This weekend (and this morning) I got all nerdy and organized at the same time. I know. Multi-tasking. Who knew I was capable?
With a little help from Dewey and his decimals I got to see what I’ve spent so much of life learning about and what’s been ignored. Until I got all those books lined up by number I had no idea.
Fiction? I’ve got nothin’. Unless the Book Of Mormon counts.
Science? Only a stack of WIRED magazines.
So what is filling my bookshelf?
I know you’ve been asking yourself for what seems like eons now, “Hey, hair boy, what are the best books on your shelf?”
Well, I’ll tell you. And how they got there.
I spent more than three years reading every book I could find on the beatitudes. Obsess much? Don’t mind if I do! Turns out I only kept 28 of them because, well, there are some really crappy books on the beatitudes out there (I want my money back, John McArthur). The best books I have on the beatitudes are:
- Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John Stott
- The Gospel of Matthew Volume I (The New Daily Study Bible) by William Barclay
The Kingdom Of God/Heaven:
The beatitudes begin and end with the phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” One obsession led to another. The best stuff I’ve read on the “kingdom” is:
- Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible by Arthur Glasser
- Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context by Glen Stassen and David Gushee
War & Peace:
There’s a pretty good consensus about the meaning of all the beatitudes except one: “Blessed are the peace makers…” American writers before World War I are more likely to have thought “peace making” was at least partly about avoiding war. After WWI in America the consensus changed dramatically. That made me wonder if theology shapes our lives as much as our lives shape our theology. Here’s the best stuff I own on the subject of “peace:”
- What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World by Robert Brimlow
- Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices For Abolishing War by Glen Stassen
- The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
Following Jesus (Discipleship)
The biggest criticism against Christian non-violence is that it’s just not practical. And it isn’t. But why do I think following Jesus is supposed to be practical? The best stuff I’ve read on following Jesus versus pragmatism is:
- The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
- Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willemon
- Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor by David Augsburger
- Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch (a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.)
- In the Name of Jesus (Reflections on Christian Leadership) by Henri Nouwen
Poverty, Injustice & Mercy Showing
Poverty and God’s concern for the poor and marginalized is woven throughout scripture. I don’t know how I didn’t see it sooner than my thirties. Better late than never right? I eventually had to understand it and figure out what God wanted me to do about it, if anything. The best stuff I have on the subject is:
- Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions by Craig Blomberg
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ronald Sider
- Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough
- When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves by Brian Fikkert
Intimacy With God
Ideally, there’s a lot of action in the Christian life. But, I’ve learned the hard way, there has to be dedicated times of stillness and focussed devotion too. And this focus and dedication has to somehow leak out of the dedicated times and flow underneath everything I’m doing and thinking and feeling all the time. Somehow. That’s not easy for me. My best teachers on the subject of intimacy have been older wiser Christians talking to me face to face. But these books have been helpful too:
- Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nowen
- Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster
- Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
- Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon
Then I have some random favorites too that aren’t part of any group of books on my shelves.
- I like David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day for laughs and great memoir style writing.
- Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity by Mark Noll is the best Church history book for people starting at square one on the subject.
- Seth Godin‘s Purple Cow should be required reading at all Christian record labels and radio stations – since both tend to love black and white cows and think the rest of us do too.
- The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation by Brad Young has been the most helpful book I’ve read on, well, the parables.
- Carpe Diem: Seize the Day by Tony Campolo was the first book abut Jesus I ever read outside of the bible and it screwed me up, made me mad, made me smile and made me care. My mom gave it to me. If you have a high-schooler in your house who needs to be screwed in the best way, I’d recommend it or its modern day equivalent: Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. Both offer balanced pictures of the Christian life: head and heart, loved and loving, faith and works.
- Once they finish that I’d have them read Revolution within: A Fresh Look at Supernatural Living by Dwight Edwards – a basic “here’s what a Christian is” book I’ve used to disciple folks just starting out in this Christianity thing.