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Ten Books Every Christian Should Own

A few weeks ago I listed the 25 books that have influenced me the most. In that post I promised a second list, namely my catalog of the 10 books every Christian should own.

Photo thanks to Darren Hester

These are books that, from my perspective, transcend time and culture. They are the kind of resources that should be frequently published and first translated when we take the gospel to a new group. They would help anyone, in any age, in any place to know, defend, and articulate the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Of course, my frame of reference is limited, limited by language (English) and limited by scope (what I’ve actually read). So I reserve the right to update this list as my own library grows. Also feel free to leave your own suggestions/criticisms in the comments. But for all that, remember:

It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make one wise, but the well-reading of a few, could they be sure to be the best. ~Richard Baxter

So here are the best of the best for my evangelical money.

1. The MacArthur Study Bible

John MacArthur, Editor. If I was stranded on an island and could only have one print resource, this is the one I want. Though I don’t carry or read my MSB on a daily basis, it is an absolutely essential tool. The background on the Canon, the overview of systematic theology, and the topical index are brief but outstanding assets. It is a one-stop shop for book overviews and outlines, not to mention the many helpful interpretive notes.

2. The Sovereignty of God

Arthur W. Pink. Though it is #2 on this list, it is #1 on my personal impact list. No man will be humbled appropriately without understanding of, and submission to, God’s sovereignty. Neither will man’s capacity to worship God be elevated sufficiently without acknowledgment and admiration of His supremacy and authority over all things. [Make sure to get the unabridged version that includes Chapter 5 on Reprobation].

3. The Master Plan of Evangelism

Robert Coleman. If making disciples is the Great Commission–and it is–then those of us who are His followers ought also to follow His example in spreading the news of the Kingdom. The Master Plan of Evangelism is an oldie but a goodie (with hundreds of thousands in print) and explains the process of disciple-making unlike any other, with both simplicity and substance.

4. The Gospel According to Jesus

John MacArthur. If we are commissioned to teach the nations to observe everything that Jesus commanded then we ought to know (and obey ourselves) what Jesus commanded. This is the classic treatment on following Christ as Savior and Lord and the firestorm of the Lordship salvation debate.

5. Living by the Book

Howard Hendricks. If the Bible is the Book we are responsible to know, this book is the best resource for those who study in English. Hendricks helps us bridge the historical, cultural, geographical, and grammatical gaps as he covers the three basics of Observation, Interpretation, and Application.

6. The Holiness of God

R.C. Sproul. The “fear of the Lord” is largely absent and undoubtedly that stems from our ignorance of the Lord. The Holiness of God is classic Sproul, presenting God’s holiness and pressing for our proper response. Knowing God by J.I. Packer is along the same lines.

7. Desiring God

John Piper. I didn’t “get” this book until I read The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards. However, though TEFWGCTW is shorter, it is much heavier. Desiring God is essential Piper, but more than that it is essential explanation that God is glorified not only by His glories being seen, but by their being rejoiced in.

8. Concise Theology

J.I. Packer. This is a pocket resource on systematic theology, quickly covering most subjects in three or four pages while providing key Scripture references. If you’re ready for something less concise, than I’d suggest moving right to Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

9. The Cross-Centered Life

C. J. Mahaney. A happy Christian life depends on the definitions and distinctions between justification, sanctification, and glorification. Though other books dig deeper into the individual elements, this is a great primer on living in light of each part of our salvation.

10. Why One Way?

John MacArthur. 10 years ago this would not have made the top 10 list, and that’s not simply because it wasn’t published yet. The ever rising animosity toward authority and truth make this book both timely and vital. It is the most accessible treatment of modernism/postmodernism I’ve read while defending the exclusivity of the gospel and God’s Word in this inclusive age.

