I’ve been thinking of adding lists of things that have influenced me that I would recommend. I intend on refining these lists over time, and adding individual links to my Amazon reviews, but I have to start somewhere, so here it is.
Note: When I direct link to Amazon I include my associate tag, which in theory provides a small commission. If you want to avoid that, strip it off the URL after you get to Amazon.
This is tough, because the books I like are so different from each other. Each comes at Truth via its own direction, but all arrive at the same place (a metaphor for the Body, no?). Nonetheless:
- Rees Howells: Intercessor – Norman Grubb. Probably the most challenging book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read it some seven times now. To say that Howells had an unusually close relationship with the Lord is not nearly enough. He had an astonishing relationship with the Lord. What struck me was that the hallmark of that relationship was reality. This was no kumbaya love-fest. The disciplines Howells had to go through to come up to the standards the Lord set for him, and the perfectly practical ways that the laws governing the dynamics of the Kingdom were implemented humbled me to the utmost. I once slammed this book on the ground in frustration and disbelief, but mostly I’ve ravenously read it with tears in my eyes for my own lack of commitment and real discipleship.
- The Spiritual Man – Watchman Nee. A close friend gave me this book maybe a year after I was Saved. I tried reading it, but it was too much. It took me some 15 years before I was ready to try again, but then it blew me away. Nee’s insights into man’s spiritual ontology are nothing short of astounding. On my own, it would have taken me 200 years to figure out what he discovered about how we are composed and how God works in us. And his ability to communicate these deep truths so precisely is unparalleled – all the more amazing because English presumably was not his first language.If I had to boil Nee’s teaching here down to one essential sentence, it would be that it is necessary to distinguish between spirit and soul (Heb 4.12) in order to cooperate with God’s purification, and that we must actively cooperate in order to grow. Nee wrote this major work in about three months, which is amazing enough, but even more amazing is that he wrote it while he was on what everyone believed to be his deathbed (instead, he was miraculously and dramatically raised up). A friend of mine has suggested that that is why his writing during this time is so pure.A shorter counterpart on the same subject, also excellent, is Nee’s Release of the Spirit.
- Destined for the Throne – Paul Billheimer. This rather small book took me seven months to get through – not because it was boring, but because I soon understood that I was reading something with extraordinary power, and I wanted to give it the quality time it deserved.Billheimer’s thesis is that a) as Christ’s bride, the Church is destined to enter a one-flesh relationship with Him and to rule on His throne alongside Him; b) God with his unlimited power could rule all creation quite perfectly without our help, but He has intentionally limited himself in order to allow us to rule as kings. He therefore will do nothing but through the Church and its intercession; c) the Church is in training for this rulership, and our prayers have very real Kingdom authority behind them.Of all the books I have read on prayer, and I’ve read many, this one explains the legal basis for prayer the best by far. If you need encouragement that your prayers really matter, and if you want to understand the majestic authority we have been given in Christ, I strongly recommend this book. My Amazon review is here.
- Organic Church – Neil Cole. Coming…
- Jesus of Nazareth – Franco Zeffirelli. What can one say about a masterpiece? This film actually was a made-for-TV mini-series. They assembled some fine actors, known and unknown, and added some of the best creative Gospel interpretations ever seen. Juxtaposing the calling of Peter and Matthew with the Prodigal Son story of the two opposite brothers was pure genius, and one of the great moments in all of film.
- Chariots of Fire – Hugh Hudson. This low-budget effort has been called a perfect film. It is concise, has all the elements of plot, conflict, crisis and deep personal transformation. It’s the story of a Jew in post-WWI England who is out to prove himself in a hostile culture, and of a Scottish missionary who already knows who he is. Both love running, but for different reasons – one to prove himself, the other to feel God’s pleasure. In the end the Jew comes to realize that life is about more than egocentric achievements, and sees the acceptance he lacks in the God-focus of his rival.In real life, as the film was being made, the players came to reverently sense that they were indeed working on something very special. And also in real life, the Jewish runner ended up accepting Jesus as Lord. This was the first movie to use slow motion paradoxically to emphasize fast action, ultimately leading to the “bullet time” of The Matrix. Throw in Vangelis’ awesome score and you have one very beautiful and inspirational film.
- The Matrix. The warped Wachowski brothers come up with one for the ages, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s directly due to the major role Biblical themes play in the film (and when they largely abandon those themes in the sequels, the movies fail). It’s all over the place, from the name of the main supporting role, Trinity, to the name of the ship, which alludes to Mark 3.11. But most of all, it’s the identity struggle of Thomas (the “doubter”) Anderson (Son of man) as he comes to believe he is indeed the messianic Neo, “The One”. As he believes, he is empowered.But the film’s depth comes not simply from Anderson’s increasing ability to believe, because eventually he fails and dies. It comes from resurrection power brought about by, not his, but Trinity’s faith working through love.
- More to come.