Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013--# 8--Light and Heat: The Puritan View of the Pulpit - R. Bruce Bickel

We are marching on with the Top Ten Books that I read in 2013.  The next several books that I will review all had a tendency to be lumped together.  The reality is that all of them could have been ranked anywhere from 4th-10th and I have chosen to put this one in the eighth place.  I purchased this book when I went into “enemy” territory in the fall of 2012.  I attended a workshop on expository preaching that was a two-day event.  In fact, two of the primary speakers at the recent conference that took aim at the Pentecostal/Charismatic were at this one I attended last fall.  As for the recent conference that put their sights on us, my personal thoughts is that a very broad bush was used to characterize what I would refer to as classical Pentecostals which is the category that I would fall into.  Some of the things that they dealt with I have never been in a place where such practices took place and my exposure to them has primarily been media related.  However, once you get past all the noise and prejudice that surrounded the event, there were some very valid questions and criticisms that were raised.  I would also note that the workshop that I attended that I was treated with great hospitality even after they discovered my doctrinal views.  So I would gather that the majority of the rank-and-file men do not have the same reactionary behavior that some of the leaders do. 

This book was a purchase that I bought because I judged the cover.  I know that you aren’t supposed to do that but it has a compelling cover and the title is also very stimulating.  It is also a relatively short book that comes in at around 175 pages.  Do not confuse this author with Mike Bickel who is one of the leaders in the Charismatic movement who is attached to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.         

Monday, December 23, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013--# 9 The Dark Side of Calvinism--George Bryson

I am continuing with the best books that I read in 2013.  This book comes in at number nine but before I get into this book review, I have to tell you where I found it.  The Tuesday after Labor Day, I flew to Portland, Oregon to preach for Pastor Ron Bohde.  I have certainly come to realize that Pastor Bohde, his family, and his church contributed far more to me than I did for them.  The trip will fall into one of the lifetime memory categories.  Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a bookstore in Portland that is the biggest used bookstore in the United States.  It is called Powell’s Used Books and takes up an entire city block in the downtown area.  It has four floors along with a basement and it is an absolute paradise for anyone who even remotely loves books.  Pastor Bohde was kind enough to leave me there for almost seven hours and it was a great event for me! 

I would think that most of those who are involved in ministry especially that of preaching would almost certainly have to be aware of the strong influence that John Calvin and his deadly doctrine has come into play in our generation.  This has been very much influenced by the seminaries of various faiths in the evangelical world.  Some have dropped their denominational boundaries and are falling under the “reformed” tent and have really made great inroads into the younger men who are graduating from their seminaries. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013--#10 Not a Fan--Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus - Kyle Idleman

I am continuing with the best books that I read in 2013.  This book comes in at number ten although it is a book that is a couple of years old.  I ran across it when I had a District Board meeting I had to attend in April 2013.  I am a sucker for books and I am a sucker for Christian book stores.  One of the chain stores which is not in Dothan has a branch in Montgomery and so generally when I go there I find a good excuse to go to the Family Christian Store there.  I have found that the availability of Pentecostal~Spirit-Filled books are much higher than our local Lifeway.  On the day that I walked in they had a table full of about thirty books that were only $5.  This book was one of them. 

The old Charlie “Tremendous” Jones quote about you will be who you are five years from now except for the books you read and the people you meet has been around for a long time.  But you can bank on this, no matter how many times you hear it or how long it has been around, it is true.  What I take into my mind through the words and writings of others has a huge impact on me whether I am willing to admit it or not.  Reading is like eating food.  What we eat has a great impact on our health and how that we feel and reading is as to our mind as food is to our body.  This book falls into the category of David Platt’s book Radical

Author:  Kyle Idleman
Publisher:  Zondervan, 2011

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013 - Honorable Mention - Killing Jesus - Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

The last book on the honorable mention list won out because of the historical content and the sources section.  The book Killing Jesus was one I picked up on a whim in Barnes & Noble.  I generally try to go to B&N every Thursday morning and do some mindless reading that generally is fiction of some sort.  I had previously read at (meaning skimming through) O’Reilly’s book entitled Killing Lincoln but lost interest in it.  However this book was very different.  I did not expect to find any theological enlightenment (which I didn’t) but what I did find was some incredible resources at the end of the book concerning 1st century life in relation to the Jews and the Romans.     

