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  • The 20 Most Helpful Books I’ve Ever Read

    Top 20 Most Helpful Books

     

    It has been said that you will be in a year who you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. If this be true, then what we read is of first importance.

    The following list contains the ten most helpful books I’ve ever read. They may not be the best, the most technical, or the most scholarly, but each of these books I found to be the most HELPFUL at where I was at that particular point in time. This list is in no way comprehensive and contains only non-canonical books.

    Desiring God by John PiperChristian Hedonism – If the term Christian hedonism doesn’t mean anything to you, then you need to read this book. Aside from the Scripture, no single book has had a more profound impact on my life. Desiring God was my front door to the reformed tradition. Desiring God was my back door to the Dispensational-Fundamentalist morass of my childhood. The idea that my pursuit of pleasure and my faith were not at odds radically and fundamentally changed how I saw every aspect of the world, from the loftiest matters to the most mundane minutiae.

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey – Worldview – Hands down the most clear summary of both the Christian worldview and the history of philosophy. Nancy’s writing is a brilliant, clear, and winsome.

    Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray – The Atonement – Murray gives a crystal clear, text-driven, thorough, and eminently faithful play-by-play of what Jesus actually accomplished in the cross and resurrection and the precise mechanics of how that work actually gets applied to His church.

    No Place for Truth by David Wells – Evangelicalism – Wells gives a clear and excellent history of evangelicals and examines some of our weaknesses as a group.

    Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington – Foreign Policy – Huntington’s thesis is that the world is broken down into 9 different civilizations that each have a different main worldview/religion and that wars are most likely to occur where several civilizations come in close contact with each other – due to the friction created by mutually exclusive ideas. Huntington’s work has proved to be a solid predictor over the last 20 years.

    The Road to Serfdom by F. A. HayekEconomics and Capitalism – If you are tired of the same old Keynesian, too big to fail, and central-planning type ideas, then Hayek’s book should come as a welcome counterpoint. Hayek presents a winsome defense of supply-side economics and capitalism.

    Let the Nations Be Glad by John PiperMissions – Piper single-handedly and radically changed how I viewed other cultures, God’s heart for the nations, and our strategic obligation as the church. A notable honorable mention would be Operation World by Jason Mandryk which provides the most helpful prayer guide for the various peoples of the world.

    Church History in Plain Language by Bruce ShelleyChurch History – Now in it’s fourth edition, Shelley has written a classic, readable, and simple, yet thorough, book on church history for everyone.

    Holiness by J. C. RyleDevotional – I’ve never read a devotional book that was so challenging to the idols of my heart. An honorable mention would be The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer which had a similar impact as Holiness at a very critical time in my life.

    Tactics by Greg KouklEvangelism – Koukl presents a very practical and helpful approach to having conversations about Jesus with the people already in your life.

    When Helping Hurts by Corbett and FikkertPoverty – Corbett and Fikkert present a more Biblical and holistic approach to poverty that avoids the over-simplistic models presented by the current political polarities. Poverty is much more than a lack of resources, a lack of education, or lack of anything – poverty is about relationships that are broken and don’t work.

    The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert ColemanDiscipleship – Coleman simply examines Jesus’ method for discipling his followers. The book is very helpful in giving categories with which to think about the disciple-making process. Justin Taylor has a solid review of the book here.

    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John FrameTheory of Knowledge – Before you build a worldview it would be wise to understand how to lay a foundation, frame out the house, and lay the trusses. How you arrive at “knowledge” will largely determine what “knowledge” you affirm. Frame provides very helpful categories with which we might arrive at more responsible, true, and balanced beliefs.

    Baptism and Fullness – John StottHoly Spirit – Stott examines what the Scripture has to say about the Holy Spirit and in the process helps untangle a lot of untrue and dangerous views on the Holy Spirit.

    Social and Cultural Dynamics – Pitirim SorokinSociology – I am constantly amazed at how few people, scholars included, have read this book or even know who of Pitirim Sorokin. He was a Russian thinker who founded Harvard’s sociology department. No one has more thoroughly studied the historical sociology of Western civilization. In it he outlines the pendulum swings of Western civilization back and forth from periods of idea-driven culture to sensate-driven culture.

