Monday, September 19, 2011

5 books that changed who I am (3) mid 20s

More on the books that changed who I am...

3. mid-20s - learning to enjoy God
All that thinking, and perhaps I still needed to learn to enjoy God. I'd become convinced us evangelicals were great at thinking about God, but not always so good at godly emotions: things like fear and sorrow and, above all, joy. Surely the truth should shape every part of us, including our emotions!

Oddly enough, I learnt about joy during what you'd expect to be a very dry season: while studying for my PhD (lots of microfilm and dusty library catalogues). I learnt it at the feet of the Puritans, especially as I read John Owen's Communion with God. Over many memorable days, Owen fed me with the unchanging facts of union with Christ, taught me (wonder of wonders) that God delights in me, and invited me to enjoy the many facets of communion with Christ. I blogged about what I learnt here.

Runners up: John Piper Desiring God, CS Lewis Surprised by Joy, and Mike Raiter Stirrings of the Soul (later to be joined by Piper's When I Don't Desire God, which helped me fight for joy during tougher times).

Which books have helped you to rejoice in God? Tell us here.


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog while searching for pictures of "Fruit of the Spirit Banners." I've really enjoyed what I've read. :) Thanks.

Side note: It's kind of crazy to see something written in the "future." Here it is still Sunday night, September 18, 2011. :)

Meredith said...

Hello Jean.
Here's a little challenge for you! I'm sure you're needing a challenge in your life!! I suspect I am a great but unrealised fan of the Puritans. So what would be your top five (ten, pick the number...there that's got to make it easy) Puritan books?

Jean said...

Ooh, goody, do you need to ask! :)

I will write a blog post on this if I get the chance, but for your eyes only (and any one else who comes across this comment...)

* John Owen "Communion with God" (see main post)
* John Owen "The Mortification of Sin" and "Sin and Temptation"
* Richard Baxter "Reformed Pastor"
* Richard Baxter "Saints' Everlasting Rest" (skip to the second half - on heavenly meditation - if you can't get through the first half :) )
* Richard Baxter "The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow" (typical clear-headed Puritan advice for depression etc)
* Richard Sibbes "The Bruised Reed" (on Christ's care for the weak)

At which point my inspiration comes to a sudden halt.

Even for a PhD you can't read everything; and mine was on Owen and Sibbes, which is why my list is slanted towards them (Baxter is just amazingly readable and...amazing). So this is just a tiny sample. I have others on my shelves which others recommend, like Jeremy Burroughs "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" and William Bridge "A Lifting Up for the Downcast", so there's much more to read...

And if you want to read a Puritan "mystic", and a moving description of one man's "communion with Christ", Samuel Rutherford's "Letters" are pretty amazing. Good "devotional" reading, I think?? Not that I've read them in this way, but I think they'd fit this category. Will lift your eyes to Jesus in praise and wonder.

Meredith said...

Thanks for the list. That should keep me going for years, at my current reading rate! "Communion with God" sounds like an excellent place to start.

Jean said...

Tell me what you think. It's so long since I read it, and I read it as a PhDer not a 'person' (although it encouraged me greatly as a Christian and has continued to do so), so I'd be interested to hear how helpful/encouraging/readable you find it. John Owen is not the easiest of reads! But this should be one of his more accessible books, and the ones on sin perhaps even more so, judging from their popularity. I remember much prayer and praise resulting from 'Communion with God'.

Cathy said...

I loved Owen On Communion with God, thanks also to you, Jean! It is a book I hope to read again some time. And it was also during my twenties ;) xxc

Jean said...

That's good to know, Cathy. Phew! Maybe it wasn't too impenetrable! Although given your ability to read Calvin, maybe it was ! ;) Just kidding - I loved reading Calvin's Institutes, although I can't remember if I ever finished it - I especially appreciated the chapter on providence.