Coming into this year, many people are thinking about where they need to be challenged. Intellectual, spiritual, and even physical challenges are at the core of every New Year’s resolution so I thought I’d recommend three “bar-raising” resources for those of you needing an intellectual challenge this year. Before we get to the resources, however, let me say one thing. By calling them “challenging” or “bar-raising” I do not mean they are complicated or written for academics.
Honestly, the most challenging things in life - the deep things, if you will - involve the meeting between clarity and truth.
Before you read this post, just know that these are not academic brain busters. They are soul-jarringly clear works that get to the heart of the matter and leave us with much to think about.
1. Andrew Purves, The Search For Compassion. Honestly, this is the first book I have ever read that lays out a theology of compassion. In other words, what is true about God and what does that have to do with compassion? What do the person & work of Jesus as well as His Spirit living in us have to do with compassion? I recommend this to you if you are experiencing a lack of compassion in your life right now, or if you are struggling to understand how to balance compassion and rest or renewal in ministry. A companion resource would be Nouwen, McNeil & Morrison’s Compassion.
2. Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster & James Bryan Smith. This is a book that I recommend taking a chapter at a time. Foster & Smith present the major thoughts of devotional masters such as St. Francis of Assisi, Madame Guyon, Charles Spurgeon & C.S. Lewis. The chapters are grouped by Foster’s “five streams” of Christian spirituality, and each chapter ends with questions for reflection as well as note from Richard Foster on the reading. This is a book you could work through once a year and it would not become repetitive or dull.
3. Dan Allender, Sabbath. To me, sabbath is one of the most critical forgotten practices in the church today. So many people are mired down in the argument of “is it law?” or “doesn’t that belong to the old covenant?” or the legalistic expressions of what happens on a Sunday as Sabbath. Allender does an incredible job of unpacking what Sabbath should be as well as how it can function in people’s lives today. The book isn’t intended to be an all-out theology of Sabbath, but you can easily see the God we celebrate during Sabbath coming through Allender’s writing.
How about you? What would you contribute to this list? What is challenging you right now?