Follow Jesus to the Ends of the Earth

Category: Books (page 1 of 3)

Trinity College Library, Dublin

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

I can relate to this quote by the Reformation-era scholar, Desiderius Erasmus. Reading endures as one of the pleasures of my life. I enjoy the feel of a book, or a Kindle, in my hand. Reading is also one of my favorite developmental activities. I read a lot for work and for fun, which you can surmise from the list of books I spent time in this year.

The first books listed are the ones I enjoyed the most and for whatever reason stuck with me after I read them. Many of the others that follow are very good as well. A few are not so good, but there’s a dog in every bunch, right? The books (and authors) are listed in the order I read them, not necessarily in order of priority.

Favorite books of 2017

The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman. The book is better than the movie which I also enjoyed very much.

Paul – Charles Swindoll. One of a series of books by Charles Swindoll exploring great lives of people in the Scriptures. This is an exceptionally good book on the life of Paul. Reads like a novel and may change your life.

The Shack – William Young. While I may not agree with all that is portrayed here, I appreciated the author stretching my limited view of God.

Preaching – Timothy Keller. Communication is so important in ministry. Few communicate better than Timothy Keller and this book shares his wisdom on that topic.

The Day of Battle – Rick Atkinson. Book two of a trilogy on the United States’ involvement in the European theatre in World War II. If you are a history junkie, you’ll love these books. Book three is coming off my shelf for 2018.

For the Glory – Duncan Hamilton. This book is a must read for fans of missionary biographies, Olympians, godly men, WWII buffs and heroes.

American Caesar – Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 – William Manchester. A fascinating look at the story of a larger-than-life leader of the US military, both before, during and after WWII. Are you noticing a theme in my reading? I had a war thing going on last spring.

Team of Teams – Stanley McChrystal. Now to modern warfare. Actually, this is a business/teamwork book based on McChrystal’s experiences fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. I was surprised by how much more I liked this book than I thought I would. If you work in a large and complex organization (like I do in Cru) and you want to help bring positive change in some manner, you’ll find this book helpful.

You Are What You Love – James K.A. Smith. The title is clear, compelling and convicting. Smith’s insight will help you think more deeply about what you choose to love in light of your faith and the world around you.

The Holy Bible (New International Version). I set out to read the Bible cover-to-cover every year. This year was #24. I’ve read over a dozen different English translations and I find that I prefer the NIV. To me, it just reads the best.

News of the World – Paulette Jiles. An excellent Western novel with a good guy who does the right things. Sometimes I need to read about guys like that.

The Listening Life – Adam McHugh. On learning to listen well to God and to others in a world that values chatter.

See What I Have Done – Sara Schmidt. There’s an old song that goes, “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one.” Now that you know the topic, how could you not read the book? Entertaining, creepy and I’m sure a movie in the near future.

Words On Target – Sue Nichols. An older book, published in 1963. I desire to grow as a communicator and a writer. This is a valuable book on both. Along with Keller’s book Preaching listed above, Words on Target bookended my year as I seek to get better.

The others with a few scattered notes

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from GK Chesterton – Satterlee & Moore

The Sympathizer – Nguyen

Remote – Fried & Hannson

Rogue Lawyer – Grisham

The Vatican Pimpernel – Fleming

Chocolat – Harris

Strong and Weak – Crouch

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Hansen. Jesse earned his punishment, but no one deserves to be shot in the back while hanging curtains.

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo – Patterson. Check out the movie The Ghost and the Darkness – it’s this book on film.

Fire From Heaven – Renault

Innovation Unplugged – Harkin

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Demick. Hard to believe how people are forced to live in North Korea.

The Unlikely Spy – Silva. One of a series of books about an Israeli art-restorer who moonlights as an assassin. A strong combo to keep you reading late into the night.

Divine Dance – Rohr

The Virginian – Wister

Freakonomics – Levitt

The Given Day – Lehane

The Art of Pilgrimage – Cousineau

Adrift – Griffiths. A book about zombies on a cruise ship. Fascinating, but they have nothing on Lizzie Borden.

