Books to Ingest

Books I recommend:

The Sacred Journey – Frederick Buechner

This is one of my favorite authors. This book reflects on key moments of Buechner’s early life, from childhood to his entering seminary. It is autobiographical, but is also theological in nature, as he considers the ways in which God speaks and works through the events and people of our lives.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places – Eugene Peterson

This book was just published at the beginning of 2005, and I was excited to see a work from the pastor/writer who brought us The Message. In Christ Plays, Peterson prompts us to explore the three areas where Christ is “at play”: the beauty of creation, the path of history, and the community of the church. “The single most important thing to understand in spiritual theology is that it is not about theology… it is a cultivated disposition to live theology.”

The Pressure’s Off — Larry Crabb

In this book, Crabb is describing two approaches to life. The Old Way, which is subtly arrogant in believing that we can do enough things right to earn good things from God, and the New Way, where “although we feel no pressure to be better or different, we intensely desire personal holiness more than we want relief from personal pain, and we’re broken by how short we fall.”

The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard

Put down your presuppositions about the Christian life and pick up this book, and you will begin to see some lights go on in your walk with God. I was deeply challenged by Willard’s explanation of what it means for the Kingdom of God to come in my present-day life.

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The Screwtape LettersThe Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis

A story about Uncle Screwtape, a senior demon, trying to teach his demon nephew how to best lead Christians away. Jolt your imagination and your view of our spiritual enemy as you eavesdrop on conversations between Uncle Screwtape and his nephew.

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Tracks of a Fellow Struggler – John Claypool

The death of my cousin Mark a few years ago caused me revisit a question that I had come to peace with: “Why does the rain fall on the just?” It’s been impossible to make any sense at all of Mark’s tragic death, but Claypool’s book is providing a light to walk the path of grief. In this book, he speaks from his own experience with loss: his 10-year old daughter lost a difficult battle with leukemia. Tracks of a Fellow Struggler is a series of four sermons, each preached at different points through that painful experience and giving an honest assesment of how a person can continue walking through the various stages in tragedy.

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis

This book contains other very good essays by Lewis, but “The Weight of Glory” focuses on what it means to be children of God and to live with a perspective shaped more by our immortality than by the temporary things of our world.

A Scandalous Beauty – Thomas Schmidt

Thomas Schmidt paints a vivid picture of the cross of Christ from many different angles in this book. It could be likened to reflecting on a painting or a sculpture of the cross, but instead of paint or clay, Schmidt uses words to form the picture. I highly recommend this book, and it is short enough to read over a weekend while being deep enough to lead to further reflection.

The Holiness of God – R. C. Sproul

This one belongs in your library, without question. As I read it I was caught up in the vivid descriptions of who God is and what holiness means.

A Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning

This is the only book on this list that I put on here based on someone else’s recommendation. My good friend Bobby Webb put this one on my reading list, and I’ve heard other say that it is a classic on God’s grace. I’ll be reading it this year.

Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning

The liberating message of this book is that God longs for us to know that He loves and accepts us as we are. God is our “Abba”, our loving Father, who knows us far better than we know ourselves. The revelation of this book is two-fold: Sin has a far greater grip on our hearts and lives than we imagine, and God, who knows this, longs to bring us into passionate relationship with Himself.

Letters from a Skeptic – Gregory A. Boyd & Edward K. Boyd

If you wrestle with the tough questions of faith and Christianity, pick up this book. I’ve given away about five copies of it to various people who were having trouble moving beyond difficult issues. The book is a series of letters that were written back and forth between Dr. Gregory Boyd (theology professor at Bethel College) and his father, Edward Boyd, who had many objections to Christianity. I recommend it because it is not just one of those books that lays out the nice, neat answers to age-old questions, but instead gives a hearing to the questions and then provides response that is not overly simplistic, but very satisfying in its blend of faith and reason.

