I blame it all on the Hardy Boys. I’ve been addicted to reading since I picked up my first mystery book featuring Joe and Frank Hardy. After I finished off that set I naturally shifted to Nancy Drew. Nancy and I deduced many a mystery and together saved the world a couple of times (books are the gateway to grand imagination). As I grew up I found the marvelous and timeless work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and my addiction to reading became one with no possible cure. This is also the point I set a goal of becoming a writer and I was so serious I considered going by initials rather than name like Lewis and Tolkien (that’s the secret, right?). So today I feel confident in recommending books to my church family that I have found to be informative, challenging, thought provoking and necessary to my personal spiritual development. Enjoy!
Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller. Donald Miller is a true wordsmith. He can turn a phrase with the best, but beyond his natural talent as a writer he brings unique, even startling perspective to the many subject areas of modern faith living. He also tends to regularly color outside the proverbial lines, something he does with great flair in this book. This work is designed to toss out virtually all of the how-to formulas and packaged programs that pepper today’s faith landscape. Why? Is he a serial nonconformist? No, it seems his commitment is to bring the reader to an amazingly simple point of awareness. Miller sees faith living as first being in right relationship with our Creator and, as a result, being in right relationship with others. He sees genuine faith as being this simple. To this end he bemoans the reality that the Gospel of Jesus has been turned into a formula for life and that religion is now merely a public relations campaign for God. My takeaway is that at times I try too hard to conform to the drill that is following Christ. Miller helps me re-focus on my deeply personal relationship with God rather than getting deeply personal with a “living for Jesus” formula. This book is definitely worth a read.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright. Wright is the Bishop of Durham (U.K.) and is admittedly an acquired taste. His brain is apparently the size of Vermont, but to his credit he never dives deep without bringing his readers back to a practical, applicable level of understanding. In this landmark book he deals with the age-old mysteries of pain, suffering and injustice; then, in a tables-turning-twist, he suggests that joy, peace and justice are equal in mystery to the aforementioned negatives. He deals with the question we’ve all asked: “Where is God when awful, horrible things occur?” He then adds the additional query: “Where is God on sunny, sweet days when all is well in our world?” The answer he provides to each is remarkably similar, and you’ll have to read the book to find them, but here’s a hint: Life is filled with mystery, but also with copious evil. God is never absent. We, on the other hand, check out from time to time. Wright helps us view life through a different prism and strongly suggests we not view difficult times differently than we do good times. Counter-culture and totally antithetical? Yes, but by the end of the book you’ll see it as “absolutely” Christian.
Accidental Pharisee: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne. To be honest I was drawn to this book by its title. All writers know that a great title is key to being noticed in today’s crowded marketplace. Osborne nailed it with Accidental Pharisee. I purchased a copy without the usual flip-through and I’m happy I own it. This book leads to an awareness of how otherwise well-meaning believers can easily, even accidentally, slip into a rules-based faith structure that leads to exclusivity. He doesn’t mince words: to be exclusive and alienating is to be un-Christian, but very Pharisaical. I began feeling guilty on page one: “Let’s be honest. Passionate faith can have a dark side – a really dark side. Just ask Jesus.” Four paragraphs later he adds: “The problem is not spiritual zeal. That’s a good thing. We’re all called to be zealous for the Lord. The problem is unaligned spiritual passion, a zeal for the Lord that fails to line up with the totality of scripture.” Over the following two hundred pages he lays out a plan to avoid exclusivity and the ungraceful mindset that defined the Jewish Pharisees. This book is indeed a guilt-inducer, but well worthy of a read.
No two persons ever read the same book, Edmund Wilson
Johns Creek Baptist Church