Home > Book discussion > What books have changed your life?

What books have changed your life?

Some people love movies. Many have a favorite TV show, or two, or more…

I like to read, and that’s been the case from the time I was a kid.

Libraries were a good place for me to hang out and get lost in the world of whatever book I chose off the shelf. After I got saved, I looked to books to answer the questions I had about my faith and how to interpret the world around me.

A recent blog post highlighted the books that most impacted several Christian leaders (the ones you’d most likely recognize are Michael Patton and Douglas Groothius).

The only book I came up with when I posted this on Facebook was Messy Spirituality by the late Michael Yaconelli.

For years I had been hammered with do-it-yourself, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and earn your salvation by the minute spirituality.

Yaconelli was perhaps the first author to openly admit being flawed, messed up, broken and that it was okay for a Christ-follower to be…well…human.

That God’s love for you and acceptance of you wasn’t dependent on your perfect actions or your perfect desires, and that you didn’t have to have it all together to be accepted.

Looking back on it it’s like The Shack…probably not the best-written book, but has one central idea that is so amazing that, if you get it, it stands out like nothing else.

Another book was Gary Habermas’ Dealing With Doubt.

It was a good help for a young man looking for answers to questions that threatened his faith, that the TV evangelists and faith teachers could not adequately address. A Liberty University professor did, and it helped bridge the gap between faith and reason in my mind.

The Shack would merit honorable mention for one reason: helping me realize that God is particularly fond of me…and you. But that’s another day’s blog posting.

What books have changed your life?

Besides the Bible, that is 🙂

Categories: Book discussion Tags:
  1. Preston
    July 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Right after I became a Christian, I went to the local book store and ordered Jay Bakker’s “Son of a Preacherman” because years before I had skimmed an article about him in Rolling Stone magazine. I thought it was a decent book and definitely helped me deal with some of the issues I had with Christianity, but more importantly it introduced me to Mike Yaconelli’s Messy Spirituality. I’m sure I can’t give it justice on here, but it definitely formed me as a young Christian.

    Later on, slowly slid into Christian Fundamentalism. …and blah, blah, blah.

    Finally that fasade burned to the ground… and I found Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” to be extremely healing. I can’t say enough good about it.

    Though I don’t think any of those books are all that “orthodox”, they have impacted me more powerfully than any other.

  2. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Preston, I read the Jay Bakker book myself. I don’t like where he’s gone theologically since then, but that doesn’t negate several of the observations he made in that book about how badly his father was treated, how the grace teaching of guys like Steve Brown got him through all that, and another observation I won’t get into for now.

    I never really got into Don Miller, for some reason.

  3. Jason Blair
    July 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

    In the early days of being a Christian, there was always good old Mere Christianity. But recently, two books from seminary have had a serious impact on my thinking. The first is “Prophets and the Promise: Being for Substance; The Lectures for 1902-1903” by Willis J. Beecher, from our introduction to the Prophets course. In it, he looks at the doctrine of promise that runs through the prophets from Abraham to the end of the Old Testament, with an eye toward the fulfillment of the promise in Christ. It’s as close as I’ve come to speculating an answer as to what Jesus might have said to the disciples on the Emmaus road.

    The second is “Paul’s Idea of Community” by Robert J. Banks. Whether one is committed to small, organic, and house churches or not, it was an interesting and scholarly take on the support for non-institutionalized conceptions of church.

  4. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
    Spirit Controlled Temperament – Tim LaHaye
    Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
    Psychocybernetics – L. Maltz
    Flatland – E. A. Abbott
    Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation – Robert H. Stein
    Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War – Robert Coram
    Human Action – Ludwig von Mises

  5. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Jason, I should have added that Banks book to my list!

  6. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

    By far, the single most life-changing book for me was (and is) “Christ’s Call to Discipleship” by James Montgomery Boice. I re-read it once every year.

    After that would be “Overcoming the World” by Joel R. Beeke — like the first one, I can’t say enough about how helpful this book is.

    Lastly, JC Ryle’s “Practical Religion” and “Holiness” would round out the list.

