Great Books

Here are a few books which have changed my life:

 What’s So Amazing About Grace? – Philip Yancey

This book transformed my life and understanding of almost everything.  Without a doubt Yancey is more artist than theologian but God created artist as well as theologians and sometimes it takes  beautifully crafted writing that is rich with story and illustration to communicate to the soul what a precise academic treatise never could.  A broken and wounded spirit, which had grown hardened through 30 years of self imposed legalism, would have never embraced God’s grace through an academic discussion between Armenianism and Calvinism.  However, a writer such as Yancey, who can use the God given art of creative writing to communicate to the human heart and spirit are a gift.  “Some of God’s attributes are too wonderful to understand.  But even if they remain darkness to the intellect, let them be sunshine for your soul.”  Everyone should read this book and allow God to use it in His mysterious way.  If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, well, skip it and pull out an old theology book (perhaps Berkhof).  It will be your loss.  Helen Keller spoke truth when she wrote, “The best and the most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched … they must be felt with the heart.”  Yancey’s statement that,  “there is nothing we can do to make God love us more.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us less” went straight to my heart and I have never been the same.  He showed me that grace gives us salvation but it ALSO gives us life today and it gives us abundant life – for that I will always be in his debt.

 The Cross of Christ– John Stott

Stott writes, “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross … In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”  Every Christan must understand the centrality of the cross to salvation and faith but a large number of those who profess faith today I fear only have a shadow understanding of why Christ died and what He accomplished when He did.  The cross changes everything.  It makes everything new and gives us a worshipping relationship to God.  There would be no “worship wars” within the body of Christ if we truly understood the cross.  The cross gives us a “balanced understanding of ourselves.”  There is no room for self indulgent faith which is built around the seeker rather than the Savior when we understand the cross.  The cross calls us to a mission bigger than the latest comfort or fad.   There is no reclining in comfort while the band and pastor attempt to out perform the church down the street – (all as millions starve, children die form aids, and missionaries attempt to take the gospel on budgets smaller than the average mega church’s air conditioning bill) – if we understand the cross.  There is no unforgiveness for our enemies if we TRULY embrace the cross of Christ.  I will never look upon  a cross again in the same way that I did before reading this book.  I will never again push forward my plans (as pure as my motives may seem), wrap myself in my traditions (no matter how well they may have withstood the test of time), embrace the newest most proven methods (no matter how fast they “grew” the flavor of the month mega pastor’s church) if they are not centered around the Cross of Christ.   Stott is also listed on my “Great Lives” page.  I also just finished another excellent book by Stott called “Your Mind Matters” which is on the “Current Reading List” page.

  Creation Regained by ALbert M. Wolters

I first read this little book in seminary and it simply yet profoundly changed the way I saw the world and everything in it.   Wolters shows that there have been three turning points in human history – Creation, the Fall, and Redemption.  However, what was transformational for me is the fact that Christians have a responsibility to strive to bring the world in which we live into alignment with God’s ordinances.  We are to be His agents of renewal and restoration wherever we are.    

 Objects of His Affection– Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith was one of my professors at seminary.  He was the type of professor that drove allot of the students crazy.  “When is he going to stop with the stories and teach us something?,” they would complain.  One day I started laughing as the regular gripe session began.  “What are you laughing at?” one of my peers asked.  “Who do you think knows what future pastors need to know most, a guy who spent his life immersed in the exegetical syntax of a Greek phrase or a guy who has pastored for 45 years and prepared and delivered thousands of sermons during that time?  Maybe his stories ARE what he is teaching and you are just missing the point.”  The complaining stopped after that, well, at least if I was around.  Objects of His Affection is Scotty Smith’s story.  It is the story of his life and how God awoke Scotty to the compelling love of our Lord.  You will see God pursue Scotty in his restlessness, receive Scotty despite his sinfulness, hold Scotty in his brokenness and finally free Scotty from complete lovelessness.   As you read don’t miss the point like some of the guys I went to seminary did.  Smith tells the story so that we can see our sins, wounds, idols and failures in the redeeming light of God’s grace.       

