My brother is so precious. I say that with no sarcasm at all & a heart full of pride. He’s just that awesome. So for his 17th birthday, for which his party was too cool for me to attend, I decided to give him a meaningful gift (of course in addition to the handful of cash they kids usually get on their birthdays). I know that Hunter is a thinker- he’s reflective & contemplates life. He’s got a rock-solid faith for somebody his age (or any age). I see a lot of similarities (and MANY differences) in where he is now & where I was in high school. So, I wanted to give him some knowledge and wisdom that that I had gained since I had graduated high school. I picked out the three books that changed & formed me the most over the last 14 years. With each of the books, I probably didn’t realize the full impact on my life until years later when I look back at how I’ve changed and grown. These three books, more than any others, influence the way I viewed the world & the role my faith plays in my worldview outside the walls of the church.
Jesus Freaks: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus, the Ultimate Jesus Freaks
The first book I selected for him was one that I was reading in high school & was made popular by the band DC Talk who put out an album/song by the same name Jesus Freaks. It’s a collection of short stories about Christian martyrs over the past 200o years. Most of us know about those who died for their faith in the Bible, but reading how the church and Christians have stood strong against all types of governments and persecutions and atrocities throughout the centuries is humbling and inspirational. It puts your difficulties of being caught in a traffic jam in perspective and shames the current Church with how little they will stand up to (and for) when faced with a challenge. It’s so easy to be isolated in America and caught up in our daily life that we forget how fortunate and blessed we have it. This book opened my mind to going on mission trips and taught me how important it is to have humility towards others and serve those in need. After reading about the stories of people who gave their life & made the ultimate sacrifice, it’s hard to reconcile living in a country where people complain when a church service runs a few minutes late. Amazon- Jesus Freaks
Money, Possessions & Eternity
The second book is one that pretty much challenged everything I’d known growing up and created a small crack in my psyche that has continued to grow exponentially over the years. Although Randy Alcorn wrote a smaller book called The Treasure Principle, I had read his longer book Money, Possessions & Eternity in probably about 2005. Although I did grow up strongly believing that the first fruits are returned to the church & that the Bible tells us to be generous, the biblical principles presented in this book really helped me to understand that it all belongs to God, he gives it to us to manage on Earth & it’s to be used for his purposes. Biblical financial principles are pretty much at odds with all things Americana- consumerism and consumption-ism and capitalism. I’ve personally been blessed beyond my wildest dreams & I have come to understand there is more to life than just getting more money and acquiring more things. This book was the first to make the analogy that investing our retirement in the stock market doesn’t have nearly as good returns as investing our time and money into the place we will be retiring to forever- heaven. What we do with our time, talents, money and possessions will have eternal impacts on who gets to heaven and who hears the Good News. The less tightly I can cling to money and physical possessions, the easier time I have letting them go do the work of the kingdom & the less power they have over my soul. I particularly hope this book helps him as he picks a college & a major, decides on a job and a career and he’s bombarded with messages to “Go out and get rich!”, he begins to understand that it’s not all about who dies with the most stuff, but who has been the best disciple and is doing the kingdom work that will last for eternity. Amazon- Money, Possessions & Eternity
God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
Finally, the last book that I gave him would is probably the single most influential book that I’ve read (outside of the Bible) in my whole life. I liked it enough at first & was really drawn to the ideas and philosophy, but only looking back over the last 3 years of my life can I begin to see the enormous impact that this book has had on my life as I went from a staunch, Bible-thumping, pro-death penalty, ill-informed, conservative voter to a totally hippie-liberal, Jesus was a socialist political junkie. Growing up in a Lutheran church and as a typical Christian, I was taught that abortion is wrong, gay-marriage is wrong, the military is to be revered, global warming wasn’t really a proven thing, guns & the death penalty are good, people on welfare are just milking the system and many other broad generalizations. Now, I’m not going to expand on all of those positions here, but the book enlightened me to the fact that Jesus laid out a very different set of priorities in the way he lived and the parables that he told. Building on the Alcorn book, God’s Politics encourages people to re-examine financial priorities like taxes and described budgets (both personal and governmental) as moral documents that should reflect our values. How much money should be spend on missiles and corporate tax breaks when we are cutting education and health care for children? Does it really matter if global warming is man-made or not when we are called to be caretakers of the earth, including a wise use of our resources and keeping it clean and livable for future generations.
The other theme that really resonated with me was to have a consistent pro-life ethic that included opposing all but the most unavoidable wars, enumerating the many travesties with our justice system that uses the death penalty in a very unjust way, and wanting to decrease unwanted pregnancies (and thus abortion) but still supporting those who want to avoid that situation (proper sex-ed) and supporting those who choose to keep babies (better adoption and infant/child support services). Jesus was a passivist & taught that taking care of the poor and widows (single parents) were to be taken care of by the Church. As I read this book, we were entering a very dark phase of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and I was personally very upset that we’d launched into these wars so easily. So many of the topics in this book were based on the scriptures and teachings of Jesus that it just hit home that I had been so misguided about which political issues I had focused on. Amazon- God’s Politics
So there ya go- the three most influential books I’ve read. Hopefully they might spark some interest for you too!
GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY: Just started reading The Myth of Christian Nation & it’s going to be good.