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Books I Read in 2021 You Should Read in 2022

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BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Assistant Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian  

     It’s that time of year again. At the beginning of every year, I find myself looking back at the books I read in the previous year and planning for the ones I want to engage with in the new year. I have a growing list of books planned for this year, and a goal for how many I hope to read. We have a lot of book worms at Oakwood, so I’m sure many of you have a similar practice at the beginning of the year. That’s why I’m giving you this list of my favorite reads from 2021. Maybe one of these will find its way on your 2022 book list!

The "Just-For-Fun" Book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By JK Rowling

     Harry finds his way onto my list every year, and for good reason. This is the best fiction story of our generation, and it ranks right up there in history with the greats like The Lord of the Rings. Don’t @ me! It’s true. Maggie and I have just recently begun reading the series with our boys, so I’m sure you’ll see another of JK Rowling’s masterpieces again on next year’s list.

The "I’m-Telling-Everybody-About-This-Book" Book

The Puzzle of Ancient Man: Evidence for Advanced Technology in Past Civilizations
By Donald Chittick

     My dad told me about this book, and I am glad he did. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the content was fascinating. Chittick examines the architectural, engineering, and even artistic accomplishments of ancient civilizations (think Egypt), and argues that these ancient people must have had greater knowledge than we often attribute to them. For example, Egypt’s Great Pyramid is constructed of 2.3 million blocks, each of which weighs more than 1 ton. Historians estimate it took 100,000 men 20 years to build it. If those men worked 10 hour days, 365 days a year for 20 years, they would have to place 31 of those blocks each hour. And that doesn’t take into account the cutting and transportation of those blocks! Modern-day engineers estimate that with today’s modern machinery it would take 27 years just to cut the stone, let alone to build the pyramid. The book doesn’t offer more than hypotheses for how all this was accomplished, but it’s a fascinating read!

The "This-Book-Is-Important" Book

Liberty for All; Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age
Andrew Walker

     In recent years Christians, and other religious folks, in America have been asking a question that most of our forebearers were blessed to take for granted, "Will religious liberty endure for the next generation?" The rise of the concept of “sexual liberty” over the last 10 or so years has called this into question. As issues involving gay marriage and “trans rights” have emerged, our culture has been forced to ask how (or if) sexual freedom and religious freedom can co-exist. What we are increasingly discovering is that they cannot. One will inevitably drown the other out. This book makes the argument that for the good of the entire society religious freedom must remain our “first freedom.” Yes, this book is important. I hope you will read this book, consider its ideas, and stand for this freedom for Christians, and for people of every faith.

The "Baptism" Book

Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism
JV Jesko

     Oh man, guys. This book is awesome! There are definitely a lot of folks at Oakwood who have questions about our view of baptism. Look no further! Whether you come from a Baptist background and are wanting to better understand what you’re getting yourself into at Oakwood, or you’re happily convinced on the matter and want to dive into the beauty of this sacrament, this book is for you. It is a bit on the academic side of things, but Fesko is a fabulous writer. I don’t think you’ll find it too burdensome. And if you want to skip over the historical stuff on the front end, and skip to the biblical justification for baptism and its meaning, you’ll still gain a ton! Seriously, pick this one up!

The "Theological-Mic-Drop" Book

Simply Trinity; The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit
Matthew Barret

     Sometimes theologians and academic types get into biblical sparring matches that don’t matter all that much in the end. That is not the case with this book. Over the past 10 years, a significant debate has been brewing dealing directly with the nature of the Trinity. Recently, a group of theologians (Most notably Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachan) have argued that there exists within the Trinity what they call “relations of authority and submission.” Their view is variously called “Eternal Functional Subordination” or “the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” Sometimes you see it abbreviated to EFS or ESS. It’s a highly problematic view with wide-ranging implications. First and foremost, if Christ is truly “eternally subordinate to the Father” as they argue, then he cannot be “co-equal” with God as the church has confessed since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This book is an attempt to call out this view for what it is: a Christological error bordering on heresy... and it’s fabulous. When I finished the book I thought to myself, “I don’t know how you could read this and still conclude ESS is legitimate. This book is Matthew Barrett’s mic drop on ESS.

