The “Top 20” books we recommend to everyone.
1. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
The world assigns value to people using measurable standards. Someone is a successful student if she receives As. Someone is a strong athlete if he runs five miles a day. The Lord, however, knows nothing of standards. The Ragamuffin Gospel was inspired by Brennan Manning after he discovered firsthand what it means to live by grace instead of performance. His words bring new life and sweet refreshment to Christians who are tired of never measuring up.
2. A Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown
Christians do not trust freedom. As Steve Brown explains, they prefer the security of rules and self-imposed boundaries, which they tend to inflict on other Christians. Brown asserts that real freedom means the freedom to be wrong as well as right. Christianity often calls us to live beyond the boundaries, bolstered by the assurance that we cannot fall beyond God's love. Freedom is dangerous, but the alternative is worse—boxing ourselves up where we cannot celebrate our unique gifts and express our joy in Christ.
3. On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde
While there is increasing interest in the "theology of the cross," few people have specific knowledge of what makes it different from other kinds of theology. In On Being a Theologian of the Cross, Gerhard Forde provides an introduction to this theological perspective through an analysis of Luther's Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, the classic text of the theology of the cross. The book clarifies the difference between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross and explains how each perspective shapes the very nature of being a theologian.
4. One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian
Our exhausted world needs a fresh encounter with God's inexhaustible grace—His one-way love. Sadly, Christianity is perceived as being a vehicle for good behavior and clean living—and the judgments that result from them—rather than the only recourse for those who have failed over and over and over again. Tullian Tchividjian shows Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.
5. Upside-Down Spirituality by Chad Bird
In our age when the church can too often seem like a poor copy of the world, Chad Bird challenges us to reclaim the astounding originality of our ancient, backward faith. Where the world stresses the importance of success, Bird invites readers to embrace nine specific failures in the areas of our personal lives, our relationships, and the church. Why? Because what human wisdom deems indispensable is so often an impediment to our spiritual growth, and what it deems insignificant is so often essential to it.
6. Life is Impossible by Nick Lannon
"No one ever said life would be easy." Many of us will admit that, at times, life is hard. We buckle down, put our noses to the grindstone…and all too often wind up exhausted or burned out. But the problem isn't that life is difficult. The problem is that life is impossible! Fortunately, what sounds like bad news is merely the beginning of the good news in this concise, gospel-centered book about God's abundant mercy and love. With wisdom, humor, and compassion, Nick Lannon casts life's painful realities in the light of Jesus, the One who achieves the unachievable.
7. Seculosity by David Zahl
At the heart of our current moment lies a universal yearning, writes David Zahl, not to be happy or respected so much as enough—what religions call "righteous." To fill the void left by religion, we look to all sorts of everyday activities—from eating and parenting to dating and voting—for the identity, purpose, and meaning once provided on Sunday morning. Seculosity takes a thoughtful yet entertaining tour of American "performancism" and its cousins.
8. Grace in Practice by Paul Zahl
Grace in Practice is a challenging call to live life under grace—a concept most Christians secretly have trouble with. Paul Zahl pulls no punches, contending that no matter how often we talk about salvation by grace, in our "can-do" society we often cling instead to a righteousness of works. Asserting throughout that grace always trumps both law and church, Zahl illuminates an expansive view of grace in everything, extending the good news of grace to all creation.
9. Who Will Deliver Us by Paul Zahl
Drawing on the classic teaching of the atonement as it is presented by St. Paul and other Christian thinkers, Paul Zahl unfolds its meaning for this generation. He then applies it to the problems of spiritual malaise and meaninglessness, which afflict us today: problems of depression and despair, of loneliness, and of broken relationships. Throughout, the good news of Christianity—forgiveness, reconciliation, new life—is presented in terms that contemporary readers can easily understand and apply to their lives.
10. Living by Grace by William Hordern
How can Protestant churches overcome their denial—in actual attitudes and actions—of their central belief in justification? The chief paradox of Protestantism, manifest in all denominations, is the blurring and contradicting of the central belief in "justification by grace alone through faith alone" The church in America, says the author, has always been prone to preach that being a good Christian will result in health, wealth, and happiness. Many church practices support a reward and punishment ethic—thereby denying the heart of justification: God's forgiveness.
