Reading is a helpful discipline. For a few years now, I have been completing three to five books a month in order to help my spiritual growth, pastoral development, and satisfy my love of story. 2023 was the year that habit faltered. A busy year of family life meant I had less time and attention devoted to reading. I’m sure many of you can relate. I start 2024 with a renewed emphasis to get back on track. I hope you will read some good books as well that stir your faith, intellect, and imagination. Here are three of the best I read last year.
God’s Good Design, by D. Michael Clary
It seems like I read a book on issues of human identity and sexuality every year. There doesn’t seem to be a more pressing topic for the church to study up on and address. This is one of the best books I’ve read on this issue in recent years. Clary is an Acts 29 Pastor with a church in Cincinnati, OH, and he often draws from his pastoral experience. God’s Good Design does a really good job highlighting what makes men and women different and how we need each other. We aren’t interchangeable. Clary reminds us that we have lost in recent decades what our grandparents knew instinctively. The focus of this work is primarily on the home rather than the leadership in the church (only one chapter dedicated to that). Highlights are his chapter on gendered virtue, the blessedness of motherhood, being a productive household, and the journey from boyhood to manhood. Our age is clouded with confusion on what it means to be men and women. God’s design for human sexuality is good- marvelously good. Let Christians be the ones who appreciate it most and praise God for his wisdom and blessing!
Humility: The Least of all the Saints, by Thomas Brooks
Pride is a devastating sin. It is the sin behind most other sins. We wouldn’t be so bold to commit certain acts or engage in wicked desires if not for the pride of our heart convincing us we have the right to do so. Humility, on the other hand, is the queen of virtues. Every other virtue is sweetened and empowered by it. Therefore, Christians would do well to cultivate a humble spirit if they want to make progress in holiness. In this short book, Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks shows us what humility looks like and how we can effectively pursue it in our lives. This is a sobering and helpful work that will guide you along the way.
A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin
John Calvin is a famous theologian of the Reformation. He is most often associated with the doctrine of predestination, but this is perhaps unfair. Martin Luther wrote more on the issue than Calvin did. Where Calvin excelled above Luther was as a great systematizer of the Protestant Christian faith. Once Protestants broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, it was necessary to clearly articulate what they believed and where their disagreements truly lay. Over the course of his life, Calvin’s greatest work was his Institutes of the Christian Religion. A group of chapters in Book 3 have in particular gained admiration and widespread use for Christians seeking practical guidance and encouragement on the Christian life. These five short chapters have been gathered together in several forms over the generations, and have become known as Calvin’s ‘Little Book on the Christian Life.’ Devotional in tone, easy to grasp, and helpful, I fully recommend this as an accessible work to study alone or with others. Our elders and deacons are currently reading through it together.
May you read great books this year and grow closer to Christ.