My Top 5 Books For Young Christians

There is a huge selection of books available for Christians to read and to study, it’s often hard to know where to start.  The following 5 books are my own personal favourite Christian books that I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year’ish, and that are still available to buy. They are in no particular order.

I’ve tried to provide a link to the most affordable copy of each book. If you live locally let me know, and you can borrow any of the books.

1. “The Lord our Shepherd” – J. Douglas MacMillan
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This much-beloved book is one that has been on the shelf for years, but I’ve only recently actually read it.
Rev MacMillan walks us through Psalm 23, every page describing in beautiful detail the care and love of our Shepherd, as he protects and guides us.
Since the author spent many years as a shepherd, he often writes from experience. It’s a short book and an incredibly easy one to read, but that does not mean that he simplifies anything; rather as he gently walks us through the psalm he delves deep into the wonderful work of our Saviour.
Seriously if you have it read it, if not borrow or buy a copy.
LINK

2. “I AM” – Iain D. Campbell

i-amAgain, this is another short book. But it is not one to quickly skim over. Rev. Campbell looks into the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus as we find them in the Gospel of John. By taking the time to study these phrases we can learn about our saviour by seeing how He described himself.
Rev. Campbell unpacks each saying into manageable sections, he also closes each chapter by asking several study questions.
As well as for personal reading, this book would make a great book for use in a small group study. LINK

3. “The Shorter Catechism”

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Okay, so I know that many of you will have at least had a little experience with this book some point in your life – but bear with me. This little book of 107 Questions and Answers has helped countless Christians for hundreds of years. We now live in an age of 140 character tweets & soundbites. Well, this book beat that trend a few hundred years ago!
The questions range from the purpose of our creation to salvation/ election/ ten commandments/ the Lord’s prayer etc. Almost every area of essential Biblical teaching is covered in bite-size chunks.
With each Q+A you can see the related Scripture references and a short (but incredibly helpful) comment. LINK

4. “Five Points” – John Piper
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I spent years struggling with election, salvation and God’s sovereignty over all things. Questions like “If God chooses certain people to be saved, how can that be fair & right…”etc. If I had had this book during that time all my questions would have been answered. The reality is that, as we have it so wonderfully put in Psalm 115, “Our God is in the Heavens, He does all that he pleases”. Piper gently leads the reader through five different areas where he shows, again and again, that God is our Sovereign King & Loving Father. That He hates sin & loves His people. That God has a perfect plan, and that He will accomplish that plan.
Read this book. If you have not yet dealt with these types of questions you will have to soon enough, prepare yourself now. LINK [There’s a free PDF download of the book available]

5. A Biography / Autobiography

Okay so I’m cheating here slightly, but I honestly can’t think which books to specifically recommend. I’ve read two the last year, an autobiography by Martin C. Haworth “Beyond  Coral Shores”, documenting his missionary calling to work in the Philippines and then amongst the Buhid tribe. It’s a great read, and pretty exhilarating. It shows the power of the Gospel to reach and touch any people/ language and tribe.
I also read “The Life of Rabbi Duncan” by David Brown, whilst it’s a wonderful account of God shaping and forming the life of Mr Duncan etc. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a younger or new Christian.
So just grab any book which documents the life of a Christian, and see how God worked in their life, marvel at how He works all things together for His will and the good of His people.

Just one quick word on some books to avoid, from authors which seem to be unfortunately popular with younger & new Christians. Avoid Joyce Meyer, Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) and Rob Bell.

So there we go, a quick look at my top 5 (‘ish) books for new & younger Christians. What would your must-read books be?

Do I REALLY care for the Gospel?

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“Give me Scotland, or I die.”

These were the words of John Knox, one of the most famous Christians in Scottish History. At a time when the true Gospel was obscured behind the man-made religion of the Roman Catholic Church, Knox was among those that were seeking, above all other things, to have the true Gospel heard again in Scotland [See here & here for more about the life and ministry of John Knox]

In these few short words Knox isn’t arrogantly demanding from God some piece of land or power.
What we see here is a plea from a man who wanted, above all things, to see God glorified in the spread of the Gospel in Scotland.
In other words he is saying ‘Lord, I am desperate that this nation would all come to worship you and know you’.

