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Part 4: A “Starter Set”

Here I’m going to give some recommendations. Many would quibble with this short list, and that’s understandable; but it’s just a starter list.
Classics (Must Reads)

- Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan- An allegory on the Christian life. You won’t get it the first or second time. But it’s probably worth re-reading every year.
- Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis- A defense of Christianity that is excellent for both Christian and non-believer. Like a savory steak, you have to chew each of the short chapters slowly.
- Knowing God, by J.I. Packer- This work is accessible to all kinds of people. Packer’s hope is that by reading his book, you will want to put it down and read Scripture.
- The Valley of the Vision, compiled by Arthur Bennett- Don’t be fooled by the 2-page “chapters.” This “collection of Puritan prayers and devotions” goes deep. All at once, it will make you want to dance and weep.

(Random Yet) Really Helpful
The Unquenchable Fire, by Michael Reeves- This is a brief and entertaining overview of the Protestant Reformation. It is by no means dry, and I found myself laughing out loud at times.
- O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. Nancy Guthrie has compiled and edited sermons spanning hundreds of years by some of Christianity’s most influential pastors and thinkers on the theme of “facing death with courageous confidence in God.” Each
selection while concise and understandable drips with hope.
- Living the Cross Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney- This short power-packed volume introduces an “every day” problem: “…we all face the temptation to move away from the gospel, to let it drop from our hands and hearts…. The cross and its meaning aren’t
something we ever master.”

"O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting. I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me."

- Thomas à Kempis

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A Letter to a Son of David

Dear Joseph,

Recently, I wrote a letter to your wife, Mary. I hope you’re okay with that since you’re both in Glory now anyway, unmarried like the rest and awaiting that great marriage supper of the Lamb.

I imagine that calling Nazareth of Galilee home must not have helped you in popularity contests. What was it like to be a part of the long and destitute lineage of kings, a great, great, great… grandson of David? Did you know that some people in my era advertise that their “boss is a Jewish carpenter”? Seems cute, I know, but they weren’t talking about you. What was it like to apprentice young Yeshua as a carpenter who is both your Lord and mine?

Our Holy Book speaks of you as a “just man” (Matthew 1:19). Seems to me that was made possible because of your Stepson (we call him Jesus). You must have taken the God of the Covenant seriously and trusted his promises. In so many ways, I want to be a righteous man like you, Joseph, and most like your Lord and mine.

How did you feel when Mary first told you about the pregnancy? Did you run away in anger? Levi tells us in his Gospel that you decided to annul your betrothal “quietly” (Matthew 1:19). You took the noble road when you could have legally shamed her or demanded her stoning. Admirable! Sleep must have been hard not knowing the truth—until, of course, the angel came and cleared it up. What must have it been like to endure the stigma of engagement to a pregnant woman?

How manly did you feel in not finding a respectable place for Mary to birth Jesus? Were you scared knowing the local king was coming to destroy baby Yeshua (Matthew 2:13)? How did you provide for mother and child as refugees in Egypt?

I think you and Mary would identify with one of our Christmas movies about a kid getting left at home accidentally. One difference would be, however, is that the child of your story is real and worthy of worshiping as your Lord and mine. Shalom.

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