Talk to anyone who’s been in my church office more than twice, and they’ll tell you I’ve thrown the book at them. Almost literally. In the course of many conversations, I keep finding myself leaping to my bookshelf, grabbing something off the shelf, and recommending it to my guest because our conversation led us right to it.
If sharing books is wrong, I don’t think I wanna be “right.”
I’m eager to make recommendations. It allows me to share wisdom from others who have spoken into my life. It’s better for these books to be read than to stay on my shelf, keeping their secrets to themselves. Here are some authors who have helped me greatly as I grow in understanding God’s will and God’s world.
On My Nightstand Right Now
Commentary on Galatians (Luther). This man preaches to my soul. I’m compelled to stand for the gospel, without flinching and without compromise. It’s a conversation between Paul and Galatia AND Martin Luther. #flythew
Radical (Platt). I really want to follow this up by reading Ordinary (Horton). It seems like a good tension to sustain.
Highlights from 2016 Reading
Onward (Russell Moore). With the waning of the Moral Majority / Religious Right that Gen X / Millennial tightrope walkers like me have inherited, I was thankful perpetually for how Russell Moore expressed the tension I feel as a Christian in America today. He also shone a light on the path for what to do next.
Christianity and Liberalism (J. Gresham Machen). This book was written almost 100 years ago. The message is no less urgent today. Christianity and Liberalism are at odds on every core doctrine of faith: the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation. We must not pretend that we are still the same at heart.
Luther’s Large Catechism (Martin Luther). Luther is readable, practical, and helpful. This Large Catechism is meant as the Parents’ Guide to his Small Catechism, giving parents explanations on what they need to teach their kids everything in the small Q&A version.
Orthodoxy (G. K. Chesterton). I didn’t know this was a biography until I got started. It’s free-flowing, kind of like a Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia in writing. It has all the freedom of Donald Miller or Bob Goff, with a piercing ability to connect us to God deeply (and, well, with orthodoxy).
Same-Sex Attraction and the Church (Ed Shaw). All that the title says and much more. The Christian sexual ethic commonly strays into so many captivating myths. Shaw speaks them plainly, persuades us compassionately, and pleads with us to change the attitudes of our hearts for the love of God and others.
Books I’m Embarrassed Not to Have Read Yet (or Lately)
Desiring God (Piper) – not yet. I’d gladly push this to the front of my 2017 reading list! How have I missed this?
Knowing God (Packer) – not lately. My high school friend Margaret gave me a copy when I graduated. I’m ashamed that I’ve lost it! I would love to soak it in again, now that my brain has grown in its ability to absorb this level of reading.
The Prodigal Church (Wilson) – not yet. My dad says I NEED to read it, and I believe him!
The Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan) – not yet, kind of. This is technically “on my nightstand” in my queue after Luther’s Galatians commentary. I loved being in Margaret Zee’s stage play in 2013 and hearing the audio commentary on the whole story from the Renewing Your Mind podcast this year. But I don’t remember reading the whole thing, unabridged. It’s time.
Anchors for Christian Living (outside the Bible)
Screwtape Letters (Lewis). I try to read this one every summer. Thirty-one letters written “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The edition I bought in 2002 also had “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” for an epilogue. I never feel like I’ve really finished the book without reading this, too.
The Pursuit of God (Tozer). This short book contains prayers at the end of each chapter that I review regularly in my own prayer time. It’s heartfelt, meditative, honed in on the glorious vision of God above all else. I’m thankful to let it lead my heart back to God.
The Cost of Discipleship (Bonhoeffer). I’d do well to re-read this one, or at least the first four chapters. Bonhoeffer taught me the difference between cheap grace and costly grace, and the vital connection between belief and obedience.
The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis). I have two favorites. First, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, out of respect for the classics and the vibrancy of the gospel there. Second, The Silver Chair: how quickly we let our minds be led astray! How frustrating it is when we struggle to do the will of God we do know!
How I Serve and Lead Others in the Gospel
9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Dever). For years this had been “the best book on church leadership I’d never read.” I’m convinced that these marks are crucial to a healthy church, and I’m burdened to see them embraced in the church.
The Explicit Gospel (Chandler). Can our church members explain the gospel clearly? Do they know when they’re hearing it and when they’re hearing counterfeits? May God have mercy on us, servants of Christ, if we obscure or neglect the Gospel! I’m compelled to share this with our youth, in my preaching, in one-on-one conversations and discipleship – or simply in telling someone the Gospel for the first time.
Lectures to My Students (Spurgeon). This begins with The Minister’s Self-Watch: every minister must be sure he himself is saved, first! It impressed upon me a sobriety about the ministry necessary for every servant of God in His church.
Westminster Shorter Catechism / Heidelberg Catechism. I keep coming back to these to review the fundamentals of the faith. They equip me with helpful answers to big questions:
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requireth of man.
The duty God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.
[My only comfort in life and in death is] that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Confessions (Augustine). A must-read. Learn how your life story can, dare I even say ought to, point to God in every moment.
Robinson Crusoe (Defoe). I’ve never put this side-by-side with the Confessions, but this may be the English fictional version of it. I was amazed at the Godward focus of this account in every chapter. Miss Boman, I apologize for not having actually read it in 9th grade; it was well worth it when I finally did.
The Smell of Sin (and the Fresh Air of Grace) (Everts). You know how people have their favorite dive or diner, and who cares if the rest of the world hasn’t heard about it or doesn’t like it? This is my hole in the wall. You’re invited; I think it’s phenomenal, in parts 1 and 2.
Best Piece of Wisdom about Reading
If you haven’t read this before, listen to some wisdom from C. S. Lewis shared in his introduction to On the Incarnation. You’ll do yourself the best favor by reading the introduction itself, but at minimum, contemplate this rule:
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.