Author:  Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
Title:  Killing Jesus
Publisher:  Henry Holt, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013 - Honorable Mention - The Preaching of Jonathon Edwards - John Carrick

I continue with another book on preaching that falls into the category of honorable mention of the books I read in 2013.  It is a book that analyzes the various aspects of the preaching of Jonathon Edwards.  Before getting into the content of the book, I have to make some mention about the book itself, as in the book binding.  For those who are not bibliophiles this may seem very strange to you but for those of us who still think that an e-reader of any kind does not and will never hold a candle’s worth of comparison to a hardbound book, this book is for you.  The Banner of Truth Trust has had a commitment over the years to make sure that the books they publish are of top notch quality.  Generally their dust jackets seem to have a higher grade of paper than other publishers.  Also on the frontispiece is usually a high quality picture of some kind either in black and white or occasionally in color.  The picture in this book is of the church in Northampton where Edwards pastored.  The backing is very sturdy and the title on the spine is either embossed in gold or silver.  Banner does an excellent job of making very attractive volumes that will look very good in your personal library.           

Author:  John Carrick
Publisher:  Banner of Truth Trust, 2008

Monday, December 16, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013 - Honorable Mention - Preaching the Psalms - Steven J. Lawson

If you are a pastor whose responsibility it is to preach two to three times a week and you want to do it with diligence, you can often find yourself living under great pressure.  If are conscientious about the command to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2) and to feed the sheep (John 21:15-17) then you have a great challenge to live up to.  Interestingly to me, one of the most important things that a pastor should do well which is to preach, comes under the demands of the tyranny of the urgent which pushes him away from this preparation process.  Furthermore when you are neck deep in the messiness of ministry, your inspiration to preach can be sorely taxed so that creativity, spontaneity, and excellence are kidnapped by these villains.  One of the most curious things to me about ministry is that once you graduate from Bible College or if you are blessed enough to be able to attend a seminary, the opportunities to advance in the area of preaching almost disappears.  In the medical field there is a constant stress being placed on continuing education because of the appearance of new drugs, procedures, treatments, and protocols regularly coming down the pike to help patients get better.  With pastors there are many wonderful conferences to attend but the vast drawback is that very little emphasis is placed on helping me to become a better preacher.  When you consider that a pastor will preach at least 50 times a year and in some instances as many as 130-140 times a year even the most diligent can find this overwhelming. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2013 - Honorable Mention - Lord, Is It Warfare? Kay Arthur

This blog isn’t dead just sorely neglected!  For the last year there have been some other demands that required me to shuffle the blog to a lower rung in my life.  Perhaps I can give a very short explanation at a later point.  However I have a challenge of sorts with the year-end being the fact that I read more than ten good books, in fact so much so that there were some that did not necessarily make it into a “Top Ten” category but they are good enough that I feel they would be worth an honorable mention. 

Author:  Kay Arthur
Publisher:  WaterBrook Press, 1991

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Battle with the Superficial


A recent conversation with an evangelist friend of mine has left me greatly grieved at the state of the American church.  So harrowing was his account that last evening I was troubled to an extent that it gave me a bit of insomnia.  He opened up his soul to me as he told me of the superficial spirituality that marks many of our churches these days.  This superficiality is marked with a “hurry up and let’s get this over with” mentality.  Worship is rushed and has little depth because of the desire to hurry and get to the next thing.  There is pressure to hurry and get to the restaurants, the game on television, the shopping excursion or some other endeavor that seeks to satiate the entertainment factor in our soul.

I was appalled when he told me that several of the churches he went to, pastors had informed him before he ever started to preach that they did not care for any sermons on hell, judgment, or any kind of conviction.  One pastor gave the recommendation that he ought to read three or four Scriptures and tell four or five stories and then conclude the sermon.  Another place he went to, he found out that the pastor was opposed to altar services that brought people to the “mourner’s bench” and was marked by tears and confession of sin.  He was told that the people needed to be given a “joyful” and “exciting” worship experience so that they could go home “happy.”  Music has also become a bit of a beast in that he noted that at multiple places, the music would get people whipped into a superficial, psychological frenzy.  The music would go on for a lengthy period of time and the preaching of the Word would be limited to a fifteen to twenty minute time slot. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Paula Thompson - 1939-2013 - The Tape Lady


It is with great regret that I found out yesterday that Paula Thompson, the "tape lady," has passed on to her great reward.  She was very kind to me and would hand-pick some of Brother Harrell's sermons and send them on to me.  Over the years, I have given her phone number out to multiple pastors and ministers who wanted to subscribe to the sermons that Brother Harrell preached in Bridge City, Texas.

