Wondering what to give as a gift for Easter? Want to know the five basic books I recommend every Christian to read? These are the five books that have helped me in my Christian life – after the Bible itself.
Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis
In 1943 Great Britain, when hope and the moral fabric of society were threatened by the relentless inhumanity of global war, an Oxford don was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. Over half a century after the original lectures, the topic retains it urgency. Expanded into book form, Mere Christianity never flinches as it sets out a rational basis for Christianity and builds an edifice of compassionate morality atop this foundation. As Mr. Lewis clearly demonstrates, Christianity is not a religion of flitting angels and blind faith, but of free will, an innate sense of justice and the grace of God.A forceful and accessible discussion of Christian belief that has become one of the most popular introductions to Christianity and one of the most popular of Lewis’s books. Uncovers common ground upon which all Christians can stand together.
Knowing God: J.I. Packer
A lifelong pursuit of knowing God should embody the Christian’s existence. According to eminent theologian J.I. Packer, however, Christians have become enchanted by modern skepticism and have joined the “gigantic conspiracy of misdirection” by failing to put first things first. Knowing God aims to redirect our attention to the simple, deep truth that to know God is to love His Word. What began as a number of consecutive articles angled for “honest, no-nonsense readers who were fed up with facile Christian verbiage” Knowing God has become a contemporary classic by creating “small studies out of great subjects.” Each chapter is so specific in focus (covering topics such as the trinity, election, God’s wrath, and God’s sovereignty), that each succeeding chapter’s theology seems to rival the next, until one’s mind is so expanded that one’s entire view of God has changed. Having rescued us from the individual hunches of our ultra-tolerant theological age, Packer points the reader to the true character of God with his theological competence and compassionate heart. The lazy and faint-hearted should be warned about this timeless work–God is magnified, the sinner is humbled, and the saint encouraged.
Basic Christianity: John Stott
Jesus certainly existed. His existence as an historical figure is vouched for by pagan as well as Christian writers,’ says John Stott. Who was Jesus? Why was he crucified? Did he really rise from the dead? We need answers to these key questions in order to understand the basics of Christianity. The author offers a clear and full explanation, showing what it means to be a Christian today. John R. W. Stott defends the fundamental claims of Christianity and defines the proper outworkings of these beliefs in the lives of believers. Here is a sound guide for those seeking an intellectually satisfying presentation of the Christian faith. “There are…few landmark books that everyone in the world should read. This is one of the rare few. ” — Rick Warren
The Case for Christ: Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ records Lee Strobel’s attempt to “determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.” The book consists primarily of interviews between Strobel (a former legal editor at the Chicago Tribune) and biblical scholars such as Bruce Metzger. Each interview is based on a simple question, concerning historical evidence (for example, “Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?”), scientific evidence, (“Does Archaeology Confirm or Contradict Jesus’ Biographies?”), and “psychiatric evidence” (“Was Jesus Crazy When He Claimed to Be the Son of God?”). Together, these interviews compose a case brief defending Jesus’ divinity, and urging readers to reach a verdict of their own. A Seasoned Journalist Chases Down the Biggest Story in History The Project: Determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God. The Reporter: Lee Strobel, educated at Yale Law School, award-winning former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune-with a background of atheism. The Experts: A dozen scholars, with doctorates from Cambridge, Princeton, Brandeis, and other top-flight institutions, who are recognized authorities on Jesus. The Story: Retracing his own spiritual journey, Strobel cross-examines the experts with tough, point-blank questions: How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence exist for Jesus outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual historical event?
The Purpose Driven Life: Rick Warren
The spiritual premise in The Purpose-Driven Life is that there are no accidents—God planned everything and everyone. Therefore, every human has a divine purpose, according to God’s master plan. Like a twist on John F. Kennedy’s famous inaugural address, this book could be summed up like this: “So my fellow Christians, ask not what God can do for your life plan, ask what your life can do for God’s plan.” Those who are looking for advice on finding one’s calling through career choice, creative expression, or any form of self-discovery should go elsewhere. This is not about self-exploration; it is about purposeful devotion to a Christian God. The book is set up to be a 40-day immersion plan, recognizing that the Bible favors the number 40 as a “spiritually significant time,” according to author Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, touted as one of the nation largest congregations. Warren’s hope is that readers will “interact” with the 40 chapters, reading them one day at a time, with extensive underlining and writing in the margins. As an inspirational manifesto for creating a more worshipful, church-driven life, this book delivers. Every page is laden with references to scripture or dogma. But it does not do much to address the challenges of modern Christian living, with its competing material, professional, and financial distractions. Nonetheless, this is probably an excellent resource for devout Christians who crave a jumpstart back to worshipfulness.
If you are looking for a good Study Bible, there are two I use on a daily basis and would recommend:
Today’s New International Version (TNIV) Study Bible
Recommended by leading evangelical scholars, pastors, teachers, and church leaders worldwide for its clarity, accessibility, and precision of meaning, the “TNIV” is now available in a full-featured study edition. The “Zondervan TNIV Study Bible” combines over 20,000 in-text notes that form the study backbone of this Bible with the most current scholarship reflected through ongoing discoveries in archaeology, linguistics, and biblical history. Including award-winning features and concise, conservative biblical commentary, the “Zondervan TNIV Study Bible” is edited by the same leading evangelical scholars who brought the world the bestselling “Zondervan NIV Study Bible”. With a treasury of instant study material alongside the easy-to-read and highly accurate today’s “New International Version”, the “Zondervan TNIV Study Bible” provides the most comprehensive study Bible for an emerging generation of Bible readers.
Features include: over 20,000 bottom-of-the-page, verse-by-verse study notes offer biblical perspectives and study insights; icons throughout the study notes highlight historical/archaeological contexts, biblical characters and people groups, notes for personal application; topical index offers over 700 entries to enhance personal and topical Bible study; 16 pages of new, satellite-generated, full-color maps; “TNIV” side-column cross-reference system and concordance; helpful indexes to study notes, in-text maps, and color maps; the complete text of the “TNIV” in a single-column format with words of Christ in red; and presentation page, notes and map index, and 8-page historical timeline section.
Check out the TNIV website.
The English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible
The ESV Study Bible was created to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way—to understand the timeless truth of God’s Word as a powerful, compelling, life-changing reality. To accomplish this, the ESV Study Bible combines the best and most recent evangelical Christian scholarship with the highly regarded ESV Bible text. The result is the most comprehensive study Bible ever published—with 2,752 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources.
Created by an outstanding team of 95 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers, the ESV Study Bible presents completely new study notes, maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, articles, and introductions. Altogether the ESV Study Bible comprises 2 million words of Bible text, insightful explanation, teaching, and reference material—equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library all contained in one volume.
Check out the ESV website.