Top Shelf Book: Making Sense of God

Book: Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. Viking, 2016.

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Point: Every single individual lives a life based on a complex tangle of “experiences, faith, reasoning, and intuition.” Although the materialist or secularist can claim that belief in a God outside of space and time is unreasonable, that position is only tenable if the presupposition “God cannot exist” is there prior.

Path: In three main parts, Keller patiently and systematically guides the reader through the reasonability of faith in God, and not just any God, but the God of the Bible. Those parts are titled “Why does anyone need religion?”; “Religion is more than you think it is”; and “Christianity makes sense”. The middle part is by far the largest and most comprehensive, dealing with meaning, satisfaction, freedom, self, identity, hope, morals, and justice. His purpose is not to give a definitive argument for God, but demonstrate that arguments against a God are unfounded and fail repeatedly.

Sources: Keller does his normal deep digging and provides the reader with a lifetime of supplementary reading ranging from early church fathers to reformers, philosophers to militant atheists.

Agreement: After reading nearly every chapter I thought, “I just had this conversation last week!” This book both opened my eyes to a greater understanding of the problems and a greater appreciation to how Jesus solves them.

Personal App: The greatest compliment one of my unbelieving friends can pay me is “you understand and state my belief better than I could!” I feel as though this book helps me do this.

Favorite Quote: There is no way to pick a favorite, but one which points to a strength of the book is this one: “The point is rather that science alone cannot serve as a guide for human society.”

Stars: 5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Believes science has all the answers.
  • Is struggling to believe in the God of the Bible while surrounded by “real life”.
  • Wants to better understand their neighbor, coworker, or family member who thinks “faith” is a crutch.
  • Anyone trying to engage the modern and postmodern man.

Other books along this theme would be:

Anderson, James N. What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions. Crossway Books, 2014.

Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. New. David C. Cook, 2010.

Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.

Koukl, Gregory. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Zondervan, 2009.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

The Vine Project

Book: Payne, Tony, and Colin Marshall. The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making. Matthias Media, 2016.

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Point: Making and maturing disciples is not something that a church does, it is something a disciple does. Here is a workbook on how to pursue disciple making in all of church life.

Path: The authors lay out five phases to work through, making sure that everyone understands that this is not as much of a how-to-manual, but rather a workbook. They lay a biblical foundation, explain logical truths, and give practical examples. This isn’t a book to just read, but to work through with others.

Sources: Based on their previous book and the interactions they have had since then, the authors do a great job at walking the reader through both biblical truth and e

 

veryday experience.

Agreement: Top shelf book. I am so thankful how they presented these truths not as a “five steps to your best church now” but “take time to think through these principles with others and you will change”.

Personal App: Am I seeing every relationship as an opportunity to encourage the other individual to take one step toward Christ?

Favorite Quote: Engaging unbelievers on Sunday is ”like taking in a gues

 

t at your house for Christmas dinner. This often happens in our part of the world. If there’s someone at church who doesn’t have any family to share Christmas with, then you invite them to join your family for Christmas lunch. Now in doing so, you don’t change who you are or what your family does in any significant way at all. But you make very sure that your guest is looked after. You warmly welcome them, and introduce them around. You explain what is going on at different points— why Uncle Fred always has to sit in that chair, what the background is to your funny family games or rituals, how to play, and so on. You put yourself out to make your guest feel at home and part of the family, even though it’s not their home or their family. Likewise in church— outsiders are not part of our church family. We don’t stop being who we are, or pursuing God’s purposes, just because we have guests present. But we do welcome our guests, who, like the ‘outsiders’ in 1 Corinthians 14, turn up and (God-willing) come to know and worship the living God in our midst.” (Kindle loc. 2967).

 

Stars:  5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • is planting a church
  • is leading a church
  • is
    serving in a church

Other books along this theme would be:

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? 9Marks. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Expanded. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.

Marshall, Colin, Tony Payne, and Matthias Media. The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything. Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2009.

Rainer, Thom S., and Eric Geiger. Simple Church. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Taking God at His Word

Book: DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Crossway, 2014.

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Point: If we would recognize God’s Word for what it is we would value it like Jesus did.

Path: DeYoung lays out an accessible introduction and valuable meditation on the accessibility, necessity, and sufficiency of Scripture. He begins with the end by taking a look at Psalm 119 and how we ought to view Scripture. He then compares Scripture with subjective approaches to knowing God. Chapters 3-6 deal with the sufficiency, clarity, finality, and necessity of God’s Word. Chapter 7 addresses Christ’s view of Scriptures, and then chapter 8 is a challenge to value God’s Word for what it is. He ends with an annotated bibliography on bibliology.

 

Favorite Quote: “We need the revelation of God to know God, and the only sure, saving, final, perfect revelation of God is found in Scripture.” (Kindle 1103)

For a full review, follow the link above

 

Encounters with Jesus

Book: Keller, Timothy. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. Reprint edition. Penguin Books, 2013.

For the full review, click on the title above

Path: Keller has given us a unique book which is both apologetical and devotional.

Keller takes a chapter to explain the interactions of various individuals with Jesus and how they can challenge us. Those individuals are: Nathanael the skeptic, the Insider – Nicodemus and the Outcast – the Samaritan woman, Mary and Martha the Grieving Sisters, the disciples and town at the wedding party,  Mary Magdalene, Satan and his temptations, Jesus at his Ascension, Jesus in the Garden, and Mary after the Angel’s revelation.

