Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Meditations of a Book-ophile

Dr Sam Storms wrote an extremely stimulating article on his "bottom 10" list - the ten books that he has read or reviewed and found most harmful; http://samstorms.com/article2.asp?id=572 - I am very concious that a lot of what I have written can be construed as somewhat negative or critical - therefore (as yet) I will resist that temptation to join him as enjoyable as that seems. I particularly enjoyed his description of John MacArthur's hideous book; "Charismatic Chaos". He wrote:

“Charismatic Chaos,” by John MacArthur (Zondervan). I have tremendous respect for MacArthur and cherish him as a brother in Christ. But this book is bad. It takes the worst in the Pentecostal-Charismatic world (and yes, there are some pretty bad things in that world) and portrays them as typical of charismatics in general. His arguments for cessationism and against the contemporary validity of so-called miraculous spiritual gifts is extremely weak. But I want to say again how much I appreciate most of the other books MacArthur has written.

So this list is my top ten favourite books that I have recently read:

1. "Joy Unspeakable" by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Kingsway).

This book was crucial in providing the most solid foundation to my experience of receiving the baptism of the Spirit. As yet I have not read a book that proves the Doctor was wrong - therefore here I stand! Not only does he prove that historical event, but he goes on to gloriously urge for fillings of the Spirit and indeed the greater work of revival which he understands as a mass baptism of the Spirit - which I also believe.

2. "Does the Future Have a Church?" by Terry Virgo (Kingsway).

An absolutely outstanding book which is exegetical in outlook going through Ephesians 2 - 4. It paints a glorious canopy of the Church - the Bride of Jesus Christ. In the face of church closure, in the face of the multitude of church failures we are justified in asking - does the church have a future? Terry goes through carefully and biblically showing that not only does the church have a future, but it is a glorious one in which Jesus shall reign and rule through His people!

3. "God's Radiant Church" by John Hosier (Kingsway.

Similar yet radically different to the above. Hosier has penned the best "Systematic Theology for New Frontiers" that is possible. It is packed full of the doctrines and truths that we hold and love. He covers grace - restoration - revival - spiritual gifts - apostles. There is truly something for everyone who believes that the church should be somewhat more than the disgrace it is at the moment. Together with Virgo's book - these two tomes will transform your view of church life forever!!

4. "When I don't desire God - how to fight for joy" by John Piper.

Sam Storms describes this book as; "getting a desire you don't have and can't create". It has touched the very heart of what is the problem with most churches and most Christians. As Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his "Spiritual Depression" - miserable Christians are a disgrace to the gospel of Jesus Christ and are essentially an extremely poor witness. As are miserable churches. We do not want a flippant and inane grin on the other hand! What both Dr's Piper and Lloyd-Jones were seeking is a deep, glorious joy in the beauty of God.

What particuarly scratches where I itch is that Piper wrecks the notion that such joy is to be found in modern paper-backs and easy believism. He writes:

'I would challenge you to throw off the notion that weighty books of doctrine are joy-squelching, while light devotional books are joy-producing. It's true that the joy of serious reading and the thinking that goes with it (sometimes called study) may not be as immediate as the joy of singing in church, or seeing a sunset, or talking with a friend, or hearing a preacher with lots of stories. But the payload for joy may be greater. Raking is easier than digging, but you only get leaves. If you dig you may get diamonds' (emphasis mine).

5. "Showing the Spirit - A theological exposition of 1 Corinthians 12 - 14" by Dr D A Carson.

Cessationism is dead.

The only disappointment is his (like many other theologians who can't allow for a distinct experience of the Holy Spirit after conversion) obsession with 1 Corinthians 12:13. Read Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones on it! This verse has NOTHING to do with the baptism of the Spirit!

6. "The Gift of Prophecy" by Dr Wayne Grudem.

The most amazingly deep examination of the gift of prophecy ever written. It is truly exhaustive and surely should be on all prophets and pastors desks. Dr Kenneth Gentry attempted a refutation of this book but for all the excellent promise he usually shows in his writings, did not manage it - quite.

7. "A God Entranced Vision of All Things - the legacy of Jonathan Edwards" - edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor.

The Desiring God Ministries Conference held in 2004 put into print. Not only is this an absolutely rich and deep insight into one of the greatest Puritan/Revivalist/Reformers in the 18th century, but it also gathers together a whole host of essays from the foremost academics and writers in the world. We are privy to a treasure trove of men devoted to the glory and beauty and wonder of God - who's passionate desire is that we encounter the God Edwards loved and adored through Edwards and his writings.

8. Volume 4 of the Works of Dr John Owen; "On Mortification of Sin". (Banner of Truth).

C S Lewis said that to avoid academic snobbery, every third book that one reads should be outside his century. Therefore in adhering to that rule I very often find myself going to Dr John Owen and his works. They are exhaustive - yet one never can exhaust them. Volume 4 is one of the most easy to read because Owen's pastor's heart really shines through in his desire for men to mortify the flesh. There is even a hint of "Christian hedonism" shining through for the careful readers. Well worth the work.

9. "God's Passion for His Glory" by Dr John Piper.

This book is kind of a cheat because you get Jonathan Edwards hidden among John Piper - two greats together for the price of one book. Piper's amazing academic skills are evident in the republishing of this most important work of Jonathan Edwards. You can see his love and respect for Edwards in his biographical statements as well as the evidence of a long walk with the great man. But the Edwards work itself is just amazing - each page takes you deeper and deeper into God and a desire just grows to know God more as you learn about the end for which God created the world.

10. "The Sermons of Dr Stanley Jebb".

I am kind of cheating on this one too because these are audiotapes I am talking about. Yet they are worthy of book format. In leaving West St (my home church) I was fortunate enough to take about fifty sermon tapes of my former pastor Dr Jebb with me. Each of his sermons are masterful in his understanding of the Word of God. He is vigilent to get to the bottom of the text yet each sermon is undergirded with deep passionate prayer and a desire to show his people something more of the God that he also loves. On the academic side I do not think there is a more outstanding preacher in the UK today - he is a doctor of theology and well deserves it. On the spiritual side, each sermon is exhaustive and also never exhausted. I always learn something new about his text when I've finished listening to it.

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