reformed is an excellent primer on one of the most pressing issues in American Evangelicalism today. It is equally at home in the hands of an African-American Christian investigating the claims of Reformed theology and in the hands of a white Christian seeking to better understand his African-American brothers and sisters.
  13. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (A book about science). Sleep and I do not get along very well, so I’m always eager to learn how we can be reconciled. Huffington’s book is an interesting mix of science, sociology, and New Age silliness. There are some good tips and lots of good information about the sheer importance of sleep, but there must also be better resources out there.
  14. Imagine Heaven by John Burke (A book about psychology). I really, really disliked this book, though perhaps somewhat unfairly. Burke purports to provide an honest examination of Near Death Experiences from a Christian perspective. Yet as he does this he draws little distinction between NDEs that describe elements that could be almost biblical and ones that are firmly planted in very different faiths. While NDEs may be worth considering, I found this a weak effort that does more to justify the heaven tourism genre than say anything substantial about the experiences.
  15. Jump by Michel Sauret (A Christian novel). I enjoyed this novel which aptly describes a Christian’s journey to faith, but do fear that the author was too free and descriptive in describing the character’s pre-Christian depravity. Though it is not unrealistic, it is not a novel I’d want my wife or teenaged son to read simply because of some of the descriptions of sin.
  16. Conscience by Andy Naselli & J.D. Crowley (A book written by an author with initials in their name). This is a wonderful introduction to the exceedingly important area of conscience. The authors give great care and attention to expositing the appropriate Scripture passages while drawing application suitable to all Christians.
  17. Brave Companions by David McCullough (A book by David McCullough). McCullough is such a skilled writer that even though this is one of his lesser works, it is still a tremendous joy to read.

You can see my previous updates for January and February.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☐ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☐ A book for children
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (William Carey)
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☒ A book about church history (A Great Blessing to Me)
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (Conscience)
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☒ A book with 100 pages or less (God and Politics)
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☐ A book about money or finance
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☒ A book about music (Unashamed)
  • ☒ A memoir (Skyfaring)
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☒ A self-improvement book (Habits of Grace)
  • ☒ A book by David McCullough (Brave Companions)
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☒ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended (The Whole Christ)
  • ☒ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you (Black and Reformed)

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☐ A book published by The Banner of Truth
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☒ A book about productivity (Your Days Are Numbered)
  • ☒ A book about or relationships or friendship (The Lovers)
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book with magic
  • ☒ A book about prayer (Moving Mountains)
  • ☒ A book about marriage (Tying the Knot)
  • ☒ A book about a hobby (Floodpath)
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☒ A book about suffering (When Breath Becomes Air)
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☒ A book about homosexuality (Messy Grace)
  • ☒ A Christian novel (Jump)
  • ☒ A book about psychology (Imagine Heaven)
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☒ A book about the Bible (A Peculiar Glory)
  • ☒ A book about a country or city (One Child)
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☒ A book about leadership (Zeal Without Burnout)
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☒ A book about science (The Sleep Revolution)
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☐ A book about the church
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☒ A book about business (Disrupted)
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow

Books Without a Category

  • Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith

Take a Logos Course With Me
April 28, 2016

Many of the great joys I’ve had in the years I’ve been running this site are the ones experienced doing projects together. We’ve read a long selection of classic Christian books together, we’ve memorized Scripture, and a whole lot more. Today I’m wondering if you would like to take a course with me. A little while ago I approached Logos to ask if they would be willing to open up a course in their Mobile Ed platform. They said they’d be glad to do so, and after weighing the various options, I selected one that I thought would be interesting, helpful, and appropriately challenging to any Christian. It usually costs $229.99, but they are giving us access for free!

