some of my counselors for 2017/2018


Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15.22)

And so, I deliberately, and regularly, seek out good advice and counsel from others. Some of that counsel comes to me in the form of books; the authors of these books are my advisers.

With the start of a new year at hand, I plan to surround myself with a small group of wise men. A dozen published minds and a dozen months. In fact, my plan is a two-year plan, and so it is actually more like two dozen minds and two dozen months.

bonhoefferMy 2017 group consists of: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pictured above), Shane Claiborne, John Climacus, Peter Enns, Richard Foster, Stanley Hauerwas, C.S. Lewis, Scot McKnight, Eugene H. Peterson, Christian Smith, Christopher J.H. Wright, and N.T. Wright.

My 2018 group will be comprised of: John Barclay, Richard Beck, Benedict of Nursia, Edward Fudge, John Goldingay, Michael J. Gorman, James Bryan Smith, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, C. Christopher Smith, James K.A. Smith, and Dallas Willard.

Of course, my advice and counsel won’t be limited to these men – by no means – but, I will focus deeply on the words of these.

I foresee some benefit overflowing your way from this effort in a number of ways, one small way being that I intend to share snippets of their insight and wisdom in the form of quotes each day the next two years on my Facebook page, as well as perhaps, some posted here on occasion.

Two thoughts:

(1) Do you have a plan for what you feed your head in terms of reading (aside from Scripture), and if so, what is it?

(2) Who do you grant special access to the stimulation, challenge, and formation of your thinking, and why? That is, who do you seek out to sharpen you?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27.17)

books, Santa. books. please.


Dear Santa,

If you think I’ve been a good boy this year – or if you think it would help me be a better one next year – I’d really, really, really like to receive any of these books for Christmas. Thanks!

P.S. – I’ll leave some cookies and a St. Arnold’s Root Beer for you on the table across from the fireplace.


my special reading & study in 2014


In recent years I’ve adopted the habit of annually identifying a specific subject to which I’ll devote myself in some special study. As I read on the matter, I do so with two questions foremost in my mind: (1) what does Scripture have to say about this? and (2) what perspectives and actions ought a Christian take in light of what Scripture says? It’s been a very good habit for me; I wish I had started such many years ago. I commend such a habit to everyone.

The topic I selected this year was violence. Perhaps you’ve noticed my posts on Saturdays of links to some of my reading each week on such. This coming Saturday’s post of links on violence will be the last in that series this year. As to books, through the course of this year I’ve found some by Justin Bronson Barringer, Lee Camp, Shane Claiborne, Stanley Hauerwas, Philip Jenkins, Preston Sprinkle, Craig M. Watts, John Howard Yoder, and Tripp York to be particularly helpful. If I was limited to only one book on this subject to own and read, I would choose A Faith Not Worth Fighting For edited by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer. If I was looking for a book to give to someone as a gift, I’d choose either York and Barringer’s work, or Lee Camp’s challenging piece Who is My Enemy? I consider both of these books to be simply superb. Would that every Christian would read them both!

In the coming year, I’m going to change things up quite a bit, primarily by focusing on three subjects for nine months of the year (I’ll take a month off in the summer, as well November and December). As to subjects, I’ll study (1) worship & idolatry [Jan.-Mar.], (2) the environment & ecology [Apr.-June], and (3) preaching & ministry [Aug.-Oct].

And where shall I begin my reading in regard to worship and idolatry? I’ve decided my first steps will be reading Ron Highfield’s book entitled Great is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God and G.K. Beale’s work entitled We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry.

feed your head


I’m occasionally asked “What do you read?” Which in effect is the same as asking “What do you feed your head?

I’m glad you asked. Not just because what you deliberately feed your mind is extremely important, but because I’m happy to share with you something of what my brain daily consumes.

Though my daily reading certainly isn’t limited to what follows, my daily, personal reading revolves around four key areas, two of which are from Scripture and two of which stem from other matters, but which often deal with Scripture. Those four areas are: (1) the Psalms, (2) a daily Bible reading schedule, (3) what I have lined up to come to me through Google Reader, and (4) select books.

This year, my reading in the Psalms will consist of reading three Psalms each day (one in the morning, one at mid-day, and one in the evening). I read each of these three Psalms three times: once to understand the text, once to pray the text for myself, and once to pray the text with others in mind. Naturally, the first reading is a “normal” reading while the following two readings are “slow rides.”

Each year’s reading from elsewhere in Scripture is different. It follows the church-wide reading track followed by by the church with which I minister. This year’s reading flows out of the Daily Companion Bible, a devotional edition of the Common English Bible. The reading is five-days-per-week (Mon.-Fri.) and will take me through a variety of OT and NT texts. Each week’s worth of reading centers on one particular theme.

My reading in Google Reader, that is the online articles that come to me through RSS, come from a wide variety of sources, all of which (save a couple of news feeds) are ministry related. If you’d like to see who some of the writers are that come to me via RSS simply read this post.

As to the books I read, they vary but the vast majority of them are ministry or Scripture related. Reading length over the course of a day naturally varies, but I would guess it would be somewhere between ten-to-twelve pages per day on average. Following are five books I plan to read over the course of the next three months.

  1. The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction by P.M. Forni
  2. How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman
  3. Talking Back to God: Speaking Your Heart to God Through the Psalms by Lynn Anderson
  4. New Testament Rhetoric: An Introductory Guide to the Art of Persuasion in and of the New Testament by Ben Witherington
  5. The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N.T. Wright

Now that you’ve peeked inside my reading habits a bit, let me ask you a question.

Question: What do you daily, deliberately feed your head in the way of reading?

the top 10 books I’m currently coveting

10. Moral Formation according to Paul: The Context and Coherence of Pauline Ethics by James Thompson

9. The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement edited by Douglas Foster, Paul Blowers, Anthony Dunnavant & D. Newell Williams

8. 25 Books Every Christian Should Read

7. Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

6. The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically by Richard Bauckham

5Common English Bible Gospel Parallels

4. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster

3. Common English Daily Companion Bible

2. Who is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam–and Themselves by Lee Camp

1. The Kingdom New Testament by N.T. Wright

my top 10 best recent book purchases

10. The Robert Bellah Reader edited by Steven Tipton

9Pauline Parallels: A Comprehensive Guide by Walter Wilson

8. Hebrews: Ancient Encouragement for Believers Today by Edward Fudge

7. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton

6. The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

5. CEB Bible Map Guide

4. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, & Enuma Okoro

3. The Letter of James (NICNT) by Scot McKnight

2. James (ZECNT) by Craig Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell

1. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (3rd edition) by Edward Fudge

10 of my favorite “newer” NT commentaries

10. The Letters to the Thessalonians (AB) by Abraham J. Malherbe

9. Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Hebrews, James and Jude by Ben Witherington

8. Revelation (NCB) by Ben Witherington

7. Colossians: A Commentary (NTL) by Jerry L. Sumney

6. Ephesians and Colossians (Paideia) by Charles H. Talbert

5. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament Quotations – G.K. Beale & D.A. Carson, editors

4. Mark (SHBC) by R. Alan Culpepper

3. 1 Peter (BECNT) by Karen H. Jobes

2. Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus by Kyle R. Snodgrass

1. The Transforming Word – Mark W. Hamilton, general editor