Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
July 1, 2018
Read any good books lately?
It takes a lot to startle an old-timer like me but it happened the other day. A young man who recently graduated from college told me he had not read a single book during his four years in college. Frankly, his confession blew me away.
He went on to tell me that none of his friends read books. I was flabbergasted. I had known that many people seldom read a book but I was unaware that even college students are ignoring the opportunity to read good books. I suppose my surprise springs from the fact that reading good books has been a delightful, lifelong habit with me.
Before I began the first grade in school, my mother had introduced me to the Bible. I still possess that old book of Bible stories with many color pictures. So before I learned the alphabet, I had heard Mama read stories of Abraham, Moses, David and Goliath, Jonah and Jesus. That instilled in me the idea that books were important.
Learning to read and write became my doorway to that wonderful room called the library. There I found exciting books about Tarzan, The Hardy Boys and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. During the hour-long school bus rides home, I would get lost in the jungle with Tarzan or whitewashing a fence with Huck and his buddies.
In my early teen years my mother suggested that I might enjoy reading a book by Charles M. Sheldon titled In His Steps. It was inspiring to read about ordinary people who began trying to imitate Jesus in daily living. The ultimate question for them was, “What would Jesus do?” Later I would recognize how profoundly this book influenced my decision to live my life as a servant of Jesus.
I suppose I have wasted a lot of money over the years giving books as gifts. But I like to think that perhaps one day my grandchildren will have matured to the point that they finally pick up and read some of the books I gave them when they were growing up. Hope springs eternal!
When I served as the chaplain for the Opelika High School football team, I witnessed firsthand the effective work of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The FCA makes a powerful difference for Christ in our schools. One year I bought 125 copies of the FCA New Testament and with the coach’s approval gave each team member and each coach a copy. I hope some of them read and treasured this impressive edition of the New Testament.
Over the years I have read hundreds of books. In recent years I have enjoyed history books, especially books about John Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill, Truman and MacArthur. A couple of years back, I read a dozen or so “thriller” novels but my interest in such fiction soon waned. James Patterson’s novels are captivating but every time I finished reading one, I realized it had not done anything for me. I want a book to help me, bless me and make me glad I read it!
Presently I am re-reading an old book by Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed. His thinking is still quite relevant for the church today. The brilliant Quaker philosopher died in 1994. I am also making my way through an excellent book, The Triumph of Christianity by Rodney Stark. The historical data in the book is fascinating! This relatively new book was a gift from a friend in Auburn.
Three books that influenced me greatly were The Imitation of Christ by Thomas aKempis, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. These books are worth their weight in gold to me.
Two other books that have become valuable to me recently are Soul Keeping by Roger Ortberg and The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. Each book is a wake-up call. Ortberg challenges me to embrace the disciplines that make for a healthy soul. Willard shames me with his penetrating analysis of the church today – we have failed to carry out the mandate of Christ to “make disciples.” Our churches have only enrolled people as “members,” thus making discipleship “optional.” A most disturbing idea!
The best book I have ever read is, of course, the Bible. Reading it is a source of constant joy because the Spirit continues to reveal new insights in familiar passages. There remain passages that I do not understand. But, like Mark Twain, I can say, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” And the more I understand, the more grateful I am that Mama introduced me to the Bible before I learned to read.
I hope you are finding the time these days to read a few good books! + + +