Lent is right around the corner. In a few short days, we will gather for Ash Wednesday in churches, on sidewalks, and in coffee shops to confess that we have not been as faithful as we could be, and to begin this journey we call Lent toward the empty tomb of Easter.

Here are four books I’ve read recently that would be great resources for small groups, sermon series, or individual devotional time.

Restored

51tpR5-uf8L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_In Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess (Abingdon Press, 2016), Rev. Tom Berlin uses his gift of storytelling to remind us how messy our lives are, but they don’t have to stay that way.  The messiness in our lives, Berlin acknowledges, is the result of the condition of sin.  “I’ve called the book Restored,” Berlin writes, “because restoration is the goal of the Christian life.” How are we restored? We are restored through the power of grace. Berlin’s book is a primer in United Methodist theology, a theology grounded in grace. Restored outlines the three shades of grace and how they are active in the life of the Christian. Perfect for Lent, Berlin encourages us to declutter the messiness of our lives by accepting the grace that is extended and active in our lives.

Restored has a DVD and small group leader guide available as well.

“If there is any message from God in the mess of life, it is this: You are deeply loved, and with God’s help you can have and become so much more than you are right now.” – Tom Berlin

Creed

9781501813719Creed: What Christians Believe and Why (Abingdon Press, 2016) is the latest from Rev. Adam Hamilton. This is not the first, nor the last, book written about the Apostles’ Creed. Taking the creed statement by statement, phrase by phrase, Hamilton explains the fundamental meaning of the Creed in an approachable way. He does not limit his discussion to just what Christians believe, but the all important why. It is clear that Hamilton is not just writing for seasoned Christians. The book is good for new Christians, making it not just a resource for Lent, but could be a study for a New Member class. It is clear that Hamilton is striving to bridge a gap between those in the church and those who have turned away from the church (the “nones” and the “dones”).

Creed has a DVD and small group leader guide available as well.

Bad Habits

51Ava9ZATmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Thanks to Leonard Sweet and Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to live Right in a World Gone Wrong (Tyndale House, 2016) I’ve developed a few, new, bad habits. A quick read of the Gospels tell us that Jesus always did the unexpected. Building on that notion, and how it always seemed to cause a little controversy, Sweet identifies fifteen “bad habits” of Jesus’.  These “bad habits” are identified as such because they were seen as rebellious in Jesus’ day. Too often we soften the image of Jesus to the gentle shepherd in Sunday school classroom posters, and forget his revolutionary edge. Sweet does not let us forget this side of Jesus. In doing so, Sweet also reminds us that as followers of this “rebellious rabbi,” we too have a revolutionary edge and need to develop a few bad habits.

Jesus

51ca4LfeK3L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son (Moody Publishers, 2017) is a collection of sermons and essays by A. W. Tozer organized by Jesus’ life. At the end of each chapter are a set of questions that may help the reader reflect more deeply on Tozer’s writing. While his writing is not difficult to read, Tozer tends to explain things in a way that the 21st century reader may find challenging or difficult at first. There is, however, no doubt in what Tozer is saying. He is straightforward. What is most striking about Tozer’s essays is just how passionate he was about Jesus, and how much he longed for the Church to be just as passionate about the Savior whose Gospel it proclaims.

Always, always, always God acts like God. – A. W. Tozer

Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for digital review copies of Restored, Creed, and Jesus. Thanks to Tyndale Blogging Network for a review copy of Bad Habits of Jesus.