The 2015 end-of-summer giveaway!

summer-giveaway-2015

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this week, I have the privilege of giving away a number of new books in partnership with my friends at Crossway, B&H Publishing, P&R Publishing, Cruciform Press, Zondervan, Faithlife, and more!

Here’s what you can win:

And don’t be surprised if you see a few extra titles added before this giveaway is done.

How do you enter? Simple: Just use the handy-dandy Rafflecopter tool below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to enter). You’ve got lots of options there, and the more you take advantage of, the greater the chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest closes August 28th at midnight. Enjoy!

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of volumes from the Perspectives series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Also on sale are:

Westminster Bookstore and Crossway are also offering an amazing discount when you buy one or more cases of Russell Moore’s book Adoption (as low as $1.75, though if you want just buy one, it’ll cost you $3) or Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life (about $5). Pastors, if you’ve got a bit of money in your budget, grab a few cases of these and give them to everyone attending your church.

What to do after you preach

Dave Harvey:

The conclusion of a sermon is a dangerous moment for the preacher. He has just spent 30-45 minutes in an expository deluge, dumping his study and zeal upon his congregation. The 10-20 hours of sermon preparation are now ancient history and he’s climbed in his car for the drive home. Most likely, he is exhausted – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

If you’re called to preach, you leave it all in the pulpit.

I’ve been there.  And over the last 30 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do following a sermon. Here are three key lessons.

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

Christina Fox:

This time of year, as we begin to transition out of vacation mindset back into school mode, you may be considering homeschooling for the first time. And there are many good reasons to consider it. You get to choose the curriculum for your children. You’re able to teach every subject through a biblical worldview. You can take time to study things your children enjoy learning about, at their own pace and on their own level. Homeschool allows for greater flexibility in your schedule. Since it doesn’t take as long as a typical school day to complete lessons, there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, additional classes, and hobbies. Homeschooling also provides more time for families to spend together. I could go on.

But there are also reasons not to homeschool. If the idea of homeschooling has been on your mind, here are three reasons you should not homeschool your children.

Matt Chandler on abortion

Watch the full message here.

The Joy of Meaty Christian Biographies

Don Sweeting on why biographies are great.

Beware the Pride of Easy Education

Michael Kelley:

We live in this age of easy education. Never before has more information been more available to us. You can count on the fact that virtually anything you’ve been curious about, someone else has already been curious about, and has recorded the answer somewhere in cyberspace. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And yet the breadth and depth of these facts and figures of all shapes and kinds brings with it a question:

To what end?

July’s top 10 articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in July:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  3. The Prodigal Church (July 2015)
  4. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  5. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)
  6. 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014)
  7. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  10. 5 books Christians should read on Islam (March 2015)

And just for fun, here are five I really enjoyed writing this month:

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

How to Repent Without Really Repenting

Jim Elliff:

The religious man often deceives himself in his repentance. The believer may sin the worst of sins, it is true; but to remain in the love of sin, or to be comfortable in the atmosphere of sin, is a deadly sign, for only repenters inhabit heaven. The deceived repenter would be a worse sinner if he could, but society holds him back. He can tolerate and even enjoy other worldly professing Christians and pastors well enough, but does not desire holy fellowship or the fervent warmth of holy worship. If he is intolerant of a worship service fifteen minutes “too long,” how will he feel after fifteen million years into the eternal worship service of heaven? He aspires to a heaven of lighthearted ease and recreation—an extended vacation; but a heaven of holiness would be hell to such a man. Yet God is holy, and God is in heaven. He cannot be blamed for sending the unholy man to hell despite his most articulate profession (Heb. 12:14).

A Pastor’s Greatest Regret After a Lifetime of Ministry

Joe McKeever:

A wise minister learns to say, “No.” And if he finds that impossible, he can take a smaller step and practice saying, “Can I pray about that, and get back to you?” Stalling for time—even an hour—allows him to look at his schedule more objectively.