 The Hiding Place – Corrie ten boom

The Hiding Placeis God’s truth at every level of  life.  This book, of a lady and her family’s test of faith during Hitler’s Holocaust, takes the gospel of grace and the truth of the cross and sets them toe to toe and eyeball to eyeball with evil.  Grace, truth and the cross are victorious.  An amazing testimony to God’s grace and provision of faith.  For more on Corrie ten Boon you can check out my post about her on the “Great Lives” page.   Corrie ten Boom is also listed on my “Great Lives” page.

 Children of the Living God – Sinclair Ferguson

Ferguson is one of the most brilliant Bible teachers and preachers of our time but the message of this little book is simple and profound.   As those redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are God’s children and He delights in us.  Our fellowship with Him is to be joyful.  Our fellowship with Him is not predicated upon our performance or ability to keep an impossible legal standard but rather upon the standard already met by Christ.  Our Heavenly Father simply delights in us as His children purchased by the shed blood of Christ.  “It is in this context that Jesus affirms, ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (Jn. 8:36); that is, we are to enjoy the freedom of God’s true sons.  Freedom is, therefore, a hallmark of all genuine faith in Christ.”  We will leave it there and let the works righteousness crowd draw there own conclusions concerning the implications upon their relationship within the family.

 A Scandalous Freedom – Steve Brown

This book is just plain fun.  Steve Brown takes Yancey’s Amazing Grace, Stott’s Cross of Christ, Smith’s “pursuing love of Christ”, and Ferguson’s “Sonship” and pushes the envelope all the way to the gates of heaven.  Brown understands how to communicate and he uses that knowledge to have a little fun at the expense of all those pharisees who have been robbing the rest of us of our joy for years.  I laughed throughout this book.  I laughed even in places where Brown didn’t intend for his reader to laugh.  I laughed because I knew exactly how insane this book was going to drive those who have built a religion around obligation and missing the point.  I knew how crazy it would drive them because I used to be one.  Brown told me a story when I attended a conference with him a couple of years ago about how one day after he spoke at a conference he was surrounded by the self appointed defenders of the law.  “They were angry,” Brown told me and a few others at the table where we sat.  As the discussion became more heated Brown told us, the “high priest” of the crowd turned to those with him and told them that Brown was a heretic because he was antinomian.  Brown said, “I am not, but if I HAD to chose between being antinomian and being whatever it is you are.  Well, I’d gladly be antinomian because what you are is no fun at all.”  So, for all those who are going to leave comments accusing me of antinomianism ….. well, you get the picture.

 To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

This book is beautiful and beauty is one of the most profound truths which exist.  Beauty changes you. To Kill A Mockingbird is a beautiful masterpiece and beauty glorifies the creator God who gives the gift which brings forth the art.  Read this book and see God on its pages and then praise Him and give thanks for what He has allowed you to enjoy.  I have more to say on “To Kill a Mockingbird” on my “Amazing Movies” page where I have it listed.

  The Goldsworthy Trilogy by Grameme Goldsworthy

This is actually three books in one: Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, and The Gospel in Revelation.  Goldsworthy gives a complete and clear guide to understanding the Gospel throughout the whole of Scripture.   The book lays out how the Bible can only  be understood through the eyes of the Gospel and in light of who Jesus is.  The Old Testament is for today’s follower of Christ, giving us a deeper and fuller understanding of who He is and why He came – the same is true for ancient Israel’s wisdom literature.  The central theme of the book of revelation is not the millennium but rather Christ and His gospel.  Much of modern millennial madness would come to an end if Christians understood that the “visions of Revelation must be read in the light of the unified message of the Bible which reaches its goal in Jesus Christ.”

