From the Pastor’s Desk: A summer reading list

We’ve been exploring grace, unearned love, since Christmas. About now, some of us are putting together a summer reading list. Let me make some recommendations for continuing to read about grace this summer.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Book Description

This book is considered a classic of Christian thought. It is centered on an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Bonhoeffer spells out what he believes it means to follow Christ. It was first published in 1937, when the rise of the Nazi regime was underway in Germany and it was against this background that Bonhoeffer’s theology of costly discipleship developed, which ultimately led to his death.

One of the most quoted parts of the book deals with the distinction which Bonhoeffer makes between “cheap” and “costly” grace. According to Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

“Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey.

Book Description

“The book examines grace in Christianity, contending that people crave grace and that it is central to the gospel, but that many local churches ignore grace and instead seek to exterminate immorality or fight social injustice. What’s So Amazing About Grace? includes Bible stories, anecdotes from Yancey’s life, accounts of historical events and other stories. These include a modern retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, an account of Yancey’s friendship with Mel White who came out as gay, a comparison of the teachings of early Christians Pelagius and Augustine of Hippo, and a summary of Karen Blixen’s short story ‘Babette’s Feast’.”

Gospel Medicine, by Barbara Brown Taylor.

Book Description

“Gospel medicine is Barbara Taylor’s metaphor for the healing power of God seen in the active and ongoing restoration of this broken world. In this new collection of sermons she practices the old-fashioned art of gospel home remedies like a true evangelist, summoning with piercing clarity and wit the Old and New Testament stories that have the power to mend our spirits, strengthen our weaknesses, and restore us to wholeness.

Scripture comes to life in the contemporary people and places of which Taylor speaks. Georgia apple-growers become God’s sharecroppers of the gospel parable; through Mary’s embracing of her role as God-bearer we are dared to take risks in our own discipleship; in Jonah’s angry stand-off with God we see reflections of our own struggles with a God who is more forgiving than we want him to be; with tender awe after years of waiting Sarah wipes her hands on her apron and goes to tell Abraham she is to bear a child. Through the stories of Scripture, Taylor addresses with moving simplicity the contemporary wounds of anger, abandonment, fear of judgment, and a longing for home, healing, and mercy.”

Grace Alone – Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught and Why it Still Matters, by Carl R. Trueman .

Book Description

“Historians and theologians alike have long recognized that at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation were the five solas: sola scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, and soli Deo gloria. These five solas do not merely summarize what the Reformation was all about but have served to distinguish Protestantism ever since. They set Protestants apart in a unique way as those who place ultimate and final authority in the Scriptures, acknowledge the work of Christ alone as sufficient for redemption, recognize that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and seek to not only give God all of the glory but to do all things vocationally for his glory.

“2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And yet, even in the twentyfirst century we need the Reformation more than ever. As James Montgomery Boice said not long ago, while the Puritans sought to carry on the Reformation, today “we barely have one to carry on, and many have even forgotten what that great spiritual revolution was all about.” Therefore, we “need to go back and start again at the very beginning. We need another Reformation.” In short, it is crucial not only to remember what the solas of the Reformation were all about, but also to apply these solas in a fresh way in light of many contemporary challenges.”

The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution, by Greg Boyd

Book Description:

The kingdom of God is a beautiful revolution. Marked by the radical life, love, servanthood, and humility of Jesus, it stands in stark contrast to the values and ways of the world.”

“Regrettably, many who profess to follow Christ have bought into the world’s methods, seeking to impose a sort of Christianized ethical kingdom through politics and control. In this illuminating sequel to his bestselling book The Myth of a Christian Nation, Dr. Gregory Boyd points us to a better way—a way of seeing and living that is consistent with the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom. Between the extremes of passivity on the one hand and political holy war on the other lies the radical, revolutionary path of imitating Jesus. In twelve areas ranging from racial and social issues to stewardship of the planet, this book will convince and inspire you to live a Christlike life of revolt and beauty—and it will help you attain a practical lifestyle of kingdom impact.”

What books are you including on your summer reading list?

Rev. Jeremy Bellsmith