Every month, I will be sharing book recommendations to our church family.
Here are the ones I linked to this past Sunday morning:
*** Category – Personal Growth
(1) Confessions by St. Augustine
Our pastoral intern, Beau Floyd wrote, “What makes a man great? Or what makes a man anything at all? These are age old questions that deeply penetrate the human soul. The thoughts and theology, as well as personal history of Augustine of Hippo have greatly influenced Christianity for over 1600 years. Augustine addressed such questions as ‘what makes a man great?’, ‘what is evil?’ and, ‘what is God’s essence?’. Augustine, having studied rhetoric and philosophy, was thoroughly equipped to tackle such deep issues as evil, and the nature of the cosmos. Augustine’s Confessions are not thoroughly exhaustive. However, the nature of evil, as well as the nature and substance of God are two of Augustine’s most discussed topics.”
Can we find any joy apart from God? Is there such a path? Augustine came to God in his prayer, “Such crooked ways! Unhappy the audacious soul which hoped that by abandoning you it would find some better thing! It tossed and turned, upon back and side and belly–but the bed is hard, and you alone are rest. And here you are, to deliver us from our wretched wanderings and set us in your way, and you comfort us and say, ‘Run, I will carry you and I will lead you home, and there I will carry you.”
Let us all pray with Augustine this prayer to the Lord, “Give what you command and command what you will.”
(2) Pure Pleasure by Gary Thomas (Zondervan, 2009)
This book dovetails with our Ecclesiastes study. For instance, the author quotes, “I commend the enjoyment of life” (Ecc. 8:15). “When God gives any many wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. . . . God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20). “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself? . . . The man who fears God will avoid all extremes” (Ecclesiastes 7:16, 18).
Do you remember what the demon, Screwtape, says about God in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters?
“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are “pleasures for evermore.” . . . He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least–sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”
*** Category – Family
(1) The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zonderkidz, 2007)
Get it and read it to your kids. Look how Sally brings out the Good Shepherd:
“God is my Shepherd and I am his little lamb. He feeds me. He guides me. He looks after me. I have everything I need. Inside, my heart is very quiet. As quiet as lying still in soft green grass in a meadow by a little stream. Even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places I won’t be afraid because my Shepherd knows where I am. He is here with me. He keeps me safe. He rescues me. He makes me strong and brave. He is getting wonderful things ready for me, especially for me, everything I ever dreamed of! He fills my heart so full of happiness. I can’t hold it all inside. Wherever I go I know God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love will go, too!”
Brother Nathan Pitchford gives a good review here.
*** Category – Essential Church Foundations
(1) What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert (Crossway, 2010)
The intriguing part is how the author intersects the gospel with the kingdom. A brother in our church is buying a case for our church family. Read the book and then give it to a friend here in Idaho Falls.
You’re recommending Augustine and none of the Eastern Fathers?
What about the so-called “Apostolic Fathers”? Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Clement of Rome, the Didache?
What about Justin Martyr?
What about Ireneus of Lyons?
These are all Second Century and were all taught by the Apostles themselves (with the possible exception of Justin).
Let’s go back to the sources before we throw in Augustine, shall we?
You have me laughing, Greg.
Ok. Tell me this.
Which one before Augustine is your favorite? I do like all of those men whom you have mentioned.
Loved what Augustine said here in section [10.27.38] to his God:
“Belatedly I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved you. For see, you were within and I was without, and I sought you out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you. These things kept me far from you, even though they were not at all unless they were in you. You called and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleamed and shined, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
I will admit, Todd, that there are some good things in the “Confessions”. Augustine, SAINT Augustine, is the poster boy for the truth that “sanctity does not confer infallibility.” He loved God, but still got a great deal wrong. No one Church Father can manifest the entirety of the Tradition. That is one reason we look for patristic consensus.
My favorites from my above list? Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Ireneus, and Justin. (Not necessarily in that order, but pretty close.)
All of them, including Clement and the Didache, a)manifest a most profound love for Jesus Christ and the Church, and b)document the fact that central aspects of Church life then are essentially the same as today, such as the presidency of bishops, assisted by presbyters and deacons; the apostolic succession of bishops; and the central role of the mysteries/sacraments, especially the Eucharist, in the life of the Church and therefore, in the lives of all Christians who would maximize their communion with the Most Blessed Trinity in, with, and through God the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ.
The Jesus Storybook Bible is fantastic. Read it to my sons almost every night. Would highly recommend it.