The Pastor’s Library by Yost

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Here’s a fine book for pastors to help with building a biblical and theological library. There are a few books on the market that give book reviews and recommendations, but this one stands out by recommending both old and new titles as well as both theological volumes and commentaries. Most other works review commentaries only and operate on the theory that new is always the best. While we would always want some of the newest exegetical works available, we must not overlook the treasures of the past. He tells us in the preface that The Minister’s Library by Cyril Barber was his inspiration. When I think about books that came after Spurgeon and went through 1985, Barber is my go-to reviewer. I’ve often thought that we needed a modern-day Barber-type volume. That’s exactly what Mr. Yost has done and done well. There may be several books on the market, but the author has truly found his niche. Pastors will be pleased.

Though Mr. Yost favors conservative books, he is fair in recommending some of the more well done critical works.  He has a simple system where a book that is recommended to be obtained, a recognized classic in the field, a work of liberal scholarship, and a work that is very technical but of scholarly value are all marked in the book. I love how he has included several classic volumes. He has even recommended many of the wonderful Klock & Klock volumes that should never be forgotten. I’d say my only fault with this book is his near obsession with a hatred of transliterations – I’m confident it isn’t that life-and-death an issue.

He gives recommendations for Old Testament introductions, theologies, Hebrew language works, and a nicely wide-ranging list of commentaries. After doing the same for the New Testament, he jumps into a section on systematic theology, church history, and theological topics. There’s a final section on practical theology that covers all sorts of topics.

I was amazed at how often I agreed with his recommendations. It’s really a balanced, helpful list. I’d be happy to see it in the hands of a brand-new pastor and would recommend it to any of them without hesitation. Since no one has every book printed, some of us that’s been building a library for decades can still find much help and enjoyment in this book. In fact, I’d recommend this book be purchased along with John Evans’ work on biblical commentaries where he covers even more commentaries but none of these other subjects. I’m a great fan of a library with a balance between old and new works and give this book of recommendations five big stars!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. 

How To Find Economical Used Books


On occasion people ask me questions about books and I imagine the biggest book question anyone could have is how to find books on the cheap.Whether you just want to buy someone you love a few books for a gift, or whether you are trying to build a first-rate library yourself, it’s imperative to find the best deals as the current retail, and even some used book prices, are exorbitant.

The first step is making a list of the books you most want. If you focus on just one book at a time you will pay more–far more. From a list you can next buy the book that is at the best bargain now. You never know what book you’ll be buying next, but you’ll likely get them all over time and at a great discount. I’ve waited years for some volumes. Maybe you are setting a budget for a certain period of time and you will work in that constraint, but you can still build the best library for the best price that way. My wife and I give ourselves around $20 a week for play money, and since there is absolutely nothing I want in the world other than books, I usually buy from my current list the first of every week based on the best bargain I find.

As we discuss the tools to find these books, just remember the best sites may change over time. There was a time not that long ago I bought the most books from eBay, but that has changed to Amazon as many used sellers list there now. It’s also best, though, to double-check alternate sources before you click “buy” on your favorite site as the price may have dropped too.

Things To Do To Buy Cheap Books: 


This is a site that monitors Amazon. You make a list by searching out the books you want and putting in the price at which you want a notification. There’s also data on what it has sold for in the past on Amazon. If the current price is substantially higher than the listed “lowest price ever”, then likely you should wait a while. Apparently, sellers set prices based on other Amazon sellers. If one seller puts in an absurd price, then several other sellers may do so for a while. It will come back down. Just wait.


This is another site that checks many other sites for the cheapest price. It has superior search options and you will likely find the best price. The downside is that you can save your lists by the “memo” options, but it erases every time you clean cookies or other big technical stuff on your computer.  There’s no notifications either.


Ebay has changed over the years and there are now far more “buy it now” listings with a set price than actual auctions. Still, bargains can sometimes be had, and you will get notifications for items in your watch list.


There are a few other sites out there like, or, but I rarely find the best bargains there. Still, they’re worth checking if you need one specific book only, though monitors some of them too. Don’t forget to check library sales (even from theological libraries) or thrift stores for a good deal on a more common title.

A Word On Which Book To Buy

Sometimes you can find an inexpensive paperback edition of a book often found in nicer hardback editions. Here it’s best to think about what uses you plan for the book. Will you refer to it often for years to come? In that case, a few extra dollars for a better edition will be worth it.

