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Posts Tagged ‘books’

I have always wondered at the mystery of the phrase “God led me to…”.  I always wondered how God leads us.  Was it an audible voice?  If so then why could I never hear Him?  Was I not saved?

A couple years ago, when I was searching for direction in my life, this became a huge question.  How would I know where God was leading me if there was no “Voice from Heaven?”  Then, for my birthday, my Mom gave me a book by J. I. Packer titled Guard us, Guide us.  I was so excited.  Finally, a book that could teach me how to listen for God’s guiding call.

If you have ever read a J. I. Packer text, you will know that he is not a light read.  This is not something you can just pick up and set down with ease.  You have to invest some time with it.

So, I didn’t really get through the first chapter for about a couple years (sorry mom).

But, strangely enough, I began to see that, despite not reading this book (which I still plan to do), God has been leading me and I have been seeing it very clearly in my life.  Not that I’m perfect but I feel as if this book is now more of a supplement than a primary text.  Which is exciting in and of itself.  As I have been growing in my walk with God, I have been learning to follow Him and see His guiding hand.

So, now you may ask, how does one see God’s guidance in their life?

So far, through God’s word and Prayer.

What?  It’s that simple?

Yes.  Even more so.

We read what God has commanded of us in scripture.  This is the basic way of following God in a general sense.  You come to a decision point.  I am hungry for a snickers bar.  Do I steal one or do I pay for it?  What does God’s word say?  Stealing is a sin.  Answer: Pay for it. (Or be healthy and buy a carrot instead).

In a more situational sense, prayer would come into play in more than a mere “Lead us from temptation” sense.  You have to confront a friend, a brother or sister in Christ.  How do we go about it?  In love, yes.  One on one, yes.  These are the basic guidelines laid out by scripture.  But specifically how?  How will it play out?  Do you even confront them?  Is it your place?  These are all specific issues that are not necessarily covered in scripture.  “Do I date this Christian girl or that Christian girl?”  “Do I even date?”  “Can I watch rated R movies?”

If your reading this and this is something that you learned a long time ago, congrats and I wish I had.  But I hope this somewhat helps those who are still learning of God’s Guidance.  And seriously, you will want to pick up J. I. Packer’s book.  It’s a good read so far (I’m up to chapter 4).

Peace,

Bill

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Within the transparent frame of relevance is a picture that can be sustained only by the Divine.  He who moves, and breathes, and holds all things together.  It cannot be to anyone’s astonishment then when Christ graces His joint heirs with small sights of heaven.  Silent whispers that all is well.  To quote the great Spurgeon who was used mightily by God to proclaim the glory of God, “The cause is safe.  The King is on His throne!”

It was one of these moments that graced my friend.  She is Penny, for all intents and purposes.  She had been searching for grace, seeking for God when He spoke to her through another woman of high intellect.

Penny was reading a magazine when she noticed a book titled “A Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  Penny was inspired by the insight alluded to in this book and wanted to read more.

The story of how she obtained it is a small gift in and of itself.  But that’s not my story.

She showed the book to me and I glanced at the cover.  I am not sure of this has come across in my writing as of yet but I tend to be a snobby reader.  I dismissed “The Shack” for its reviews.  I have refused and mocked “Chicken Soup for the Soul” due to its “feel good message.”  I have looked down on J. K. Rowling for her use of the name “Light putter outer in the first of her famous novels, the first being for young readers.  I am cavalier in my reading habits at times.  I have probably hurt many with my careless critiques.

What I saw in the cover was a weak, sentimental, poorly thought out book based on drivel and emotions.  I saw the blue sky and thought weak.  I saw the birds nest and thought fragile.  I saw “inspirational” all over it, filled with white puffy clouds, rainbows, and bunny rabbits.”