There are other classics that make my Honorable Mention list, such as:

  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Anything on Prayer by E.M. Bounds – A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson, also on prayer – Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell on apologetics – Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by Piper & Grudem

Specifically For Men:

  • Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle – Future Men by Doug Wilson

Specifically For Women:

  • The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson

Remember, these are some of the best and not the only books to own and read. No doubt I’ve missed something, so let me know.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

—Francis Bacon

May these books, and other good books like them, be digested by believers with diligence.

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The 25 Most Influential Books on the Void

Reading is making a comeback. Numerous bloggers have commented on the collection and reading of books in the past few weeks and I’ve started to compile an ever growing list of these posts for my own future reference.

Photo thanks to slimninja

One of the reasons behind the recent resurgence of bookish discussion by bloggers was the article by Christianity Today on the top 50 books that have influenced evangelicalism. The list is subjective if not downright suspect, but it received a fair amount of attention nonetheless. I knew this was no small subject when the über-Christian blogmaster Tim Challies weighed in with his perspective.

All of that to say, I’ve come up with a list of the 25 books that have influenced me the most. And though the description of my list may sound like any other prejudiced, postmodern perspective, I can assure you that no sympathetic postmodernite would be interested in the meta of these narratives. So while my library list is nothing special, it might be useful to others who need help.

This list was born Saturday on the back of a Burger King bag while riding in a Volkswagen to Pullman for the WSU/Cal game with Jonathan and Curtis. These are either just personal favorites or those with the most influence on the Void. I’m already planing an additional post with a catalog of the 10 books every Christian should own. I also want to point out that the Bible is the default superscript over the whole list. So with those qualifications in place and in particular order:

  1. The Sovereignty of God A.W. Pink
  2. The End for Which God Created the World Jonathan Edwards
  3. Ashamed of the Gospel John MacArthur
  4. Brothers, We are Not Professionals John Piper
  5. The Master Plan of Evangelism Robert Coleman
  6. Exegetical Fallacies D.A. Carson
  7. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ John Owen
  8. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy John Piper
  9. The Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards
  10. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented Curtis Steel and Daniel Thomas
  11. On The Bondage of the Will Martin Luther
  12. The Institutes of the Christian Religion John Calvin
  13. Evangelicalism Divided Ian Murray
  14. The Reformed Pastor Richard Baxter
  15. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager Thomas Hine
  16. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel Wallace
  17. Faith Works (re-titled: The Gospel According to the Apostles) John MacArthur
  18. No Place for Truth David Wells
  19. Why One Way John MacArthur
  20. The Way of the Modern World Craig Gay
  21. The Forgotten Spurgeon Ian Murray
  22. A Call to Spiritual Reformation D.A. Carson
  23. “Rejoicing and Heaviness” Charles Spurgeon (a sermon, not a book, but a must read)
  24. Our Sufficiency in Christ John MacArthur
  25. Diagrammatical Analysis Lee Kantenwein

Honorable mentions go to Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer, God’s Outlaw by Brian Edwards, Future Men by Doug Wilson, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, The Vanishing Conscience by John MacArthur, and Boy, Was I Mad! by Kathryn Hitte.

Dishonorable mentions go to the original Revolve biblezine, Create in Me a Youth Ministry, and all The Prayer of Jabez spin-offs. Other books were generously and purposefully driven from the list and no books in the Left Behind series were harmed in the production of this post.

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Eagerness vs. Necessity

As a preacher it is a regular occurrence for me to hear criticism. Actually, I am amazed that I don’t get more disapproving comments from my teaching, and am quite thankful to God that He has permitted so much positive fruit. But still there are occurrences of strong disagreement or subtle challenges to the content or approach of any given message.

Perhaps one of the most common “suggestions” that a preacher gets is to “focus on what we agree on” and stop focusing on disagreements. We are told to concentrate on things we have in common. We are advised to “stop majoring on the minors.” And certainly, at all costs, we should not negatively attack those who disagree.

