Winter Reading Suggestions

I know this is a lengthy thought this week, but save this if you are ever looking for a good book to read.

I enjoy reading, but don’t often take the time to read like I probably should.  I find it is one of the ways that God uses in my life to feed me spiritually.  I make a priority of reading God’s Word every day, but I also read many other authors and books that help me to learn about God and the world around me.  

First and foremost, I would encourage you to read God’s Word.  Make a plan to read through the Bible.  My wife recently sent me a link that gives an average of what it takes to read through each book of the Bible.  In mere minutes a day a person can read through God’s Word in a year.  If your reading speed is faster or slower it may be different for you, but the goal is still the same.  Read and enjoy God’s great gift of His Word.  Here is the link that you might find interesting as well regarding reading times of the various books of Scripture.

I’ve had a stack of books in my office for a couple of months now.  I first thought of coming up with a list of the ten most influential books that have shaped my faith in the last five years.  But my problem was I didn’t have just ten, and I haven’t had the opportunity to put into words a list of these books for you until now.  In October, when we focused on the Reformation, I tried to list several suggestions for resources that might encourage you in your faith.  Here is a list of 14 books that have most shaped my faith in the last five years.  I hope some of them might be an encouragement to you to read this winter.  I placed the list in alphabetical order as I had a little difficulty in prioritizing them.  Also, if you have troubles finding some of the selections you may be interested in let me know.  One of the books is out of print and another is available for sale on a church website.  I hope you enjoy these recommendations:

  1. The Baptism Debate by Leonard Coppes.  Dr. Coppes does a great job in looking at all the issues surrounding a controversial topic in the Church.  He probably most influenced me by making the Scriptural case for the baptism of covenant children.  I highly recommend this for anyone coming from a “believer’s baptism only” perspective.  
  2. Confessing the Faith by Chad Van DixHoorn.  If you ever wanted to study the teachings of the Westminster Confession of Faith in easy to read easy to understand language, this is the book.  Sometimes theologians do not speak in the language of the common person.  This is a book that can be used by the whole family or in short sections for family worship and devotions.  There is a study guide you can get for this as well.
  3. The Day of Worship by Ryan M. McGraw.  This book changed Sundays for me.  This book gave me such a great overview of the Lord’s Day and an appreciation for trying, imperfectly, to keep the Lord’s Day holy.  While this is a more comprehensive book on the subject, Joseph Pipa’s The Lord’s Day is probably the equivalent of Van DixHoorn’s book on the Confession of Faith.  
  4. The Foundations of Social Order by R. J. Rushdoony.  This book gives an overview of the creeds and councils of the early church and shows why western culture is what it is.  It was Christianity that shaped our culture.  Unfortunately, that is changing today.  
  5. Fighting the Good Fight by D. G. Hart and John Muether.  The subtitle is, ‘A brief history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.’  It is always a good idea to know about the group to whom you belong.  I recommend this for all members to know more about why our denomination exists.  
  6. In Living Color by Daniel R. Hyde.  The subtitle for this book is, ‘Images of Christ and the Means of Grace.’  Why has God given us the Sacraments as images in the Church and not any images of the Godhead?  This book gives the Biblical reasons and answers those questions thoroughly.
  7. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.  This is a rather lengthy book or series of books, but well worth the time.  I set out a couple of different times to read through the Institutes with the sections broken into daily readings and finally managed to get through it.  I was encouraged by others to avoid Calvin prior to becoming Reformed.  This will give you a great overview of Scripture and the doctrines of our faith.  The copy I have is translated by Henry Beveridge but there are multiple copies and translations to choose from.
  8. Jesus, Made in America by Stephen J. Nichols.  I am not sure a person can understand Christianity in America without reading through this book.  It is high on my list of recommendations.  When I quote a Pastor friend of mine saying ‘We are more American than we are Christian,’ this book comes to mind.  Culturally, we have changed Jesus in America to fit us in each successive generation rather than stick with how He is revealed to us in God’s Word.
  9. The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer.  This is the first of a trilogy of fiction books about the book of Revelation and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  This is the only fiction selection I’ve included in this list, but if you want to understand Revelation then read these three books.
  10. Luther and Erasmus, Free Will and Salvation Edited by E. Gordon Rupp and Philip S. Watson.  This is actually two books (I managed to get an additional one in there).  I recommend this book rather than just Luther’s response to Erasmus because you get both in one volume.  This includes Eramus’ On the Freedom of the Will. and Luther’s On the Bondage of the Will.  The questions of free will regarding salvation are answered in this book.  Luther is incredible in the way he gives a response to unbiblical teaching.  One warning: Don’t enjoy Luther’s sarcasm too much.  I found it difficult not to enjoy the pointed jesting. 
  11. With Reverence and Awe by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether.  As you can see Hart and Muether get two spots in this short list.  This is a book on worship.  Maybe you’ve wondered why we worship the way we do and other churches worship in different ways.  This book will answer some of those questions.  The subtitle is: Returning to the basics of Reformed Worship.
  12. Seeking a Better Country, 300 Years of American Presbyterianism by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether.  Did I say two spots, I meant three…  This book unfortunately is out of print.  One of the authors told me that a paperback was going to be coming out soon.  If you can get a used copy for a good price buy it.  If you want to understand Presbyterians in the United States this is the book.  This is not about one denomination but the history of Presbyterians.
  13. The Westminster Shorter Catechism by G. I. Williamson.  Williamson put this book together for students in New Zealand to learn the shorter catechism better.  I also recommend his books on the Confession and the Larger Catechism with Vos.  And I know I just added two more books to the list.  We used this book in our Sunday School class a few years ago. 
  14. Worship Reformed according to Scripture by Hughes Oliphant Old.  Old traces things we do in worship throughout the history of the Church.  I can’t say enough positive things about this book.  I devoured it in a day or two.  There are few books that come along that I can’t put down, but this was one of those.  

I know that is a lengthy list, but I did want to share with you some of the great books that have helped to shape me as a believer in Christ over the last five years.  I have been blessed to read many other books as well.  Some I would recommend and others I would not.  These I would recommend to anyone.  Some are easier to read than others but they all definitely have been an encouragement to me.  

As I mentioned before, do not substitute one of these books for the reading of God’s Word.  Make that your priority.  If you have time and enjoy reading, or one of these titles sounds interesting, pick up a book and ask God to build you up in the faith.  We can be blessed by others who have studied and who are willing to share with us the fruit of their labor.