Church bulletin:

Not self-examination, but shelf-examination. What did you read in 2023 that was particularly helpful, enjoyable, rewarding. Hopefully we have been able to do some reading over the last twelve months. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we must be bookish – although some people give that impression. Being a Christian, however, should mean that we want to grow in grace and knowledge and love for the Lord. Reading is a relaxing way that can help to cultivate the inner life. If the shelves in our homes are bereft of books, we are poorer for it. If we own books that are never opened, we are poorer for it.

Here are four volumes I have recently read and would happily recommend.

Modern Art & the Death of a Culture by H.R. Rookmaaker. This book was first published over fifty years ago and is considered something of a classic. It traces the trajectory of faith and worldview in the history of art. The radical changes society has passed through from medieval times, the renaissance, the enlightenment, to the present have profoundly affected the way people see the world. It is not only evident in societal standards, education, technology etc. but also art. In many ways, the history of western art is the history of western spiritual decline.

Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance. Most books written on the subject of corporate worship deal with “how” – how it should be done. The author seeks to prove their case. In this book, Torrance deals with the “who” of worship. He explains why the trinitarian nature of God is indispensable to understanding what we do when we gather to worship. He writes “worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.” We are doing more than just singing a few songs and listening to a sermon on Sunday morning.

The Beauty & Power of Biblical Exposition by Douglas Sean O’Donnell & Leland Ryken. Although this book focuses its application on preaching, it has a much broader appeal. The authors contend that in order to benefit the most from scripture, we must understand its genres and how to read them. The poetry of the psalms conveys truth differently to narrative which conveys truth differently to apocalyptic prophecy. God communicates in different ways for our benefit. Furthermore, He reveals His genius and artistry through the various genres.

Places of Enchantment: Meeting God in Landscapes by Graham B. Usher. This book promotes neither mysticism nor pantheism. It does, however, encourage us to open our eyes and to take in the wonders of creation. God can be known and enjoyed through what He has made. Each chapter covers a different kind of landscape such as – forests, rivers, mountains, oceans, gardens, etc. Usher describes their unique qualities and benefits for mankind, he explains their significance in scripture, how non-Christians and other faith traditions see them, and ways in which they reveal the nature and character of God.

If 2023 was light on in the reading department, don’t allow 2024 to follow suit. Request a book or two for Christmas, make use of the January sales, partner with someone to discuss a book together, set time aside every week to read. You will be richer for it.