Knox was willing to give up comfort and his freedom to serve the God he loved.
These few simple words of Knox have really convicted me the last few days.
They’ve made me question my passion for the Gospel; can I say with a heart full of conviction:
“Give me my Lewis, or I die”
OR
“Give me my village, or I die”
OR
“Give me my family, or I die”
Do I care enough for the glory of God and the spread of the wonderful Gospel that I am willing to work relentlessly for His cause?

Not that God needs us to accomplish His work, He doesn’t! But, in His infinite wisdom, He calls us to act. To be the candles in this dark world. To share the beautiful, simple Gospel.

Knox was not just offering up some inspiring words, this simple but powerful prayer came from a man who was willing to work hard for the sake of the Gospel. His zeal & passion for serving God was matched in his actions.

That God would keep us full of love and passion for Him, and that our action would match our words.

Let’s see what Paul [a man who knew what it was to suffer for the sake of the Gospel] says concerning our daily walk as Christians (emphasis mine):
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,g serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
-Romans 12: 9-16

Infectious Christianity

It’s 111AD and Plinius Caecilius the Roman governor of Bithynia (modern-day Istanbul) has a problem on his hands. He’s been faced with a secret group of religious believers, a group he has not had to deal with before, a group that will not follow the religion of the people and the country. Looking for help he writes to the Roman Emperor Trajan:

“It is my custom, Lord emperor, to refer to you all questions whereof I am in doubt … In investigations of Christians I have never [before] taken part; hence I do not know what is the crime usually punished or investigated, or what allowances are made. ”

Whilst waiting for advice from the Emperor on how to proceed, he decides for himself on what to do for the time being:

“Meantime this is the course I have taken with those who are accused before me as Christians. I asked them at their own lips whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment. If they kept to it, I ordered them for execution”

Plinius stresses the danger of this new religion:

“The matter seemed to me worth deliberation especially on account of the number of those in danger; for many of all ages and every rank, and even of both sexes are brought into present or future danger”

But even though it’s so infectious, he is confident  it won’t last too long, that it can be stopped:

“The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not the cities only, but the villages and country: yet it seems possible to stop it and set it right.”



So, did Plinius manage to stop this evil sect from spreading even further, did he manage to “set it right”? Well, the fact that I am sitting here in Lewis writing this shows that they failed in that task.
The Romans had suppressed many other sects and religions (some who resisted violently), so why did they struggle so much with this peaceful, small group of people?

These early Christians (men and woman, boy and girls) suffered awful persecutions (which we can look at in the future). Our brothers and sisters today still face awful persecutions, so how do they endure it all? How has the Church survived and grown through all these years?

The reality is that although there have been many brave Christians throughout the centuries, people who were willing to live in poverty and die in pain for the glory of God; the spread of the Gospel and the preservation of the Church did not rely even on them.
Instead let’s see what Paul concludes when he ponders the care & love of God for his people, the Church:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
-Romans 8:38-39

Nothing will stop the Gospel, not violence, governments, laws, false teachings or the many other religions in our world.
God knows his people, God saves his people, God keeps his people. This is as true now as it was 2000 years ago. 

[The text of the letter from Pliny to Trajan is taken from “Selections from Early Christian Writers” pp.27-31, H. M. Gwatkin]

Hymns, Hats, and Tattoos

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This will be a short one. Really it’s just a few spare thoughts from the post “Christians, Cocktails & Coll Beach“. In that post we talked about young  Christians drinking, how a Christian has the freedom to have a drink (providing it’s legal and they don’t get drunk).
The reality is that the Bible is the living word of God, not a bland rule book. In some situations, we as Christians are free to use Scripture along with our own god-given common sense to decide which way to go, and what to choose.
[See WCOF Ch.1 – VI]

As Christians, we are called to be united. But to be united does not always mean to be uniform.
We are told in a wonderful and vivid way 1 Corinthians 12 that we are one body with one ultimate purpose and one ultimate goal. But just as all our different body parts are different, yet still work together; so it is for the Church.

