6 Books that Changed My Christianity Forever

Have you ever come to one of those moments in life where it becomes abundantly obvious that you’re not ‘normal’?

It’s not as if there is a universally agreed upon definition of ‘normal’, just the fact that your reaction to something doesn’t match almost everyone else’s reactions. Pick any issue where your thoughts don’t line up with the majority, and we instantly insert the mental construct that we are weird, different, special, unique… NOT ‘normal’.

The most recent example of this self-reflective moment for me was during a recent business trip for Belief IQ when I received word from the dog sitter that one of our dogs had died during the night, and my first reaction was to check internally and see if it felt like it was time for her to go or not. I immediately came back with the answer that it was too early for her to die, and thus, I would bring her back to life when I got home. (Without getting into all of the details, my dog did not choose to come back and she has moved on for good.)

Even if bringing living beings back from the dead is something you believe in, there is a good chance that this little article just got really ‘weird’ for you. “Is this guy really going to talk about resurrecting dogs?”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about resurrecting dogs. I’m simply using it as a drastic example of the ways in which we can all view things very differently, even things that 99% of the world may consider to be a foregone conclusion.

In this case, I no longer view death as a foregone conclusion.

Does it happen? Of course (I’m not blind).

Does it HAVE to happen? Not according to the things I believe.

And that’s just it… The things we believe become the things that define us.

As I mentally and emotionally work through the death of my dog, I can’t help but look back on the path that’s brought me to a place where doggy-resurrection is a ‘normal’ belief for me.

  • 15 years ago I would have laughed at myself for even suggesting such a thing.
  • 10 years ago I would have thought it possible, but certainly not considered myself ready to perform such an act.
  • 5 years ago I would have hoped for an opportunity to practice raising the dead (that didn’t require someone or something precious to me to be the guinea pig).
  • 2 weeks ago I assumed I could bring my dog back to life when I got back from my trip (3 days after she died).

books that changed my life and my Christianity forever

What on earth happened to me?

I grew up in a fairly traditional evangelical Christian home.

I learned that the Bible was the 4th member of the trinity, Jesus loves me, the Father was going to kill me (but he couldn’t because of Jesus’s love for me), and the Holy Spirit is a ghost that only visits ‘special’ people.

Sunday mornings were time for doing church stuff, and the rest of the week was somehow connected to God but the church stuff was a bit too weird for the ‘real’ world.

I loved God (mostly Jesus and the Bible), tried my best to not be the miserable wretch that I really was deep down inside, and performed all sorts of rituals that had become normal to me as rights of passage to join this special group.

I was a ‘Christian’.

The problem that I ran into while being a ‘Christian’ was that I was REALLY good at it. I was so good that they eventually decided to hire me and pay me for my professional ‘christianing’ skills. This was a problem precisely because being really good at christianizing is the first step to thinking that your actions make you holy, righteous, and ‘saved’. This is the subtle lie of any religion, and is the reason Jesus didn’t start a new religion when He was here.

No one wakes up one day and realizes their entire life is a lie, then immediately understands all the nuance of what is completely false, partially false, partially true, close to the truth but not quite understood, true but miss-applied, culturally true, and universally true. You can certainly wake up one day to the lies you’re living, but understanding what to replace them with… that can take years. Digging down to the root principles of truth buried inside ALMOST every religious tradition/ritual… that can take a lifetime.

My journey to doggie-resurrection belief really started with 3 core ideas:

  1. I actually believed the stories I read in the Bible.
  2. I actually believed I could be like Jesus.
  3. I actually believed I could understand God.

I don’t know where I got these ideas, but I do know that they came in that order. My entire journey sprouted from these 3 beliefs, and over the last 15 years they have driven from one idea to another, all the way to the point where raising my dog from the dead 3 days later is a ‘normal’ idea for me.

New Thoughts:
The base ingredient for personal growth

“If all your thinking has gotten you to a place that you don’t like, have another thought.” – Graham Cooke

My journey of thinking differently started primarily in the realm of spiritual ideas. Because being a professional Christian was my entire world, if I was going to experience any real change in my life, it had to be in the world of ‘spirituality’ first. Insert Rob Bell and Brian McLaren: two teachers that rocked my ‘world’ 15 years ago.