Keller explains the interactions in an interesting and enlightening way, and then applies them to skeptics, seekers, and mature believers.

 

Favorite Quote: “Jesus not only died the death we should have died in order to take the law’s curse for us, he also lived the great life of love and fidelity we should have lived in order to earn God’s blessing for us.“

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is skeptical about Jesus
  • Is seeking to know more about Jesus
  • Is seeking to love Jesus more

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Prayer by Keller

Book: Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Dutton, 2014.

For a full review click on the link above

Point: Prayer is a privilege and power beyond what we could ever imagine. Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 6.01.55 PM

Path: Keller does what he always does, he gives an excellent background, thorough treatment, and clear application of an important topic. The book has five main parts: Desiring Prayer; Understanding Prayer; Learning Prayer; Deepening Prayer; Doing Prayer.

Agreement: Probably the top book on prayer I have read.

Favorite Quote: “In short, God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knew.”

 

The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon

Book: Pathak, Jay, and Dave Runyon. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

For a full review – click the link above

Point: Until we recognize that “neighbor” in the second greatest command in Scripture can actually mean “someone living next to us,” we will fail to see our responsibility to those God has placed in our lives to love.

Agreement: I appreciated the challenge. How easy is it for me to generalize “neighbor” to everyone, and miss the individual right next door. It was very convicting to see what was, and at the same time, exciting to see what could be.

Personal App: Am I loving my neighbor specifically? Do I know my neighbor?

Stars:  4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is interested in obeying the Great Commandment
  • Is looking for good ideas about how to love their neighbor

Other books along this theme would be:

  • Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell, 2006.
  • Dever, Mark. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. First Edition. Crossway, 2007.
  • Stiles, J. Mack. Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Crossway, 2014.

Do More Better by Challies

Book: Challies, Tim. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. Challies, 2015.

Pages: 119

Point: To be productive is not merely to complete more tasks. Productivity means that one does what is most important and does it well. “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”

Path: Challies does an excellent job of defining what productivity is, what it is not, why it is necessary, and how one can plan to be productive through the effective use of tools.

Sources: This book is not a composite of “prodicutivity gurus.” In the pages you can find hints of David Allen, Peter Drucker, and other time management specialists, but you don’t find strings of quotes.

Agreement: This is an excellent book and I found it very helpful. I went through Matt Perman’s book, “What’s Best Next” early this year and also Challies’ blog series on productivity, so my habits have not changed dramatically, but it was an excellent read. His brief but thoughtful critique of our obsession and misunderstanding of productivity was challenging to me. Everyone with a computer or smart phone would benefit from reading his chapters on tools.

Personal App: Am I just trying to get things done, or am I intentionally investing my time in meaningful pursuits in a manner of excellence?

Favorite Quote: “Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose” (10).

Stars:  5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • feels like they are daily spinning their wheels
  • wants to streamline their workflow
  • struggles with disorganized living
  • is way to busy to read a book
  • is just starting college or a new job

Other books along this theme would be:

  • DeYoung, Kevin. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Crossway, 2013.
  • Perman, Matthew Aaron. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. Zondervan, 2014.
  • Glei, Jocelyn K., and 99U. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Amazon Publishing, 2013.
  • Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review

Top Shelf Book – Dispatches from the Front

Book: Keesee, Tim. Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. Crossway, 2014.

Point: The person of Jesus Christ knows no boundaries, only fronts through which he confidently treads.

Path: Tim Keesee gives wartime correspondent information in a poetical and provoking narrative. He invites us to pick up the war cry of our King as he boldly leads his children in a victory of love. The stories which are written are meant to direct us to the task and revel in the Savior’s plan. In nature, they are both exciting and difficult, joyful and painful.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  1. Is interested in missions.
  2. Wants to get a global view of their local faith.
  3. Would like to hear what Christ is doing around the world.

For a full review, use the link above.

There’s a book for that…Homosexuality and the Believer

Book: Hubbard, Peter. Love into Light: the Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church. Ambassador, 2013.

619QRcXh-cL._SL1500_Point: The answer to SSA (same-sex attraction) is the Gospel – shared, taught, and lived out.

Agreement: This is the best treatment I have read on the issues of homosexuality and the church’s response to it. I will be referencing this work again.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Struggles with SSA
  • Has a friend or relative who struggles with SSA
  • Goes to church and wants to truly love others
  • Wants to know more about the big issues behind same-sex Marriages

There’s a Book for that: the Reformation

Are you:

  • interested in church history?
  • a lover of a good story
  • coming from a catholic or lutheran background
  • confused on what “Protestant” or “Evangelical” actually means

Than I would highly recommend this book: Reeves, Michael. The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation. B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

Point: A return to the authority of Scripture opened the eyes of the reformers to see justification by faith alone, and forever changed history.

Path: In a clear and engaging manner, Reeves explains the background, the major players, and the continuing effects of the Reformation. He gives sufficient information to peak interest, but does not dive too deeply into debates and arguments from scholars. I would categorize the tone of the book as something akin to “sarcastic storytelling,” and have to admit that it is very appealing! The story is engaging, there is both suspense and humor, and the broad picture of the Reformation Era is very helpful!

For a full review click on the title above.