Five Lessons From The Gym

David Murray:

After my second episode of pulmonary embolism last summer, I decided to finally get serious about physical exercise. I’m on the thin side (understatement of the year), I’ve never really needed to watch my weight, and I’ve kept quite active, but I’d definitely become a bit soft and flabby. I needed to get my heart pumping and my muscles hardened to pump that blood around my system as part of my new medical regime to avoid more clotting. Apart from the obvious physical benefits, I’ve also learned some valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Your brain prefers paper over digital

This is really interesting:

Every year, consumers spend more time using digital devices. Every year, more media is consumed digitally. Naturally, advertising dollars are increasingly flowing to digital as well. But, don’t pull the plug on that direct mail campaign just yet. New research has again shown that content on paper affects our brains in different and more powerful ways.

HT: Jeff Brooks

Who is the most dangerous guy at your church?

Erik Raymond:

Sure, we all can spot the unbeliever who doesn’t fluently speak the language of Zion, we can identify the person from doctrinally anemic backgrounds because they keep cutting themselves with the sharp knives in the theology drawer, and of course any Calvinist can sniff out an Arminian within 20 seconds.

But I submit that these types of people are not the most dangerous people that attend your church. At least, they are not in my experience.

Instead, the most dangerous person at your church is the apparently smart guy who is unteachable.

Confessions of a Bibliophile

Keith Mathison:

Sometimes I have read books for the wrong reasons. During my first semester of college, I ran across a three-volume work titled The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a harrowing, often firsthand account of the Soviet Union’s concentration camp system. When I took it to the counter to check it out, the librarian said to me in a rather obnoxious way that no one who started that book ever finished all three volumes, and then he informed me that I would never finish it either. I took that as a challenge and proceeded to plow through two thousand pages of dense narrative on a very unpleasant subject. Although I finished it simply to prove someone wrong, it turned out to be a great book.

New and noteworthy books

new-noteworthy-july (1)

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I love finding out how many bills there are each month, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. Here’s a look at some of the latest that have arrived:

The Colson Way by Owen Strachan

Chuck Colson’s life reveals that there is no division between truth and love, between embracing biblical guidance and loving one’s neighbor. The Colson Way uses Colson’s legacy and wisdom to show Christians a way of living a public faith with conviction and generosity toward all.

Buy it at: Amazon

Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told by John MacArthur

Jesus was a master storyteller, and the parables He told were ingeniously simple word pictures with profound spiritual lessons. Understanding the parables is a crucial matter for followers of Jesus. Jesus told parables so His people might comprehend His message about the kingdom of God clearly.

Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.

Buy it at: Amazon

Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More by Josh Reich

Finding breathing room in finances, schedules, and relationships leads to enjoying and savoring life instead of simply going through the motions. Breathing Room is a chance not only to catch your breath, but to find the road to the life you have come to believe is impossible.Feeling trapped or closed in by the intensity of life is a common ailment in today’s world. You may have come to the point of telling yourself ”This is just the way it is.” Don’t believe it. There is another way. Breathing Room will help you understand why you are tired, in debt, overweight, and relationally isolated—and how to move forward.

Buy it at: Amazon

Theological Fitness by Aimee Byrd

Your spiritual life should be a battle! The writer of Hebrews tells us to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23 ESV). What (and whom) do we need to meet this challenge? How does simply “holding fast” turn into such a workout of faith? Author and blogger Aimee Byrd invites us to join her in some “theological fitness” training as she unpacks our call to perseverance and explores the great metaphor that physical fitness lends to theology. Learn about the “fighting grace” God has given us, and discover how we are equipped to live lives of obedience even amidst the suffering and irritations of ordinary life.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Give Them Truth by Starr Meade

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, Starr Meade encourages you to impart a robust knowledge of God to your children from a young age, because a sound theology will prepare them for whatever life has in store. Our kids need to know God in order to grow in love for him and to live for him. When we teach the truths of Scripture to our children, we give them truth to love and live by.