The course is titled Introducing the Gospels and Acts: Their Background, Nature, and Purpose and is taught by Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Bock is the author of a number of important works, including highly-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts. Here is the course’s description:

Study the key events of the Gospels and the book of Acts with prolific New Testament scholar Dr. Darrell L. Bock. Dr. Bock walks you through the pivotal events of history that shaped the social, religious, and political environment of Jesus and the early church. Find out why the religious leaders wanted Jesus crucified and how the resurrection demonstrated God’s approval of Jesus as Messiah. Discover how the early church remembered, shared, and recorded the events of Jesus’ life, and how those events became the catalyst for ministry in the book of Acts. Learn about the literary features of the gospel genre and why some “gospels” were not included in the New Testament. Dr. Bock—an internationally recognized authority on theology and culture—developed this course for the Mobile Education platform so that you can read the Gospels and Acts with fresh eyes.

Upon successful completion you should be able to:

  • Understand the effect of Hellenism on Second Temple Judaism
  • Discuss the significance of the temple in Second Temple Judaism
  • Summarize the ways in which Jesus created conflict with the religious leaders
  • Compare and contrast the canonical Gospels with the “missing gospels”
  • Explain the issues of authorship and date associated with each Gospel
  • Describe the concept of resurrection in Judaism and the Graeco-Roman world
  • Discuss the significance of the resurrection in each Gospel account and to the gospel message
  • Summarize the key events in the life of the early church

In other words, you will gain a lot of information about the background to the Gospels and the book of Acts that should, in turn, help you better understand, interpret, and apply them. Not only that, but if you decide to take more courses, this will earn you the first of five credits you need for the New Testament: Foundational Certificate Program.

What’s Involved

I will be taking the course over a period of 8 weeks. Logos has already divided it into 8 roughly equal parts, setting a good pace for us. We will complete each week’s lesson by watching the videos and, optionally, completing the reading; I will post something about it on the blog each Thursday. We can also discuss what we are learning via the Faithlife group. The course is driven by videos but includes two kinds of option reading: “Suggested Reading” (which you have full access to) and “See Also” readings for which you may need to purchase supplementary materials. However, the course works just fine without those “See Also” readings. You will also see transcripts for all of the videos in case you prefer to read than watch or, even better, do both at once.

All you need to do is sign up, either by using your existing account or by creating a new one. If you own the Logos software, it will appear there. If not, you can take it entirely through the web. If you’ve been meaning to try Logos and haven’t ever gotten around to it, this may be a good time to download what they call the Core Engine. When you sign in, the course will appear there for you.

We will begin officially on May 2. That gives you a few days to sign up and get settled. Then, on May 2, check the curriculum and begin watching the videos for Unit 1. You will probably want to bookmark this page since that’s where most things will be happening.

Sign Up

If you would like to join the group, simply click the link “Follow” in the box below and you will be taken to a Faithlife group (Faithlife is the parent company of Logos). (Alternative: Click here.)


That’s all you need to do. Sign up and then, on Monday, begin to make your way through Unit 1.

April 05, 2016

If you have been reading this site for a while, you probably remember the Best Commentaries series I prepared a couple of years ago. The basic premise of the series was that, because I am unqualified to determine which commentaries are best, I would turn to experts to find their recommendations. I did that and proceeded through the Bible, suggesting the five best commentaries for each book. All the while I depended on the prior work of theologians such as D.A. Carson, Tremper Longman, Keith Mathison, and Derek Thomas.

Logos users may be interested to know that I have now teamed up with Logos to prepare what I hope will be the first of several resources collections. In this first collection we have assembled 21 commentaries that will ensure you have at least one excellent commentary on each book of the New Testament. In most cases the commentary is the top choice of the expert theologians. The collection represents some of the best scholarship across key sets including New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT), Pillar (PNTC), New American Commentaries (NAC), International Critical Commentaries (ICC), and New International Greek Testament Commentaries (NIGTC). The collection also contains the ESV and the Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBL) so that you can immediately start studying the Bible alongside some of the most renowned evangelical scholars.

The bundle price is $399 which represents a 60% discount off the normal Logos price if you were to buy the 21 volumes individually. If you were to buy them all in print, you would be looking at something near $1200. Dynamic pricing applies, which means you will pay only for the commentaries you do not already own.

You can learn more, examine the individual volumes, and purchase the collection right here.

