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Rounding Out the List: Commentaries and a Few Add-Ons

Now that Christmas and New Year’s have passed and you have a few Amazon gift cards to spend, here are a few books that didn’t make the podcast.

Romans – David Peterson

In the last year, I’ve been blown away by this commentary series from Lexham Press. Most commentaries provide some introductory material, dealing with the background, authorship, context, and original audience. You’ll typically find a few themes in this opening section, but the goal of most commentaries is to get into the text. Once you’re there, it’s easy to get absorbed in the syntax and the fine lines of argument and explanation, but it can be difficult to keep the larger picture in mind. Particularly when it comes to teaching and preaching through books, connection with larger arguments and narratives becomes really important for helping people to understand the text and apply it to their everyday life.

This series combines the best of the detailed analysis of a commentary with hundreds of pages of biblical theology and broad themes. In Romans, Peterson traces the weighty theological themes of sin, justification, and sanctification through the letter and connects them with the rest of the New Testament.

While I didn’t read the whole commentary straight through, I read pieces of it each week to prepare for our Carlton Landing Bible study over the first five chapters. Of course, during that process, you dip into other sections and cross-references. I would recommend any book in this series, but I’d especially recommend Peterson’s as a midway commentary between the ultra-technical and the more devotional preaching commentaries. In this sense, it’s similar to Thomas Schreiner’s excellent Romans commentary in the Baker Exegetical series – which just came out in a second edition – or David Garland’s in the Tyndale New Testament series.

For others in this series, check out:

Psalms – Jim Hamilton

Hebrews – Thomas Schreiner

Galatians – Matthew Harmon

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus – Andreas Kostenebger

Joshua – David Firth

Daniel – Joe Sprinkle

Breaking History – Jared Kushner

If you’re into political memoirs that do more than share the bombshell gossip from the Oval Office, this is the pick for the Trump administration. Along with Bill Barr’s book, One Damn Thing After Another, this account of the Trump presidency makes the best case for the policy positions and strategic accomplishments that have come to characterize Trumpism. Agree with them or not, Kushner and Barr offer strong defenses of their record and accomplishments. Neither pretends that Donald Trump was a perfect president; both take issue with his personal foibles, election denial, and the aftermath of January 6, but both see the former president’s agenda as a win for the country and spent years of their lives trying to make it a reality.

It’s hard to deny the string of successes Kushner and his team put up over four years. He was at the center of nearly every big accomplishment of the administration. From prison reform to Operation Warp Speed to the Abraham Accords, Kushner’s team was one of the effective bright spots in a very embattled and disorganized administration.

What made Kushner so successful?

He’s a reader.

He’s a learner.

He’s a pragmatist.

He’s connected.

He’s willing to be in the background.

The way Kushner handles problems particularly intrigued me. Being inexperienced when he came into government work, he had to overcome several learning curves, including how to get things done in Washington. I made a list of all the books he refers to in the book. When he encountered a new set of issues, he undoubtedly went and read research and received government briefings, but he also sought what the classic wisdom was for that topic.

Coming Apart - Charles Murray

The Gatekeepers - Chris Whipple

Death by China - Peter Navarro

The Art of War - Sun Tzu

Diplomacy - Henry Kissinger

The Fight for Jerusalem - Dore Gold

Palestine: Peace not Apartheid - Jimmy Carter

The Hundred Year Marathon - Michael Pillsbury

Thirteen Days in September - Lawrence Wright

Overall, you can love or hate Jared Kushner - or the Trump administration as a whole - and learn a lot from this book. While I read it, I had some of the same takeaways I got from reading George W. Bush’s Decision Points; you get inside another mind, see the information they had, and watch what they do with it.

After the Revolution – David Ayers

Brace yourself for when you read this book. The statistics and studies Ayers presents about Evangelicals and sexuality are staggering. There’s very little difference between “evangelicals” broadly defined and the rest of the country when it comes to sexuality. To put it bluntly, the church has failed to disciple Christians to think differently about the world. Many in our churches are the world and of the world when it comes to premarital sex, pornography, cohabitation, and divorce. Ayers’ book is like a difficult medical prognosis; it’s worse than we thought, and it’s everywhere.

Now with the bad news behind us, there is good news in this book – and I’m not just referring to the cliché that the first step is admitting there is a problem. Ayers’ research shows there are groups that stand out from the pack. There are groups of young people who do not look like their peers on these questions of sexuality. They are the ones who are actually attending church, reading their Bibles, gathering in Christian groups, and saying that their faith really matters to them.

In an increasingly murky world of religious identification, this group is the one to watch. These are not just hearers of the word, but doers of the word. They don’t just identify as evangelicals, they live like it. The growing difference in these statistics on sexuality mirror broader movements in society. The next few years will further winnow the church, and those who walk by the Spirit will stand out. In short, what we believe is true. Living like Jesus is Lord will make you stand out like a city on a hill.

Tracers in the Dark – Andy Greenberg

There is no other book that has kept me captivated this year like Tracers in the Dark. I couldn’t put it down. Through five different stories, Greenberg explores the early days of crypto, blockchain, and the overlap between de-fi and various corners of the criminal underworld.

Greenberg’s previous book Sandworm is also a great read, which tells the story of Soviet hackers who unleashed waves of hacks and malware originally known as “Sandworm” after the group’s nods to Frank Herbert’s Dune series. It deservedly won numerous awards for technology and science journalism.

Both of these books let you into a world that will only become more prominent. The computer element of our society is just getting started. Many predict that 2023 will be a landmark year for AI, crypto, and technology. If you want to know where we’re headed and be entertained along the way, pick up one of Greenberg’s books.

Dr. Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak and the Senior Pastor of Carlton Landing Community Church in Oklahoma.


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