Reading: Christmas Suggestions
Well its that time of year again. Where has 2006 gone?? The sages from Kansas and Steve Miller are surely on to something when they opine we are all just dust in the wind that keeps slippin' into the future! Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye and some out there are scratching their head as to what to buy their minister, elder or friend as a present. Books! That is if the minister or elder likes to read ... and if they do not perhaps they are in the wrong calling. Here are my recommendations.
1) Jack Reese, The Body Broken: Embracing the Peace of Christ in a Fragmented Church (Leafwood Press, 2006). Reese has gifted the church with this book. This year, 2006, has not flowered into a year of healing the shame of division or the removal of blight from the Bride. However this book can provide some necessary nutrition for the health of the Body. I believe every preacher and every elder should read this book. It is elegant. It is showered with grace and love for all. It is in fact spiritual reading. I urge you to read this book.
2) John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding (Leafwood, 2006). I am partial to this book. Far from perfect yet I believe this book can help Christians among the Stone-Campbell heritage move to a kingdom perspective. The book is not written for scholars but there are even surprises for them as well. In this book we learn that WE have a heritage with a robust theology of the Holy Spirit, a rejection of any deistic understanding of God, a passion for caring for the disinherited, relishing the presence of God in worship, prayer and Bible reading. We also learn that our heritage can rattle our cages in our easy accomodation to American nationalism and even demands for freedom of thought.
3) N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006). This is the book of the year and possibly the book of the century to date. Certainly the title should resonate with any in a restoration heritage. Yet Wright goes about making a refreshing statement of not only what Christianity is but what it means to live that faith in our contemporary world.
4) Terence Fretheim, God and the World in the Old Testament (Abingdon 2005). One of the consistent challenges of biblical Christianity in our American setting is the not so subtle forms of neo-Gnosticism that runs rampant in our "spiritualities" and other doctrine. This will probably be (sadly) one of the least read books on this list. Not because it is necessarily a difficult read (it is not!) but because it has a hundred pages of notes. But if I had the ability to make preachers read a book I would force them to read this one. What "good" is creation? Does God love creation? Not just humans but creation? How important is it in Scripture? Fretheim has shown that it is at the heart of biblical faith. I love this book. It is scholarly. It is rich. It is spiritually healthy.
5) William H. Willimon, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry (Abingdon 2002). Willimon is a preacher's preacher. He has lived and breathed "pastoring" for longer than I have been alive. This book will speak to your heart and your mind.
6) James K. A. Smith, Whose Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Baker Academic 2006). This could be the best book on "postmodernism" written ... it is without a doubt the best I have read. Smith asks serious questions of the church and how she (you and I) can function in the new emerging worldview. Great book.
7) N. T. Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus (Baker, 2006). This is the latest from the pen of the Bishop of Durham. This is a Gnostic buster! About the same size and design as the National Geographic's publication edited by Meyer, Erhman and company. This is an easy to read work (assumes the reader knows nothing) and is a handy book to share with anyone intersted in the sensationalism around the Gospel of Judas.
8) Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005). I read this book as I was working on Kingdom Come and it richly blessed me. Peterson takes the reader through a spiritual reading of Deuteronomy, Luke/Acts, Exodus and has some marvelous reflections on Baptism and love.
9) Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer (Image, many editions). Let the Spirit wash over you through this work.
10) Jim Wallis, God's Politics (Harper 2005). This is certainly a book that you will have a conversation with. Wallis takes on both the Republicans and the Democrats in this book which may make him unpopular with both. But he takes his faith seriously and seeks to integrate it into a truly biblical public theology. You may not agree with some ... and some may not agree with a lot ... of this book but I do not think you can read a better book to hear a counter point of view that is God saturated. You will be blessed.
This is a short list I know. However these are some books that in my view are a cut above.