Well, reading wise, this year has started with a flurry. It seems I have completed 20 books at the time of this posting, which raises the question as to whether I can keep up the pace. The other question it raises is whether I’ll be able to retain anything I’ve read too. I’ve impressed myself with the amount of reading I’ve done.
I should clarify that about half of these books have been audiobooks, listened to at 2.0x speed, while on holiday. But that doesn’t really matter, it’s still 20 books! Who makes arbitrary rules about what can be counted and what cannot? Not me. They all count in my book. See what I did there?
Anyway, I present to you some of the fine and not so fine books I’ve reading recently.
When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide To A Life Of Miracles by Bill Johnson
Is this standard pentecostal theology? If it is I’ll be happy to avoid it for the rest of my days.
Confusing, almost crazy, that’s my summary of this book.
There is a complete disregard for any consistent interpretation of Scripture, and if you do read this you will lose count of how many passages are used outside their context.
Overall I’ll be judging this one as pretty poor. Granted, I’d like to do a more comprehensive review of this book but I think I’m still recovering from reader whiplash. It is important to engage with Bill Johnson and the Bethel movement. They are a major player in world Christianity right now. Their influence is seen here in my context. But, as for this book, there is much talk of healings, miracles, the power of prayer, the power of self, reading signs, and an continual over-realised eschatology. It’s just not worth it.
A Summer of Discontent and A Killer In Winter by Susanna Gregory
If you’re looking for a fictional series set in the 14th century, with a doctor as the main character, who investigates a plethora of murders with his monk counterpart; then this series is for you.
These two books are numbers eight and nine in the series. It’s a murder mystery type series and I enjoy reading them.
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke
This is a book about smartphone use from a Christian perspective.
I think it’s helpful, thought-provoking, and very practical.
It’s not one of those ‘depart from the evil smartphone’ kind of books you might expect. It affirms technology as a gift from God and something to be embraced, while also providing wisdom-like thoughts as to its usefulness. The book sets up some helpful frameworks to think through technology and smartphones and their ultimate purpose. At times there is some clear theological over-reach going on, quite often associated with books of this genre (read: a lot of Christian living books today). But, it’s certainly worth the read.
A Sweet And Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, And The Sovereignty Of God by John Piper
This is one of the books I used in preparation for preaching a series on Ruth at my church. I think it is fantastic.
It’s more of a devotional commentary and gives good insight into the book. It teaches the meta-narrative themes of Ruth and provides devotional material to personally ponder. It’s very helpful in understanding of the book of Ruth, who God is, and the implications of the story. It’s also helpful in teaching how to read Old Testament scripture in narrative form.
Embracing Grace: A Gospel For All Of Us by Scot McKnight
The emphasis of grace here is a great reminder of the gifts God has given each of us. This is quite an easy read, and a good book to work through devotionally.
McKnight seeks to remind us that the gospel is what can make us whole, restored, creatures of God. The various facets of the gospel were great to hear again. Evidently published at the height of the emergent church movement, there is subtle reference and use of examples from that period (circa late-90s to mid-00s). But unless you’re aware of this period and of its writings then it makes no difference upon reading. The gospel forms us and restores us as personal creatures, image-bearers of God, and the communities in which we live and serve. Good to read.
Faith Formation In A Secular Age: Responding To The Church’s Obsession With Youthfulness by Andrew Root
This is one of the more dense and theologically heavy books I’ve read in a while. That’s probably why it took my a few months to get through.
In any case, it is a book of two halves. The first, focussing more on the rise of youth culture in Western society, particularly since World War II. This has had and emphasis on valuing authenticity, seeing it as a virtue to uphold. This section is a historical journey with clear implications for today, certainly in the church and its youth ministry. The second part of this book is focussed on faith formation in the secular age. It deals with how this could be done, albeit very briefly, while giving details of a more in depth analysis of what faith is and how to think through it biblically.
It was worth the read even if it did leave me rather unsatisfied with its conclusions.
I have written a more comprehensive review on The Gospel Coalition Australia website, and a further reflection on this blog.
Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done by Jon Acuff
Here’s a helpful self-help book.
This is about helping those of us who start projects but never complete them. You know, we leave them half done, or complete day one of our goal but by day four we’ve already stopped because it’s hard and unenjoyable.
Acuff, with a significant amount of humour, really gives some great advice. The main issue being our dependency to seek perfection in everything we do, which results in us never completing the steps of a project in the first place. Some suggestions Acuff has for helping with this is by cutting goals in half, giving more time to projects or goals, actually saying ‘no’ to things that get in the way, do what’s fun, and also get rid of the secret rules we give ourselves with these types of things. Case in point, making an arbitrary rule about what can or cannot be counted as ‘read’ books. Audiobooks count. It’s OK. Why make rules around this? It’s just silly and stupid.
Anyway, excellent book.