Richard Stamp
Books We Recommend: Rich

Oscar Wilde said this, “It is what you read when you don’t have to, that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

In other words, reading matters. In fact, I don’t think it’s a negotiable for the follower of Christ. If faith comes by hearing the word – and it does - then reading it into your own ears is probably a fairly good start, and also reading books about the word of God too.

Anyway, enough about Oscar Wilde. Let’s talk about my summer reading recommendations. I’m clearly very passionate about making sure that we are reading helpful books about the Christian life. I’ve found that some of most key catalytic faith moments for me have happened while reading the word, or reading about the word.

I’m also fairly systematic about how I do things, so I generally like to have two books going at any one time – one that is a more easy-to-read Christian-living book, and one that is a bit more ‘hard theology’ to keep me thinking about the vastness of God and the magnitude of His mission. So it is was with great delight that this summer, two of the books that I read achieved both, and I would wholeheartedly recommend either.

The Good God, by Michael Reeves.
I’d read this before, but to be honest, I read it because we were reviewing it as elders and so I had to. Wilde’s quote was ringing in my ears as I re-read this book over the summer, because I wanted something that was going to help me to think more about Trinity, more about the nature of God, and more about the goodness of God’s character, so I picked this up as an easy introduction to a longer, more ‘weighty’ list of books on these subjects that I’d planned to read.

But, as I read it, I remembered just how good, easy to read, and unbelievably deep this book is – and how much ground Reeves covers in just 107 short pages.

In summary, Reeves, in his clipped English, and cocktail-party-humour style goes on a rampage against much of what our culture has chosen to understand about God, and how ham-fisted much teaching tends to be when it comes to understanding how God the Father has always loved the Son with such depth of joy that he almost couldn’t help himself from creating man to join him in sharing the joy of loving the Son. And how does He do this? By joyously giving us the Holy Spirit to enable us to love the Son. And in a wonderful treatment of John 17, he unpacks how we were created, along with all creation as a love gift of the Father to the Son. We, along with all creation, are the object of love between the Father and the Son.

God is happy. And he is happy to invite us in. This beautiful little book will warm your heart and transform your view of the Godhead, and set you doctrinally straight. I think it is probably one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Read it!

The Me I Want to Be, by John Ortberg
I also love a bit of John Ortberg. I mean with titles like, “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat”, who wouldn’t?

This summer I also read, “The me I want to be” by John Ortberg. Ortberg has an amazing communicative gift, and understands the human condition wonderfully. He draws strongly on the world of psychology to help to understand how we were created, how we best flourish, and why God instructs us to live in the way that he does. His central thesis is that we don’t belong to ourselves, but to God. And every situation in life is an opportunity for God to shape us and conform us into the likeness of Jesus. In a very practical and readable style, he unpacks some of the primary blockers for various personality types to responding well to Jesus and how to overcome them. I felt faith rising as I read this book, and was particularly impressed with how he demonstrates in life and nature, how – just as Jesus said – perfect love really does cast out fear.

I’ve not yet read anything by John Ortberg that isn’t good. I recommend all of his stuff highly for the entry level Christian reader or for anyone else looking for a quick shot of faith to the heart.

The Good God, by Michael Reeves should be compulsory reading for any believer. The me I want to be by John Ortberg just makes sense. Read them both!