Brand new: The Kingdom of God edited by Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson (Crossway) regularly $18.99 ON SALE – $14.99

In my last post I shared a bit about some very useful small group material, The Gospel Centered Life,  which includes a Participants Book that sells regularly for $7.99 and a Leaders Guide for $12.99 (New Growth Press) and a good follow-up trio entitled Gospel Identity,  Gospel Growth, and Gospel Love (New Growth Press; each regularly $12.99.)  We have these for BookNotes readers on sale for 20% off those regular prices.  I noted that I think they are helpful for the very focused way — some might say intensely focused way — they help us realize the transforming power of the gospel.  Christ’s atoning death and resurrection impacts us not as mere doctrines and not as one-time truths after which we are on our own.  No, a gospel-centered approach helps us be open to God’s work in our lives, trusting in Christ’s sufficiency for our salvation, our transformation, our healing and our hope.  These studies are really solid and can re-focus us on the first things of the gospel: grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone.

Yet, I also shared a bit of a concern that in this recent emphasis on the gospel of grace as the core of how we grow as followers of Jesus there could be, perhaps unintentionally, a confusion about the gospel itself, which, according to the gospel writers, is that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  As Advent approaches we refocus our waiting for His second coming to restore all things, to heal the creation and brings peace  — “swords into plowshares!”  He will share his blessings widely — “far as the curse is found,” in fact.  It is hard to understand authentically Biblical gospel transformation without an emphasis on the reign of the King, a King who heals creation itself.  The gospel good news is the spectacular announcement that the one with Crown rights on the creation has begun His reclamation project.  Through mercy and love, the gracious Ruler is out to save the world.  The gospel train’s a-comin’ for saints and sinners (as the mighty Bruce Springsteen sings over and over in “Land of Hopes and Dreams” on  Wreckin’ Ball —  “just get on board!”)  The Kingdom of God is at hand.

And so, I listed some books about the Kingdom, and I commended them to you.  I do not think our bookstore would exist as it does without these sorts of books and if you  appreciate our work, you’ll know what I mean.  Read books about grace, read books about Jesus, and, yes, please, read books about the Kingdom of God.  There is much to learn, and there’s no time to lose.  Too many churches and Christian curricula and para-church organizations and radio preachers and the like have failed to frame their ministry by the Kingdom of God.  Our missional living in the world (and our rituals of worship) are weaker because of it.  Sorry to preach, but I think that list is important, and hope you printed it off, passed it on, tweeted and facebooked it. 

I rarely do a whole blog in order to add just one more book to a list, but there is a brand new release that I did not list last week because I hadn’t had time to peruse it.  Now that I’ve studied it a bit, I just have to tell you about it.  We have it on sale for a bit more than 20% off.  It’s a good one.

T1 - Kingdom.jpghe Kingdom of God is edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson and is part of a new series being called “Theology in Community” published by the fairly conservative, mostly Reformed Crossway books.  They do a classy publishing job, and this book is no exception.  I’ve been waiting to see it since last Spring at the Q conference in DC when Anthony Bradley told me with great enthusiasm —does he talk any other way? — about his chapter (mostly focusing on justice as central to the Kingdom.)  I read that chapter the minute I got my hands on the book.

The Kingdom of God offers a variety of angles of vision into the Biblical theme of the Kingdom, and it is no-nonsense, clear-headed, systematic Bible teaching.  It isn’t designed to be full of passionate stories or practical pushes towards creative Kingdom activism, but to be a sober accounting of the Biblical material in a faithful, helpful way.  Yet, it does have this contemporary feel, that these chapters matter as we clarify what we mean by the Kingdom, and how it fits into the broader Biblical narrative, and what we should do about it.  Just for instance, the opening starts with a representative quote about the Kingdom from a
classic liberal, from the father of the social gospel movement, from the premier liberation
theologian, from a theonomist/reconstructionist, and from a postmodern emergent activist.  And it admits that each one has some truth in their particular formulations of the nature of God’s Kingdom. Not all conservative scholars are as ecumenical as these authors, and it makes for a tremendous educational experience.

I mentioned how glad I was to see something new in print by Anthony Bradley. Another acquaintance of ours, an author who just amazes us with his prodigious output on so many topics, has a chapter that is fabulous.  Lancaster’s own Stephen J. Nichols writes the lead-off chapter on how the Kingdom has been understood by different movements through-out church history and in several quarters today.  It is wonderful, in my view, to have such an astute, readable overview that is irenic and insightful.  As the rest of the book has the burden to help us understand and appreciate the centrality of the Kingdom theme in the Bible, it is good to realize how it has and hasn’t been understood by the cloud of witnesses that have come before.

Bruce Waltke, whose PhD is from Harvard,  is a major, creative, respected evangelical Biblical scholar and over the years we have repeatedly recommend any of his important books.  He does two chapters here, both about the Kingdom in the Hebrew Scriptures.  One is especially on the relationship with the covenants  — so important! 

Next, Robert Yarbrough of Covanant Seminary offers two chapters on the Kingdom of God in the New Testament (one on Matthew and Revelation, the next on Mark through the Epistles.)  I hope to study these in great detail — as I said in the last post, I am convinced that the Kingdom of God is as much of a theme in the epistles as it is in the gospels.  We all have much to learn… 

Then there are a few more of what looks to be excellent if random chapters, one by Clinton Arnold on “Miracles, Satan, and Demons” and another by Gregg Allison, who writes an important one on his view of “The Kingdom and the Church.”  Gerald Bray tackles the obviously important matter of eschatology, or how the Kingdom finally comes in the last days, and how that impacts us even now.  That these pieces are all heavily footnoted, somewhat academic, but quite readable makes this a fabulous read for pastors or serious adult learners, whether one has read some of the more basic books I listed last time or not.  It is a fine text, but more than a textbook.  It is written, as the editors say “for the glory of God and the good of the church.”

That last chapter that I read first?  If you know Dr. Bradley, he is a passionate, African-American Kuyperian. (And he will be at the CCOs Jubilee Conference in February of 2013!)Anthony-Bradley-Web.jpg  He has significant cultural awareness, and his contribution, “The Kingdom Today,” is multi-faceted, balanced, and makes 8 key observations, questions, really, that need to be pursued if we are going to live out a Kingdom vision of justice in our contemporary social scene.  (With a urgent call to orthopraxis he looks at the power of love, the importance of solidarity, how we must affirm human dignity, always; he looks at what Catholics call subsidiarity and what neo-Calvinists called sphere sovereignty; his view of civil society is a helpful counter to extremes of the liberal left and the libertarian right and gives us all much to consider, about things as complex as fair trade coffee and urban education.)  For better or worse, Anthony is impeccable as a balanced and non-ideological scholar, so he cites conservative think tanks as well as Cornel West; where else can you find Herman Bavinck and Dwight Hopkins, Pope John Paul II and David Koyzsis all cited so usefully?  Of course, one chapter alone cannot offer a full vision, let alone a programmatic plan for a Kingdom perspective on all aspects of cultural renewal (the arts, science, recreation, media and the like), but for the topics covered, mostly about justice and reconciliation in our public life, it is very thoughtful and quite inspiring.  His point is that the good study of the whole book comes to this: we must struggle with how can we honor God and promote Christ’s ways as we live faithfully in the tension of the already/not yet of the coming Kingdom. We are ambassadors of that Kingdom, sharing it across all sides of life and to all creation. 

