One of my goals for this school year is to read more. I watch a lot of TV–and I mean a lot of TV–and that has been my longstanding source of relaxation entertainment. As fun as it is, it’s not exactly productive, so I’m attempting to read more books during my downtime. It’s more work, which is why I haven’t attempted this change until now (why would a student who reads books for school go back to his apartment and read for fun? just watch TV instead!), but I think it will be good for me.
Slave by John MacArthur
The book is related to–really an expansion of–Pastor John’s message at the 2008 Shepherds’ Conference. (Audio and video are available online, and they serve as a great intro to the book. If you can, I always suggest watching the video of a sermon for the visual cues that you don’t get in an MP3.) The premise is that the Greek word “doulos,” which appears many times in the New Testament, was incorrectly translated by English translators as “servant” rather than as the true meaning of “slave.” Pastor John takes a look at the implications of the slave metaphor, providing cultural context from the Greco-Roman world. He shows how being a slave of Christ affects the believer, from his unfaltering obedience in life to his eternal security. I’ve already seen this book influence my own sanctification, so I am very grateful to Pastor John for writing this book.
The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
I started this book in ninth grade when I was a non-believer. I’ve never been able to finish it. I decided to start it again because I always need counsel in my fight against sin, and because I wanted to get some unfiltered, straight-up Puritan. Usually I get sentences or paragraphs from other books or preachers, so I wanted to see what it would be like to read a whole work by a Puritan. Long story short: It’s super hard. The language is antiquated, and it’s well known that his English is Latinized (Packer qtd. in John Owen FAQ). I’ve found it to be helpful and I really want to finish it–but we’ll see if that actually happens.
Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre
With a subtitle like “How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients,” you pretty much know how the book is going to go. In his introduction, Goldacre promises to chronicle how, for various reasons, the available data from drug trials are woefully incomplete. Sometimes the trials themselves are suspect, set up to give the drug as favorable a chance as possible; too often data that indicates the ineffectiveness of a drug are concealed and never presented for review by researchers or doctors. As a (almost, not-quite-yet) statistician, I find the book both fascinating and frightening that people misuse data and statistics in these ways. Some of his observations are things that any student with an AP Statistics or college intro stats class could tell you are incorrect uses of statistical procedures or outright unethical. When I was in high school, I used to spend entire summers devouring secular non-fiction books about Revolutionary War history, economics, and politics. This is my “take a break from Bible study” book.
Holding the Rope by Clint Archer
This book is all about short term missions/ministry trips (STMs), and comes from missionary William Carey’s quote, “I will go down, but remember that you must hold the ropes” (xvii). This book is helpful in developing a biblical understanding of what short term missions should do–and it’s not necessarily evangelism! When designed poorly, STMs have the capability to do more harm than good, by building houses that need to be re-constructed due to safety oversights, or because of cultural faux pas committed by team members. The thesis of Archer’s book is that STMs should support whatever task the full-time missionary has in the field. (This is why Grace Church calls them short term ministries: the missions work is done by those who are investing their whole lives; those of us who choose to go for a couple of weeks are only there to help them in a small task and to provide encouragement from home.) Whether or not you are going on an STM trip soon, I highly recommend this book as a way to know how to support your church’s missionaries. (For example, I learned that I shouldn’t bombard them with questions (37). Let them talk at their own pace, and seek to serve rather than to be served.) I’ve never seen a whole book devoted to explaining and defending STMs, and Archer does so biblically, but also with a mind to practicality. When I told a friend that every STM-er should read this book, he lightheartedly suggested that every church member should read this book. I would agree with him! If anything, it will give you a greater understanding of missions, a greater appreciation for missionaries, and a greater desire to serve them. (So… if you’re keeping track, that’s 5/5, highly recommended.)