    Adopted for Life by Russell MooreAdoption – Moore’s book kind of defies categories in many ways. It was as helpful devotionally as it was helpful in either developing a theology of spiritual adoption or legal adoption. The book expanded how I saw myself in relationship to God as Father and the priority of adoption for local churches.

    Culture Making – Andy CrouchChurch and Culture – There are quite a few good books on the subject of Christ and culture and none of them are without their weaknesses. Crouch presents a fairly even-handed model for the church’s engagement with the world. Some other helpful works are Abraham Kuyper’s, Lectures on Calvinism and James Davison Hunter’s, To Change the World.

    The Freedom of the Will – Jonathan EdwardsGod’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility – This is the most difficult book to read on this list but it is the most helpful if you can slog it through. Most other books on this subject (J. I. Packer’s included) falls deeply into over-simplified understandings of the mechanics of how God orchestrates all things yet in a manner than that doesn’t assail the will or take us off the hook for our actions.

    Pensees by Blaise PascalApologetics – This is another book that defies categories as it is equal parts apologetics, cultural analysis, philosophy, and devotional. The nice thing about the Pensees (French for “thoughts”) is that it isn’t a book you read from cover to cover. It is more a book that you read one paragraph at a time and then chew on that for awhile. I recommend reading it over a couple years versus a couple weeks.

    The M’Cheyne Bible Reading PlanOne Year Bible Reading Plan – For the majority of my Christian life I have used the M’Cheyne reading plan to read the OT once and the NT twice in the year. If you’ve never read the whole Bible before or never read it through in one year, I highly recommend this method.

    There are quite a few categories that didn’t get covered here that are worth noting so I am listing for your benefit a few “Top 10” lists that I’ve written in the past:

    Top 10 Books by John Piper

    Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

    Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

    Top 10 Books on Church History

    Top 10 Books on Eschatology

    Top 10 Books on Culture

    Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

    Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

    Top 10 Books on The Church

    Top 10 Books on Apologetics

    Top 10 Books on Systematic Theology

    Top 10 Books on Christian Devotion

    Top 5 Books on Christian Worldview

    Top 15 Books on the Status of American Evangelicalism

    Top 40 Books to Read While in College

     

     

     

  • Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 2

    This lecture is an explanation of the Protestant Christian worldview from Genesis to Revelation.  Audio is available here.

    I.  Creation

    A.  Ex Nihilo

    B.  Out of God’s pleasure

    C.  Creation was good

    D.  Man made in image of God: male and female

    E.  Cultural Mandate

    F.  The task given Adam was to make the whole Earth like Eden by:

    “numerically and geographically expand God’s image over the face of the

    entire Earth”

    1. Covenant of Works (Hosea 6:7)
      1. Adam is Federal Head (Rom. 5:12-21)
      2. Blessings for obedience; curses for disobedience

    a.  Blessing – Life

    b.  Curse – Death

    c.  Divine benevolence, Human loyalty

    II.  Fall

    1. Serpent tempts Eve, questions God’s goodness
    2. Adam was there and doesn’t say anything
    3. Curse:
      1. All humanity fell in the Fall because of Adam’s representative nature
      2. All creation fell and feels the frustrating affects of the fall
      3. Proto-Euangelion – Gen. 3:15-20
    4. Seed of the woman vs. Seed of the Serpent

    Abel                 Cain

    Seth

    Enoch               Enoch

    Lamech            Lamech

    Noah

    Shem/Japheth   Ham

    Abraham

    Isaac                Ishmael

    Jacob               Esau

    III. Redemption

    A.  Covenant of Grace

    1.  Noah – establishes stability on the Earth (Gen. 6, 9)

    -Baptism:  deliverance from waters of judgment

    2.  Abraham – establishes promised offspring who will bless all nations                  (Gen. 12:1-3; 15; 17), (Gal. 3:16)

    3.  Moses – establishes law and order above natural law (Ex. 19-24)

    -“I will be your God and you will be my people”

    4.  David – establishes eternal king/throne (Psalm 89)

    5.  Christ – fulfillment of the covenant of grace (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36/37)

    B.  Historical Summary

    Creation, Fall, Expulsion, Cain/Able, Flood, Babel, Shem

    Abraham moves, Abraham/Lot, Abraham/Melchizedek, Abraham Covenant, Abraham buys land in Canaan/Eden