Logos Collection

 

New and Notable Books
March 25, 2016

When it comes to good books, we are spoiled. We have access to more good books than previous generations could have even dreamed of. That is true whether we want to read Christian Living books or read deep, academic works. Here is a round-up of some of the new and notables that have come across my desk in the past few weeks.

IchthusIchthus: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Saviour by Sinclair Ferguson & Derek Thomas. “Ichthus is the Greek word for a fish. Its five Greek letters form the first letters of the early Christian confession that ‘Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour.’ To draw a fish sign meant: ‘I am a Christian.’ To be a Christian, according to the New Testament is to know Christ. But who is he, and what is the meaning of his life? In Ichthus Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas answer these questions by taking us on a tour of nine key events in Jesus’ life and ministry. Their aim is to help us both understand and share the confession of those early Christians who drew the fish sign. Ichthus is a book for everyone and anyone. It will help readers who are already Christians because of what it says about their Master. Those who are wondering exactly what it is Christians believe about Jesus should find many of their questions clearly answered. And those honest enough to admit that they have ignored, or even rejected Christianity but really could not explain what Christians believe about Jesus, will find these pages both clear and challenging. Written by two friends who, between them, have been following Jesus Christ for a total of almost a hundred years, Ichthus will encourage you to share their faith in him.” (Amazon | Westminster Books)

Child in the MangerChild in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson. This one only came my way recently. The publisher offers this description: “The birth of Jesus divided history into two major epochs. Until the dawn of our hyper-sensitive age, even the way we dated events underscored this. From time immemorial every day, every week, every month, every year has been described as either ‘B.C.’ (‘Before Christ’) or ‘A.D.’ (Anno Domini, ‘in the year of our Lord’). Even the modern, pluralistic style abbreviations, B.C.E. (‘Before the Common Era’) and C.E. (‘Common Era’), cannot obliterate the indelible impress of Jesus birth. For what makes the ‘Common Era’ so ‘common’? And what explains the dividing line date? The answer is the same: the birth of Jesus. At the very centre of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. And he does so because he is at the centre of God’s story.” I offer my own description: It’s by Sinclair Ferguson. Enough said! (Amazon | Westminster Books)

Joel Obadiah Joel & Obadiah: Disaster And Deliverance (Focus on the Bible) by Iwan Rhys Jones. This is a new volume in Christian Focus’ excellent Focus on the Bible series of commentaries which are ideally suited to the general Christian reader. “Disaster and Deliverance, these two words sum up something of the message of both Joel and Obadiah. In Joel, the prophet begins by announcing a disaster in terms of a locust invasion, which has affected Judah. This, however, is but the pretext for warning of an even greater disaster on the horizon for Judah. Nevertheless, the prophet holds out the prospect of deliverance. In the case of Obadiah, the focus is on Edom. Edom’s pride and longstanding hostility against the people of God has led her to be party to an attack upon them, and as a result, she is threatened with disaster. The people of God, meanwhile, are assured of better things at the hand of the LORD. These two prophets and their message of disaster and deliverance will both challenge and reassure all who have ears to hear.” (Amazon)

John commentaryJohn: Jesus Christ Is God (Focus on the Bible) by William Cook. John is a new New Testament addition to the same series. “John’s Gospel is the mature reflections of the last living apostle. John the apostle wrote this book approximately fifty-five years after the resurrection of Jesus. During those years he had reflected on the words and deeds of Jesus and the result is that the pages of the Gospel contain the seasoned thinking of one of Jesus’ closest friends. New Testament scholar William F. Cook brings us the latest in the popular Focus on the Bible series. In a lucid and engaging style, he leads us through the Gospel of John.” (Amazon)

Zechariah BodaThe Book of Zechariah (NICOT) by Mark Boda. The venerable NICOT series continues now with this volume on Zechariah. “Over the centuries, the prophetic book of Zechariah has suffered from accusations of obscurity and has frustrated readers seeking to unlock its treasures. This work by Mark Boda provides insightful commentary on Zechariah, with great sensitivity to its historical, literary, and theological dimensions. Including a fresh translation of Zechariah from the original Hebrew, Boda delivers deep and thorough reflection on a too-often-neglected book of the Old Testament.” (Amazon | Westminster Books)