If the course of our life is the product of the actions we take, and the actions we take are a product of the way we think, then few gifts carry more life-altering power than a well-chosen book. Of course, this entire sequence presupposes a willingness on the recipient’s part to actually read your gift. I suppose we shouldn’t assume as much, given our growing preference for videos over written words. But that doesn’t change my love for gifting books, especially when I know something of a person’s life and can make an informed recommendation.

Around the holidays, I typically get several requests from church members for book recommendations. The categories vary: younger children, older children, married children, grandparents, non-Christian friends, etc. Allow me to pass along a couple of my favorites, many of which are available in our Bookshoppe this month.

For young children (ages 4-7)

I absolutely love the Tales That Tell the Truth series from The Good Book Company. The Friend Who Forgiveson the essence of divine grace, God’s Very Good Idea on the beauty of ethnic diversity, The Storm That Stopped on the power of Jesus, and The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross on the big story of the Bible have become bedtime favorites in our home.

For elementary aged children

For older elementary kids who are starting to ask good (hard) questions about right and wrong, consider That Little Voice in Your Head: Learning about your conscience by Andy Naselli. He takes a concept that is often ignored or misunderstood by adults and explains it in a delightfully simple and Biblical manner.

For middle school students

For middle school students, I really like Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts. It’s the kind of book you ideally want to read and discuss with your son or daughter. If they’re naturally inquisitive, however, it’s also the sort of book they could pick up on their own and read a 3-page answer to a specific question about the Christians faith. Topics addressed include what it means to be made in God’s image, how Jesus emptied himself in becoming also a man, why the resurrection is proof that Christ’s death for sin worked, the difference between being saved for good works and not by good works, and why the church is so important.

For high school students

For high school students, Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God and Jerry Bridges’ Is God Really in Control? lay a solid foundation for understanding the gospel and trusting God in the midst of sorrow. In case you’re wondering, both volumes are capital selections for adults too!

For those who suffer

Speaking of suffering, if you have a Christian or non-Christian friend who is wrestling with grief, David Powlison’s, God’s Grace in Your Suffering is hard to beat. Powlison is a prolific writer, but much of his material is published in journal articles. This book combines the best content from decades of engagement in the art of caring for the soul. If you know your suffering friend is a Christian, I highly recommend Martyn Lloyd-Jones’, Spiritual Depression. I finished this collection of sermons last year, and find his work uniquely bracing for those who struggle with melancholy.

For adults

Adults who fall squarely into the “intellectual” category and might wrestle with some of the moral claims of the Christian faith find a sure guide to the relationship between God’s love and God’s authority in The Rule of Love, by Jonathan Leeman. On a slightly less intellectual level, Sam Allberry’s short book, Is God Anti-Gay? speaks to a difficult, cultural flashpoint with wisdom and sensitivity. I would gladly give this volume to a friend in the LGBTQ community.

The longest of the bunch, though still very accessible, is Ed Welch’s Running Scared: Fear, worry, and the God of rest. I slowly worked through his material earlier this year and found great help in understanding what’s behind the nagging anxieties attempting to steal my joy. My favorite thing about Welch’s writing style is his patience. He doesn’t rush the reader. He gives you time to think about what he just said from several angles before moving onto the next point.

Gift a book to someone else. Pick a book for yourself. If you read only one of these titles in 2019, your soul will be stronger for it!

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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