Christian Living


The Treasure Principle

Randy Alcorn


Why read this book? Did money ever cause you stress? Or did money ever cause a fight at home? Of course it did! Because money can so easily become our idol. But I know something else, you really want to use all of your money to serve God and to know more joy (and less stress). For an investment of about $12 and about 2 hours of reading (just one evening), and a willingness to begin to obey, this book could help you make a desired change. God can use Alcorn's words to help you hear His Spirit - and find some peace in regard to money. Even if you are doing well, this is a great book to invest in and read often; this is my third time through the book! This time I was reminded of the reason for money, his sixth principle: "God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving." That's right out of 2 Corinthians 9:11 and something we all need to hear again. What do you need to hear from God about money -- for your joy?




Life Together: Classic Exploration of Faith

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Have you ever said (or heard) something like, "I love God, but not Christians!" Almost everyone has felt this at some point. Bonhoeffer was a pastor during World War II in Germany and like us, he faced this in himself and in his church. Writing to them in a time of war and terrible loss (he himself was a martyr in the last day of the war) he stressed the need for authentic Christian community. His thesis is summed up in this sentence: "He who loves his dream of Christian community more than Christian community itself becomes a destroyer" (p. 27). Here the parallel text in the Bible: 1 John 4:20 'If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.' The whole of this book develops what this means in real life. This is a book that Christians need to read - in order to survive!




The New Pilgrim's Progress

John Bunyan








Sinners in the Hands of a Good God

David Clotfelter


David Clotfelter helps us think biblically about a subject that no one wants to think about, if we can avoid it: Hell. Yet, because God's Word does not avoid this subject, we cannot afford to do so. Clotfelter helps us understand the relationship between God's judgment and his mercy. He asks if Hell might be something other than eternal punishment of the wicked: Could unbelievers be "freed" over time? Might God annihilate them (mercifully), instead of punishing them forever? He answers both questions with a "no", but he shows carefully why some have suggested otherwise and why the Bible does not allow this. I commend this book as a biblical, gentle, and direct treatment of a very difficult subject.




Inside Out

Lawrence J. Crabb


I like this book. That may surprise you because Larry Crabb is not an author that many of my theological friends appreciate. This is one of his first books and in many ways it dovetails with Psalm 131 (though he never references it). On the first page Crabb writes: "The point of [our modern Christian] life has shifted from knowing and serving Christ till he returns, to soothing, or at least learning to ignore, the ache in our soul." Do we do that, too? That's backwards, turning Christianity "inside out". Instead he offers this: "There is joy. There is hope. There is love. There is more in relationship with Christ than we ever imagined. Press on! He's coming soon! Until then, remember that real change, joyful change, is possible only if you're willing to start from the inside out." (p. 15). This book takes us into a Christ-centered world to be reminded that Christianity is not about "feeling better," but knowing Christ. So, some of you are saying, "Why would I read that!?" I want to feel better!" It may be that hope for damaged souls is not in pursuing "feeling better" directly, but Christ. One "testimonial" to this book reads: "Reading Inside Out was one of the most painful experiences of my life. [But now] I'm trusting Christ in ways I never even knew I could. I feel freer, more alive, less defensive, more willing to wait for heaven's joys than demanding them now." This book is a journey into discovering our lives, and even our pain, from God's eyes, and finding real hope in centering our world on Christ. It will be challenging, but it offers what you want more than relief.




Death By Love

Mark Driscoll/Gerry Breshears


Breshears' and Driscoll's book is a marvelous example the application of significant and deep (and sometimes controversial) doctrines in very practical ways. One of the most important issues in the atoning work of Christ is to try to speak truth about what Jesus accomplished and how he did so on the Cross. Many different proposals have been made over 2000 years. By writing letters to real people who are hurting, people who need the reality of Jesus' atonement, the authors explain penal-substitution as the central model, and also how each of the various biblical models apply to our lives in distinct circumstances. They show us that this doctrine is not only not too hard for us, but essential to understand.