  7. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I hated “The Shack” and “Messy Spirituality.”

  8. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I haven’t read either of those, but why did you hate them?

  9. pstrmike
    July 1, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I like books. I’d rather read than do almost anthing else. Two books come to mind.

    The Cross of Christ, John R W Stott

    When God Weeps, Why our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty; Joni Erickson Tada, Steven Estes

  10. July 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Recalling the Hope of Glory by Allen P. Ross is a wonderful book about worship, really a biblical theology of worship. Really hammers home the point that worship is to be so much more than a service.

    Years before Yancey’s “The Jesus I Never Knew” came out, some folks calling themselves Sonlife put on a seminar I attended. The workbook and seminar talked a lot about the importance in Jesus’ ministry of relationships, and that really moved me. Later, on reading Yancy “The Jesus I Never Knew” I saw some of the same thinking.

    Sometimes I worry that books by Louis L’Amour, Dean Koontz, and Tom Clancy have influenced my thinking as much as anybody else.

  11. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 11:07 am

    “The Shack” was a complete misrepresentation of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The gospel portrayed was another gospel entirely. It is not the faith of the Bible, and throughout the book there is just this pervasive low view of Scripture taken. It seemed to me as if the author simply developed a god and a trinity out of his own head — but it doesn’t at all reflect the true God of the Bible. No wonder why the book was so popular….

    “Messy Spirituality” is just another of those damaging books that seeks to lower the bar for Christians, completely forgetting that God calls us to a holy life — He empowers us with strength from the Almighty to live a holy and sanctified life. In this book, Yaconelli seems to totally forget that God not only saves us from the penalty of sin but also the **power** of sin. The true Christian life is not one of ongoing, repeated failures and wallowing in messy spirituality. It is one of victory and increasing obedience, and there really is such a thing as the “sanctified life.” We are to MOVE ON to perfection, never quite realizing it in this life, but there ought to be a continual upward growth in righteousness, a continual dying to sin and living to Christ. More and more we ought to see an increase in love for God and love for others, we ought to see an increase in the life of joy and peace and kindness — the fruits of the Spirit. The Christian life is about mortifying the flesh and giving room to God’s Spirit to transform us. Indeed we will fail at times, but this is NOT to be the pattern of our lives. Yaconelli tells people that it’s OK that their Christian life is one of messy failures – it’s not OK. When we fail, we are to quickly get back up, evaluate what went wrong, and by His Spirit **make biblical changes** so we go the correct way! It’s not OK to wallow in this sense of a defeated, messy Christian life. God calls us to a holy life – and what He calls us to, He equips us for: 2 Timothy 3:16.

  12. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Pastor Mike, me too. I’d rather read than watch a movie or TV, or do anything else.

  13. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Thanks, M*B.

  14. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

    You’re welcome 🙂

  15. jlo
    July 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    And some… evangelists by Roger Carswell.

  16. erunner
    July 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    The book that impacted me was “I Really Want To Change So, Help Me God” by James McDonald. Sat in my book case for a few years before I got to it.

    It wasn’t what I had expected. The book challenged me to look within myself and to identify people I held anger and bitterness towards. I had excused my sin as being justified as I was the victim. As I read the book I knew I had to go to these people and ask forgiveness. I was to apologize for my sin and not bring up their role in things at all. God honored my actions as I did what I didn’t want to and I was set free from the ball and chain I had been dragging along.

    One person went ballistic in response but that was out of my control. I had done what I knew to be right.

    That time in my life did not guarantee that those same sins would suddenly just sprout wings and fly away forever.

    It was natural and the easy road to play the victim card to the max. People would have agreed with my stances but they couldn’t see into my heart. That validated me and valuable years went by as I stayed in neutral. The enemy of our souls is so much shrewder than I gave him credit for and he played me like a violin. Lord willing not so easily any more.

  17. ( | o )====:::
    July 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Blue Like Jazz was a lifechanger.
    It has a part in it where he recounts an annual citywide party, rather wild, and how someone set up a place for a “Christian Confessional”, but the twist was that when someone who was all cynical and mocking came in they experienced the Christians confess and own up for the evils and stupidity done in the name of the church and God over the centuries, ask THEM for forgiveness, which was completely disarming and brought the dialog back to :: Jesus :: and away from all the junk that gets in the way.

