Amongst over 40 books that I’ve read this year, most have been Christian books. I’ve slightly arbitrarily split them up, and here’s the first block: Christian books to help me grow.
Although I often prefer to enjoy reading parts of the Bible without the distraction of others’ thoughts, Bible reading notes and commentaries can be great ways to aid my devotional time in the Bible. The following were the few that I tried out this year.
Joshua: No falling words by Dale Ralph Davis
Not having spent a whole lot of time in Joshua, it was great to have help from someone who knows his Hebrew much better than me (I don’t know any!). He’d helpfully thought about the structure of the book as a whole too, and although there were odd decisions that I didn’t entirely agree with, it provided an excellent, pastorally aware and insightful tour of the book.
The chapters were slightly too long for me each morning if I was going to spend any time reflecting myself on the passage and to pray it in properly, but it was a great stimulus to thought and could be stretched out over longer than a chapter per day.
The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life and Slogging Along in Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis
Being something of a fan of Ralph Davis’s exploration of the Old Testament, I enjoyed delving into his expositions on the psalms too. They felt very much like sermons transferred to the page (mainly because I think they were) but they were a great and refreshing little review of Psalms 1-12 and 13-24 respectively.
Nice to read a psalm and its corresponding chapter each day for a few weeks to take you through both books. Again, highly recommended.
Incomparable by Andrew Wilson
This was a difficult book to make a clear decision about, but I ended up deciding I loved it. Short chapters made it incredibly readable, and most of them caused me simply to love God a whole lot more. Each chapter had a particular attribute or name for God picked out of the Bible and then explored, and frequently the text of the Bible was excellently explored.
There were a few chapters who topics I disagreed with (where I felt the Bible wasn’t brilliantly handled) which makes it harder to give my wholehearted approval, but with a disearning eye this is an incredible stir to adoration of God.
Love to the uttermost by John Piper
Suggested as a series of readings for ‘Holy Week’, I decided to follow obediently and enjoyed thinking about these passages around Christmas time.
Short, very readable, not especially stretching, but a good series of thoughts to focus minds during an otherwise chocolate-filled period. And the ebook is free (see link above)!
I think I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the year to think more about holiness. Although I haven’t yet read the iconic and well-recommended Holiness by J. C. Ryle, I did read the following:
A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness by John Chapman
It’s simple, it doesn’t really go beyond the basics – but that’s exactly why I like it. I could arrogantly complain that it doesn’t stretch, but that’s not what I need as a Christian. I need to be driven back to the core of the Christian message and driven to repent before a glorious and gracious God.
This is consequently a nice book to read even as an experienced Christian – and it’s remarkably short, which in my book is also a bonus.
The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
DeYoung has picked out a series of issues which he thinks the Christian world today needs to content with. Just as the apostles identified in epistles such as 1 John, 2 Peter and Jude, cheap grace is a devastating blight on the New Covenant era, and DeYoung here gives a great defence of and exhortation to holiness. Although I disagreed with bits (our views on the function of the Mosaic Law today differs), DeYoung’s classicly readable style and insight into biblical texts made this a great choice of book to read.
Less widely applied than other books (e.g. Respectable Sins, see below), but what was explained was extremely well explained. A great choice.
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
It’s important to note what Jerry Bridges is doing in this book – exposing the sins we tolerate. The reason I point this out is because much of the book is about diagnosis, and proving that particular sins are sinful. Although chapters 1-6 do give the gospel motivations and engine to change, most of the subsequent chapters are designed to be convicting. However, as a book to identify where I’m not pursuing holiness, this is an excellent and penetrating choice.
Though extremely easy to read (in terms of reading level), it’s not for the faint-hearted!
It’s a hard choice, but I think I’d probably go for A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness.
It puts the basics of the basics of the gospel front and centre, and motivates Christians to then live lives worthy of the gospel we believe. It’s immensely readable – could even be read in 1 or 2 sittings, and is an excellent and nuanced encouragement to obey Jesus’ teaching.
For something more stretching, the Hole in our Holiness is a great choice.
My favourite devotional book was probably The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, if only for its frank honesty and immersion in the text of the Bible.