To continue the “Five Books That’ll Change Your Life” series I started back here, and that Jessie continued here, this is part 2 of my list of books that you really need to read because, like the title of the post says, they’ll change your life.
1. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Timothy Keller)
Aaah, I love this short, simple book so much. Whether you’re religious, irreligious, sacrilegious, or some combination of all those, this book has a message for you. I borrowed this from Adiel, pastor of Missio Dei Church, and I read it so much, spent so much time in it, and took it so many places, that when I returned it to him, it looked like it’d gone through a war. I destroyed his copy through love.
Keller takes a look at the familiar parable of the prodigal son, but the book is more a message about the reckless, free, and overwhelming love of the father, in contrast to the harsh criticism of the older brother and the careless selfishness of the younger.
2. Like a Mighty Wind (Mel Tari)
Michael Fisher, my pastor at Cornerstone Church, has recommended a lot of good books to me over the years, but this is one of my all-time favorites. It’s the story of revival coming to the small Indonesian island of Timor. It’s pretty poorly written (I gotta be honest about it), but this book will change your life as you read about what God will do with a group of people who, as Mel Tari puts it, were “stupid enough to believe the Bible and do what it says.” The dead are dramatically raised to life, whole cities come to Jesus, people walk on water, God multiplies food – yeah, it’s a good read. Mel Tari writes, “When we believe the Bible as it is, we will see the power of God move in our lives and in our community as it did centuries ago in Bible times.” Read this book. It’ll change your life.
3. God’s Smuggler (Brother Andrew)
Written by Brother Andrew but co-authored by John and Elizabeth Sherrill, this is one of most well-written and captivating Christian biographies I’ve ever read. John and Elizabeth Sherrill are exceptional writers, so anything they help with is usually worth reading. This book is the true life story of Brother Andrew, a young Dutch man who used to sneak behind the Iron Curtain to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Risking his life time and again, the book reads like a Christian spy novel. Only instead of beating up the bad guys, God blinds their eyes, causes them to look the other way, or turns them into good guys. I still remember reading this book for the first time 12 years ago – it was so good I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a couple days of edge-of-your-seat reading.
4. Jesus Culture (Banning Liebscher)
Like their music? Read the book. The subtitle for this book is “Living a Life That Transforms the World.” Banning Liebscher, leader of the Jesus Culture ministry, isn’t just trying to build a nice worship team – he wants to see a generation of young people transforming the world with the love and power of Jesus Christ, not just one or two exceptional men or women of God, but a generation of people who live, talk, and act just like Jesus. And I like that idea a lot.
What the book says about itself: “A new breed of revivalist is arising to answer the cry of God’s heart. These blazing hearts are calling cities and nations back to the Lord, and challenging societies to be transformed by the power and love of God.”
5. Revolution in World Missions (K. P. Yohannan)
The basic premise of this book is one that’s really close to home for me. Yohannan writes as a native Indian Christian who boldly confronts the failures and sins of modern Western (mostly American) missionaries in his nation. Some of the stories of how missionaries came to his culture only to make more problems than they solved will make you sick, especially compared to the way he describes self-sacrificing native Indian missionaries who have been reaching their own countrymen by the thousands. Yohannan comes down a little hard on anybody ever moving to a foreign country as a missionary when there’s already an established church, but it’s a good, challenging read, especially if you have any thoughts about ever becoming a missionary in a different culture. This book will check your heart so you can do it right.
Now get outta here and read a book already!
“Jesus hates suffering, injustice, evil, and death so much, he came and experienced it to defeat it and, someday, to wipe the world clean of it. Knowing all this, Christians cannot be passive about hunger, sickness, and injustice.” – Timothy Keller
I read that this morning in Timothy Keller’s bookThe ProdigalGod. Adiel, the pastor of Missio Dei, loaned it to me with the recommendation that it was one of the books that influenced him the most. I’ve really enjoyed the book, but that line in particular strikes a cord with me. Or does it strike a “chord”? I don’t know…
I did a lot of walking around the city today, using the opportunity to practice Romanian with people, check out some sites, and do a lot of praying. I’m gonna flash forward to the end of the walk first and then work backwards. I took Naomi and Mae with me today, and after hours of walking and walking, it was past their bedtime, they were worn out, they hadn’t eaten dinner, and they just wanted to get home. And I, being a good father and also tired, wanted to get them home. A block from our house, an old Gypsy woman who looked very sick grabbed me and began speaking to me in Romanian. I could pick out just a few words, mostly that she was hungry and wanted some money for food.