    I’ve done that in a few conversations and it quickly turns things around.

    Also, whenever our family has visited ROCKHARBOR church in Costa Mesa, the pastor, Mike Erre has always greeted newcomers with the same apology for our flaws.

    ( | o )====:::

  18. mn10
    July 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    1.Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
    1A. Knowing God: Packer
    2. If God Is In Charge: Steve Brown
    3.The Sovereignty of God: Pink

    “The Shack” was God speaking through an unexpected source and bringing healing to many, including me.
    Yaconelli was a friend who helped free me from the death grip of performance based religion…he lived just over mountain from me.

    BrianD is doing real well here. 😉


  19. ( | o )====:::
    July 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Michael,
    Glad you dropped by!
    BrianD is a good friend who knows how to host a party. Looks like he learned from a great teacher 🙂

    ( | o )====:::

  20. July 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Blue Like jazz was so refreshing.
    Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning
    Luthers Large Catechism – Martin Luther
    The Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
    anything by Max Lucado and Phillip Yancey
    Fresh wind, fresh fire and fresh faith by Jim Cymbala
    and loads of other heretical works

  21. DeadManWalking
    July 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    “the Making of a Man of God” Alan Redpath

  22. erunner
    July 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Grendal, I confess to not relating to asking forgiveness for sins I did not commit. I recall after the Columbine tragedy there was a story line about some Christians who were forgiving the shooters although they were not personally impacted by the injury or loss of a loved one. It seems like that would be like me forgiving the drunk driver who killed a person I never knew. The intent seems good but I see no real power in it outside of being symbolic.

    I can see how something you described from the book can be an ice breaker but I couldn’t ask forgiveness for the crusades or any other evils done in the name of Christ. I could express my shame at the acts that were done but I don’t think I would ask forgiveness.

    Maybe you can help me but I’m not sure I know of a precedent for this in scripture. I know in the OT that a few of the OT saints included themselves in the sins committed by the Jews when praying to God although they had not participated.

    Anyway, I find this an interesting topic and will return to read your response.

  23. pstrmike
    July 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    well, I think God looks at these things a little diferently.

    Eze 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

  24. madison*bella
    July 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm


    Now how did I know you would disagree? 😉

  25. July 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    1 Corinthians 9:16-24:
    “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

    The confessional gave them a chance on a VERY liberal college to reach out in Christs love. The fact that the world doesnt see a difference between us, the crusaders, the IFB doorknockers or Fred Phelps church means we need to cross the bridge to meet them before they will allow us a chance to speak Christ into their lives….they were becomming all things to all people so that they might win a few…

  26. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Madison, what Michael said 🙂

    We get better and better?

  27. BrianD
  28. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    How to get rich selling books:
    1) Identify next blockbuster Christian book.
    2) Write book exposing and condemning the heresy.
    3) Profit!

  29. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Buster, perhaps not in this case…but probably done more than once or twice…

  30. July 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    How to get richer
    Write next christian bestseller under a psuedonymn
    create an ODM dedicated to the opposite of your book, write a book opposing your book
    In seattle we call it the Brian Bozworth effect

  31. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    What did he do, Eric?

  32. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Hey – that just might work! We’d need a good, scandalous heresy, one that hasn’t been used much lately… What’s the harm? Everyone would be condemning it, including us! We could even retract it all… after the 5th or 6th printing.

    So… anything been going on at your site lately? 😉

  33. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Why can’t these guys write books like this about “WWJD” junk?

  34. July 1, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Montanism!!(to continue the football stuff)

    Bozworth was hated in Denver when he played for Seattle, he had a bunch of Bozworth sucks t-shirts printed and hired people to sell them to the Bronco fans…they had a fit when he revealed what he had done. It was beautiful

  35. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    So which heresy are you guys going after?

