Earlier this year my church did a series on the book of Acts. Here is what I think are the best commentaries on ActsAjith Fernando Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) – I have found the NIV Application commentary series fairly hit and miss. But this commentary is a massive hit! The exegesis is fresh and lively and the application is a brilliant and deep. A very stimulating commentary. This is a must buy!Darrell Bock Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) – I was expecting a lot from this commentary because I loved Bock’s Luke commentary. Well this commentary doesn’t disappoint! Chock full of great textual insights and exegesis and yet extremely clear. If you buy one technical commentary on Acts this should be it!David Peterson The Acts of the Apostles (Pillar New Testament Commentary) – Peterson’s commentary is not as technical as Bock’s but it does give you a bit more insight into the narrative of Acts. This commentary comes from a distinctly Calvinist perspective which as a Calvinist I found helpfulJohn Stott The Message of Acts (Bible Speaks Today) – I have a rule: if Stott has written a commentary on book of the Bible buy it! His commentaries are always simple and clear without being simplistic and dull. This commentary is no different! Some parts of this commentary were breathtakingly brilliant. Another must buy!FF Bruce The Book of the Acts (New International Commentary on the New Testament) – This commentary is a bit dated now but still has great insights. It is a commentary which was the industry standard on the book if Acts for a while. Not as technical as Bock or Peterson but still a very soild commentary.I.H Marshall Acts (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)– the Tyndale commentary series is designed for laymen but still is a very good series despite being brief. Marshall’s commentary is probably the best one that I have read from the series. It is a bit more detailed than the other commentaries in the series. This commentary is written from a Arminian perspectiveActs is well serviced by commentaries these days. The above mentioned ones will profit you greatly but the picks of the bunch are the volumes by Bock, Fernando and Stott.What are your favourite commentaries on Acts?You may also like:
The Holy Spirit is always a contentious topic among Christians. People are generally confused about his person and work and so it is important to have some great books on the Holy Spirit to help us along as we explore what the Bible says about the Spirit. I have found the following books immensely helpful for studying what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit.
Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God by J.I Packer. This book is awesome for those looking for both biblical/theological in put on this Holy Spirit as well as pastoral application. If you only buy one book on the Holy Spirit buy this one.
He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Graham Cole. This book is an in depth theological look at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Good for pastors and those who are in Bible/Theological College or are going to College.
Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham Cole. This is a super practical book which answers a lot of the common and controversial questions about the Holy Spirit in a readable and theologically informed way.
The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology) by Sinclair Ferguson. This is another great book on the Holy Spirit whose strength is explaining the theology of the Spirit.
Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14 by Don Carson. This book looks that those tricky passages in 1 Corinthians 12-14 with a view to pastoral application of those passages. It has boat loads of great application for those thinking through charismatic theology and the Holy Spirit.
Jonathan Edwards: On Revival by Jonathan Edwards. Buy this book for the chapter Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. It is very practical and relevant for our times in working out what is true revival or a move of the Holy Spirit and what isn’t.
What books on the Holy Spirit would you add to this list?
One of my disciplines that I try to keep is reading. I try to read every day for at least an hour a day. Sometimes I make the quota sometimes I fall far short. For me as an avid reader in theology it seems like the end of 2013 is going to be a great year for new theology books. Here are some of the books I am looking forward to reading:
The book I am most looking forward to is edited by my friend Jonathan Gibson and his brother David. It is called From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective and with contributors like Henri A. Blocher, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Paul Helm, Robert Letham, John Piper, Thomas R. Schreiner,Carl R. Trueman , Lee Gatiss, Donald Macleod, J. Alec Motyer, Garry J. Williams it will be the book on definite (or limited) atonement
N.T Wright has three books coming out. If you know anything about theology you will know that his books always cause debate! His latest book in His Christian Origins and the Question of God series is Paul and the Faithfulness of God which will be a demanding and yet important read. His other books are Paul and His Recent Interpreters and Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 which also will be required reading for anyone wanting to keep abreast of new studies in Pauline theology.
