A peek into 2018…

A few weeks ago while in discussion at our Sunday gathering I mentioned a book I was currently reading. Someone at the table then expressed their interest in other things that I find myself reading. Occasionally I will post thoughts, quotes, or recommendations for books on social media, but I thought it would be fun to go into more detail in a post here.

So, here are 5 books I’ve read this year that have had a significant impact on me. Here’s a little about that book and its biggest takeaway for me. Some of these books are controversial within “Christian” circles but I love exploring new thoughts and ideas from authors I’ve never explored previously. Here we go…

5 Books from 2018…So Far

1.) The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It, by  Pete Enns

In an effort to reevaluate the way I read the Bible, study it, and communicate it I’ve sought out several books over the last year and a half. This was a BIG one for me and my personal examination of myself and my handling of these ancient texts. Pete is a very well educated man and his theological studies caused him to ask questions about the “sacred book” that many in his circles didn’t like him asking. But they are vital to understanding the nature of the Bible.

While books like What is the Bible by Rob Bell and Inspired by Rachel Held Evans are unique looks at interpreting scripture, The Bible Tells Me So is a bit more intellectual and curious. It had a huge impact on our Storytellers discussion series from earlier in the year. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading the Bible or finds themselves reading but falling short on what to do next. Here’s a great quote from the book that I believe sums it up nicely…

“I believe God wants us to take the Bible seriously, but I don’t believe he wants us to suppress our questions about it.”

2.) Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Understanding the World of Islam and Overcoming the Fears That Divide Us, by Carl Medaris

I’ve not come across a better person to help people like me, and maybe you, understand the religion of Islam and how it’s lived out in Muslim countries as well as here in America. He spends his life immersed in both cultures and has had unique opportunities to speak of Jesus with even the most radicalized Muslims.

Carl’s experiences and wisdom give perspective to those of us without it. If you fear Islam or your Muslim neighbor, this book is here to provide a proper, Jesus-centered perspective. I’m grateful for this book and I recommend it to anyone eager to learn more about another culture, anyone with a Muslim neighbor, or any leader wanting to build a bridge to the Muslim community in their area. This quote stands out to me as the heart of the book…

“The most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus is to do just that: follow him. Jesus himself is the good news. The message that we carry is Jesus. Not church, not capitalism, not democracy, not doctrine, not the religion of Christianity, not Calvin, not Luther, not Democrat, not Republican. If we truly wish to be able to build a relationship with a Muslim friend, the most important thing we can do is to follow Jesus’ lead. Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice.”

3.) The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus, by Bruxy Cavey

One thing I am convinced of is that Jesus wasn’t here to start a new religion, but to usher in a whole new way of living and loving God and others. There’s a lot of great resources out there saying similar things but there’s something special about the way that Bruxy Cavey, The Meeting House, Canada, communicates the relationship available to those who are willing to loosen their grip on religious systems. This book had a big influence on our A Follower of Jesus? discussion series from earlier this year.

Helping people drill down on Jesus and the depth of his life, ministry, death, and resurrection is no easy task. Bruxy has an intellectual way about his communication that speaks well to the average reader. He’s clearly passionate about this subject and I recommend this read to anyone deeply entrenched in any religious system bent on self preservation through control, guilt, etc. Here’s a quote from the book that best describes the idea he’s sharing…

“…the primary mission of Jesus was to tear down religion as the foundation for people’s connection with God and to replace it with himself…”

4.) God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, by Matthew Vines

This book has, by far, had the greatest influence on me this year. In an effort to understand the gay community around me, to love that community well, and reach them with the radically inclusive grace of God I decided to read God and the Gay Christian. In my opinion, Matthew Vines does an excellent job of holding to very solid hermeneutics (the science of interpreting) and honoring what he calls the “full authority of scripture.” He isn’t trying to tug on heart strings. He’s trying to expose the inconsistent biblical interpretations surround the big six scriptures that many believe “clearly” prove the sinfulness of monogamous, same-sex relationships.

Matthew believes, and argues that same-sex relationships can be God-honoring. He is transparent, intelligent, and biblically conservative. Maybe not what many expect reading a book with this title. But I recommend this book to anyone who has serious questions about God and the LGBTQ community. I enjoyed this book very much and I’m still wrestling with the full scope of its implications. Here’s a quote about the core argument of the book…

“Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.”

5.) Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell

Love Wins is such a simple, beautiful title for a book. But this book has been anything but simple within church culture. It’s by far one of the most controversial books I’ve ever read that didn’t say too many controversial things. That’s what’s most unique about it. Rob Bell goes into some church history surrounding the theology of heaven and hell that many people are simply ignorant of in modern times. He asks questions about the nature of God and life and Jesus.

I love the writing style of Rob Bell. This book is one of his best. I’ve not found anyone that more clearly paints a picture of the “gospel” with words quite like Bell. This is a great book for anyone who struggles with the “eternal conscious torment” view of hell. Also, for anyone who simply needs a refreshing take on the good news of Jesus. This quote stood out to me as one of the most important themes of the book…

“It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing heaven to earth right now , as Jesus taught us to pray : “ Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . ” At the same time , it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die .”

Honorable mentions of 2018 (so far)…

Here’s a few other books I’ve read and enjoyed this year:

Pastor’s Reading List: Part 1
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