“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.” - Lailah Gifty Akita
Over the years I have had the opportunity to read hundreds of books by dozens of brilliant, God-loving, life-seasoned authors. Of these, a few have left impressions deeper than most.
I wholeheartedly believe you can be “mentored” by men and women you have never met. If you take the time to read their words and think deeply about why they wrote them, you cannot help but be shaped by them.
These men have met me at the mountaintops and valley-lows in my life. They took my mind’s hand and led me to new places. Both places I didn’t know existed and ones I deeply feared. If you’ve never read any of their work, read this post and then grab one of their books!
John Piper - How to love God more than anything else.
I was in my second year of college (first year at a Christian college) when my roommate handed me a book that would forever change how I thought about the Christian life: Desiring God. Piper is a giant within the Reformed, conservative community. A scholar by training, he felt called to go into ministry after teaching for only a few years. Once he landed in Bethlehem Baptist Church, he remained there for over 30 years of faithful ministry.
Piper helped me understand the gap that often lies between knowing about God, and knowing God. Just a glance at his works (The Pleasures of God, Don’t Waste Your Life, Future Grace) and it’s clear that he is not writing as one who just thinks about God, but one who regularly meets with Him – and the fruit of those meetings is the what we get to glean in his writings. He is the proverbial Moses, coming down the mountaintop with his face aglow with God’s presence.
He is far from a perfect man, but he is an example I hope to follow in my walk.
William Paley - How to recognize what the world around us is telling us about God.
I first stumbled upon Natural Theology in an apologetics class. Paley is famous for his “teleological” argument for the existence of God. I was never much for apologetics; although I see the value in being able to argue and defend one’s faith. I was much more interested in diving into the text of Scripture.
But Paley was a key figure who caused me to raise my head and notice the world in a redemptive fashion. Every piece of creation has something to teach us about God: the order of creation, the details of the smallest organisms, the expanse of the universe. God has, and is, revealing Himself to all of us every single day. We just have to learn how to be observant enough to care, and brave enough to ask why.
Walter Brueggemann – How to study the Bible like you mean it.
Do you know how you can get Mexican food without getting “real” Mexican food. Rather than the authentic ingredients and flavor, it’s just a version of Mexican that satisfies you. The sad thing is that some people never realize that what they’re tasting isn’t the “real” thing!
When it comes to studying the Bible, Brueggemann is the “real” thing. He’s the flavor so many other pastors and writers and scholars aspire to, but just can’t quite measure up. While there are many great teachers of the Bible out there today, few have lived in it like Brueggemann has. The Bible isn’t merely his hobby or profession. It’s his life. It’s his air, and it shows.
The first time I read his Introduction to the Old Testament, I had already spent the last 3 years seriously studying (at least in my opinion) the Bible. However, I wasn’t even able to make it past the first 2 pages of the introduction before Brueggemann tore down my framework and began to build a new one. One built on stronger ground, with better materials, and which has enabled me to climb higher than I’ve ever thought possible.
Richard Foster - Raw humanity produces powerful prayers.
Next to my NIV Bible, Foster’s book on Prayer is the one book I have read the most times. It is my encyclopedia on prayer. Every time I come to it, I learn something new. I’m exposed to a fresh technique, or the Holy Spirit uses it to call me out in areas I have slipped.
Foster can get a bad rap at times for his openness to the Christian mystics. Yet, his methodology on prayer has much more in common with the historical church than do our modern “God bless my day and bless my food” prayers.
He constantly pushes me to pray as if God is actually listening. As if God cares. And, most of all, as though God is powerful enough to do something. We cannot be strong Christians and weak prayer-warriors.
Dr. Gregory Boyd and Dr. Peter Enns - How to be unrelenting in one's faith and unafraid to ask terrifying questions of the Biblical text.
In many denominations, the Bible has become a sort of idol. Instead of taking it off the shelf and working through it to understand God, we leave it on the shelf and worship it as though it was as untouchable as God.
Two writers have sensed this growing frustration within the church and have been writing to rectify it: Dr. Gregory Boyd and Dr. Peter Enns. Ironically, I didn’t discover these writers through their books but stumbled across them on YouTube. Through their short videos and interviews began to transform my understanding of Scripture. They didn’t tip-toe around the historical landmines. Instead, the dove right in and showed that yes – it is confusing, but it is not dangerous. The Bible is beautifully complex, and when we try to pretend like it’s not, we suffocate it.
Two recommended videos:
Peter Enns – When Apostles Misquote the Bible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7zSDp8LBic
Gregory Boyd – What is Open Theism? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gApXDGjyksw
These are just five men of the hundreds who have shaped how I think and interact with God and my faith. Again, if you’ve never heard of one of them before, I recommend you pick up one of their books. Next week I’ll take a look at a related subject: 5 women who have shaped my theology.
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