There’s nothing quite like the feeling of coming home for Christmas every year. When you walk in the door and smell the candles and the aroma coming from the oven you know you’re home again. And the memories come flooding in until you feel like you were never really gone.
The closest I come to the experience of coming home is the feeling I get every time I walk into the local Christian bookstore. The smell of new books and the aroma from the café reminds me of the best year of my life.
In 2000, I embarked on an intellectual journey, which would lead back to a place where I had been most happy as a child. It began on the eve of New Year’s Eve on death row in Huntsville, Texas. The Lord used my dad to arrange an interview with a murderer and rapist who was just 13 days away from execution.
There was so much said that day but nothing as profound as the inmate’s garbled recitation of John 3:16. He was mentally challenged to say the least. But he learned to read and in 20 years sitting on death row he managed to get through the Bible. Like Carl in the movie Sling Blade there were probably few portions of the Bible that he really understood.
I was embarrassed that a man with a mind as weak as that death row inmate had read the Bible and I had not. So I snuck (or “sneaked” if you’re a Yankee) into Barnes and Noble to buy a copy of the King James Version. I also read some works by Colson that led me to other works. Eventually, I started reading heavily from books I found at the aforementioned Christian book store. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. It was a glorious year of discovery.
I doubt you’ll have time to devour all the books I devoured that year. But I’ve included five favorites I hope you’ll consider. And I’ve published this letter in column form so that others might consider them, too.
1. The Message, by Eugene Peterson. Don’t start with the King James Version like I did. Find a readable paraphrase for your first trip through the Bible. The journey of reading the Bible from cover to cover will be exhilarating. You’ll have so many questions answered when you finally read the world’s greatest book. But others will arise and you’ll want to read it again. When you do re-read the Bible try a more literal translation. I recommend the NASB version of the John MacArthur Study Bible.