First I need to apologize for sliding in so late into the beginning of the year with a blogpost. I think anyone watching the news in America would agree that we haven’t started this year off on the smoothest track and, unfortunately, the same could be said of my personal life. While this isn’t my regularly scheduled posts (I promise I haven’t forgotten about you, churches of Revelation), this has been something on my heart.
Many people start off the new year with the goal to read more. But what to read? There’s some many books out there! As Christians, we need to be aware of what we’re consuming too. Many books can be stuffed under a Christian lable and be published by Christian publishing companies, yet they hold a worldview so different from the Christian worldview. We need to do our due diligence to check out authors and understand their stance of the fundamentals of Christianity before we dive into believing every word they type. This goes for me too! Check me, test me. I want you to read quality books and blogs (obviously), but even more so I want you to know truth. We are to have a thinking faith that holds the words of other people to the Bible to test their accuracy.
If you don’t know where to start in knowing if the book you want to read is going to be preaching a biblical world view, the simplest thing you can do is to read your Bible. Alisa Childers once said that the easiest way to spot a fake is to know the real extremely well. She used the example of spotting counterfeit money. People in the treasury can spot a counterfeit so well and quickly not because they’re studying fake money. It’s because they handle real money regularly. Similarly, if we know the truth well, we are alerted when we come across something that is false.
This is the approach I have take to sorting out what books I should read or listen to on audible. In the past year, I’ve soaked in so many books and wisdom of people smarter than me. While I do hope you check them and the authors for yourself, I would like to leave you with my recommendations for books to read.
1. The Bible
If there’s one book you should read daily, it is this. It will never grow old or irrelevant. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning thd thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We as Christians need to be in the Word daily in order to conform our lives to Christ. Not a devotional written by our favorite trendy speaker, but the living, breathing Word of God is what we need daily.
We need to read the whole Bible, not merely bits and pieces that feel good to us. From Genesis to Revelation, God is speaking to His people. There are many plans out there to help you stay on track to read through the whole Bible and even Bibles laid out to get you through the Bible in a year. My sister and I are this year doing the Bible Recap plan to read through the Bible chronologically in a year. You use your regular Bible and read between 2-5 characters or so a day. There’s even a short 5-10 minute podcast to listen after you read which the creator of the plan talks about what your read and describes and attribute of God they saw (called the “God shot”) in the days reading. You can find more on the Bible Recap here.
Now, what translation should you read? ESV and NKJV are both word for word translations of the original text. I recommend this over NIV or NLT which are phrase for phrase. While I love the flow of NLT, I appreciate more the accuracy of the word for word text in the ESV. I highly recommend a study Bible too! This will dive into the actual meaning of some words in Hebrew or Greek which can’t be adequately translated into English. Also it’ll give context for what is happening or theological significance. I do NOT recommend The Message or The Passion Bible. They are not a translation but a paraphrase and a loose paraphrase at that. The writers of these books traded biblical accuracy for trendy lingo. We should be wary of people who water down the Word of God which is what has happened in these “translations.” If we were not meant to handle the Bible full strength, God would not have given it to us. You are smart and capable enough to understand a word for word translation of the Holy Bible. What you don’t understand in the Bible, the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom to see. You do not need man to give you a Bible that is pre-digested with their own opinions and biases.
2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis is overall an incredible writer. His writings have an air of poetry and eloquence that we’ve lost in today’s era. His words pierce to the soul. One of his best known works is Mere Christianity and for good reason. He makes a defense for the existence of God and covers the big rocks or “mere” aspects of christianity. It’s the aspects that all Christians of all denominations can agree on. I highly recommend it to all who want to know more about Christianity and all Christians.
3. Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Bonhoeffer quickly became one of my favorite people in history after reading the biography on him (that book will be later on the list). What an incredible thinker and theologian! As those of you who have read my old post know, I’m a huge fan of the Sermon on the Mount. Discipleship spoke much on that passage as well as others in Matthew. He wrote it in a reaction to people living a shallow faith, or as he called it “cheap faith.” This book encourages the Christian to dive deeper into the faith that they claim as he writes on the cost of discipleship.
4. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcy
This book gives a biblical perspective to our bodies. While certain people say atheist who fully embrace evolution and believing that we’re merely bodies (to which a great book to read is The Soul by J. P. Moreland), many believe even without knowing it that we’re dualistic beings and our souls are more valuable than the body. Pearcy makes the case for why Christianity is a holistic worldview. She goes over various issues in today’s culture where we see the human body bring degraded. Love Thy Body shows that the biblical worldview is a much higher advocate for body love than the current culture.
5. Desiring God by John Piper
Over the summer of 2020 I became a big fan of John Piper. I read three of his books and look forward to reading more. Desiring God challenged me and reminded me of why I was made: to desire God. While I am not a calvinist so I don’t agree necessarily with the “small rocks” or debatable doctrine, I do think this is a book Christians should read. Piper captured who we as Christians are and how we should act.
6. Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers
I stumbled across Alisa Childers’ blog a few years ago when she posted an amazing, biblical response and review of Rachel Hollis’ book Girl Wash Your Face. I knew from the get go I love the bravery of this woman to come against kindly and graciously such a popular book. When she came out with her book this year I pre-ordered it and gobbled it up as soon as I got it. This book is incredible. She wrote such deep apologetics subjects and serious issues in today’s church with grace, truth, and understanding. While the topics are deep, reading this book felt more like a conversation you had with a close friend over coffee. It was easy to understand without lacking depth. Everyone who is associated with a church in today’s era should read this book.
7. Tactics by Gregory Koukl
Many of thr books I’ve listed in this blog are apologetic or theological in nature. They are the why behind what we believe or what we believe as Christians. But Tactics is a book that helps you share your beliefs. It explains how to share effectively one’s beliefs. Koukl walks the reader through steps of having a meaningful discussion with others. He says his goal is not necessarily to convert people to Christianity, but rather to “put a rock in their shoe.” By this he means to have a conversation with them that gets them thinking and sticks with them.
8. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
This is one of the handful of not primarily theology or apologetics books that I loved this past year. This is a biography. Before your curl your nose up thinking that all biographies are boring and awful, give this one a chance. This is one of the most engaging books I’ve ever listened to on audible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life is truly an incredible account of how radical obedience to God makes a huge impact on this world.
9. Case for Christ by Lee Stroble
This would likely be the first book I would recommend to anyone wanting to dive into apologetics. The interview style that it is written in keeps it from being too much like a text book yet it is extremely intelligent and informative as he interviewed some of the best scholars for building a case for the existence of Christ. All Christians and all who are wondering about the legitimately of the existence of Christ should read this book.
10. You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love by Allie Beth Stuckey
This was my most recent read as I just got the book as a Christmas present. Every woman needs this book. Allie Beth breaks down the five most common lies this culture tells us and how they cannot hold up to truth nor reality. She reminds us that our worth and value come from God alone, not something we conjure up in ourselves. She speaks with passion hard truths in a world full of soft lies.
11. The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell
This book is geared more towards parents and people who work with youth but can and should be read by all. They speak on how we’ve redefined “tolerance” in this area into affirmation. They help identify the issue of only believing in subjective truth. The guide people in how to deal with particularly the next generation on objective truth. The identification of the issue and guidance on how to deal with it is particularly helpful.
12. Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us More Holy Than to Make Us Happy? By Gary Thomas
This is my favorite book to gift to newlywed Christians. The subtitle is the theme of the whole book: God uses marriage to sanctifies us. It’s not merely about what we get out of it, but how God shapes us through it. Marriage helps us be more like Jesus in that we must be selfless. All married couples need this book. It is an encouragement to the soul.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This is such a great book to guide you through building lasting habits.
Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-changing Truth for a Skeptical World by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell
If you’re looking for a deep dive into apologetics, this is a great resource. There is so much evidence for God, the Bible, and the existence of Christ into this giant book.
I highly recommend getting the Christian books I’ve listed above off of Christian Book Distributors as they are generally much cheaper than Amazon. Or check out your local bookstore! If you have any great book recommendations for me, let me know! Or if because of this blog you read one of the books I’ve listed, tell me how it impacted you! We dont know what 2021 will hold, but one resolution you can achieve is reading more. I hope this is a very educational year for you!