I was tired. My girls were tired. I didn’t want to be bothered. But Jesus came to earth to experience suffering so that he could one day eliminate it completely. How could I walk away from this woman who was just asking for some food? So I gave her my arm and we walked her to a bread store down the street, where I bought her some bread, learned her name was Doina, and explained the Gospel as best I could (which was not very well unfortunately). I know this woman needs more than just some bread from strangers. She needs some permanent help so she doesn’t need to sit on the side of the road asking for money every day. But, in that moment, I realized that it was my responsibility to do what I can.
I’m not telling you all this so you think I’m amazing because, frankly, I would like to have done more. I could barely communicate with her, all I got for her to eat was some carbs (no meat, no vegetables, not even a drink). I should have stuck around longer and shared more about the love of God, or at least prayed with her…
There’s always more you can do, and the task is always bigger than you alone, but your job is to do what you can for the ones God puts in your path. You may not have much, but give what you’ve got. You may be a terrible speaker, or you may not have a lot of money, or you might not have all that much time, but give what you’ve got and don’t turn a blind eye toward suffering. It’s our responsibility to end it.
Suffering doesn’t always look like a hungry old Gypsy woman either. Sometimes suffering looks like wealth and prosperity.
At one point today, in our wandering, I accidentally got us on the subway during rush hour. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be – actually much better than I’ve experienced in Chicago – but nonetheless we were surrounded by a sea of people, each in need of a relationship with the Savior. Sure, the women all carried expensive purses and the guys had ritzy suits and smart phones, but underneath the facade, they all need the Savior as much as the homeless guy under the bridge. They’re carrying the weight of guilt and shame, they’re fighting to look the best or do the best or make the most of themselves, they’re running from the past or pursuing an elusive future dream that will never satisfy. They may have it all on the outside, but they’re suffering, and Jesus came to end their suffering too.
Besides getting a lot of attention, I like bringing the girls with me on the subway because then people feel obligated to move so we can have their seats. There’s a lot of old-fashioned politeness in Romania that we don’t have in America, and it can be really nice at times. So while we were on the subway, one Romanian after another kept getting up and offering us their seats. Even in the middle of rush-hour traffic, we only had to stand for a small portion of one trip. But being good isn’t enough. Even people who are good, courteous, and polite need the Savior to be freed from the bondage of never being good enough.
There are so many people in this city. There are cars everywhere (even on the sidewalks, which seems normal to me now), apartment complexes all over the place, grocery stores and markets every few blocks. This city is a sea of people. And most of them know nothing about Jesus but man-made religion and interesting stories. This is a country of Orthodox believers, which means most people call themselves Christians but never go to church, read their Bibles, or really have any relationship with Jesus. Whether they’re destitute Gypsies, members of the new elite wealthy class, or traditional-minded “good” Romanians, they’re all suffering and they all need to know the Savior who came to end all suffering.
I like walking around this city, taking the subway, and going to where the people are gathering. Every time I get out there, I’m reminded that Jesus loves these people and gave His life for every one of them.
OK, a few funny Naomi stories before I close…
First, we got goat cheese from the market the other day (brânza). Today, when we finally sat down for dinner and I asked Naomi if she wanted some of it she gave me this look of disgust and told me, “Ewww, no. I don’t wanna eat goat cheese. That’s sick. It came from a goat.” I told her, “Well, you eat cheese that came from a cow.” She proudly reminded me that, unlike goat cheese, eating cow cheese was normal.
Final story: While walking around today, we passed a lumber yard. Outside the shop, they had a cutout of Yogi Bear carrying wood. Mae wondered what it was all about, so I told her, “Oh, they probably just think it’s fun to have Yogi Bear carrying wood. It’s kind of like they’re saying he likes it, so you might like their wood too.” Naomi got all thoughtful and then told me, “I think when stores do that, it’s all just to get people to come inside and buy their stuff. Probably the wood isn’t very good. Probably when you see Yogi Bear likes it, you think, ‘Oh, I’ll probably like it too,’ so you go inside and they get all your money, but really it’s probably awful wood. Like you’ll go inside and see it’s terrible. But you buy it anyway because Yogi Bear likes it, and so they get all your money. I think stores do that just to get our money.” Watch out, Romania. Naomi is onto you.