Like math, grammar, piano, or soccer, God’s Word takes time to learn and understand. Where do parents and teachers begin? Starr Meade will guide you and your children into the core doctrines of the Christian faith. On your journey together, you will find that teaching kids about God deepens your own understanding. It’s never too late to learn, and there’s nothing better to give than truth.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Onward by Russell Moore

I’ve finished reading this one and it’s spectacular:

As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.

We seek the kingdom of God, before everything else. We connect that kingdom agenda to the culture around us, both by speaking it to the world and by showing it in our churches. As we do so, we remember our mission to oppose demons, not to demonize opponents. As we advocate for human dignity, for religious liberty, for family stability, let’s do so as those with a prophetic word that turns everything upside down.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Accidental Feminist by Courtney Reissig

Although many Christians wouldn’t identify themselves as feminists, the reality is that the feminist movement has influenced us all in profound ways. We unconsciously reflect our culture’s ideas related to womanhood rather than what’s found in the Bible.

In this book, Courtney Reissig—a wife, mom, and successful writer—recounts her journey out of “accidental feminism,” offering wise counsel for Christian women related to relationships, body image, and more—drawing from the Bible rather than culture. Whether you’re a committed feminist, a staunch traditionalist, or somewhere in between, this book will help you answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian woman?” You’ll discover the joy, purpose and importance that are found in God’s good design.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

20 of my favorite quotes from The Prodigal Church

Recently I’ve shared a couple reflections on, as well as a review of, Jared Wilson’s new book, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo. This was a book that I underlined quite heavily—probably more than I’ve done on any since Keller’s book on prayer. There’s a ton of wisdom found within its pages. So today, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites (some of which have been made into nifty shareable graphics):

“‘Healthy things grow’ sounds right. But cancer grows too.” (40)

“I want to suggest that it’s possible to get big, exciting, and successful while actually failing substantially at what God would have us do with his church. It’s possible to mistake the appearance of success for faithfulness and fruitfulness.” (46)

“Pragmatism is anti-gospel because it treats evangelism as a kind of pyramid scheme aimed at people who have it all together, not discerning that, in the Gospels, those most ripe for the gospel were those at the bottom of the social caste system, the undesirable, the non-influential.” (53)

“Pragmatism is legalistic, because it supposes that evangelism can be turned into a formula for ready results.… The pragmatist has forgotten that Christianity is supernatural, that it is capital-S Spiritual.” (53)
2

“When you try to help the Holy Spirit, you quench him.” (54)

“It is not in the best interest of the very unbelievers we’re trying to reach to appeal to consumerist tastes in the interest of offering them the living water of Christ.” (67-68)

“When we stage a worship experience that hypes up experience, feelings, or achieving certain states of success or victory, we miss the very point of worship itself: God.” (68)

3

“Neither the Spirit nor the gospel needs help from our production values.” (70)

“We have not prospered theologically or spiritually when we emphasize the professionalization of the pastorate.” (75)

“Fortune-cookie preaching will make brittle, hollow, syrupy Christians.” (77)

“We must have a stronger faith to trust that a sermon mainly about Jesus will ‘help people grow’ more than our set of tips will.” (80)

1

“I will go so far as to suggest to you, actually, that not to preach Christ is not to preach a Christian sermon. If you preach from the Bible, but do not proclaim the finished work of Christ, you may as well be preaching in a Jewish synagogue or a Mormon temple.” (80)

“The self-professed ‘culturally relevant’ churches are the chief proponents of legalism in Christianity today.” (84)

“The ‘dos’ can never be detached from the ‘done’ of the finished work of Christ in the gospel, or else we run the risk of preaching the law.” (85)

“When we preach ‘how to’ law sermons instead of the gospel, we may end up with a bunch of well-behaved spiritual corpses.” (89)

“The reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us.” (97)

4“We do not worship the Father, the Son, and The Holy Ingenuity.” (167)

“If you worship God in a less-than-clear or in a doctrine-less sense, you end up worshiping another god. You worship the god made in your image. When we divorce theology from worship, when we fail to cultivate a theology of worship, we compromise our worship. It may look great, but it is hollow and shallow.” (99)

“Part of moving forward and away from the functional ideologies of the attractional church is also abandoning ourselves to the sovereign mercy of the Spirit, who cannot be measured or leveraged or synergized or whatever.” (162)

“The Spirit doesn’t wear the church’s wristwatch. You cannot control him.” (166)

If you had to rebuild your library, where would you start?

rebuild-library

Imagine for a moment all your books were gone, fellow book hoarders.

