Black Friday shoppers stand in long lines to snag a deal on sorts of things – TVs, computers, phones, clothing, housewares, appliances. Guess what you’ll rarely (if ever) see on the busiest shopping day of the year? A doorbuster sale on books. I have yet to read a Saturday morning news story about some who camped overnight only to get trampled reaching for a limited supply of books. 

I am convinced, however, that a well-chosen book has the power to do infinitely more good for your soul than a 65” 4K TV. No, I’m not a luddite. I simply believe a good book is uniquely able to help young and old alike to heed the timeless truth of Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” 

But Matthew, you don’t understand. I’m not a reader-type. Nor are the people I’m shopping for this Christmas. You know what kind of face they would make if they unwrapped a book!

I get it. I really do. Just remember personality differences don’t change the fact that people who grow in wisdom are people who read (or listen to someone else read!). If you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t be surprised. After all, God didn’t inspire a movie. He inspired a book – the Bible. Our faith is word-centered by God’s design. Gaining wisdom through reading is not beyond you or those you love. God created us to spiritually grow through books. 

Without further ado, here are a few recommendations for 2019 from our Bookshop. 

A Gift for a College Student or Non-Christian Friend
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical (Timothy Keller)

No, I’m not saying college student and non-Christians are practically synonymous. I am saying these two groups stand in particular need of thoughtful, biblical answers to a variety of cultural assumptions, such as:

You don’t need to believe in God to have a full life of meaning, hope, and satisfaction.

You should be free to live as you see fit, as long as you don’t harm others.

You become yourself when you are true to your deepest desires and dreams.

Written as somewhat of a prequal to his first apologetic work, The Reason for God, Keller explores exactly these sorts of conclusions with a keen mind and a humble heart. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“To move from religion to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift into a new set of beliefs and into a new community of faith, one that draws the lines between orthodoxy and heresy in different places.”

A Gift for a Preschool or Elementary Age Child:
Goodbye to Goodbyes (Lauren Chandler)

The sorrow of death is not limited to older adults. When a family member passes away after a long illness, when a friend at school dies in a tragic accident, when mom has a miscarriage, children ask questions that need biblical answers. Chandler’s book is one of the latest publications in a recent spate of outstanding resources from The Good Book Company. She does a fantastic job helping young hearts and minds understand their sorrow while pointing them to the hope found in Christ’s resurrection. When I read this book to my boys, I often end up saying, “Don’t worry guys. Daddy’s crying happy tears.” 

A Gift for a Close Friend or Spouse:
Untangling Emotions (Alasdair Grove and Winston Smith)

The “close” friend caveat is intentional. A distant relative could easily assume, “Are you saying I’m an emotional basket case?” An oft-berated spouse may quickly conclude, “Oh I get it. This is just the latest salvo in your attempt to make me more rational.” If your relationship is strong enough to avoid those mine-fields, this book from a pair of astute CCEF biblical counselors is one of the best resources out there on how to think about and respond to our feelings. I came away from reading it convicted that I need to spend more time examining my emotions instead of trying to just brush past them and with a deeper understanding of how the gospel enables me to rightly engage my emotions. 

A Gift for a High-School Student:
Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating (Marshall Segal)

It’s not hard to find vehement criticism of Christian books on singleness and dating. Some of it is probably merited, but I think the vitriol belies two deeper issues. One, we don’t like other people (God included) telling us what to do in deeply personal matters. Two, it is far easier to critique a book on relationships than it is to lay out a positive, biblical vision for relationships. How I wish more online voices spent the same amount of energy explaining what the Bible does say as they do arguing for what the Bible does not say. 

Hence my gratitude for Marshall Segal’s volume. He majors in the key biblical principles and provides helpful suggestions for practical application. Both are necessary. Part of what makes his work unique is the time he spends explaining why marriage is not an inherently superior spiritual status to singleness. Do we need to push back on a culture that increasingly devalues the gift of marriage? Absolutely. But let’s not do it in a way that makes singles feel like they haven’t “arrived” spiritually until they say “I do.” Whether single or married, loving Jesus is both our highest priority and the definition of biblical maturity. 

A Gift for a Younger (or older!) Christian:
How Does Sanctification Work? (David Powlison)

Wouldn’t it be great if there were seven simple steps to a godly life? Or three tricks to resisting temptation? Or some other short-cut to the painful plodding of a long obedience in the same direction? I wish. Then again, I don’t. Because then we wouldn’t need Jesus. We would conclude we could save ourselves.

The whole premise of one of David Powlison’s final books is that there isn’t one key to sanctification. There are biblical patterns that play out in a spectacular multitude of ways. God changes you. Truth changes you. Wise people change you. Suffering and struggle change you. And you change. In just over 100 pages, Powlison provides a concise explanation of how those five factors cooperate in the details of life to make us more like Jesus. Whether you just became a Christian or are fighting spiritual stagnation after years of following Jesus, this resource will help you recognize the supernatural power in what is seemingly ordinary.  

These books are available in the Bookshop on Sunday!
Matthew grew up attending KingsWay and joined the pastoral staff in 2009. God has blessed him and his wife, Aliza, with three rambunctious boys. Matthew did his undergraduate work at the University of Richmond in chemistry and political science, spent a year at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College, and received his Masters of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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