I AM A BOOK LOVER. I confess. I like to read. The habit started when I was about eleven.

However, I have discovered that not all books are worth wasting time on. I mostly read on Kindle. Because it is portable I can read on my phone or Mac Book Pro. In addition, Kindle books are usually less expensive, and they can be easily searched. You can also make copious notes and highlight to your heart’s delight.

If I’m not familiar with the author I usually download a sample or read the introduction at Amazon.com. Some authors seem to work at obtuse communications. After several pages, if I can’t clearly understand what he or she is saying, I don’t waste money or time on a purchase. On the other hand, if I like what I’m reading, I usually buy the book. A click of the mouse, and two minutes later it is in my library. Here are some of my recent favorites.

A pastor friend recommended Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S. C. Gwynne. This book was a New York Time’s bestseller, and the reason is obvious. It was a delightful read.

I have read numerous histories and biographies dealing with the Civil War, but Rebel Yell was probably the best yet. There are several reasons. First, Gwynne is a talented writer. It is obvious that Jackson fascinated him, and his pose reflects that. Rebell Yell is not a hagiography. Gwynne discusses Jackson’s numerous weaknesses. But it is the contrasts between his strengths and weaknesses that makes Stonewall Jackson so interesting. He was a fearless innovator, willing to take massive risks, and this was the key to his success. You can easily argue taht Stonewall was the most innovative and effective military leader in U.S. history. Lacking adequate food, up-to-date technology, uniforms, firepower, or money, he repeatedly trounced Union armies two to three times his size. Ultimately he and Robert E. Lee became a formidable team.

In addition, Jackson is a fascinating subject for Christians. Gwynne writes as a man who understands what it means to be immersed in the gospel. That was Andrew Jackson—a man completely centered in Christ—and the author is not embarrassed about that fact. This matters because you can’t understand Jackson until you understand his radical faith and confidence in God.

If you enjoy military history and great biography, read this book. You won’t be sorry.

When I like an author I tend to read more of his books. Gwynne also wrote The Perfect Pass, American Genius and The Reinvention of Football. It is the story of Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and their creative willingness to (like Jackson) take immense risks, risks other coaches would not take, and virtually re-invent the game of football with the forward pass. It was a David and Goliath story. Mumme was up against formidable resistance. “It can’t be done,” they said; but Mumme persisted, eventually proving his detractors wrong. This book and Rebel Yell both contain immense lessons about leadership, life, persistence, and the gutty importance of the willingness to do things differently.

I’m also finishing Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation by Collin Hansen. It would be hard to understand the state of contemporary Evangelicalism without reference to the life and influence of Tim Keller. Born in 1950, his life has paralleled mine. Unlike me, however, he began reading at age three. He read voraciously and insightfully. He recently died of Pancreatic Cancer.

Keller experienced true revival while doing his undergraduate work at Bucknell in 1970. The rest of his life was a longing to return to this power and spiritual vitality. I can relate to this. Judy and I experienced the same from 1971 to 1975. I understood Keller’s experience and longings.

However, this book is about Keller’s influencers. They were notable and numerous. The biggest was his wife, Kathy, who received her M.Div with him at Gordon Conwell Theolical Seminary in Massachusets. Other notables were R. C. Sproul. In their early twenties, Tim and Kathy interacted extensively with R. C. Sproul and his Ligonier Ministries. The works of Jonathan Edwards and the writings of C.S. Lewis were also massive shapers. Most significant was his relationship with Edmund Clowney, past president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. From Clowney he learned the centrality of the gospel and the importance of preaching it from all of scripture.

Shortly after seminary graduation, Tim learned how to pastor at a small Presbyterian church outside of Richmond, VA where he served for eight years. Then he taught pastoral theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, eventually planting Redeemer Church in New York City.

His greatest legacy was Redeemer Church in downtown New York, the founding of The Gospel Coalition with D. A. Carson, and his numerous publications.

Contextualization is the ability to communicate the gospel in the “context” of modern life and its worldview assumptions. Contextualization was both Keller’s strength and weakness. He excelled at explaining the gospel and biblical theology in a way that moderns can relate to. He was so good at it, and sometimes contextualized so well, that he compromised. All in all, however, Tim Keller’s life is an example of God expressing his strength through weakness. Hansen’s bood is well worth reading.