10 most essential books for christians

I get numerous emails from both blog readers and folks at my church asking me the following question:

What are the essential books I should be reading as a Christian?

Honestly, I have a hard time coming up with my list because it changes so often and I’m biased towards dead people.  So, I’d like to ask you for your help in putting together a list of the 10 Most Essential Books for Christians.  You don’t need to give me your entire list but what are couple books that you would absolutely include on anyone’s list?

Because there’s ten, think broadly so that we’re not just thinking about one aspect of Christianity.  We should include theology, leadership, spirituality, etc., right?  

This should be interesting.

And if you’re interested, you may also want to check a post from last year about people’s personal  influential book.

there’s probably no god

Have you seen this picture [and article] of a London bus with the the following advertisement/banner posted to its side:

There’s Probably No God.  Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.

They were placed on 800 buses and in the next few weeks, another 1000 advertisements will be placed in the subways systems in and around London.

Question: What do you think ?

photo from International Herald Tribune

Most Christians push back and get all riled up.  For starters, don’t even mention the word ‘persecution.’  This isn’t persecution.  Personally, I think this is good for three reasons:

1.  Christians shouldn’t feel entitled to anything. Continue reading “there’s probably no god”

another perspective on israel and palestine

* Please take a few mins to view these pictures from the recent sitaution in Gaza.  Let me warn you that they are incredibly graphic and intense but lest our hearts grow hardened and desensitized:  http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/12/israel_and_gaza.html

As promised earlier, here’s another perspective on the tension between Israel and Palestine and why Israel should feel threatened and act in some way.  The article below in the NY Times is a good read as was the post I shared yesterday. I am not a radical Zionist since I don’t even quite know what that means anymore. As much as people try to cite history to support their views, I also believe that God chose Israel to carry out His plan of redemption for the larger world and while this many not include the totality of Israel from a political or statehood perspective, the “people” of Israel is still part of God’s future plans as well.  The important thing we need to all remember is that God’s plan of salvation, redemption, and grace is not just for one nation or people but the larger creation – including Palestinians.  Isn’t this the good news?

We’re all aware of the Holocaust but what do we really know besides numbers?  In my lifetime, I find it incredibly provocative that in the 38 years of living thus far and in the numerous places I’ve traveled around the world, I have always encountered some form of random prejudice and borderline animosity/hatred for Israel and/or Jewish people.  On occasions, I have asked these people – men or women, young or old, Western or Eastern – why they have such views and most don’t have the slightest clue.  But they do and worse, there are those who seek to eradicate their existence.  Why?  

This doesn’t justify Israel’s violation of human right or international guidelines but something for us to consider.  Peace and shalom.   I yearn for the day when God will restore all.  Until that day, may we wrestle and work towards that Kingdom.

Take 10 minutes to read this NY Times opinion column entitled, Why Israel Feels Threatened: Continue reading “another perspective on israel and palestine”

the hope in the steven curtis chapman’s family tragedy

* Guest column I wrote for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The accidental and tragic death of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman’s youngest daughter – 5 year old Maria Sue – was very difficult to process.  There was the initial shock, then confusion, then anger, and then the need to ask some hard questions.  [Another post on Lessons we Can Lear About Compassion].

Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled, “Tragedy in Steven Curtis Chapman’s Family.”  Little did I know that it would be the most read blog entry [for that day] in the entire WordPress blogosphere.  Just yesterday alone, that entry was read 10,104 times and 9000+ new visitors stopped by the blog.  Continue reading “the hope in the steven curtis chapman’s family tragedy”

[korean christian] hostages in afghanistan

Update [August 30] All remaining hostages are now freed!  On the 43rd day of the Korean Christian relief workers hostage situation, the captivity has finally come to an end [but exchange of verbal drama will now ensue].  The remaining 7 hostages were released today.

Taliban militants in Afghanistan released seven hostages Thursday evening in two batches of four and three.

A Taliban negotiator Mullah Bashir told The Korea Times over the telephone that the release of the group of four _ two men and two women _ had been confirmed, while confirmation of the freeing of the other three had been delayed due to the long distance they had to travel. However, he said they were handed over to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [read full article]

Now, another long drama of words and worldviews will ensue.  Korean officials also agreed to order all Christian missionaries out of Aghanistan by this Friday as well.  As a Christian pastor, I have incredibly conflicted feelings over this matter but will post more on this later. 

Even in the recent days, I’ve read much criticism of both the [Korean] Christians Missions on their purported recklessness on this relief aid trip [which I sought to debunk in earlier posts] as well as the Korean government for caving into the demands of the Taliban.  Will there be escalating political ramifications?  Will the Taliban be empowered to further their tactics in similar manners? 

These questions are legitimate questions but I’m frustrated by the continual references to the 23 Korean Christian Relief group as the perpetrators in this entire ordeal.  They are NOT the perpetrators.   When have they stopped being the victims of a grave human rights violation?  While they had an agenda [simply by their faith in Jesus], they went to Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan.  The church that commissioned them had invested significant funds to help build a hospital and other elements of infrastructure. 

Let’s not forget the real perpetrators in this ordeal – the Taliban.  They’ve managed to get the Korean officials to agree to withdrawing their remaining quasi-troops, order all current Korean missionaries out of the country, agree to halt all future Christian involvement, and I’m certain that they’ve walked away with loads of cash.  What will the Taliban agree to?  What will they pay for the brutal murders of Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu and Shim Sung Min?  How is the global community holding them accountable?

Again, my prayer is that something like this doesn’t discourage people all around the world – regardless of their religious views- to pursue a desire to DO GOOD and help fellow humanity.  It is my prayer that this doesn’t discourage Christian missionaries around the world to pursue their convictions in both communicating and demonstrating the gospel and grace of Christ. 

There is much to be learned here so may we learn together.  For now, I’m so thankful that the remaining hostages are all freed now.  While I was hopeful and prayerful, I had my doubts so this outcome is amazing and an answer to many prayers lifted up by the larger Church.   Soon, they’ll all be back home to enjoy their loved ones [and the barrage of media and public overdose and scrutiny].

My condolensces to the parents, wife, children, and other family members of Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu and Shim Sung Min.  May these two not be forgotten…

Continue reading “[korean christian] hostages in afghanistan”

mother teresa’s “crisis of faith”

Just returned from a several day speaking engagement to New York/New Jersey.  Will post some notes later on the trip.  Long non-stop flight back so took the time to read the article in Time Magazine entitled, Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith.

There may be some or many that may be disturbed and/or discouraged by the article.  In some sense, I felt “sad” for Mother Teresa for the “crisis” she was going through but simultaneously convicted by the life she pursued in FAITH despite the lack of perfect convergence of all things spiritual.  I look forward to reading the book [Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light] when it is released later.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Continue reading “mother teresa’s “crisis of faith””