If you're an evangelical Christian, there is little doubt you've heard of Rob Bell. Most famous for his so-called 'book about hell' (which ISN'T a book about hell) called Love Wins, Rob has become known as a false teacher, a rebel, and an outlaw in most evangelical circles. Yet, when Rob first stepped into the spotlight of famous evangelical teachers, his first book called Velvet Elvis was earth-shattering for me (and many, many others around the world). It is the book that catapulted him into being one of the most respected orators of the 'gospel' for quite a few years, and even if you're not a fan of his current stuff, this book is well worth the read.

⤑Lesson I Learned from
Velvet Elvis

It's ok to ask questions about EVERYTHING you've been taught. God will still love you even if you're wrong. Chances are you're wrong about something right now, and yet, God still hasn't struck you dead. Perhaps He's not the delicate flower you've been taught He was.

While Velvet Elvis was the clear milestone at the beginning of my journey to doggie-resurrection faith, a fair examination of my journey would have to include Brian McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christian as the initial seed that gave me 'permission' to start thinking differently. I've read multiple books by Brian (Adventures In Missing the Point being my favorite book title EVER), but the one that ultimately sealed the deal for my inability to turn back to an old way of thinking was a lesser-known book he wrote called The Secret Message of Jesus.

I once sat in a weekly inter-denominational church leadership breakfast meeting and listened to a pastor rip this book up one side and down the other as a heresy and pack of lies. As someone who had read the book (multiple times), I could tell by his statements that he hadn't actually opened the book to even read the first chapter. This pastor kept talking about how "the author thinks he's discovered Jesus's secret message" and that such ideas we of the devil, when, in fact, the 'secret' message of Jesus has NOTHING to do with Brian thinking he's found some hidden codex in Jesus's teachings. It is actually a reference to the fact that Jesus explicitly states that he teaches in parables so that people won't understand what he's saying (Mark 4:11-12).

The fact that Jesus's message was a 'secret' is in the fact that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion. If that was his goal, his message would have been loud, clear, and popular. Instead, Jesus was on a radical journey to start a revolution in the way people lived their everyday lives on every level: political, social, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual.

His 'secret message' was the kingdom of God, and it was so radical that it knocked over many of the conventional assumptions, priorities, values, and practices of those who heard it.

⤑Lesson I Learned from 
The Secret Message of Jesus

If your 'faith' doesn't work its way into your 'real' life (remember, I had been taught that 'real' life and 'church' were different), you're a fraud. Most of the people who are shouting their message from the mountaintops have no clue what the Kingdom is really about. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. If your life doesn't reflect what you say you believe, something is missing (just like the Pharisees of Jesus's day).

New Possibilities:
Everyone needs something to look forward to

Personally, I’ve found that my growth-spurts come in seasons.

The previous 2 books mentioned above both came into my life less than a few months apart. The transformation they started took 6 or 7 years to fully integrate with my life (along with many other things I learned during that time), and when the dust settled I found myself struggling with a few concepts that had previously been long-settled. You know… those pesky foregone conclusions that are no longer concluded.

  1. What do I do with the idea that I’m supposed to be able to do what Jesus was able to do?
  2. Why is the Church still here on earth, and why does it seem so powerless?
  3. How on earth do we ‘get along’ with everyone else when we ‘obviously’ know that they’re wrong and we’re right?

While it’s difficult to find honest answers to these questions ‘inside’ evangelical communities, the forgone conclusions about all of the them are pretty standardized.

  1. We can’t ACTUALLY do what Jesus did. He’s God. You’re not. Stop asking questions.
  2. We’re here to wait for Jesus to come back and finish the job. He didn’t ‘finish’ it the first time. Or maybe it was finished, but we screwed it up again. Either way, He’s not actually “waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet” (Heb 10:11-13), we’re waiting for Him to do it. Stop asking questions!
  3. We’re right. They’re wrong. They’re all going to hell… unless they agree with us. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Yes, of course we get to define what’s ‘sin’ and what isn’t! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!

When I used to think of being 'like' Jesus, I couldn't help but focus on His capacity to heal. Yet, in the Christian tradition I grew up in, the subject of healing and miracles rarely came up. For all intents and purposes you couldn't tell a difference between how a Christian dealt with sickness and how a non-believer dealt with sickness. Other than 'thoughts and prayers', the tools we used to combat the problems we faced in life were identical.