But consider Jude’s response to such ideas (verse 3):

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

The word “contend” may be defined as “to struggle on behalf of,” “to fight for,” “to exert intense effort on behalf of.” It is the conscious application of one’s powers for the achievement of a goal.

And in this case, the goal, the reason, the aim of our struggle is “the faith.” We fight for God’s revelation. We contend for God’s doctrine. We struggle to protect God’s message. The church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), and without the truth–we cannot be free (John 8:32).

Consider the following thoughts from J. Gresham Machen, a New Testament scholar who taught at Princeton Seminary and who founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He wrote the following on June 17, 1932 in London:

“Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.”

He illustrated his point with this story:

“Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an address. In it he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul’s teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter or I Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn.”

Machen continued,

“In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the Church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the Church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth.”

(J. Gresham Machen, “Christian Scholarship and the Defense of the New Testament,” in What is Christianity, 132-133)

I must admit, I am very eager to talk about our common salvation. I would love the harmony and sweet fellowship of dialogue with those who hold fast the faithful word (1 Corinthians 15:2). But however enthusiastic I may be to be “agreeable,” it is sometimes necessary to point out on what we disagree. A true shepherd will identify wrong teaching and teachers (Titus 1:9), and guard the flock from savage wolves (Acts 20:28-30). We are promised that “in the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions” (Jude 18-19).

So remember, whether we enjoy controversy or disagreements over truth or not, it is our responsibility to fight for the faith. It is necessary!

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The Battle over Surface Earth

Yesterday was a monumental day in my life. Although there was no parade and no fireworks, it was an absolutely great day.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I mowed my own yard with my own, brand-new mower! I’ve mowed a lot of times before, but both of the above details made this occasion truly historic.

First, I have never “owned” a yard. I’ve mowed my dad’s yard many times. I’ve mowed neighbors’ lawns; I’ve mowed strangers’ lawns. I’ve mowed for businesses; I’ve mowed as a business. I’ve mowed for fun; I’ve mowed for funds. But every other time I’ve been taking care of someone else’s property – never my own. Until yesterday I’ve never known the great sense of pleasure and “ownerly” pride in manicuring my own lawn.

Second, I’ve never had a brand new mower. I’ve used push mowers, self-propelled mowers, riding mowers, lawn tractors, and small farm tractors (there are differences, you know). There are a lot of ways to cut grass. But a true “mowing man” always envisions the day when he will push his very own, never-used, first-pull-starting, not-a-nick-on-it, shiny, new mower out of the garage and engage the evil Lord Grassgrowwild in the epic battle for dominion over Surface Earth. And now I too have joined the ranks of Sod Soldiers with my very own red, Craftsman 6.5 horse power, 21” deck, rear bag mower/mulcher. It really is a mowing man’s dream machine!

Some of you have read all this and are thinking to yourself, “Mowing is a chore – not a drama!” Others perhaps are thinking, “Who stinking cares?” And I guess on one hand the whole discussion is somewhat silly. On the other hand, there is benefit and blessing in the work. I think one of the reasons I like to mow so much is that it gives an immediate and quickly increasing sense of fulfillment. There are a lot of things that we do that we don’t see results from, and many more things we do that we will never be done doing anyway.

Even though mowing is something that needs to be done on an ongoing basis (as long as the grass keeps growing), with each pass through the yard and with each revolution of the blade there is advancement. It is obvious. It is progressive and “profitable” labor. It is always encouraging to see something “get done.” The ability to work is great, but the opportunity to see results from our work is no less a good gift from God.

Whatever it is that you do, or need to do, or like to do – you should enjoy it. In fact, it is the gift of God to be given the power to enjoy and rejoice in your labor (Ecclesiastes 5:19). It is “fitting to…find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot” (5:18). Seeing the completion and accomplishment of our work is just one of the ways we are able to enjoy our labor.

