I would be remiss if I left this little reading series without including the most important books to cultivate the habit of reading for besides the Bible, godly books. Interestingly, just last week Bob Kauflin wrote a post about reading as well. He quotes puritan pastor, Richard Baxtor.
“Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day. and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.
While reading ask oneself:
1. Could I spend this time no better?
2. Are there better books that would edify me more?
3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life?
4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come?
Though Pastor Baxtor’s counsel contradicts my theory to begin by reading what you enjoy reading, his is the goal we ought to aim for. Reading is a wonderful leisure activity. It is good for our minds. But if we only read for pleasure, we are missing one of the greatest means of grace available to us: reading godly books.It would be impossible to recommend all of the godly books I love, so I will just give a sampling of books God has used to change my life.
John Piper books. It is no surprise that I am a huge Piper fan. I promise that the books I am recommending are very readable. His devotional books, A Godward Life book 1 and 2 include edifying readings that are only one or two pages. Here is a sample. His series, the Swans are Not Silent would appeal to the biography crowd. Each of these books contains a primary theme and uses the mini-biographies of leaders from church history to embody the theme. I have read Legacy of Sovereign Joy, and The Hidden Smile of God. I plan to read The Roots of Endurance next. There are too many books to highlight here, but my all time, hands down favorite Piper book is When I don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy. Whether you desire God passionately, or struggle with indifference, this book is simply outstanding! And you can read the entire thing here.
The Mahaney Books. My favorite C.J. Mahaney book is Humility, True Greatness. This is a must read for wives and mothers. I love the connection C.J. explains between servanthood and humility. Because our lives as mothers are composed primarily of serving, we have numerous opportunities to demonstrate and grow in humility. Rooting our motive in the example of Christ, giving us hope through the example of the disciples, and then providing practical tools for application, C.J. Mahaney both inspires and equips me to pursue true greatness, and be one on whom God looks. C.J.’s books the Cross Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator (combined in this book) are regular readings following or preceding my Bible reading in the morning. It is so easy to fall into the habit of either neglecting the importance of the cross in everyday life; or perhaps worse, allow the cross to become overly familiar. These books keep me near the cross in my thinking, and stirred by the cross in my affections.
Carolyn’s book Feminine Appeal is my absolute favorite book on biblical womanhood. So many books geared towards ladies emphasize practices, pointers, and tips. In her treatment of the Titus 2 passage in scripture, Carolyn begins the book with our proper motivation, not to feel good about ourselves as wives and mothers, but to show forth the beauty of the gospel as we live our lives for God’s glory. She continues to devote grace saturated chapters to each of the qualities of Titus 2, and ends with a beautiful tribute to her own mother. I am so grateful for a book on this topic that graciously treats the heart of the text, but still provides practical examples that explain and inspire.
Elisabeth Elliot books. Every time I found myself attracted to a guy (which usually ended up being Jason) to the point of distraction I would pick up the book Passion and Purity. Had it been around, Josh Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye would have been my go to book of choice. But something about reading this story about Elisabeth and Jim Elliot’s relationship helped me determine to allow God to write my own love story. Her devotional book Keep a Quiet Heart is also one that I have visited periodically through the years. And finally, though this is a hard book, Discipline the Glad Surrender. It isn’t hard to read, but the standards presented in each chapter are superstar high. Somehow it doesn’t result in discouraging me, though I will probably never live nearly as disciplined as Elisabeth Elliot; it results in me being more disciplined. I have read it three times and can honestly say that each time I have grown, if just a little, in self – discipline.
Journal for Biblical Counseling. There are so many articles from this journal that have had a profound impact on me, I truly couldn’t name them all. I love and articles written by Paul Tripp. His articles The Present Glories of Redemption, Grumbling, a Look at a Little Sin and Speaking Redemptively are three of my favorites. There is another article called Lessons from the Wilderness that is outstanding. And the most recent favorite article from the journal is by David Powlison entitled Think Globally, Act Locally.
Parenting books. My unrivaled favorite parenting book is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. I have read this so many times it is worn out. Regardless of how many times I have read this book, the contents always have the same result: inspiring me and equipping me to get to the heart behind my children’s behavior in order to provide opportunity for them to understand their need for a Savior. Another book I enjoyed about parenting, though I’ve only read it once is Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. This is not a how-to book about parenting. It deals with what God is doing in your heart as a parent. Because I believe parenting to be the primary means of sanctification in my life during this season, I found this book informative, encouraging, and infused with hope for me and my children.
Spurgeon Books. Do I even need to recommend Morning and Evening? I am absolutely certain that the majority of you read this book every day. Still, isn’t it amazing that his daily writings seem to speak perfectly to whatever issue you are facing each day? I am amazed over and over. My current favorite is July 9 Morning. I also love Spurgeon’s Treasury of David (a commentary on the book of psalms). It is not only readable, but written in such a way that a common response is to fall on your face in worship after reading his explanations and insights on each phrase. Wow! If you’ve hung in here this long, you are probably already quite a reader. I knew it would be frustrating to try to write one post on godly books that have impacted me. All day today I will be thinking, “Ooh I should have put such and such on my list!” Fill in the gaps…what are the books that God has used to change your life forever?
Jerry Bridges books. How could I forget Jerry Bridges! Thanks for the reminder Kristin. My all time favorite by Jerry Bridges is the Discipline of Grace. It helps explain how the gospel is not just what initiates our Christian walk; it sustains it as well. Here’s a review by Tim Challies.