The New Studies in Biblical Theology series has two books coming out to go along with it’s vast array of great books it has released. The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation Is written by Aussie Graham Cole and another Aussie, Brian Rosner, has written Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. I have heard first hand some of Brian’s material in this book and it was amazing and this boo looks like it will be a cracker of a book!
Anthony Thistleton has a book on the Holy Spirit entitled The Holy Spirit: In Biblical Teaching, through the Centuries, and Today coming out in June. If you have read any of Thistleton’s other work I am sure you will concur with me saying this will be an exhaustive and illuminating book.
On a more popular Level but still good for pastors to read a three books one by Jared Wilson entitled The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry which seems to join the growing ranks of books addressing the spiritual needs of pastors. Matt Chandler has book coming out called To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain which is based on the book of Phillipians. And finally, Tullian Tchividjian’s latest book lands early October and it is called One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.
Which one of these book are you hoping to buy and read?
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Leadership books are extremely hit or miss. I love to read books that help me with my leadership but it seems like for every book I read on leadership there is another book I read that is a waste of time.With that in mind I thought I would compile my list of leadership books that I have read that I highly recommend. Buy them, read them and change your leadership because of what you learn!
Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters – Albert Mohler. Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The big idea of this book is that all leaders lead out of their convictions and that a Christian leader leads out of convictions borne out of the gospel. This book is a very refreshing take on leadership!Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time – Susan Scott. Do you find it hard to confront someone when you need to? Then buy this book and read it! Scott’s book teaches you to have Fierce Conversations that help you and the other party explore truth in a way that is not emotionally charged. This book was revolutionary for me. Yes it is that good!Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud. Pruning needs to happen in churches, lives and organisations for them to flourish. Cloud shows you how to to know if a necessary ending is required and how to bring relationships, employment, businesses etc. to a necessary ending well when neededReplenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul– Lance Witt. All pastors have a danger of burning out because they aren’t taking care of themselves. In this book Lance Witt does some real work on our souls and lives. It can be a painful read but it is a necessary one.Take the Lid Off Your Church: 6 Steps to Building a Healthy Senior Leadership Team – Tony Morgan. Tony Morgan has written a very short e book on senior leadership teams. He says that the senior leadership team is the determining factor whether the church is healthy or not. In the book Tony gives us hard questions to ask about our current senior leadership teams and helps us think about who should be on them in the future.Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry– Paul Tripp. Paul Tripp has written a book that all pastors should read. Reading Dangerous calling is like having someone open up your soul and making you assess where you are at emotionally, spiritually and physically. This should be required reading for every pastor, bible college student and ministry apprentice/ internWhat leadership books have you found helpful lately?You may also like:
We Become What we Worship by Greg Beale.
This book is a biblical theology showing how we resemble what we revere for ruin or restoration. Beale shows that this theme is pervasive in the bible which opened up the bible in a new way for me. I also found the book to be very helpful in pastoral situations because I was able to see and show how the idols of our hearts enslave us. The last chapter about the practical application of this study is worth the price of the book.
When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch
This book is about overcoming the fear of man and it hit me and the Catalyst guys like a tonne of bricks. I didn’t realize how much fear of man was in my life until I read this book. The first section of the book diagnoses the problem and shows how we have unbiblical and unhelpful fixes to our issues. The second half of the book focuses on biblical fixes to the issue of the fear of man and other issues. This book is life changing! Buy it and read it!
Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
In this book the uber pastor, Tim Keller, takes aim at the idols in our lives and shows how they don’t satisfy and how the answer is found in the gospel. Everything that Keller writes is GOLD. I found this book extremely helpful in thinking through Idolatry especially as I am preaching through Hosea. It also pointed out some things in my life that are either idols or in danger of becoming Idols. This was a confronting and yet healing book to read.
