The title of this article either brings back fond memories of curling up in your favorite reading nook and entering fantastic worlds with your new best friends, or it brings back terrible memories of monotony and dread at the prospect of a reading quiz the first day of school in August. But summer reading is a good idea – and not just for children in school. The different pace of the summer months, vacations, and longer days give ample reasons for picking up a book or e-reader and expanding your mind.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 is a good check on those who love to read, of course: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.” But when Paul in prison, for what did he long? “When you come [he says to Timothy], bring the…books, and above all the parchments.” Though like any created thing they can become an idol, books are a blessing. Indeed, they are indispensable to growth as a Christian life. Without reading (or listening to an audiobook) we cannot have the word of God implanted deep into our hearts and minds. And it’s not only the Bible I’m talking about. Books that explain the Bible, books that explain the human condition, books that describe the journeys of Christians throughout history, books that explain how God’s world works, whether fiction or nonfiction, whether written in the 21st century or the 17th century or the 2nd century – all are worthy of our time and energy.
The elders of Pear Orchard long for all of God’s people to be readers. That’s why we’re teaching through Pilgrim’s Progress this summer. More importantly, that’s why we’re reading through it. I want our class to be able to say they’ve read all the way through this Christian classic. But 17th century Puritans didn’t write the way we’re used to writing or reading. And so reading them is not easy. In fact, it might feel like work. But as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” I’ll never forget reading through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom in 11th grade. Now that was hard reading. When I finished it, though I didn’t remember much about it, it was the first time that I felt I had accomplished something in the reading of a book. The Puritans are far easier than Faulkner! But they’re still tough sledding, and so by reading Pilgrim’s Progress together, we’ll help each other make it through – and I hope that we’ll be more prepared and desirous to pick up other Puritan classics on our own. Or the 18th-19th century American Presbyterians. Or even the 20th and 21st century authors. The latter are far more accessible, so why don’t you start there this summer?
Here are a few recommendations. If you’ve never read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, do it. The same goes for Knowing God, by J. I. Packer. R. C. Sproul’s classics Knowing Scripture, Chosen by God, and The Holiness of God should be required reading for every believer. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied is more difficult, but absolutely worth the effort (though he lived in the 20th century, he wrote like someone from the 19th century, so have a dictionary handy). John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is pure gold, as is Donald Macleod’s Christ Crucified. And don’t forget our own John Perritt’s Your Days are Numbered, and his newest book, What Would Judas Do?
May the Lord grant us – through words – a deeper knowledge of Him and His word this summer.