Hi Friends,

As you get ready for Christmas, there is no greater gift that you could give ourselves or others, than the gift of growing deeper in faith.  In Acts 17 we are given a picture of how vibrant faith can be cultivated,

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Act 17:11-12 ESV)

These people had an eagerness in their belief that resulted in an excitement for continual study of God’s word.  The Christian faith is not a faith that encourages simplicity, but rather one that encourages us to grow in seeking greater depths to our understanding of the profundity of God’s revelation.  One of the best ways to grow in our understanding is by reading good books that help us learn more about the Greatest Book (the Bible.) As the apostle Paul awaited his execution, he instructed Timothy,

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2Ti 4:13 ESV)

Commenting on this Charles Spurgeon writes,

He was inspired, and yet he wants books!
He had been preaching for thirty years, and yet he wants books!
He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!
He had a wider experience than most men do, and yet he wants books!
He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, and yet he wants books!
He had written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!”

May we be people who follow Paul’s example and “want the books!”  I know reading can be a hard practice, but if you read 15 minutes per day you will read around 15 books per year.  I guarantee you that your spiritual life will be richer if you read 15 books in 2021 that stir your heart to love and know God more.

Here are a few recommendations to get yourself, or someone else, for Christmas.  These are my favorites books that I read (or reread) in 2020

1. Gentle and Lowly:  The heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers by Dane Ortlund

Hands down the best book I read all year.  There are many books about who Jesus is, but this book will take you into how Jesus feels and what that means for you and for me.  Not going to lie, this one had me in tears on multiple occasions.  I reread it twice and we are going to be using it for staff devotions in the new year.  Every Christian should read this.

2.  The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

This is a book that I have read probably a dozen times.  I couldn’t describe it any better than the author, “How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives….God is inescapable. There is no place we can hide from Him. Not only does He penetrate every aspect of our lives, but He penetrates it in his majestic holiness. Therefore we must seek to understand what the holy is. We dare not seek to avoid it. There can be no worship, no spiritual growth, no true obedience without it. It defines our goal as Christians. God has declared, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). To reach that goal, we must understand what holiness is.”

3. Doubting Towards Faith by Bobby Conway

I read this book for the first time this year and found it to be really helpful in thinking about the doubts that we can all experience. This book shows how to take your doubts and learn how to let them drive you closer to Jesus instead of into unbelief.

4. Making Sense of God by Tim Keller

In this book Dr. Keller shows why following Jesus meets our deepest needs for meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope.  Few people are better at engaging our modern culture with the timeless truth of the gospel.  This book will help you grow in your appreciation for our faith and in your ability to winsomely engage others in spiritual conversations.

5.  Confronting Christianity: 12 Questions for the World’s Largest Religion

Christianity is the most widespread global belief system, and promises to remain so well into the future. But for many, biblical Christianity is a dangerous idea—challenging some of their deepest beliefs. This book explores 12 questions that keep many from considering faith in Christ. It help us see how reality of suffering, the complexity of sexuality, the desire for diversity, the success of science, and other seeming roadblocks to faith are actually signposts pointing to Christ. This book will show you how Jesus is not a relic from the ancient world, but our modern world’s best hope.

6. Canon Revisited:  Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament books by Michael Kruger

There is a lot of confusion happening in our culture about the Bible and how it came to be.  In this book Dr. Kruger gives a vigorous defense for not only the historical formation of the Bible, but also the theological reasons given within the Bible itself for what authenticates the Scriptures.  This book is a bit academic, but still accessible.  It will help you have greater confidence that the Bible you hold is the sacred word of God.

7.  Science and Scientism by J.P. Moreland

J.P. Moreland is one of the great Christian philosophers of our modern times and in this book he explores the relationship between faith and science while pointing out the dangers of the false ideology of scientism.  If you have any interest in the sciences, this is an absolute must read.

8. Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray

This is a classic book that I reread almost yearly.  It goes through how our Triune God accomplished our redemption and how that redemption is then applied to our lives.  This is a book that every Christian should read at some point in their lives.

9. Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson

This past summer shined the spotlight once again on racism in our country.  There was a lot of good that happened, but also many concerning things.  As Christians it is vital that we understand how to navigate these issues with clarity on the gospel of Jesus.  That’s exactly what Benjamin Watson does in this book.

10.  Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The most popular Christian book other than the Bible.  I personally love the children’s edition called Dangerous Journey.  This really brings out faith journey to life.  I highly recommend, especially if you have children.

11.  Post Christian:  A Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture

Contemporary thought claims to be “progressive” and “liberating” but contradicts itself by assaulting family, community, authority, and nature. This insightful book charts the course on how postmodernism evolved into post-Christian thinking and how to unearth solutions for rebuilding culture and reviving faith.

12. Heaven by Randy Alcon

This world is not our home.  Praise God!  This book will encourage and inspire you to press on for the great land where we will enjoy God forever.

13.  Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson

In this autobiography, Rachel Gilson tells about how she both came out and came to faith and grappling with her same sex attraction and the teaching of Scripture.  This book is an excellent treatment of sexuality and how there is nothing more satisfying than living for Christ.

14. Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

These are short 5 minute devotionals that are designed to be read in the morning and the evening.  Spurgeon is one of the greatest communicators to ever live and this masterpiece will edify your soul and be something you read and reread many times.

15. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

If you haven’t read through the Chronicles of Narnia series, do yourself a favor and try to tackle that in 2021.  Even if you only read this first book in the series, you will thank me.  This is another book that makes me cry as it beautifully captures in allegorical form what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection.

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!

Pastor Jeff