Sermon Videos

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Short Films

These short films were created for Passion Quest Retreat at University Baptist Church in Miami, Florida.

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Sermon Audios

The Kingdom of God is Like A Russian Doll (Jacob’s Well church)

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The God of Exodus and His Liberating Spirit (Jacob’s Well church)

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Jesus. Bread. Mission. (One World Mission Conference)

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Christology for the Streets (SevenAnyDay concert)

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Live Out Your Priesthood (Project India celebration)

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Identity & the Costumes We Wear (Roots community)

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Sermon Remixes

Shame the Devil!

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Seeing the Glory of Jesus Christ

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False Identities

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Book recommendations

Theology

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the ChurchSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

I contend this is one of the best books written on modern theology (and not just because I think N.T. Wright is the Protestant pope). It’s a much needed treatment on heaven, resurrection, and the afterlife considering the church’s thinking has been shaped more by Plato than the New Testament. Wright writes on three levels (scholarly, midrange, popular), this being in the midrange. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read everything he’s written.

Theology for the Community of GodTheology for the Community of God

Everyone needs a good volume of systematic theology on their shelf (well, I’d like to think so). Stanley Grenz makes me proud of my Baptist roots; he’s a sharp thinker who makes theology accessible. This book draws from a number of Christian traditions but is written from a distinctly evangelical and ecumenical perspective. Though organized as a reference to pull down from the shelf for looking things up, this can also be read straight through.

Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of MissionTransforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission

Written by the late David Bosch of South Africa, this book is for every serious student of mission. Its scope is sweeping: a comprehensive history of mission plus a full-dress treatment of postmodernity that points forward to the future of mission. At times this book is not kind to its reader – it requires much effort but richly rewards it.

Incarnational Ministry

Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching WorldBody Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World

Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder cracks open five practices of the early church (such as baptism and confession) that have for centuries been covered with superstition and ritual. Stripping away the added layers, he returns to these practices their full ethical, political, and theological significance. The result is five concrete and communal practices for God’s people that are at one and the same time spiritual and social, worshipful and missional. Yoder as a theologian is orthodox yet non-traditional, so his writings are rooted deeply in the historical faith yet incredibly refreshing. Well-suited for small groups, this slim book will provide plenty to chew on.

Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North AmericaMissional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America

Six writers from different denominations came together to imagine what the church of North America would look like if she reclaimed her missional identity. Working with a robust understanding of the mission of God, Darrell Guder and the other authors do a careful job of defining the church’s mission in terms of God’s mission and not vice-versa. Written over a decade ago, their summary of today’s American spiritual culture is still right on. This book sparked much of the missional conversation presently going on and it continues to challenge the church to move from maintenance to mission.

The Gospel in a Pluralist SocietyThe Gospel in a Pluralist Society

When Lesslie Newbigin returned to Britain after decades of missionary work in India, he observed the post-Christian mood fermenting in the West and predicted with precision the challenges it would pose to Christianity. This book offers his most full-bodied response to these challenges. He confronts secularists to defend their worldview and summons Christians to articulate and embody the gospel in an increasingly pluralist society.

To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner CityTo Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City

In the most in-depth study of inner-city ministry yet, Mark Gornik builds on the 3 R’s of Christian Community Development (relocation, reconciliation, redistribution) but adds a 4th – repentance. Steeped in scripture and academic research, this book is written not by a professor sitting cozily in an ivory tower but a practitioner doing theology in the streets.

Scripture & Hermeneutics

Paul: A NovelPaul: A Novel

Walter Wangerin combines creativity with a close reading of the New Testament to imagine what the great Apostle’s life might have looked like. This novel brought Paul to life for me and is a reminder that the women and men in scripture are people just like us. Reading such vivid depictions of his journeys, one also gets a sense of how Paul was first and foremost a missionary.

The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical StoryThe Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story

If you’re looking to grasp the big picture of scripture then pick this book up. Based largely off of N.T. Wright’s narrative theology, Bartholomew and Goheen offer one of the best and most comprehensive tellings of the biblical narrative that I’ve come across. They’re not content to leave the story in history, however; they build a bridge from the past to the present and show how the bible’s story collides with our own.

Slaves, Women & HomosexualsSlaves, Women & Homosexuals

“Hermeneutics” is a fancy word for the lens people wear when reading and interpreting scripture. William Webb is a serious New Testament scholar and the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” he sets forth in this book is as important as it is insightful. Pastors and leaders seeking guidance on how to interpret scripture with both integrity and relevance will find great value in this book.

