We all have those books in our lives. The ones that have such a significant influence we read them again and again, finding new insight every time. While the Bible has impacted my daily life the most, I thought I’d share other books that have profoundly touched me. These books have shaped the way I think and see life, and pushed me to better understand my identity in Christ and how to live fully and abundantly.
1) Daily Light – Jonathan Bagster, Anne Graham Lotz. This book has been the deepest blessing in my life. It is a Scripture compilation with morning and evening sections. Bagster collected these verses for his family devotions over a 100 years ago. My aunt and uncle brought my mom a little red copy from the Christian retreat center L’Abri in Switzerland where they lived with Dr. Francis Schaeffer in the 1970s. My mom carried it in the car, and read to us when we were children. Eventually, it lost its red cover and most of its binding, so she kept it in a Ziploc bag to preserve the pages. She later took it inside so it didn’t disappear forever.
A pastor from Tennessee reintroduced the book to me during a missions’ conference in Slovenia. Anne Graham Lotz had reprinted the book because of how it benefited her family. Once home again, I bought copies for all my friends. It amazed me how often the Scriptures were exactly what I needed. God knew which verses I’d require on a given day, and had the Holy Spirit lead Bagster to include them so long ago. Many corners are dog eared for easy access to let the truth soak into my soul. I can’t rave about it enough.
2) Radical – David Platt. Radical challenges Christians to examine their lives to see if they are living the American dream or actively seeking to advance the God’s kingdom on earth. It highlights the billions of people who have never heard the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life and took our punishment by dying on the cross. Jesus then rose again so we can have eternal life. When we studied Radical in my ladies Bible study, we covenanted to work through the five challenges together:
The book impacted many of our decisions: one lady bought a smaller condo so she could give more to missions and three women felt called to missions work overseas. I can’t overemphasize what having a strategy to join God’s work does to empower you to live on purpose for the kingdom of heaven.
3) The Search for Significance – Robert S. McGee. If you have ever struggled with perfectionism, seeking the approval of others, guilt, or shame, this book is for you. It shows the root of these struggles stems from not understanding our identity in Christ and what Christ has done for us. Scriptures are used to combat these lies and yield right beliefs about God. I reread this book when once again I’m trying to win the approval of people though I already have the full love and acceptance of my Savior. When friends want to borrow this book, I buy them their own copy because so much personal stuff is written in the corners. It also gives them a hardcopy to answer the various quizzes to assess their current beliefs.
4) The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren. We tackled this book early on in our ladies Bible study. While it uses several random Bible translations, the overall point is good – life is not about me, and it isn’t supposed to be. It is about Christ. At the end, I wrote my life’s mission statement, which was close to the first and second commandments: “My mission is to love God and to love others, and to help others to love God and to love others.” A friend keyed in on the second half, pointing out that my mentoring, evangelism, and leading a Bible study tied in nicely. I want to equip people to strengthen their relationship with Christ. This is why I am blogging - to serve as an arrow to point people to Christ.
The book introduced how my SHAPE - Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences - makes up who I am and impacts how I can best serve the Lord. I conducted SHAPE surveys with the ladies in the study and myself to understand how God could use us best. It was insightful to see how because we had different stories, God had unique ways we played into His plans. Yes, I have lots of energy and am very passionate. God loves that about me and can use me in differently than He would someone else. I can sit and wish I was quieter and more subdued or walk in the good works God has prepared beforehand for me.
5) Operation World – Jason Mandryk. If you have ever talked to me before, you probably think I get kickbacks from promoting this book. I don’t; it’s just that rich of a resource. Operation World provides insight into how to pray specifically for needs in every country. Also, each country has its own day so people worldwide pray for the same country at the same time. God uses our prayers here and applies them globally. How mind blowing! The most recent version was printed in 2010 before the Arab Spring, so a lot has changed. Nonetheless, it provides meaningful ways to intercede on behalf of the nations.
6) The Celebration of Discipline – Richard J. Foster. For a solid overview of foundational Spiritual disciplines including Bible reading, Scripture meditation, prayer, fasting, simplicity, solitude, service, and celebration, look no further. I’ve actually studied this book twice in different small groups, and learned new things both times. The book is a great reference and specifically provides a clear overview of the importance and mechanics of fasting. During the study, we stressed that by partaking of the Spiritual disciplines, it does not obligate God to bless us; however, it aligns us with where God’s blessings fall.
7) Classic Christianity – Bob George. This book sounds like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity from the title, but instead of being theoretical, it addresses one’s identity in Christ. It covers how to be free of sin and live in God’s joy daily. I appreciated the comparison between a “good self-image” and a “proper self-image.” George explains a proper self-image knows we are sinful and depraved, but also knows we don’t have to stay there. Pride in our abilities could lead to a “good self-image,” but in Christ we are new creations and can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It roots our identity in Christ instead of in anything inherent in us. How freeing.
8) Boundaries – Henry Cloud, John Townsend. Because I have the tendency to be a people pleaser, this book was especially helpful. It is subtitled: “When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life.” Although I still do not completely implement these truths, it helps me remember I’m better able to serve Christ when I don’t overextend myself.
9) God’s Promises for Singles and God’s Promises for Women, J. Countrymen. These are more Scripture compilations to give verses that speak to your current state of mind. This is great when you don’t know where to look. Many times I’ve gone straight to the “Bewildered by God” and “Disillusioned by Life” sections of Scripture and found exactly the truths I needed at that moment. Don’t worry, they also have God’s Promises for Men and God’s Promises for Your Every Need.
10) The Complete Green Letters, Miles J. Stanford. I warn you, you need a scuba tank to read this book because you will go deep, but the dive is worth it. The deceptively short three to four page chapters take at least an hour to really grasp, but the truths revealed are incredible. It helped fill in gaps about my identity in Christ. It shook me to realize God will not answer pleas for help because He won’t feed my flesh. Instead, He allows me to become weak so I come to a place of complete dependence on Christ and not myself.
It was really hard to narrow my list to only ten. There are a lot of other good books out there, so please share them below. I’m always looking for good book recommendations.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in northern Virginia.