Can you believe 2017 is almost over? I guess every year goes a little faster, the older and busier you get. And we have been busy! I usually try to avoid that over-used buzzword, but in this case, there’s no other word for it.
The past two months alone have included: ministering in Wyoming; driving cross-country; spending a month in Massachusetts, a week in Pennsylvania, and a week in North Carolina; visiting extended family, historic sites, and visiting multiple churches throughout the country; finalizing our ministry presentation and beginning our deputation meetings; taking a seminary class in 7 weeks, including writing a 25-page research paper; celebrating the holidays with our extended families; and doing my regular online work. Not mention the normal daily-life stuff like laundry, finances, and taking care of my health. I’m tired just writing all that!
Needless to say, I haven’t had much reading time the past 2 months. In fact, I only read three new-to-me books since October, and they were all connected to the grad class I just finished. I also continued working on 2 other books, which I didn’t quite complete — but I’ve read enough to count them towards my reading challenge for the year — and skimmed/consulted a handful of other books for a research project (more on that, including a link to my paper, at the end of this post).
Here’s what I read in November & December(contains affiliate links):
The second volume of this set was required for my recent church history class, which covered the Reformation to the present. So, being the over-zealous curious type, I decided to read the first volume in preparation for it. It was a great way to set the stage for what we were about to learn! There’s a lot of detail in both volumes (they’re about 400 pages each) but it’s written in somewhat of a story-format, which kept things fairly interesting. If you’re interested in learning more about the early church fathers, religion during the middle ages, the Protestant and Catholic reformation in Europe, and the spread of the Gospel across the globe, I’d highly recommend working through these two volumes! The chapters are short enough read in less than 25 minutes, so you could easily break it down into manageable chunks and work through it one chapter/day at a time. It’s wise to understand our foundations, especially as it concerns the growth of Christ’s kingdom and spread of the Gospel.
Jesus in Beijing, by David Aikman
Category: Book about current events
This was also required reading for my class. It built on the foundations of the previous books, and gave a good picture of the spread of Christianity in modern-day China. If you’re interested in seeing how God is working in a very dark nation, despite persecution and government oppression, I’d recommend at least skimming its contents. It was interesting to compare the modern events in China with the spread of the Gospel in the early church, and contrast it with the spread of religion in the New World, and I ended the book with some measure of optimism for how God will use that nation in the days ahead to continue growing His church here on earth.
I didn’t quite finish this book, but I read enough that I feel qualified to share a hearty recommendation for it! It contains 365 page-length excerpts from various Puritan works. This particular volume includes entries from Stephen Charnock, Thomas Manton, David Clarkson, Thomas Brooks, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, and others. It can be hard to sit down and read a Puritan book if you’re not used to their language and syntax, so I appreciated some of the updated wording and the chance to dip into their works a bite at a time. As a result, I’ve put several of their books on my to-read list! While the Puritans didn’t get all of their theology 100% correct (who does?), I love their focus on the supremacy of Scripture and the holiness of God, and that comes across clearly in these devotional entries. I highly, highly recommend either volume of this book (maybe with that Amazon card you just got for Christmas?)!
Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett
Category: Book by a Puritan
This is another one I worked on throughout the year and didn’t quite finish. But again, it’s worth working through very slowly, savoring and praying through every phrase of each entry. It’s a broadly Puritan work, in that it takes common phrases and attitudes from broader Puritanism (such as written prayers and meditations), and works them into prayers on various topics, not as a prescriptive document but as something to “prompt and encourage” the Christian in his own personal prayer time. I found it helpful to read through the entries thoughtfully, noting down cross-references and other related Scriptures, then go back and pray through it phrase by phrase. The entries aren’t dated, and thus you don’t feel like you have to “keep up,” but can simply work it into your personal worship time as you have room. I’d highly recommend buying your own paperback copy, but you can also find a new entry each day at Banner of Truth. (Note: this makes a great companion to The Gospel Primer!)
Other: I also did quite a bit of reading for a research paper about the Word of Faith movement. If you’re interested in seeing which books and other resources I used, or want to read a short overview of the movement’s origins, key leaders, and main doctrines, you can download my paper here.
What is the best book you’ve read lately?
PS. Find me on Goodreads to share your favorite titles and discover what else I explored for #Read2017.