Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the plethora of wonderful Christian books out there? You know you long to learn more about the Lord, but your brain gets frazzled as you check out this book, that book and the next one. Not only that, but you perhaps feel guilty, because some of these long and learned volumes of great godly men just seem out of reach as you try to get the odd nugget here and there for your soul at the end of a weary day.
I do! I would define my problem in two ways:
1. I am a creature of my generation
More and more, I long for simplicity of thought and expression. Though I love to admire beauty in nature, when it comes to reading, I long to grasp the point, without having to meander my way through flowery word gardens.
I know there are gems in the old books, rich gems, but by the time I get around the flowery long sentences, I am weary.
You see, my generation and those younger even more so live in the age of sound bites, bullet points and the simplest of English.
2. I cannot see the wood for the trees.
In a world full of stuff and clutter, I long for less clutter and that goes for writing style. Sometimes I have picked up a commentary on a Bible section, only to be discouraged, because ten minutes later, I have not yet reached the point or explanation of the passage. The result? I have spent more time in the commentary than in the Bible.
Or, I have read a book on a great subject of spiritual importance, but by the end of the chapter, there have been so many “heads” and “subheads” that I wonder if I still have my own head. I can’t remember what I read several pages back. Again, I spotted some great gems, but now they are gone, as if fallen into a bag with a hole at the bottom.
Am I alone in this?
What’s my excuse?
Spiritually dead? Well, although at times I have feared that, I know that again the answer is “No.”
Several babies, the wear and tear of motherhood, multi-tasking, time limitations? “Partly.”
Light in the woods
That is why when I came across two commentaries of late, borrowed of course from my husband (one of the little perks of being married to a minister) I was overwhelmed with the beautiful simplicity, directness, and Christ-centeredness that I found. Page after page of contemporary writing and illustrations, explaining Scripture; I didn’t want to put them down.
What were they?
1. Luke Volume 1: Chapters1-12 by Philip Graham Ryken (Reformation Heritage Books).
This book is beautifully written and clearly laid out. But you don’t just get clarity of language, you also get a spiritual feast, where Christ is presented in all the beauty of His two natures. Every verse of Luke’s account is explained, and you find yourself absorbed in both the narrative, and above all, the wonder of the Gospel. The language and illustrations are contemporary.
2. Isaiah: God saves Sinners by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. (Amazon)
This book primarily written for pastors, is very accessible to lay people like you and I. Again it is logical in its format with the added bonus of each chapter being summarized at the beginning with Ortlund’s key outline of Isaiah’s sermons. Ortlund uses many contemporary illustrations, but like Ryken also gleans from some of the great godly writers of the past like Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Newton, and many others. The glory of Christ shines through in his exposition, which is ultimately what we want to get to.
Let me add another little gem:
Glory Veiled and Unveiled, A Heart-Searching Look at Christ’s Parables, by Gerald M Bilkes (Reformation Heritage Books).
Each parable is expounded, explained, and applied in a contemporary way. This is a wonderful paperback that is very suitable even for teenagers. The Gospel is clearly laid out and the reader is challenged spiritually by several short questions at the end of each chapter.
In a day of much spiritual shallowness, there is a crying need for Christian books which have the spiritual weight of the past and reverence the Word of God, but in contemporary language. I believe these books above achieve that.
Here is a plea to the many talented Reformed Christian authors out there.
Do you want to reach this generation? Do you want them to not just buy books, but read them? Do you want to give them a longing for the things of Christ, so that they are not merely intellectually challenged but actually spiritually revived?
You see the number of theological intellectuals is relatively few. The number of people wandering in a fog on the way to a lost eternity is vast; and the number of post-modern Christians , especially young, who are largely ignorant of the great rivers of water that flow through the Word of God are fewer still.
Please reach these needy ones and we needy ones. Give us the great spiritual gems of the past, but in contemporary English that our generation can understand. Many lives will be changed.
Christ Himself was the greatest example of how to communicate these truths simply.
“And the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark12:37).
Posted by Shona