Simple letters on a page. Shades of black against a crisp white background. All lined up neatly in rows and flowing smoothly from left to right. Forming words, sentences and paragraphs that take you anywhere you have a mind to go. Whether its love, adventure or bold ideas, those simple little letters contain far more power than a quick glance reveals. Such is the power of books.
Stretched out on the couch, propped up in bed or sitting in a leather chair reading is one of my favorite pastimes. Reading has been a passion since I was a little tike. When I was in elementary school, the book fair was my favorite time of year. Row upon row of books to read. Some about a teacher who was really a vampire, and others detailing the adventures of some crime solving youth. Whatever the book, I most likely wanted to read it.
Fast forward a few years and getting lost in a well told story or wringing all I can from a helpful resource, books remain one of the primary ways I relax, unwind and learn. They are life giving, challenge the way I think and cause me to pause and take stock of my life.
Over the years I've consumed hundred of books, yet there have been but a few that have marked me in a real and positive sense. Today, I want to share them with you. These are not my favorite books but simply those that have had a true and lasting impact on the way I think and who I am.
Desiring God is the most impactful book I have ever read. It changed the course and pattern of my walk with Christ in a powerful way. It helped me see that God in Christ is after my joy. He isn't some cosmic killjoy but rather a loving father who is intensely concerned with my joy.
Too often the picture we form of God casts Him as disconnected, cold, unconcerned or the enemy of fun. In short, we far too often have a view of God and who He is that is starkly and surprisingly unbiblical. This remarkable book found its way into my hands at just the right time, took me on a journey through God's word and brought me to the glorious discovery that delighting in Him is the great and wonderful duty He has give us.
The relationship between the law and grace. How do they interact? Are the two mutually exclusive? Are Christians still under the law? Are there additional works that must be performed of me now that I've placed my trust in Christ? All these questions and a dozen others find their answer in this small but powerful book.
Reconciling the grace of God in Christ with the call to personal holiness can be hard. We so much desire a set of rules and regulations to live by. We clamor for a list that says, "Do this and don't do that, and you will go to Heaven." Our sinful hearts are obsessed with doing. Law And Grace helped me understand more fully the power of the gospel and the truth that it really is finished. There is no need for us to add our works to the finished work of Christ. He really did pay it all. Our attempts to do so only serve to cheapen the gospel and reveal just how desperately we need to be reminded of it each and every day.
Every now and then you catch a glimpse of someone who has lived life so incredibly well. You stop and pause to breath it in. You study it and look at the way they carry themselves, the weight of their words, and their impact on others and long for the same qualities to found within yourself.
J.I. Packer leads such a life. It draws its power and flows from the deepest of wells, a deep abiding relationship with Christ. It is the most important and defining characteristic of his life. I hope and pray the same will be said of me when my days are complete. Knowing God, there is nothing so sweet, so wonderful. This modern classic helps us move beyond simply knowing about God but endeavors to guide us to meeting Him, loving Him and embracing Him for all He is for us in Christ.
Each of these books has had a profound impact on my life, but why? Why these relatively few books compared to the vast others I've consumed?
1. They found me at the right time. Timing matters when it comes to reading. A book you completely hate at one time might be one you absolutely love at another. When a book hits your desk is just as important as anything else. Reading the right book at the wrong time, won't help you any more than the wrong book at the right time.
2. They addressed a question or issue I was already wrestling with at the time. There are plenty of books that I have loved reading. In fact, there is a small list of books that I've actually put down and stopped reading because I just couldn't take it anymore. However, just because I enjoy a book, doesn't mean it is one that's impacting me deeply. Some of my favorite books have been those I've read for no other purpose than pure enjoyment.
3. It had a unique contribution to make. It wasn't a rehash of dozens of other books on the subject, each made their own contribution to the topic. It can be frustrating to pick up a book, begin to read it and then realize that the author has nothing new or unique to add to the discussion. While this doesn't happen all the time, it happens far more often than it should.