Best wishes on building your theological library or trying to find that desired volume for a loved one!


Help For Writers by Payne

book payne

This book is for those beginning  to write a first Christian non-fiction title. It gives hints particularly for self-publishing. The author has published several titles at this point and shares what he has learned.

The greatest value of this book is encouragement. He encourages through the trials of writing and even the disappointments that may arise after your book is published. He focuses on the true goal of writing Christian non-fiction–helping people. He counsels that we think of those we have helped rather than the number of copies sold.

He gives other practical advise as well. Things like making sure the book is edited well, praying for God’s help, using choice personal stories, how to get inspiration, and much more is covered here.

This book is a help to writers for sure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Necessary Grief by Larry Michael

As pastors we certainly need guidance in helping our folks as they go through bereavement. This book, subtitled “Essential Tools For Leadership In Bereavement Ministry”, certainly provides that help. It helps get inside the thinking bereaving ones are going through more effectively than most such volumes that I have seen.

The author defines grief and how it impacts people differently. He covers the many emotions that may arise, yet he warns us that thinking of it as a process may cause us to misunderstand those grieving. “Steps” may not be in order, nor may every one show up in every person.

He well presents many fallacies where we may be giving unhelpful advice. He also teaches us to avoid the clichés that we so often use because most are actually shallow and make us seem not to care. That is followed by helpful things to say and do. The book finally transition to expanding our help to full-blown bereavement ministries. It is all well done. The appendixes add even more value.

As I read this book, it seemed to be an updating for our generation for what Wiesbe’s “Comforting The Bereaved” said a generation ago, and Blackwood’s “The Funeral” did for the generation before that. All three books would likely cover that subject quite well in your library. This volume is a success in speaking to our day and I recommend it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Carta Jerusalem Partners With Hendrickson Publishers

A fortuitous development in Christian publishing has happened with Carta-Jerusalem now distributing its titles in the USA through Hendrickson Publishers. I have long felt that Carta was the premier Bible Atlas makers in the world. The only problem is that being based in Israel they were not as well known in the USA as they deserved to be. Only a couple of their atlases were widely known.

They publish the pastors first choice for an atlas with their Carta Bible Atlas.

They also have the most comprehensive Bible Atlas available in The Sacred Bridge. While it is a scholar’s delight, pastors will find it an incredible resource. The pictures and scholarly information well supplement the incredible maps. Anton Rainey and R. Steven Notley are top-flight scholars perfect for such an endeavor while the maps are classic Carta, only this time in full color. An ambitious undertaking that delivers what it advertises. I don’t agree with every point made, but I love this atlas.

Look for In The Master’s Steps: The Gospel In The Land by R. Stephen Notley that condenses some material in the preceding volume for a wider audience.

The Carta Jerusalem Atlas by Dan Bahat is most helpful volume I know of on that subject.

They have many volumes to help in geographic or historical background, as well as help for Holy Land travelers.

The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan, and the Sinai by G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville is thrilling. Though some of the road information is out of date, this is an experience. The armchair traveler will not be disappointed, nor will the modern pilgrim. You will have to do your homework for sites in the West Bank, but this book makes you thirst to go.

The River Jordan: An Illustrated Guide From Bible Days to the Present is great for specific site information. The pictures and maps are choice. Though it extends to sites a long way from Jordan, it is good enough to make you wish it covered every site. 

Any map by Carta will greatly aid you in travel. These maps were a blessing to me when I went on a solo trip there in 2010. There are other Carta titles I look forward to perusing in the future.

Hendrickson Publishers are a good partner for Carta as they are well known in the Christian world. They have supplied us with classic titles for years that we are so glad to see in print. 

Check them out at here and click on the Carta catalog.


Commentary Sets

old library

The question, this time posed by my friend Mark Fowler, concerns what commentary sets would be most helpful. The logic is that sets would give more coverage than accumulating individual volumes. So I approached the question as if my library burned down and I had to begin again, what would I first buy. (That, of course, assumes I could survive my library burning down. I probably couldn’t, but I’ll play along for this blog’s sake.) We are not suggesting that anyone would be satisfied with only sets as usually an author who specializes in one book of the Bible will often write the best commentary on it, but sets give me something on every book of the Bible (I plan a future blog posts on favorites for each book of the Bible). If I had few study books available, sets would then give me the most bang for my buck. I have more emphasis here on older sets. (See link at bottom for newer exegetical series).