This won’t be a deep scriptural examination of each point.
For each topic, we can look briefly at both sides (including my own view) then see how they are different but not opposed.
They will be short and generally simplistic, they are just to get you thinking.

This is not a definitive list of all the areas where Christians have liberty, but they are some of the areas which we may face in our own normal Christian living.


When we come to look at Christian liberty and Christian living, it’s always good to have these words from Paul in our thoughts:
““All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”  (1 Corinthians 10:23)


Worship

Hymns vs. Psalms
An issue which has caused so much contention in our Church.
Our sung worship of God is important, but it should never be an issue on which the family should bear ill-will or split over.
As a slightly younger Christian, this was a real strong point of mine.  To my shame, it was “Psalms only or you are deceived” level of thinking.
I still prefer the Psalms to any hymn, but I was led to realise it’s a matter of conviction and personal reasoning and certainly not a Gospel issue.
You can sing a Psalm, with all the correct harmonies, but with a stone cold heart. Just as you can sing even a modern worship song with a heart full of genuine praise.

Bible Translation
Out of all the translation that people love dearly, the KJV (or AV) has got to be #1.
And it’s understandable, it is what many of us grew up hearing and using for our memory verses!
If you use the KJV, if it’s your ‘ go to translation, then that is fine – it is well loved and by all accounts a faithful translation. But whilst it may be a good translation, it is not the only one. Almost all the commonly used translations around today are just as faithful as the KJV.
God’s Word is perfect and unchanging, it’s not only to be found in one certain translation. It is found in all faithfully translated Bibles. Personally, I use the ESV, I find it easy to read and believe it’s one of the best modern translations currently available. [One day we can look at this topic in proper detail]

Dress
Let’s bite the bullet and start off with hats (head coverings to be specific).
Should a woman wear a hat in Church or not?
Much like the Psalms vs. hymns issue, this can attract a serious amount of fire from both sides. Those who believe head coverings should be worn point to one passage in Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:6).
Those who say it’s not necessary,  dispute that the passage applies to women today (instead it applied to the certain culture of the day).
If you wear a head covering, that is fine, but make sure you understand why you do it, don’t just do it as part of the ‘culture’.

So what about the rest of our clothes, how should we dress in Church? The reality is that dressing in our  “Sunday Best” does not make sense scripturally. Yes, we are gathering to worship God, so we should dress appropriately. But ‘appropriately’ does not equal ‘formally’.
The reality is that we are meeting together as a family, so the idea of some sort of special Sunday clothes do not mix with that idea.
Our dress and head coverings are not Gospel issues, as long as we are dressed appropriately and don’t cause each other to stumble then it really shouldn’t be a majour issue.

Church Attendance
This is one area in which we have very little liberty.
This does not include special circumstances (family situations /illness etc.)
If we are able, we should all take every opportunity we can to gather with the Lords people, with our eternal family. Sundays, Wednesdays, and any other chances that may arise.
The reality is, and I speak from experience, if you purposefully neglect gathering with the Church, then your walk will suffer. It is simple as that.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching ” (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

Lifestyle

Drinking
We already looked at this in detail (click here), essentially if you are old enough to legally drink and you don’t get drunk there is no Scripture against you enjoying a drink.
All whilst bearing in mind where you are drinking and who you are drinking around – always remembering that we are lights in the darkness.
I would say, and this is purely my own thoughts (and my own personal situation), if there is a history of alcoholism in your family I would strongly advise you to just avoid it altogether.

Tattoos
Those against getting a tattoo will point to Leviticus 19:28 as a reason to not get them.
If read in context you will soon see this instruction belonged to the “civil law”, and therefore applied to the nation of Israel [We will visit this in greater detail in a future post].
Essentially this instruction, along with the dietary rules and rules on clothing & hygiene that we find in passages in Leviticus etc. were applicable to the Nation Of Israel – and were highly beneficial to them. But we are no longer bound by those two sets of laws.

