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Birthdays and Books

I just celebrated another birthday (not a milestone, but close) and one thing I do enjoy about having another birthday is that someone usually gives me a book.  Birthdays and books just seem to go together in my life.  This year was no exception when a friend gave me a new devotional book, plus I gave myself a book, or rather downloaded a new fiction book to my iPad. 

From the moment I learned to read, books have played an enormously important role in my life.  In my elementary school years, we lived in a very small town of less than 1,000 people, and the town’s library was located in a tiny, one-room building.  From third grade through sixth grade, I managed to read every biography they had, plus all the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew mysteries in their collection.

From that small Missouri town, our family moved to a large city near Chicago.  Their library was an impressive brick building located downtown, containing stacks upon stacks of books, several reading rooms, an entire room devoted to children and racks of magazines and newspapers.  I was there every week, often taking the city bus from my house in the suburbs to get there.  Sometimes I imagine I can still smell the slightly musty odor of that place.

I read today for both pleasure and entertainment (mysteries and thrillers mainly) and also as a means of spiritual growth. I doubt if I could name five fiction books that have changed my life, but I can easily name the top five non-fiction books that have changed my life.    Besides the Bible, these books have done more to shape my life and draw me closer to the Lord than any other reading material.

1.  Knowing God by J. I. Packer: This book, first published in 1973, has had a resurgence since the 1990’s.  I first read it around 1980, and for several years after that I read it once every year.  Packer is able to do what the title suggests–he helps you to really know God, with each chapter drawing you closer to His majesty and glory.  I know God better because of this book.

2.  Desiring God by John Piper:  Piper opens up a whole new avenue of pleasure–the absolute mind-boggling joy of glorifying God by finding your pleasure in Him.  I read this book again and again and get more out of it each time.  This is Piper’s signature work.

3.  Future Grace by John Piper:  Because I have a sinful tendency toward worry, this is another of Piper’s writings that I return to every few years.  In this book, he urges believers to believe in God’s grace for the future even as we have believed in God’s grace for our past.  There is much insight here on our sinful nature.

4.  The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges:  None of us take holiness seriously even though God said, “Be holy for I am holy.”  In this book, Bridges challenges us to seek after holiness, to recognize our own sinfulness, and to learn the ways of Satan.  Although it was first published in 1978, I didn’t read it until the latter part of the 1980’s, but it still stands today as a classic work, highly recommended by evangelical writers.

5.  Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby:  To know and do God’s will is the core desire of every growing Christian.  How can we know His will and thus do it?  That’s the question Blackaby explores in this study.  His answer is found in a study of Moses and the basic premise is to “join God where He is working.”  I found much practical truth in this study.

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