If you aren’t used to reading fairly serious Biblical and theological scholarship, this is a great entry level book — it may be a “gateway drug” leading you to heavier stuff, though!  If you are pastor who has kept up your theological chops, you will want to spend time pondering how your ministry might be more shaped by the Kingdom vision explicated here.  I love the way it engages many different perspectives and scholars, from Basil the Great to Jurgen Moltmann, from Herman Ridderbos to N.T. Wright.  The books I listed in the last post are fabulous, and I invite you to consider them.  This one should be added to the list.  Thank God for scholars doing this kind of focused work on this theme, and thank God for publishers.  And for readers. We are grateful for you, and glad to help equip you in your work as agents of God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God

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Common Grace, The Gospel-Centered Life and The Kingdom of God — Great Books

Last week I described the new Tim Keller book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your1 -  every good e.jpg Work to God’s Work (see my review, here.  We have it offered at a sale price of about 25% off, by the way.)  You know our passion for cultural engagement, for selling books about taking faith into the public square, about what we sometimes call “whole life discipleship.”  That is, our faith compels us to love our neighbors in ways that are concrete as we embody our faith in every area of life; we learn to think Christianly so we can live Christianly, “in but not of” the surrounding culture. 

For many of us, the main place in which we must respond to this gospel call is in the marketplace, the job site, the work-world.  Books like the excellent one by Mr. Keller help us “connect Sunday worship and Monday work” as the subtitle of the equally excellent Work Matters by Tom Nelson (Crossway; $14.95) puts it.  I suggested that it is nearly clergy malpractice if pastors don’t help their parishioners navigate these missional matters, and help them think about how to serve God in their public lives as citizens, employers or employees, people who shop, vote, play, work. You know all this: we live out our lives in daily ways that indicate our deepest desire to honor Christ as King. Liturgy and worship and prayer shape us, but our worship of God must spill over into life outside the sanctuary.

Two things that I said in my comments about Every Good Endeavor generated a question or two from readers.  These are both huge matters, so I thought I’d address them.

Firstly, I mentioned common grace.  “Common grace for the common good” is a lovely phrase, often used by my friend Steve Garber (for instance, here, in a piece about baseball stadiums) and this reminds us that we serve God as ordinary humans in God’s real world and therefore are not somehow living in a spiritual realm disconnected from our fellows.  There is no “other” world; we all bear God’s image in a world stamped by the Creator.  Our co-workers and colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens, regardless of their own faiths (or lack of faith) are, we believe, recipients of blessings from a good God who has gifted us with a good creation, laden with possibilities.  That we help to nurture human and cultural flourishing — through the arts, through business, through education, through entertainment, through engineering and research — matters to God.  “All truth is God’s truth” we used to say, and the theological expression for why that is so is “common grace.”  In God’s benevolence  good stuff happens and we can be glad. Non-believers can do good work and we can be glad.

There is one greamouw he shines.jpgt book on this topic that we highly recommend, and its title draws on a line from a well-known hymn, a favorite from my childhood, “This Is Our Father’s World.” 

He Shines In All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace by Richard Mouw (Eerdmans; $14.00) explores the tricky theological implications of this line of thought and admits to some of the debates about this profound doctrine. Of course, Mouw is a Calvinist, but this is urgent stuff for all of us and I suggest this to our mainline friends and our evangelical friends.  I am glad that Tim Keller draws upon it, and think it is one essential aspect of sound Christian thinking about sin and grace and goodness and the state of the world and the meaning of our work.  If the sentence from the hymn is true — that God is honored and Christ “shines” in the good things that happen in life (a well played jazz tune, a great baseball fastball, and joke well told, a good marriage, a good invention a good law on the books) it does two things, at least.  It “justifies” or gives theological significance to real life in the real world and it can prevent secularization and cultural accommodation since God shines in “fair” things, the good and beautiful.  It is revolutionary, in many way, to both celebrate the good and to realize that not all things are to be celebrated; common grace thinking should not glibly uphold the status quo or affirm just any old cultural contribution.  It is complicated, and this book will help you think about things you maybe never even knew to think about!  (That is what a good book can do, no?)

 Anyway, Dr. Mouw’s book is fantastic on this curious stuff and we recommend it.  I don’t need to explicate it more, now, but it is, after all, an important theological foundation for our bookstore — we believe in reading widely, we stock non-Christian books by non-Christian authors.  So there it is, common grace for the common good, on the shelves of any good bookstore.

Secondly, I mentioned that Every Good Endeavor, unlike some thoughtful books on the integration of faith and work, might be called “gospel-centered.”  Keller makes it clear that we must guard against triumphalistic notions that our live’s meaning derives from our work or that we somehow “build” God’s Kingdom by our efforts; rather, a more (perhaps Lutheran?) idea is offered, that we serve in work, as in all of life, in response to grace, in union with Christ.  That “gospel-centered” line is a phrase that has come to have some particular meaning in some circles, and I thought I’d try to explain that.  For those who find themselves in conservative but culturally engaged Reformed churches, it is a phrase that will resonate.  Others, too, I trust.

The phrase “gospel-centered life” seems to me to be more than a general slogan indicating a “Christian perspective” or a generic sort of nod to the good news of Christian hope.  It is, rather, a phrase that points to the essential centrality of the first things of the gospel: salvation by grace and the transforming power of God’s work in our lives as we realize we cannot rescue ourselves.   God’s atoning and forgiving work — “the cross” is how the apostle Paul names it, using shorthand for the glorious, complex restoration of the covenant that God works in justification and sanctification — allows us to be adopted back into God’s family; we are beloved and we belong.  There is much fruitful thinking going on about the radical implications of being grafted into this tribe, of being re-made as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, transformed by Christ alone.  The more we know the holiness and sovereign grace of God, the more we realize our need.  And, therefore, the more we know we must depend upon the huge significance of the cross.  Like Paul, that rowdy, cross-cultural, anti-Imperial missionary for Christ, we come to think that everything and anything other than the cross is (as he indelicately puts it in Philippians) just crap.  All that matters is the glory of God being manifested by a newly adopted community that is being formed by the blood of the crucified One, agents of goodness through grace.  As we reject any and all substitutes for our salvation, we become increasingly changed by God’s own grace.  To be gospel-centered is to reject all idols, to rely on God alone, to rest in the confidence of the cross’s work in our lives.  There is a gentle sweetness to this approach, something different than pompou
s religiosity and unlike uptight moralism.  Another hymn I grew up singing: “tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at his word…”

A rather intense Bible study curriculum that invited people into small group communities to study gospel transformation was created years ago by a wholistic missionary outfit near Philadelphia, World Harvest Mission.  Their stories of how a focus on grace, on the gospel being not only a “ticket to eternal life” but the source of how people change, of a transformation of our character, were stunning; it seemed this emphasis and rubric was really working, helping focus come alive as they trusted God to do what only God can do—make us into the image of Christ, fit for Kingdom service!  This doubling down on grace was the key to maturity and growth and holiness and a fruitful basis for daily discipleship that wasn’t strict or goofy.  It was grace-based and gracious. It also takes our sinful tendencies seriously so offers gospel-centered ways of dealing with our own temptations, with conflict resolution, with rejecting idols.  It works on perennial stuff on the relationship of law and grace.  Picky moralism was rejected as unhelpful and a generic liberal religiosity was equally rejected.  Our righteousness, Jesus insisted, must be more than that of the Pharisees.  There are tons of great Bible study guides and discipleship essentials, but this WHM stuff is rich.

gospel-centered-life-leaders-guide-bob-thune-paperback-cover-art.jpgThis robust and profound approach to radical Christian living reminds us that we don’t serve God merely out of duty or on our own strength.  God’s grace isn’t earned or deserved, it isn’t achieved but happily just received.  Their Bible study material was recently refined as a 9-week study and published by New Growth Press. It is simply called The Gospel-Centered Life.  There is a  Leaders Guide edition ($12.99) and a Participant’s Guide ($7.99) and it really is pretty serious stuff. It uses simple and direct language and helps people apply the gospel to their lives.

