Monday, March 14, 2011

10 Books that I thank God for

My friend Brian Hedges gave a list of 15 authors (in 15 minutes!) that have greatly influenced him over his life.  I can't reduplicate that accomplishment, because 1. I don't read as much as Brian, 2. it would take me more than 15 minutes, and 3. I can't really point to that many authors and say that they've had a dramatic influence on me. But there are a few books that I can point to and say, "Man, I'm really, really glad God put that book in my path."  Of course, let me say at the outset that the Bible has certainly influenced me.  But that is in a league all by itself.  It is Inspired with a capital "I".  What I'm talking about here are inspired-with-a-lowercase "i" -books and writers  (I hope you get what I meant by that).  Here they are:

1.  Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray.  I almost get teary-eyed every time I think about the first time I came across this book in Joshua's Christian bookstore in Abilene, Texas.  At the time, I was very confused about a lot of things relating to redemption.  And there it was, in that ugly brown and yellow cover, calling me to drink in the wisdom of its author.   As its title implies, this book explains, in two parts, the accomplishment of redemption and its application.  In the first part, Murray covers the necessity, nature, extent, and efficacy of the atonement.  In the second part, he lays out in a very Bible-saturated, God-centered way, how God applies what Jesus did on the cross to his people.  This book has done more to shape my understanding of salvation than any other book outside the Bible.  Thank you, Lord, for this book and for this man of God.

2.  Romans, by John Murray.  I guess you've figured out that I like this guy.  What Spurgeon said to his students about Matthew Henry, I would say of Murray: "If you have to sell your coat to get his works, do it."  (I actually don't have all his works, but these two books that I do have are more than worth their weight in gold.)  This commentary is, in my opinion, the best out there.  I know that it is a little out-dated in terms of modern scholarship, but so what.  As far as accuracy of interpretation goes, combined with deep devotion and reverence, no other commentary on this very crucial epistle even comes close.

3. The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink.  A lot of people are down and out on this writer, and I have to confess he was full of strange eccentricities.  But so am I, and I thank God for this book, if for no other reason than because it was the instrument that God used to open my eyes to the reality of Himself.

4. Basics of Biblical Greek, by William Mounce.  It may seem strange for me to put a grammar on this list, but learning New Testament Greek was one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.  And this book is a very good place to start.  If you ever do get it and work through it, I would encourage you to follow up on it by getting Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Daniel Wallace.  And get a Greek NT and read through it!

5.  History of the Reformation by George Fisher.  I love history, and I love the history of the church.  And few parts of church history are more invigorating (at least, for me) than that of the reformation.  It is refreshing to go back in history and hear the wind of the Spirit blowing and witness his mighty works.  And this book does it very well.  I have read it several times, and each time has been a terrific journey.  Strange to say, it was given to me by a then-Roman Catholic friend of mine (hey Mike) who got it at a Goodwill store!  Thank you, Jesus, for your strange providences!

6.  This was John Calvin, by Thea Van Halsema.  Speaking of the Reformation and of strange providences, my mother found this book for me at a garage sale.  This is not an in-depth biography of Calvin, but it is one of the best.  I prefer to it all the others I have read, for it makes the man and his times come alive.  I've probably read it over 10 times, and it has been a great blessing to me every time I have read it.  By the way, I have read Calvin's Institutes as well as several books on his theology by Warfield and Boettner and others.  But I have found that you will never really appreciate Calvin until you understand his life.  And this book is probably the best place to start.

7. The Law and Its Fulfillment, by Tom Schreiner.  Again, it will seem strange to some people that this book, which deals with a very specific theological issue (the relation of the law and the gospel and how it applies today) is on this list.  But when I first started studying the Bible, I struggled for a long time with this issue - until I read this book.  No more.  It is very well written, very Biblical, and very balanced.  I thank God for this book, for I might still be confused if I had not read it!

8.  The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, by Bruce Metzger.  This book is a helpful introduction to textual criticism of the New Testament.  It is a very interesting book in itself, but for me it helped close a chapter in the whole King James Version debate.

9. The Second World War, by Sir Winston Churchill.  As I said above, I love history.  And I think for two reasons: 1. Understanding the past helps to get a sense of where we are today, and 2. it is delightful to see God's hand of providence working in the myriad of human events.  (And it is a great mine for sermon illustrations!)  Next to church history, I like military history, so I've read a lot of books on World War 2, but none so grand as this.  It is actually not a book, but 6 volumes and over 5000 pages.  The best volumes are the first and second.  By the way, I would add to this Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert, which is the definitive biography of the man (you should probably get the 1000 page condensed version - which is what I read, by the way).

10.  Future Grace by John Piper.  Most people will probably point to Desiring God as the definitive Piper book for them, but for me it was this book.  Future Grace really helped me to see better than any other book how the promises of God function in fighting sin.

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