Disciplining ourselves for godliness isn't just commanded, it's a good idea - leading us to transformation.
I love books. I read quite a few of them each year. My goal used to be to read 50-100 every year. Ever since our kids have gotten older and more active, I don't read quite as much as I used to read. But I'm still on track to crack 40 this year and am glad for it. I actually consider reading extra-biblical material a spiritual discipline for me. I'm enriched by them and enjoy interacting with all sorts. I'm currently finishing a couple of books, one of which has been particularly fascinating (Guyland by Michael Kimmel).
I got an email yesterday from a former church member who asked for the best books I've read. We've had that conversation before but he couldn't remember what they were. There have been 5 extra-biblical books that have particularly and uniquely shaped my life. Here they are, in no particular order of importance, with comments about why they were so shaping.
The God You Can Know by Dan DeHaan - I encountered this book in college when a mentor recommended it to me. It is the first book I read that helped me understand the relationship between a passionate God and His pursued people. Proof positive that a book can be simple and potent.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer - Packer is a veritable grandfather of the faith to evangelicals of our day. He's wise and kind and still at it after years of ministry, teaching, and following Jesus. This book is a classic for understanding who God is and how we relate to Him. It reads like a systematic theology by someone who really loves the person of God. There are so many quotes in there that are memorable that you could write a book just with the snippets. I recommend it because it shows that theology and doxology are interwoven - you can't do one without the other.
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer - Tozer is known as a 20th century prophet with good reason. His writings are just as relevant today as when he wrote them 50-60 years ago. Tozer's reminder to me is that God isn't meant to be studied as much as experienced and enjoyed. It's such a good book that we're reading it together right now as a church staff.
Desiring God by John Piper - As the current father-figure for the reformed movement, particularly among younger reformed folks, Piper calls us to take the God-given drive for satisfaction and glut that desire on God. His argument (in my restatement): our God-given passion for satisfaction and our God-given purpose for glorifying Him are not at odds nor parallel, but one pursuit. He says it this way: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." It'll make you think but it's worth every page.
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard - A philosophy professor from USC who loves God? Sure. This is the third book in a spirituality trilogy written by Willard and, in my opinion, his most powerful (the other two are Hearing God and Spirit of the Disciplines). It is a theological and spiritual reflection on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5-7 known as the Sermon on the Mount. I learned from this book a truth that keeps expressing itself in my life and ministry, that the Kingdom of God is a present reality that God will ultimately and finally fulfill. I don't agree with every little jot and tittle here, but the driving point is unbelievably powerful and Good News. At 400 pages, it's not for the faint of heart (or brain), but it is worth the effort of reading, re-reading, and re-reading again.