The same good folks at World Harvest Mission who have this passion for grace-based discipleship and gracious disciple-making — helping equip folks to be clear about God’s overtures in our lives and a cross-centered formation — had another larger curriculum that in their parlance was called “Gospel Transformation”  (it was 36-weeks!)   This fabulous stuff was also recently reformatted and re-issued by New Growth Press in a three volume set of Bible study guides selling for $12.99 each.  (A good friend of ours, a guy who shops at our bookstore, helped with the editing of these new Bible studies.)  I suppose one could do them in any order, but they are best used in this order:
Gospel Identity: Discover Who You Really Are
(New Growth Press) $12.99

Gospel Growth: Becoming a Faith Filled Person (New Growth Press) $12.99

Gospel Love: Relationships & Everything That Gets in the Way (New Growth Press) $12.99


I like what Steve Brown (author of Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You (Howard Books; $14.99) — a gospelngpress.jpg-saturated book if ever there was one) says about these Bible study guides: “It is very easy to lose the ‘main thing’ about the Christian faith in the religious morass. These books remind me that it’s all about Jesus, and Jesus is all about the Good News (the Gospel.)  They are refreshing, informative, and life changing.” 

Paul Miller (author of personal favorites Love Walked Among Us and A Praying Life) writes that these resources are unique in that they “work at the very heart of our faith…It is all about getting the central passion of Christianity — the cross of Jesus Christ — at the center of your life.  And not just your thinking, but your doing and experiencing life. So it is good theology  and good practice combined.  If you get the cross right, then everything else works.”

We stock these study guides and are happy to commend them to you and your group.  We love WHM and carry everything New Growth Press has released.  This is good stuff.


Yet, I have one concern. 

For Jesus, the gospel is not explained in systematic detail, and it isn’t explained in propositions about how His Cross is an atoning sacrifice that we receive by faith alone. It just isn’t.  We know that this formulation is a true one — it is clear that the rest of the New Testament uses this language, and the Protestant Reformation’s recovery of this is, I believe, essential.  But for the synoptic gospels, as anyone who pays attention to them knows, the gospel, taught in perplexing parables and miracles, is the announcement of the news that the Kingdom of God has broken into human history. God’s faithfulness is being seen in the rightful King a-coming. The cross is the way into the Kingdom, but it is the proclamation of the advent of the Kingdom that is the great news that is to be proclaimed as gospel.  If we overstate the personal nature of individual salvation, no matter how appropriately based on grace and no matter how wonderfully linked to the cross, if we don’t talk about the Kingdom, we aren’t talking about the same good news that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed.

I’m sure you have heard that the word itself, gospel (εὐαγγέλιον), in the Roman Empire, was not used just for any old happy news.  A “gospel” was the glad tidings, the great front page news of an announcement from the King that the realm was being expanded.  It was the report from the battlefield, the public, political assertion thatvespasian-pax-romana-coin1.jpg Caesar had won the day, that his rule was secure, that his battle was victorious, that He Ruled. This become central to Pax Romana, the “peace” that Rome could bring.  It is no accident that the early church used this word to describe Jesus’ counter victory not just over the small potatoes of the Roman rulers, but of all dysfunction and distortion that had brought brokenness to the cosmos.  Jesus, in Pauline language, defeated Death.  Like in that great scene in the Chronicles of Narnia, Winter is undone and Spring has come.  All things are made new! 

The gospel is not just a self improvement course, no matter how piously construed, and it is my one concern about the gospel-centered life fixation on personal sanctification:
it runs the risk of missing the full-orbed Kingdom proclamation of Jesus’ reign. Spending too much time naval gazing, rooting out our idols, seeking God’s sufficiency for all our fears and foibles, well, it could detour us from Kingdom living.  Jesus, we should recall, after healing a person oppressed by the demonic, says, essentially, that that is kid’s stuff.  If I cast out demons (with my finger) that is merely pointing (he says in Luke 11:20 ) to the bigger fact that He is inaugurating His project of restoring all things.  The good news is not mere personal salvation or even a gospel-centered life.  It is the announcement that the Kingdom of God is at hand!  Anyone who talks about the gospel but doesn’t talk about the Kingdom is, in my view, being less than fully faithful to the Biblical testimony.

Jesus’ first sermon, after all (Luke 4:16-20) was an announcement of His divinity, His Kingdomchurchyear.jpg work, His relationship to the law and prophets (through the Jubilee tradition of Leviticus 25 and Isaiah 62 from which he read) and his inclusion of outsiders, the move that almost got him killed (vv 25-29.)  So we need a Jubilee vision of an inaugurated Kingdom in which we live (“already but not yet”) if we are going to talk faithfully about the gospel.

Here are several excellent books that I think will help you explore all this.  I think, together, these kinds of books will create the right kinds of conversations to help us recover the full gospel-centered life in a way that is transforming, and that is true to the best reading of Scripture.  None of these are too academic, but they each are thoughtful and provocative.

Please consider using the study guides listed above.  We stock them and promote them with confidence; they were written by folks we admire and they have proven to be helpful.  Learn to be formed by the gospel.  Realize the necessity of the cross of Christ.  Refresh yourself with the basics of the Christian living, relying on grace. It is sweet to trust in Jesus.  (The third verse of that old favorite promises “life and rest, and joy and peace.”)  Learn about and buy (from us) other books from New Growth Press, too.

But allow the sorts of truths in these sorts of books below to frame and shape any Bible study you do and any longing you have for gospel-transformation.  Because it is a true truth: the Kingdom of God is at hand!

All of these, of course, are on sale here at BookNotes — just click on the links below.  Thanks for caring. Thanks for reading widely.  Thanks for helping us spread the word. 

K1 kingdom.gifingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World  Alan Wakabayashi (IVP) $15.00 This is one of the books we often recommend when one wants an introduction to the theme of the Kingdom of God. It is an excellent starter book, and highly recommended.  The author was a campus evangelist, leading many to a life-changing relationship with Christ, but he came to believe he wasn’t really announcing the coming the Kingdom.  Such a realization drove him back to the Bible to study the theme of the Kingdom, and this book is a happy result.  Nicely done.

