10 Books that Helped Shape My Heart for God
You will be the same person in ten years as you are now except for the people you meet and the books you read.” There is some truth to this statement! If you want to become a different person, you need to be open to letting others speak into your life. The following books (actually 11 of them) were used by God to encourage change in me. I’ve still got a long ways to go. But these helped put me on a good path.
1. Knowing God, J.I. Packer, InterVarsity This evangelical classic has been an important tool to help Christians discover the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. It fanned the flames in me to know God as I read it in my late teens. It provides a solid introduction to what it is to have a relationship with God though most of the book describes knowing about God. There’s a reason it’s considered a modern classic.
2. Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders, Moody Publishers. Though focused on ministry leadership, this book helps connect our devotion to God with serving God. If you are to serve God well you need to know Jesus Christ well. It challenges leaders to be what God desires of them as they minister to others. Another modern classic.
3. The Seeking Heart, Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon & Experiencing the Depth of Jesus Christ, Jeanne Guyon, The SeedSowers. 17th c. French writers and friends who knew for themselves the depths of a relationship with God and wrote from that depth. They understood the Christian life much differently than most modern Christians. We can learn much from them. Read carefully for they are dangerous influences on the status quo we so often embrace.
4. Liturgical Theology, Simon Chan, InterVarsity Press. Chan challenges and critiques the evangelical church towards an informed liturgical worship centered on the Trinity. He seeks to set aright a tottering ship blown hither and yon by winds of change and superficiality. Paying attention to the liturgical practices that have formed the solid structure of Christian worship for centuries, Chan guides the reader to renewal.
5. In the Name of Jesus, Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Crossroad Publishing Company. Encouraging and well-crafted messages to Christian leaders to help them see their ministries as places for Christ to dwell. Nouwen writes in such an accessible and pastoral manner that your heart is drawn to his message. He doesn’t provide formulas or techniques for godly leadership but presents Jesus as our source and guide for all of life including ministry.
6. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard J. Foster, HarperCollins Publishing. A balanced and well-crafted presentation of prayer as love. Not always easily understood since many Christians lack experience in relating to God in prayer. Foster helps point you in the right direction in his exploration of various kinds of prayer. Standard prayer methodologies are set aside in order to invite us to delightfully know God in the loving home of His presence.
7. Experiencing the Trinity, Darrell W. Johnson, Regent College Publishing. “At the center of the universe is a relationship,” writes Johnson. The Trinity is the source, guide, and goal of the Christian life. Yet, many Christians only think of it as a mysterious doctrine. However, Johnson shows that the Trinity is the center of our Christian experience. A powerful primer on the Trinity that can change your life.
8. Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard, NavPress. Willard makes your understanding and experience of inner transformation clear and accessible from a philosophical and theological perspective. Inward Christlikeness is the journey you are traveling. Willard is an insightful and masterful guide on the journey. He will challenge you to move forward to maturity and a discipleship that resembles Jesus.
9. Prayer of the Heart, George Maloney, Ave Maria Press.
This book is not for every Christian but should be! It is not easy reading. It does not fit neatly into an evangelical understanding of prayer. Maloney explores how prayer can become a way of life in the Trinity by examining the prayer culture of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Jesus Prayer is highlighted. This book may make you feel uncomfortable. It may also fan flames of desire and practice to know God more intimately.
10. The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Anything by Eugene Peterson is worth reading. But for those in pastoral ministry, this is a must. If you like the status quo and the feel of contemporary church life and leadership, skip it. Peterson challenges you to get back to the essentials of the Christian life. His writing style is captivating – wisdom and refreshment are experienced. All of you shepherd others whether as pastors, family or community leaders, or supervisors at work. Don’t easily dismiss this book if you’re not a vocational pastor. You need to become a contemplative Christian to some degree. Peterson helps you become familiar with this setting.