Colin Benner is shrinking his book collection in advance of moving to another country, and he asked a very good question. If you were moving somewhere for 3 years, and could only take ten books with you, which would you take?
Now, I’m someone who’s got a short-list of books to recommend on pretty much any theological subject you could think of, be it pneumatology, ecclesiology, Christology, soteriology and so on. One thing I’ve never done is create a list like this – a general-purpose “Must read” list. It’s not exhaustive, and there are some books I’d want to include to really round out the list a bit more, but this is the list of books I came up with, complete with links to where you can buy them if you want
- A Bible
I’m not sure which translation. I tend to flick between the ESV and NLT. If I can only take one, I’d probably be likely to take a TNIV to get the best of both worlds between these two translations.
- Ultimate Intention by DeVern Fromke
A spiritual classic that seems to have informed a number of other books on this list. Looking at the question of what God’s plan was even if Adam never fell, he outlines God’s eternal plan and shows how we often put redemption central in our salvation histories and while redemption is absolutely crucial, it is by no means the whole story. He shows how redemption is the necessary act of God to get us back on track to what He really wanted – a family, a body for His Son, and a temple for the Spirit – His people chosen from amongst the earth, who will then manifest His glory and goodness throughout the universe, living to the praise of His grace.
- From Eternity To Here by Frank Viola
Another great overview of God’s eternal purpose, covering the same broad ground as DeVern Fromke. Whereas Ultimate Intention is written in a slightly more difficult-to-access style, this has been written in deliberately different styles to stir the head and the heart in equal measure. Viola presents God’s eternal plan to have a bride, a house, a family and a body, and the more amazing truth that we who trust in Christ are it! There are things Viola says that Fromke doesn’t, and vice versa, so it’s well worth reading both!
- Jesus Manifesto by Frank Viola & Leonard Sweet
A call to restore the supremacy and centrality of Christ in our lives and churches. They diagnose the major malady hassling the body of Christ today as JDD – Jesus Deficit Disorder. We are passionate about and attracted to so many things other than Christ – be it spiritual gifts, political power, social justice, pure doctrine or right moral living, they are all “it’s” that can distract us from Jesus Himself. Rather than chasing “it’s”, and thereby miss out on Jesus (missing out on everything), they show that we should chase Jesus and find that He perfectly embodies all the “it’s” and “things” we might chase, and much more besides! The vast bulk of the book is a deep and profound re-presentation of Christ for a church that has often neglected to place Him in the highest place that truly belongs to Him.
- The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone & Greg Smith
This book covers a lot of similar ground to so many other books on what Hudson Taylor called the Exchanged Life. While we often present the gospel as the forgiveness of sins for those who trust in Christ, this message is only half the story and neglects to talk to how we actually live after that! This book presents the other half of the gospel – that when we were forgiven and born again, we received a new identity in Christ, accomplished by the finished work of the Cross, and were united to Him. The key to living the Christian life is to realise that it’s not for us to live it – we simply need to know the truth of this identity, and learn to live from our union with Him, which is nothing less than learning to let Christ live His life in and through us. I’ve been hearing this message from all kinds of places but have found it difficult to really grab hold of , but this is written in a way that has been unlocking so many of the doors I’ve been bashing at for a long while now!
- The Message of Ephesians by John Stott
Ephesians is my favourite epistle, unveiling the great plan of God for His people, the church. John Stott’s commentary is great! He goes into detail about the different interpretations of various passages, always fairly discussing the strengths and disadvantages of each view before outlining his view. While I disagree with most of his thoughts around the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4, this is an otherwise brilliant, thorough treatment of the Epistle.
- Surprised By The Voice of God by Jack Deere
Jack Deere was a cessationist seminary teacher who had no room for the moving of the Spirit in his theology. His first book tells the story of how He came to believe that God is still giving spiritual gifts to the church today. This book follows on immediately, and looks at the variety of ways God speaks – through the Bible, through experience, through prophecy, through dreams and other supernatural means. It was this book that first taught me the principles of how to hear God’s voice, discern that it really is Him and then prophesy in church meetings. I still pick this book up from time to time to keep priming the pump and continue firm in faith that God speaking in many and diverse ways is not just vital but gloriously possible.
- God’s Empowering Presence by Gordon Fee
I’ve had this tome on my shelf for several years now. It’s Fee’s verse-by-verse exposition on the place of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s epistles, followed by a theological summary of Paul’s pneumatology. Maybe by taking it where there’s no other new shiny books to distract me might mean I actually flippin’ read the thing!
- A Matter of Life & Death by Wayne Duncan
A book about how to read the Bible without doing damage to ourselves! The Bible contains two ministries in it – one of life and one of death. If we read the things written in the ministry of death and apply it directly to ourselves, we will harm ourselves and reap death. This book trains us to learn to filter the Bible through the lenses of the New Covenant of Grace so that we always see Christ in the pages of Scripture, and so find life.
- Grace Walk by Steve McVey
In many ways, this book sums up the whole sweep of things I’ve been learning over the last 5-6 years about the grace of God and the Exchanged Life. Challenging many shibboleths of the “Try Harder!” approach to religion, it strips off legalism and leaves naked grace and a life lived in pure faith.