30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I’ve always struggled to enjoy reading and studying church history. There are aspects of church history that certainly grab my attention but church history as a whole is not a topic I find easy to read or study. However, there have been a few books related to church history that have helped me cultivate a better appreciation and love for church history over time and this was on of those books. In this book the writer, Alton Gansky, writes about 30 events that have shaped the church as a whole. Gansky quickly admits it wasn’t easy picking just 30 events. He says, “Selecting which events to include in this book was difficult…In the end, I believe this is a good sample of key events in church history, drawn from both the distant past and modern times” (page 10-11). I think Gansky does a good job at this. He successfully picks 30 events that gives the reader a well-rounded view of events that have shaped the church into what it is today. What’s interesting about this book though is Gansky didn’t just stick with events that happened “within” the church community. In addition to those types of events, he writes about events that happened “outside” the church community. These events, like the ones within the church, impacted the church in profound ways. This is a great book for anyone who wants an easy, interesting church history related book to read. It’s also helpful to anyone who is interested in how major events in history, both inside and outside the church, has shaped the church as we know it today.
Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a phrase you hear often. Many times I have passed up a good book because the cover didn’t grab my attention. This was almost on of those books. I received this book when my wife and I decided to be a part of a ministry called International Friendship Connection. IFC is a ministry that serves international undergrad and graduate students who are in the states studying on a university campus. This book was given to us at a training we went to for IFC. At first glance, I didn’t have a desire to read this book. However, I decided to pick it up and give it a shot and I’m glad I did. In this short book, Sarah Lanier talks about the differences between what she calls “hot climate cultures” and “cold climate cultures.” Lanier says, “The population of the entire world can roughly be divided into two parts. The two groups represented are ‘hot climate’ (relationship-based) cultures and ‘cold-climate’ (task-oriented) cultures” (page 15-16). These two cultural groups have different ways they communicate, manage time and planning, find their identity, and even show hospitality. If someone from a hot climate cultures goes into a cold climate culture and interacts the way they normally do in their hot climate culture they will have a hard time. One must understand the culture they are going into so they can best serve and do life in that culture. In this book Lanier lays out the key differences between these two cultural groups and how one can understand them. It’s defiantly a book that should be read by anyone doing or planning to do cross-cultural missions, whether thats domestic or international, but is also helpful to Christians in general as we seek to serve others in different cultural contexts.
Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. This is a book I have always heard great things about but have never got around to reading. I’m glad I decided to finally take it off the shelve and read it. The wisdom that Hendricks shares in this little book is gold. The book is filled with practical insights and principles that help you become a better teacher of God’s Word. In this book Hendricks shares seven laws in regards to teaching: law of the teacher, law of education, law of activity, law of communication, law of the heart, law of encouragement, and law of readiness. In regards to the seven laws, Hendricks says, “If you boil them all down, these seven laws essentially call for a passion to communicate” (page 15). That’s what this book is all about. Helping people who teach the Bible do it with passion, excellence, and skill. This is a great little book that I believe is a must read for anyone who is in a role of teaching the Bible.
Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I have read a lot of books recently and this one was by far one of may favorites. I’ve always enjoyed reading J.D.’s books and they have played a big part in shaping my faith and ministry. In this book J.D. deals with the topic of the Holy Spirit and how believers have the advantage of not having Jesus beside them (like the disciples in the Gospels) but instead, through the Spirit, they have Jesus presence inside them. Not only that, but J.D. helps believers understand how they can experience the Holy Spirit in their relationship with God. J.D. says, “The Holy Spirit tends to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. Most Christians know he’s there, but they are unclear about exactly what he does of how to interact with him-or if that’s even possible. Yet something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he go away-if his departure meant the Spirit came. The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them” (page 13). This is one of the most insightful and practical books on the subject of the Holy Spirit that I have ever read. It has a great balance of theological content (which is very much needed in the discussion of the Holy Spirit) and practical application (which is just as much needed in this topic) in regards to the Holy Spirit and how Christians can experience the Spirit’s ministry in their life. J.D. does a great job in this book building a foundation of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and explaining how believers can experience and seek the Holy Spirit. This is a great book I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand the Holy Spirit better and how they can experience him more in their relationship with God.
Prayer by Tim Keller. Prayer is an area of my Christian life where I struggle the most. I go through seasons where I feel like I’m a “strong prayer,” but many times I feel like I am coming up very short in this area. This is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Also, I haven’t read many books devoted entirely to prayer so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. Keller has managed to put together one of, if not the most, thorough books on the topic of prayer. This book really does serve as a modern day handbook for what prayer is and how does one go about practicing prayer. The first part of the book is very academic and philosophical. Keller does a great job as painting the landscape of how people and religious groups view prayer. But this isn’t where Keller spends most of his time in this book. Once Keller helps the reader establish a definition and view of what Biblical prayer is in the Christian life he quickly moves towards helping them see how Christians can practice prayer. The rest of the book, and majority of it then, is a practical guide on how to practice prayer. Keller explores the prayer habits of early church fathers as well as walking through many Scripture passages on prayer. He also offers many practical tips on how Christians can practice prayer in their daily lives. If you want to grow in your understanding of prayer and how to practice it, read this book.
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I haven’t read many marriage books (even though there are many out there right now I want to read), but out of the ones I have read this was has been my favorite. I read this book along with a few other men in a men’s group I am a part of at my church. I really enjoyed this book because of Keller’s approach to the topic of marriage and how to do marriage well. He quickly admits and helps the reader see that marriage is impossible to do well apart from God. Throughout the book Keller keeps the Gospel at the center as he shares how marriage is only possible through having a personal relationship with God through the Gospel that helps you truly love and serve your spouse. Keller spends a great amount of time explaining and applying the main Scripture passages on marriage. I also enjoyed how his wife wrote parts of the book and brought another persecutive to this topic. I believe this is a book everyone who is married (or one day hopes to married) should read. It’s practical but always keeps God and the Gospel at the center, which is the only way to do marriage well.
I am currently reading What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung and 30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I plan to review those when I am done reading them.