Life & Diary of David Brainerd

Jonathan Edwards


Jonathan Edwards lived in the early 1700's and he got to know Brainerd as a young man. In fact, that was Edwards' only opportunity. Brainerd, a brilliant, sickly, weak and powerful man, became a missionary to the Indians of New Jersey, but died before his 30th birthday. He attended Yale, but left due to illness - that turned out to be tuberculosis. He did return, but was expelled for speaking against a faculty member (no one is perfect and well, a longer story!). His passion for God, for the lost, and his untimely removal from Yale lead to his immediate ministry to the Delaware Indians. It also led to the founding of Princeton (read the book!). God is sovereign, had Brainerd stayed and finished at Yale, his work as a missionary could have never been completed (perhaps not started) as his life was expiring. His passionate and compassionate ministry to the Indians as people loved by God is related in this book through his journal, which came into Jonathan Edwards' possession when Brainerd died. You see, Brainerd had moved into Edward's home. This began a deep friendship - possibly a romantic attachment - with Edwards' daughter, Joanna. Brainerd died in 1747 at age 29. Joanna died the next year, having contracted tuberculosis while nursing him. Brainerd's life, his journal, and Edwards' book, influenced many generations of Christians, and great missionaries, to serve God on the front-lines, at any cost, because of a love for God that they shared with Brainerd.




Follow Me

Jan David Hettinga


Every time I hear Jan Hettinga speak (or re-read this book) he challenges me: "Is it Jesus I am following - or myself?" Then he reminds me of the reasons for which I set out to follow Jesus, wonderful, satisfying, delightful reasons. Most of all, I have never met anyone like Jesus who makes me want to follow them more! Then Hettinga deepens my appetite again for more of Jesus! I was made to follow Jesus! And then he asks difficult questions about the roadblocks I put up for myself which block my progress in following him. In fact, at one point he writes (p. 103):

"The more I pored over the New Testament, the more I became convinced that the problem frustrating [my life] was a misunderstanding of the gospel itself! What shook me to my boots was not so much that I had been off target but that everybody else in the evangelical world seemed to be off target as well."

I think he's right. Are we really following Jesus? Do we feel that sense of deep satisfaction with Jesus as our master?




Evangelism & Sovereignty of God

J. I. Packer


Packer's book is based on lectures from 1959. I first read this book over 30 years ago and my re-read was a confirmation of the crucial importance of what Packer has written. I suspect that it will be a classic a hundred years from now - and perhaps in heaven. The book is laid out in four progressively unfolding chapters which are like an unfolding flower. Packer wrote sparsely with just enough examples and just enough textual support and cut out all that was unnecessary. He seemed to say all the essential things in only 100 pages - a miracle?! In this book he helps us understand the difference between 'antinomy' and 'paradox.' Perhaps you say, 'Why would I care?' Well, it might be a good idea to care because he is helping us understand how God's sovereignty interacts with our will to believe (or not believe) when the Gospel is presented. He even helps us understand why we tell people about Jesus since God is so powerful and could do it all without us! Packer explains that our motives must be both the Glory of God and the love of neighbor. These cannot be separated as if they are or could be distinct. And the message we bring is the Gospel, which is both necessary and sufficient, alone. A wonderfully helpful short book. He does not give 'all the answers' or the 'final answer', but he does think biblically, and truthfully. It is worth the read to understand how God works in us in salvation and evangelism.




Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight

J. I. Packer








Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work

Timothy Keller


I've read many good books on work. Keller's is a particular gift to me and to us. With simple words and great stories, he draws us into the Word and even helps us listen to great theologians like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and John Coltrane. He uses examples from the streets of New York and the boardroom of Wall Street - no surprise since his church is in Manhattan. He not only shows us God's plan for work - grounding it in the Garden, but he is quite realistic about our problems with work, never minimizing these. What makes this great, rather than just good, is that his final move is to help us see the Gospel in work. This is a must read.




Because I Love You

Dr. Brian Kluth


Some of us are highly organized already. Others are not and do not want to be :-) But of us want to be better organized and are looking for good tools. For those of us in the latter group, this book is a great help. It provides prompts on the important things that we should record for those we love. It prompts us for 'simple stuff' like family tree and birthdays (Simple? Do your kids know what your grandparents know about these things?). It also prompts you about important documents and has a place for you to record where they are (Where is your marriage license and your birth certificates. And if you know, do your kids know how to find them??). It also has a place to record lists of your financial accounts (checking & savings, of course, but also loan papers and even a list of all credit cards (again you know - I hope - but do your kids or parents know if you were to die first?). It also provides an outline for putting together a budget if you have never done that. What about medical information and medical history? Do your kids or parents know how to serve you best, if you become incapacitated or have an accident? Do you even remember your own immunizations (and your kids) without calling your doctor (do others know the online password so they could look it up if you cannot?). Then there is the concern few of us think about enough: our death. We need to be ready before God - and this workbook has a great outline of the Gospel! But it also prompts us to help others by making some basic decisions beforehand. This workbook has about ten (10) pages specifically for concerns about preparing for our death.


