My Top Most Inspirational Books – Part I

31 10 2011

“Read to refill the wells of inspiration.” – Harold Ockenga.

I never read a book until I was 10 years old. Honestly, I hated reading up to that time. Then entered Mrs. Milton, my fourth grade teacher. She didn’t care that I was the biggest cut-up, talker and comedian in the class. She was the first teacher that didn’t send me to the vice-principal’s office for deviant behavior. Her look (might I better call it a stare) was good enough, and I began to change my behavior. She was also the first teacher in my four year pedagogic history that actually seemed to like me.

Mrs. Milton believed that the love of learning and reading was more important than just knowing how to do it. She called my mom and told her that she needed to “force” me to read at least one hour a day. I could read any book I wanted to read. The only exception to the “any book” category was comic books. As I began to read, I discovered the adventure of books! I discovered biographies, sport stories and real life drama.

After that year, I was hooked on reading, and I have been ever since. Thank you, Mrs. Milton.

The leader who hopes to continually grow spiritually and intellectually must be constantly reading books. A leader is a reader. Leaders should intend to spend at least an hour a day reading for spiritual, intellectual, and personal stimulation if they are going to continually feed their soul and mind. Without books, a leader will eventually wither up and die.

I’ve been asked on many an occasion to share books that have most impacted my life. Following are the ten most influential and inspirational books of my life. Of the hundreds of books I’ve read and the thousands that I have perused throughout the years, the following books are the most dog eared, torn up and reread of any of the others.

1. Bible  

I was given a Bible when I was just a little tike. As far back as I can remember, the Bible was talked about reverently in my home. My father was a pastor and he read from three Bible texts every weekend in the Lutheran church. He believed in and built his life around the Bible. With these influences, I grew up with the Bible in my possession. But it was not until my freshman year in college that I got turned on to Jesus and the book He wrote. When I discovered Jesus, I discovered His book. His book possessed me. It came alive in my mind and heart and rocked my worldview, perspective, and paradigms for living. No book has so altered every aspect of my life like the Bible, the only book that is “living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” So, after all the years, I still read and reread the greatest book ever written. This book like no other continues to invade my life, my passions, my tears, my heart, my mind and my spiritual blood stream.

2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

I know of no other book that is more dog-eared and underlined (the best indication of an influential book) than my friend, Wayne Grudem’s book on theology. As a pastor, fresh out of seminary when Mountain Springs Church was just being planted, I was constantly faced with theological and biblical questions I could not answer. After the Bible itself, my first go-to book was Systematic Theology. I still consult it whenever I find myself stumped on a doctrinal issue.

3. A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems

The book is almost falling apart at the seams. Given this book in high school, I have devoured every poem from the great masters of “the music of the soul” (Voltaire). T.S. Eliot has said that poetry is “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.” And that is precisely how God has used these poems in my life. Whenever I go out for a day with the Lord or fly fish by a roaring river, I often take this book along and meditate on my favorite poems. Some of my favorites are: “Road Not Taken” (Robert Frost); “Character of the Happy Warrior” (William Wordsworth); “Crossing the Bar” (Rudyard Kipling); and, written in my hand, on the back of the cover, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Great poetry continues to be music to my soul.

4. Prayer: The Key to Revival by Paul Cho

Visiting Korea in 1983 and seeing the commitment to prayer in the Korean church had a huge impact on my life. The spiritual revival in this country can be traced back to the church’s passion for prayer. Cho takes you through the history of revival and prayer and inspires us with why prayer is so powerful. This book by the pastor of the world’s largest church has influenced my wife, Liz, and I deeply. I reread this book every year, being inspired once again with the power of prayer.

5. Desiring God by John Piper

This book lost its cover years ago. It’s underlined on almost every page, with notes written in the margin throughout. In Psalm 37:4 we are commanded to “Delight yourself in the Lord!” and this book “is a serious book about being happy in God.” (preface) The thesis of Piper’s work is that God is happy and we should find happiness in Him. The subtitle for the book is “the meditations of a Christian Hedonist” and Piper is convincing in his argument that all Jesus followers should be full of the joy of a joyful God. The greatest statement in the book, in my opinion, is the author’s contention that the great statement in the Westminster Confession of Faith should be reworded, “The chief end of man is to glorify God “by” (instead of “and”) enjoying Him forever.”

These are my top five most inspirational books. In the next inkling update, I will share the next five. Let me conclude with this verse from one of my favorite poems by Alexander Pope,

A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

And drinking largely sobers us again.


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