Yet, because I trusted Penny, because I knew her reading habits were not to be dismissed, I opened to a random page of the book.  There before me read a quote by none other than C.S. Lewis.  I lifted my brow and looked farther.  There was a quote by Tolkien.  Two men I admired for their person and their writing were here in the same book by this Canadian woman of whom I have never heard of before.

Not sure how to feel about the book now, I glanced down at her writing.  Mrs. Voskamp slowly wrapped me within her writing with words that flowed and sentences that breathed.  Her writing was exquisite and her prose beautiful.  Her imagery was captivating and her wisdom silencing.  I almost could see Selah after every paragraph.

I was expecting fluffy rabbits and saw instead what Christ could inspire, the beauty He could bring about.  The joy inside the words are not dependant on events but mere thankfulness of Christ, who He is, and What He has done.  My Pastor summed it up quite nicely, “For every thought of yourself, think ten times upon Christ.”

Look back at my writings and you will see that this is something that resonated with me profoundly.  In the darkness of my mind, joy had become a foreign entity.  It is only just recently that I have been relearning what it is to be “happy”.  Emotions have been finding their resting place ransacked and rifled through in my life.  They are just learning to settle.  And now comes a woman who shows me a book where the Author eloquently and succinctly writes that “We are not to base our faith in Christ, our Joy, our happiness on events or others.  We are to look unto Christ and base those things we search for most upon Him.”  How amazing is that?!  In a world where calamity and death are about every turn we can turn away from that and in our pain be thankful for Christ!

It hearkens back to “Desiring God” by John Piper (though her words are more beautiful than his).

This is something I feel my parents have been trying to drive home my whole life.  They have tried to raise me in God and only now are some of their lessons becoming reality in my life.  So, sorry Mom.  I was listening but I finally get it.

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I don’t think anyone out there has really derided me for what I read or how often I do so.  There has been the inevitable “Wow, you read?  I just don’t have time for that.” Then I hear the popular “I’ve only read one book in my life,” or the variation “I didn’t even read the books in high school.”  And then I have heard “reading is pointless.  The only book you should read is the bible.”

If you don’t like reading, this is fine.  In fact, this probably means you have more of an interactive lifestyle, leading you to interact with more people (ever try reading with your friends?  Boring.)  But I do have to admit, the sin nature in me (pride, wanting to be right ALL the time, the search for ultimate knowledge), bristles at those statements.  “How can one not read?  How can one only read the Bible?”  This is not for selfless reasons.  Purely selfish in intent.

So I’ll knock that right out by stating this is not what this is.  I feel like enough time has passed since hearing this for this to be a post designed to glorify God, not glorify me.  So with this said, what is reading to me?

 

Growing up, there was not a lot of money and there were a lot of us.  So Disney was a guy who made cartoons and six flags were what those crazy neighbors decorated their houses with.  Our TV had two dials (not sure why) but there were only a couple channels it could get.  The houses we grew up in were mostly located on a busy street, making our experience of outside the back yard.  We did the parks, the boardwalks (love Jersey boardwalks before “The Jersey Shore” (Do I have to do that trademark thing or pay royalties for using that?)), the malls, and everywhere else you could go without using money.  They were good times.  But my favorite place growing up was the library.  One, I love the smell of old books.  ‘nuff said.  Two, I really enjoyed having all the options to choose from, all the ideas in one place, all the stories gathered together.

So, due to that environment, from watching my Mom steal minutes away in her non-fiction books between caring for us and the house, and watching Dad relax with a pulp fiction book with yellowed pages (why yellow?), I took to the written word easily.  I read whatever I could.  In fact, while other kids were banned from video games and TV for punishment, I wasn’t allowed to read.  Yeah, I’m a nerd.  I would get so desperate during those times that I would read the backs of cereal boxes, the warnings on cleaning solutions on the table, and the small print on medicine canisters.  Did you know that whenever you somehow got chemicals in your eyes, you would first want to flush your eyes out then contact your doctor?  I feel like that would be a natural response up to the “calling your doctor” bit.  Hopefully you had someone with enough sense and sight to, not call your doctor, but to drive your butt to the Emergency Room.