Humility CJ Mahaney
This is a book I read every year. Not only because it is a great book but I am realising that I need to be humbled more and more. Two great thing about this book are:
- It grounds humility in the gospel
- It is extremely practical
This is a book I am reading with all the guys I am training. If you haven’t read it buy a copy and read it.
How to Read the Bible for all its Worth by Fee and Stuart
This is a great book on how to read the Bible. I wish that I had read it when I was a teenager. It goes through how we should read the different genres of the Bible so that we would be better readers of the Bible. This is a book I will be reading with trainees in the future. It is a book that pastors would do well to read with keen people in their congregation.
Four obsessions of an extraordinary Executive Lencioni
Lencioni is one author that you will never waste your time reading. He is always stimulating and engaging. This book is really about culture and about getting the right culture in your organisation. So if you aren’t after a book on working at your culture this is not the book for you. But if you are wise and you realise that culture is more important than almost anything else you will get this book, devour it and apply it.
Jesus and the eyewitnesses Richard Bauckham
This is the best book on the historical reliability of the gospels by far. Yes it is that good! Bauckham argues very persuasively that the gospel accounts were based on eyewitness testimony and that we can trust that these testimonies were transmitted faithfully. This is a technical book to be sure but it is a book which is well worth your time in reading it!
I want to read 50 books this year. So far I have read 12 and I have got 38 to go!
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
I had heard of Lencioni for quite some time now through recommendations and seeing that he is a regular speaker at the Willow Creek conferences. After reading this book I can see why. in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Lencioni tells the story of Kathryn who takes over a company led by a dysfunctional team. Through the leadership fable that Lencioni writes we are introduced to the five Dysfunctions that can plague teams. They are:
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
After telling the fable Lencioni then goes through each dysfunction and then outlines strategies for dealing with each. This book is a must read for anyone who is a leader.
Selected Writings on Scripture by D.A Carson
Carson is one intimidating dude. If you have ever chatted with him you he stares at you so intensely you feel like he is analyzing your grammar as you speak. But leaving that aside the guy is brilliant. He is one of the few authors that I can honestly say that I have profited from everything I have read of his. This book is a collection of essays and book reviews on the topic of scripture and even though some of the essays are over twenty years old there is so much great stuff here. We are giving His first easy “Approaching the Bible” to every one of our community group leaders to read in preparation for our upcoming series on the doctrine of scripture. If you haven’t read a book on scripture in a while or if you are a pastor but this book and read it!
Don’t Call it a Comeback edited by Kevin Deyoung
This is a great book to give to anyone just starting out in exploring theology. The chapters are short, clear, and eminently readable and chock full of great, practical theology. The essay by Ted Kluck on vocation should be read by every pastor and every worker because it is lucid, sane and explodes a bunch of the myths that surround Christians and secular work. If I was a youth pastor I would buy this book and get my youth leaders to read a chapter a week and discuss it in our leadership meetings. A top little book!
Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir by Stephen Tyler
I like to read Rock and Roll biographies for fun but I will give you a tip if the biography is written by the artist without any help from a professional writer it is usually poorly written and self indulgent. This is the case with this book. You get to see what an ego maniacal dude Steven Tyler is. It is quite a sad book especially when he talks about how he has messed up his life but as soon as he starts talking about that he is off talking about how this or that experience was amazing. I thought this was going to be
I want to read 50 books this year. So far I have read 8 and I have got 42 to go!
How the Mighty Fall and Why some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins
If you have never read anything by Jim Collins do yourself a favour and read a book of his. They are well worth your time. How the Mighty Fall and Why some Companies Never Give In is a book where Collins and his team track why some companies who once were great fall out of greatness and into obscurity. He says there are 5 stages to this decline:
- Hubris Born of Success
- Undisciplined pursuit of more
- Denial of Risk and Peril
- Grasping for salvation
- Capitulation to Irrelevance or death
This is a great book to read for church workers or any other type of leader because it shows the fundamental in all declining organisations is arrogance and it also gives us little snapshots of how you get a company back on track. These lessons can be taken and used in the world of church or business with very little modification. Buy this book and read it!