Why does this all matter? It has to do with being good stewards of our resources. Yes. But more important, it is a kindness to others who may have to 'pick-up where we left off' if we are incapacitated or die suddenly. Thinking all of this through, and putting things in order is a kindness to your kids, wife or husband, parents, or friends.


This is a very helpful resource. I'm pleased that they have almost no adverts in this workbook for the organization that put it together. It's 99% what it promises to be - a useful tool to plan in order to be kind to others. They even offer Word templates, if that's helpful. You don't need this tool. You can do it on your own. But even if you are mostly organized, it may be a prompt for something you still need to think through.



One Minute After You Die

Erwin Lutzer


There are very few good books on death. Perhaps the reason is so very few people have lived to tell about it! Except Jesus. But even he tells us very little. But what little he does say, Lutzer explains in a very readable book. He teaches us both about medieval myths and biblical assurances. It is a short book, biblical, and hopeful by a trustworthy pastor and theologian.





The Cross Centered Life

C.J. Mahaney


CJ Mahaney has produced a very short, engaging, and easy-to-read book about a subject that is eternal and hard-to-think-about. Yet it is not enough to think about the Cross, it is to be the center of our lives. Filled with stories, including many from his own life, this little book encourages us, gently, to do what we want to do - focus our life on the Cross of Jesus. It is practical, winsome and takes only about 1-2 hours to read. It turns our attention to scripture and to the work of Christ - and if we allow God to use it - it will help us to conform our life to the Cross.




The Trellis & The Vine

Colin Marshall


Do you want to understand 'why' we have church? Marshall and Payne have done that very well, putting the church's mission in terms of 'making disciple-makers' in practical terms better than anyone else I have read (well, since Jesus!). I think their key contribution is the difference between 'trellis' and 'vine' work in the church: "A Christian brings a truth from God's word to someone else, praying that God would make that work bear fruit through the inward working of his Spirit. That's vine work. Everything else is trellis." (p. 39). Yet, their practical approach is not just based on the Bible, but saturated in the Bible. That can be glimpsed when they say, "The heart of training is not to impart a skill, but to impart sound doctrine." (p. 71). Read this book to understand and be motivated to be a disciple-maker with other disciple-makers, in order to please our Savior - and learn how.



31 Days of Prayer Journal

Ruth Myers


It is so easy for our lives to be bogged down in the "dust" and to feel far from God. Life does that "naturally". But I think that you really want to learn to be daily and deeply connected with God. And that is the purpose of this book: to develop "a lifestyle of praise". Isn't that something you want - or at least want to want? I think so. Of course, many people say, "I don't have enough time to read - but I want to!" That is another reason this book may be right for you, today. It is set up as a 2-page daily devotional reading with suggested Bible texts to read before you begin. With wise brevity, this book helps you to consider how you might turn your life from looking at the "dust of life" to hungering again for God and living a life of praise.




Desiring God

John Piper


"The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever." This is John's main idea from which everything else in the book springs. It comes to this: we were created to pursue our own happiness; we only find that in God. This is a book for people who want to be radically HAPPY. But I should warn you, it is a tough book to wade through. Some have told me that they have trouble making it through the whole book. That's okay! It's worth reading just a few chapters the first time, putting it down and then picking it up many months later. Take whatever time you need. It takes some time to understand idea like: God delights in God above all things! But when we begin to understand this, it is the greatest comfort we could know. It has implications for our prayer life, our worship, our habits, and all of our hopes and dreams. Read and learn that God is bigger than may have ever imagined and that the life He offers has more joy than you may have ever dreamed.




Don't Waste Your Life

John Piper


This book title is found on t-shirts, has its own website, and is also a critical book. A must read for everyone, but especially students whose life is before them. This book is an invigorating and scary dose of reality - what will you do with your life? Will you invest it in the only Person and work that matters?





Finally Alive

John Piper


Do you know what 'Born Again' means and where it comes from in the Bible? Piper takes a look at this much talked about phrase from many angles in the Bible, mostly from the writings of John. His primary idea is this: 'new birth changes people'. In fact, Piper warns us: 'the church is permeated by people who are not born again' (p. 16). This does not mean real Christians are perfect, but it does mean all real Christians are changed - significantly changed. Read this book to understand what 'Born Again' means in the Bible, who is born again, what it means to be born again - and if you are born again. And also how to help someone else understand God's call to them: 'you must be born again!' - that's our mission and privilege and duty.




