Have you ever read a book that just stayed with you through the years?
I admit I've read a lot of books that I don't even remember were about! But once in awhile something I've read stays with me and has given me a greater understanding of the world, the Bible and God.
Today I thought I'd share a few of these books and what stood out and stayed with me through the years.
The Confessions of St. Augustine - I'd never heard of Augustine before I read this book. And to be honest, I'd never heard must of any church history, until these last few years.
Augustine of Hippo was the beginning for me. He was a bishop in the 4th century. Someone who God transformed from a passive fornicator and dabbler of false religion to a man of God.
There are a few things I often think back on from this book.
Firstly is his thoughts on infants sinning, even though unknowingly, which gave me something to ponder. If we were born into sin then we were sinners as infants, and as an infant, who does not know he is a sinner, so are grown men and women who deny they are sinners, until they come to Christ.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23
Here is what Augustine said:
"Hear, O God. Alas, for man's sin! So saith man, and Thou pities him; for Thou made him, but sin in him Thou made not. Who reminds me of the sins of my infancy? For in Thy sight none is pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon the earth. Who reminds me? Does not each little infant, in whom I see what of myself I remember not?"
Secondly, is his mother's love and endurance in Christ. He talks of his mother a lot in the book. Crediting her with the prayers that brought him to the Lord.
Augustine's love and respect for his mother was beautiful to read, but her love and dedication to God was even more beautiful.
Augustine says of her here:
"I will not leave out what my mind can express about her, your handmaid. Her flesh brought me forth to live in this daylight, as her heart brought me forth to live in eternal light. I shall not speak of her gifts, but of Your gifts in her, since she did not create or teach herself, You created her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what she would become."
Her life, lived so long ago, has had a huge impact on me. Reminding me to pray fervently for my children and to never give up.
And thirdly, Augustine's humbleness. The book is written as a love letter to the Lord and you can feel the emotion as you read. I think Augustine may have shed a few tears while writing it. : )
The Scarlet Letter - This is a novel about judgement and control. About a small 17th century puritan community, who have left the true God behind and fallen into legalism. It will break your heart.
I often think about the man who impregnated Hester Prynne, the woman who was made to wear the scarlet letter. He becomes so broken and there is one scene I just can't get out of my mind. A scene of repentance that is just so beautiful.
Many may think Hester is the heroine of this story with her strength and resistance to the awful things being said and done to her, but for me it was this man who humbly repented before God.
Because only the repentant heart knows who the true Hero is.
"The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,
the Holy One, says this:
I live in the high and holy place
with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts."
Mere Christianity - This book single-handedly changed my way of thinking. It set me on a path to seek God and God alone.
Having a charismatic background, it was easy for me to over spiritualize things. And easy to blame the 'evil spirit' of this or that as the cause of a person's bad behavior. I see now that way of thinking kept me from really looking at myself. It was just easier to blame the devil for everything.
What C.S. Lewis has taught me, is this... I am simply a sinner, and that most of my problems are rooted in my own sinful nature.
Yes, the devil can tempt us, but we need to always start with who God is and who He says we are in sin, before we can see who God is making us to be as new creations when we have surrendered to Him.
Lewis also taught me that God gave us a mind for a reason...to use it. To think for ourselves and not believe everything we hear. Learning to discern through God's Word and not of ourselves or others.
Lewis also encouraged me to really look at Jesus.
The quote that moved me the most in this book, was this one:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matt. 15:16
We must choose. And we must have no doubts about it. This book encouraged me to look at Jesus as He is, to really listen and trust Him.
The Light Between the Oceans - This is a novel about a young couple who live isolated on an island, running a lighthouse. One stormy night changes their lives forever as a baby is washed up on shore.
I just can't get this story out of my mind. This couple makes one wrong decision (to keep the baby, which is not theirs) and it rips them apart. I cried often reading this book. And I still struggle with the emotions of these two characters, who suffered so much while trying to have children. Then they make a mistake, one regrets and one lives in delusion of. I was so torn, should they do the right thing? What is the right thing? It's an emotionally stressful read. One I can't get out of my head.
The lesson for me in this book was, once you start down the wrong path it's hard to get off. You just get deeper and deeper into the darkness. This book had no redemptive answers, but I know there is One who can rescue us from that darkness and that brings me comfort.
"The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned." Psa. 34:22
Knowing God - This is a very intense book that took me over a year to read. But it was so worth it.
There was one section that I often think on. It's about what it means to be a child of God. The world calls themselves children of God, but are they without Christ? The truth is, when we are saved (born again) we become children of God, before that we were His enemies.
It is such a great comfort to know I am an adopted child of God. And He is a good Father, who since I was born again, will never unadopt me.
I'll let J.I. Packer explain:
"The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere.
The Old Testament shows God as the Father, not of all, but of His own people, the seed of Abraham. 'Israel is my firstborn son,...'Let my son go' (Ex. 4:22-23).
The New Testament has a world vision, but it too shows God as the Father, not of all, but of those who, knowing themselves to be sinners, put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their divine sin-bearer and master, and so become Abraham's spiritual seed. 'You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...You are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed' (Galatians 3:26-29)
Sonship to God is not, therefore, a universal status into which everyone enters by natural birth, but a supernatural gift which one receives through receiving Jesus. 'No one comes to the Father' - in other words, is acknowledged by God as a son - 'except through me' (John 14:6). The gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12-13
Sonship of God, then, is a gift of grace.
It is not a natural but an adoptive sonship, and so the New Testament explicitly pictures it. In Roman law, it was a recognized practice for an adult who wanted an heir, and someone to carry on the family name, to adopt a male as a son - usually at age, rather than in infancy, as is the common way today.
The apostles proclaim that God has so loved those whom He redeemed on the cross that He has adopted them all as His heirs, to see and share the glory into which His only begotten Son has already come. 'God sent His Son...to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full (adoptive) rights of sons' (Galatians 4:4-5): we, that is, who were 'foreordained into adoption as sons by Jesus Christ unto Himself' (Ephesians 1:5). 'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...When He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is' (1John 3:1-2).
I think this is very important to understand, as in these days, humankind is trying to spiritually unite, calling themselves all children of God...but without Christ. This is ungodly and unbiblical.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Though this is not my favorite Narnia book, it does have one unforgettable scene that I love so much.
It's when Eustace is turned back into a boy from being a dragon. He first turns into a dragon when he becomes selfish and hard-hearted. This represents the sin of the first Adam in the garden. One God made good but was tempted and sin entered into the world.
Then when Eustace wants to serve Aslan, Aslan must turn him back into a boy. This can only be done by Aslan, just as only Christ can save us and change us. This is not easy and is very painful for Eustace, representing how hard and painful it is for us to die to our ourselves and live for Christ.
It made me think of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a great tree cut down in the book of Daniel. The dream was about him! He would be cut down from his glory as king and made like an animal until he repented. Then he sang praises to God and gave Him the glory.
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." Daniel 4:37
Here is Lewis's scene:
"Then the lion said – but I don't know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
"The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off."
Do you have something from a book that has stayed with you? Feel free to share in the comments. : )