E-pistle December 5

Christmas Gifts with a Theological Twist
 
I am infamous in our family for being the only member who refuses to come up with any kind of Christmas wish list.  I’m sure a good therapist could ferret it out, but for some reason I just don’t pay much attention to the whole gift side of Christmas.  And, frankly, I’m also a lousy gift-giver, and that’s really not such a good thing.
 
That being said, I have some suggestions for your gift-giving this season. 
 
First for the bookshelf: 
 
I’ll start with Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.  Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  The subtitle of the book is “Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”  Keller tackles tough issues such as why God allows suffering, the exclusivity of the Gospel, a loving God and the reality of hell, science and faith and more.  Some people have called The Reason for God the Mere Christianity of our generation. 
 
Which leads to C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity. The fact that after 65 years it’s still in print tells you something.  From my own experience as a young collegian to the likes of Charles Colson, Lewis’ argument for the basics of Christian faith has been compelling and important.  If you haven’t read Mere Christianity, you should.
 
Let me add two more in the category of orthodoxy well and briefly presented:  N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian and John Stott’s Evangelical Truth.  And speaking of Stott, you might as well read, The Incomparable Christ, as well.
 
Finally a good introduction to another favorite author is John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, which is about, well, it’s about not wasting our lives.  It’s not a waste of time to read this little book.  In fact, you can read the entire book online if you don’t want to waste any money on buying it. 
 
Now to the music library:
 
In the past half dozen years, a number of Christian artists have given us a wonderful gift by setting the lyrics of some of the best traditional hymns with their profound and moving theology to more contemporary music.  Jars of Clay may be the best known of the groups to have rediscovered the depth and significance of older hymns, but in my opinion, no one does it better than Fernando Ortega.  Beginnings is a two CD set with many familiar hymns, and to listen to the more recent Shadow of Your Wings is to worship.  (Listen to the clips on the Christian Book links.)
 
Selah is a less well-known group that I have come to appreciate. Again, much of their material is from the great hymns, but they add some of their own pieces along with a selection of African songs and melodies from the childhood of Todd and Nicole Smith, brother and sister members of the group.  Greatest Hymns is just what the title suggests.  Hiding Place includes the more contemporary You Raise Me Up, the Congolese hymn Esengo (a great song to play on your iPod while you’re working out!) and an African-ized By and By.  
 
Who says I’m not into the whole Christmas gift thing?
 
Books and recorded music are great, but nothing is better than being with the people of God as we explore the book and sing his praises together.