Adrift 2: Sundown – Griffiths

Adrift 3: Rising – Griffiths

Anything You Want – Sivers

The War of Art – Pressfield

AD 30 – Dekker

The Girl with a Pearl Earring – Chevalier

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Newport

Scrum – Sutherland

Moscow Rules – Silva. Sometimes only an assassin can make things right.

Everything I Never Told You – Ng

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Sullivan

Originals – Grant

The Mark of the Assassin – Silva. He certainly left a mark.

On Trails – Moor

The Alchemist – Coelho

The Pilgrimage – Coelho

The Defector – Silva. Embarrassing, but another assassin book. I’m saving the rest for 2018.

The Undertaking – Lynch

Gone Tomorrow – Child

The Illusion of Separateness – Van Booy

October 31, 1517 – Marty. On the influence of the Reformation to this day.

Jaws – Peter Benchley. This is the bestseller that spawned the movie. In this case I think that the movie is better that the book, but maybe it’s just that I remember a nervous feeling when jumping into a lake in Missouri after seeing Jaws for the first time. Who really knows what’s down there?

Collective Genius – Hill, Brandeau, Truelove, Lineback

Walden – Thoreau

Building a Story Brand – Miller

Never So Few – Chamales. A long novel on warfare in Burma during WWII. Quite good and somewhat forgotten.

Flow – Csikszentmihalyi. This is a famous book, often quoted, on work habits and styles that lead to ultimate production. While I liked much of his thought, it became apparent that the author’s prescription for helping solve the issues of our world are shallow and secular. I should have stopped half-way though.

Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long – White. Donald Trump before Donald Trump. Long, from Louisiana, once said that poor people’s three best friends were Sears & Roebuck, Jesus Christ and Governor Huey Long. Sound familiar?

The Hardest Ride – Rottman

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Piper

May 2018 bring you much happy reading and and in the spirit of Erasmus, plenty of Amazon gift cards to buy books!

You Are What You Love

Our habits matter, we all know that. We strive to feed our good habits and we struggle to starve our bad ones. In the book You Are What You Love, the author, James K.A. Smith, explores how habits influence us spiritually.

For example, love is a habit. We can get better at loving others. It takes practice. We don’t need more information that tells us to love others as Jesus has been quite clear on that. We do, however, need to put this love into action, we need to develop new habits in our lives that help us to love.

Smith says it this way, “Discipleship is a rehabituation of our lives. This means that discipleship is more a matter of reformation than of acquiring information.” Walking with Jesus and growing more like him means developing new habits.

Smith also compares discipleship to a type of immigration, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. “Such an immigration to a new kingdom isn’t just a matter of being teleported to a different realm; we need to be acclimated to a new way of life, learn a new language, acquire new habits – and unlearn the habits of that rival dominion.”

Many of the habits that influence us are things we don’t give any thought to – where we shop, how we worship, what we listen to, what we watch on TV, who we’re around. All these influence our faith and growth and warrent our attention.

This is a good book, a deep and thoughtful book, and certainly one I recommend for someone wanting to give consideration to those quiet and habitual ideas and practices that shape our hearts.


For the Glory – Chariots of Fire Revisited

Eric Liddell, the subject of Duncan Hamilton’s biography, For the Glory, was both an Olympic champion in the 400 meters and an exemplary missionary in China. Perhaps even more impressive is how he treated people throughout his life. Rich or poor, English or Chinese, he truly “did unto others” in the sense that Jesus meant.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Chariots of Fire, which came out in 1981 and told the story of Liddell and fellow countryman Harold Abrahams, as their running careers culminated in the 1924 Olympics. This book goes much deeper into Liddell’s family background and follows his life up to that Olympic moment, then on through his missionary career in China. Liddell’s faith in Christ and his devotion to others shines through in the book.

Liddell’s life story is wonderful and tragic. As you read you’ll discover a new hero in the faith, just as I’ve done. This is a splendid book for your summer reading and I encourage you to watch the movie if you’ve never seen it!

