The Blog of Pastor Jude St. John
One of the things I love about football is its applicability to life. So much of what happens on the football field corresponds to our experience of living. And in particular, one can draw many parallels between the game of football and our life of faith in Jesus Christ. Most of my years playing football were played “in the trenches.” That is, I was an offensive lineman who plied my trade on the line of scrimmage. That no-man’s-land of much physical violence between opposing forces which derives its name from the battle situations of the World Wars. That place which seems, as often as not, to be an experience much like our lives. I hope to communicate with you a few things that will hopefully be of some help as you fight the good fight of faith. And since I am in this battle too, you might consider that I write these thoughts as I live my life for God in the trenches.
Jan7MonJanuary 7, 2019 by Jude St. John
Hopefully you read my post on my reading from 2018. If not, you can see it here. Of the 40 or so books I read, I can gladly report that I wouldn’t classify any of them as “not worth reading.” All of them were worthwhile and I would commend each one for various reasons.
That being said, there were some I appreciated more than others. Some of them were more edifying and more encouraging and more enlivening for my walk. I would like to highlight 10 of the books as particularly helpful and enjoyable.
My Top Ten books of 2018:
1) My top book of 2018 was God the Son Incarnate by Stephen Wellum. Wellum, a professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary delivered a wonderful book in God the Son Incarnate. It is not an easy read, but it is accessible for those willing to work. From his own introduction, Wellum writes, “Orthodox Christology remains the most faithful to the biblical presentation of Christ and the most coherent theological formulation of his identity and significance.” Wellum defines the purpose of the book in declaring, “Such a classic Christology, however, must be articulated amid a new cultural disposition toward Christ and defended against current challenges born out of confusion regarding the identity of Christ.” I learned a lot from this book. I had some misconceptions corrected and confusion clarified. However, what made this book rise to the top in my estimation was the devotion it elicited. For me, a book that is both challenging intellectually and stimulating devotionally is the ultimate; the best of both worlds sanctifying the mind and ministering to the soul thereby drawing me into worship. I highly recommend this book!
In no particular order these 9 books round out my Top Ten:
2) Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andy Naselli and J. D. Crowley. Naselli, who is coming as the main speaker at Corporis Conference 2020, along with Crowley have written an excellent, accessible book on the conscience. The small group I am a part of studied it and I would pleased if all of my congregation read it.
3) The Imperfect Disciple:Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson made a lot of Top Book lists. Many of our congregants read it and communicated to me how much they appreciated it. I too thought it was a great read, equally challenging and encouraging. Even though it made my Top Ten, it wasn’t my favourite Wilson read of 2018. That distinction goes to…
4) Gospel Wakefulness! I enjoyed The Imperfect Disciple but I enjoyed Gospel Wakefulness more. This is a gospel-centered dynamo of a book that reminds me of another great cross-centered book, The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C. J. Mahaney. If I was asked to recommend a solid, biblical book on gospel-centeredness, this would definitely be one I would suggest.
5) I couldn’t possibly not include Four Forty-Four by Mike Wilkins. Pastor Mike went to be with his Lord in 2018 and I received this book at the time of his death. What a beautiful way to remember this godly man who mentored me, gave me my start in pastoral ministry, and supported me at every turn. I laughed out loud and shed a few tears reading this; I could hear Pastor Mike on every page. I am grateful he completed this before he “shuffled off this mortal coil.”
6) Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne is a great primer on one the most important doctrinal concepts of the entire Bible: union with Christ. This book introduces the doctrine, gives it some historical context, and demonstrates its practical importance.
7) When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson is almost a must read for believers at our time in history. The transgender moment has come upon us quickly and with much uncertainty and concern. Anderson describes this cultural phenomena and critiques it fairly and reasonably. This book was helped me begin to navigate this issue.
8) The first half of The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary by Jonathan T. Pennington made buying the whole book more than worth it. Even if you wouldn’t use the commentary in the back half of the book, Pennington’s deliberations on the Sermon on the Mount made this book another intellectually robust and devotionally inspiring read.
9) Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications by Michael R. Emlet was another very helpful book for me. Mental health is an increasingly important topic for our society, no less so for the church of Christ. I learned much I was unaware of and found the author's Biblical perspective very helpful. This is a short book that helps even the most unlearned neophyte to begin to wrap their minds around some of the issues surrounding mental health.
10) How could I not include a book on preaching by—in my opinion—the greatest living preacher? John Piper’s writing has improved significantly since he stepped down from the pulpit at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota and Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship is a book that all expository preachers should read. I’m not sure how this would be received by the general public, but I’m confident even someone who would never entertain the idea of preaching themselves would still be edified by this book.
I’m thankful to live in a day and age in which so many excellent books are so readily available. I plan to spend my life taking advantage of this gracious gift of God and hope to look forward to another year, Lord willing, or reading edifying, informative, enjoyable books. I will post about my reading plans for 2019 soon.