Terrifying, I know.

Perhaps some sort of disaster befell your home, leaving everyone in your family perfectly fine, but all your books were destroyed. Or perhaps you were moving a long distance, and the only things lost in the move were your books.

How would you start over? If you had to rebuild your theological library from the ground up, what would be the first books you’d include?

A number of years ago, I was asked this question by an acquaintance online. It’s something I’ve thought about a great deal—and continue to do so—in part because I’ve had to do it. When I became a believer, I rebuilt my library because I found I had far too much that conflicted with my newfound faith and weren’t helpful for me to read any longer. As I developed my theological convictions, I had to rebuild my library again as I increasingly found the books I once enjoyed to be problematic (thankfully at that point my library was still quite small so it didn’t hurt too much to get rid of a number of books).

Today, my library is always in flux. Books are always coming and going. The last time I purged, I found somewhere around 300 books I had to get rid of. And if we ever move houses again (we’ve been in our current rental home for almost four years as of this writing), I’ll probably have to get rid of even more.

So what would I do if I had to start over again? Here’s how I’d probably do include:

Start with a good study Bible. Although they’re limited in terms of depth and focus, study Bibles work well as a commentary in a pinch. And for the average person, really, you don’t need more than that. I’d recommend the HCSB Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible.

Add at least one book on Church history. For a single volume edition, I’d go with Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. However, this is probably the most necessary (yet neglected) category, so it’s unwise to stop with one (I have a few more recommendations here).

Then include a biography. We should have lots of these, but if you’re looking to get started, I’d recommend pretty much anything from Reformation Trust’s Long Line of Godly Men series. Douglas Bond’s volume on John Knox is wonderful.

Follow that up with a classic or three. In my opinion, every Christian should own a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Augustine’s Confessions.

Don’t forget a book or two on the disciplines of the faith. Tim Keller’s Prayer would be one I’d want right away, as would Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

Finish it off with a systematic theology. These are really helpful tools to have available. Frame’s Systematic Theology is one I’d lean toward adding if I could only include one, though Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian is nice for those who want something a little more accessible. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is very nice as well if you want to go a little older.

There are lots more I’d add, but if I were starting from scratch, those are the books I’d most likely include right from the get-go. At least this week. Ask me again and you might get completely different answers.

What would you include if you were starting from scratch?

3 reasons why I try to expose my kids to lots of different kinds of books

books-kids

Tuesday night, the UPS guy arrived at the door with our latest Amazon order. I secreted away the box as quickly as I could in order to avoid too many “What is it Dads”. (I was only partially successful.) I opened the box, and pulled the two books out. Perfect, I thought, we’re going to have fun reading these.

“Hey, Abigail,” I called into the living room. “Want to see what we got today?”

“YES!”

I presented her with two new comic books: Tales of the Batman: Len Wein and The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson vol. 1. Abigail went supersonic with delight.

This is one of the things I love about being a dad. I love being able to share the things I loved as a child and youth with them (like comics, which I still enjoy). But more than that, I love being able to expose them to as many different kinds of books as possible (as does Emily). There are a few reasons for this:

1. We want them to find books they like to read. As you can imagine, we place a high value on reading in our home. With certain exceptions—we tend to avoid books that glorify witchcraft and death, and books series where every instalment has literally the exact same plot, for example—we really don’t care what they read as long as it’s close to age-appropriate. So we’ve got superhero comics, we’ve got fantasy novels, we’ve got historical fiction, and classic works all readily available. And because they have a lot of different kinds of books available to them, they tend to read pretty widely, even if some days Abigail simply reads and rereads Bone during resting time.

