Thursday, January 29, 2009

MORE Book Awards: Best Read in 2008, Part 1

Awarded by Walt Mueller

I’m long overdue in answering Derek’s request for a list of my favorite books of 2008. Choosing the best is a difficult task as most of the books I read I consider to be good books. Since I have this thing about always finishing any book I start (weird, I know), I’m very careful about the books I pick up in the first place. I read a lot of good books during 2008. Now I’m tackling the task of naming the 10 best.

Like Derek, I came up with some criteria. Since Derek beat me to the punch by getting his list together first (see part 1 & part 2), I decided that my list can’t contain any books that Derek had on his list. Yes, Derek stole a couple of my top 10. . . . and I’m not telling which titles those are. Other questions I asked are these: Is what I’m reading teaching me something new? Is this a book that gets me excited about God’s redemptive work in the world and His graceful invitation to me to enter into His story? Am I recommending this book to others? Do I find myself wanting to tell others about the book? Is the book timely in the sense that it has something profound to say to God’s people living in today’s contemporary culture? Has this book taken me deeper in my knowledge of God and understanding of His mission in our world?

So here goes. . . . no particular order. Not all of these books were written in 2008, but I read them during the year. You might be surprised by a couple of my choices.

The Culturally Savvy Christian, by Dick Staub. I was terribly disappointed when Dick’s great book Too Christian, Too Pagan was taken out of print. The blow was softened by the arrival of The Culturally Savvy Christian. I love Dick’s strong foundation of Biblical understanding and the earnestness with which he applies that knowledge to matters of faith and culture. I value Dick as a friend who has a timely prophetic message for the church about how to live faithfully in today’s world. If I were to be given a chance to write the syllabus for a required course that all humans would have to read on what it means to be fully human, this book would be required reading. Okay. So that will never happen. But I just finished teaching a week-long seminary course on Youth Culture and the students were required to read this book. They loved it. It shook them up. It challenged their thinking. Hopefully, what they read will bear great Kingdom-fruit in their ministries.

A Better Way: Discovering The Drama of Christ-Centered Worship, by Michael Horton. Oh boy. Another book on worship. Not a problem. This is one of the most well-reasoned and Biblically-sound treatments of worship I’ve ever read. Horton’s love for Christ, His Word, and the Church is exemplary. Good voices like Horton’s have been lost in all the noise coming from the battlefield of what’s become known as “the worship wars.” It’s time to stop firing and start listening. Then, we need to make readjustments. Horton knows that worship must begin with God. We look to Him to learn more about who He is, who we’re called to be, and how He desires us to worship Him. Horton knows that Christ must regain His rightful place at center-stage in our worship. This is a great call to neither settle for dull routine or perpetual innovation. This is a meaty book. . . . so I’m fearful that those who would benefit most from it might never pick it up. Take the challenge and give it a thoughtful and prayerful read.

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga. Okay. I’m embarrassed that this one’s on my list of books read in 2008. It’s embarrassing because it’s been out since 1995 and I just now got around to reading it. Just like we’ve lost our understanding of worship, we’ve also lost our understanding of sin. Why don’t we endeavor to know more about the chapter of the unfolding Biblical drama titled “The Fall?” Can we really understand and begin to appreciate God’s justice, mercy, and grace if we don’t understand sin? This summary of sin is outstanding. You will get to the last page, and rather than closing the book, you will go right back to page 1 all over again. Yes, it’s that good.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller. What? You haven’t yet read this book? Shame on you! There’s not much more to say about this one other than I would have it listed as required reading on the aforementioned syllabus.

Scattershot: My Bi-Polar Family, by David Lovelace. One of my favorite professors at Gordon-Conwell Seminary was Dr. Richard Lovelace. His Dynamics of Spiritual Life had become a classic among young, thinking Christians who were involved in doing ministry back in the early 80s. As a professor, Lovelace was warm and eccentric. The stories of his eccentricity that circulated in the seminary community became legendary. We loved the man. Little did any of us know what was going on behind the scenes as our beloved professor and several members of his family were battling bipolar disorder. This memoir from his son takes readers on a whirlwind journey into issues of mental illness, faith, and family. The book is both riveting and heartbreaking.

Part 2 coming soon...

2 comments:

Jasper said...

The best book I read was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Powerful, challenging and changing.
Jasper Rains

Sam Van Eman said...

Not the Way It's Supposed to Be was quite influential to me, Derek. I'm glad you got a chance to read it.

I watched Grand Canyon around the same time, a movie he references early in the book.