Some Reading Recommendations
Growing a healthy faith takes some effort. It doesn’t happen automatically. Among the things needed for a healthy faith is a mind that is faithfully informed. Jesus said we are to love God with our mind (Luke 10:27). Of course that starts with being engaged in Bible study, above all in the study of the Gospels. But it is also important to read good Christian literature.
Frankly, there is a lot of bad Christian literature. The average Christian bookstore often doesn’t promote the best books that are available. Too often they promote the writings of celebrity preachers or sensationalists who are usually not good Christian thinkers.
If you look hard enough in one of these stores you can sometimes find spiritual classics like Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God and Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. You can probably also find Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wonderful book, The Cost of Discipleship. But very few of the more excellent more recent books are available.
But everything is available on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. Here are a few books I think can help build a healthy faith. They are on a number of different topics and writing styles. All of them are written for non-experts, but they are substantial in different ways. I’m listing them in no particular order.
The most recently published of these is Diana Butler Bass’ Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. She has written several earlier noteworthy books. In this book she talks about how gratitude helps us be more conscious of God and leads us to greater emotional health and away from discontent. She also points out how gratitude leads to healthier relationships in the world and church.
Scott Bayder-Saye’s book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear provides useful insight to counteract the fearmongering that we are subjected to in our time. Christian faith is not compatible with the kind of fears that lead us away from peace, generosity, and hospitable attitudes. Faith leads to caring and courage. This is an excellent little book that addresses a number of relevant subjects.
For Christians the question, “Who is God?” is crucial. Sometimes we need to ask the question D. Brent Laytham asks in his book, God Is Not… Several authors contribute to the discussion with chapters like “God Is Not Nice”, “God Is Not Religious”, and “God Is Not American”, among others. Well worth reading!
One of the most unusual and engaging conversion stories I have ever read is Anne Lamott’s autobiographical Traveling Mercies. Lamott was a well published writer who had little interest in God but found out God had plenty of interest in her. She tells of her wild life as a woman who broke a lot of rules until God slipped up on her. I think this was the first “R-Rated” conversation story I ever read but a very good one.
I think every Christian who takes the Bible seriously needs a good one volume commentary. I recommend Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock’s The People’s New Testament Commentary. Both of these men are well respected biblical scholars who love the church. This commentary is informed by the best recent New Testament but is not academically stuffy. It is a wonderful resource to use when you run into a puzzling scripture text…or a friend with a strange idea that he claims comes from the Bible.
I could easily offer dozens of other suggestions. And if you want some, please ask me! But the above list should be a good start. I hope you will check them out. It will be good for your faith!
Grace and Peace,