T1 community of k.gifhe Community of the King  Howard A. Snyder (IVP) $18.00  I have long said that this is one of my all time favorite books, a fine exploration of the Kingdom of God throughout the Bible and the ways the local church can be a crucible of the coming reign of God.  Imagine a wheel, with spokes radiating out to the far reaches of the rim, and imagine the hub.  Perhaps Snyder can help us get the hub right, as central for the work of living on the rim.  The Kingdom and the church are deeply related, of course, but we live to promote the Kingdom, not merely the church.  This fine book was prescient, describing what many now called missional.  A must-read by a fine Wesleyan scholar.

T1 explicit g.gifhe Explicit Gospel  Matt Chandler (Crossway)  $17.99  This is a remarkable book that I have recommended before.  He has two major sections — one is about the gospel-centered life, learning from systematic theology about the atonement and the grace of the gospel, applied “on the ground” to ordinary lives. The second is the narrative vision of the unfolding work of God in the world, the Kingdom vision of the restoration of all things.  From the personal to the social, both of these interpretations of the gospel are essential, and both—one drawn from evangelical theology and the other perhaps more drawn from the Biblical narrative itself — complement each other.  Very interesting.  It is good how he invites those who are more comfortable with one approach to recall the facets they tend to minimize.

T1 gospel driven life.gifhe Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World  Michael Horton (Baker) $17.99  This powerful book is not just an indictment of how we have missed the orthodox, Protestant proclamation of Christ, but points towards how to live into the truths of the gospel of grace.  “Don’t just do something, sit there” he playfully suggests.  This is a serious-minded, weighty book. As Anthony Carter (On Being Black and Reformed) puts it, “More than a fad, a twelve- step program or a forty-day challenge, Horton reminds us that the gospel is the everyday brick and mortar of a life built on the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ.”  In some ways, this is a follow up to his powerful Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker; $16.99.)

K1 k ap.gifingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective edited by Ryan McIlhenny (P&R) $24.99  This is, admittedly, an obscure new book about a rather obscure recent debate among culturally-engaged Reformed folks.  It draws on Kuyper and Bavinck and Dooyeweerd and other “neo-Calvinists” to push back against Horton, VanDrunen, and others who have been critical of notions of common grace and cultural engagement.  Gideon Strauss, James Skillen, Al Wolters, and other mentors of mine endorse this as a must-needed book with vast implications for those wanting a clear and orthodox perspective on the mandates of cultural transformation and the scope of the gospel’s power.  See a somewhat longer review I did for Comment, here.  The other book I reviewed there, by the way, the new All Things New: God’s Dream for Global Justice by R. York Moore (IVP; $16.00) is fantastic, too, and very germane to this discussion about the true gospel, the role of grac
e, and a robust vision of new creation, social change, and the hope of the Kingdom coming.  Right on!

G1 - good news and.gifood News and Good Works: A Theology of the Whole Gospel Ronald J. Sider (Vaker) $20.00  Again, this is a book I often recommend, and one of the best overviews of the (relevant) discussion about the relationship of word and deed, of evangelism and social action, of the clarity of grace and the cost of discipleship.  Sider spells out a beautiful vision of the full-orbed restoration of creation promised in Scripture and shows how the rubric which unites all of this is the language of the Kingdom of God.  As an Anabaptist, Sider gets the poignant power of Christ’s counter-cultural ways, and how we, to be gospel-centered, must embrace and live, by the power of the Spirit, the gracious (even nonviolent?) ways of Jesus.  Highly recommended.

H1-how god.gifow God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels  N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $25.99  I’ve been telling everyone to read this, one of Wright’s best, offering a helpful overview of Jesus’ view of the Kingdom, and how we have too often missed it.  I suppose you know that Wright is a major contributor to this conversation, and this book, again, shows his sensible, informed, and solid view of the the study of the gospels.  Certainly one of the best books of the year! (We are partial since he lectured from this in our back yard last spring, but who’s name-dropping?  Ha!)  Seriously, this is great, great stuff.  The one that was published earlier in the year is a good prequel to it, Simply Jesus: Who He Is, What He Did, and Why He Matters (HarperOne; $25.99.) Excellent. 

1 - king j gospel.gifhe King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight (Zondervan; $19.99.)  This is in many ways similar to Wright’s important book and is equally important to understand the Biblical theme of the Kingdom.  Really useful, especially for evangelical readers…  This one carries two wonderful forewords by both Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright.  Three cheers for McKnight.  And three cheers that his Embraced by Grace: Discovering the Gospel that Restores Us to God, Creation, and Ourselves was just re-issued in an new edition by Paraclete Press ($16.99.)  Certainly germane to this discussion is the quote on the back by John Ortberg who writes, “This is a book for people who want not only to be saved by grace, but to live by grace.”  Very, very nice.

1-cr.gifolossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire Brian Walsh
& Sylvia Keesmaat (IVP) $23.00  In my brief ruminations above I did not mean to give the impression that the “gospel-centered life” is drawn
from Paul, but the theme of the Kingdom only comes from Jesus. 
Clearly, Jesus taught and embodied God’s grace and Paul, properly
understood, proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom.  Few books open up a
New Testament letter with such creative and fruitful energy as this
stunning, provocative, subversive work.  Keesmaat is a New Testament
scholar (whose PhD under NT Wright was about shades and echoes of Old
Testament liberation motifs [from Exodus] that appear in the New Testament) and Walsh
is a campus minister and worldview scholar.  Together they steward a
homestead and sustainable farm outside of Toronto. You want gospel?  Read this.

Th1 gps.gife Gospel in a Pluralist Society Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans) $26.00
Do you know the former Anglican missionary to India?  His work is greatly esteemed, and he was a very, very important figure  in global Christianity.  He was keen on how to be faithful in articulating and living the gospel narrative in ways that were unique to one’s cultural context. This isn’t too far afield, and I think Newbigin’s profound insights on the nature of the gospel
are well worth considering.  I hope you know his “reverse mission”
work, an exceptional book, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and
Western Culture
(Eerdmans; $16.00) which is also a “must-read” in these

Cc ming.gifulture
Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling
  Andy Crouch (IVP) $26.00  You
know I love this book and it is always worth naming, especially when we are reflecting on the need for a Kingdom vision, seeing the gospel as central to the larger story of God’s care for creation and development of its potential.  Most who pick up this much-cited book find it
very engaging, surprisingly fresh, loaded with new insight, and a great vision
that brings together themes of the cultural mandate, the hope of urban
restoration, the beauty of common grace, and the ways the gospel of the
Kingdom under-girds all we do, including manifestations of creativity
and healing social initiatives.


20% off
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

                   Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-3333

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf (Dutton) SPECIAL SALE

I suspect it was the work-world whiplash that I felt that first propelled me into thinking about the meaning of work.   Let me explain.

I was raised in a pretty hard-working, no-nonsense family, and the motto of “work first, play later” was engrained in me early, with chores around the house and the three quarters of an acre on which we lived.  In light of the boredom of picking up fallen sticks and limbs or rotten fallen fruit from our many trees, helping mom with wash, or mowing the lawn in summer’s heat, I sort of figured that’s just the way it was. Drudgery.

