2014 Books: 2Q

Seems as if the blogging well has run dry lately. But even if I move, start a new job, welcome a new baby, and embark on a house hunt, the quarterly book list still must be posted! I read the following books from April through June. My next quarterly reading list is available by clicking here. Running yearly count: 19.

All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture – Ken Myers (1989); Print // This was my third (fourth?) time reading this gem, as I read it with friends for a discussion group. Dated, but the general principles and applications are sound and challenging. Myers has said that he can’t simply revise this work because it require an entire new book. Well, Ken, we’re waiting.

Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us – Murray Carpenter (2014); Print // Well written journalistic look at the world’s most used and (one of the) most addictive drugs. Carpenter travels from China to Columbia and everywhere in between in his journey to discover more about this ancient, mysterious white powder present in chocolate, coffee, tea, and energy bars. Fun and interesting.

God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World – David F. Wells (2014); Print // Wells’ magnificent heavily-researched trilogy and subsequent mainstream overview were absolutely fantastic. I did not find this latest work nearly as engaging, helpful, or tightly argued. The final two chapters on the necessity of recovering God-centered worship and Christian service were very good, but the first seven chapters were a non-cohesive fluctuation between biblical theology, cultural criticism, and general introduction.

The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Life-blood of the Christian – David McIntyre (1913); Audio // A pleasure to listen to, due to the robust vocabulary and writing style employed by an early-20th century Scot. I just wish it was read by a Scot. Also a pleasure to listen to a practical, biblical, and encouraging challenge to develop a robust prayer life.

Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened – Craig Evans & N.T. Wright (2009); Print // Short, accessible, and convincing introduction to the history and reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus. If you don’t have time for Wright’s magisterial The Resurrection of the Son of God (I sure don’t), this is like a very short Cliff’s Notes version (though I’d recommend the larger Cliff’s Notes version Surprised By Hope more).

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (1838); Print // Before reading Great Expectations in 2012, I never thought I would ever admit to being a Dickens fan. Now that I’ve read and enjoyed two of his novels, I can safely say that I am on the road to fandom. An excellent work of fiction.

The Truth of the Cross – R.C. Sproul (2007); Kindle // Sproul at his best: explaining and illuminating theological truths concisely, accessibly, precisely, and passionately. This book focuses on the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the eternal covenant and plan of God, and the necessity of the atonement.

War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles – Paul David Tripp (2007); Print // Really helpful book about how the gospel can and should transform our talk and communication. After laying the theological foundation, Tripp turns to the practical side in the later chapters. He repeatedly hammers home the point that without gospel transformation and application, one’s communication problems (indeed, all relational problems) cannot be solved. One to revisit through the years.

Face washed and pants on

“I took to studying the ones of my teachers who were also preachers, and also the preachers who came to speak in chapel and at various exercises. In most of them I saw the old division of body and soul that I had known at The Good Shepherd. The same rift ran through everything at Pigeonville College; the only difference was that I was able to see it more clearly, and to wonder at it. Everything bad was laid on the body, and everything good was credited to the soul. It scared me a little when I realized that I saw it the other way around. if the soul and body really were divided, then it seemed to me that all the worst sins – hatred and anger and self-righteousness and even greed and lust – came from the soul. But these preachers I’m talking about all thought that the soul could do no wrong, but always had its face washed and its pants on and was in agony over having to associate with the flesh and the world. And yet these same people believed in the resurrection of the body.”

-Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow: A Novel (Counterpoint, 2000), p.49

Come downstairs and say hello

“Spiritual truth has come ‘downstairs.’ The resurrection concerns time and space and things that can be scrutinized. A man known as Jesus of Nazareth walked on this earth. Today, Jews believe he was not their Messiah: he lived and died, but did not rise again. Muslims believe Jesus to be one of the great prophets, but no more than a prophet, and certainly not the greatest. They believe he lived, but that, as an esteemed man of God, Jesus could not have been crucified. It just seemed to some that he was. Christians believe – and the Bible claims – that Jesus lived, died, and rose again from the dead. These three claims – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – are more than different. They are contradictory. They cannot all be correct…This is about history and reality as we know it. It is about someone’s physical body, and whether it lies decomposed in the soil of Palestine or is exalted in heaven today. The resurrection intrudes into the world of ‘downstairs’ – here, where we live – and makes claims. It pulls the claims of these three religions on this point down into the world of the verifiable…

