The Books That Changed My World

How It Started

I love to read. Anyone who may have known me in my high school years, including my teachers, would think I was starting a joke of some sort. If I were to say I may have read a full book in high school, I may be stretching the truth a bit.

Things changed in my college years though. I still wasn’t reading what was required for classes (sorry!) but I started to pick up a few books that seemed to interest me. The two books that caught my interest were quite different. The first book I picked up was Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller; a 256-page captivating story about a Donald’s journey with God, life, and culture. The second book I picked up was Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem; a 1264 page mammoth of a textbook that dissected the Bible in such absolute detail in order to better understand God and the world around us.

How It Changed

I read them both. Cover to cover. Well, in Grudem’s textbook I may have skipped a few pages but for the most part I devoured it. I remember my Mom asking if I was OK after spending close to 20 years avoiding almost all reading but now having a textbook I voluntarily bought and read through with a notepad next to it to take notes.

So, many years down the road and probably hundreds of books later, I have read a lot. I was inspired by my friends The Lowman’s book list to jot down my own list of books that I have read. These books have shaped and changed me in ways that when I look back I can see a dramatic shift in perspective for me. All the books I have read have affected me to some degree but these deserve special recognition and honor.

The List

1.Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

My Experience: I think I could say pretty confidently that there is no 512NACmd1DLother book that affected me as much as this one has. This book introduced me to a God that was much bigger than I had ever imagined.  A God that was completely in control and relentless in pursuing Himself over all things… and yet this was REALLY good news for me. This book introduced me to C.S. Lewis, Johnathan Edwards “Religious Affections“, and other important people and works that I am eternally grateful.

You Should Read This If…: You struggle with how your joy and God’s glory come together in a world that seems chaotic and selfish. If God seems big, distant, and a megalomaniac who just wants you to worship Him and doesn’t care about you…read this book

QuoteGod is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him.”

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis 

51W5H+JR4DLMy Experience: I remember reading this book for the first time thinking to myself I had found my long lost friend. Lewis wrote like I thought and I could picture us grabbing a pint and talking about Jesus. This was one of my first books I read in the realms of apologetics, the defense of Christianity, and I was hooked. I walked away from this book not only utterly convinced that the Christian perspective on life was the truest but that there was a way to talk about it that didn’t require a PhD.

You Should Read This If…: You struggle with if there could really be a God who came as Jesus or if you struggle with being able to talk to people about it in a real and relevant way.

Quote: You must make your choice. Either this man [Jesus] was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

3. Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth by Hugh Halter

61czZDBax1LMy Experience: This was one of those books I highlighted almost half to full pages to remember for later. Halter has a very down to earth type of tone in his writing and talks and I love it. In Flesh, Hugh wrestles with the idea that theology not lived out is really not good theology at all. Personally, I was struggling with the greater church and wrestling with the idea of how we could be so inactive and not full of grace when Jesus seemed to be very much the opposite. As the publisher says, this is for “…anyone burned out, disenchanted, or seeking a fresh honest-to-God encounter, Flesh will invigorate your faith.”

You Should Read This If…: You look at the church/yourself and get upset at the way it/you are living out your faith. If you are frustrated about how to engage culture but not sure how.

Quote: Christians often make it sound like Jesus came only to die for sin and then make converts, grow a religion called Christianity, and make more converts. But God never wanted converts, church attenders, prisoners, or parishioners. He wanted His family back.”

4. A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel by Steve Brown

51KKUh4SgULMy Experience: This was one of those books I sort of stumbled on. I had heard of Steve Brown through school and people but never read anything by him. I have never read or listened to a man who seems to understand  and know (experientially) the grace of God like Steve Brown. I don’t know Steve Brown but if I messed up in a big way I would want to tell Steve because I feel like he would understand. He presses on the reader if they really understand the absolute freedom and grace you they have received by God through Christ. I can say I walked away from this book so incredibly moved by the grace of God and the way that Steve explained it that I have never looked at anyone the same again

You Should Read This If…: You have been hurt by or hurt people using religion. You are not sure if God really loves you or He just kind of deals with you.

Quote: You ought to live your life with such freedom and joy that uptight Christians will doubt your salvation.

5. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 1.24.22 PMMy Experience: I know this one breaks the mold but I can not explain how important this book was to me. A recommendation in a book I was reading with the idea explained that many people do not know how to read prompted me to pick it up. I realized very quickly, either by my own fault or my teachers, that I was not taught how to read. I don’t mean as far as comprehending what words mean but comprehending different types of writings and large ideas. Though I had picked up a good amount by self-learning, this book gave me more tools to de able to be a critical and smart reader no matter what the type of writing it is.

You Should Read This If…: You read a book and forget what you read. You read the article on Facebook and the textbook in your class the  in the same way.

Quote: ….a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life. You become wiser. Not just more knowledgeable – books that provide nothing but information can produce that result. But wiser, in the sense that you are more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life.

6. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones

A1iNqHXNZULIf you see this book and write it off because it’s a child’s book, you have just missed out the beauty of it. Understandably, if you do not have kids you most likely will not get this. That being said, if you ever get the chance to read this your own or someone else’s children you will immediately see the enormous affect this book has. In some of the simplest ways this book explains the profound eternal truths of the Bible to children and believe me, the adult reader gets it to. There has been a number of times I have been chocked up or moved by the way the truths the book explained

You Should Read This If…: You have kids or know kids who could benefit knowing what the Bible is really about. Oh, and maybe you too.

Quote: There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

Greg Smith

Blogging about faith, life, church, and everything in between.

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