But then I got a job, right out of high school, as a camp counselor, doing work unlike any I ever heard of.  All summer long I worked alongside the most amazing people I had ever met, serving severely disabled children and adults (who were also some of the most amazingeye of god.jpg people I ever met), adapting fun-loving, camp programing for those in wheelchairs of all shapes and sizes.  I became a fan of the Easter Seal Society, became a special ed major, and loved those crazy, long hours at Camp Harmony Hall, for four consecutive summers.  I visited the camp a bit that fifth summer, since Beth was working there at the time, and in between my training for campus ministry with the CCO in Pittsburgh, I’d drive (or hitch hike) to help out a bit at Harmony Hall and, mostly, to pester my bride-to-be.  We both loved that camp job, even as demanding as it was on body and soul, and came to realize what my father used to tell me: work could be deeply rewarding, true service;  work could be innovative, work could be with great people, work could meaningful, it could matter.  You should enjoy it.  And work was not about making money.

Since we made so little in wages at Harmony Hall, I worked long hours at a lumber mill makings skids for amill.jpg month between getting out of college and heading to camp, for my “real” summer job.  And there, amidst the saw mills and forklifts, which we called tow motors, pulling boards from conveyor belts set too fast,  stacking skids on graveyard shift, the people were surly, the work loud and dangerous, and the workplace a setting of palpable alienation and frustration. Unlike Harmony Hall, the exhaustion at the end of the day carried no sense of blessing or gladness.  The contrasts made my head spin.

As James Taylor later sang in the deeply moving song about a woman who worked in a shoe factory in Lowell, Massachusetts (“Millworker” from the album Flag.) “I let that manufacturer use my body as a tool.”

I didn’t need Karl Marx to explain that this isn’t the way it ought to be.  James Taylor gave voice to it in a way that still brings tears to my eyes, reminding me of that short season at the sawmill and the truth that for many, perhaps most people, labor is less than meaningful, too often dangerous, and nearly dehumanizing. Unions helped in some places, and the 1980’s new age emphasis on personal fulfillment and aesthetics, even, has helped.  The latest trends in business and management books remind leaders to help their employees exercise their gifts, take pride in their work, contribute to the corporate ethos and, perhaps, even the common good. 

These popular tendencies are wonderful, mostly, and were the sorts of reforms I pondered back in the late 70s, thinking about the whiplash, going from the conveyor belt and “units produced” work at the planing mill for an owner I never met, to the caring, creative, life-giving world of work in camp (and, later, the free-wheeling CCO campus ministry, and, for a season, the wild political activism of the Thomas Merton Center, where I had a desk and a coffee pot.)  Work can be hard and deathly or it can be hard and life-giving.  Sadly, too many do not experience their jobs as a blessing, nor see their work as being a blessing to others. Most don’t see their life-work as mattering much more than getting financially reimbursed for something they’d rather not be doing.  In a fallen world, such are the deformities of our views of work and such are the dysfunctions of many a factory, cubicle, or clinic.  

When we opened our bookstore 30 years ago — talk about long hours with low pay, don’t get me started — we had a category of books about work (and it has expanded considerably, year by year.)  I don’t know if other Christian bookstores had such a section, but I gather that most did not. Sales reps that would visit our store were perplexed or astounded.  I recall that first month stocking Working, the powerful collection of often sad interviews by Studs Turkle, a couple of profound and prophetic books published by the Christian Labour Association of Canada, and a few by the early Lutheran spokesperson for “thinking Christianly” about work, William Diehl.  I wish his Thank God It’s Monday and The Monday Connection were still in print!  

Although I have been seriously interested in this topic, we have not always been able to live out this vision of the reformation of work and the workplace with as much energy or grace as I’d wish.  Marx may call it alienation, but the Bible calls it sin and idolatry.  We live East of Eden and are all living out our faith — even the most idealistic entrepreneurs or social innovators — in ways that are, as my friend Steve Garber puts it, “clay-footed.”  I know this.

And so, we talk about these things, organize events, sell books (list those listed here or here.) I believe we’ve helped a little, and you, too, by buying these books, have helped create a new conversation about these things.  I hear it in congregations and conference, in campus ministries and in Bible study groups.  From places like The High Calling blog to The Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation and Culture, to Jubilee Professional, we are hearing great voices, see good examples, all inviting us to these sorts of concerns.  If your church or ministry hasn’t joined these conversations, now is a good time to start.  And this book is a good one to use.

* * * *

1 -  every good e.jpgIt is with very deep gratitude and gladness that I announce what is surely one of the most important books of the year, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf (Dutton; regularly $26.95. Our sale price $19.95.)  There have been a plethora of books on calling and vocation and work, specifically, in the last decade, and some are outstanding.  (You know how often we recommend The Call by Os Guinness. See our list here for annotations of favorites such as Work Matters by Tom Nelson, Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman, How Then Shall We Work by Hugh Whelchel and several by Paul Stevens, among so many others.)

With such an embarrassment of riches and so many
good books on this, we wonder, as we do sometimes with other book categories, too, if there really needs to be more written on this?  Why this book by this author?  Is it really essential?  What more can be said, no matter how urgent the topic?

Allow me to list three things generally, that make me grateful for this new book, and three things more specifically that I believe Every Good Endeavor adds to the faith/work conversation. (That’s six reasons you should buy it, folks — do I need to write more to persuade you?  How ’bout this: it’s on sale for a bit better than 25% off here at BookNotes. The Hearts & Minds order form link is at the end of this review.)

Firstly, it is written by Tim Keller.  I do not mean to be glib or sensational, but he is one of the1 - tk.jpg more important religious writers of our generation — The New York Times has suggested that he is a modern-day C.S. Lewis, Publisher’s Weekly has noted his “encyclopedic learning” and the exceptional success of his faithful church planting in Manhattan (Redeemer Presbyterian and its City-to-City Network) is an indication that he is a voice to be heard, a leader to whom we should listen, a writer of serous import.  Fan or not of his conservative Calvinism, his missional urban vision, his traditional sensibilities (he’s no Rob Bell, for instance) Keller is a thoughtful writer, himself well-read and attuned to sociological matters alongside his love for the Bible and theology, so he brings a certain contemporary weight to the books he writes.  They are not heady or arcane or academic, but they are not chatty and upbeat, either.  They are mature, important, uniformly good, in my view.  That Keller has weighed in on this topic is so good for the larger movement, and it is good to have his thoughtful views on this vexing, urgent matter.  Keller has a lot of fans, and he could have written next on any number of topics.  His long-standing passion for this topic, of course, is illustrated by his church sponsorship of The Center for Faith and Work.  He’s not jumping on a bandwagon here nor is he new to thinking about this. He’s a neo-Calvnist who quotes Kuyper, after all and some suggest that it is this emphasis on culture engagement that has allowed his ministry to flourish so near to Wall Street and Broadway.