 The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs

It has been 33 years since I became and Christian and since that time I have read countless books on the topic of evangelism and gone to almost as many training courses or seminars.  This book is by far the best book on evangelism I have encountered.  However, if you want a technique to memorize that will guarantee results which can inflate your ego this book is not for you.  It is about the human heart, God’s heart and how the two intersect in evangelism.  It strongly stands against models which insist that the New testament model of evangelism is one-size fits-all.  Some of the principles which Barrs highlights from Scripture are prophetically needed in modern evangelism models, particularly “showing respect” and “building bridges.”

15 responses

6 03 2008

Thanks for your recomendations Chuck! there are a couple onn your list which I have not yet read. I have intnded on reading “Margin” for years. Perhaps I should get to it. “How Now Shall We Live” is going to be a classic if it is not already. Blessings brother.

7 03 2008

The Hiding Place is also a really good movie produced by Billy Graham Society.
We rented it from Netflix.

7 03 2008

Your right! The movie is excellent. However, the book is even better. If you have never had a chance to read it – it is well worth the time. Thank you for the comment. They are always apprecaited.

28 03 2008

Hey! I emphatically agree with your selections of To Kill A Mocking Bird, What’s So Amazing About Grace, and The Hiding Place on the list. (They’re the one’s on it that I’ve read).

Thanks for stopping by my site. If you haven’t read Rice’s new books, you definitely should.

Cool to connect with someone out there who with like thoughts and interests.

3 05 2008
John Scheepers

Thanks Darian, a couple of these are on my shelf but have never quite got around to reading them (Stott’s – Cross of Christ probably my biggest omission to date…). But Goldsworthy, Yancey, Lee all really big in my life too… Yancey should be compulsary reading for all Christians and a pastor should be forced to read “Grace” by the time he leaves seminary, I know it changed my whole ministry.

3 05 2008

Thanks John! We can check in on each other’s blogs from time to time.


3 07 2008

Could I suggest you try some N. T. Wright, especially Surprised by Hope and The New Testament and the People of God

3 07 2008

Yes! I am reading “Surprised By Hope” right now. I am only through the introduction and into the first chapter but I have enjoyed it so far. I have read “Jesus and the Victory of God” by Wright. Thanks for the suggestions.

15 02 2009

Fantastic list of books you’ve got here. I have been putting off reading Stott’s The Cross of Christ cause of the size of it even thought I’ve heard from a ton of folks that it is probably the best book on the subject of the cross. I’ll be purchasing it soon and give it a read.

15 02 2009

Thanks Erik!

“The Cross of Christ” is without any doubt worth the price. Also, please be in prayer for John Stott. A friend of mine is one of the Associate Pastor’s at All Souls Church where Stott was pastor for decades and tells me that he is beginning to fail with age in many ways. Thank you for the encouragement.


15 02 2009

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. I love Stott too, though I haven’t gotten around to reading “The Cross of Christ” yet. It is on my shelf, though. Also on my shelf is the first volume of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s biography of Stott, which I hope to get to soon.

Thanks also for referring to your list. The only ones I have read so far are the books by Yancey, Smith and Lee. I’ve never read anything by Jerram Barrs, but lately I have been listening to a series of his lectures on the early years of Francis Schaeffer.

21 02 2009
Top Three Books for 2008! « An Uncommon Grace

[…] Great Books […]

23 02 2009


Haven’t read The Cross of Christ yet, but I probably need to. Just today my wife and I were discussing the cross and teaching/preaching/and living. I noticed that you’re reading Your Mind Matters. I read that back in my college days and recently wrote a short post about it on my other blog…


24 02 2009
Brandon Barr

Yancy’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace” was an incredible book. I loved his focus on forgiveness. It is so easy to hold onto ungrace or unforgivness when we’ve been wronged. But the stories he uses to illustrate true forgiveness–the kind God has on us–moved me and changed me. Forgiveness is freedom.

1 09 2009

hi, i am Njongo Cokoto, from South Africa, i want to agree on the fact that the cross of Christ is what we ought to meditate on because it has all answers we are looking for. There are things we are engaged on these days which are wrong because of lacking the understand of Christ crucified. ” My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6.

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