Monday, December 22, 2014

Recommended Reading from 2014 (Pt. 1)

         Below, I have listed and said a few words about some of the best books I have read over the course of the past year. I hope you will consider reading a few of these and that they will be as enjoyable and helpful to you as they were to me.
         Our churches need revival – not necessarily more revivalmeetings. True revival is unlikely to come about unless we seek God on the matter. Leonard Ravenhill’s book Revival Praying was a quick and enjoyable read, yet highly challenging. If God’s people do not truly seeka spirit of revival then God is unlikely to send true revival and we are merely stuck having annual, semi-annual, and periodic meetings.
         Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard co-authored a book called Killing Jesus: A History which became a bestseller. When I first heard O’Reilly was doing this project, I found it a bit disturbing, quite frankly. I appreciated his insights and frankness when it comes to political matters but felt he was in no position to talk about Jesus with any measure of authority. However, after reading this book I have to say he has used his platform to challenge many to think about the historical Jesus. The book is an external look at the historical Jesus and not meant to be a work of theology. Most Christians will find little in the book they do not already know about backgrounds, but I do believe the book is well-written and has value from a historical and apologetics standpoint.
         Kevin DeYoung is gaining more and more notoriety as an author. He serves as a pastor in Michigan and is well-known as a blogger. He has written a handful of books that are simple enough to understand, yet challenging. This year I read The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by DeYoung. Holiness is not meant to just be a “church” word. It is meant to be a prevailing reality in our lives as Christians. This book is a challenge for believers to see to it that our lifestyles live up to the expectations of our Lord as much as possible.
         We all know the value of Bible study. But, our study can become stale if we do not work at making it fresh. Books such as How to Get the Most from God’s Word: An Everyday Guide to Enrich Your Study of the Bible by John MacArthur gives a lot of helpful insight into how to study God’s Word just a little deeper and gain more from the effort.
        Two great books I have recommended before, I re-read this year and still challenge you to read. The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney and I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer are top-notch.
          The Rapture Question Answered Plain & Simple by Robert VanKampen gives a very good presentation of the Pre-Wrath Rapture position. This viewpoint advocates the belief the rapture of the church will occur in Revelation 7 during the interlude described between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals. The carefully researched material is highly similar to a book I read about a dozen years ago calledThe Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal.
         I read a book this year titled Demons, Demons, Demons: A Christian Guide Through the Murky Maze of the Occult by John P. Newport. The book was written in 1972 so the illustrations are largely outdated however the general truth remains that demonic activity is alive and well in our world. The striking thing about reading a book on this subject, written 42 years earlier, is to consider how much more prevalent demonic activity appears to be in our day. So much of what we have become accustomed to, could hardly have been envisioned by Newport just 4 decades ago.
         Conflict is inevitable. No matter who you are, how old you are, where you live, or even where you go to church you will experience the butting of heads and locking of horns. Many people think their church is the only one that experiences turmoil and conflict, but it is more wide-spread than anyone cares to admit. In Conflict: Causes & Cures, Mike Smith gives several case studies of actual conflicts he has mediated over the years. Conflict escalates and progresses if left untreated just like a disease. All believers will benefit from reading this book and coming to a better understanding of the inevitable reality of conflict.
        I enjoyed reading a little book called The Top 40 Traditions of Christmas: The Story Behind the Nativity, Candy Canes, Caroling, and All Things Christmas by David McLaughlan. We actually used this book as a part of our family devotion time during the evenings leading up to Christmas. There are several similar books that offer insights into the background of Christmas traditions, but this is one of the better ones I have read.

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

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