Pastor Jon’s 2024 Reading Challenge

Christ Church | 2024 Reading Challenge

The Christ Church reading challenge is back! Many of you have participated in my curated monthly reading schedule in the past. For others, however, this will be new. The reading challenge is a simple way to stimulate godly reading in our congregation, and to turn attention away from the ubiquitous screens that too often tyrannize (and shape!) our lives. Moreover, it’s a strategy to introduce our congregation to quality books and trustworthy authors.

In his fantastic book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Oxford University Press: 2011), Alan Jacobs reflects on the fact that the introduction of the television in the 1940’s, and the computer in the 1970’s, contributed significantly to the decline of book reading over the past 75 years. Of course, the recent technological advances leading to the creation of the iPhone, social media, and online streaming services have led to increasing levels of sub-literacy and the loss of longterm attention spans among our youth. It’s a serious problem, and the highly pixelated alternatives to the written page grow daily. Indeed, there’s always another “must-see” Netflix series being released. Meanwhile, countless good books go unread, and our minds and souls grow flabby.      

As Christians, this should concern us. Why? Because we are people of the Book, not people of the screen. And it’s in God’s book, the Bible, that the Law and the Gospel are revealed to us by God’s Spirit. Through the Word of the Law we recognize our sin and misery, and through the Word of the Gospel we learn the good news of salvation by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the main reason we want to be good readers is so that we can read, believe, understand, and apply God’s Word — the Word of life and grace. The words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books of the Bible lead us to God. In addition, we want to read good books to help us faithfully cultivate Christian piety and strengthen biblical conviction in our rapidly degenerating culture. Dearest Christ Church family, if ever we needed to recover godly reading it is now.

I hope that you will take up the 2024 reading challenge. The books can be purchased through Amazon, Banner of Truth Trust, Reformation Heritage Books, and any number of other booksellers.  

Below are my monthly book recommendations. They include books on doctrine, church history, devotion, biography, and Christian worldview. Some of them will be more challenging to read than others. There is both joy and toil in the reading of quality books. Tolle Lege! 

Jonathan Landry Cruse, The Character of Christ: The Fruit of the Spirit in the Life of Our Savior (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2023) Paperback, 161 pgs.

Description: A wonderful little book that expounds upon the believer’s saving union with Christ, and the glorious fruit of the Spirit that flows from life in Him.

Ryan McGraw, A Mystery Revealed: 31 Meditations on the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2023) Paperback, 240 pgs. 

Description: The modern church needs to recover a sound doctrine of God. This month-long devotional assists with this recovery, focusing on the blessed, and oft neglected, doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  

Daniel R. Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2010) Paperback, 178 pgs.

Description: This book explores the marks of a truly Biblical and Reformed Church— especially helpful for those who are new to the Reformed Faith.  

Alexander Moody Stuart, The Three Marys: Learning from the lives of Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and Mary the mother of Jesus (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2023; first published in 1862). Paperback 307 pgs.  

Description: The Three Marys is a mid-nineteenth century work that beautifully explores the lives of three godly women in the Gospels; especially as it concerns their relationship with Christ.  

Derek W.H. Thomas, Strength For The Weary (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2018) Hardback, 127 pgs.  

Description: In this encouraging volume, Derek Thomas unpacks God’s promises in the final chapters of Isaiah. 

Gavin Peacock, A Greater Glory: From Pitch to Pulpit (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 2021) Hardback, 244 pgs.

Description: A fun autobiographical work written by a former Newcastle United soccer player who became a Christian at the height of his successful career. 

David Strain, Expository Preaching (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing 2021) Hardback, 142 pgs.

Description: This brief book is not primarily for preachers, but for those who listen to preaching. It’s written so that ordinary believers will understand and treasure biblical preaching on the Lord’s Day.  

David B. Calhoun, Swift and Beautiful: The Amazing Stories of Faithful Missionaries (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2020) Paperback, 224 pgs.

Description: The church needs to get back to reading good missionary biographies. In this book, David Calhoun explores the lives of ten missionaries. Ten for the price of one! 

Scott David Allen, Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians In A Time of Social Crisis (Grand Rapids: Credo House, 2020) Paperback, 249 pgs. 

Description: The moral revolution is in full swing in the West. A large contributor to the revolution is the woke ideology that has overrun our major corporations, educational institutions, and entertainment world. This insightful book provides biblical answers to many of the confusing issues that have emerged in our day.     

(eds.) Jon D. Payne and Sebastian Heck, A Faith Worth Defending: The Synod of Dort’s Enduring Heritage (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019) Hardback, 182 pgs.

Description: A Faith Worth Defending is an engaging collection of essays written by Reformed pastors and scholars on the history and theology of the Synod of Dort (1618-19). The Cannons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism, and Belgic Confession constitute the Three Forms of Unity. This is a good (and challenging!) read for Reformation Month.   

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel From Christ to the Reformation (Chicago: Moody Press, 2017) Paperback, 242 pgs.

Description: The author shows that the gospel did not entirely vanish in the centuries leading up to the Protestant Reformation. God has been faithful to preserve His gospel and His Church in every age! 

Dennis Johnson, Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in the Bible Leads Us to Christ (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2018) Paperback, 163 pgs. 

Description: From beginning to end, the main message of the Bible is the Gospel — the good news that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to earth to live, die, and rise for guilty sinners. In this excellent book, the author shows how a right biblical interpretation will always ultimately lead us to the Savior.  

Happy Reading!

Your Pastor, Servant, and Friend,
Pastor Jon