A second general reason I think Every Good Endeavor is vital and good is because it is rooted in the community of leaders at the Center for Faith and Work; again, there has been a decade of careful teaching, lots of listening, good explorations and networking going on, and this book is in some ways the fruit of their intentional outreach into various career areas.  That their much-loved Director Katherine Leary Alsdorf co-authored this, a bit, with Reverend Keller is significant.  Katherine worked in the high-tech business world for years, even before her own profession of faith, and knows well the joys (and struggles) of being both successful and1- groupimagebanner.jpg of failing in the business world. (Katherine’s behind-the-scenes husband, too, for what it is worth, has extraordinary experiences, having studied at Union Theological Seminary and having worked in the business world in “the city” as New Yorker’s call their home turf.) Ms Alsdorf is passionate and kind, deeply rooted in a gospel-centered sort of discipleship, but she has walked where many lay people have walked; some of her story is told in the introduction to Every Good Endeavor and it is riveting.  She knows what it is like to be an agent of God’s ways in corporate America.  It is rare that someone embodies theological, spiritual, and business savvy as she does, and this book brings such depth and expertise to us all.  It will be taken seriously by those in the corporate sector who read it because Keller and Alsdorf have listened and studied well.  They know what their talking about.  Watch a short video clip of Katherine Alsdorf talking about work in Christian perspective, here

Thirdly, I believe that Keller does bring something a bit unique in terms of perspective and tone, and that is, in fact, this gospel-centered, foundational teaching that our vocational lives are a response to, and grounded in, the grace of our Triune God, shown in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  We are adopted as sons and daughter of God and the atoning work of Christ allows us to be free from idols and anxieties.  As we trust God’s goodness and look to the gospel for strength and formation of character, we can be (dare I say it) radical agents ofThe-Gospel-Lived-(Blog-Logo)---White(l).png social transformation.  As Keller properly put it in his recent Generous Justice, Christ’s justification makes us just. There is no glorious triumphalism here, but a humble reliance on the cross.  As those claimed as beloved by God, we now can work not for prestige or power or wealth, but to serve Christ’s Kingdom, for God’s glory.  I’m a fan of John Piper’s chapter “Serving God in the 9 to 5” in his passionate Don’t Waste Your Life, and this book has a bit of that tone — we think hard about this stuff, but in a way that is warmly dedicated to God’s reputation, responding to God’s gospel grace, gladly clear that we find joy in honoring God, 9-to-5.  As one early reader put it, this book reaches both your heart and your mind.  Obviously, we like that a lot.

So, this handsome new hardback, Every Good Endeavor, is important simply because it is written by Tim Keller, and it thereby adds his fame and reputation to the faith/work movement.  He is a good writer, so this is a very good thing.  And it is important because it is co-authored by a very sharp woman, who has extraordinary stories of and connections within the secular work-world. Further, thirdly, I think we can say that this book is both hard-headed and soft-hearted, grounded as it is in radical gospel transformation.   I don’t think it is exactly a “spirituality of work” but it does remind us that we join our work to God’s work because of God’s gracious overtures and the gospel’s effective power in our lives.  I like the caliber and tone, and highly recommend it. 

1 - EGE square.jpgThe previous three affirmations are general — important, but general.  That the book is written by an esteemed theological writer,  that it emerges from real-life experiences of an effective and fairly sophisticated marketplace emphasis, co-authored by a mature business woman, and is grounded in gospel truth shows why I think it is to be taken serious, studied, discussed, shared.

But what, exactly, do Keller and Alsdorf bring to the table? 

For starters, I just love the way the book (without saying it, really) is arranged by the popular theological windows, emerging from the very flow of the Biblical narrative, namely, creation
, fall, redemption. 

The first part of this book (including four good chapters) lays a very solid foundation based on what Keller headlines as “God’s Plan for Work.”  Many books hint at this, and the best explicate it, and this does an excellent job. Chapter One and Two are, respectively, “The Design of Work” and “The Dignity of Work.”  I adored the next two chapters (points that we do not hear nearly enough, I’m afraid) that work is both cultivation and service.  God’s original plan for work, seen in the Genesis creational mandate itself, is, in fact, a cultural mandate.  Preachers will get good mileage from these truths, and workers of all kinds will be challenged to keep these in mind.  We are developing, also in our work, the good potential God has put into the world (shades of Andy Crouch’s wonderful Culture Making) and we do this as service to God and neighbor.  Is your work serving somebody?  I hope you can see the connection.  These chapters (and their good footnotes) will help.

Next, this book is candid about the deformations and dysfunctions, the idols and ideologies, the clay-footedness and stupidity let loose in the world.  That is, it is realistic about the fall, about the state of the human condition.  This section is called “Our Problems with Work” and in it Keller brilliantly shows how work becomes fruitless and how work becomes pointless.  There is a serious chapter exploring how work becomes selfish.  That work reveals our idols has never been developed much before and this singular insight is worth the price of the book and could provide good, honest conversations among those reading it together.  (Do you know his important book Counterfeit Gods on money, sex, and power?  There are shades of that book here.)  Every Good Endeavor is not the only Christian book about the work-world that is realistic, sobered by the hard times in which we live.  But it does help us ruminate on that, connecting some dots, understanding what we most likely can and cannot do, even with the best intentions.

Happily, the book ends with four great chapters (created as only a good preacher can) showing the relationship of the gospel and work.  Here we get “A New Story for Work,” “A New Conception for Work,” “A New Compass for Work,”  and “New Power for Work.”   I don’t want to spoil it by naming the many items he approaches here, but it is detailed, drawing on great books (and popular culture) and social critics. He reflects on how we view institutions, explains implications of the doctrine of common grace, challenges us to think about ethics and integrity, and moves in large ways towards important themes.  It is very insightful and very inspiring.

From the good plan of God to the hard news of sin to the exciting news of a Kingdom approach, these three units offer a great structure for a great book, and Keller plumbs this well.  It isn’t a cheap structure or a casual one, it is profound. His astute teaching about all this helps us see that.  Like other things in life — from sex to art, science   to politics — we can see what is good and wondrous, what is sinful and broken, and what is being redeemed by gospel transformation, and how to take up our vocations into the world in wise and proper ways.  This is the story of the God’s redemptive work in the world and is how we take up the calling, as in his subtitle, to relate our daily work to God’s work.

Besides this essential, generative, worldviewish flow of the structure of the book, allow me to note this, again: the content in each of these sections is suburb, a bit more sophisticated than some such books, but without being too abstract or intellectual.  From the Biblical insight of the design and purpose of work to the hardships of toil and alienation in the section on our difficulties, Keller is not glib or simplistic.  This is good stuff, and important.  There are good stories, helpful illustration, and a delightful array of fabulous footnotes, icing on the cake.

Finally, there is a very useful appendix, designed, it seems, for pastors and teachers, campus ministers or leaders.  It is about how to help others relate faith and work, and it chronicles just a bit of the work of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work.  There is a chart there showing the shifts in thinking that must happen for this to work well (and it is a chart you will want to photocopy and ponder.)  This describes a bit of their efforts to encourage artists, business people, IT people, professors, health care providers, educators and the like.  It isn’t a handbook or curriculum, but it does point you towards ways to keep this conversation going, how to help faith communities grapple with the implications of a work-world mission, and how to disciple others, forming them into a wholistic Kingdom vision.

