Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ramblings from My Readings

Bob Rakestraw

Here are some books I read during 2008, with the annotations I wrote when I finished each. I thought I’d post them, since I appreciate the comments of others about materials they’ve read. Happy reading!

Post your books also—you may benefit others.

• Jim Kerwin, The Rejected Blessing: An Untold Story of the Early Days of the Pentecostal Movement. Foreword by Vinson Synan. (Mpls.: OTC Publishers, 2003), 95 pp. paper.

The story of division within the Pentecostal movement concerning the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification—how the “second blessing” has mostly become a “rejected blessing” among the majority of Pentecostals. A well-written study of how William Durham’s “finished work” view came to be the dominant view. This is a book I would like to read again.

• E. Stanley Jones, The Divine Yes (Nashville: Abingdon, 1975), 160 pp. paper.

The last of the 28 books written by the well-known Methodist missionary to India. Written in the 14 months between a major stroke and his death. Excellent autobiographical account of his sufferings and how he managed to live with them by the grace of God.

• W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 141 pp. handbook.

An excellent study of Psalm 23 by an actual shepherd. I remember Phil Keller (father of Lynn Keller, a classmate of Judy and me at Prairie Bible Institute) delivering these lessons live at the Prairie Tabernacle. These observations on sheep and similarities to Christian living are powerful, especially the one overarching truth that God is our all-loving and all-wise shepherd and cares for us with the greatest concern and detail always. I have benefited greatly from all of Keller’s books.

• William P. Young, The Shack (Los Angeles: Windblown Media, 2007), 248 pp, paper.
Surely this is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. It is “Christian Fiction,” and was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This guy, Mack, spent a weekend with God in a shack in Oregon, and records his conversations and activities with God. The best features, in my opinion, are the author’s presentation of the Trinity—a very “social,” delightfully interpersonal “trio,” and his way of viewing godly relationships. One weakness is that there is little speaking of evil in the sense of wickedness that calls down the wrath of God in judgment. It is fiction, of course, and not a theology book. Keeping this in mind, I believe the reader can be greatly encouraged in his or her Christian life by reading this book.

• Joyce Landorf, Silent September (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1984), 64 pp., hardback.

The author suffered severe pain from TMJ (temporomandibular joint stress dysfunction), and writes very plainly and specifically about it. It is a very helpful book about suffering except for the very serious error near the end: God cannot do anything to defeat the pain. God is presently limited. “I know You would heal me now if you could. I know my pain is utterly frustrating to you,” she says to God (p. 57).

This raises the age-old “problem of evil.” Either God is able to take away the pain, and does not, or he is not able even though he is willing. The three seemingly contradictory truths are that there is genuine pain, God loves us greatly, and God is all powerful. Which of these three must be compromised for there to be a “logical” answer to the problem of evil? I argue that none must be given up: God is all-powerful, God is all-good, and genuine evil exists. All three are true, but Landorf gives up the first, that God is all-powerful. God can’t take away the suffering. This ruined the book for me, in a sense, but I find much value in the rest of it.

• Sue McRoberts, The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained Me During Postpartum Depression. (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2007), 178 pp., paperback.

This is a very informative, stimulating, and encouraging book. Judy brought it home from the church library. I saw it and read it and am very glad I did. While the topic does not, obviously, affect me, the book as a whole (and in parts) is a superb account of depression—its awful effects and God’s powerful working. I read it eagerly and benefited much. It is a good piece to put into the hands of those suffering in any way. Thank you, Lord, for this author’s honesty, and for your restoring powers.

• Don Piper with Cecil Murphey, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. (MI: Revell, 2004), 206 pp., paperback.

A remarkable book, but not because of Piper’s account of his experiences in heaven, as he describes them (this part of the book is just two out of 18 chapters), but because of his very honest and detailed account of his recovery from a horrible car accident. According to Piper, he died in the car accident, and then went to heaven for 90 minutes. The two chapters on heaven speak of three things in particular: light, music, and relationships (he was with many of his friends and relatives).

The book helped me greatly because I could relate to many of the problems and moods he experienced in his 13 months of initial recovery (the accident occurred on Jan. 18, 1989, and his recovery took years; he lives in constant pain even now, and will never truly “recover”). I am so glad I read this book (another one that Judy brought home from church—borrowed from a friend).

I think that this book, and Amy Carmichael’s Rose from Briar are the two books that I have related to most in the years since my heart transplant.

Thank you, Lord!


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I was looking forward to your next post!

Thank you for the annotations. I have had the Keller book for several year, unread. I'll have to move it up the list.

While your books took a distict religious tone, I thought I would add a twist of my own:

The five best baseball books I’ve read this year

1. Buck O’Neils’ I Was Right On Time
2. Tim McCarver's Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans
3. The Catcher (Baseball Behind the Seams)
4. Baseball Prospectus 2009
5. Every Pitcher Tells a Story: Letters Gathered by a Devoted Baseball Fan

Four books I’m listening to now
1. Eugene Peterson’s Tell it Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus
2. Jimmy Carter’s Leading a Worthy Life
3. Rob Bell’s Sex God
4. Keith Hernandez’ Pure Baseball: Pitch by Pitch for the Advanced Fan

Scott Volltrauer

Robert V. Rakestraw said...

Thanks, Scott, for letting us know about your reading -- both the baseball books and the others. I will remember the ones you are in now. Let us know your thoughts on the books you are working with, when you finish them. I find that if I don't write a review or annotation soon after finishing the book, I don't do a very good job of it when/if I do.

Glad you read the blog. I have appreciated your friendship over the years.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bob, for your blog...I'm catching up on the last several months of your posts, and see a theme - your testimony to God's faithfulness in the midst of your suffering.
Your words help me personally and pastorally!