I love reading. I read all the time, I’m either reading blog posts or Facebook updates or books or articles. Sometimes I read in physical format, sometimes I read on my kindle. I read because I am hungry to know more about God. I want to understand him better, I want to serve him more effectively and actually a weekly sermon, I love semons, I love preaching, but it’s not enough, I’m hungry for more. And I love reading the Bible, but actually there are men and women throughout history and around the world right now who God has gifted to open up scripture for me in a way that’s going to connect with all sorts of parts of life I’ve never thought about. And so for me the opportunity to read is an opportunity to grow in my love and understanding for God and for people.
So I’ve been on a project and a mission to try and encourage people to see reading as part of a spiritual discipline and, you know, imagine that you were a doctor and the last medical book or medical thing that you read was written 20 years ago – you would be pretty nervous that this doctor wasn’t up to scratch. And so in the same way if we’re going to live effective lives for Jesus now, in our world that’s so different and so changing all the time we need to be on our game. We need to understand our faith inside and out. We need to know how to apply faith not just to our personal lives, not just to our church life but to our work and our study.
So reading is a great way to stand on the shoulders of giants that have gone before us and have lived brave and courageous lives, and you can read about those in biographies. For many of my friends, biographies are the books they love the most. I remember getting really switched on to God because I read a biography of a guy called Jim Elliot who was a missionary who was killed for his faith but he wrote a diary and in that diary he talked about the struggle of his life while he was at university and that really spoke to me as a university student. Or I’ve read biographies of people like Wilberforce or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Men who were willing to make courageous decisions in all sorts of opposition. So if you’re a new christian, sometimes biographies can be a great way in to see how another person has lived faithfully to God in their moment in time.
I’m also a big fan of books that will help me engage with the Bible at a deeper level and so I really like commentaries. I don’t mean the huge ones that are all in Greek, but the kind of easy accessible ones so Tom Wright’s written a series of books called The New Testament for Everybody, so you can buy ‘John for Everybody’ or ‘Paul for Everybody’, and he breaks it down so you can read a little bit every day, and it helps you get to another level of understanding of scripture and that can be really useful.
I’m also a fan of books that will help me engage with politics and culture and so a friend of mine has just written a book about his time as Obama’s faith advisor in the White House, and for me, reading about Barak Obama’s spiritual life and then what it was like to be a Christian in that environment and some of the challenges that were being faced, opens my eyes to think “well you know, how should christians engage in politics”.
So there’s a world of books out there and every month I’m recommending loads of them. There’s a little website we’ve got called booksforlife.uk – have a look there and if you’ve got some recommendations, I’d love to hear them.