The New Testament and the People of GodThe New Testament and the People of God

I refer to this as ‘Big Red’ not just because of its color. The sheer amount of subjects and material N.T. Wright attempts to cover, plus the fact he’s already known to be a bit long-winded, means there’s a lot ink and paper in this book. Yet there’s another reason I call it ‘Big Red’; it towers above all others in its field. If you’re looking for a solid and thorough foundation to stand on for doing biblical interpretation, there’s not a better place out there. This is the home of his “five-act hermeneutic” and Shakespearian analogy, though the former can be found in a much shorter essay online. If this book doesn’t have enough pages for you, no worries; it’s only the first of six volumes (he’s currently writing the fourth), so that should keep you busy for a while.

Bible Commentaries

Colossians Remixed: Subverting the EmpireColossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire

A very different sort of commentary, Colossians Remixed is the first of its kind but hopefully not the last. Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat (a married duo of scholars) offer a reading of Colossians against the backdrop of empire and postmodernity, weaving story and social critique with biblical exegesis. The end result is an engaging, compelling, and highly readable book. Knowing how these two authors live adds another layer of authority to their work.

Song Of SongsSong Of Songs

Robert Jenson, a Lutheran theologian with strong Catholic leanings, writes with such unique style that he should be thought of as an artist with pen and paper. Though I’m not always convinced by his theology, it is always well argued and stimulating. In this commentary he shows how the poetic and risqué book Song of Songs is about both human and divine romance, and, furthermore, he stresses the communal aspect of the latter. The love affair God desires with us is always personal but never private.

Africa Bible CommentaryAfrica Bible Commentary

In the last century Christianity has been “moving South and turning brown,” and Africa has seen an explosive outpouring of God’s Spirit. A diverse group of indigenous scholars and pastors from across the continent came together to offer interpretations and perspectives on scripture. This is the first full-bible commentary written entirely by African hands, and the fact that it’s condensed into one volume makes it doubly impressive. Those seeking to be global Christians will find it illuminating and enriching.

Exodus: JPS Torah CommentaryExodus: JPS Torah Commentary

Written by Jewish scholars, the JPS Torah Commentaries cover the first five books of the Old Testament and allow modern readers to interpret scripture in the company of rabbis. Nahum Sarna authored the first two volumes (Genesis & Exodus) and I’ve found the second of these to be especially insightful. The Exodus event is not only at the heart of the Jewish scriptures but is central to the ministry of Jesus and his first followers.

Ethics & Holistic Living

Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and LivingEngaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living

Cornelius Plantinga is a seminary president, yet is unpretentious; he is a learned academic, yet has an uncanny ability to do theology as if it were poetry. This slender book is an introduction to the Christian worldview and the biblical themes of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. He describes how a Christian’s vocation in the world is to be shaped by a longing and hope for “shalom,” and the rich imagery he uses to explain this Hebrew concept is soul-moving. This is Plantinga at his finest.

Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous IdeaNonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea

We’ve been conditioned to think the only responses to violence are passivity or more violence. Jesus rejected these two options as utterly uncreative, choosing instead nonviolent resistance as a third way. In this book, Mark Kurlansky traces the history of nonviolence showing how it can and does work. There are meatier books out there on the idea and practice of nonviolent resistance, but this is an excellent introduction and a great place to start. Living in a world addicted to violence, we desperately need to (re)learn nonviolence in the church and classroom.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about ChastityReal Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity

There are plenty of Christian books on sex, dating, and relationships, and most of them embarrass me. They either mirror our shallow culture or, on the other extreme, paint a picture of dating that belongs in the 18th century. However, Lauren Winner’s book and Lewis Smedes’ old classic are ones I frequently recommend. Both frame sexuality for the Christian in the context of discipleship and community, and both do a fine job of discussing boundaries and goals without becoming legalistic. Winner’s book is a little less archaic and a bit more interesting.

