2017 Reading Challenge

I have undertaken Tim Challies’ 2017 Reading Challenge as a way to force myself to more disciplined about reading (and get through the huge number of books in my personal library that I’ve never read). As a way to keep myself accountable (and keep you, my dear reader, in the loop), I will update this list with titles and Amazon links as I finish books. If you want to know my thoughts on the books, check out my Goodreads page for ratings and the occasional review.

Challies’ advice is to set a goal at the start of the year for how many of the books you want to read, but this year is going to be hectic and full of change for my family, so instead I’m going to start reading at a pace to complete the entire list this year (2 books a week) and see how many I get done. I’ve set my Goodreads goal for the year at 52 books. I’m not taking the lists one at a time, because I’m also trying to put together some reading lists for other projects, so I’ll be bouncing around on the list.

The Light Reader

A biography 
A classic novel 
A book about history 
A book targeted at your genderThe Quotidian Mysteries
A book about theologyThe Singing God
A book with at least 400 pages 
A book your pastor recommends 
A book about Christian livingExtravagant Grace
A book more than 100 years old
A book published in 2017  
A book for children or teensHalf Upon a Time (recommended by my children)
A book of your choiceWe, the Final Few
A book about a current issue

The Avid Reader

A book written by a PuritanThe Heart of Christ
A book by or about a missionaryBruchko
A book about Christian living
A commentary on a book of the Bible
A book about the Reformation
A book about theology
A book recommended by a family member
A book with a great cover
A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellersBig Little Lies
A book about church history
A book of 100 pages or lessWho Am I?
A book of your choice
A book that won a prizeSleep Like a Tiger

The Committed Reader

A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with 
A book about Christian living
A book about apologetics
A book of your choice
A humorous book
A book based on a true story
A book about prayer
A book of poetry
A book with a one-word titlePastrix
A book by Sinclair Ferguson
A novel by an author you have never read beforePraying Drunk
A book about Christian living
A memoir or autobiography
A play by William Shakespeare
A book of your choice
A book written by an author with initials in their name
A book written by a female authorThe Scars That Have Shaped Me
A book about theology
A book published by CrosswaySide by Side
A self-improvement book
A graphic novel
A book you own but have never readSlave
A book targeted at the other gender
A book about Christian living
A book of your choice
A book about race or racial issues

The Obsessed Reader

A book you have started but never finishedWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
A book about church history
A book about holiness or sanctification
A book about science
A book used as a seminary textbook – Counseling the Hard Cases
A book on the ECPA bestseller list
A book about productivity or time management
A book of your choice
A book about spiritual disciplines
A book about parenting
A book about Christian living
A book by Iain Murray
A book about business
A book about theology
A book about marriage
A photo essay book
A book of comics
A book about the Second World War
A book by a Puritan
A book about preaching or public speaking
A book of your choice
A book about suffering
A book about evangelism
A book by your favorite authorOtherworld
A book you have read beforeEmbrace Me
A Christian novelResurrection in May
A biography of a Christian
A book about the natural world
A novel for young adultsWe, the Grateful Few
A novel longer than 400 pagesThe Book of Strange New Things
A book about history
A book about the Bible
A book recommended by a friend
A book published by P & R Publications
A book with an ugly cover
A book by or about a martyr
A book of your choice
A book about Christian living
A book about church history
A book about money or finance
A book about leadership
A book by John Piper
A book about theology
A book for children or teens
A book about sexuality
A book about current events
A biography of a world leader
A book about the church
A book about a hobby
A book written in the twentieth centuryThe Forever War

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Book Review: Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds

Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism by 17688937Starr Meade is exactly what it sounds like – a devotional for families. It is arranged one week at a time. On Sunday you read one or more questions and answers from the Heidelberg Catechism, then every other day of the week there is a short devotional that ties into the questions from Sunday. Each day’s reading (except Sunday) also includes Bible verses for reference. There are 52 weeks of devotionals in the book.

We haven’t actually finished this book yet. We are reading it at the dinner table, and, as I noted above, it could be a year or more before we actually get through the whole thing. I wanted to write a review, though, so others could hear about this wonderful book.