There is no way of knowing how many thousands of cassette tapes passed through her hands and later when the transition to CD's came how many of those passed through her hands.  She had a very unique knack for being able to remember the sermons that Brother Harrell preached and then recommending certain ones for what she felt like would be a help and encouragement to those who were inquiring.

Anyone who has heard Brother Harrell preach, is aware of his pulpit gifts but I do believe that he would have to say that Sister Paula was very instrumental in his preaching getting out of Bridge City to the rest of the world.  We are indebted to this faithful saint of the Lord for her years of service!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2012. . . # 1 Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling


This book was the best book that I read in 2012!  Perhaps you have noticed that the books that stand out the most to me are the ones that probe the soul and stretch the mind.  I would venture to be as certain as I can to believe that the best books are those that cause you to lean back and seriously contemplate the message the author is working to get across to you.  Books that you cannot just zip through without any confrontation of the conscience or personal commitment are the books that will do our souls the best in the end.  This is one of those books!    

Author:  Paul David Tripp  
Publisher:  Crossway, 2012.

Time flies by with an amazing swiftness and I think back to a time when I had just graduated from nursing school.  A young twenty-two year old probably should not have been working night shift in a busy surgical intensive care unit that routinely was filled with trauma-victims, neurosurgical calamities, occasional gunshot wounds, and so forth.  But I did have a very good support staff around me of some veteran RNs who were very helpful in adding knowledge and skill to what I was lacking. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2012. . . # 2 Ken Raggio, Long Winding Road


This book comes in at the Number 2 spot of the books that I read in 2012.  I have known Ken Raggio for close to 20 years now.  My first interaction with him was when we were both on the working staff at the Alabama Crusader Camp many summers ago.  We would sit up long after all the kids had been secured for the night and talk about the Bible, preaching, and various other aspects of the ministry.  Some aspects of this book, I already knew because of our past conversations. 

I would also add that his wife, Dixie, who passed away in 2003 after a prolonged battle with cancer, was one of the noblest Christians that I have ever met.  I don’t know of any lady whose Bible was as well-used as hers was.  When I would go preach in Birmingham, the Saturday nights would often be spent at their kitchen table with Bibles open and discussion would be long into the night.  It was there that I was exposed to her Thompson Chain Reference that had multiple notes in the margins and so forth.    

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2012. . . # 3 David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream


This book was one that I read because of several favorable book reviews that were generated from several blogs that I read.  Although I actually read it a couple of years after its initial release (2010) and it is a book that stretches you out of your comfort zone.    

Author:  David Platt
Publisher:  Harper One, 2011.

One of the reasons that this book resonated with me was because of another book that I ran across several years ago by Randy Alcorn (SafelyHome).  It was then that I first became acquainted with the house church movement that have become prevalent in countries where there is very limited if any freedom of religion.  They go to great measures often in fear of punishment and incarceration to get to church.  When they get there it is a very subdued and quiet environment because of the fear of discovery. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Top Ten Books of 2012. . . # 4 Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir


I now come to the fourth best book that I read this past year, 2012.  I read more books this past year than I have ever read because of a reading contest I got into with my boys, Justin and Nathan (who aren’t boys anymore!).  By March, Nate had been left in the dust and Justin was reading text books at school.  This is the reason that I probably read books with a vengeance this year.  Some of them were mindless and nothing more than an outlet to escape but others of them were soul-impacting.  The book by Eugene Peterson fell into that category. 

Most people are familiar with Eugene Peterson because of his paraphrase of the Bible called The Message.  It is a very good devotional supplement to regular Bible reading because he has a way of using common language to come at Scripture from a little different angle. 

I must again put this disclaimer out about not just this book but all books:  Read with a discerning mind and heart and take the good and toss out the bad.  Brother Griffin used to tell us in our classes at TBC that he could learn something from every book he read and every preacher that he heard preach.  He could learn some things to do and some things not to do.  I believe that !