As we near the end of one year, and, by God's grace, enter into a new one, I wanted to submit a few book and music recommendations for your edification and enjoyment:
1. Between the Beginning and the End: A Radical Kingdom Vision (J.H. Bavinck)
In this recently translated (2014) book by J.H. Bavinck, the Dutch missiologist paints a picture of redemptive history through the lens of biblical theology. Drawing on sociology, history, and mythology, Bavinck addresses major themes, symbols, and persons with great insight. Though I would not necessarily call it a "radical kingdom vision", his description of the in-breaking of the Kingdom in the person and work of Christ is both beautiful and awe-inspiring.
2. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (David Winner)
This is a quirky book that blends history and humor, art and culture, as well as faith and football, to tell the story of a people (the Dutch) and their particular style of football. Winner does well to capture the essence of the Dutch approach to the sport (and, by association, many other aspects of life) and how it has shaped the country. A must read for anyone who enjoys sports, history, cultural studies, or simply an enjoyable read.
3. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (James K.A. Smith)
Probably my top recommendation. In this volume--the first of three--James K.A. Smith addresses the oft-ignored subject of desire, and the formation of our lives (and desires) towards the Kingdom of God. Chock full of invaluable cultural insights, Smith exposes the false kingdoms we are all too often shaped by, and the things that hijack our desires. But he goes further still, pointing to the liturgy of gathered worship as a means of reoriented and renewing our desires at Christ and His Kingdom. Desiring the Kingdom is a wonderful read for, and provides helpful challenges to, those in vocational ministry, those who plan corporate worship, as well as for lay leaders, students, and faculty members alike.
4. Double Indemnity (James Cain)
The last book I want to highlight is a novel written by James Cain. Double Indemnity tells the story of Walter Ness, and insurance salesmen whose lust and greed lead him to commit a terrible crime. Without spoiling the plot, I can say that this novel is expertly written; short, to the point, and compelling in its narrative structure. Cain's novel lays bear the temptations common to many of us, and the destructive effects of sin.
1. Emmanuel Lux (Koine)
A talented Lutheran band from Wisconsin, Koine has several albums I could put on this list, but this album of advent hymns is particularly relevant to the season. Taking theologically rich songs like "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," and "Savior of the Nations, Come," and setting them to modern instrumentation, Koine has produced a powerful, beautiful, and enjoyable collection that I think can find use in our churches as well as in our homes.
2. Hallel Psalms (Cardiphonia)
Cardiphonia is "a fellowship of church songwriters that crowd source worship music for the joy and benefit of the Church." Hallel is a diverse collection of settings for the Psalms for use in personal devotions and corporate worship. Much like Koine, Cardiphonia has a number of albums worthy of this list, as well as a helpful blog.
3. Becoming Who We Are (Kings Kaleidoscope)
A Seattle based band who produces an eclectic mix of music that draws from Scripture, as well as the band members' own personal lives. Becoming Who We Are is their debut album, featuring a blend of indie and progressive rock, and electronic influences (not to mention well-placed horn sections). Of particular note are tracks #5 "Felix Culpa" and #17 "Defender."
4. From the Rivers to the Ends of the Earth (Matt Searles)
On this album, Matt Searles seeks to proclaim the glorious nature of, and the riches we have in, Christ our King in the Royal Psalms. Not only are these tracks pulled right from the psalter, but the chord sheets and music are available at his website for use in congregational worship (a link can be found on the bandcamp page).