The First Five Sets I Would Buy

1. The Expositors Bible Commentary edited by Frank Gaebelein in 12 volumes

As with any set by multiple authors, quality varies. But this gives you some depth as these would qualify as exegetical commentaries. Some are written by world-class scholars. Fortunately, the commentators are all conservative. (Remember a conservative scholar may not be as conservative as you and I, but I speak comparatively to their own world of scholarship). These volumes have been a blessing to me. Most authors in the set are premillennial, which is rather uncommon. Faithful searching may turn up the used set for $100-125. You could also build your set one at a time. This set has been updated and the new series can be found at the link below.

2. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
Here’s a 1-volume commentary covering the entire Bible. Many such commentaries are of little worth, but you will find this one helpful. Read it at the beginning of your studies to take off correctly. This volume can be found cheaply.

3 .Jamieson-Fausset-Brown
May come in 3 volumes, or 1 volume in small print. Solid.

4. Bible Knowledge Commentary edited by Walvoord and Zuck in 2 volumes
Superior. No passage will be dodged.

5. Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren
Just because he is my favorite. Check out MacLaren here.

With these 5 I would at least have something on every passage.

Other Sets I Would Try To Get Over Time

1. The Pulpit Commentary
A big set in 23 volumes. You will either really like it or you will think it is worthless. Preview before you buy. There’s a exegetical commentary section and a homiletic section.

2. The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary
Another big set (31 volumes), but it reads a little quicker than the Pulpit Commentary. A few friends have told me they like it better. Both could help at the end of your studies when all that is left is adding homiletic spice. I’ve enjoyed owning both.

3. The Biblical Illustrator in 23 large volumes
Massive. Condenses in varying degree great sermons of the past. If you are this far down the list you better have some nice shelving.

4. Lange’s Commentary in 12 volumes
A fine set. Perhaps should have been in the first 5 above. Think older, but still helpful.

5. Barnes Notes in various sets
Some sets cover the OT, but Barnes only did a few of them. He did all of the NT. Well worth having.

6. Keil & Delitzsch in 10 volumes (OT only)
A little Hebrew to work around, but as good as any scholars of their day and they cover all the OT. A little dry.

7. Lenski’s Commentaries on the NT
It’s funny how dogmatic he can be at times–it reads like he’s right and you are wrong. Still, it’s really good.

8. Through The Bible by J. Vernon McGee
I have a soft spot in my heart for this set. As a teenager it was the first set I ever bought. He reads easy and says nice things. Pay attention to when he is off topic. Don’t emulate him there.

9. Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe
This is the nicer and quicker way to get his “Be” series. The OT volumes are better as he wrote them later. He grew as a writer over time.

10. The Expositor’s Bible
An old set that varies widely. Some are very poor while other volumes are outstanding. A few might rank as the best you’ll ever have.

11. Hendriksen and Kistemaker covering the NT
Superb! But doesn’t cover the OT. These scholars are reformed, but there is such a warmth to their writing (especially Mr. Hendriksen). They love the Scriptures they write about. I wish more scholars would use them as a role model.

12. John Phillips Commentaries
Steady and consistent in quality. I heard him preach once and was blown away. His volumes on Psalms and Proverbs are standout volumes.

13. Calvin’s Commentaries in 22 volumes
Don’t expect a treatise on Calvinism at all. The man was a brilliant commentator and we must give him his due even if we couldn’t subscribe to the theological system that bears his name. Yes he sees election as you would expect a Calvinist to see it, but he isn’t driven to find Calvinism under every rock as some modern Calvinist commentators do. He wants to discuss what the text actually says as a good commentator should.

14. John Trapp’s Commentary in 5 large volumes
Spurgeon loved this set. He said we could use it to spice up the whole dish. Rare and expensive. I got a deal and have enjoyed it.