  36. Kevin H
    July 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    The Road to Daybreak by Nouwen. It’s the only Nouwen book I’ve read so there might even be better ones he’s written as have been referenced at times by others here. But this book really impacted me in seeing his heart for serving and caring for others.

    Mere Christianity by Lewis is of course a classic. Really helped give me a broader appreciation of Christianity.

    The funny thing is that I probably have a good amount of theological disagreements with both of these authors (especially Nouwen), but yet their books impacted me the most.

    And I also love anything by Max Lucado.

    Thanks all for the warm words on the previous thread.

  37. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Kevin, thanks, and I am glad you found us. Welcome!

  38. July 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    The return of the prodigal by nouwen is amazing, if I still had my copy i’d give it to you.
    http://www.henrinouwen.org/home/mediapanel/hometonight.php you can listen to his reflections on it here

  39. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Let’s see… a heresy has to be attractive enough to gain a following… something people need… something intangible… love, acceptance, power, a closer shave, guilt-free deserts…

  40. Buster
    July 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I think that should be “desserts”

  41. Kevin H
    July 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks, Eric. I gotta run now but will listen to the link when I get the chance.

    I’ve also got a Philadelphia Eagles t-shirt that boldly says “Dallas Sucks” on the front. Sure hope no Cowboy fan made it and profited off of it.

  42. July 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Contemplative Sundaes

  43. Captain Kevin
    July 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Meeting God at a Dead End by Ron Mehl
    Lord, Change My Attitude (Before it’s too Late) by James MacDonald
    Knowing God by Packer
    Preaching: 25 Things You Can’t Learn in School by James MacDonald
    Our Sufficiency in Christ by John MacArthur
    Worship His Majesty by Jack Hayford

    and yes, I read The Shack, liked it very much, and am still as much of a back-woods, Bible thumping, conservative, fundamentalist as ever.

  44. July 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    We could start a school and offer degrees in Advanced Contemplative Sundaes. Stage an epic battle with the 7th Day Adverbists.

  45. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I have always thought that some sort of PP/MHC Ballard showdown would have been epic. And epically funny.

    It also probably would have driven Michael to a deserted island somewhere and that wouldn’t have been worth it. Even for all of the commentaries JJ would have come up with about Driscoll 🙂

  46. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Ron Mehl! There’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile…and from what I hear, a voice who passed from this earth at a relatively young age.

  47. dusty
    July 1, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    hi family. praying for you all tonight.

    love ya

  48. BrianD
    July 1, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Dusty, thank you…we certainly need it!

  49. dusty
    July 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    you ok Brian?

  50. BrianD
    July 2, 2010 at 12:00 am

    yeah, I’m alright. I’ll probably post a prayer request to everyone on FB tomorrow, but not that big of a deal. How are you holding up?

  51. dusty
    July 2, 2010 at 12:15 am

    i’ll look for that prayer request tomorrow. have a good night friend.

    night all

  52. BrianD
    July 2, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I’ve already sent it…and to just a few people. I may post something tomorrow on the blog that’s more vague, mysterious, unable to trace to my secret identity 😉

  53. ( | o )====:::
    July 2, 2010 at 2:55 am

    no worries, do what you believe is right.
    I don’t sweat if there might or might not be a precedent in the bible, it makes more sense to me to help a person diffuse their anger and objections to faith.

    if I’m going to be a follower of Jesus, part of the church, then I have to deal with being part of that great big dysfunctional family of faith, and that means owning the whole spectrum of good & bad.

    For me, if I join a club and the club is exposed as racist, it is up to me to repudiate that belief system, and maybe even resign my membership if I cannot persuade the club members to end their racism.
    As part of “the church” I have a responsibility to repudiate the sins of my forefathers.
    Martin Luther was a horrible anti-semite.
    Paul had a problem with people from Crete
    The KKK claims it is a “christian” org
    Fred Phelps pickets funerals of fallen military with “God Hates….” signs
    Some Roman Catholic priests have molested children
    The Crusades are still an issue within the Jewish community.

    All I know is there is such bad press out there due to the followers of Christ saying one thing but doing another, all throughout history that it begs the question how a religion can claim to have adherents who are “born again” and “new creations” yet act as idiots even while representing their Christ.

