This is a new blog segment called What I Have Been Reading here in the first quarter of 2012.  In this section I’ll give an overview of what books I have been reading in the past three months and if you would like a more detailed book review either e-mail me (contact through http://www.mrayton.com) or just comment on this thread.  I would be more than happy to do so for you.  Also you can click on the picture of each book if you want more information about it or to find out where to buy it.

The Bible

I have first and foremost been reading the New American Standard Bible – MacArthur Study Bible.  I have been reading through the Bible in a year program while studying the books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians at a greater depth.  There is absolutely no substitute for reading the Scripture.  As John MacArthur says, “My prayer is that you study the Word of God.  Fight for it.  Obey it.  Love it.  Honor it.  And believe it.”

Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World by John MacArthur

This book was probably the deepest and heaviest book I have ever read.  It is a book that should be read by every Christian searching for a Biblical church as well as every pastor seeking to be faithful to minister in a Biblical church.  MacArthur chronicles Charles Spurgeon’s battle during the Down-Grade Controversy in the late 1800s in which the churches were drifting to compromise upon the proclamation of God’s Word and the purity of the Gospel.

Today, evangelical Christianity suffers from the exact same symptoms of compromise through pragmatism, contextualization, and seeking to be relevant in the culture. The consumer in the crowd is made sovereign as opposed to God.  MacArthur does an extraordinary job calling the church back to the authority of Scripture so as to not be carried by every wind of doctrine.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In America we love the rags to riches story.  The story of a person that alone made themselves into a success.  Gladwell does a great job of demonstrating that the story of a person’s success is far more complex and goes far beyond what we see on the surface.  The hidden advantages of someone’s birth-date, birth-year, birthplace, cultural background, innate intelligence, personality, and hours of focused work all come into play in making the most of one’s potential.  Certain people who have these advantages are outliers and fall outside of the achievements of the average person.

The New Answers Book: Over 25 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible  by Ken Ham

Today our Christian churches are filled with individuals that continue to be influenced and indoctrinated by our secular culture about issues such as the age of the Universe, Creation/Evolution, dinosaurs, carbon dating, fossils, and many more.  They are told that so-called “science” can answer all of these questions through the words of man who are filled with assumptions and historical science.  And with the plethora of questions that all Christians and non-Christians have, they are listening to the answers of those who are speaking the loudest.

And yet through a Biblical worldview we can answer all of these questions with trustworthy and logical answers and depend on the authority of God’s infallible Word and not man’s fallible word.  Ken Ham does a great job in this book at detailing the logical nature of the Biblical view of Creation and how that is defended by what we know from evidential science.  It is an absolutely refreshing book that no atheist would ever read because it would destroy their theories and force them to bend the knee to the true Creator.  Yes, that is a challenge for you.

Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility by Thomas Lickona

One of the greatest challenges that we face as schools and teachers is how do we teach respect and responsibility in our relativistic, postmodern, secular world.  If we are to be absolutely neutral to truth and values as the moral relativist would say or truth and values are what you make of it as the postmodernist would say; how is a teacher to defend objective truths and values such as respect for authority and honesty within the classroom.  Ultimately with a secular worldview there is no standard for right and wrong and no standard for truth.

Lickona does an absolutely great job of showing the illogical nature to this relativistic/postmodern way of thinking and advocates the teaching of objective moral truths such as respect, responsibility, hard work, compassion, and other values so desperately needed in our society.  The author gives practical applications in the classroom that not only develop the character education of the student but the learning of deep content through this philosophy.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

“I just don’t have the gift of evangelism.”  “How I live my life is my method of evangelism.”  “I don’t like to impose, I just like to tell them how Jesus has helped my out.”  I have heard all of these excuses on why people don’t evangelize.  Mark Dever does a great job of exposing the excuses of evangelism, the misconceptions of evangelism, and why we should evangelize.

Christians are all commissioned by God to do the one thing we will never be able to do in Heaven – evangelize.  Therefore it is imperative to understand the Gospel and continue to proclaim it clearly, faithfully, and Biblically.  I do wish Dever would have done a better job of detailing the Gospel more systematically and give practical ways to properly evangelize one-on-one.  Mark Dever is one of the clearest presenters I have ever heard of the Gospel, I just wish he took some more time to detail it throughout this book.  It seemed a little thin, rushed, and scattered in its entirety.

At the Throne of Grace: A Book of Prayers by John MacArthur

This is a book compiled by John MacArthur’s children that shows his prayers while leading Grace Community Church for the last 40 years.  Due to God’s love expressed in the cross of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to enter into communion with God intimately through prayers of praises, thanksgiving, and requests.  This is an uplifting book that will have you yearning that your own prayer life would be as deep and profound as this man of God.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

I recently did an in-depth book review of this book by Eric Metaxas.  Again it was one of the best biographies I have ever read.  Metaxas does an excellent job of showing God’s providence through the lives of people, events, and circumstances to intersect in one man’s life to use him as the instrument to end the Slave Trade and the eventual abolishment of slave trade in the British colonies.  An excellent read that would be captivating for any person.