Faith

Top 5 books for your 2020 reading list

Delphne Tan // January 14, 2020, 6:19 pm

Top 5 books

Other than the compulsory 66 books of the Bible, there is a wealth of literature out there for the Christian seeking to be fed. I would like to encourage us to read broadly, especially in areas that we feel we’re lacking in. 

I’m a bit of an old soul, gravitating towards real books – ones where you actually have to physically flip pages. That said, I understand it can be a bit daunting to find a suitable book to invest your time in, so here are my top 5 picks for this new year. 

1. MERE CHRISTIANITY, C.S. Lewis

A compulsory read for any 21st-century Christian, C.S. Lewis chronicles his journey from reputed atheist to Christian in Mere Christianity.

An extremely logical thinker with strong reasoning capabilities, Lewis was a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the pair had long discussions about faith when they were at Oxford University.

This book might help those who think of Christianity as a religion for the weak and uninformed – to see that even those with the most brilliant minds can acknowledge the need for faith and a Saviour.  

To be fair, the language might be quite intimidating for some, but I promise that it’s worth the time sitting and uncovering Lewis’ argument for Christ. 

Fav quote: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

2. BLUE LIKE JAZZ, Donald Miller

If Mere Christianity appeals those who love logic and reasoning, Blue Like Jazz is a book that speaks to the soul of the artist.

Donald Miller writes with such vulnerability and openness about his views about Christianity and his personal walk with Christ. He calls this book “non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality”.

As a lover of the arts, Miller writes in a style that is akin to music – beautiful and rich. What he succeeds in doing is remove the barriers that certain Christian ideas create and speak honestly as a man trying to pursue a relationship with Christ. 

Fav quote: “There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere.

“Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realised it, the way a person realises they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart.

“I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.”

3. LETTERS TO THE CHURCH, Francis Chan

A very sobering and thought-provoking read. Everyone, especially church leaders, should invest some time into this.

If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s stuff, you’ll know he writes with brutal honesty, a certainty in his tone that suggests an immovable set of ideals that he truly and utterly believes in. Letters to the Church is slightly different. There is a sense of humility and openness in his writing that I’ve never heard from him. 

In a vulnerable exploration of what Church is, Chan, who used to be the senior pastor of the largest megachurch in Ventura County, California, writes about how God has transformed his beliefs about church. He argues in favour of smaller churches that are focused on discipleship and family.

Chan points out that the way we do Church in wealthier societies has given rise to a form of non-committal Christianity, which stands in stark contrast to the way of life of Christians in the New Testament, as well as churches in countries where being Christian costs them their all.

Fav quote: “We’re busy reassuring one another that God wants us to do what’s safest for our families and to pursue God in a way that looks suspiciously similar to what we’d naturally do if our only concern was our own comfort and happiness.”

4. A PRAYING LIFE, Paul E. Miller

A Praying Life is honestly one of the most transformative books I have ever read. And I don’t say that lightly.

I don’t know if I really knew what prayer was until I read this. I’ve always struggled to maintain a rich prayer life. My mind gets distracted, or I run out of words or fall asleep…

Paul E. Miller shares vulnerably about struggles in his prayer life. Coming from a life that’s not easy, with sickness in the family and relationship tensions, he speaks about prayer in light of being human. I love that.

Often prayer in church can end up being a formulaic approach or a performance. People sometimes put on a “holy tone” when they pray; sometimes they get dramatic; sometimes their volume shrinks; sometimes they become really serious. They say many words that would not be said in a normal conversation (like the overuse of “Lord God”, “Father God”, “God”).

But prayer, as Miller writes, is like spending time with God at the dinner table – just having long conversations and enjoying each other’s company. 

He also talks about living in an age of cynicism, and how we can move past that to walk in faith – both asking boldly, yet fully surrendered. This book is a must-read, especially for those who would like to see breakthrough in their prayer life. 

Fav quote: “Prayer is asking God to incarnate, to get dirty in your life. Yes, the eternal God scrubs floors. For sure we know he washes feet. So take Jesus at his word. Ask him. Tell him what you want. Get dirty. Write out your prayer requests; don’t mindlessly drift through life on the American narcotic of busyness. If you try to seize the day, the day will eventually break you. Seize the corner of his garment and don’t let go until he blesses you. He will reshape the day.”

5. A BETTER STORY, Glynn Harrison

It was interesting to read this book in public, with the title displayed for all to see. And yes, this is exactly what this book is about: God, Sex & Human Flourishing. It’s particularly helpful if your church does not talk about what it means to be Christian in an age of liberal sexuality

Harrison argues that the Christian principles surrounding sex and relationships provide the best environment for the flourishing of mankind, including the protection of children and vulnerable women.

He does give a better story about sex and sexuality, a story that Christians can get behind and would be helpful the next time we get into a conversation about our “outdated” and “bigoted” beliefs. 

I love that Harrison is firm in his beliefs, but extends love to those who are struggling with sexuality or are already living sexually immoral lives. 

Fav quote: “We can be fully sympathetic to the complicated (and mysterious) experience of those who struggle with gender dysphoria, without buying into the new gender ideology that has been built around it.”

We live in a time when there are so many resources from which we can receive guidance to supplement pulpit teaching. But here are a few words of caution:

  1. It would be tempting to “go at it alone” because of easy access to spiritual teaching outside your church. I would like to encourage you that knowledge should not be a substitute for God’s family, which we’re called to be a part of. 
  2. Ask for the Holy Spirit to help you be discerning with regard to what you read/listen to. Not everything you find is biblically sound. Always bring your doubts and questions to mentors or friends who can help you spiritually discern some of these things you’re reading. 

Should you stop reading? Of course not! For us to mature in our faith, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and His Word, and discernment with wisdom is necessary! 

This article was first published on Delphne’s blog and has been republished with permission. Delphne also shares book reviews on her Instagram account @joyinthedust.