So remember: In all mowing there is profit, but mere talk leads to overgrown landscape. (cf. Proverbs 14:23)

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Scoffer Sensitive Services

Off and on for the last twelve years or so I have been reading the “proverb of the day.” When I was in high school my youth pastor pointed out to me that there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs which easily associate with the 31 days in most months (on the other months that are shorter than 31 days you just have to read a bunch of chapters on the last day!). Anyway, that seemed like a reasonable amount of reading to me–a chapter a day, and it also seemed like reasonable content to read since the proverbs are intended to give the “youth knowledge and discretion” (Pro. 1:4).

I am sure that in the future many days of weblog will be dominated by some verse in the “proverb of the day.” How about we make today the first?!

Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease.
(Proverbs 22:10)

Perhaps at the first reading this seems like many proverbs – a short statement of observation on the way things typically go. I think all of us have experienced this. We’ve been part of some class or team or group or club or neighborhood or ministry that had a scoffer (or more than one) in it. Never content to scoff alone, the scoffer freely shares his disdain for the leader or the program or the material or whatever with any who would hear his preaching. And there is always widespread relief when providence relocates the scoffer to another location, the further away the greater the relief!

But the verb “drive out” is a piel imperative, (the Hebrew piel tense is an intensifying form; the imperative obviously demands our response). Therefore, this proverb is more than simply a statement about the peace that comes when scoffers quietly disappear on their own. Instead, wisdom calls us to take an active position against scoffers. We are to chase out, banish, deport, reject, show the way out, turn away, discharge, disregard, expel, leave out, remove, etc., those who mock and deride and belittle and ridicule. For us to have peace among our families and our churches and our social circles, the scoffers must be scooted out!

Now, the immediate objection that some sensitive person will naturally raise is, “That is not a loving response. That is not gracious. That is not kind or patient or long-suffering.” And this is a reasonable, if not entirely biblical concern. We should examine all that we do in relation to scoffers. There is a priority on love (Matthew 5:43-47; 22; 39; John 13:34; Romans 12:9-16; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 4:2; 5:2; Colossians 3:14; etc.). There is great need for us to avoid anger and bitterness and all of the other sins that so easily respond to those that attack us or others around us.

But if this proverb is right (and since it is inspired it must be), and if this proverb reveals the wise way (and since it comes from Wisdom is must be), then we must at least admit that there are times when we must actively, proactively seek to see the scoffers leave. We are not to have “scoffer sensitive” worship music and small groups and messages. Those who complain and cause division and stir up strife are to be warned, and warned again, but if their antagonism continues we are to “have nothing more to do” with them (Titus 3:10). We are to drive them out.

At stake is the unity of the body, the purity of the body, and the honor of our group as it reflects the honor of God. As the mocker is forced out so the fighting and bickering and feuding and quarreling will go out. When ridiculers are rejected the stains of strife are cleansed away.

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Interruptions or Inconveniences

Two Sundays ago was National Sanctity of Human Life Day. 38 years ago, January 22, our Supreme Court made a commitment to death, to legalized and protected murder in the name of personal health and individual freedom.

Thankfully there are many Christians who love and fight for life. They may work for life through writing or by voting or serving in office or caring or adopting. May their tribe increase ten-fold and may God help all Christians promote life.

May He also help the church to love life, to celebrate life, to proclaim life, and to live life together. Perhaps one reason people value choice over life is because we have failed to show how great life is. If we see other believers–our own body–as interruptions or inconveniences, is it really a surprise if unbelievers see a new baby–or the wrong gendered baby–as an interruption or inconvenience?

When the church gathers we should rejoice in Christ who is our life (Colossians 3:4). As we scatter, we must take the joy of life with us. May we live bigger than ourselves this week as God makes known His manifold wisdom through the life of the church (Ephesians 3:10).


A couple more links:

  • abort73.com – Statistics, arguments, testimonies, videos, and gear for the case against abortion.
  • President Obama and Abortion – President Obama’s wicked, smooth-talking press statement and John Piper’s address to the President from a few years ago.