When I Don't Desire God

John Piper


The very idea of 'Desiring God' is a threat to some of us. We know we don't, or don't enough, or don't always - or don't now. That can discourage - or even cause fear. As a pastor, John wrote this book to his own congregation in response to those who struggle with just these feelings. So, if you want to desire God, read this book to find practical ways to be healed from our spiritual depression.





Significant Work

Paul Rude


Who does more significant work: a truck driver or an assistant pastor? Paul Rude's book removes the artificial divide between secular and sacred, showing us the extraordinary significance of everyday work. He shows this in history: a great quote form Martin Luther reads, "God gives the wool, but not without our labor. If it's on the sheep, it makes no garment." He also gives us many examples: he exposes the myth of 'you can be anything you want to be' - we are not all NBA stars even if we want to be! And most importantly, he does this by God's Word: his grounding text is Romans 8. When you finish the book, you will be able to understand (more clearly, at least) the incredible value of your work, which God has given us, his glory and his kingdom.




The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

Ken Sande


This is the book "behind," Resolving Everyday Conflict, that we are using in our Small Groups (primarily our Growth Groups but also some Ministry Teams, too!). Peacemakers is longer, and given more space, it is able to offer more detail about the biblical foundations of Peacemaking and provide more examples. The point of the book is that there exists a great divide between "peace-keeping" and "peacemaking." Peace-keeping strives to avoid conflict, and measures success by lack of conflict. Peacemaking acknowledges conflict as unavoidable and seeks to bring godly peace. Peace-keeping is the usual thing in many relationships ("I never talk to her about politics!"). That's avoiding, not making peace. However, Peacemaking is what the Bible commands us to do ("Blessed are the peacemakers!"). Peacemaking is what Jesus did on the cross ("through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."). If you only have time to read one book this year beyond the Bible (and stuff required for school or for work), read this one! This is the right book for Village's 40th Anniversary. This is what it means to 'still and quiet your own soul' (Psalm 131).




Resolving Everyday Conflict

Ken Sande


This book is a synopsis of his earlier and longer book, Peacemakers. His key idea is that conflict is normal, should not be avoided, and is not the same a "fighting." Specifically, we must handle things by peacemaking (directly and biblically) rather than peacekeeping (avoidance and by our feelings). Sande tells us that if we handle conflict by biblical principles of peace-making, conflict can be constructive and sanctifying. Put simply, peacemaking is applying the Gospel to our lives. He distills this down to four key responses in conflict. First, Glorify God: bringing God into your situation; second, Get the log out: owning your part of a conflict; third, Gently Restore: helping others own their part of a conflict; and fourth, Go and Be Reconciled: giving forgiveness and arriving at a reasonable solution. You get the idea - not "rocket science," but definitely the Gospel. As simple as it is, it is hard to do. You will find this book easy to read, practical, and drawn from God's Word, not just good ideas.




Pursuit of God

A. W. Tozer


Everything A.W. Tozer has written should be read by every Christian. He's not perfect, but every book is stimulating to us as God's people to know and love God better. This book is in many ways similar to John Piper's Desiring God, but it is a bit easier to read and shorter. The message is this: your happiness depends on satisfying your hunger in God -- alone. This is what we were created to do. Read this book and behold God! And in seeing him, refresh your soul!




When People Are Big and God is Small

Edward T. Welch


Around the year 2000, I was deeply affected by Psalm 131 (as most of you know from my annual sermon in August) and also by this book. The issue in both is the same: a God-focused life is a life of hope; a people-centered life is a life of anxiety. To me this is like sliced bread, invention of fire, and E=mc2. It is simple, essential, fundamental, and life-changing. It's not the Cross of Christ - that is foundational to everything, that is life and death. But fear of people, or trying to control other people's opinions of us, is a trap that undermines the joy of the salvation of many Christians. It is something that God warns us against time and again in his Word. As Welch puts it, when we make people big, and God small. If you have never read this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. Welch gives these critical steps which are worth recording here:

  • STEP 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme, both in the Bible and in your own life.
  • STEP 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.
  • STEP 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.
  • STEP 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord.
  • STEP 5: Examine where your desires have been too big.
  • STEP 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you.
  • STEP 7: Need other people less, love other people more.