From the Pastor’s Bookshelf (Timothy Raymond)
I realize I’ve been off the blogging radar for a while, but between all the normal challenges of pastoral ministry, taking care of a new infant, and catching a mild case of pneumonia, something had to give. Consequently, my list of favorite books from the last year is coming out somewhat later than I’d prefer. But since just about everybody enjoys reading book recommendations, I considered it worthwhile.
I should clarify that my list, unlike some others (see here and here), is not a list of favorite books published in 2012 but favorite books I read last year. As you’ll see, some of these were published in previous centuries. Furthermore, this year’s list, unlike last year’s, isn’t enumerated in a countdown of good-better-best, but instead I chose what I considered my favorite read in a variety of different categories (e.g., preaching, Matthias Mediaparenting, Christian living, etc.).
One final comment. The astute observer will notice that four of the below ten books are published by our friends at Matthias Media. In a way, that’s simple coincidence (i.e., this is not some underhanded infomercial for a particular publishing company). I don’t work for Matthias Media, have no formal ties to Matthias Media, and have never been paid to read or recommend their books. However, in another way, this is not purely coincidental in that I’ve come to realize that pretty much everything Matthias Media publishes is of very high quality and well worth reading. Over the years, I think I’ve read probably 20 (or more) of their titles and have never been disappointed. And I’ve developed this sort of instinct that when I’m looking for something worthwhile to read, I think, “Hum…I wonder if Matthias Media has anything on the topic?”
So then, with no further ado, here are ten of my favorite books from 2012:
Favorite Christian Living Book:
Suffering Well: The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering by Paul Grimmond – A very helpful book for thinking biblically about and responding to the suffering Christians experience in this present evil age. Some of its points will probably surprise you, and there’s one point about which I have some serious reservations, but on the whole, a uniquely practical book that I highly recommend. Though I finished it months ago, I find myself thinking about its message often.
Favorite Book on Parenting:
Hints for Parents by Gardiner Spring – Originally published in 1835, this little tome is a goldmine of practical wisdom for raising godly children and is peppered with “Gospel Encouragements by Tedd Tripp”. It’s especially strong on communicating the incredible gravitas of caring for and raising an eternal soul. Archibald Alexander’s appendix on the duty of catechizing children is priceless. Tragically, this book is out of print.
Favorite Book for My Devotional Life:
Prayer and the Voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne – A very good biblical study of prayer, perhaps the best primer I’ve ever read on the subject. It’s especially strong on emphasizing the personal relationship side of prayer, as opposed to methods and techniques. It helpfully addresses and answers the question, “Does God speak to us through prayer?” I’ve distributed copies of this book to my congregation and would be delighted if every Christian read it.
Favorite Book to Equip Me for Counseling Others:
Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace edited by Burk Parsons – In my pastoral ministry I had to address assurance of salvation several times last year and to equip me to better do so, I read a few books on the topic. Of those I read, this one stands out as particularly clear, practical, and helpful. The essays by Sinclair Ferguson and Richard Phillips are superb.
Favorite Mind-Stretching Book:
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ by Mark Jones – Though this is a very brief book (81 pgs.), more of an extended essay, I found it thoroughly thought-provoking. Jones delves into the mysteries of the interplay between Jesus’ two natures at a level I had never before considered. It reminded me of how much we still don’t understand about the hypostatic union.
Favorite Book on Preaching:
The Archer and the Arrow by Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond – As a preacher I try to read on preaching regularly and this is perhaps the best book I’ve read on the subject in the last five years. Though it sort of peters out in the last three or four chapters, the beginning section on employing biblical theology in preaching is the very best I’ve ever read. It’s pitched as a sequel to the outstanding book on local church ministry The Trellis and the Vine.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years by Iain Murray – I love MLJ and for years I’d been hearing about how great Murray’s biography is. I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. This very well written and researched biography made me marvel at how God blessed and used The Doctor’s life. Lord willing, I intend to write a longer blog article on this book sometime in the near future.
Favorite Apologetic/Evangelistic Book:
Islam in Our Backyard by Tony Payne – Part novel, part research essay, part evangelistic tract, this unique book is designed to help Westerners understand orthodox Islam in light of 9/11 and see the superiority of biblical Christianity. It addresses a variety of questions including, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” I could hardly put the book down and read the entire thing in about 24 hours, something I rarely ever do.
Favorite Old Book:
Adoniram Judson on Christian Baptism by Adoniram Judson – Originally published in 1846, this was Judson’s explanation from scripture for why he converted from paedobaptism to credobaptism almost immediately after the Congregationalists commissioned him as a missionary. I was pleasantly surprised by its exegetical and theological precision, its powerful and persuasive arguments, and its rich devotional tone throughout. It’s a travesty that this work is also now out of print.
Favorite All-Round Book:
Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose by Paul Williamson – Not a study of “Covenant Theology” (e.g., Westminster Confession) but an examination of how those covenants explicitly mentioned in scripture (e.g., Abrahamic, Davidic, etc.) function, relate, and move forward God’s plan of redemption. Williamson’s unique contribution is his contention that God actually made two distinct covenants with Abraham, an idea that may initially seem odd but actually makes great sense, both in Genesis and throughout the remainder of the Bible. I intend to return to this book frequently in my preaching and teaching.
So that’s my list. Now I’m curious; what were some of your favorite reads from 2012? Point us to them in the comments section below.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.