Leadership Books for People Who Don’t Like Leadership Books

I don’t like most books about leadership technique. Never have.

Whether it’s the 21 Laws of This or That, or 5 Steps to a Whatever, I find these kinds of books to be mechanical, corporate, and not much use.

However, knowing that this is a personal blind spot, I still try to read at least one book about leadership each year. Over the years I’ve read – believe it or not – some good ones. So, here’s a list of five good books about leadership for people who don’t like books about leadership (in no particular order)… Continue reading

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

I’ve just finished Tom Wright’s latest book, this one on the topic of the atonement, ‘The Day the Revolution Began’.

I have a recurring experience with Wright’s books. I start them, excited, ready to have my paradigm shifted. About half way through, I think, ‘This is a helpful corrective, but I can’t help but feel he’s overstating things a bit.’ Then, I finish with a feeling of bemusement, grateful to be reminded that there’s more to [insert theological issue here] than some simplistic, popular examples would indicate, but also thinking that Wright seems to regard his proposals as a fair bit more revolutionary (ahem) than they really are.

Still, this was a worthwhile read. There’s so much I could say about it, but I’ll focus on just two things. Continue reading

5 Books for 2016

It’s list-making time, and I never let that opportunity go by. These are the 5 books that impacted me most in 2016.

5. C.S. Lewis: A Life – Alister McGrath

I will never look at Lewis the same way after reading this book. McGrath doesn’t put his subject on a pedestal, and though at times you feel that you are learning more about McGrath’s opinions of Lewis than of Lewis himself, this is still a fascinating and informative read.

4. Reading Revelation Responsibly – Michael Gorman
Simply the most helpful book on Revelation that I’ve ever read. Gorman doesn’t pull his punches, which may not win him friends among dispensationalists. However, this is a book which brings Revelation to life. Far from a dry academic treatment, it caused me to think about how this piece of apocalyptic literature applies to our world today. Continue reading

What Do You Want?

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What’s on your mind?

Facebook asks me this question every time I log on.  As I scroll down my timeline I feel encouraged to give my thoughts on topics religious, political, and just about everything in between.

“What do I think about this?” I wonder.

Over the last few years, however, two books have made me think twice (ironically) about whether what’s going on is quite so simple as that.

In his book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, uses the metaphor of an elephant and a rider. The elephant represents our subconscious world: our emotions, intuitions, and flash reactions (disgust, attraction, etc). The rider is our intellect and reasoning.

Through much research, Haidt’s conclusion is this: elephant’s rule. We have an intuitive response to almost everything, and our minds then work to justify that response. We think we’ve arrived there by “thinking”, but actually we’re far less rational then that. Haidt puts it like this… Continue reading

The Best Books I Read In 2014

I managed to get through a decent variety of books this year.

I finally read Volf and Girard, both of who felt better to have read than to read. Like always, I read McKnight and Keller, but I managed to read a little less from them than I usually do. In the end, these were the best books I read this year…

10. Community & Growth by Jean Vanier
A lovely, rambling book about what true community and commitment can look like. Written by a man who has given his life to other people.

9. If God Then What? by Andrew Wilson
I am more and more a fan of Andrew Wilson. Saying that this is an apologetic sells it short. It’s full of imagination. This is my current go to for non-church people wanting to know about God.

8. Ill Fares The Land by Tony Judt
The only non-theology book on my list, this is a fascinating history of (and case for) social democracy. Recommended to anyone interested in politics.

7. The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays
While I absolutely did not agree with Hays on every point (does he really all but paint the Jesus of John’s Gospel as anti-semitic?!), this book is still a juggernaut. On almost any ethical issue, I think it’s mandatory to consult Hays.

6. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
This book is a gift to the church: a same-sex attracted Christian who has chosen to remain celibate, telling his own story, and advocating a historical Christian position on sexuality. A must-read for anyone with questions (or relating to people who have questions) in this area. So… everyone.  Continue reading

10 Books

It’s not happened to me yet (I live in hope), but if a new-ish Christian let me pick 10 books for him to read in a year, I’d do a few somersaults and then tell him to read these ones (alongside his bible, of course)…

First, King’s Cross by Timothy Keller, because it’s the best book I’ve come across that explores who Jesus was, and why he matters for our lives and for the world.

Second, The Cross of Christ by John Stott (this’d be the one to spend 2 months with!). The word magisterial could have been invented for this book. It is a thorough, robust, and devotional exploration of why Jesus died for us.

When my much-appreciated imaginary reader had finished with those, I’d put him on to a biography. Eric Metaxes’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, in fact. Hopefully, it would give his mind a bit of a respite after reading Stott. But mostly, because Bonhoeffer’s story provides such an inspiring example of what a life captivated by Jesus looks like.

My reader might at this point be wondering how to “get after” God in a whole-hearted, Bonhoeffer-ish way himself. So, I’d give him The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, a beautiful little book about just that.

We’d be approaching the halfway stage now – and winter, at least in New Zealand – a good time to engage with some of the harder questions which may have begun to surface. Here’s the “trilogy” I’d prescribe… Continue reading

Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering

Credit: Amazon

I remember once being asked by a person with a physical disability, “Did God do this to me?”

My answer was quick and single-minded. “No! God didn’t do this to you. He grieves with you.”

…As I thought about that conversation though, I wasn’t so sure about my answer. Had I given the right one? How could I know what God had done for certain?

I’ve always been interested in just how “in control” of events God is, and I’ve spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and changing my mind. In recent years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know,” and living within the tension of what I do know of God. That in mind, Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering has to be the best, most comprehensive book on the subject of suffering that I’ve ever read. Timothy Keller (who has at this point become the most influential author in my life) has written a nuanced, empathetic and profoundly biblical book which has become my go-to on the subject. I’ve already started recommending it.

Keller’s refreshing suggestion is that while certain theodicies (systems which attempt to make sense of the question of why God allows suffering) can be helpful, overall none is totally sufficient. In fact, Keller believes we should not try to formulate theodicies, but instead mount a defence of God’s goodness, and show that the argument against God from evil is not a consistent one (p95).

What I like about Keller’s position, is that he advocates a complete and childlike trust in God, even when situations go beyond our understanding. He writes, “Three-year-olds cannot understand most of why their parents allow and disallow what they do. But though they aren’t capable of comprehending their parents’ reasons, they are capable of knowing their parents’ love and therefore are capable of trusting them and living securely. That is what they really need. Now, the difference between God and human beings is infinitely greater than the difference between a thirty-year-old parent and their three-year-old child. So we should not expect to be able to grasp all of God’s purposes, but through the cross and gospel of Jesus Christ, we can know his love. And that is what we need most.” (p122). Continue reading