7 Books that Changed me Forever

Feb 28, 2011Find joy today, Heal from the past, Kingdom Uncaged, Write!

These are the books I try not to lend, not because I don’t want to share them, but I’d be sad if they weren’t returned. They’re the kind of books that put meat on my spiritual bones, that challenge me to live more like Jesus, to love people more intentionally. (And, obviously, the Bible is one, but for the sake of non-God-written books, I created this list.)

  1. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. You probably already know I love this book because of my four part series last week on Oswald Chambers. My friend Johnny Blincoe introduced this to me while he was in college and I was a relatively new believer in high school. Then my roommate Amy bought me a copy. It’s a white paperback, quite disheveled and worn. And often read. One of my favorite quotes: “I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God is not after perfecting me to be a specimen in His show-room; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He likes.”
  2. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. I read this many years before the WWJD fad. Sheldon’s classic revolves around a group of folks asking themselves the question “What would Jesus do” for a yearlong period. It helped me keep in mind what Jesus would think, do, and see in my world. It caused me to yearn for a radically obedient life.
  3. The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I adore this book because it met a felt need in my life to prioritize sabbath and rest. I read it first in France when our lives were crazy-busy and I faced a deep sense of burnout. Buchanan writes, “That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away–who treat time as gift and not possession–have time in abundance.” (83). The book is quite underlined, and I find myself wooed by it every six months or so. In fact, as I wrote my spiritual warfare book this last winter, I steeped myself in Buchanan’s words because becoming victorious is intrinsically connected to rest.
  4. Christy by Catherine Marshall. I read this book before I became a novelist. What I loved about it: Marshall clearly loved her characters, and she portrayed them as deeply flawed but wholly beautiful. Her writing was beautiful, yet I kept wanting to turn the page. Her book was one of the greatest reasons I became a novelist. Later, Peace like a River by Leif Enger had a similar effect: beautifully deep characterization, poetic language, yet with suspense.
  5. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I wrote more extensively about my crush on Bonhoeffer (and Eric Metaxas’ excellent biography) here. I read this book in college and it shocked and bothered and inspired me all at once. I still remember the haunting words, that “When Christ bids a man, He bids him come and die.” Now knowing Bonhoeffer’s life and his sacrifice, those words ring deeper inside me. Would I be willing to die for Jesus? Why is it that I struggle so much with selfishness? What does a daily surrendered life to Jesus look like in my own life? I’m thankful for Bonhoeffer’s haunting.
  6. The Calvary Road by Roy Hession. This book was written after the East African revival. He speaks about humility in such a way that is invitational and transforming (and convicting). Hession writes about our reliance on self:  “It is so often self who tries to live the Christian life (the mere fact that we use the word ‘try’ indicates that it is self who has the responsibility.) It is self, too, who is often doing Christian work. It is always self who gets irritable and envious and resentful and critical and worried. It is self who is hard and unyielding in its attitude toward others. It is self who is shy and self conscious and reserved. No wonder we need breaking. As long as self is in control, God can do little with us, for the fruit of the Spirit (enumerated in Galatians 5) with which God longs to fill us is the complete antithesis of the hard, unbroken spirit within us and presupposes that self has been crucified.” (22).
  7. Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere. Having had a charismatic interaction with the Holy Spirit in college, then seen some of the abuses later as a church planter, I struggled with how I could reconcile the power of the Spirit with clear, biblical theology. Deere, a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary marries both perspectives (charismatic gifts with theologically grounded thinking). I’ve written further about Deere’s book on my blog here. My favorite quote from this book deals with hearing God’s voice. Deere writes, “So humble people put their confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak, not in their ability to hear, and in Christ’s ability to lead, not in their ability to follow.” (319).

It’s interesting to me that most of these books deal with humility, with setting aside our rights, with dying to self. This must be what the Lord wants to communicate with me. It must be my struggle–to elevate myself, to be that specimen in the show room that Chambers writes about. May it be that the truths in these books move deeply in my heart, making me less selfish, more selfless.

These books changed me forever. Of course there are many that haven’t (and you may dispute my choices or add to them). For those books that didn’t rock your world, consider making this very cool book lamp thanks to Dan at HGTV:


What books have changed you forever? Why?