But I’m going off on a tangent.  Point is, I read a lot.  It got so bad that when I ran out of my books to read, I read my sister’s books.  Read all of Little House on the Prarie…Ok, those were mine.

 

Tangent

One of my greatest disillusionments growing up was realizing that Laura Ingalls Wilder never actually wrote her books and they weren’t always historically accurate (they were written by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane who was a columnist or some such thing).

My second disillusionment was finding out Charlotte Church had morphed into a pop star, leaving her classical work behind…but that’s another post (please no.)

 

Back on Track

I love reading.  Always have, always will.  Even when my eye sight will go, I will have lived long enough for them to install artificial ocular implants (hopefully not in the form of Levar Burton’s VISOR (another royalty fee owed?)).  My favorite book that my sister lent me was Anne of Green Gables.  Loved it.  I actually loved it so much, I used my man card as a book mark.  Yeah.

Anyway, I devoured books from William Bennet’s collections, to animal stories, to pioneer stories, to ancient historical fiction, to sci fi to mysteries.  It took me a day to get through the abridged and condensed Great Illustrated Classics.  They had the hardcovers and the soft covers.  I could get the soft covers for a dollar each at…a store that doesn’t exist any more and I can’t remember the name of (my one chance to escape having to pay royalties and I blow it).  My favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo and The Hound of the Baskervilles.  When I grew up I actually read both in the completed form.  The count was rough, took me several months to complete.

With all of this reading though, I read little of the actual bible.  Oh, I devoured this one bible story book that we had but that was about it.  I could tell you about Old Testament dudes that a lot of people don’t even know existed.  But when it came to that guy Paul or Peter, not so much.  And I would feel guilty but not enough to actually pick up the bible.

My non-fiction reading was non-existent.  I feel as if there were a handful of biographies and non-fiction up to my first year of college.  Of course, during high school, I got a lot of my theology from studying apologetics which probably isn’t the best way to form a theological foundation but it happened.

Now, in my young adult years, I am taking back the opportunity and reading some heavier stuff.  John Piper, J.I. Packer, David Platt, C.S. Lewis, Josh Harris, Francis Chan to list some of them…most of them…all of them.  I’m working on it.  I’m waiting for the day when I can jump into Jon Edwards, John Owen, and John Calvin.  The three Johns.  I am finding that it is a different beast, reading for information than for mere story.  And I’m finding my memory needs some help.  So I’m going through more with a pen marking in the margins as I read.

 

Where am I Going With This?

 

As I come across people, there are those who read and those who don’t, as I stated before.  Here is my argument.  As a Christian, as a follower of Christ, one must become a reader.  I’m not saying always have a book on hand or an e-reader.  But we all must become, to one degree or another, a reader in our own way.

We are given the inspired word of God as a way to know and commune with the Creator of the universe.  Those who read it incorrectly go off and form cults.  Those who don’t read it are not going to grow spiritually as we cannot be always spoon fed.

Then there are books about the bible.  Those who read it incorrectly are well advised to read these books so as to correct and inform their thinking.  I am not taking away from one of the offices of the Holy Spirit in helping us discern the scriptures for ourselves.  But I am saying that there are a million helpful texts out there (Fee and Stuart come to mind in “How to read the Bible for all it’s worth”).

Then there are secular books.  I feel it’s important to read these at times in order to see man for who he is.  Also, I have heard it said before, God has not given Christians the market on truth.  You can find it outside of the Christian bubble…sometimes in a more potent form.  Stephen King and Lovecraft come to mind.

 

Reading is part of the Christian faith.  Its part of our walk.  So try it.  It cant hurt.  And there’s always books on tape.  Their fun, especially if it’s a good voice actor.  I don’t think I really ever read a “Borrower” book, just listened to them on tape.  On a walkman.  Wow I’m old.

 

Peace,

Bill

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