From my boyhood days of reading the Encyclopedia Brown series and The Chronicles of Narnia, books have always been a part of my life. They hold the power to stop time as I enter a whole new world. That’s not only true for fiction books. Some of the people who have most shaped my life and faith are people that I have never actually met, except through their writings. For me, the Bible is the book that has most singularly shaped my life. Apart from the Bible, here are five books that have changed – or are changing – the course of my life.
Choose Your Own Adventure Series by Edward Packard
Reading this series as a boy was not about any single book, but rather about the whole series of books. While every tale was distinct, each of them carried this unmistakable thread: life is an adventure and your choices really do matter. I remember that when I made a poor choice in the book that lead to a bad outcome, I could simply flip back to the critical page and choose the alternate option. In a fun way, these books shaped me to see that slowing down to make a wise choice is the very best thing you can do for your own unfolding story.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
I believe it was my high school youth pastor who first handed me a copy of Foster’s book. Up to that point, I only saw discipline as something to be endured, not celebrated. Plus, the spiritual disciplines seemed to be an uncrackable code for my high school life. However, Foster’s timeless wisdom opened up a whole new world of how to think about and practice the spiritual disciplines. It’s a book that I’ve returned to even many years later to be reminded of the joy of knowing God through these simple disciplines.
Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell
During my years in college, I planned to head to law school following my university years.
Along the way, I came across this book by former “ornery agnostic” (as he calls himself) Josh McDowell. Through his research, Josh helped me see that there was significant and even overwhelming evidence supporting reasons to believe in, and ultimately follow, Jesus. This book helped me see that faith is not always a blind leap, but instead, sometimes it’s a reasonable step of trust based on all the evidence we already have.
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
Wright has become one of my favorite theologians because he is so in touch with the everyday realities that we all face. Simply Christian captures why so many of us long for truth, beauty, justice, and community and how those are pathways to move towards the God who loves us and created us. This book gives a faithful and well-reasoned way to understand and make sense of the world, but beyond that, it equips us for the motivation to step forward to be part of God’s good plan to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD
There is an entire group of books that systematically dismantle much of what is commonly accepted as truth these days when it comes to the supposed decline of Christianity. Wright’s book tackles all the headlines showing how many of them are simply not accurate looking at the best sociological data available. His follow up book is also worth mentioning Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World broadens the same hopeful perspective showing how a constant stream of pessimism about the state of our world is often driven by factors that have little to do with what is actually happening. While we need not be naïve to the challenge in this world, neither do we need to be ignorant of whatever is happening that is good, right, true, and noble. In fact, as Scripture says, it’s worth thinking about these things.
Down to Earth by Tom Hughes
There’s hardly anyone in the world more down-to-earth than Jesus. That sounds far-fetched because, well, Jesus is God. But read the Gospels and you find Jesus telling stories that ring true from beginning to end, stories you can immediately identify with, stories that make you go “hmmm.”
In Down to Earth we learn that these stories are different from the stories we tell each other—these are stories intended to change your life. They’re soul stories—stories that get inside you and linger there, stories you start to find yourself living into. And when you do, you and the world around you are transformed for good.