As many of you know I am passionate about Christian biographies. Other than the Scriptures, nothing has had a greater impact on my spiritual formation. I want to give you a cornucopia of choices as you prepare your heart for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday!
My favorite missionary of all time is Amy Carmichael. I have read many biographies of her life, but my two favorites are Amma by Elizabeth Skoglund with a foreword by Ruth Bell Graham and the second is written by a fellow Belfaster, Pastor Derick Bingham, entitled The Wild-Bird Child. You will be fascinated to learn that Amy Carmichael's ministry, Dohnovur, was highly influenced by the work of Charlotte Mason. Her love of beauty and light in the midst of a dark culture never fails to inspire me.
John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace is another highly impactful biography. What I love about this book is that the author, Jonathan Aitken, although previously an esteemed member of the British Parliament, was imprisoned for charges of perjury, having told a lie on oath in a lawsuit. While incarcerated Aitken had a dramatic conversion to Christ and is now head of Prison Fellowship in England. I thoroughly enjoyed Aitken's insight into the rebellious and hard heart of John Newton and his equally amazing conversion. Christ transformed him into one of the greatest pastors and songwriters in the history of the church.
Herald St. John & Patricia St. John
Many of you know of my esteem for the British missionary and author Patricia St. John. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her autobiography entitled Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story. Her descriptions of her missionary and evangelist father motivated me to locate a copy of the biography composed of his life entitled Herald St. John: A Portrait by His Daughter. After reading the story of the great man of God I understood a little bit more about the depth of Patricia St. John’s theology and her personal zeal.
A modern day giant of the faith in our era was the British pastor and author John Stott. A recent book for children was published immediately after his death entitled The Humble Leader. I was so inspired by his humility amid his success and his tireless ministry right up until his death. This is a book I stayed up nights reading.
Rees Howells Intercessor by Norman Grub is a book that will upend your Christian life. It was said of him, “He was the biggest hearted Christian I ever met.” His obedience, generosity, and trust in God have seldomly been exceeded. Rarely have I been more challenged by the life of a fellow Christian.
Dr. Nelson Bell
You may be unaware of the fact that Billy Graham was mentored by his father-in-law, Dr. Nelson Bell. Billy Graham said, “Dr. Nelson Bell was one of the major influences in my life and ministry. In fact, as I look back I am convinced that one of the reasons God, in His providence, allowed Ruth Bell to become by wife was so that Dr. Nelson Bell would become my father-in-law!” The story of Dr. Bell’s life as a missionary doctor is told in John Pollock’s biography A Foreign Devil in China. It is a must-read.
Dr. Ben Carson
Many of you are familiar with the movie Gifted Hands, but have you read the book? It is the autobiography of the world famous brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson. He is most famous for pioneering the surgical separation of twins conjoined at the brain. Carson's book is a wonderful tribute to his mother, who forced him to turn off the television set and to start reading books!
A biographer you may not be familiar with is Lyle Dorsett, Ph.D. Of his many titles I would recommend three for your perusal. A Passion for Souls is considered by many to be the finest biography on the life of Dwight L. Moody. I love how human and approachable Moody becomes under Dorsett's pen.
Another literary specialty of Dr. Dorsett's is the life of C.S. Lewis. The best biography I have ever read on C.S. Lewis is Dorsett’s Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C.S. Lewis. This book had a tremendous impact on my own spiritual formation and I believe it will on yours as well. My final recommendation of Dr. Dorsett's is And God Came In: The Extraordinary Life of Joy Davidman (her life and marriage to C.S. Lewis). It was made into the movie The Shadowlands.
Although I could go on and on, I am going to close with a book I am sure you have never heard of, but it challenged me in a very deep way. The book is entitled When God Says Go: The Amazing Journey of a Slave Daughter by Lorri Lutz. It is the story of Eliza Davis-George, the daughter of slaves, who grew up in racially segregated Texas. Taking the stories that she heard in Sunday school to heart, she spent her entire life, until 95 years of age, serving the traumatized and hurting people in Liberia. On her 100th birthday hundreds of Liberians paraded through the streets carrying banners that read:
“MOTHER ELIZA GEORGE…HER LIFE WAS THE BEST COMMENTARY OF THE BIBLE WE HAVE EVER READ!”
What’s the one question your children always ask as you read a great book? “Did this really happen?” After reading all these books the answer can be an emphatic “Yes!”