Book briefing from my summer vacation

By God's grace, and the generosity of our church, our family was able to get some extended time away last month. In addition to having longer-than-usual stretches to read the Scriptures, I had a chance to read a number of great books and revisit some others I’ve found to be helpful in the past. If you’re still looking for some summer reading recommendations, I recommend most of these. Clearly, there is a pastoral bent to this, but there’s something here for everyone: 

ESV Readers BibleI used this Bible over vacation and have been using it for my personal reading ever since. This is Crossway's newest edition of the ESV (June 2014). What's unique about it is that they removed all of the verse and footnote notations, moved the chapter designations into the margin and, generally, made it feel like you're reading a novel of the greatest story ever told. Well done, Crossway. 

Setting Our Affections Upon Glory: Nine sermons on the gospel and the church, Martin Lloyd-Jones. Classic MLJ on, as the subtitle indicates, the gospel and the church. These are a collection of sermons from a series he did while visiting the US in 1969.  

Til We Have Faces: A myth retold, CS LewisIf you know me, you know I am a big CS Lewis fan (amidst his eccentricities and errors). This is not your typical Lewis book, but if you're into the retelling of ancient myths this is for you. 

Gospel Wakefulness, Jared Wilson. One my goals over my time off was to dive afresh into the goodness of the good news of Jesus and all that God is for me, in Him. This book did that. Highly recommend. Thanks, Jared.

A Pastor’s Justification: Applying the work of Christ in your life and ministry, Jared Wilson. Yet, another gem from Wilson. This is a must read for those in or considering pastoral ministry. I'll be making this an obligatory part of our elder training track. 

What’s Best Next: How the gospel transforms the way you get things done, Matt Perman. I was a little hesitant in approaching this book thinking it had the potential to be yet another Christian leadership book based on worldly business principles. I was wrong. It was excellent. Actually, it was the most helpful book I've read on productivity and personal leadership - all that through a solid gospel lens. Think Allen's Getting Things Done meets Piper's Don't Waste Your Life. Highly recommend. You can read more from Matt at his blog here

The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, Steve Lawson. This is part of the "Long Line of Godly Men Profiles" biographical series edited by Lawson. I think I picked this up as a free Kindle book at some point along the way. Short, insightful biography. I was particularly challenged by the way Lawson described Spurgeon's pleading with the lost. Moving. 

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts, Douglas Bond. Another from the same series as above. I literally knew nothing about Isaac Watts before reading this. He wrote "When I survey the wondrous cross", "I sing the mighty power of God" and "Joy to the World" among hundreds others. He is called the "Father of the English Hymnody". Short and insightful. 

Big God: How to approach suffering, spread the gospel, make decisions and pray in the light of a God who really is in the driving seat of the world, Orlando Saer. This is a solid, short, and very accessible entry-level book for those wrestling with issues pertaining to the sovereignty of God, specifically in it relates to suffering, evangelism, decision-making and prayer. Short and edifying. 

JI Packer’s famous intro essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Theologically meaty and gospelicious. You can read it here, along with my highlights, if you’re interested.

Sensing Jesus: Life and ministry as a human being, Zack Eswine. This is one I regularly revisit. Certain books need to be read and re-read. This is one of them. In the past I posted some of the choicest quotes here.  I can't recommend it enough to every pastor I bump into or, for that matter, anyone involved in day-to-day ministry. This is a helpful companion to Tripp's book (next). 

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the unique challenges of pastoral ministry, Paul Tripp. The call to pastoral ministry is a tremendous honor which comes with its own share of difficulties. Tripp captures that well. This is another I revisit regularly and have as part of our elder development. 

Insourcing: Bringing discipleship back to the local church, Randy Pope. I read this book because this is one thing we’re aiming to do as a church. Randy Pope and his team are doing some great things at Perimeter (Atlanta, GA) when it comes to cultivating disciple-making-disciples. You could probably skip the book though and just go to their website. 

Church Elders: How to shepherd God’s people like Jesus, Jeramie Rinne. This was a great read that is part of 9Marks "Building Healthy Churches" series. Raising up godly elders is a priority for us in this coming year and this book was helpful. Recommend. 

Expositional Preaching: How we Speak God’s Word Today, David Helm. This is another from 9Marks. Super helpful for those who preach or aspire to. Considering using this as the primary text for our preaching cohort. Highly recommend. 

Reading for Preaching: the preacher in conversation with storytellers, biographers, poets and journalists, Cornelius Plantinga Jr. I had high hopes for this book, but was let down. It may have been due to my own mistaken expectations about the content of the book. The book is mostly theory behind the importance of having a general reading plan for preachers, along with some illustrations, but lacking any real practical help in how to notate, store and retrieve various ideas that come from what you read. 

What have you been reading this summer?