Paul – A Man of Grace and Grit

A man who stared down kings, survived stonings and shipwrecks, healed the sick and shook off the venom of poisonous vipers – what’s not to love about Paul? I just read this book for a course I’m taking on Acts and the Pauline Epistles. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Swindoll’s thoughts on the life and ministry of Paul. It’s been I long time since I’ve read a book by Swindoll and I was quickly reminded of his humor, insights and his practicality of application, especially for those in ministry.

In the first chapter I was struck by Swindoll’s description of Saul as a “religious terrorist.” Swindoll goes on to say “That’s why there’s nothing more frightening, more vicious than a religious terrorist. What they do, they justify in the name of God.” Since this book was published, we’ve seen ever-increasing evidence of that reality. Which make me wonder, is there another Paul out there, currently committed to Islamic terrorism, who will become the great missionary of tomorrow? I hope and pray so. Perhaps even on the road to Damascus a similar miracle could occur?

Two thoughts kept circling around in my mind as I read this book and as I jotted down notable passages on the way through. First, this life of adventure lived by Paul. His was no boring, cloistered life of ministry. He was fully engaged and ever pushing on to new arenas. Fearless comes to mind. A second thought emerged as I found my way to the final few chapters; a theme that I’ve been weighing personally for the last year or so, and the life of Paul demonstrates it so well. That is, our need for longevity in ministry, or finishing well with the Lord, or keeping the faith until the end of life. My life, in particular.

I loved the book. So much so I ordered another book in the series. I’m challenged to push forward in my work in missions despite the daily obstacles. I encouraged to continue to pursue depth in life and in the Lord. Finally, I’m inspired to end strong and finish the race in a manner of which Paul would approve.

An Encouragement on MLK Day

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.            – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is our holiday reserved to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., commonly referred to as MLK day. I made it a point several years ago to start reading about the life and work of Dr. King. On this day I can say that Martin Luther King is one of my leadership heroes. Rarely will you see a leader so given to his ideals and so committed to his methods. King’s commitment to nonviolence endured despite being spit upon, hit in the head with bricks and constantly threatened. Martin Luther King is an American hero and a wonderful example of a leader who put his Christian faith into practice.

I would encourage you to read more about Dr. King and a good place to start is with his autobiography, pictured here. If you’ve not read it before, I would suggest you add it to your booklist for the year. You’ll be impressed and encouraged and thankful for this man who has blessed our times.


For the Love of Reading – Books I Read in 2016

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Trinity College Library, Dublin

I enjoy reading. It’s a pleasure that never grows old. I read a great deal as I work in ministry and I read just for fun. This year I’ve read some excellent books and also read some that were not so great, but that’s how it goes. Here’s my list of the books (with the author’s last name) that I read this past year, in the order I read them. You’ll find **highlighted** the books I enjoyed the most and recommend highly. Happy reading!


Lead like Jesus – Blanchard & Hodges
** The Witches – Schiff **
The Kill Artist – Silva
Movements That Change the World – Addison
Predictable Success – McKeown
Impact – Irwin
Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute
** Dead Wake – Larson **
H3 Leadership – Lomenick
The English Assassin – Silva
** The Things They Carried – O’Brien **
Multipliers – Wiseman
Native Son – Wright
** Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Qureshi **
The Water is Wide – Conroy

Black Hawk Down – Bowden
The Girl in the Glass – Ford
Accelerate – Kotter
** This Change is Everything – Sebastian ** 
The Prince of Tides – Conroy
** I Once Was Lost – Everts & Schaupp **
** The Revenant – Punke **
The Stoning of Soraya M. – Sahebjam
Delighting in the Trinity – Reeves
The Way Is Made By Walking – Boers
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Dillard
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Kamkwamba
** Church History in Plain Language – Shelley **
The Climb to Hell – Olsen
The Confessor – Silva

** Heroic Leadership – Lowney **
** Confederates: A Novel – Keneally **
Pope Joan: A Novel – Cross
A Life God Rewards – Wilkinson
The Sabbath – Heschel
Epic – Eldredge
The Fox was Ever the Hunter – Muller
True Community – Bridges
A Death in Vienna – Silva
Discovering the Camino de Santiago – Markey
Night of the Grizzlies – Olsen
Create vs. Copy – Wytsma
Being White – Harris & Schaupp
** The Bridge on the Drina – Andric **