The book is written at a low enough level that I think it could easily be used by families with very young children (older toddlers to young elementary), but it is also written in such a way that it doesn’t “talk down” to adults or older children. My children are a bit older (older elementary to middle school age), and the book works for them. They understand it but don’t feel like it is a “baby” book.

Here’s how we are using it: every night at dinner, either my husband or I read the night’s devotional with all the Bible verses (I keep the book with my Bible, as the verses are listed in the book but not written out). Then, we ask the children if they have any questions or comments related to what we read. We have had some really good discussion about theology and Bible interpretation.

I highly recommend this book to all Christian parents. While we can incorporate Bible reading into family like without using a book other than the Bible, it is so much easier to do so with a guide, and Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds is an excellent guide.

Summer Reading

Life got crazy around the Calvinist house for a while, and I have been badly neglecting my blog. Between homeschool conferences, family changes, and regular life I haven’t had much time for blogging – which is sad to say on a pretty much brand new blog.

Anyway, I wanted to take a moment to post a list of books I’m hoping to get through this summer. Here it is:
Some of these are books I’ve almost finished (KJO Controversy, Intolerance of Tolerance), some are books that I’m re-reading (Amazing Back into Grace, Raised with Christ), one is a book on economics (Incredible Bread Machine), but the rest are books I’ve never read. I’m planning to post book reviews as I finish them.
On my Kindle (aka books I read when I’m waiting in line or waiting rooms):
  • Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright
  • The Scriptures Testify About Me by D. A. Carson
  • Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur
  • Alone with God by John MacArthur
  • How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
  • Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman, J. Ed Komoszewski and Darrell L. Bock
  • Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards
  • The Doctrine of Justification by James Buchanan
  • The Truest Thing About You by David Lomas, D. R. Jacobsen and Francis Chan
  • Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson
  • Shame Interrupted by Edward T. Welch
  • Heretics by G. K Chesterton
  • Christless Christianity by Michael Horton
  • The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius
What’s on your reading list? Any book recommendations for me?

Books and Reading – A Call for Discernment

Last week over at Ref21, Todd Pruitt posted an article about members of the ministry not recommending certain books to congregational members. One quote jumped out at me:

Urging people away from certain books and insisting that ministry staff not recommend them is an important task of the pastor these days. . . It is the pastor’s duty to protect the purity and unity of the flock he serves as shepherd.

I would fully agree with this. One of the problems currently facing the church is a lack of deeper understanding of theology by the man-on-the-street church member, and reading light, fluffy, skirting the edge of orthodoxy (or falling right over it) books certainly doesn’t help matters. Further, if a pastor is aware that the members of his congregation are reading troublesome, wrong, or downright heretical books he should say something to protect his people.

But it doesn’t always work this way.

Unfortunately, when a book is popular many church leaders seem hesitant to speak against it. Worse yet, they may think that a book’s popularity among Christians means that it is a helpful, and therefore good, book for Christians to read. How else can you explain church-sponsored small groups using books like Velvet Elvis (reviewed here) and The Shack (reviewed here and here), and women’s groups within churches passing around books like Heaven is for Real (off a church denomination’s official women’s group reading list, reviewed here and here). I believe the church is full of more examples like this – these are simply examples of which I have first-hand knowledge.

Should pastors tell their ministry staff when a book isn’t fit to be recommended to the people of the church? Yes. Should pastors tell their congregation when a book (especially a popular one) is full of bad theology and potentially dangerous? Absolutely. Sadly, many will not.

Pastor, don’t be so afraid to offend someone that you let your congregation run to the bookstore to grab the latest piece of Christian pop-culture without a warning if one is called for. If a book is suddenly very popular in your church, learn about it. You may be the only person in someone’s life who knows enough to warn.

Christian, the popularity of a book does not affect the truth of the book. A book is not acceptable simply because many people have read it any more than it is not acceptable simply because of low readership. Read your Bible first – then if you need a book recommendation turn to trusted church leaders or theologically knowledgeable friends. Do a bit of research before accepting a book. Remember that the church is 2,000 years old. Brand new theological insights are often heresy (and usually old ones at that).