Real love is manifested largely by attention. Gardening, fishing, cars or people - we pay attention to what or whom we love. In marriage, love may fail simply because one has not truly listened! Can we profess to love God if we pay little attention to Him, to His Word, or to those who can help us know Him?
Books about Christian history, celebrities, issues, trends, and methodologies have multiplied. These may interest us, but few direct attention toward God Himself. To know and love Him we should read what cultivates intimate fellowship with Him.
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Books shape us, so we should read what leads to the best ‘shape’: Christlikeness! Years ago, a friend told me he carefully read certain books to gain wisdom, godliness and friendship with God. I’d assumed those qualities just came with age, or that God dispensed them as gifts — I didn’t realize I could actively strive for them. This friend gave me A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, which changed my life.
For a book to really change you, you’ll need to reread and meditate on it. Buy your own copy so you can underline, highlight, or comment in the margins. Great books warrant rereading, and in thirty years, I’ve probably reread The Pursuit of God six times. A cheap paperback, it started falling apart, so I got it hard-bound.
This monthly blog series will feature my ‘top ten’ books for those who want to know and please God. They’re about God and you, but especially about God. Friends recommended most of these, but a few attracted me with their titles or indexes. Indexes often reveal more than a table of contents, and a long index of scripture references will mean the book is more likely worthy of your attention. Those which make little use of the Bible are not the sort we need for growth in godliness.
Read these books with a Bible nearby; they will enlarge your understanding of a verse or passage, or help you see connections among passages. If you become side-tracked by the Word, if you feel inclined to put the book aside to focus on the Bible, do it! These writers aim to lead us into deeper intimacy with God through His Word.
This is a personal (not 'official') top ten list. Other Christians choose other writers, and they may be surprised that I’ve not included their favorites: Richard Foster, John MacArthur, Cynthia Heald, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Andrew Murray, Dallas Willard, Philip Yancey, or others. I’ll include some of these in my last installment, when I briefly mention the dozen or so books that came in 11th.
I’ll limit my list to recent books; only one was written before World War II, but it now comes in an “updated” version. A longer list would include some favorite earlier writers, such as Jonathan Edwards, William Law, Brother Lawrence, and D. M. M’Intyre. We have to stop somewhere, or we’ll end up with a top twenty or thirty. How wonderful to have too many, not too few, from which to choose!
So, then, on to some ‘book reports.’ Next month, we’ll begin with (you guessed it) A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God.