11. Between Noon and Three by Robert Capon
Picture a college town in the mid-1970s. An English professor who has become an expert in extramarital dalliances is smitten by one of his graduate students. They meet for lunch around noon, and before three they make declarations of love. Is it possible that their subsequent affair could ultimately teach us something about true forgiveness and the radical meaning of grace? Only Robert Farrar Capon would have the audacity to fashion such a tale.
12. The Astonished Heart by Robert Capon
Although the church has done much good, it has also made numerous blunders in its checkered history. Chief among them is that it has lost its astonishment over the Good News of the gospel—the gift of salvation we receive from Christ. By taking readers through the history of the church, Capon shows how we have lost this sense of astonishment by making Christianity into a religion that focuses on requirements and restrictions rather than on the good news.
13. Messy Spirituality by Michael Yakonelli
We spend most of our lives worried about what we don’t do instead of what we have done, focused on our imperfections instead of God’s fondness for the imperfect. Why? Because we’ve been bombarded with books, movies, podcasts, seminars, and social media convincing us that real Christianity is all about perfection. Michael Yaconelli dares to suggest that imperfection, infiniteness, and messiness are, in fact, the earmarks of true Christianity.
14. The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones
If you are a parent, grandparent, pastor, or teacher looking for a way to teach the children in your life about God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love,” look no further. While other Kids’ Bibles contain stories from the Old and New Testaments, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible, pointing to Jesus as our Savior. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will clearly see that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation—and at the center of their story too.
15. Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Cary
Phillip Cary explains that knowing God is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community, not a to-do list designed to help us live the Christian life "right." This clearly written book covers ten things Christians don't have to do to be close to God, such as hear God's voice in their hearts, find God's will for their lives, and believe their intuitions are the Holy Spirit. Cary skillfully unpacks the riches of traditional Christian spirituality, bringing the real good news to Christians of all ages.
16. Law and Gospel by William McDavid, Ethan Richardson & David Zahl
There’s a big difference between judgment and love, obligation and freedom, a wage and a gift. The difference characterizes an extraordinary amount of our day-to-day experience, often dividing fear from hope, and death from life. At the heart of Christianity lies a similar and related dynamic: between the Law and the Gospel. Understanding where one ends and the other begins allows a person to see both the Bible and themselves in a fresh way. This short volume unpacks the good news of God’s grace with practicality, humor, and a whole lot of heart.
17. Grace in Addiction by John Zahl
Church basements are curious places. Playing host to the vibrant world of 12 Step Recovery, they witness the sort of healing and redemption that would make those on the ground floor proud, and maybe even envious. Yet despite the Church and Alcoholics Anonymous both being in the business of bringing "hope to the hopeless," the two worlds seldom seem to interact. Packed with vivid illustrations, good humor, and practical wisdom, Grace in Addiction attempts to bridge this divide and carry the unexpected good news of AA out of the basement and into the pews—and beyond!
18. Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians by Martin Luther
Martin Luther's most comprehensive work on justification by faith is translated and edited from the Latin into a lively style, paralleling his spoken lectures. Combined with the passion and faith expressed in these lectures, the biblical foundation for the crucial doctrine of justification is underscored and expressed to a new audience. The commentary is also a historical document, a recording of a professor in a classroom in 1531 from July to December of that year, which expresses the Reformer's commitment to the good news of Jesus' death in the sinner's place, challenging the reader/hearer to compare St. Paul's theology with what he/she hears in the church today.
19. Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian
In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s, unfortunately, no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort of the gospel for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others.
20. It is Finished by Tullian Tchividjian & Nick Lannon
God's radical grace is unbelievable, unexplainable, and definitely undeserved. But it's the foundation of our faith. In this new 365-day devotional, Tullian Tchividjian reminds you every day that the gospel is good news. It's God's message that He loves us even when we don't deserve it. These short readings each contain a truth from God's Word that will set you on a solid foundation for the day—a foundation of God's grace, goodness, and unconditional love.