So we can get a tattoo, but does that mean that we should?
We still have to ask ourselves why we are getting it?
For our glory, or for Gods?
We also have to ask the obvious question, are we sure we want this on our skin for years to come?
We also have to bear in mind that if we are to get one, it would be wise, for the sake of our witnessing and unity that we perhaps get it somewhere that is not easily seen.
I’ll have to admit I do have a horse in this race. Although we may be able to get tattooed, it’s something we should do with our witness and brotherly unity very much in mind.
[See HERE and HERE for more information on the threefold separation of the Law]

Relationships [boy/girl friend]
In terms of relationships, the Bible is clear that here again is one issue with not much liberty or room for a difference of opinion. If you are a Christian then your other half needs to be a Christian – it’s that simple.
Even if Scripture wasn’t clear on the issue, common sense alone should lead us to realise that it does not make sense any other way.
As Christians our first love must always be Christ, this won’t make sense to one that is not yet saved. We also try to seek God’s glory in all things,  especially in our relationships. That simply won’t be possible with someone that does not care about the Glory of God.


So, there we go.
Just a very brief snapshot of some areas that may to Christians. Like we said already, this is just to get you thinking of these topics. By no means is it a complete Scriptural analysis.
Different opinions on certain secondary issues are not a bad thing. In practice, if love and grace are shown, they serve to strengthen the Church.

Let me know in the comments of any other areas where the Christian will have to use their liberty to make a choice?


Further Reading:
4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty

Christian Liberty

Christians, Cocktails & Coll Beach

“Did you hear about the state of ….. at Coll beach, I thought they were meant to be a Christian?”

This is not the first time I heard that dreaded sentence, it is repeated most years. A sentence that (from the outside looking in) is questioning the truth of the person’s claims of salvation. A sentence that places doubt on the work of God in that individual’s life.

Before we go any further I want to make a few things clear:
I do not think it is wrong for a Christian to drink alcohol, to say otherwise would be to add to Scripture. That is, providing the Christian does not get drunk (which is a sin), and that they are above the legal drinking age. [Eph5:18]
I do not think that if a Christian does get drunk, or if they drink underage that they somehow lose their salvation, if it is genuine then – like any other Christian – that salvation is eternal, and based  on the finished work of Jesus. And it is not somehow ‘removed’ by them doing something silly, if that was the case then not one of us would remain saved for any length of time! [Jhn10:18,Phil1:6]

The issue is not really only about Christians getting drunk, it is a wider issue, are we acting in a way that will honour God? Both by encouraging our brothers and sisters, and by being a good witness to those around us?

The reality of the situation is that most of it boils down to basic common sense and understanding that we are to live as lights in the darkness.[Eph5:8]
Understanding that we have been saved to live differently to those around us, this is not an ‘additional extra’, it is part of who we now are. We belong to God, we have been washed and cleansed and set apart to serve him, our lifestyle must reflect this. [1Peter2:9]

So how does this look when we try to live this out in the world?

In all our actions we have to consider, will this bring glory to God?
> Will this help and encourage our brothers and sisters (Or will my actions cause them to         stumble/ be confused?) [Rom14:12-16]
>How will this affect my witness to a world that is looking at me to point them to God? (Will my actions give them reason to be amazed at God’s saving power, or will it make them question my salvation?) [Phil2:15]

This is not some new way of thinking, Paul addressed the Christian’s freedom by saying:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23

 

  1. Let’s start with a silly example. I CAN go into the pulpit this Sunday morning, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, swimming trunks, flip-flops, and arm-bands and lead the service dressed like that. Biblically you won’t find a verse that stops me from doing it, but in reality it will certainly cause confusion (and certain long-term trauma) for the brothers and sisters, and for those not yet saved it will serve as a distraction from the Gospel.
  2. I have no problem with tattoos, but I understand that some brothers and sisters do. I also understand that in our culture tattoos often have a bad reputation. So If I were to get one I wouldn’t get it somewhere where it will be easily seen. That way, no offence is caused and the Gospel witness is not damaged.
  3. A Christian having a drink with their meal, or an occasional beer etc. is not wrong.  To say it is, is to add to the text, and to attach personal views onto the Bible. But there is never an excuse for an underage Christian to drink, this is simple sin. There is also never an excuse for a Christian to get drunk, this also is simply sin. Being drunk is associated with our fallen world, where people look to boozy weekends to try and find something to look forward to in an otherwise empty world. For a Christian to drink to get drunk implies, to the world, that they are still with them, that their life has not been transformed, that they have not been made into new creatures. It causes the world to look at you and say  “I thought they were meant to be a Christian?”