The Better World HandbookThe Better World Handbook

I want to live a holistic life, one that reflects the ethics and values of God’s kingdom. That’s why I read this book. It’s the result of years of research done by three young sociology professors. From food and travel to shopping and media, this book hits upon all areas of life and suggests simple but effective ways that ordinary people can contribute to a better world. The handbook is packed with extensive notes and online resources, yet is still practical and inspiring. To think small changes can make a big difference you don’t have to believe in the butterfly effect, just parables of mustard seeds and yeast. Those wanting to move to the next level can grab the hefty Worldchanging put out by Alex Steffen’s team.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & CommunitySex, Economy, Freedom & Community

Wendell Berry is a poet, critic, economist, and farmer, and I was first drawn to him because of his agrarian values and appreciation of local economics. A friend once remarked that Berry “makes Christianity unfashionable but authentic.” That’s why I’m drawn to him now. In this book, as its title shows, he deals with a broad range of subjects. And although I agree with the bulk of his razor-sharp criticisms against globalization, I am also sympathetic toward the views of Mohammad Yunus and Amartya Sen.

The Omnivore’s DilemmaThe Omnivore’s Dilemma

When it comes to the question of “what will I have for dinner tonight,” Michael Pollan has helped me move past my shortsightedness to see this as a question not only of taste and nutrition but ethics. In this book Pollan, a professor at Berkeley and frequent contributor to the NY Times, follows our food from the farm (or lab) all the way to the dinner plate. His thorough research lifts the veil on our nation’s farming and food industries to show how they’re entrenched in a complex matrix of legislation and politics. His writings can help us come back to our senses and realize there are larger implications to what we choose to eat. Plus he’s just enjoyable to read; his vivid descriptions make you feel you’re right there with him at the cattle lot or kitchen table.

Spirituality

Celebration of DisciplineCelebration of Discipline

Modern day Quaker Richard Foster is so well versed in the spiritual teachers of the past that reading him is like reading a thousand voices. A book doesn’t become a classic while its author is still living, but this one has. Its pages have taught me how the ancient spiritual disciplines are the “means of grace” (John Wesley’s term) that lead to freedom and bring about growth. My copy is tattered from its travels and covered with ink – I’ve probably underlined half its text. Read this a few times. At least.

Abba’s ChildAbba’s Child

While I was on a silent retreat in a monastery one year, this book struck a deep chord in me and created some space to let God just love on me. Anchored in the biblical witness of God as loving Father, Brennan Manning insists that the most important thing we can do is learn to define ourselves as beloved children of God. I agree. My own experience is that self-acceptance flows from knowing this as my core identity. The entire book deserves a slow reading but is worth buying just for chapters two and three.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus ChristSeeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Though I disagree with Piper on a number of issues, I deeply admire his passion for God’s glory and deeply appreciate his teachings on Christian hedonism (which consequently have earned him a rather large parking space in my library). Read these short but stout meditations to stoke the fire of your heart for king Jesus.

The Contemplative PastorThe Contemplative Pastor

Eugene Peterson pastored the same church for twenty-nine years and would start a new congregation anytime it grew over 300 – because he couldn’t remember more than 300 names. When it comes to the pastorate I consider his voice authoritative. His books can be described with two words: weighty and elegant. We could use more writers and pastors of his caliber.

Novels

Les MisérablesLes Misérables

When I read this book I want to be a better person. Victor Hugo’s classic tale describes how Jean Valjean went from being a violent runaway felon to one of the most beautiful characters to ever appear in literature. Put simply, this is a story about grace transforming a man that is powerful enough to affect its reader in the same way.

The Brothers KaramazovThe Brothers Karamazov

I finally decided to read this after enough people told me it’s the greatest book outside of the bible. The old Russian Dostoyevsky is a master storyteller, and his novel didn’t disappoint. Get the coffee pot brewing because this book is as thick as my bed mattress. But you can use decaffeinated; Dostoyevsky’s plot and character development creates a whirlwind effect that’ll suck you into the story. Or at least that’s what happened to me.

Beginning the Journey With God

Experiencing God Devotional and JournalExperiencing God Devotional and Journal

This might look a bit old school on my list. It should. I read it in high school and it’s been dear to my heart ever since. The short devotionals and journal space helped me develop a daily rhythm of intentional time with God. Since then I’ve given away countless copies to friends new to the faith.

Spiritual Disciplines HandbookSpiritual Disciplines Handbook

My only complaint is that I wish this had been written 10 years earlier. I would have loved to have had a book like this when I first began pursuing God. Adele Calhoun does an excellent job of integrating the spiritual teachers of both the past (Julian of Norwich, St. Benedict, Francis de Sales) and the present (Willard, Foster, Tickle). The book’s greatest strength is that it gets you practicing the spiritual disciplines instead of just reading about them.