The "Books-For-Dads" Books

The Boy Crisis; Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What You Can Do About It
Warren Farrell and John Gray

The Intentional Father; A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character
Jon Tyson

     I couldn’t decide which one to recommend, so I’m just giving you both. As a dad with three boys one thing that regularly crosses my mind is how in the world I’m supposed to develop these goofy and awesome boys into men. So, I’m regularly looking for books with a bit of wisdom to offer. That said, The Boy Crisis isn’t so much advice as it is a look at why so many boys are struggling in our modern world. What makes this book so worthwhile is that after pointing out the many struggles of boys, the authors propose the research-based solution: dads. What is so remarkable about this is that these authors don’t appear to be believers. They’re just researchers who’ve picked up on something that God has written in the fabric of reality: that dads play a key role in their son’s development.

     The Intentional Father is a more practical guide to raising boys. The author, Jon Tyson, is a pastor in New York and his central thesis is that developing boys into men requires more than haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attempts. It demands intentionality. The weakness of the book is that Jon is essentially just telling us what he did, though he certainly admits that his way isn’t the only way. This book is not the silver bullet for raising boys, but I think reading what this dad did will generate both ideas and motivation. If you’re raising boys it’s worth the read!

     Well, there you go! I hope you found something here worth checking out. If not, that’s okay too! Enjoy your reading in 2022, and let me know if you find a book you couldn’t put down.

Posted by Rev. Ben Lee with

A Fan's Adoration

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 BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1:1-4

     There’s something electric that happens when we have a close encounter with a favorite leader, athlete, or celebrity. I remember vividly one of these kinds of experiences as a teenager. I’ve always been a big fan of professional baseball, and I grew up devoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates. When I was a teenager my favorite player was Omar Moreno. Never heard of him? I’m not surprised; that was part of my attraction to him. While my friends identified with Willie Stargell or Dave Parker, I was pleased that I could claim to be the only Omar fan in town. But it wasn’t just non-conformity that motivated me. I saw in Omar a glorified version of myself – a tall, lean speedster who was known for his graceful defense in center field. I’m not sure that anyone else saw the similarity between us, but it seemed terribly obvious to my inflated adolescent ego!

     My magnificent moment came in the summer of 1978, during a somewhat awkward pre-game ritual at Three Rivers Stadium called Picture Day. We fans were allowed onto the playing field with cameras in hand, while the Pirate players would shuffle nervously among us, some smiling and posing graciously, while others showed the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for dental appointments. When I finally found my man Omar, he was almost obscured by a large crowd of fans. Much against my nature, I rudely plowed through the people and cleared a space to take my treasured photo. I still have the picture somewhere of Omar’s shocked expression. I thrust out my hand and said something profound like, “Omar, I’m your biggest fan!” and he shook his head and my hand simultaneously. I walked off the field with a big grin on my face, repeating to myself, “I just shook hands with Omar Moreno…”

     Omar didn’t deserve the extreme adulation that I gave to him, either as a baseball player or as a person. No one does, except One. I was struck by the “fan-like” language that the Apostle John used in the passage from John’s first epistle quoted above. He exults in the fact that he was privileged to not only see and hear the One who was “from the beginning,” Jesus Christ, but he even was able to touch Him. His enthusiasm is understandable when you compare his words here with his very similar preamble to his Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Imagine, being able to see, hear, and touch the One who is the eternal Creator God! Talk about a close encounter with a celebrity! And to think that John didn’t come away with a few condescending comments and an autograph; he was given eternal life and “the Word of life” that has the power to bring others, like me, into joyful fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and the people of God.

     This is really what we celebrate during the Christmas season. It is the essence of incarnation and the point of Christ’s name “Immanuel” – “God with us.” The Creator, the most glorious being in the universe has become a man and He has walked among us. We aren’t given the privilege yet of seeing Him with our physical eyes or shaking His hand, but if we believe the testimony of the apostles about his life, death, and resurrection, our sins are forgiven and we enter into a real relationship with Him by faith.

     One day that faith will be sight…I can’t wait! For now, by His Spirit, He remains with us, even to the end of the age. I’m not Christ’s biggest fan – as a matter of fact, I’m still too much of a “fair-weather fan.” But I’m certainly devoted to Him. He alone deserves all my adulation and so much more. Seeing His glory is becoming more and more my greatest goal in life.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

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