Books: A Gift Guide

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I know it is hard to believe, but Christmas is just around the corner. I was more than a little dismayed that upon returning from our annual Fall vacation, I found that the candy corn and pumpkins had been replaced with shortbread cookies in the shape of pine trees and artificial wreaths at my local grocery store.

While I’m not exactly sure why Thanksgiving has been blacklisted but it seems to be the Christmas season now, so in the spirit of the season I thought I would a few suggestions of books that will make great gifts.

On Loan From the Lord by Erica Siebert

I’ve often heard people say they know there are faithful men doing great things for the Lord in complete anonymity.  This is a book about just such a man, Josh “JD” Siebert. On May 4, 2017, at the far too young age of 38, Josh went home to be with the Lord. On Loan From the Lord is his story told lovingly through the eyes of his wife Erica. What makes this book so exceptional is that it is his story, not just the story of his ministry, so often when we think of a man who served in vocational ministry, we think that ministry is the whole story.  It is not.

Often as pastor I exhort the church to live in a way that glorifies God all of the time, in everything they do. What these pages contain is a memoir of a man doing just that. Was Josh faithful in ministry, absolutely, but he was just as faithful as a husband, and father, and single man in love, even as a cowboy poet, and through this book we get a picture of him being faithful in all of those areas.

Told through journal style entries, letters written by both Josh and Erica, and even some of Josh’s poetry, this book is engaging, encouraging and God glorifying. And it is a blessing to everyone who reads it. (And a book I have already gifted to several people.)

Buy it here

The Letters of John Newton

John Newton is most often remembered as the former slave ship captain who was converted and wrote the great hymn “Amazing Grace.” But he was so much more. Far more significantly he, after his conversion, became a tender shepherd of God’s people.  And that tenderness and shepherd’s heart comes through loud and clear in his letters.

I am a firm believer that collections of letters are the most underappreciated and under read category of Christian literature. I think this is the best of the lot. And as a bonus the Banner of Truth edition begins with an extended biographical sketch of Newton by Andrew Bonnar. And while not a complete collection of his letters this selection curated by biographer Josiah Bull is representative of his output and makes a great gift. But don’t take my word for it, listen to Spurgeon:

In few writers are Christian doctrine, experience and practice more happily balanced than in the author of these Letters, and few write with more simplicity, piety and force.

Buy it here

Expository Listening by Ken Ramey

This is another book I have given to mere than a few people, and the reason is simple. We don’t think very much about how to listen to sermons. You would rightly think that your pastor is sinfully negligent if he stepped into the pulpit to preach with out preparing, but have you ever slipped into your seat Sunday morning without giving any thought to how you should listen to get the most out of the sermon.?

This relatively short book (weighing in at only 144 pages) makes a great gift for new believer, mature believers who have been listening to sermons for decades and anyone who wants to get more out of the Sunday sermon.

(If you have a preacher on your list I’d recommend Preaching That Changes Lives by Mike Fabarez as a parallel work for those on the other side of the pulpit.)

Buy it here (And lots of other places too, including as a library resource for Logos Bible study software.)

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin

I am not someone who says or thinks you ought to only read theological works or books related to Christian living, there is a place for light pleasure reading. As someone who reads probably 50-75 theology or ministry related books a year, sometimes reading something frivolous feels like plunging my overheated head into a bucket of ice water; it is refreshing and makes my mind sharper. And Black Flags, though well written and thoroughly researched, did just that for me. Piracy and pirates are something I didn’t know very much about; and I certainly didn’t know how important to understanding the history of the 13 colonies it was. I was so absorbed and fascinated that I devoured this 400+ page tome in 2 ½ days on vacation.

And for those who will only read things that have some spiritual content, Cotton Mather and his evangelistic zeal (although it is deeply misunderstood by the author) makes a few appearances as he ministers to those awaiting execution in Boston’s jail.

Buy it here

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.