2. We want to help our kids as they learn to read and develop their vocabulary. Hannah, our middle kid, refuses to let us help her as she reads (unless it’s her idea). In fact, she gets pretty ticked if we notice she’s doing it at all! One of the great things about having comics in the house, though, is we’ve seen Hannah sounding out the onomatopoeias in her quest to master reading. The variety of books also helps the kids develop their vocabularies as they’re exposed to words they may not be otherwise.

3. We want to help our kids understand the world around them. The same night we introduced Abigail to Walter Simonson’s Thor, we also wound up having a discussion about something she read in her book about Princess Isabel of Spain. In that book, a Catholic priest informed the young princess that it was inappropriate for her to learn about math and science because she was a girl. (Abigail was quick to point this out as being wrong, in case you’re wondering.) This allowed us to explain about how God created men and women, the equal value and dignity we all have by virtue of being made in his image, and even talk about how sin causes conflict between us. That’s kind of a big deal, and the type of thing you don’t really get from Walter the Farting Dog (although nothing’s wrong with Walter the Farting Dog… except his horrible flatulence).

That, in a nutshell, is why we try to expose our kids to as many different kinds of books as possible. And it’s pretty exciting to see how they’re developing as little people as a result.

Five books Christian dads should read

  
I’m a first generation Christian—meaning I’m the first in my family (as far as I’m aware) to come to faith in Christ. As you can imagine, that means I’m flying by the seat of my pants as a Christian parent. Though, to be fair, that’s probably all parents (at least more than we’d like to admit). As a dad, I’ve tried to read as many helpful books as I can, as well as modelling for my kids what a Christian man looks like (and often having to apologize for not modelling it well).

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. No matter if we were raised in a legacy of faith or are coming to faith as a parent, we all have a ton of room to grow. Here’s a look at a few of the books I’ve found particularly helpful as I’ve been trying to figure out this whole parenting thing.


The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller

Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our marriages are the context in which we raise our children. So we would be wise to do all we can to make sure our marriages are actually healthy. In The Meaning of Marriage, the Kellers reflect on their 30-plus years of marriage to offer a very strong and biblically faithful look at what makes a lasting marriage. Read it carefully and make lots of notes. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson

Intentional Parenting is among the most practical and insightful guides to family discipleship available. Its “Now Make It Stick” section, a series of questions for personal reflection that allow the reader to take stock of how they’re doing, where they’re strong, where they’re weak and what they can do to change, is probably the most helpful (and challenging element). Dads, you need to read this book. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Books | Cruciform Press


Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

The difficulty some might face reading the book is because the focus is on bringing God’s grace into your parenting, it’s not as easy as following steps one, two and three. It’s offering more of the theological framework for parenting instead of drilling down into the nitty gritty details of specific situations, though many practical examples of how grace-filled parenting looks (and doesn’t) are presented. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This is one of those “gold standard” books among many Christian parents, and for good reason: it’s biblical, compassionate, and extremely practical:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart is about how to speak to the heart of your child. The things your child does and says flow from the heart. Luke 6:45 puts it this way: ‘…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Z. Witmer

This one has received a ton of acclaim from its readers as it compellingly addresses the important role of dad in the family:

Husbands and dads play a crucial role in the health and survival of the family. That’s why leadership expert Tim Witmer has written this book—to strengthen our efforts to lead well. He applies a biblical framework to the role of leadership in the home, showing how effective shepherding involves “knowing, leading, protecting, and providing for your family”; all the while communicating solid principles with a down-to-earth, relatable tone.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Have another book you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

 

Six books I want to read this summer

summer reading

Summer vacation is already here for some of us, and nearly upon us for others. Although my reading has left me feeling a little unfulfilled of late, I’m still looking forward to what some time off with a good book or two will bring. Here’s a look at what I’m planning to read this year:

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

This is one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I’ve read a few pages, though, and it’s delightful.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings series for the last little while, so it’s going to be fun to finish it up.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore (trilogy box set)


Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

I am a big fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway, and based on what I’ve seen so far, this volume looks pretty spectacular.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Onward by Russell Moore

Though this one has the least practical relevance to my life (since I live in Canada), it should be a thought-provoking read nonetheless.

