Here’s a rundown of the 10 books I read in August. You’ll notice for the book stack picture that two are library reads. I reading resolution for the remainder of the year is to make better use of my local library. Happy reading!
The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung and illustrated by Don Clark
This is easily the BEST illustrated work that I’ve EVER laid my hands upon. I’ve flipped through this book countless times in the few weeks we’ve owned it. I find the illustrations beautiful, thoughtful, and unlike any other.
This is a 10 chapter retelling of the Biblical story. If you are familiar with the Jesus Storybook Bible ~ think of that work condensed and filled with a more precise theological perspective. My wife and I read this work to our two kids (ages 6 and 2) each night before bed. Reading a chapter a night, this gave us a 10 night tour through the Biblical story. As you can tell from the subtitle, DeYoung frames this Biblical story through the lens of Jesus restoring man and woman to a right relationship with God using the imagery of the garden found in Genesis and Revelation.
While I appreciate the storytelling, this book is made unique by the illustrations. They are not cut and dry depictions as found in 99.9% of children’s Bibles. Don Clark provides masterful color depictions that require a bit of interpretation. My kids would see the pictures and ask, “What’s that?!” Their curiosity allowed me to offer an explanation. I don’t know if that was the original intent ~ but it works.
Daniel (Teach the Text Commentary Series) by Ronald W. Pierce
As I’ve stated in previous logs, I often use this commentary series as an aid to my devotional Bible reading. I’ve now read a handful of volumes from cover to cover using this method. Each morning I read a chapter in the Bible and read the corresponding sections in the Teach the Text series. This would not work well with many series but this series is tremendous for such usage.
Pierce does a superb job of breaking the text into manageable sections and dealing with them in a concise and helpful manner. He is unique in adding the very brief what not to teach section. With simply a few sentences, Pierce mentions topics that might be appealing to the teacher/preacher to touch upon but, by doing so, would abuse the specific passage.
I wholeheartedly recommend this commentary volume. For those teaching/preaching it provides the basic scholarly details that can be read quickly and understood quickly. It is not exhaustive by any stretch and does not deal with various interpretations. Just the essentials. I’ve also found the series to be a non-equaled aid in devotional reading of the Bible.
Movements That Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel by Steve Addison
I’ve previously logged Steve Addison’s book, Pioneering Movements. It is a must read for pastoral ministry. I’ll log two more of Addison’s earlier works this month.
Movements that Change the World is a detailed look at the heart of Christianity. For Addison, the heart of Christianity is a missionary movement founded by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Addison discusses five things that are essential to lasting movements: 1) white-hot faith 2) commitment to a cause 3) contagious relationships 4) rapid mobilization and 5) adaptive methods.
While that run down sounds like it could easily be a description for the latest buzz worthy business book … don’t be fooled. Each characteristics is described in Biblical detail, highlighted by church history, and provides practical wisdom.
What Jesus Started:Join the Movement Changing the World by Steve Addison
This is another gem by Addison. I whole heartedly recommend the three books What Jesus Started, Movements that Change the World, and Pioneering Movements. I consider them essential reading for pastoral ministry. I wish I was handed the three volumes the first day I was called into ministry.
The volumes is built around four parts: 1) What Jesus Began 2) What Jesus Continued To Do: the Twelve and the Early Church 3) What Jesus Continued to Do: Paul and His team and 4) What Jesus is Doing Today. Each of these four parts focus on the six elements of movements as described by Addison: see the need, connect with people share the gospel, train disciples, gather communities, and multiple workers.
Addison provides exegesis galore to prove his points. There is a temptation to skip through some of the discussion of familiar passages. Resist the urge. If properly digested, Addison’s work gives you a full and compelling argument.
Small Town Jesus: Taking the Gospel Mission Seriously In Seemingly Unimportant Places by Donnie Griggs
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I have pastored in the small town of Crawford, Texas for nine years. It is my deepest desire to preach the gospel, make disciples, and love this community in the name of Jesus. The gospel mission is indeed serious and the town of Crawford is indeed important. No doubt about it.
With that said, I was thrilled when I stumbled across this book. Yet, I loved small parts of this book and I grew frustrated with large parts of it. What did I love? The overall content, mission, and gospel focus. Yes, small towns matter. Yes, people of small towns matter. Yes, more pastors need to stick it out and serve in small towns. What did I not love? The book missed the mark on small town ministry. Without throwing stones at the author or his church (in fact, before I typed this, I prayed for his family, ministry, and church), I’d like to invite him to Crawford, Texas. I’d love for him to drink a cup of coffee at our one blinking red light. I want to cheer next to him at a Crawford Pirate football game. I want to talk about the ins and outs of a small town. Griggs pastors a church with multiple campuses and multiple thousands of people in worship each Sunday. While we both have a heart for Small Town Jesus, our understanding of a small town church differs a great deal. He’s not wrong in what he writes. He simply comes at it from a different angle
I already had a idea for a book percolating in my heart on small town ministry. I’m now convinced it will become a reality.
