Its November, soon it will be December and “Christmas” – the time of gift giving. In this post and several others to follow it is my intent to offer brief recommendations on some of the best products I have experienced – especially in the books/movies/software arena – the sort of things that make a perfect gift. I hope you’ll also give me feedback on the titles I’m missing. All links will take you directly to the associated product’s Amazon page.
Caveat: I am recommending not only books that I believe are right on but also books which I believe are so thought provoking that the challenges to our thinking are worth the risks. The reader of the book must take it upon himself to wrestle with the fallible interpretations of like offered by each author.
- Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life – Wow. A supremely readable, yet deeply intelligent primer on the Christian faith. Written by a young voice (Kyle Strobel) it manages to embrace the best of real Christian spirituality while challenging the separatism currently occurring in churches between the young and old.
- Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist – I am a voracious reader and yet it took me well over a year to read this book. John Piper, without a doubt, is one of the most profound voices within modern Christianity. Every page of this book is packed with wisdom, Scripture, and the voices of our past. This book is readable – but expect to take it a few pages at a time – there is just too much to process on every single page. Piper’s essential argument is that man was designed for pleasure – but that that pleasure is to be found in God.
- Inside Out – Larry Crabb is a controversial figure within Christianity. As a psychologist he finds many Christian doors closed. His background and admiration for Freud doesn’t help anything. That said, he has made a sincere effort to understand how the science of the mind fits into the Scriptures. Most won’t agree with everything he suggests in this book, but everyone will be challenged by the heavy emphasis he places on the reality of our brokenness as human beings and the need for a supernatural healing.
- The Purpose Driven® Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? – Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have become extremely influential in American Evangelical Christianity. His Purpose Driven Church book has formed the basic plans for many churches around the nation – and his youth pastor Doug Field’s book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry has done the same for youth ministries. Now Warren has released what may be considered his basic philosophy of life. Written in a forty day devotional format the book offers Warren’s understanding of the biblical worldview and how it affects our lives.
- Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth – Richard Foster comes from a Quaker background and is a continuous student of the historical methods of connecting with God spiritually. He helps us understand the way that spirituality integrates into our lives – more than just over prayers before meals. He divides the practices we can use to connect to God into three sections – inward (meditation, prayer…), outward (simplicity, solitude…), and corporate (confession, worship…). A great starting point for experiential Christianity.
- A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN – Yeah, the book has a really long title, and it is a bit dry at times with lots of footnotes. But Brian D. McLaren is one of the leading thinkers in the emerging church movement and is important to understand whether you agree with his theology or not – and he makes an awful lot of good points, even if you don’t buy the whole load.
- How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth – I’m sure glad I’m not the only one who struggles with understanding Scripture. This extremely readable and informative little volume by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart is a must-read for new and experienced students of the Bible alike.
- The Story of Christianity – I must admit that Justo Gonzalez is one of my heroes. This book – originally two separate volumes – is a monumental achievement in itself. Numbering around a thousand pages it was an extremely readable and balanced history of the Christian faith from start to present. I would suggest that having at least a rudimentary understanding of Christian history can profoundly affect (in a positive way) our understanding of the gospel and interaction with fellow believers as well as the world at large.
- American Evangelical Story, The: A History of the Movement – Douglas A. Sweeney offers a readable and fairly comprehensive history of American Evangelicalism. A must read for evangelicals.
- The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict Fully Updated To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians Today – Josh McDowell’s extensive research into the Christian faith in an attempt to establish an apologetic defense. Essentially, an encyclopedia on the historical/scientific/evidentiary reasons for belief. Covers topics such as the biblical text, the historical Jesus, and biblical criticism.
- Life Application Study Bible NLT – Whether one gets a Life Application Study Bible is not so much my concern – though there are a number of useful maps, charts, study notes, and etc. in the Life Application Study Bible…But I do think a New Living Translation (NLT) Bible is an excellent addition to any library. I am assuming one already has a word-for-word literal translation such as the NASB, NIV, or NKJV. These Bibles are excellent for understanding the minutaie of the text, but I find the NLT provides a more readable translation for devotional reading. Sure, when one hits a controversial passage pull out your NASB and lexicon and dive into the words and commentaries…But for the larger context/story flow I personally enjoy the NLT.