these last few weeks have brought with it a fresh energy in my reading times. because of that i have been able to read a bit more. my original thought in doing this year long reading schedule was not to include any books that i was reading for preparation for sermons and other teaching times. this past week my wife encouraged me not to leave those out, so i will lift that caveat and include those as well- but only when the whole book has been read, not just parts here and there.

with that being said, here are five more books making a total of 13 books- a little over a third of the way to 36. (see books from parts 1 & 2)

marks of the messenger
– j. mack stiles
marks of the messenger is, quite simply, one of the best books on evangelism i have ever read. it is written in a very conversational style, is a quick read, and is full of practical wisdom. it is not so much a “how to” guide as it is a framework builder- teaching us how to think about evangelism and our approach. stiles also  forces us to look at our preconceived ideas about what evangelism “must” look like  and compare /contrast them with biblical concepts that may perhaps free us from restraints we have placed on ourselves. in this, perhaps the most important aspect of the book is that it does not leave you feeling “guilty” about your past evangelism efforts (or lack of them). it actually helps you to feel encouraged and hopeful about future encounters. i will be recommending this one over and over again.

the treasure principle -randy alcorn
the treasure principle is one of those very small (in physical size as well as number of pages) books that i almost feel guilty about including as “i read this *whole* book!” . but i would be doing you a grave disservice if i did not tell you to make this one of the very next book purchases you make. while there is much practical wisdom to be gained in methods that people such as dave ramsey offer, the heart issue which drives our use (or misuse) of our resources is what we need to address first. i can not tell you how many times i had to stop reading and just sit and think, and in some ways recover from the biblically based truths in this small book. the lord is to be lord over every area of our lives, and that includes our finances and possessions. again, this is a *must read*. i read it all in one day. and i will be referring back to it often.

the prodigal god – tim keller
tim keller is a pastor in manhattan and is being hailed by many as one of the most significant pastors of our time. this may come as a surprise to you if you have never heard of him. he is actually a fairly new name to me- having just heard of him in the last 5 or 6 years. here is an excerpt from his wikipedia page:

Keller was asked…to start [the church he pastors in NY city] in 1989 despite his relative lack of experience and after two others had turned down the position. The church grew from 50 people to total attendance of over 5,000 people each Sunday as of early 2008, leading many to call him “the most successful Christian Evangelist in the city.” His target audience consists mainly of urban professionals, whom he believes exhibit disproportionate influence over the culture and its ideas. In his preaching, “he hardly shrinks from difficult Christian truths, [but] he sounds different from many of the shrill evangelical voices in the public sphere.”Indeed, he shuns the label “evangelical” because of its political and fundamentalist connotation, preferring to call himself simply orthodox because “he believes in the importance of personal conversion or being ‘born again,’ and the full authority of the Bible.”

keller seeks to avoid being made a “celebrity” and is by no means a self-promoter. but the lord is using him to reach literally thousands in new york city and beyond. when you read this book, you will know why. keller is a master of taking what may be overly familiar and making it fresh without changing its meaning. he is also well known for taking what are completely foreign concepts outside the bible belt and teaching them to the business men &women of the nation’s (world’s?) business and economic hub. he does both of these masterfully in the prodigal god as he takes the (to some of us) familiar story of “the prodigal son” and with direct and steady communication breaks down the essence of the gospel found in this ultimate tale of redemption.

the difficult doctrine of the love of god
d.a. carson
d.a. carson is well known and honored (rightly so, in my opinion) in the academic community. his books and papers are highly regarded in the evangelical community and he is a much sought after speaker as well as an established author. in this book (based on a series of lectures given at dallas theological seminary) he demonstrates his ability to teach and communicate clearly with graciousness and humility, without loss of conviction- even in an environment that might not agree with everything he has to say.
this book is a very balanced look at how we can hold, with equal fervency, the perfect love of god as well as such things as the biblical doctrines of his justice, wrath, etc. while this would not be a book i would recommend for casual reading, it is one that addresses with clarity and precision question some may have while wondering if there are any answers. as per usual with carson, he offers those answers while all the while demonstrating that the answers are based in scripture, not in theory.

tactics greg koukl
i had not heard of greg koukl; until i read of this book on a blog. (i cant remember if it was justin taylor‘s or zach neilsen’s) what intrigued me was rather than being a book of “here is what you need to say when someone says this to you or questions your faith” it is more of a primer on how to approach these kinds of situations. this book is what the title suggests- “tactics” for handling conversations in which someone makes a claim that would, on the surface, seem to defeat the worldview or truth claims of christianity. what i like about the book is that is not a propaganda-ish “how to” manual in the sense that you can read it without thinking- and then go out into the world and respond to people’s arguments without thinking. no- this book forces you to hear, and more importantly, *listen* to what people are saying. and from there engage our minds in response.

i may have a quibble here and there about some word choices/example used in the book and a few reservations about some philosophies of approach, but by and large i think that this is a safe read that can prove very helpful to anyone who finds that they are constantly in conversations where their christian/biblical worldview is being called into question.