Do you ever think: “Reading a Christian book sounds like a good idea”?
Do you ever think: “I want to know Jesus more and grow in my walk with him, and God seems to have used reading Christian books in the lives of those I admire and want to follow”? Do you ever think: “Reading what a wiser Christian has to say on an aspect of the gospel or of the Christian life is a no-brainer”?
I do. And yet with the wealth of resources out there, it’s very hard to know which book to pick. How are you meant to know which ones will be helpful? There’s just so many.
Well, wiser folk than I have recently been helpfully sharing their top books of the last year (Matthew Weston, Tim Challies, Cat Caird, Kevin DeYoung). This has given me lots of new books on new topics which I can trust will be decent, having had a recommendation.
I’ve been really helped and guided by people doing such lists, so here’s one of my own. It’s considerably more limited, but might offer one or two people just one or two places to start. So here’s my top reads of 2012.
1. The Good God, by Mike Reeves
Some of you (if you’re students) will have heard me talk about this book a whole lot, but I think with good reason! It changed my entire view of God, and therefore my view of everything… and many others say the same (check out this review from Newfrontiers-er Andrew Wilson - it’s excellent reading in itself! – who called it “the best Christian book I have ever read”)
This book is short, funny, quick and easy to read, but none of that is why you should read it. The reason you should read it is because it’s a book all about God… not the dictator god that atheism rejects (rightly), not the headmaster god, the grumpy god, the resentful god, the unhappy god, but the Good God – the Trinity, a Father who loves a Son, the outgoing, bustling, life-giving, exploding-with-love God of the Bible. He really is that good – and Mike Reeves helped me see that more clearly than ever before. Buy it, read it, read it again, give it away to your mate, and then begin that cycle all over again.
2. A Meal with Jesus, by Tim Chester
First a book on the Trinity, and now a book on how Jesus ate his food… I can hear you saying it already… “You’re really scraping the barrel now Rich!”
No! This wonderful book helped me see the beauty of the gospel of grace (meaning I wanted to share it), and helped me see the ease and simplicity of sharing this gospel (enabling me to do it!). No secret formula… just you, some non-believers, some good food, some good wine, and see what happens.
This book is the book I’ve recommended to friends and churchies most frequently this year, the book that most surprised me (I read it with my supervisor last year and I thought I’d hate it!), and the book that has most transformed the way I think about sharing the gospel. It’s also a book I’m enjoying re-reading with Relay Rob and some of his really engaging students at Aston CU. Tim Chester tracks Jesus through Luke’s gospel in six excellent chapters, allowing us a seat at the table with the Lord as he ate at six different meals.
Seeing just how shocking Jesus was in choosing to eat – in THAT culture – with tax collectors and sinners drew me to love the love of Jesus, and long to share it with my family and my pals.
Chester argues that if we love Jesus, and we eat meals with people (nothing more complicated than that, and we do it 21 times a week anyway…) then we will be doing mission. We tend to make it evangelism very complicated, but “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. Simples.
3. Dealing with Depression, by Sarah Collins and Jane Haynes
This lovely little book is small enough to fit in your back pocket but was profoundly helpful for me and many others I know this year. It’s not a brand new book, and it’s certainly not handling a brand new topic, but this is one of the most sensitive and robustly Christian introductions to the topic of depression that I’ve read. I gladly recommend it!
It’s no quick-fix, self-help tripe, so look elsewhere if that’s what you’re into. No, it’s boldly realistic, confidently Christian, appropriately careful, and it oozes sensitivity, gentleness and love – something that, amazingly and sadly, books on depression often lack. This helped me and numerous friends a great deal throughout 2012, and though it is very much only an introduction to the issue, it is my recommended starting place.
4. Knowing God, by Jim Packer
First given a copy of this by my Staff Worker while at Uni, I was nudged to finally read this by Brum student Ben McNeely, and we’re now reading it as a group of guys in Birmingham CU on a Tuesday morning over a fry-up! This is somewhat a Christian classic, that has shaped the lives of Christians for years, and it’s been doing the same for us. Packer beautifully unpacks different aspects of God’s character, from his love to his grace to his justice to his glory in such a way as to draw the reader to not be content with being puffed up with head knowledge, but in a way that informs the mind and thrills the heart! I love God more because of this book, and am enjoying sitting at Packer’s feet with some brothers at Brum. Read it! A chapter a night would take 20 minutes… it would be an excellent month!
5. A Praying Life, by Paul Miller
This was on the staff study programme and is the best book on prayer I’ve read. So gospel-centered, the first section speaks little of prayer and just helps you see just how much God has done in saving us! We really are his children! The implications of that are that we can pray!!! Not waiting til we feel more holy, but right now! In the thick of the mess and the dirt and the chaos, our Father enjoys even the thought of hearing us speak to him! And the implications of this are that we should plan to pray more often, more boldly, more honestly, and the book finishes with a few chapters of really practical tips on prayer diaries, prayer cards, when to pray… some of which hasn’t really worked for me, but some of which is still helping me now to enjoy prayer as a child of God. Get it!