Xealots: Defying the gravity of normality By Dave Gibbons
Xealtos are people who live by contrarian principles. Xealots are people who swim against the tide (pg. 10). In this book Dave Gibbons is calling Christians to be Xealots, to be people who shape culture who see their hurts and brokenness as gifts. Who seek to find Jesus’ way of being successful. Who live a naturally supernatural life.
This is a book which has a lot of touching and moving stories. When Gibbons goes into autobiographical mode you get a sense of the pain he has lived with and the change Christ has wrought in his life. Gibbons puts things in fresh and challenging ways which challenges you to think hard about your life in fresh ways. Chapter three on success is a welcome challenge to cast success in terms of what God deems to be successful.
But there are many flaws in this book. The biggest flaw is the lack of the gospel. Now, I am sure Gibbons believes the gospel but it is nowhere to be found in this book. His chapter on pain (chapter 4) is screaming out for a gospel resolution but instead we are told that we should let pain shape our lives. Now pain does shape our lives in profound ways but we should be more shaped by the gospel and its dealing with our pain then pain itself . The gospel is about the one who has taken pain for us and has won us a hope that one day we will be in a place where there is no more pain. That is the story about pain that should shape us. Gibbons’ chapter on the Holy Spirit (chapter 7) is woeful at best and his use of the scriptures a lot of the time leaves a lot to be desired.
In conclusion this is a book which is promising because we are all called to live radical lives for Jesus. But this book fails to deliver on giving us this great vision of the Christian life because it is not based on gospel as revealed in the bible.
Ignite: How to spark immediate growth in your church by Nelson Searcy
Nelson Searcy is a very gifted leader and strategist. He is always flooding my inbox, letting me know of his next coaching session or his next book or blog. This can get a little bit annoying. The other annoying thing that comes out is his sheer pragmatism. He is extremely pragmatic and there is very little deep theological thought put into anything he writes. But if you keep those things in mind and are able to read through those things his stuff is a goldmine of practical wisdom on how different aspects of your church can run. Ignite is about how to get your church evangelising their friends and bringing people who don’t know Jesus into your church. Searcy talks about planning big days where everyone invites at least one person along with, marketing , preaching and planning. There is a lot to take away from this book and fair bit to leave behind. But if you are able to carefully sift through this book and you have the discipline to implement the gold from this book you will find this book very rewarding!
Engage: A Guide to Creating Life Transforming Worship Services by Nelson Searcy
Yes another book by Nelson Searcy but I am learning a lot from him! The same criticisms that were levelled at Ignite apply here so I will not rehash them. Engage is a book which talks about how to put together your services in a way which is creative and planned. I was very challenged by this book to think about where we have what preaching series, how far out we plan our services and preaching schedules, practicing sermons before the day and evaluating the services. I will be implementing a lot of what I learnt here in the coming months at Resolved. This a great book for pastors of church and or congregations to read along with their worship pastors or music leaders. It will make you think of how to be more organised and as a result there will be a lot less stress and lot more room for creativity.
I want to read 50 books this year. So far I have read 4 and I have got 46 to go!
I try to read a lot. This is hard work for me as I am not naturally a geek. The biggest frustration for me is reading a book which is junk so I am constantly getting suggestions of good books to read. With that in mind here are the best books I have read in 2011. Note that some of them were published before 2011 and these are in no particular order.
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins. This is a book every leader should read. In it Collins takes a look at what things great companies do by choice. The results are very surprising and sometimes counter intuitive. There is much to be learnt from this book!
Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson. Another book all leaders should read. It is different from C.J. Mahaney’s book on humility because Dickson writes about humility from a historical point where as Mahaney writes how humility springs out of the gospel. But, this is not some dry historical survey of an idea for there is much food for thought about the importance of humility for leadership and life.
