So here’s my answer to Question #1. The three books that have been most influential to my life and my thinking (in order) are as follows:

  1. Desiring God by John Piper
    Yes, that’s right — the most influential book in my life was written by a 5-point Calvinist. This one taught me that enjoying God is right and proper, and is a sign of a healthy spiritual relationship with him… and that God wanted it to be this way. The cosmos is designed so that my desire for God glorifies him and satisfies me, which glorifies him even further. This took some effort to get it to take root in my soul, since I think people are naturally disposed to works and legalism, which is then fueled with what amounts to an authoritarian view of God (though we wouldn’t admit it) which we learned in Sunday School (and we wouldn’t admit that either). My copy of the book (the original edition, not the rerelease) has marks in it where I “interacted” with the text, reacting at first to the entire concept of hedonism… but as I read further into the book, the comments change from negative ones to positive ones as the “light went on” for me.
  2. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
    I cheat a little with this entry, since you have to read the whole series in order for this book to have the right “impact” in the final few chapters. I read the series for the first time as an adult and though I know it’s “a children’s story,” this book taught me a lot about eschatology and what the “real world” is. I had a prof that used to talk about “The House of Salvation” which had a sign on the door saying, “Whosoever will may enter” and when you went inside, the house was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, and there was a sign above the door in the inside that said “Chosen from before the foundation of the world.” This book makes sense of that (and it’s where the analogy comes from).
  3. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Chris Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger
    This one fuels the way our business (my ‘other life’) is built. I found the Cluetrain website when it was still new, back in the pre-fad days before people thought they could get by with displaying the book around the office but not really believing it. So before it was trendy, we found these concepts voiced online and signed the manifesto forthwith; I then went out and bought the book (which was later signed by Doc, “Thanks for taking the Cluetrain”) and consumed it. This book teaches authenticity, and is subtitled “The end of business as usual.” It also reminded me that not every book or truth that is a Godsend comes from the church. The book challenges me regularly toward authenticity, and perhaps the only reason it isn’t a notch higher is because of the import of the realizations that came to me through C.S. Lewis.

Okay, those are my top three. I’m going to let you in on the runner-up, which was fairly solidly in third spot until I read Cluetrain. The runner-up is:

  • The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
    I must have an earlier printing, the cover isn’t so “pretty” as the one pictured on the site. This book taught me most of what little I know about the mechanics of how we participate with God to cooperate with his changing of our lives. It taught me how spiritual disciplines can be bathed in grace when they can look so much on the outside like pointless asceticism, and reconnects the physical and spiritual worlds in a powerful way.

There it is. My brief comments here are but pale reflections of the impact that each of these books has had upon me. I know there aren’t any by McLaren or the other emerging church authors on the list (yet) but that’s another story, and we’re working on it.

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