There are other good ones. Grab John Kitto’s Daily Bible Illustrations if you can, as well as Bishop Halls Contemplations . You might like Gray and Adams, though I don’t use them as often. I just recently got the set Christ In The Bible by A. B. Simpson and he is good at seeing Christ. There’s The Expositor’s Greek Testament but my set stays pretty dusty. Alford on the NT isn’t too bad. The Speaker’s Bible is spotty, but at times a winner. Handfuls On Purpose by Smith and Lee is a set to look for sermon ideas, not a place to help you understand a text. Adam Clarke is well known, but I rarely consult his set of commentaries. Matthew Poole is better than you think. Bengel’s NT Commentary I find to be very good. A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures is underrated in my opinion. Harry Ironside’s commentaries vary in depth of comment but are always good. Matthew Henry’s Commentary still has something to say after all these years.I may have forgot something. Perhaps there are a few sets I don’t have and so can’t comment on them. This blog post does not cover newer exegetical commentary series that are being written today.  We are covering the old standbys here.

You must be diligent in searching for bargains to assemble all these sets. I find it best to prioritize my want list, but be ready to jump if something comes along for next to nothing. Happy Bible study.

Bible Commentaries–covering newer, exegetical commentary series
Bible Atlas


Charles Spurgeon (Great Preachers Series)

That Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a legend is beyond dispute. Any pastor would have to be amazed by his pastorate and overall ministry. The crowds, the conversions, the influence stagger the imagination. Were we to know the depths of his suffering both physically and at the hands of other religious leaders, we might not want his ministry after all.

Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that after 120 years his books and written sermons are as fresh as ever. There’s some phrasing peculiar to his day, but his sermons still grab the heart. His sermons come in 2 sets. There’s the 6 volume set called New Park Street Pulpit that were from the first years of his pastorate and are available reasonably priced used. Then there’s the 57 volume set published by Pilgrim Publications called Metropolitan Tabernacle Sermons that retails for $2000 (occasionally used sets come up for $1000-$1200). I was blessed to finally get an almost complete set! There’s some older used volumes, but these Pilgrim volumes have nice bindings that will last for generations. There are several other sets with various names (I have a few myself), but remember they are all taken from these 2 sets.

His sermons are often textual, sometimes expository, and rarely topical. Their greatest strengths include vividness, imagination, and most of all, gospel. No one can lift up Jesus Christ quite like he can. I’ve heard that Spurgeon’s sermons comprise the largest collection of writings by one person in the English language. Though Spurgeon was a Calvinist, only a handful of sermons really have much Calvinism in them. The truth is Spurgeon was much maligned by more ardent calvinists than himself. Read Iain Murray’s “Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism” to learn this history. The truth is that Spurgeon constantly called on men to turn to Jesus for salvation, and he never spoke of being worried if you are elect–no, just flee to Christ. Personally, I think he is at his best in the parables and miracles. Wow, he makes them come alive!

He wrote other things as well. “Lectures To My Students” and “An All-Around Ministry” are still read by those in the ministry. Articles he wrote appreared in several small volumes. His last volume was a commentary on Matthew that I find very useful. His 3 large volumes on the Psalms are my very favorite on the Psalms. I would hate to be without them. He wrote several other volumes like Advice To Seekersetc.

Be sure to read “Commenting and Commentaries” either for book suggestions or laughs. I’ve worked hard to obtain several of his recommendations. He favors the Puritans, and though I’ve read them some, I wish they were better at coming to the point. Spurgeon took good things they offered (especially application), but he in no way reads like them. Listen to some of his comments in this book:

65.”Too small to be of any use. You cannot put the sea into a tea cup.”
100. Thomas Pyle “A pile of paper, valuable to housemaids for lighting fires.”
435. “The author confounds rather than expounds.”
766. “We have frequently characterized this author’s writings. They are clear, cold, and dry, like a fine moonlight night in the middle of winter. A man needs a peculiar mind to enjoy Hengstenberg, but all educated students can profit by him.”

And there are many, many more zingers.

If you come to enjoy and appreciate Spurgeon as I do you will want to secure some of his biographies. I have Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Drummond (Kregel), The Life and Works of C. H. Spurgeon in 2 volumes by G. Holden Pike (Banner of Truth), Life of Charles Spurgeon by Russell Conwell (old, written shortly after his death), The Life and Works of C. H. Spurgeon by Henry Northrop (Sword), C. H. Autobiography in 2 volumes (Banner of Truth), From The Pulpit To The Palm-Branch (Solid Ground), The Unforgettable Spurgeon by Eric Hayden (Emerald), and The Shadow of the Broad Brim by Richard Day (Crown Publications). There are a few other small ones I have as well. He has been a popular subject for biographers.

The main thing about Spurgeon is the depth of his love for the Lord. As a preacher, his sermons challenge me. As a Christian, they move me.