    Isaac, Jacob/Esau, Jacob/Israel, 12 Sons, Joseph into Captivity, Famine

    400 Year Enslavement/Exile, Moses/Pharaoh, Passover, Egypt to Sinai

    Sinai, Law at Sinai – Tabernacle, Priesthood, Purification, Yom Kippur, Feasts:  (Sabbath, Passover, Sabbatical year/Jubilee, Weeks, Tabernacles)

    Wilderness Wanderings, Encampment at Canaan, Canaan Conquest/Joshua, Jericho vs. Ai, Land Divided

    Judges-Ruth – ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6)

    Eli, Samuel, Rejection of YHWH as king, Saul

    David – covenant – line/throne, unification, conquest (iron), Bathsheba

    Solomon – Temple, wealth/wisdom, Phoenicians, foreign wives/gods

    Divided Kingdom – Rehoboam (S – Judah), Jeroboam (N – Israel/Ephraim)

    North – Babsha, Omri, Jehu, Ahab/Jez/Baal vs. Elijah, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, 3 kings –  Menaham, Pekahiah, Pehah, Hoshea… Assyria/exile

    South – Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manassah, Josiah – Amon/Jeremiah, Jerusalem Sacked – 586

    Cyrus’ Decree, Return from Exile, 2nd Temple/Wall (Ezra-Nehemiah),

    Late Pre-exilic

    -Nahum – God’s wrath on Nineveh

    -Zephaniah – The Day of the Lord

    -Habakkuk – Resolving questions about God’s justice

    -Joel – Day of the Lord is both near AND future

    -Lamentations – God as source of both good and hard providence

    -Obadiah – pride goes before a fall

    Exilic

    -Ezekiel – Judgment and restoration of Judah

    -Daniel – God’s rule and care for his people

    Post-Exilic

    -Haggai – setting priorities

    -Zechariah – God’s restoration of zion

    -Malachi – Honoring God

    400 years of silence

    C.  Prefigurations

    1.  Melchizedek

    2.  Angel

    3.  Manna

    4.  Rock

    5.  Tabernacle

    6.  3 fold office:  Prophet/Priest/King

    D.  Jesus

    1.  Virgin birth

    2.  Hypostatic Union – God/man

    3.  Prophet/Priest/King

    4.  Law – civil/ceremonial/civil

    5.  Penal Substitution – great exchange – my sin for his righteousness

    -New Record

    -New Heart

    -New World

    6.  Death/Resurrection

    7.  Ascension

    8.  Enthronement – Intercession

    IV.  Consummation

    1.  Redemption of all of creation

    2.  Redemption of the church

    3.  Inauguration/Continuation/Consummation

  • Best Links of the Week

    The Danger of an Unconverted Seminary

    Which is your favorite?  Did I miss anything extraordinary?

    1.  “The Danger of an Uncoverted Seminary” – a very worthwhile read, from a mainline perspective, on thedechristianization of the West and how seminaries ought to be adjusting to this shift.  We’ve never been more like the 1st/2nd centuries – pluralism, syncretism, and a world where the velocity of ideas was ever quicker due to new trade routes.

    2.  Very disturbing Gallop Poll showing that 53% of democrat leaning voters think positively about “socialism.”  This is insanity.  People need to read history.  Also included in the poll were voters impressions of:  small business, free enterprise, entrepreneurs, capitalism, big business, and federal government.  Also, 63% of all polled (both democrat and republican) thought Barack Obama was a “socialist.”

    3.  Google has been doing lots of stuff this week: “Is Google Planning to Add Storeviews to Google Maps?“;  “Google Creates Experimental Fiber Network…(capable of 1Gb/s)“; they also are launched an offensive on Facebook over their Gmail client – “Google wants to be Facebook and Facebook wants to be Gmail“.

    4.  Ligonier has a huge compilation of links on the New Perspectives on Paul, from Turretin to present.

    5.  Proposed Obama 2011 budget cuts could drastically reduce charitable giving from taking away line item deductions for those in 28% and higher tax brackets.

