I have been reading more this year, and though I have had to push myself a bit at times, in general I have been enjoying working through the books for my 2017 reading challenge. The books I have chosen are here and here. I've read all but a few now, so here are 3 of the books I've appreciated the most so far:
1) Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
Thoughtful and incisive, this is a book which helps us to shine the light of scripture on our hearts and our lives, to show up not only how we sin, but how we tolerate or excuse certain sins. Furthermore, there is helpful instruction on how to face up to these areas of sin, and how to tackle them with God's help - as we apply the gospel, depend on the Holy Spirit, pray, apply scripture, and seek help from other believers.
2) The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
I love to hear how others have come to put their faith in Jesus, whether (like mine) the stories have no obvious drama, or (like Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's) God's transformation work is plain for all to see. In every case, the gracious hand of God saving and keeping hold of sinners is an extraordinary work to see. In Secret Thoughts, the author describes her life as a lesbian professor of English, and how this was turned upside down when Christ called her to himself. What is remarkable about this book is that the narrative dwells not so much on the before and after of her conversion (though it does do this), but on the experience of conversion itself, and of what it means to begin to know Christ. The writing about conversion is raw, and extraordinary:
"How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck?"
"When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future."
"...I felt the call of Christ upon my life. I was both subtle and blatant, like the peace inside the eye of the hurricane. I could in no way resist and I in no way understood what would become of my life."
The reflections about church and community are as challenging and moving as those about sexuality and identity. I cried more than once - and ended up hugely encouraged as I read a book that was, first and foremost, a book about God and his work.
3) The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung
This book is a series of reflections on the theological truths articulated by the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th century set of questions and answers designed to help believers to understand and remember key gospel truths.
As soon as I began to read this book, I found that the Heidelberg Catechism itself hugely encouraging. The language was startling and direct, and the truths of the gospel were brought home to me time and again. In particular, I found how the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer were unpacked very helpful.
The notes alongside the catechism questions were also well worth reading. They weren't particularly long, but were insightful nonetheless. I read a chapter or two a day after my morning Bible readings, and found them a really helpful way to think about and pray about some of the key truths of the gospel each day.