I love to read.
Fiction, non-fiction, hard copies of books, audio novels, articles, pamphlets, short sentences, or lengthy prose, I am here for it all. But I get it; the bookworm population is shrinking with every new generation. People are reading less, attention spans are shrinking, and life is just, well, busy.
But, if you want to cultivate a reading habit, specifically books to help you grow your faith, I encourage you to read on.
1. ESV Chronological Bible
What is the best way to grow your faith? Study the Bible! I know, it is the Sunday school answer. But, friend, it's the truth. Jen Wilkin, author and Bible teacher, reminds us, "The heart cannot love what the mind does not know." Books about our faith are a vital part of strengthening our spiritual muscles. But we must not forget that these books aren't the Bible. The infallible truth of God's Word, His love letter to the world, is found in the pages of Scripture.
There are many Bibles out there, and if you pick up the Scriptures for the first time, I encourage you to choose the most familiar translation. There are a few reasons I am recommending The Chronological Bible by Crossway. First, the English Standard Version is deemed the closest translation to the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Second, reading the Bible chronologically radically changes the way we understand the overall narrative of the Scriptures. Third, this Bible is specifically made for those wanting to read through the Scriptures in a year. Each section is introduced with a short overview and divided into daily readings.
Research has shown that while Americans hold the Bible in fond regard, less than 11% have read it all the way through. If you find yourself in the 89% that have yet to read the Bible front to back, today is a great day to start!
2. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
If you can't already tell, I am a big fan of Jen Wilkin's writing. Her book, Women of the Word, which I referenced earlier, catalyzed my faith. I'd grown up in church, read parts of the Bible, and even memorized a few verses. But I'd only read my Bible to check a box; my understanding was shallow, and my application was weak.
While many of Wilkin's works can be rather complex, forcing the reader to pause and re-read sections, Women of the Word is easily digestible for women of all spiritual maturity. Wilkin guides readers in learning to read, study, and apply the Scriptures for themselves. In both a theological and practical manner, this book helps us know how to read the Bible and fall in love with God's Word.
Don't let the title fool you; this book, written with women in mind, is also a terrific resource for men. Each chapter is about a 20-minute read and can be read independently or in groups.
3. Gently and Lowly by Dane Ortland
After accepting Christ, I felt the immediate weight of shame and guilt wash away, but I struggled to get that Christ loved me as I continued to fall short. The harder I tried to "prove" myself to God, to "re-pay" Him for the gift of salvation, the deeper I fell into despair.
Gently and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers reminds us that we don't repel Christ. Instead, with open arms, He invites us to a personal relationship. God doesn't just love His children when we are "good." He loves us because we are one with Christ. Ortland walks readers through Matthew 11, reminding us of Christ's heart for sinners and suffering. Christ is gentle and lowly in spirit and wants us to turn to Him. He can bear our sins and desires to show mercy and grace.
While the book is short, Ortland covers some complex theology and requires that readers slow down to comprehend the text thoroughly. I needed to re-read sections of the book a few times over, sitting with the text, before moving on to the next chapter.
If you struggle to accept that God loves you despite your failures and shortcomings, pick up this book and be encouraged.
4. Love the Ones Who Drive You Crazy by Jamie Dunlop
Relationships are hard. And all God's people said, Amen! When I saw this book, I immediately clicked "add to cart." Dunlop's focus is unity within the church and the family of believers, but the eight truths he shares benefit all our relationships.
Each chapter touches on a different truth to help us love those in our church who we struggle to love, who can drive us crazy or have to work to get along with. No matter how healthy your church is, there are bound to be people who are more difficult for you to relate to, work with, or even like.
Dunlop shares his struggles and numerous stories from others' experiences to let readers know they are not alone in their wrestling to love difficult people in their lives. But, he doesn't excuse the behavior; he challenges the reader not simply to hold their tongues or avoid those people but to seek a genuine heart towards them, who are "worthy of love because they belong to Christ."
Each chapter is around a 20-30 minute read and is recommended for personal growth and small groups. Great discussion questions and prayer prompts are at the end of each section. If you struggle to show genuine love to those in your church body, family members with whom you find yourself at constant odds, or just friends/co-workers that, in your opinion," aren't worth your time," this book is for you.
5. When Strivings Cease by Ruth Chou Simmons
Hi, I am Laura, and I am addicted to achievement. Most of my life has been plagued by an intense need to prove myself. Proving that I am worth knowing, proving that I was worth hiring, proving that I am worth loving, proving that I am a good wife, mother, friend, daughter, fill in the bank.
Even as a believer, I still fall for the lie that I have to prove my worth to others, myself, and even to Jesus. But, friend, that is the gospel of self, not the gospel found in the Scriptures. When Strivings Cease: Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace reminds us that we don't have to strive to earn the approval of God. We have value because of who we are in Christ. There is freedom in the gospel, not just for saving us from eternal damnation, but for everyday life.
These chapters are easily digestible, relatable, and filled with beautiful words and artwork. If you struggle with accepting God's gift of grace, grab this book and embrace the freedom we have in Christ.
Originally published Monday, 29 January 2024.