Buy it at: Amazon (pre-order)


Preaching by Timothy Keller

The people we have the most to learn from about preaching (aside from those to whom we preach) are those who have done it for a long time. Given Keller’s decades of pastoral ministry experience, I’m really looking forward to learning from this one.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Batman Adventures, vol 2 by Puckett, Parobeck, and Burchett

For an entire generation, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from Batman: the Animated Series is the definitive Dark Knight. I finally introduced Abigail to this staple of the 90s, and she thinks it’s pretty rad. It’s also one of the few superhero comics I’ve been able to find that isn’t kind of porny or otherwise wildly inappropriate to share with my kids (but that is a story for another time…).

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

What does too many books look like?

I have a problem.

It’s a serious one.

Seriously serious, even.

There are too many books in my house. So many, in fact, that I’ve written terrible poetry about them.

How many is too many? Well, recently, I cleaned out my coffee table, decluttered my bookshelves, and Emily dumped all the books that were on, in or under my nightstand into a box. This is one of the sets of piles:

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Anyone care to guess how many are there?

(Closest answer without going over will receive a little something nice from me. Seriously.)

I’d safely estimate having no less than 1000 books in my house. Some of them are terrible, but many are excellent. I have no more bookshelves. In my decluttering, I’ve found many that will be leaving the house, and this will be a good thing.

Because Emily’s eye is twitching.

Why haven’t I been reviewing a lot of books lately?

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One of the early features of this blog was book reviews. I started writing these almost by accident. I was broke, liked reading, discovered blogger review programs, and away I went. That’s literally about as much thought as went into starting.

But recently, I’ve been writing far fewer reviews. Where at this time last year, I’d probably written 20 or more, I’ve written maybe 10 (which, in all honesty, is still probably quite a bit considering the average 18-to-29 year old finishes nine books per year). I still love writing them because they’re among the most challenging things to write.

So why haven’t I been writing them as often? A few reasons:

1. They’re exhausting. Up until about six months ago, I was probably writing at least one book review every week. Think about that for a second: to write one of these every single week meant having to have read at least one book every single week (usually more), and to have enough time to think through what I’ve read. I think I hit a wall because, even though they’re fun to write, they’re such a difficult thing to write well.

2. Changing demands on my time. I’m always trying to make sure I’m leading a healthy lifestyle, one that includes getting a decent night’s sleep (which is very hard for me). The one class I was taking for seminary last term took up a great deal of my time with writing reflection papers on the books I was reading, as well as my term paper, which took nearly as much time to write in terms of effort as half of my second book. I’m also getting ready to make good on some promises I made back in April to write some book proposals, which means on the off chance one gets picked up, I’ll probably be spending a lot more time working on whatever one of those turns into. Then there’s this other idea I’m just starting to plan out… (But I’ll talk about that another time.)

3. I’ve been a bit bored with what I have been reading of late. Something I’d mentioned in my recap of last year’s re-read project is many of the books I’ve been reading have been well-written, but they’ve felt fairly safe. I haven’t really felt strongly about the books I’m reading, even the good ones. So if they’re not inciting a passionate response in me, I’m probably not going to be inclined to share too much about them.

So does this mean I’m done with reviewing books? Not even a little. It just means I don’t know what my routine looks like yet for writing reviews. Maybe I’ll get back to doing one a week. Maybe I’ll do one every other week or every month. It really all depends on whether or not a book I’m reading actually warrants me writing about it.

