Apart from hearing an excellent sermon on my recent vacation, I also managed to get through a few books on my reading list.
Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert
I read this hoping to get help in counseling others and found myself helped instead. Yes, this book will now be my first port of call when counseling porn addicts; but even for those of us who don’t struggle with this particular sin, this book’s wonderful gospel-centered focus will help us fight against all kinds of sin with the power of grace.
This is biblical counseling at its best: full of sympathy for sinners, courageous confrontation of sin, accessible biblical truth, the power of Christ’s grace, and radical dependence upon the Holy Spirit. There are just so many texts I want to preach upon now, always a reliable guide to the quality of a Christian book.
I’m no longer dreading the next phone call or email from someone who has succumbed to porn, because with this book I now have eight grace-based strategies to offer needy sinners. Finally Free will liberate many lives and revitalize many marriages.
Your Brain At Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock.
Many of us are struggling to cope with information overload and digital distraction. Our brains feel fried at the end of a day, damaging our productivity, our health, our families, and our relationship with God. This book helps us to understand the science of what we are doing to our brains with our current work practices, and helps us to manage our limited mental resources in a healthier and happier way. Put simply, “Know your brain, transform your performance.”
The author follows a totally stressed-out couple as they try to cope with the digital deluge in their work settings. He analyzes their failings and then suggests alternative scenarios that would help them to work more efficiently and enjoyably. He also shows how knowing how our brains work and respond to pressure enables us to understand others better, resulting in better communication, collaboration, and long-term change.
Bit Literacy: Productivity in an Age of Information and Email Overload by Mark Hurst
On the same subject as Your Brain at Work, but a bit more basic with more emphasis on the practical. A good place to start if you want to pick up numerous tips on how to change bad the digital habits most of us have acquired into good habits that will improve our work and lives. If you want to learn how to better manage all the “bits” that swirl around your life – email, to-do lists, photos, files, etc., – begin here.
The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Brian and Cara Croft
I read the pre-publication version of this book a few months ago and provided this endorsement:
Realistic…Honest…Transparent…Spiritual…Practical.” These are the words that sprang to my mind as I read this unique book that will refresh many pastors’ souls, rescue many pastors’ marriages, transform many pastors’ families, and revive many pastors’ ministries.
Anyone familiar with Brain Croft’s growing ministry at PracticalShepherding.com will know that Brian has a huge heart for pastors and their families. He doesn’t speak down from lofty heights of pastoral perfection, but speaks beside us in the trenches of the pastoral battlefield.
This book addresses the pastor, his wife, and his children, and contains a number of useful appendices including “Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife” and “My Battle with Depression” by Brian’s wife, Cara. It’s one of those books that pastors and their wives should probably schedule to read every year.
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Speaking of books that should be read every year (if not, every month!), this book is a game-changer. We’re all familiar with Kevin DeYoung’s wonderful books on a range of theological issues – he’s probably my favorite Christian writer at the moment. However, I’m going to make a prediction that although this is the shortest book he’s written, and probably the least theological and the most practical, that it’s going to outsell all the others he’s written, and I hope do even more good.
It’s not that the book is untheological or lacking in biblical exposition – far from it. It’s more that he’s dealing with such a widespread everyday practical problem – our crazy busy everyday lives – and he does so in such an enjoyable and, yes, even entertaining way. There are so many people I want to give this book to, but I’ve got to start with myself. It’s one of those rare books that you walk away from saying not, “Oh, no I’ve got so much to do,” but “Oh, yes, I’ve got to stop doing so much!” The book itself won’t tax your time too much, subtitled as it is “A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.”
This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral by Mark Leibovich
I’ve not finished this book, and I’m not sure that I will. It’s not so much the odd swear word here and there. It’s more the way that New York Times Magazine National Correspondent, Mark Leibovich, pulls back the curtain on Washington’s political and media elite and gives us a sniff of their dirty laundry. Although Leibovich is inviting us to laugh at him and other Washington insiders, as they back-slap, lobby, and trade influence on their way to the top, it actually gets quite sickening and depressing the more you read. If you want to have faith in politics to change America, don’t read this book, because you’ll become an apostate.
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa by Rick Atkinson
Another unfinished book – and at 768 pages I’m not sure I’ll ever reach the end – but one I was glad to at least begin reading. A beautifully written and deeply moving account of how the Allied forces began to liberate Europe and crush the Third Reich in North Africa in 1942-43. As usual with books of this nature, I was stunned at the sacrificial courage of the soldiers. I honestly just don’t know if I could do what they did. I was also shocked at the unpreparedness of the soldiers and sailors. The more you read, the more you realize that the North African victory was an act of God. The minimal training, the pathetic weapons, the half-baked plans, the communication meltdowns, and the egomaniacal generals and admirals, all mixed together should have spelled certain defeat.
That’s not to downplay the astounding valor of the servicemen. But nothing else can explain how such disastrous planning, equipping, and execution, was turned into such astonishing victory.