I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.
I Corinthians 3:2-3
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict 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 complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
It's that time of year when organizations and people start sharing summer reading lists. I think this is a good time to jump on that bandwagon and share out my list of books that have helped me grow spiritually.
First up, the Bible.
I never want any of you to think that I put other books above the Word. I don't. I do find other books helpful but I want to encourage you to be in the Word on a regular basis. If you struggle with getting started with a reading plan, I would suggest that you pick one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John - and read one chapter a day for a month. Baby steps!
Maybe for the rest of the year you rotate through a different Gospel a month. If this is successful for you, at the beginning of the new year you could switch over to a reading plan that has you reading the entire New Testament in a year or even the entire Bible in a year. If you need to take this progression slowly, read through each of the Gospel's at least once for the rest of this year, then in January you read through the New Testament, and then the following year read through the entire Bible. I highly recommend a chronological reading of Scripture at least a few times in your life even if it keeps you in the Old Testament for a majority of the year. You learn so much about God by reading the Old Testament.
I've placed a few different reading plans in this folder: Bible Reading Plans. There are many different plans out there. A simple internet search will provide many results. Some can be printed out and others are electronic. Personally, I like plans I can print on paper so I can cross off that section of reading after it's completed.
Next, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
James uses Mary and Martha of Bethany to help explain how important our theology of God is. Do not let that word "theology" scare you. Theology is the study of God and when you learn about Him and talk about Him you are being a theologian. Yes, this is a simplified definition but I don't want any of you to be scared by the word "theology." Being a Christian means we are theologians.
In three parts, the book starts us at the feet of Jesus where we learn our theology and then moves us to the trenches of life where our practice of theology is deepened and then to how our theology helps us minister to others.
My summary here is brief and barely adequate to cover the good biblical stuff in the book. If you have room for one more book to read this summer, please make it this book. I can't recommend the book enough.
Next, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Since I read this book the first time, I've picked up an updated copy of the book and am starting to read through it again. I want to be more regular with my blogging so my plan is to blog about each spiritual discipline in the book. You really should get your own copy of the book so when the blogging happens you can add to the discussion in the comments.
But my purpose here is to talk about the book so I should probably do that now. :) Whitney is very clear that the purpose of practicing the spiritual disciplines is not to check off a box and say "See, God, I did one of Your things." Practicing spiritual disciplines in a check-the-box manner turns Christianity into a religion on work and not of grace. The purpose of doing a spiritual discipline is godliness (I Timothy 4:7). The disciplines will help us grow more mature in our Christian walk and thereby bring us closer to God. The disciplines are God's way of working on us from the inside out.
Whitney covers 12 different disciplines from studying and memorizing Scripture to prayer to serving to stewardship to learning to persevering in the disciplines. Each discipline he discusses is supported by Scripture. Each discipline is explained, methods and suggestions provided, and a section on more applications given. The final chapter on perseverance is helpful because it reminds us not to give up. He encourages us to "practice the Spiritual Disciplines in light of eternity."
If you have room, add this book to your summer book stack. Or get it after the summer for those cozy fall and winter reading times.
A listening list:
If you are busy this summer with travel or outside activities that are not conducive to reading the words of a book in paper or electronic format, I think the following audio resources are worth the listening time.
Church Ministries Conference. This conference is one I attend as often as I can. They just started recording the breakout sessions a couple years ago and have posted them online. There are so many good session recordings from 2017 and 2016 found here: http://churchministriesconference.com/audio/ I especially like Rosalie De Rosset's session on "Reading as a Scriptural Exercise." And as it is the summer months, Stacie Johnson's session on "A Theology of Modesty" is quite appropriate. Hint, modesty isn't just for women and it isn't just about clothing.
Together for the Gospel Conference. This conference takes place every two years. I attended a couple years ago and enjoyed the preaching and the workshop sessions. All of those sessions are recorded which helps when you can't be everywhere at once. I especially like what and how Ligon Duncan preaches from the Word: http://t4g.org/speakers/ligon-duncan/
Audible. Because of my travels for work, I've had a subscription for a couple years. I still have lots of books to get through but I highly recommend John Piper's sermons on the entire book of Romans. This is for those long trips (over 150 hours of sermons) and well worth the Audible credit. Yes, you can get the sermons for free from desiringGod.org but I like the audio book format so I don't have to remember where I left off when I decide to listen to another book or some music while traveling.
I hope my suggestions help you feed yourself spiritually through the rest of this year. If you have any other suggested readings, please share them in the comments so we can learn from each other.