Ten books that shaped me.
1. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
2. Sickness unto death
3. Every Good Endeavor
4. Heaven and Hell
5. Out of the silent planet
6. The Great Divorce
8. Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God
9. Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything
10. The Hiding Place
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering: Timothy J. Keller
Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering was a life shaping book for me because it equipped me to walk through the most painful part of my life thus far. I stumbled and failed a few times in the process, but I made it. I made it because of this book, Tim’s sermons, friends, family and counselors.
We all will experience pain and suffering at some point in our lives. In other words, this is a book for everyone.
“No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career — something will inevitably ruin it.”
Tim starts by giving an incredible background on Pain and Suffering in culture and history, and presents very real ways of walking with God in the midst of suffering.
A few more quotes to wet your appetite for this book.
“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” (58)
“But resurrection is not just consolation — it is restoration. We get it all back — the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life — but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.” (59)
“The most rapturous delights you have ever had — in the beauty of a landscape, or in the pleasure of food, or in the fulfillment of a loving embrace — are like dewdrops compared to the bottomless ocean of joy that it will be to see God face-to-face (1 John 3:1–3). That is what we are in for, nothing less. And according to the Bible, that glorious beauty, and our enjoyment of it, has been immeasurably enhanced by Christ’s redemption of us from evil and death.” (117–8)
“The best people often have terrible lives. Job is one example, and Jesus—the ultimate ‘Job,’ the only truly, fully innocent sufferer — is another.” (133)
Sickness Unto Death: Soren Kierkegaard
Sickness Unto Death can be a tough read, but it’s a rewarding one. You can call it a book on Psychology by a Philosopher. This book shaped my life in the way Soren Kierkegaard explains how we can have an individual relationship with God. The solution to despair.
“And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith.”
Every Good Endeavor: Timothy J. Keller
This book led to some big changes in my life, including going after the job I have now, that’s why Every Good Endeavor is a book that shaped my life. “Connecting Your Work to God’s Work” is the sub title, and that’s exactly what happened.
According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and to live fully human lives. P. 38
Christians should be aware of this revolutionary understanding of the purpose of their work in the world. We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose. The question regarding our choice of work is no longer, “What will make me the most money and give me the most status?” The question must now be “How with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” P. 67
Heaven and Hell: Edward A. Donnelly
This book is so incredibly Biblical in how it approaches Heaven and Hell. Fellow blogger from waaaay back in the day who still blogs now and managed to turn blogging into quite the ministry, Tim Challies, reviewed the book on Amazon. I like this section of his review best, he sums the book up exactly as I would, if I were as gifted with the pen.
The first half of the book discusses hell in all its fiery horror; the second part turns to heaven with all its beautiful glory. The first half is difficult to read and weighs heavily on the soul; the second is like a sip of cool water on a hot day. The first terrifies; the second elevates. Donnelly is not given to hyperbole or imagination. He does not present a fictionalized vision of hell that owes more to horror movies or medieval art and imaginings than to the Bible. Rather, he simply relates what the Bible tells us, both explicitly and implicitly, about that awful place. He does so under four alliterated headings: Absolute Poverty, Agonizing Pain, Angry Presence and Appalling Prospect. When, in the second half of the book he turns to heaven, he does not guess what it is like or fall into conjecture about what we will experience there. Instead he relates only what the Bible tells us, reflecting on the fullness of joy that is there and waiting for those who love the Lord.
A good understanding of Hell and Heaven has shaped both my love for God and for people. It’s hard not to love people when you have a solid grasp on the doctrines of Heaven and Hell.
Out of the silent planet: C.S. Lewis
This Space Trilogy is one of my most favorite fictional reads. Not as epic as LoTR by Tolkien, but deeply moving and full of allegories. C.S. Lewis is excellent with allegories. Think Narnia! I am surprised that not a lot of folks have read these books. The series is made up of “Out Of The Silent Planet”, “Perelandra” and “That Hideous Strength”. Perlandra is my favorite of the three books.
The first book in C. S. Lewis’s acclaimed Space Trilogy, which continues with Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity. First published in 1943, Out of the Silent Planet remains a mysterious and suspenseful tour de force.
The Great Divorce: C.S. Lewis
Another book by C.S. Lewis that shaped my thinking. Also another book on Heaven and Hell. The Great Divorce is a theological dream vision by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell.
I tried a few times to write down a summary, but Amazon does a good job of it.
C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in the The Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis’ The Great Divorce will change the way we think about good and evil.
When I read the book the first time I was grappling with some struggles in life. There is something deeply refreshing and energizing about meditating on what we have inherited and what that will be like. There is a part of the story when folks from Hell try to walk on the grass in heaven and it’s too hard. It’s real, more real that the illusions. “much solider than things in our country”.