More God Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More by Byron Johnson
I need to do more reading on this topic, but I can’t imagine coming across a better book. This was informative, detailed, researched, and a enthralling read. Due to the fact that Johnson works at nearby Baylor University, I’ve had the pleasure of attending a handful of lectures and presentations. I now look forward to thanking him in person for this work.
The women’s ministry of my church provides a thriving ministry to our local prison ministry. I pray often for our volunteers, the prison ministry, and the woman behind the fences. This book provides me with insightful new angles for my time in prayer. Johnson’s research (which is well documented in the book, without inducing boredom) shows that the “faith factor” can effectively address crime, offender rehabilitation, and the after care facing former prisoners. While the “faith factor” is what matters to me, Johnson also shows how anti religious prejudices have cost the American public untold damages in wealth and safety.
The book is worth the cover price just for Johnson’s introductory chapter in which he details how his early academic career suffered due to his research on crime and faith. Secular universities did not want to hear nor be affiliated with it.
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 by Joseph Loconte
I have to admit that I love reading about Tolkien and Lewis MORE than I actually enjoy reading Tolkien and Lewis. They lived fascinating lives and the intersection of their lives is a great historical footnote. Both leave behind a unparalleled literally legacy and an enduring lesson on friendship.
This book was a great read but majored in conjecture. Both Tolkien and Lewis served in the first great war. Lewis was wounded on Mount Berenchon during the Battle of Arras. Tolkien was on the front lines of The Battle of the Somme. Loconte takes some historical notes on WWI and reads them into the work of Tolkien and Lewis. They experienced (blank) in this battle and you can see (blank) in this story. While interesting to read, I was less than convinced by some of the arguments. The second half of the book steps away from the WWI connections and moves into shared themes in the works of Tolkien and Lewis.
I’m looking to read more the actual work of Tolkien and Lewis in the remainder of the year. Look out for them in future logs.
State of Denial: Bush at War Part III by Bob Woodward
This completes Woodward’s “Bush at War” trilogy. The first two books address the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq respectively. This third volume tackles the aftermath. The dusk jacket states, “State of Denial answers the core questions: What happened after the invasion of Iraq? Why? How does Bush make decisions and manage a war that he chose to define his presidency? And is there an achievable plan for victory?” I can save you from reading 500 pages. Woodward, over and over again, lays Donald Rumsfeld under the bus.
While this may seem like simplistic answer, it is the result of Rumsfeld sitting down with Woodward for two interviews. The depiction of Rumsfeld, which borderlines a caricature, presents an absent minded and self-centered villain. He ignores important information, micromanages the small, and tasks out the crucial.
It is the weakest of the three volumes but perhaps the most insightful. Whether Rumsfeld deserves blame or not, Woodward does provide the weight that falls on leadership. Decisions must be made. Someone has to make them. Will they be good ones?
Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great by Carmine Gallo
Preachers need to read books on communication. I’m always amazed at the “in house” nature of the preaching profession. We should not task out exegesis or theology, but we stand to gain much from experts in other fields ~ especially communication.
As you would expect from a book on communication, the structure of this book transmits digestible information. Part one, made up of four chapters, details why great communicators are irreplaceable. Do we land on the moon without Kennedy’s space speech? Part two, made up of five chapters, gives examples of great communicators from varied fields. Scientists, entrepreneurs, professionals, leaders, and TED stars each get a chapter. Part three, made up of six chapters, provides a map on “how to get from good to great.” The major chord struck is the need to tell a story. Slideshows are evil. Images are king. Don’t give statistics. Put a face on it.
The book does not break new ground, but it does provide great examples that underscores the concept that communicators make a difference and communication skills matters. Preachers, who proclaim a life giving message, should pay attention.
The President Is Mission by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
Yep. You read the authors correctly. President Bill Clinton and mega author Jimmy Patterson. Talk about a marketing cake walk. Cha-Ching.
While I try to read widely, the suspense/thriller genre is behind my comfort zone. Which means I don’t know if this is a bad book or if I simply didn’t like it. But its somewhere in-between. Here’s the gist: The president is missing. A computer virus threatens to dismantle America. Plus another 600 pages. I begged for a quick and good ending. Fail and Fail.
I’ve listened to a few author interviews, but after reading the book, struggle to see Clinton’s fingerprints. The CIA, FBI, and Secret Service need not fear that U.S. secrets are revealed within these pages.