What Should I Read This Summer?


I once saw a Facebook status which confused me: “I’m sooooo bored,” it read. I wondered–with so many great books and so much to explore–how could anyone be bored?

Book Schaeffer How Then LiveBelow is my service to any who might be tempted to boredom. Here is a list of some helpful and Biblically sound literature. I compiled this list (or one closely like it) for a student of mine who asked what he should read this summer. These are not recommended as “must -reads.”  And they are not listed in any particular order. They are simply some of the books thinking Christians will want to read.

I hope this list sparks your interest in learning more. The list covers hermeneutics, apologetics, theology, pastoral ministry, productivity, and even history. I tried to offer a variety of topics. Enjoy.

  1. Robert Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules.
    1. Dr. Stein’s book is deceptively simple. It reads as a basic introduction to reading the Bible, but it is thoroughly informed by the most important trends in hermeneutics. Dr. Stein is a gifted writer, and this book is profoundly simple in offering a few rules for how to approach the Scriptures, taking into account authorial intent, genre, text criticism, etc.
  2. Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
    1. Matt has done a great job of sorting through the latest literature on business, productivity, and efficiency. He then interprets that literature through the lens of the gospel to produce a helpful resource for making the most of our time as Christians.
  3. R. C. Sproul, Willing to Believe
    1. In this classic overview of the literature related to the age-old question of God’s sovereignty vs. Free will, R. C. Sproul offers a thorough Book Willing Believe Free will sovereigntyintroduction to the best arguments for and against “Free –will.” He traces the debate from the Scripture through Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, Edwards, to the present. It is amazing how succinctly and clearly he is able to cover so much ground.
  4. R. C. Sproul, Getting the Gospel Right
    1. In this volume, R. C. Sproul—somewhat controversially—takes aim at some of the more stalwart evangelical Christians of our day. His reason is to protect the gospel from the errors of the Reformation. Even if he might be deemed too harsh in his criticism, Sproul does a great job in this book of highlighting the importance of Reformation distinctions related to the gospel.
  5. Carl F. H. Henry, Twilight of a Great Civilization
    1. Written in the late 1980’s, this book by Carl Henry proved prescient indeed. He spoke of the “drift” in culture and offered a Christian response which proved to be prophetic. His remedies are still worth considering by those wishing to remain evangelical in a world which emphatically is not. Henry is too quickly being dismissed by evangelicals today. We need to keep reading the works of this brilliant stalwart of our Christian faith.
  6. John R. W. Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait
    1. For those who are pastors, or those wishing to be pastors, or even those just wishing to understand the basic nature of pastoral ministry, John Stott has written a simple little volume which offers a snapshot of the pastoral life. His style is simple and clear. This is a very helpful little volume.
  7. Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
    1. Don Whitney is a gifted writer and speaker. This book—which is about to be released in an updated anniversary edition—should be required reading for every Christian. He walks through the Christian disciplines in a simple, step-by-step way. His work is as encouraging as it is enjoyable to read. For anyone who has not read this work, you should start here. Dr. Whitney is a reliable guide for the Christian faith.
  8. Ron Nash, The Meaning of History
    1. For a change of pace, I offer this intriguing read. It isn’t a long book, and it is well written, but, I will warn you, it is a work of philosophy.Book Meaning History philosophy time hebrews As philosophy books go, this one is easy to read, but the ideas are profound. Dr. Nash demonstrates how important the Christian view of history is. We take this view for granted, but such a view of history is fading as our culture reinvents itself in a non-Christian way.
  9. J. I. Packer, Knowing God
    1. Hopefully, you have already read Packer’s classic volume on the basic proposition that we are able to know God through His revelation. This book is foundational in many ways. It is, as I sad, an evangelical classic. The book has been in print for 4 decades and has sold millions of copies.
  10. Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live
    1. Like Carl Henry, so, too, Francis Schaeffer’s voice was absolutely prophetic. All the dangers about which he warned us have unfolded over the last 30 years. This book by Schaeffer has been a foundational work in apologetics, particularly from the presuppositional perspective. It is still very much worth reading because of the manner in which Schaeffer traces ideas through history which have brought us to our present state of affairs. Schaeffer is an outstanding writer.

I hope at least some of these titles will interest you, as you continue to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

3 Life Lessons from Listening to Groovy Music


When it comes to music, I got stuck in the ‘70’s.  In my mind, very little compares favorably to Carole King or James Taylor—or Gordon Lightfoot, America, or Seals and Crofts.  My favorite Spotify playlist is called “Dad’s Groovy Music” because since the ‘70’s, I have been groovy—the way a 33LP ought to be.

So it’s no wonder that I dig Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s most popular single: Southern Cross. (I know, it’s from the early 80’s, but it has the flavor of the 70’s.)   Ostensibly, the song is about the famous astronomical wonder down under: The Southern Cross.  In reality, the song is about the breakup of Stephen Stills’s marriage.  When understood in this context, the song contains at least three significant life lessons.

First—and I will admit that this first lesson applies more broadly than a single song—Southern Cross is about listening for redemption.  Some would argue that Christians ought not listen to secular music at all because it does not glorify God.  They would say that holiness demands our abstaining from Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I am not mocking their position.  The point is valid. I once cleansed myself of a 130 volume CD collection out of concern for holiness.  Music is a vehicle for carrying a message, and its message can easily carry us away from everything good. Never listen with an unguarded mind.  But if we listen with a guarded mind, we can find hints of redemption.

Here is what I mean. In the Old Testament, God’s people were told to be Holy because the Lord their God is Holy.  The same message is affirmed for God’s people in the New Testament.  But a significant change happened between the Old Testament and the New.  Jesus came, and with Jesus came redemption.  In the Old Testament, holiness took the form of abstaining from things the rest of the nations were indulging.

Life Lesson 1: In the New Testament, holiness looks less like abstention and more like redemption.  Meditate on Paul’s comments in Colossians 2:20-22, and you will see what I mean.[1]  Christians are holy through the redemption of Christ. We are alive to a new resurrected reality and, as such, ought to be those who point everything and everyone in this world to reality of Christ and His kingdom, which has begun.

So, with redemptive ears turned to the message of the Southern Cross, I offer two more life lessons.  These are easily grasped.  Stephen Sills wrote this song after his divorce in an attempt to find healing.  His crying out to his estranged wife is evident in the line: “In a noisy bar in Avalon, I tried to call you.”  He then admits that he understands why twice she ran away.

Southern Cross on Australia Flag

But in the chorus, he makes plain the permanence of marriage: “What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.”  Stills even acknowledges that “spirits” are using him, and a larger voice is calling.  He gets that divorce cost him something real.  He gets that he needs something larger than himself if he will heal.  He looks to the heavens for his help but comes up short, finding only the Southern Cross. With redemptive ears, we can hear the permanence of eternal things even in secular lyrics.

Life Lesson Two: God has set eternity into every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Listen to others with redemptive ears, and you will be able to point them to eternal realities.

Finally, realize that most folks live in a contradictory mindset.  While Stills gets the eternal nature of marriage, he feels also that it is lost. So, he must conclude, “Somebody fine will come along, Make me forget about loving you. At the Southern Cross.”  On the one hand, he sees that marriage is an eternal reality which cannot be forgotten.  On the other hand, when he feels all is lost, he professes belief that someone will come along who can erase it all.

If we listen closely to what others are saying, we might help them see that eternal things are real, and they need not give in to the contradiction.

Life Lesson Three: Eternity is real. Don’t live in contradiction.


            [1] Colossians2:20ff, If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (NASB).