New and noteworthy books

New-noteworthy-May15

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I love finding out how many bills there are each month, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. TGC , so here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:

Becoming Worldly Saints by Mike Wittmer (Zondervan)

This looks really great:

As “worldly saints,” created in the image of God, we are natural creatures with a supernatural purpose–to know and love God. Because we live in a world that is stained by the curse of sin, we must learn to embrace our nature as creatures created in the image of God while recognizing our desperate need for the grace that God offers to us in the gospel.

Writing in a devotional style that is theologically rich, biblically accurate, and aimed at ordinary readers, Mike Wittmer helps readers understand who they are, why they are here, and the importance of the story they tell themselves. In Becoming Worldly Saints, he gives an integrated vision that shows how we can be heavenly minded in a way that leads to earthly good, empowering believers to seize the abundant life God has for them.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt (Crossway)

Drawing on his experience as a pastor and church planter, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more–much more–to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when Jared Wilson writes on church ministry, I pay attention. So should you:

Pastors want to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus. However, we’ve too often assumed this requires loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans. In this gentle manifesto, Jared Wilson—a pastor who knows what it’s like to serve in a large attractional church—challenges pastors to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities. Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages pastors to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision by Paul R. House (Crossway)

Anchored in a variety of influential lectures, personal letters, and major works such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, this book attempts to recover a largely unexamined part of Bonhoeffer’s life, exploring his philosophy and practice of theological education in his original context. It then builds on this foundation to address the drift toward increasingly impersonal educational models in our own day, affirming the value of personal, face-to-face seminary education for the health of pastors and churches.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman (Crossway)

This one is geared toward women, but Gloria’s writing is always worth reading:

In this encouraging and often humorous book, Gloria Furman offers pastors’ wives a breath of fresh air, reminding readers that Christ stands ready to help regardless of the circumstance—whether it’s late-night counseling sessions, unrealistic expectations about how they spend their time, or complaints about their husbands’ preaching.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane (The Good Book Company)

This warm and pastoral book by Tim Lane helps readers to see when godly concern turns into sinful worry, and how scripture can be used to cast our concerns upon the Lord. Christians will discover how to replace anxiety with peace, freeing them to live life to the full.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice (The Good Book Company)

I’ve only heard good things about this one so far:

Short, clear, realistic and humorous, this book will challenge you to be honest in your conversations about Jesus, help you to know how to talk about him, and thrill you that God can and will use ordinary people to change eternal destinies.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Gospel Shaped Worship by Jared C. Wilson and Gospel Shaped Outreach by Erik Raymond (The Good Book Company)

I’m mentioning these together because they’re the first two parts of a five volume series based around the distinctives of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on these once I’ve given them a thorough review, but here’s what I can say after a cursory review of the leader’s guides: if you shared the Mortification of Spin podcast’s take on it, apologize to everyone on your social network.

Engaging with Muslims by John Klaassen (The Good Book Company)

This short book is designed to help both Christians and whole churches understand more about the variety of Muslims there are living in the West, and to reach out to them with the good news of the Gospel.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The ISIS Crisis by John Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody)

This is one of the books I’ve been looking forward to reading this year, so I’m glad it’s now in my hands.

ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be the responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS.… Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Buy it at: Amazon

What do you do when books attack? (a #bibliophileprobs poem)

books-attack

What do you do when books attack?

When the shelves are double stacked?

Books are piled by the thousands;

and slowly becoming mountains.

O’er the coffee table tumbled,

wife’s aggression lowly mumbled.

Perhaps you should consider moving houses?

Or build a fort, where the kids can play,

or deny there’s a problem and pray it away?

All these have merit,

(well, a little if any).

But there’s one thing to do

that’s better than any:

Start packing up boxes, and give some away.

don’t wait ’til tomorrow, do it today.

There are people who need them,

and some might even read them!

Please take my advice,

O, would-be book hoarder:

start packing some boxes,

and unburden your shoulders.

Say farewell to some books, at least one or two

for your home will expand the moment you do.1