    6.  A fascinating piece on First Things entitled, “Vampires and the Anthropic Principle.”

    7.  First Things has an interesting info-graphic and analysis of the 210,000,000 Facebook profiles and friend networks:  “The Localism of Facebook Nation

    8.  “The Government Has Your Babies’ DNA

    9.  Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post writes on the fallout of the Amazon v. MacMillan.

    10.  Only 4 men have been to all 44 Superbowls, here is their story.

    11.  “Physicist Discovers How to Teleport Energy“:  infinite possibilities here.

    12.  A very scary article from GQ about cell phone radiation and brain cancer.  The writer talked to several investment bankers in their late 30s/early 40s who have been using cell phones since the brick days… and have brain tumors.  This is not a tin foil hat, conspiracy theory article, it is cogently written.

    13. Awkwardfamilyphotos.com – self-explanatory, hilarious, and definitely awkward.

    14.  “The Beauty of Waves“:  series of photos from LIFE Magazine of beautiful waves.  Photography done by Clark Little.

    15. Several people in the Philippines have been murdered by singing the triumphalist Frank Sinatra song, “My Way,” read the NY Times article.

    16.  12 really random things you can buy on the internet (I fancy both the tanks and the giant floating hamster balls).

    17. NY Times article on the ‘Shortage of Men on College Campuses.’

    18.  Foxnews on proposed new government administration to study climate change.  File under:  big government and waste of money.

    19.  NY Times Op-Ed chilling story on “The World Capital of Killing.”

    20.  “Will the Baby Boomers Bankrupt Social Security” – CNBC article

    21.  Ed Stetzer on potential upcoming shifts in pastoral ministry.

    22.  Low intelligence second most important indicator (behind smoking) as predictor of heart disease.

  • Justification Sola Granola

    Saved by Granola Alone

    Doug Wilson has some keen cultural insights into the current sub-cultural preoccupation with natural ‘hipster’ foods.  This is not all that different from the overlapping sub-cultures that claim salvation through recycling (sola recycling), and salvation through carbon neutral footprint (sola climata).  In the interest of self-disclosure, I do shop at Whole Foods, mainly due to Celiac Disease though.  I think there is some merit to some less-industrialized, less-processed food, however, Wilson’s cultural analysis is still keen and, in my view, correct.

    January 28, 2010 • Anthropology, Culture, Interesting Article, Soteriology, Worldview • Views: 361

  • A.W. Tozer Critique of the “New Cross” of Popular Evangelicalism

    I ran across this quote from A.W. Tozer in his relatively unknown book, The Pursuit of Man.

    But if I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament.  It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of self-assured and carnal Christianity whose hands are indeed the hands of Abel, but whose voice is the voice of Cain.  The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them.  The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses.  The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.  The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter.

    Tozer wrote this in 1950:  eerily prophetic, alarmingly true.

  • Avatar Causing Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

    Pandora: The Fictional Utopian World in Avatar

    Disclaimer: I have not seen the film Avatar.  Here is a link to a story about audience members who have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts, due to the fact that they cannot live in the utopian Pandora.   My initial thought was this is completely pathetic…  it is just a movie promoting pantheism (or perhaps panentheism) while bashing American imperialism.

    However, on second thought, there is something more profound here.  It is not new or revolutionary for humanity to long for peace, prosperity, and flourishing life.  The people who are feeling these ‘side-affects’ are really longing not for Pandora.  They are longing for the Shalom that God will usher in at the Second Coming of Christ.  These people are longing for the fullness of the Kingdom of God where everything is made right, everything is made new, and there is no injustice.  Its the same longing for the end of winter in Narnia, the destruction of the ring in Lord of the Rings, or Christian’s journey to Mt. Zion and the Celestial City in Pilgrim’s Progress.  There is a palpable intensity to living in this broken world.  The reality of fallen creation can be bleak and depressing and promote both anxiety and despair.  All of man’s attempts at utopia have failed:  communism, capitalism, pantheism/panentheism/Walden’s Pond, communalism…  We need the reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, making peace through his propitiatory sacrifice the wrath of God towards the sins of man.  We need Christ’s church to do her work throughout the Earth.  We need Christ to return and establish the New Heavens and the New Earth.

    Come quickly Lord Jesus.

    January 12, 2010 • C.S. Lewis, Culture, Eschatology, Film, Gospel, Interesting Article, Soteriology • Views: 582