I have been known to turn the car around if I realize I have forgotten to bring a book along with me on a day that I know I’ll have some downtime. I dearly love to read. I remember being about ten years old and and hiding Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing behind a propped up math book when I was supposed to be doing long division. And once a school librarian introduced me to C.S. Lewis in 6th grade I was forever bonded in my imagination to Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy.
Charles Spurgeon once said
“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”
Many of you know the effects of reading on the soul to challenge, comfort or open the eyes to more of the riches of God’s grace to draw us to repentance and closer communion with him. A good book should drive us to our Bibles more, not less. If there is a temptation to let books replace our Bible reading, we can also remember another Spurgeon quote:
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”
God’s words are “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold.” Ps. 19:10
And much, much more to be desired than the words of men.
These books are ones that stuck deep within my heart and brought about change. I think that is the test of a book, as well as why it is important to read with discernment. Do you now think differently because you read it? Did that thinking cause you to change a habit or adopt a new one? Would you like to read the book again?
Knowing Christ by Mark Jones
This is my favorite book of 2018. It had a fundamental impact on my faith because my understanding of Christ grew. I love Christ more after learning more of the depths of his riches. Some have said this is the companion book to J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and should be considered a modern classic. (J.I. Packer wrote the introduction to it). It has directly affected my prayer life.
Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
This is a volume of three of Owen’s works, including Mortification of Sin. It was work, especially the last half, but worth the effort. The editors made this more readable with some updated language. Every page is full of treasure.
It is daunting to summarize this book, but it distinguishes remaining sin in a Believer’s life from reigning sin in the unconverted. It examines temptation and why Christians fall into patterns of sin or return to old sins we think we have killed. It showed me areas where I have been self-deceived. It gave me tools to fight the good fight of faith! It was painful to read in many places. If you’re serious about examining yourself, this is a must-read.
Habits of Grace, David Mathis
If you loved Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, then you will luuuuurve this one too. David Mathis is becoming one of my favorite Desiring God writers. His style of writing is unique. It is gentle yet firm and flavored with lots of metaphors. Hand this one to your teens and young adults when you’re finished. It’s all about disciplining yourself for the sake of godliness with the means of grace God has so graciously given us to know Him better: His Word, Prayer, the Church. And it is communicated in fresh and beautiful ways. Mathis’ love for God is contagious.
Jonathan Edwards, a new biography by Iain Murray
I’m grouping these two together. Both of these books were re-reads for me. There are precious few books specifically written for pastor’s wives. I think biographies are a great way to fill that gap and it’s one reason why I love to read about the Edwards’ faith, marriage, home, ministry, the unpopular doctrinal stands Jonathan Edwards took, and the wife and children who stood by him throughout his life. Also Sarah Edwards was no theological slouch. In fact, Edwards was ribbed about it on occasion. Not only that, but the Edwards had a huge family which makes me all the more drawn to them. The same God who poured out such grace on them is my God also. Thus these books encouraged me as a student of the Word, a pastor’s wife and a mother to a large family. Slam dunk!
The Gospel Comes with a Housekey by Rosaria Butterfield
The first word that comes to mind to describe this one is “challenging.” Mrs. Butterfield calls us to a level of hospitality that most of us are unfamiliar with in the year 2018. The book reads in some places like a memoir, and so if you read her first book Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert (also a must-read), this one will be even more meaningful. This was a hard one to put down. Mrs. Butterfield shares from the heart and I admire her courage very much. If you read the book you will understand why I call Mrs. Butterfield courageous.
Little Book on the Christian Life, John Calvin
Do not let the author’s reputation intimidate – this new translation is an easy read and also short. It is about pursuing holiness and enduring through times of suffering, fighting your sins of pride and pleasure seeking and taking up your cross daily. This little book is a tool in the fight of faith. It stirred my soul and cut through the cloudiness of mind I was experiencing.
Devoted, Tim Challies
This little book was a wonderful boost of encouragement to trust in Christ for His work in your sons’ lives. Each chapter gives biographical info on some of our history’s church leaders and especially the relationship each had with his mother. This book brought me to tears many times at the enduring faithfulness and sacrifice of these mothers. Mothers have the potential to shape little men into big ones. You know the names C.H. Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor and John Newton. But you will be blessed to read of the shapers of those minds and hearts – their devoted mothers who prayed, taught them the scriptures and catechism as boys, and entrusted them to God.
Parenting by God’s Promises, by Joel Beeke
When I read the title of this book I knew it would be an encouragement, especially since I know Dr. Beeke to be a faithful pastor and teacher. This book was a perfect blend of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility as parents. The book opens with the beauty of the promises of Christ’s covenant explained. (Dr. Beeke is a paedobaptist and so expresses the truths of the new covenant differently than my Baptist tradition. This does not change the impact of the book, however.) There are chapters on discipline of young children, the teen years, parenting young adults and even dips a bit into grandparenting. It is incredibly practical and I immediately began applying what I learned or was reminded of. The appendix contains a portion called Children in the Church which in my opinion is worth the price of the book. This one got five big stars.
Happy reading, friends! I hope your year was filled with the joy of the Lord and thankfulness for all the ways he has blessed us. What were some of your favorite reads?