Maybe you have experienced whiplash, moving from a rewarding, joyful job of meaningfulevery good e.jpg service to others to hard, tedious work that seems almost exploitative. Or, maybe you’ve experienced another sort of whiplash, just going from an idealistic and glorious faith community one day to a harsh and realistic job site the next.  Anyway, there are disconnects galore, and we believe that God is pleased whenever we try to live more integrated lives, relating life and faith, creation and redemption, Sunday and Monday.  God is pleased by “every good endeavor” that we offer and we are glad to be able to offer this wonderful new book that explores these themes with clarity and wisdom, by an author and co-author we enjoy and respect.  May Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (regularly priced at $26.95 but on sale at BookNotes for $19.95 be a blessing to many.  After all, as that old James Taylor songs reminds us, “a young girl ought to stand a better chance.”

Every Good Endeavor
(Timothy Keller)

25%+ off
regular price $26.95
sale price $19.95
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

                 Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street 
Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-333



Clearance Sale on Excellent Books – 50% OFF // FIVE DAYS ONLY (EXPIRED) These books are now at the typical BookNotes 20% off.

Obookmobile.gifver the last month or so we’ve been on the road a lot, out selling books, and meeting friends and customers.  Of course, our fantastic staff have been working above and beyond the call of duty here, caring for our local customers, meeting all sorts of book and information needs.  Beth and I enjoy setting up book displays and book nooks at gatherings and conferences, and we hope some of the good folks we’ve met in recent weeks are reading now — we want to publicly thank those who invited, hosted, helped and bought books from us.  Let’s stay in touch.

We’ve sold books at a college student conference in urban Philly called “Deep Gospel” and ame at Deep.jpg parish nursing event here in central PA; we’ve been out to Western PA twice, once for a conference of pastors and leaders of very small Presbyterian churches and then for the CCO’s always great staff training. We sold books at a debate between an atheist and a Christian at Messiah College. We’ve flown to Colorado with the Christian Legal Society, and offered resources for a UCC prayer retreat; we had books sent for sale at a conference on ten books that influenced C.S. Lewis (in Madison WI — see a list of the ten, here) and had a display at an annual lecture at Church of the Covenant zac.jpgByron at Redeemer 2012.jpg in Erie, PA. (Thanks Seph!) We served our local hospital at a large, professional conference on palliative care, showing books to hospice caregivers and others who work in the field of death and bereavement and the next day we  zoomed to resilient NYC in the middle of the night to get set up for the important conference sponsored by Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work.  In a day or so, we’ll help honor Dr. Michael Gorman at his inaugural lecture as New Testament professor at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore (a great place to pick up seminary level theological credits) and engage in a symposium with the likes of Richard Hays and Katherine Grieb.  We look forward to meetingbooks on display.jpg their new dean, D. Brent Laytham, whose brand new book, iPod, Youtube, Wii Play: Theological Engagements with Entertainment  (Wipf & Stock; $24.00) is just out.  And that’s just the last few weeks. 

Yep, we get around, and it is exhausting.  But it is a great privelege, we realize, to see what God is doing among so many different sort of folks, in so many interesting places, and to offer useful resources.  About that: well, we’ve got left-over books, now —  a lot of them. 


There is no shame in us admitting that we have some inventory (that’s retail-speak for great books!) that we ordered in extra quantities for these events that we now want to offer at a deep discount. We never know what we’ll have time to announce at these gatherings or what speakers will be promoting or what customers will quickly snap up.  Sometimes we order a big batch, hoping to announce and promote them, and then we don’t get a chance.  Or, I forget.  (Yep, it happens, in the stress of the moment at these gigs.)  It makes sense to sell these to you below our cost, rather than shell out to UPS to send ’em all back.  You can get a bargain and we pay less penalties in return fees.  

Yep, this is the time-honored practice of a clearance sale.  Less than one week only.  Please know that these are not losers that didn’t sell or sub-par books we’re trying to unload.  In many ways, these are real favorites, titles I ordered a lot of because of my fondness for them, for one reason or another.

You are a book lover.  These are half off.  Let’s get going. 

Below you will see the link to take you to our secure website order form page.  

S1-speaking of.gifpeaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death  Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy Goldsmith (Brazos) $19.99  I am amazed at how such a non-negotiable matter, and such a vexing one, is so little talked about among us.  How do we faithfully engage with those who are dying? What does it mean to offer pastoral and theological insight, based on gospel truth?  Why does the church not cope very well with this touchy subject?  Ringing endorsements sound out on the back from Thomas Long (you know his book on funerals, I hope) and Richard Lischer and Rob Moll.  Forward is by Stanley Hauerwas who notes that it helps us “recover our voices as a people taught to speak by the one who died on a cross.” It doesn’t hurt to note that Fred Craddock is a renowned United Methodist preacher and a pretty funny Southern storyteller.

I1 -introducing cov.gifntroducing Covenant Theology  Michael Horton (Baker) $17.99 Some think this to be one of the best basic studies of Reformed theology, no nonsense, serious, and built on the covenant structure of Scripture.  Very impressive.  When it was out in hardback it was entitled God of Promise.  Horton hosts a very provocative radio talk show, The White Horse Inn, and is an intellect of considerable force. This is an important, weighty book and we’re glad to recommend it, whether you are Reformed or not… We hear a lot about being “gospel centered” these days, a good phrase.  This helps us get beyond the slogan, I think. 

A1 - a grace revealed.gif Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life Gerald Sittser (Zondervan) $19.99 We have long recommended A Grace Disguised as one of the very very best books about grief. You may know that story of a car accident that took his wife, mother, and daughter in one awful crash.  This is Sittser’s beautiful, well-written story, twenty years after the tragedy described in that earlier grace-filled book, showing how God’s narrative can be written out in our lives, through good times and bad.  This is story theology at its best, beautiful writing, profoundly inspiring, one of the best brand new books of the year by a man that we truly admire. It isn’t difficult reading, but it is well worth enjoying.

J1 - jp.gifust Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement  Ronald J. Sider (Brazos) $19.99  We’ve touted this as the best mid-level book, great for any thoughtful reader, on the methodology of how to develop the Christian mind for civic engagement.  Very highly recommended, Biblically balanced, helpful, still very important, maybe moreso now that the election fever is subsiding.  This may step on some toes as Ron is quite conservative on some policy issues, and pretty radical on others, seeking a “third way” that is non-aligned and responding to the grace of the gospel. He’s Mennonite, but influenced by the est of global thinkers, Kuyper stuff, and has been in conversation with left, right, and center views, forging a theologically sound and Biblically-informed perspective. Yay. Come on, people, you need this!

E1 - emergence.gifmergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It is Going, and Why It Matters  Phyllis Tickle (Baker) $19.99  There have been oodles of books on the shifts in culture, postmodernism and the like, and the shifts in thinking about religion, leading to fresh expressions and various options for new ways of doing church.  Tickle reads widely, has traveled among all sorts of new ministries and movementes, and she offeres here one of the clearest, most interesting updates of emergent and emergence thinkers and practitioners. The lively Ms. Tickle, a former Baptist who now is Roman Catholic, is always worth reading and this is a topic that is very relevant, no matter what sort of congregational life you embrace.

A1 - art as.gifrt as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford  edited by James Romaine (Crossway) $40.00  I named this in last month’s review column as one of my favorite books so far this year, and although I am not well-versed in the history of Western art, I found it to be exceptionally insightful and very, very interesting.  I recently did a somewhat more extended explanation of its wonder and significance in Comment magazine. (Do click on that, and then come back, please!) This is the best deal you’re going to find on this attractive book, full of color reproductions, printed on glossy paper — it would make a great Christmas gift for anyone interested in art history or in the contemporary interface of faith and the arts!  Although most of the chapters are fantastic, I have to give a shout out to Calvin Seerveld, whose essay just sings.