Then I met a man by the name of Clint Herrema who began to show me a different perspective of spiritual power. I ultimately ended up working with him for 4 years and in the early stages of our relationship he suggested I read Christ the Healer by F.F. Bosworth. While there are many books available on the subject, Christ the Healer was Clint's specific recommendation for me because I was so stuck on figuring out what the BIBLICAL case was for us being capable of spiritual healing.

Unpacking the scriptural premise for our place in the world as 'healers', this book was the final answer on the subject that I needed. Once I was done reading it, I was able to set aside any question as to my ability as a healer, and as a result, I immediately began operating in healing.

⤑Lesson I Learned from 
Christ the Healer

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are meant to be healers. There is no question as to whether or not healing is still possible now. There is no question as to whether or not we have the 'power' to heal. Christ is a healer, we are healers. Case closed.

Given the name of this next book, I don't suspect that you'll be surprised to find out that I don't believe in the 'rapture' (as commonly taught in evangelical traditions). To even attempt at an explanation of why I don't believe this would require a book's worth of information, and thankfully Dr. Jonathan Welton already wrote one.

Suffice to say that Raptureless covers every single 'End Times' prophecy and/or scripture in the Bible and makes an amazingly clear-cut argument that the vast majority of those prophecies were fulfilled with Jesus' ministry or 40 years later in 70 A.D. when Rome finally destroyed Jerusalem. Dr. Welton is a proponent of 'partial preterism', and if you desire more information on the subject we have many of his videos curated in the Epoch Library.

So why does a book about not believing in the rapture make my list of 10 Books that Changed My Life? Because this book gave me my future back!

One of the most damaging doctrines in modern-day Christianity is the idea that we're just waiting to get sucked up out of here so God can come and kill everyone else once and for all. There are so many logical fallacies in this idea, I don't know where to start. Nonetheless, if you take a moment to consider what you would do differently if you truly believed that our job was to bring heaven to earth (not escape earth to go to heaven someday), I believe you might realize just how much of your vision for the Kingdom has been stolen from you by this idea.

If you're a Christian who finds the Church to be less than meaningful these days, consider revisiting your idea of 'the end'. You just might find there isn't one. At least not like the one you've always been taught.

SIDE NOTE: If you're really interested in revisiting your concept of the 'end times' and the rapture, you owe it to yourself to also understand the covenant progression laid out in the Bible. Dr. Welton's book, Understanding the Whole Bible is the #1 book I recommend for anyone who genuinely wants to... well... understand the whole Bible. The only reason I don't have this book on my list is because I already understood the concepts laid out in this book before Dr. Welton released it, otherwise it would be.

⤑Lesson I Learned from 
Raptureless

The 'end of the world' already happened (in 70 A.D.). Jesus wasn't wrong (as C.S. Lewis concluded about Mathew 24). The end of the Jewish world came and went, just as Christ said it would, and now we live in a world that is completely redeemed. The only thing left to do is for us to turn earth into heaven. We are the ones the universe is waiting on. That is our future.

For the past 10 years I have largely found myself disconnected from any particular societal group. I'm too 'spiritual' for most evangelicals. Too 'Christian' for most new agers. Too 'new age' for most Christians. Too obsessed with the Bible for most 'spiritual' people. And my theology shifts too fast and too often to stay in any group for too long. After 6 or 7 years of this I realized I needed a new way of looking at relationships if I was ever going to keep any.

Thank you Danny Silk! Your insights to the human experience have changed my life in so many ways.

As someone who has seen his fair share of broken relationships and unkind judgments, I can tell you that there truly is a way to view life that allows you to keep peace in as many ways as possible. A majority of the understanding I have about these perspectives has come from two of Danny Silk's primary concepts - keeping a Culture of Honor and Keeping Your Love On. In the complex world of emotions and relationships, Danny has a skill that is second-to-none for keeping it simple, upbeat, and amazingly insightful.

  • I now know that it's possible to disagree with someone and not break relationship with them.
  • I know how to have a hard conversation with someone and not let the volume raise or tears take over.
  • I understand what it means to have people in my life who think differently than I do, and yet, still honor them and appreciate who they are.

While these ideas may seem like easy, 'entry-level' adulting stuff, I tend to think that most of our modern society doesn't have a clue about how to do relationships. If you need a refresher course on how to deal with people, I highly suggest becoming a Danny Silk fan.

