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Your Summer Reading Assignment
by Tom Goodman
June 23, 2011

Last Sunday I challenged you to use the summertime to develop in your understanding of one aspect of Christian truth.  At the start of summer season, newspapers and magazines always have recommendations for beach or poolside books.  Here's mine.

Most of these aren't new books, but I've found them invaluable in developing my understanding of the faith.  I challenge you to choose at least one to read this summer.  For convenience the links will take you to Amazon, but you may be able to find some of these books in our church or community libraries.

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
Area for Development: Reliability of Scripture

One of the biggest contemporary challenges in our conversations about Jesus center on the reliability of Scripture.  Does the New Testament give us the earliest eyewitness testimony of Christ's claims and deeds?  Strobel uses his skills honed in his days as a Chicago journalist to find the answer.

The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
Area for Development: The Meaning of the Cross

I place this in my "Top 10" list of the most formative books I've ever read.  Stott reminds us again of the high price God paid to bring us to himself.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
Area for Development: Responsibility to the Poor

Of course, just about any Keller book would enrich you this summer.  (Counterfeit Gods.  One word: Wow.)  In Generous Justice, Keller helps us think through how God expects us to use our resources in service to the poor.  Craig Blomberg's remarkable biblical survey on this subject is also helpful: Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions.

Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster
Area for Development: Prayer

Nearly 20 years old now, this is one of the finest books on prayer I've read.  I also recommend the classic book, Prayer, by Ole Hallesby.

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
Area for Development: Predestination; Election

Another classic.  One of the most remarkable developments of the last 5-10 years is the resurgence of interest in sovereign grace, especially among young adults.  Packer shows us how this conviction does not stifle evangelism but actually propels it.  When I read the book nearly 30 years ago it was already old.  It has weathered the years well.  I read it again one afternoon this week and found myself on my knees in prayer for souls.  You may also find it helpful to read the historical survey, Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine, by Peter Thuesen.

Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament by Thomas Schreiner
Area for Development: Salvation; Eternal Security

If Baptists teach the doctrine of eternal security, what do we do with all the warnings in the New Testament against falling away from God?  Schreiner does a fine job helping us take both truths seriously.  I think one of the biggest weaknesses in Baptist theology, especially in its popular expression, is the failure to really understand the biblical teaching about perseverance.  Run to Win the Prize is a shorter version of Schreiner's more thorough treatment, The Race Set Before Us.  For a brief introduction to his thoughts on this subject, you can read "Perseverance and Assurance: A Survey and a Proposal," in the SBTS theological journal.

In addition to these books on specific topics, I recommend you have a copy of Millard Erickson's Christian Theology on your shelf for reference.  It was one of my most important resources as I started working out my theological understanding 25 years ago.  At the risk of self-promotion, I'll also suggest you have a copy of my book The Anchor Course: Exploring Christianity Together.  This is a brief introduction to Christianity, especially with a view to explaining the faith to seekers.  You can order a copy online or purchase it from the church office.


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