You may not get to read as much as you would like, but I’m sure you do your share of reading. Because of the nature of my work as a pastor I have always needed to read and had the time to do so. Since I stepped down from my last church just over a year ago I have had the opportunity to read even more than I did before. I want to highlight five books that may interest you and that you may want to get and read.

The title of one book got my attention: The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus (2015, HarperOne). It was put together by Dallas Willard’s daughter (following his death) from his notes and lectures. The title not only got my attention, when I read it I was convicted. Willard challenges us as Christians not to “engage in debates and arguments with an antagonizing, arrogant spirit” (p. 2), but to “be characterized by gentleness” and humility.

A second book I am still reading is an older book (1998). I wanted to read it for a few years and finally ordered a used copy. It is entitled Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Riverhead Books) and is written by Kathleen Norris. (Yes, a woman!) It consists of some 80 brief chapters that deal with a variety of important words and phrases in Christianity often from a personal perspective. I am taking my time and savoring her selections.

For those interested in the Bible I am quite impressed with Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Zondervan). First published in 1981, I have the 2014 Fourth Edition. This book is required for one of the classes I teach at Hope International University and has informative chapters on every part of the Bible. It’s an excellent companion for Bible reading.

Last month I got Jesus: A Historical Portrait by Daniel Harrington (2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press). Harrington is a Roman Catholic priest and a professor of New Testament, but this short book is not complicated or too deep for you. “This book aims to state concisely and clearly for a general audience what many specialists in biblical research have learned and written about Jesus of Nazareth in recent years” (p.1). Just over 100 pages, this is an interesting overview of what the Gospels tell us about the life of Jesus.

Finally, if you have not read it, there is my book A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters. You can read about it here https://bobmmink.com/book/.

Which of these books sounds the most interesting to you and might you get and read? What have you read recently you would suggest? Let me and other readers know in the comments below. And share this post if you think others would enjoy it.

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At first reading two of Jesus’ statements in the Sermon on the Mount appear to contradict one another. In Matthew 5:14 He says to His followers, “You are the light of the world.” Then He adds in verse 16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Seems clear enough, doesn’t it?

Then in Matthew 6:1 Jesus instructs, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Again, seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?

Which is it? Are we to let our lights shine before others so they may see our good deeds? Or are we not to do good deeds in front of others to be seen by them? It sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.

Jesus is talking about motive in both of these statements and the motive in each is not the same. The motive in the first instruction is to do good deeds with the idea that people will see our good deeds and glorify God. The motive Jesus forbids in the second instruction is doing good things to be seen by others. We aren’t to do good to draw attention to ourselves so people are impressed with us. As a matter of fact, if that is why we do good things, and we are seen by others, that’s the end of it. But we are to do good deeds and let our lights shine with the goal of pointing people to God.

In living the Christian life and doing good deeds we have to give attention to our motive. Why do we do what we do? Who do we want to get the attention? In a class years ago at Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Bruce Metzger gave us what I still think is sound advice: “When tempted to show, hide. When tempted to hide, show.” What do you think?

I welcome comments below. And if you think others would enjoy this challenge don’t hesitate to share it.

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