“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
With our domestic travel industry in shambolic chaos, perhaps you have decided the summer of ’22 is a good summer for (another) “staycation”. The above quote is a helpful reminder that books can takes us places where cancelled planes cannot. As a pastor, as much as I love a good adventure book, I want to encourage you to continue your spiritual journey and I have two book commendations to help you along. They are related in that they both testify to God’s magnanimous ability to turn that which is ugly into something truly beautiful.
The first is a new offering from Erik Raymond. You may recall Raymond from his work with the Gospel Coalition in producing the “Gospel Centred Outreach” small group materials. I have always appreciated Raymond’s down-to-earth clarity and gospel focus. His new book is titled, He is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People. In highlighting biblical characters, he displays God’s willingness to make very unlovable people part of his family of love. In turn, he shows how God is not ashamed of: people with embarrassing pasts, people once stridently opposed to him, people marginalised by society, people once far from God, people who (seemingly) have nothing to offer him, people who are weak, and people who struggle with sin. In a culture that often doesn’t know what to make of the love of Jesus: rejecting it for not recognizing our need of it, or rejecting it for not believing we deserve it; Raymond does a great job of putting the necessity and truth of Jesus’ love of sinners on display.
My second recommendation is another new book titled, The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church, by Dustin Benge. We live in a time of deep cynicism toward leadership and institutions, and the Church is no exception. It has become fashionable to distance oneself from “church” while claiming to have a deep, intimate, connection to Jesus. Benge’s book is a timely reminder of how the bible describes the Church in the most extraordinary ways. If you have become disillusioned with the flaws of the Church global, or your own church local, I encourage you to get this book and remind yourself of God’s passionate commitment to his Church. Benge’s reminder that the Church is, “Chosen by God the Father, purchased by Christ the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit” ought to chasten any tendency we have to dismiss the Church out of either frustration or apathy. The book is deeply biblical and theological, yet also a beautiful love story of God for his Bride.