1 - real face.gifhe Real Face of Atheism  Ravi Zacharias (Baker) $15.99  This is a more recent updating of his very early book The Shattered Visage (which, as literature buffs will know, is a phrase from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozynandias.) I assume you know folks who are reading the “new atheists” and you know people who are curious about the reasons some hold to a position like this.  Zacharias is eloquent and firm, offering considerable intellectual clarity and a wide awareness of many cultures.  From Eastern mysticism to American cynicism, Ravi makes the case that such views finally lead to despair, and that the gospel, properly understood, is the only credible hope.  By the way, much of content in these chapters were first delivered at the famous Bell Labs, in conversation with brilliant scientists and creatives. Few Christians, in my view, adequately grapple with the profound, troubling insight of Nietzsche, and this book does so, bravely.

R1-red.gifed Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo (Nelson) $22.99  Look: I don’t really appreciate the whole red-letter thing — yes, Jesus is undeniably central to the Biblical narrative, but I don’t think it wise or theologically sound to put some words of the Bible in red. I don’t like red letter Bibles, even.  Having said that, we are utterly irresponsible if we disregard or minimize the direct teachings of the Master.  This “Red Letter Christian” movement is more than “we’re not the Christian right” (although that is part of it) and it brings fabulous energy and insight to anyone trying to live out faithful discipleship in the 21st century.  You know we are fond of Shane and I’m not embarrassed to say I still think of Campolo as one of my all-time favorite Christian speakers.  Here, they go back and forth, discussing, arguing, pondering, praying, — a young, radical, “new monastic,” St. Francisy, evangelical and an aging, Baptist preacher and mission-minded, social activist learning from one another.  There is so much good about this book, we are happy to sell it at half off, even though it is brand new.  Highly recommended.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, it is “an adrenaline-producing conversation with prophetic bite.”   (And, as Bono has said about it, “I don’t like all that I read in this… I think that’s why they wrote it.”) Even if you aren’t likely to join the “red letter movement” you certainly should join the conversation. Read this book.

T1 - a of h.gifhe Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith  Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Zondervan) $14.99  I ordered more of this book then almost any new book this season, and just haven’t found time and energy to tell you about it, which I regret.  I hope to do a longer review, but for now, we want to move ’em out, getting them into your hands and your discussion groups.  I hope you know the basic tenants of the “new monastic” movement, their commitments to living in intentional community, serving the poor, practicing hospitality and engaging in spiritual disciplines (and eating lots of food together!)  From Biblical nonviolence to local congregation life, from making promises, offering prayers to doing politics, these folk are offering such a powerful witness that it breaks my heart open, wanting to be more faithful, more intentional, more winsome and more like I dreamed I’d be back when I was living in community in an urban setting back in the late 70s.  There is a companion 6-session video, too, and my hat is off to them for doing it so well. (We can’t sell that at 50% off, but we do have it at 20% off of the regular price of $24.99.) This handsized paperback is very cool, very compelling, quite stimulting.  Kudos to Zondervan for releasing this since it ain’t your typical CBA material and I suspect they took some risks offering such radical stuff.  I believe that this book offers a vision that is very close to the life Jesus intended for us and we would be glad to have you buy it and consider it.  Perhaps you need an awakening of hope in your own life thes
e days… 

T1-spirit in.gifhe Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper  Vincent E. Bacote (Wipf & Stock) $20.00  Not only do I love the new cover, now that it has been re-issued, but I really love Vince’s serious call to be fully Trinitarian, and not forget the workings of the Holy Spirit.  He gets us there by way of the important work of old Abraham Kuyper, who not only wrote widely about the Spirit, but applied the Spirit’s work to our own work in culture and in the reformation of the arts, sciences, politics and such.  Read this and you’ll realize that maybe Calvin College philosophy professor Jamie Smith shouldn’t be the only Pentecostal Kuyperian!  This book is meaty but accessible, important and vibrant.  Theology for the people of God, serving the world, in common grace for the common good, by the power of the very Divine Spirit who hovered over creation!
B1 - before.gifefore the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America’s Culture War  James Davison Hunter (The Free Press) $24.95  Hunter is most known these days for his remarkably important Oxford University Press title To Change the World but years before that he nearly coined the phrase “culture wars” and explored the ways in which huge cultural forces were, in the 1980s, poised to tear at the very fabric of our society.  This book is vastly important, hugely under-appreciated, offering insights about how to bolster civil society, making a profound moral plea for democratic dialogue.  I think its sober insight is needed as much now as ever.  Endorsements ring on the back from Richard Neuhaus, Robert Wuthnow, Jean Bethke Elshtain and the like. His chapter “The Culture of Ambivalence” is nearly worth the price of the book…. Very useful as we move forward post election 2012. Check out his journal Hedgehog Review from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at UVa.

T1-toa.gifhis Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down without Settling  Christine & Adam Jeske (IVP) $15.00 Interested in following the fresh winds of the Spirit, no matter what? Wanting to continue on in short term missions, global concern, world travel, even if you’ve got a house, job, kids and a dog?  Does settling down mean giving up dreams of adventure? Does embracing a spirited missional vision preclude a home and family, caring about ordinary life, being involved in a local place?  I wish I had this book when I was 25 and I’m very glad I have it now that I’m almost 60.  What a story! You’ll enjoy this travellogue of young, hip missionaries, who also long for an ordinary home.  Can we settle down, without settling? Spread the word about this great new book.

A1 - year of bw.gif Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’  Rachael Held Evans (Nelson) $15.99 I hope you have read A.J. Jacob’s Year of Living Biblically, which is better written and funnier than almost any Bible study book I’ve ever read.  Clearly, Evans is derivative here, standing in this proud tradition of “try it out” journalism. (Does anybody remember George Plimpton, the reporter who actually played pro football for the Detroit Lions in order to write about it? I loved that book!.) So, here she is, clever and funny and offering her take on the perplexing number of perplexing things in the Bible about women.  If you want a sober and solid study of hermeneutics, this ain’t it.  If you want a memoir of a year-long experiment, clever and insightful, by an up-and-coming, progressive young evangelical writer, this is great. Enjoy!

T1-cc.gifhe Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City  Timothy Keller (Zondervan) $29.99  I know it is a textbook.  I know it is for church planters.  I know it says “in your city” right there on the cover.  Forget all that — this is one of the best books on missional thinking, cultural engagement, congregational life, and how the gospel of grace shapes how we do contextualized ministry in our particular place (whether you’re an urban church planter or not.)  It is handsomely produced (with two color ink and useful sidebars and a brilliant chart or two), very thorough, has questions for discussion, making it ideal for (serious) book groups, ministerial cohorts, or personal reflection.  Of course pastors should own it, but I think it is good for any church leader.  There is so much goofy stuff about church life these days, this will be a good baseline, a mature marker, a solid standard. This is a tremendous book, and I truly hope the word of it spreads.  Getting a few at half price this week only may help you — why not give it to your pastor or church board or campus minister or seminary student?  Heck, get it for yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.

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