Books for the Journey: the faith-builders

I want to do all of these books justice as I explain what they’ve meant to me or why I love them. So these posts tend to take a quite a lot of time. I’m going to try to share a selection once every 3 weeks or so to give myself time (theoretically) to prepare them in advance.

Though here I am writing last minute again.

So maybe it’s just so I have time to procrastinate.

Anyway.

Here we are in the second installment of my series: Books for the Journey. Todays journey is a winding path of faith. Through the years I’ve taken trips into other writers brains as they explored their passion for Christ, walked through His Word, and strived to live in evidence of His Glory instead of their own.

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(The pile. Minus one on kindle and two I don’t yet own.)

Here are just a few of my favorites (of course). There are some older and some new. The thoughts are gathered from around the world, china, Germany, north america, france. A lovely conglomeration of culture and time all pointing to the same God of all.

The Normal Christian Life and Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee (1903-1972)

Israel introduced me to Watchman Nee a couple months before I left for my semester abroad in Chile. Watchman Nee was a Chinese Bible teacher, Christian leader and church planter (the churches he started survived during and continued to flourish after China’s Cultural Revolution). He spent the last 20 years of his life in prison accused of false charges. His books focus on “deepening the spiritual life through intensive training in the Word of God”. I think I spent a few months reading each of these two books. Normally I read books as quickly as possible (especially ones I enjoyed), but with these I was forced to take my time as there was (and is still, I’m sure!) so much to process. I need to read them again as I can’t remember near enough to describe them well.
I love how these books are so completely based in the Bible. Both are compilations of Nee’s spoken messages to the churches in China.

When I read these books (especially The Normal Christian Life) I remember being stuck on my inability to be good in the Christian sense of the word. I would be overcome by guilt and not know where to go from whatever point. Over time I finally internalized the notion that it is not our job to try to be good. These books helped me to attain a confidence in my position as a Christian despite my inability to live as sinlessly as I thought was demanded of me.
We can’t be good on any of our own effort. We sin no matter what we’re trying to do. I had to accept the fact that God had already forgiven me for everything I had done and was going to do. I had to let go of my own attempts at Good, and let God continue to shape me in his own time. God sees me as completely forgiven. Instead of focusing on my own sin and imperfection I needed to just focus on Him. I cannot do anything about my sinfulness on my own. I need to instead rest in what Jesus had already done and live out of my relationship with Him as a completely new person.

I’m sure I didn’t explain that as well as I could have a couple of years ago, but I hope it helps you see a little of what it meant to me. These two little books helped me, I am so glad to have read them and want to share them with you.

Two quotes that seem to sum up the message of each book:

What then is God’s basis for the outpouring of the Spirit? It is the exaltation of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:33). Because Jesus died on the cross, my sins are forgiven; because He is exalted to the throne, I am endued with power from on high. The one gift is no more dependent than the other upon what I am or what I do. I did not merit forgiveness, and neither do I merit the gift of the Spirit. I receive everything not by walking, but by sitting down; not by doing, but by resting in the Lord.”
– Watchman Nee – Sit, Walk, Stand

“My giving of myself to the Lord must be an initial fundamental act. Then, day by day, I must go on giving to him, not finding fault with his use of me, but accepting with praise even wht the flesh finds hard. That way lies true enrichment.
I am the Lord’s, and now no longer reckon myself to be my own but acknowledge in everything his ownership and authority. Tha is the attitude God delights in and to maintain it is true consecration. I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher; I consecrate myself to God to do his will where I am, be it in school, office or kitchen or wherever he may in is wisdom, send me. Whatever he ordains for me is sure to be the very best, for nothing but good can come to those who are wholly his.
May we always be possessed by the consciousness that we are not our own.
– Watchman Nee – The Normal Christian Life

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
This is another great book that I read so long ago I don’t exactly remembering why it was so powerful. Sadly I don’t even own this book (I absolutely should!) so I can’t even look over it again to remind myself! Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor. He died in a concentration camp at the age of 39 because of his involvement with the resistance against the Nazi dictatorship.

Here is a quote I pulled out when I read this book 3-4 years ago:

“Obedience to the call of Jesus never lies within our own power. If, for instance, we give away all our possessions, that act is not in itself the obedience He demands. In fact such a step might be the opposite of obedience to Jesus, for we might be choosing a way of life for ourselves, some Christian ideal, or some ideal of Franciscan poverty. Indeed in the very act of giving away his goods a man can give allegiance to himself and to an ideal and not to the command of Jesus. He is not set free from his own self but still more enslaved to himself. The step in the situation where faith is possible is not an offer which we can make to Jesus, but always His gracious offer to us. Only when the step is taken in this spirit is it admissible. But in that case we cannot speak of a freedom of choice on our part.” Deitrich Bonhoeffer

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife and mother of 6 from Canada. She wrote this wonderful book as a result of her journey to ‘counting it all joy’. A journey towards perpetual thanksgiving and the awareness of God’s every day gifts. I love her poetical prose (though it might drive others crazy) and the way she weaves words together. I love how she thinks through each little nuance as she becomes more aware of God’s love and presence through her practice of eucharisteo. And shares it as a thought.
A sample…

“Really? I lay my head on the table. Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry? Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want? When I choose – and it is a choice – to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness? Choosing the angry way of Lucifer because I think it is more effective – more expedient – than giving thanks?
Blasphemer.”
Ann Voskamp – One Thousand Gifts

The Pursuit of God by A.W Tozer (1897-1963)
I wrote a post after reading this book last year that highlights some of my favorite quotes as well as my thoughts on the book. Check it out here :) I found it freeing as I was trying to sort through churches (mine and Israel’s) and how they treat faith and the manifestations of faith. It helped me to find a balance between two slight extremes.

“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged.”
“In the hearts of all men the light shines, the Word sounds, and there is no escaping them. Something like this would of necessity be so if God is alive and in His world. And John says that it is so. Even those persons who have never heard of the Bible have still been preached to with sufficient clarity to remove every excuse from their hearts forever.”
A.W Tozer – The Pursuit of God

honorable mentions:
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (1614-1691)

—–
Probably future book posts won’t be this long…haha. But no promises :)

What is your (or one of your) favorite faith builder(s)?

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