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Three Books That Have Changed My Life
Paradigm-shifting reads to add to your list
I love to read, always have. My favorite fiction books are Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I also enjoy science fiction and mystery books. The Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also have a prominent place on my all-time-favorites list.
Of course, I read a lot of non-fiction, too. These days, that makes up most of my reading. Aside from the Bible, there are a handful of books that have been paradigm-shifting, life-changing books for me. These books have changed the way I see God, myself, and others, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a summer reading plan. Here are three such books.
When I was 20, trying to figure out what to do with my life, my pastor gave me a copy of The Dream Giver. At the time, I was a worship leader at the church but wasn't pursuing that as a career. As much as I loved music and leading worship, I didn't think I'd be able to earn a living doing that (most churches can't afford a full-time worship pastor). I also enjoy the outdoors and am a big conservationist, so I was planning to go into ecology or wildlife biology or something like that.
But when I read The Dream Giver, I realized God was calling me into music ministry as a worship leader. I decided to follow his call, and haven't looked back. He opened doors, provided opportunities, and has always abundantly taken care of my family's needs. I serve as a lead pastor today because 20 years ago my pastor challenged me to read a book that changed the direction of my life.
My first full-time ministry position was as a worship pastor in a Baptist church in Springfield, IL. I quickly realized I was underprepared for a pastoral role, and decided to go to seminary and study the Bible and theology. I started online classes at Asbury Theological Seminary (I soon transferred to Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago, and finished my M-Div in person). In one of my first classes, Hearing God was on the reading list. I'm so thankful it was!
The point of Willard's book is to teach the reader how to develop a conversational relationship with God–how to recognize God's voice when he speaks to you. Up to that point, I had a pretty pitiful prayer life. God usually felt a million miles away, and talking to him seemed like talking to thin air. But Hearing God taught me how to connect with God in Scripture, how to hear him speak through the pages of the Bible, and how to listen for him throughout my day. Suddenly, God was present with me all day long (actually, he'd always been there–I was suddenly aware of him).
Living every day in the presence of God literally changes your life. For eternity. If you're someone who feels like God doesn't speak to you, pick up a copy of Hearing God and start listening.
This book was just published in 2022, and I just read it last Monday (six days ago, from the time of this writing). So, how could it be "paradigm-shifting?" It is. I can already see that it's going to be one of those books that changes the way its readers see God, themselves, and others–that's what it's done for me in just a week.
Winship's main theme is identity. Who are you? Not the false you but the true you, the you God created you to be. We all believe false things about ourselves, God, and others. Winship's goal is to move us from the false to the true. God created you, and in Christ, he has given you a name, an identity, and a calling. When you live out of your identity in Christ, your whole life changes. True freedom is found when you pursue your God-given calling, follow Jesus, and live out of your God-given identity (not the identity others assign to you, or even the identity you want or think of for yourself).
I'm not doing it justice. But then, I only read it six days ago. I'm still processing!
What are some of your favorite reads?