Not many people in Perth read books. There, I said it. We have an outdoorsy culture and a TV watching culture, TV show streaming, online gaming, and smart phones to play on. Many people simply don’t read books of any length anymore.
This is also reflected in church. We have a pretty good church library where you can select a range of Christian books to read at no cost, yet the same small number of people use it and most do not.
It is a quieter time of year for many of us – why not consider reading a good book? Books are better as food for your brain than blogs and TV, for they require you to think and focus for a longer period of time.
There is real value in reading good novels too (I recently enjoyed ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusak) but this blog will point you to some recently published Christian books that could be helpful for your thinking. I read all these books in the past few months; they are very different from one another, but I appreciated them all in different ways. (I have also been reading books on sexuality and homosexuality from a Christian perspective for the upcoming sermon series, but they will be covered in a separate blog post).
John C. Lennox ‘Against the Flow’
John Lennox is a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, and a well-known Christian apologist who has debated many in the atheist movement including Richard Dawkins. He is winsome, logical, and easy to read. This latest book of his is based on the Biblical book of Daniel, and is subtitled “the inspiration of Daniel in an age of relativism”. He draws various comparisons between Daniel’s situation and ours, being a faithful witness in a predominantly non-Christian world. I thought he handled the Biblical material well, and his observations on what is helpful, faithful witness and what is not were very astute. He understands archaeology and history well. This is an interesting and challenging read and I highly recommend it. (I recommend all of his books, especially if you are in some way exposed to atheism amongst your friends).
Matt Perman ‘What’s Best Next: How the Gospel transforms the way you get things done’
Most of you will know that I am on organized person, so it won’t surprise you to know I have read a large number of productivity books, both Christian and secular. In some ways, this book will give you some of the helpful basics for becoming more productive you will find elsewhere like managing email and weekly planning. But the real value of this book is that it is thoroughly Christian and gospel focussed. It sets a framework in the first part of the book explaining that productivity is not the whole answer; you need to get the right things done. So it’s not all about just being organized so you get a lot done in the time you have; it is about knowing what the right things to do are, and then doing them well. All of us are called to be good stewards of what we have been given so I believe being productive and not wasting our time is important; but doing the right things first is so critical. This is helpful and thoughtful, and I found it personally helpful.
Tim Challies ‘The Next Story: Faith, Family, and the digital world’
I need to confess that this is not a new book, though this is a new edition of it with more chapters added to the original. I have followed Tim Challies’ blog for some time; he is a pastor from Canada and is usually faithful, sane and helpful. This book is about technology. Tim unpacks what technology is and urges us to think through the impact of technology on our Christian lives for good and bad. The rapid changes in technology change the way that we communicate, what friendship looks like, how we think about truth, how our minds work, and much more. Many take extreme views on technology, saying that we should either reject it all or embrace it all. Tim Challies is more thoughtful and thorough than this, which I appreciate. I learnt much from this little book (it’s only about 200 pages and an easy, entertaining read). Christians are called to be wise in how we live in this world and not just be like everyone else, and this book is a good start for us to process these technological changes.
Allan Chapple ‘True Devotion: In search of authentic spirituality’
Allan was my New Testament lecturer at theological college, and reading a book he has written is always a slightly odd experience. I can hear his voice as I read, seeing the way he splits everything into logical sections that rhyme and have 3 parts to them! I admit that this book is harder reading than the previous three and not the kind of thing you casually browse through before bed in the evening. But it is worth the time investment. Allan is engaging with modern Christian authors who encourage mystical practices in our spiritual lives. You know the kind of thing, where you are to be quiet and listen for the voice of God to speak to you, or where you are to empty your mind on a monastic quiet retreat, that kind of thing. Allan digs deeply both into the Biblical material and into church history, especially the Reformers and the Puritans, to address this style of spirituality. It is thoughtful, deep, and fair. And then he provides some useful ways forward for those who yearn for a more personal connection with God so we don’t just read the Bible as a textbook to give us information. God’s Word needs to sink into our hearts and change us, not just be stored in our minds for trivia. It is small but packed with information, worth the time investment for the thoughtful reader.