The Color of Wealth – Lui et al
Danny the Champion of the World – Dahl
Prince of Fire – Silva
The Coffee Trader – Liss
** The First Time We Saw Him – Mikalatos ** 
** Follow the River – Thom **
Longshot in Missouri – Baker
** In the Sanctuary of Outcasts – White **
The Messenger – Silva
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals – Piper
The Confessions of Nat Turner – Styron
A Man Called Ove – Backman
Eat, Move, Sleep – Rath
** Hillbilly Elegy – Vance **

Finally, in December I finished my “read through the Bible in a year” program, so I include: ** The Holy Bible, New International Version **

This Change is Everything

img_0019You can see that on my desk is a copy of a new book on missions by my friend and co-worker, Shane Sebastian. This Change is Everything is the best new book to come out regarding missions since, well, my book that came out last year regarding missions!

There are two aspects to this book that make it important to anyone considering missions and to anyone working with young people who are considering missions. First, Shane helps us see how young people have been changing the world for centuries. Young people, mid-twenties and younger, have been making a kingdom impact since the days of the Old Testament. Why should it be any different today? We need to encourage people to see how much of a difference they can make in their youth.

In the second part of the book Shane deals with common barriers people face as they consider going to the world. These thoughts are spot-on, as Shane has been working with college students for twenty-five years and helping them work through these very issues. His wisdom comes from years of practical ministry. You will benefit from the hard lessons Shane has distilled for you.

Buy this book for yourself, or buy it to give away, but read it and and let’s help send a new generation to the world!

Heroic Leadership

What a good book and what a different sort of leadership book than I normally read! Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney examines and draws leadership principles from the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. The Jesuits have been around for over 450 years and Lowney attributes much of their success to the four pillars that guide their leadership: self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism.

I was struck by the principle of “indifference” practiced by the Jesuits, which encourages the freedom from inordinate attachments. If you’re free from the things of the world that hold you back, then you’re free to go anywhere in the world the Lord might take you. So unlike most teachings on leadership that I read and a teaching rarely heard today.

The Jesuits focused on finding and developing “as many as possible of the very best.” They worked at finding great young leaders and then putting them in challenging situations to further hone their leadership skills. They forced people to stretch and grow, all the while pushing them to live like Jesus and to treat people like Jesus would treat them.

I was also struck by the Jesuit’s Latin motto, “magis” or “more.” This does not refer to accumulating more money or stuff, which would put it in conflict with the principle of indifference, but rather magis represents the reality that there are new places to go. There are unexplored regions that have not heard about the Christian faith, there are more ways to improve the educational experience of the students under their care, things around you can be better. I love the push that results from aiming high.

Lowney does not sugarcoat the Jesuits and there are issues to be found in their work, but his insight into their leadership culture is rich and worthy of your time, especially if leadership is something you’re trying to live out. May we all be captured by the principle of magis!


I Once Was Lost

I recently finished this book on communicating the Christian faith in today’s postmodern culture by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. As I read, I found myself intuitively agreeing with the five steps to belief they identify that young people go through today – first, trust a Christian; second, become curious; third, open up to change; fourth, seek after God; and fifth, enter the Kingdom. The author’s observations and insights are helpful and on point and people involved in communicating the Christian faith with young people will agree.

This book is short and practical. This should be resource you own and use if you believe that communicating your faith is worth the time, energy and thought to do it well. FYI – we’ll be giving this book to the students participating in the Cru Study Abroad program starting the fall of 2016.

Movements That Change the World

I just finished Movements That Change the World, by Steve Addison.  It’s a fabulous book and should be required reading for anyone interested in missions. The book details spiritual movements both historically and in contemporary terms.

Addison describes 5 aspects of what contributes to a spiritual movement:

White Hot Faith
Commitment to a Cause
Contagious Relationships
Rapid Mobilization
Adaptive Methods

Here’s my favorite quote from the book:

“In the renewal and expansion of the church, the breakthroughs always occur on the fringe of ecclesiastical power – never at the center. In every generation, in some obscure place, God is beginning something new. That’s where we need to be.”

I encourage you to check it out!

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