Introducing: New and Noteworthy Books

God has given us a book to tell us where we came from, why the world often seems upside down, who He is, how we may have a relationship with Him through His Son, whose work will one day set the world right side up.

Since God has spoken and inspired men to write it all down, it means at least this, and it is a notion too often overlooked by God’s people today: The Lord wants us to read.

With that in mind and beginning with this issue of The Courier, each month we will be recommending solid Christian books from sound publishing companies — everything from Bible and theology to books for pastors and other church staff members/leaders, books that promote godly living, compelling biographies, church history, plain old history (all of which is, after all, God’s story), and more. Many of the recommendations will be books recently published, but we will also commend excellent older and classic books as well. If it’s a good read, The Courier wants you to consider reading it.

“ELISABETH ELLIOT: A LIFE” (Crossway) by Lucy S.R. Austen

Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015) is one of the most widely known Christians of the 20th and 21st centuries. After the death of her husband, Jim, and four other missionaries at the hands of Waorani tribesmen in Ecuador, Elliot famously returned to live among the same people who had killed her husband.

Her legacy, however, extends far beyond these events. In the years that followed, Elliot became a prolific writer and speaker, touching the lives of countless people around the world. Lucy S.R. Austen takes readers on an in-depth journey through the life of Elisabeth Elliot ― her birth to missionary parents, her courtship and marriage to Jim Elliot, her missions work in Ecuador, and her private life and public work after she returned to the United States.

“THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD” (Free Grace Press) by Jeffrey D. Johnson

Where was God on the morning of 9/11? Where was He when Nazi leaders were murdering millions of Jews during World War II? If God is sovereign, why doesn’t He stop all evil? Is God good? These are common questions that have arisen throughout church history and have arisen in the minds of many mature Christians from time to time.

In “The Sovereignty of God,” pastor-theologian Jeffrey D. Johnson deals with these and other theological questions that are deep, but also have profound implications for our daily lives. If God is both sovereign and good, then followers of Christ really and truly have very little about which to worry. Buoyed by a robust biblical view of God’s meticulous control of all things, believers can face even the worst affliction, the most adverse circumstances, with peace of heart and ease of mind as the psalmist reminds in Psalm 112:6-7: “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting the Lord.”

The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is devastatingly practical.

Johnson, author of numerous other books on theology, ministry, and church history, builds his theology around the narrative of World War II soldier Joseph Barr (the author masks his identity and significance until the conclusion, so I won’t spoil it here — read the book). Johnson shows how the hand of God kept Barr alive despite unbelievable odds when many of the soldiers around him were killed in some of WWII’s most brutal battles. He shows the implications of Barr’s being kept alive, how he raised a godly family and served the Lord for decades after the war — and how his living continues to impact the world today.

If I could recommend that every Christian read only one new book this year, Johnson’s book would be it. It is well-written and a joy to read. It takes a sublime theological truth and makes it accessible to all believers — as all good theology written for the church should.

“THEOLOGY THAT STICKS: THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF EXCEPTIONAL HYMNS” (Church Works Media) by Chris Anderson

Pastor, hymn-writer (“His Robes for Mine”), and music junkie Chris Anderson provides an in-depth, accessible look at what Scripture says about the kinds of songs Christians should sing. The premise of the book is that God-centered, Bible-based lyrics, matched with beautiful, memorable tunes, remain in our memories far longer than most preaching ever will.

This work is intentionally positive, providing extensive research, well-reasoned teaching, and small-group discussion questions to help churches and Christians embrace the life-changing practice of biblical singing. The book is packed with extras to support worship leaders and church musicians. Anderson even offers Christians and churches a song selection strategy — a biblical grid that answers common questions in today’s world of Christian music.

“IN THE NAME OF GOD: THE COLLIDING LIVES, LEGENDS, AND LEGACIES OF J. FRANK NORRIS AND GEORGE W. TRUETT” (B&H Academic) by O.S. Hawkins

George W. Truett and J. Frank Norris are two towering figures on the landscape of Southern Baptist history — but they couldn’t be more different. Both lived lives as faithful proclaimers of the gospel, and both men often stood at the center of various theological and ecclesiastical controversies — but for different reasons.

Each led one of the largest churches in the world in the 1920s and 1930s. Each shot and killed a man, one by accident and the other in self-defense. Together, their lives were a panoply of intrigue, espionage, confrontation, manipulation, plotting, scheming, and even blackmail — in the name of God. Yet together … they changed the world. Longtime pastor and SBC statesman O.S. Hawkins tells their parallel stories with liveliness and intrigue.