Disappointment with God – Philip Yancey

Directed toward those who have come to Christ and then stumbled over the difficulty of life with God in an evil world. Yancey deals with 3 main questions in this book: “Is God unfair?”, “Is God silent?”, and “Is God hidden?”. This book was very meaningful to me through a period when those were the dominant questions in my life.

Your God is too Safe – Mark Buchanan

Buchanan challenges you in this book by asking if your view of God is too small or too “safe.” It reads like a series of very good sermons.

Prayers Plainly Spoken – Stanley Hauerwas

Keep this one on your night table to use during your prayer times, but be prepared for prayers that are not typical. Each is written, as the title suggests, in a very “plain”, but not boring, fashion. Each one strikes me as being very authentic and born in the context of real life.

Fiction

Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J. R. R. Tolkien

If you’ve seen the movies, but haven’t read the books, then you’ve yet to experience the depth of Tolkien’s journey. These books will set your imagination loose as you follow the fellowship through danger and victory. I would also recommend reading The Hobbit, also by Tolkien, before you get into the Trilogy. You won’t be able to put these down once you start!

The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis

An epic tale of fantasy which will keep you engaged until the end. Lewis masterfully interweaves various themes throughout the story such as the meaning of good and evil, honesty, courage, and sacrifice. I first read this when I was in seventh grade, so I decided to revisit it from an adult perspective. It is a very simple story, but it has the thread of profound truth running through it. If you haven’t read this yet, then you need to pick it up (right after you finish The Lord of the Rings, of course).

The Space Trilogy – C. S. Lewis

The Space Trilogy was written by C.S. Lewis in the 1950’s, but easily competes with many science fiction novels written today. This is mostly due to the depth of the main characters and Lewis’ ability to describe in amazing detail an imaginary place. The third book is a little harder to get through, but the first two are definitely worth the read.

The Pearl – John Steinbeck

A powerful tale about what happens to a man and his family when he finds “The Pearl of the World”. But along with the pearl, he finds greed and conflict instead of riches and security. A very short book that can be read two or three sittings.

Marriage/Money

Financial Peace – Dave Ramsey

This book is going to help you handle your finances regardless of your income level. It is focused on changing the behaviors that cause the financial problems, and shows you how to follow through on the decision to give more, get out of debt, and increase your savings. The principles in this book have helped us completely turn around our financial picture! I hate to say it but most of it is just good common sense, well applied.

The Total Money Makeover — Dave Ramsey

Full of stories about people who made it to the other side beyond debt and over-spending, this book will help motivate you to stay on the road to Financial Peace.

Study Tools

NIV Application Commentary Series

I love the way this commentary “bridges the context” between the time it was written and today. Each volume is written by a different author, but the few that I’ve used provide sufficiently thorough background information along with some relevant application.

Dictionary of Paul and His Letters

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the books of the Bible that were written by Paul… and more.

Dictionary of New Testament Background

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the New Testament… and more.

The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language – Eugene Peterson

I use The Message along side my New American Standard Version and my New International Version of the Bible, and it provides a marvelous balance when I’m studying. It will rouse your imagination and your curiosity about the Bible as you get a fresh look at familiar passages. Keep in mind that Peterson didn’t just reword the Bible to make it sound “contemporary”. The Message is a result of much study and expertise in the original languages of the Bible.

Culture

Branded — Alissa Quart Describes the increasing effort by big brand corporations to market to teenagers, and the effect this is having on adolescence today. Quart is trying to expose the ways that teenagers are being “branded” and “commodified”. Pretty good read to give you some insight into the kind of message that teenagers are saturated with in today’s media.

Art

The Doré Bible Illustrations – Gustave Doré

Doré’s classic works from stories throughout the Bible. Click here for an example.

Poetry
Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth – Ed. by Mark Van Doren

Sometimes Wordsworth goes on and on about a topic, but that is because HE CAN. He was brilliant, and is my favorite poet.

Dylan Thomas: Selected Works

T.S. Eliot: Selected Poems – Author of “The Hollow Men”, which alone makes this collection worth buying.

Anything written by Pablo Neruda

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