To fit into Heaven they must become not less solid, but more, they must move from being phantoms to having weight and substance. – Randy Alcorn.
Boundaries Books: Cloud and Townsend
Boundaries, Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids and Safe People are 4 books that have shaped my life greatly. These are books you will thank yourself for reading. When I read the first book, Boundaries, my eyes were opened to so many areas in my life that needed change. Then Boundaries in Marriage showed me how selfish I was, when I thought I had rid myself of the major selfishness issues, and much more. Safe People helped me to explain to my children some hard concept. Being loving and caring with everyone, but having boundaries to stay safe. Boundaries with Kids, oh man, talk about a book you cannot read enough as a parent. I wish I could read it once and then change my approach and habits. But that’s not how it works. I highly suggest the Boundaries Books.
Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God
I read this book during a time in my life where I was struggling with pushing on with life in the midst of some really hard circumstances. Much like Every Good Endeavor and Walking with God Through Pain And Suffering, this book deals with our life in light of eternity. This is a good summary of the book:
I don’t want to go to heaven. Not that I’m lobbying for the other place . . . —Michael Wittmer This planet is more than just a stopover on your way to heaven. It is your final destination. God wants you to enjoy your earthly existence, and to think otherwise is to miss the life he intends for you. Exploring the book of Genesis, Heaven Is a Place on Earth gently but firmly strips away common misconceptions of Christianity and broadens your worldview to reveal the tremendous dignity and value of everyday life. Taking you from creation, to the fall, to redemption, and to glimpses from the book of Revelation, Michael Wittmer opens your eyes to a faith that encompasses all of life—baseball games, stock reports, church activities, prayer, lovemaking, work, hobbies . . . everything that lies within the sphere of human activity. To be fully Christian is to be fully human, says Wittmer, alive and responsive to the kingdom of God in all that you are and all that you do. Discover the freedom and impact God created you for. It starts with a truly Christian worldview. And its fruit is the undiluted gospel, powerful not only to save souls, but to restore them to a life that is truly worth living. Includes discussion/reflection questions after each chapter.
Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything: Edgar Andrews
I read this book when going to and from San Francisco on BART. It was a bit of a magical time for that month. The way that the Author writes, it’s like he is sitting with you just talking through amazing theories in Physics and Science and beyond. He is witty and just so readable. I looked forward to the commute as if the Author was sitting on BART, waiting to take the trip to and from home to talk about God, the Universe and the big questions that are no longer complicated or mysterious to me. I grew much closer to God that month, which shaped my life and prepared me to handles a few curve balls that were just a few months away.
Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, says Who made God? is ‘written in a very lively style and conveys complex subjects in a palatable form’. Novelist Fay Weldon calls it ‘thoughtful, readable, witty, wise’. The Principal of London Theological Seminary declares: ‘Richard Dawkins has more than met his match.’ A book by a distinguished scientist about the existence of God, with chapter headings like ‘Steam engine to the stars’ and ‘The tidy pachyderm’ has to be different. It is. Addressing profound questions of science, philosophy and faith with an amazing lightness of touch, Edgar Andrews exposes the pretensions of the ‘new atheism’, blending incisive arguments with gentle humour. However, his aim is not simply to rebut the aggressive atheism of our age but to provide a logically consistent and altogether more satisfying alternative. His fellow physicists dream of discovering a ‘theory of everything’ embracing very physical phenomnon in the cosmos. But can there be a theory of everything that also includes the realms of the heart, mind, conscience and spirit? Yes, indeed, as this book shows. It is the ‘hypothesis of God’, a concept that towers above the barren landsape of atheism and despair. ‘Professor Edgar Andrews is well qualified to counter the current attempts to airbrush God out of existence … Richard Dawkins’ The God delusion is an obvious target and Andrews expertly dismantles its atheistic claims, reducing them to rubble with a lightness of touch I had never come across before in a book of this kind. Readers, with or without scientific backgrounds, are likely to find themselves turning the pages with smiles on their faces. I know of nothing quite like it.’ John Blanchard, author of Ultimate Questions
The Hiding Place: Corrie Ten Boom
If you have not read this book, then you really should. When I finished reading this book in High School, I had more questions than before I read it. Questions about life, about God. My faith was built, but also challenged. I will never forget how it felt to read the book and the way my mind spun for weeks. I read later about Corrie Ten Boom meeting the guard and the story of forgiveness. It took me years to really absorb The Hiding Place and all that it means. It’s a hard read. It became an invaluable tool when I was faced with hard forgiveness. Forgiveness is always hard, no matter what is being forgiven. But some things take supernatural ability to forgive.
Those are the top ten books that shaped so far.