    ( | o )====:::

  54. erunner
    July 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    grendal, In my interactions with non believers it’s very rare that someone brings up the sins of other Christians and those who don’t know Christ and sin in His name.

    In the book Rob Bell talks about the college he attended and how on a specific weekend the campus was given over to drugs, alcohol, people running around naked and I imagine a lot of illicit sex. He and his friends set up a “shack” 🙂 to take confessions in the midst of all of this.

    As people came in Rob and others asked for forgiveness for sins of the church and they also confessed their sin in not helping the poor, etc. This really opened the door to conversation and many people were touched by something they were not expecting and probably had never experienced. This led to a lot of good things including Bible studies that involved those who would have never attended one.

    Rob described when the first person came in to see what was up with the confessional. He was able to share the Gospel with the guy and if I recall correctly he had tears in his eyes. Something happened in that exchange.

    I couldn’t see going to the French Quarter during Mardi Gras and confessing my sins and those in the church from times past as a means to open the door to share the Gospel. I imagine I would approach folks in a one on one basis and trust God for the conversation that may or may not take place.

    People won’t go to hell because of Fred Phelps or because Luther was an anti-semite. They go to hell because they loved the darkness and hated the light. They chose the temporary over the eternal. They rejected God’s gift through the finished work of Jesus for the lies of the Watchtower or the Book of Mormon. People like Phelps or pedophiles in the church or a Benny Hinn just make it easy and convienient to stay in their sin.

    It also seems many of these people willingly ignore all of the good people in the church and all of the awesome things done in the name of Jesus.

    I have always found in sharing with JW’s and Mormons they want to talk about all sorts of things. They are well versed. I always make it my goal to steer the conversation to the person of Jesus because in the end how they respond to the question of who He is/was will determine their eternal destiny.

    I can’t and won’t condemn what Rob Bell and his friends did in their college days. I can say that for me I would choose another way. I can apologize for the sins of Luther and anyone else in the body but I couldn’t ask for forgiveness for what they did.

  55. [o_O]
    July 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    g here, no worries, different strokes for different folks. I run with a different crowd who would respond well to a representative of a religion owning the failures of that religion. As to who goes to hell or why, it doesn’t diminish the negative impact in the herenow.

    Anyhow, I still like Blue like Jazz, but lately the book that has had a huge impact on me is

    “The Artist’s Way”

    I highly recommend it

  56. erunner
    July 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Grendal, That’s the beauty of walking with Jesus. We aren’t all cut from the same mold yet serve the same master. I forgot to mention I pulled out Blue Like Jazz last night and read the chapter we’re talking about. Sadly I have trouble remembering what I read! I will look up “The Artist’s Way” and see if I might read it. Thanks for the chat! God bless.

  57. [o_O]
    July 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    The Artist’s Way is a spiritual/philosophical workbook intended to help anyone who sees themself as an artist and brings some tools and techniques to get “unstuck”, allow oneself “permission” to silence “the inner critic” which is a pastiche of all the external limiting & self-limiting influences that come forward at the worst possible times to smash the creative flow we all experience. It’s not a “christian” book, which i find especially refreshing because it shows that all people in all cultures have spiritual inclinations, shared experiences and struggles which can be overcome through meditation, self expression and the particularly helpful “artist’s pages” exercises and actually moving ahead and doing art.

    Now that I’ve painted a huge red ODM bulls eye on this post have fun checking out the book… 😉

  58. Captain Kevin
    July 3, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Yes, BrianD, Ron Mehl died from cancer a few years ago. Heard him preach in person once many years ago. What a gentle, Spirit-filled soul. Whenever I feel “stuck” in my walk with the Lord, wondering how old I’m going to have to be before “the breakthrough” happens, I go back to 3 things: The book of Ephesians, prayer, and Mehl’s book, “Meeting God at a Dead End.” I highly recommend it.

  59. Captain Kevin
    July 3, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I might add that at the time Ron wrote the book, he knew he was dying. Lends a whole different dimension to the tone of the book, and the title for that matter.

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