Think of the damage this does to your current and future witness to them? As you tell them you have found a joy greater than any on earth, whilst all they can think about is how they saw you in town or at that person’s house, drinking that bit too much.

Yes, we will fail again and again, but as servants of God, we should strive all the time to serve Him. Especially as young Christians, we are stepping into an increasingly dark and hostile world, we have to nail our colours to the mast, and be mindful of all our actions. Understanding that we are the representatives of Christ in all that we do.

Any questions or comments at all please don’t hesitate to get in touch, you’ll find the details on the “about” section.

Give this song a listen:

For Further reading:

– How Do I Live The Authentic Christian Life

Loads of articles on “Christian Living”

Help with Bible reading

Help with prayer

 

3 very short thoughts on the Church of Scotland and Scripture

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Plenty will be said in the upcoming days about the decision taken by the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the decision which allows an individual in a same-sex civil partnership (and undoubtedly after Thursday, also those in same-sex ‘marriages’) to become an ordained minister.

I would like to start by saying that I know there are many brothers and sisters in the COS who are upset and sad about the decision, please continue to pray for your Church, as we all will.                   For any in the COS, a group called Covenant Fellowship Scotland  has been established to seek the “reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland.”

So what 3 points can be drawn from this decision:

1. The real problem is not ministers in same-sex relationships
The vote is a blatant disregard for scripture’s definition of marriage and also for it’s definition of what it means to be a minister, though these two points alone are terribly sad and very revealing, they are only the symptoms of the real underlying problem.

2. The real problem is a blatant disregard for Scripture
The COS’s (current) deviation from scripture did not start after yesterday’s vote. No, it started the very moment that it was proposed a clear Biblical principle could be argued in the courts of the Church, and the clear words of the creator debated by his created beings. Not for a second would I discourage the discussion of God’s word, we are instructed to  do it:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
To be living as Christians we must study and discuss the scriptures, and in our study we might well disagree on some points.
But in saying that, some points of scripture are so piercingly precise and obvious that when read in context with the rest of the book and with rest of the bible, the message cannot be mistaken.
Yesterday’s vote is one of these points, and  the bible is clear on the topic.
The fact  that the COS believes that the clear points of Scripture can be argued in a General Assembly, and be decided by a vote, show’s it’s opinion on God’s revealed word.
An opinion which seems to be that God’ word is completely infallible and perfect, that is, apart from the parts we don’t like and that make us feel uncomfortable, those bits aren’t so important.

3. Emotion over Scripture?
This is more of a point 2.5 rather than a point 3, but just to piggy-back on the previous point, we can ask the question:
“Is the COS following the Scripture or following the will of man?”
Take a look at any of the social media posts about this decision, about half the posts are from Church members who are “proud of the bravery shown today”, and the other half are from people apparently out-with the Church who are also congratulating the Church on the decision that was made.
In watching the debate today, and after following it for a few years, the same issue has appeared time and time again, that is the emphasis is on emotion and feelings rather than on scripture.
The arguments in favour of the change almost exclusively drew on stories and personal anecdotes, all very genuine and sincere, but also all lacking in any scriptural backing.
The arguments against the change were all clearly and logically argued from our  “only infallible rule of faith and practice”, not on the changing and sinful bases of our own emotions and thoughts.
The two cannot be compared, one side arguing from sinful human reason and emotion, the other arguing from the very word direct from God.

Again these are just my initial thoughts on what went on yesterday, although blatantly against God’s revealed word there is still hope for renewal and reformation for the Church of Scotland, there still remains plenty of faithful members and congregations who also long for such a day.

As always, comments and thoughts are very welcome