⤑Lesson I Learned from
Culture of Honor

Honoring people isn't an emotion, it's a matter of character and choice. Honoring people doesn't mean you become a doormat. Honoring people is for my sake, not theirs. If we are ever going to create the world that EVERYONE is looking for... you know, a perfect world where everyone gets along... we must have honor at the center of it. It was never the point for us to all agree on everything. It's honoring each other in our disagreements that makes us 'unified'.

New Principles:
Understanding our place in the universe

“If anything is true, there is a way in which in must be true.” – Thomas Troward

Perhaps not everyone is obsessed with the questions surrounding our existence as a human race, but I know I am… or at least, I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still obsessed with the ideas about our place in the universe, but I no longer call them ‘questions’. Right or wrong, I have reached a level of understanding that has honestly satisfied 98% of the burning passion inside of me to know the deeper things of life and God and time and space and emotion and thought and creativity and pain and everything else.

Not that there’s nothing else for me to learn (I’m not a know-it-all, I promise), just that there are PRINCIPLES that I have an understanding of that give me the tools I need to uncover the answer to any question I can throw at them (at least to this point).

I don’t feel like I know everything, I simply feel like I have access to anything I might want to know.

Back in February of 2016 I was riding on a plane, surrounded by 20-30 college cheerleaders coming back from the X-Games, reading Thomas Troward's book, The Creative Process in the Individual, in tears. With my headphones in and my hat pulled way down on my head I read the Creative Process as if I had found an oasis on Mars.

For the previous 2-3 years I had grown increasingly 'weird' in my ideas, and while there was a small group of people who absolutely loved what I taught, I was genuinely beginning to wonder if I was going crazy. I certainly felt 'normal', but when you have an entire construct of how the universe works that you can't find anyone else talking about, you can't help but wonder if you live in a mental fantasy that you can't find your way out of.

And then I found 'Uncle TT' (a.k.a. Thomas Troward).

The Creative Process in the Individual has been the single most significant book I've ever read in my life (aside from the Bible... honestly).

For me, it wasn't so much about the content inside the book that rocked my world (although it is absolutely amazing), but rather the fact that when I was reading on that plane, it was the first time in 3 years that I didn't feel alone in my thought processes. Sure, there were others who liked and believed in what I was teaching, but being a convincing 'crazy guy' has never been my goal.

Now, whenever someone asks me what I believe about the deep things of life I just tell them to read Thomas Troward. He is, by far, my favorite author, and I can't recommend his writings enough for anyone who wants to grow in their understanding of how EVERYTHING really works.

⤑Lesson I Learned from
The Creative Process in the Individual

First and foremost, I personally learned that I'm not alone in my 'crazy'. Humanity absolutely has a place in the creative process of the universe. We are the body of God (God on the physical plain). It is our beliefs that insert our intention into the creative process of life. We have the capacity to shape our lives on purpose. Chance is an illusion.

Conclusion

So, to be honest, this article was supposed to be about 10 books, not 6. It was supposed to cover other aspects of life (other than spiritual) like business, money, and leadership. And it was supposed to be half the size that it is. Still, when it comes to my personal journey over the past 15 years it is the spiritual side of that journey that has caused 80% of the change, and I can’t help but get a little ‘preachy’ about it. I hope you don’t mind.

In the end, our lives are the sum total of the things we’ve learned and implemented, and my life is very much a reflection of these 6 books (for better or worse). While you may not know me personally, I can promise you that anyone looking to revisit their Christianity with sincerity and boldness would do well to read these books. If this sounds like you, and you want a little guidance along the way, send us a message and let’s talk. I love to share the things I’ve learned and help others continue on their own personal journey.

I’m no longer a ‘normal’ person, I know that for sure. Doggie resurrections aside, when I look at the world’s definition of ‘normal’, I don’t think I want to be normal anyway. While I know there’s still more work to be done, I am extremely satisfied with the person I’ve become over these 15 years. To that end, I thank each and every one of these authors for playing a huge part in making me who I am today.

About the communicator

Austin

Austin is the Executive Director of Category Five Ministries and is the originator of New Age Christianity and Belief IQ. He is a Scorpio, who likes long walks on the beach and cuddling by the fire... oh, and he likes long theological discussions over a cigar and Bourbon. He loves to pontificate about almost any subject and is never afraid to believe stuff that goes against conventional wisdom (maybe to a fault). Time will tell, but he may just be the craziest teacher to grace the internet... ever!


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