When St. Augustine was trying to find his way in life before he was a Christian, he tells of a time he heard the voice of a child somewhere nearby saying over and over again, "Take up and read. Take up and read." It led St. Augustine to take up and read the Bible, and as the saying goes, "The rest is history." God spoke to St. Augustine through those words and it changed his life. He would later change his world, and today he is considered one of the great pillars of the Christian faith.
As we begin the season of Advent, we may already be thinking about gifts for Christmas. If you know me, you probably know I read a lot of books. So, if you are looking to give books as gifts this Christmas, I have three to recommend. The first is The New Testament in Its World by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird. N.T. Wright is one of the world's leading authorities on the New Testament. This rather large book takes most of his writings and condenses them into one volume. If you are looking for a great resource on the Bible, this would be a good place to start.
My second recommendation is Who Is An Evangelical? by Thomas S. Kidd. If you follow the news and politics, you know the word "evangelical" gets tossed around a lot to describe people. This accessible book traces the history of the movement, leading up to where it is today. This is a book for anyone who follows politics and wants to be informed.
My third recommendation is Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor. She writes from her Christian perspective about teaching her college students the world's great faith traditions - and what she discovered she likes about each of them. It is a really insightful book for anyone who wants to think about how we relate to other faiths as Christians.