“Christianity is concerned with history. It claims that God not only controls history, but that in the person of Jesus he has stepped into history and acted within it. Christians claims about Jesus are not beyond scrutiny. Christian faith is based on what God has done ‘downstairs.’ His actions don’t belong in the world of ethereal, nobody-can-really-know abstractions. Someone is right and someone is wrong. The resurrection overturns relativism.”

-Sam Allberry in Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2010), pp. 115-116

Winged babies in nightdresses

 “This is our hope. Our future is very much physical. Contrary to the view most people have of heaven, our ultimate destiny is physical. We will not be floating around disembodied in the middle of some cloudy vista. We will have bodies, risen, transformed glorious bodies…

“Virtually none of my mental imagery of heaven had come from the Bible, but from medieval artists and modern-day cartoonists: clouds, harps, and winged babies floating around in nightdresses. In fact, part of the blame lies in calling it ‘heaven’ to start with. It is the new earth. It will be no less physical than the present earth…

“God says, ‘I will make all things new,’ not ‘I will make all new things.’ The new earth will not be completely unrecognizable. It will still be this world – a renewed version of it, not a replacement for it.”

 -Sam Allberry in Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2010), pp.100, 106, 107

An unwelcome intruder

“Death is, when we think about it, one of the most normal things about life in this world: it is finite and it ends. This happens to everyone. It’s not unusual, and when it happens to people sufficiently far removed from us we can even manage to be indifferent to it. But for all its commonality, close up, death never seems natural. It seems wrong, something that shouldn’t really belong to the human experience – an unwelcome intruder in our world. And as much as we cover it with euphemisms – a loved one has ‘passed away,’ or ‘moved on,’ or ‘left us’ – it is deeply uncomfortable for us even to think about. And so we don’t. The best we can do is not think about it, pretend it isn’t there, live as though it’s not going to happen. We don’t welcome being reminded that we will all have to face it one day.

“Our unease with death is a reflection that we know more than we realize. Death, like sin, does not belong here. Sin leads to death. The existence of death proves the reality of sin. It is the consequence and demonstration that we have sinned against God. It is something we were never intended to experience. As we grasp the significance of death we can begin to see the significance of resurrection.”

-Sam Allberry in Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2010), pp. 41-42

No mere mega-miracle or trump card

“The resurrection demonstrates who Jesus is. It is not meant to be just some mega-miracle, or trump card for the existence of God. It speaks powerfully of the identity of Jesus. We can be assured that he is exactly who he claimed to be. And because of that same resurrection, we can also be assured that he achieved in his death exactly what he said he would – we can be assured of our salvation. The resurrection compels us to see something of who Jesus is. It also compels us to see something of what he has done.”

-Sam Allberry in Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2010), pp. 34

No local boy coming good

Being Passion Week in the church calendar, I thought it would be appropriate throughout the week to post snippets from Sam Allberry’s pastoral book on the resurrection: Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life. It is an excellent little book, and makes for a great Lenten devotional or post-Resurrection Sunday meditation.

“‘God raised him.’ This is the definitive reversal. It is so much more than another story of a local boy coming good in the end. The so-called blasphemer is in fact the Son of God. The one charged with sedition is the true Ruler. The one under the curse of God is saving others from it. The one buried in a tomb has the power to create life. The resurrection is an open challenge to how people see Jesus. He cannot be anything less than the Son of God, the Christ, the Saviour, and the Author of life. God has overturned the verdict of humanity on this man, and calls on us to do the same if we haven’t already. The resurrection lifts Jesus conclusively out of any merely human category. It defies us to declare our allegiance to him and worship him. Jesus is vindicated.”

-Sam Allberry in Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2010), pp. 30-31