The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times. Bryan Chappel ed. This is a collection of sermons written on difficult topics like abortion, suicide, child abuse, Sept. 11, etc. Some of the contributors include John Piper and Tim Keller. This is an amazing resource for anyone who preaches. Buy it for your pastor for Christmas!
Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill Wesley Hill is a gay man who is also a Christian and because he is a Christian he is not sexually active. This book goes though some of his life which is told beautifully. What is really great about this book is the theology in it. He gives people great hope as he explores this theology and how it relates to sexuality and singleness. I wish every Christian could read this book. Yes it is that good!
Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page by Larry Osborne. Sticky teams deals with leadership in the church. But this is no theological treatise on leadership in the church, it is a book which outlines how to get leadership, staff and congregational alignment. It is full of humour and great practical advice. Both the elder board and women’s ministry team at Resolved are reading this book together in the new year.
Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul Carson et al eds I preached through Galatians earlier this year so I dipped into a fair bit of Pauline theology. This book is not a light read as a lot of the arguments go into the Greek text of the New Testament. It argues for the traditional view of Justification by faith alone in a way which shows that this is not a Lutheran idea but it springs from the text of the bible. It also points out where New Perspective authors are helpful and where they are not. If you have been to Bible College and you are going to preach through Romans or Galatians by this book and read it!
Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics by Stephen Westerholm. Here is another book which deals with the related problems of Paul, the law and justification. In this book Westerholm outlines the major strands of thought regarding these issues and then in the second half of the book seeks to define what Paul meant by Law, righteousness, grace etc. A very clear a brilliantly written book. If you want a primer about where scholars land on these issues or you are confused about issues related to Paul and the law buy this book and read it!
He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World by Al Mohler. This a great book about preaching. It is not a primer on how to preach rather it outlines theologically what we are trying to do as preachers. The chapter entitled “the Preacher as theologian” is worth the price of admission alone.
Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context by David Instone Brewer. Having not done hard work on the related topics of divorce and remarriage I picked up a few books on the issue. This book stood far above the pack. Its aim is to exegete every passage of the bible which pertains to the topic. It is an extremely rewarding book to read on these very important topics.
Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity by Lauren Winner this is probably my favourite book on sex. It is real, biblical and very practical. It is a book which is written by a woman who became a Christian in her early twenties and then got married later. In the book she outlines how she thinks theologically and practically about a raft of issues related to sex and relationships. A great book to buy and read if you are preaching on Sex and relationships any time soon or if you want a great book on sex.
What were your favourite reads of 2011?
I have been reading a brilliant book called God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery by Raymond Ortlund. If you think the title is confronting in it’s first print it was called Whoredom! It is a book which is traces the theme of spiritual adultery through books of the bible like Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah etc. . It is a very confronting and yet spiritually enriching book.
It has caused me to think about the following things:
Do I really realise how offensive my sin/idolatry is to God? If God has said that sin/idolatry to him as offensive to him as a married woman who is cheating on her husband with any man she can find (Jeremiah 2:23-25) is offensive to her husband. My sin is that bad. Do I take it that seriously? Do I take my lust, my pride, etc that seriously? Or do I think it is a mere annoyance to God?
Do I really savour the cross as much as I should? If my sin is as bad as Jeremiah for instance makes out that must mean that the cross is much more glorious than I could ever imagine because it payed for that sin. If my sin is that bad and the cross is that amazing I should treasure Jesus and the Gospel more than anything else. It should be delight and my satisfaction.
The preaching of the prophets was not nice. You really don’t see many passages about God’s people being whores on Christian t shirts do you? This has given me pause to assess my own preaching and proclamation of the gospel. Am I communicating not only the gravity of sin but also the gravity of the gospel? Am I scared of being offensive? Is the antidote to spiritual complacency more practical application or a deeper grasp of our sin and the glory of the gospel?
These last few questions are questions that I don’t have an answer on as yet. They are merely food for thought. But one thing I am sure of is you need to get God’s unfaithful wife and read it!