Friday, December 20, 2013

The Power of the Written Word: Why I Will Never Stop Reading Books

My wife can attest to the fact I am a bibliophile, a person who collects and has a great love of books.  I have told her on several occasions that if I ever appear on an episode of "Hoarders" it will be because I have lost all control and filled my home floor-to-ceiling with books.  We recently bought and moved into our first home, and several friends showed up to help us.  After unloading about 15 straight boxes of just books, one of my exhausted friends looked at my wife and told her she really needed to buy me a Kindle. I agree.

A poll taken in October said 28% of Americans did not read a book at all this past year.  I also found this article which says that two-thirds of parents do not read to their children.  I hope this trend doesn't continue.  I believe there is still something special about holding a book in your hands and reading it, and I am including Kindles, Nooks, and other e-book devices in this.  (Gotta keep up with the times)

As a Christian, my love for the written word starts with Scripture.  I believe with all my heart it is the only word given to us by God, it reveals to me the character of God and His plan of redemption through Jesus, and  it transforms my life daily.  The Bible is my starting point, but my love for books goes beyond that.  I love all genres, fiction and non-fiction.  Books have shaped the person I am.  My character, beliefs, and intellect have all been shaped in some way by the books I have read along with the great people I have encountered along the way.  Here are the three main reasons I will never stop reading and being influenced by books.

Reading Means You Never Stop Learning

We learn in many ways whether through life experiences, verbal communication, or television and media, but I believe reading is still one of the best means of instruction.  Books are written for various reasons, but they are all educational in some way.  When you read a biography of someone's life, you find areas of identification with that person and you learn from their experiences.  Reading a work of non-fiction can be educational in several ways whether it's instructional, historical, or idealogical.  Fiction is educational as well.  A protaganist that is a police office give us perspective on that type of life, or a character who suffers from some type of disorder educates us about the rigors of that kind of life.  As long as you are reading, you are learning.

Reading Means You Never Lose Your Sense of Imagination

I know this mostly applies to fiction, so all of you who never read fiction, try it some time.  It fuels your own imagination to read a story.  I may never go to France, but I can read a story set in France and imagine I'm there.  I can't travel back in time, but I can read a story set in ancient Rome and suddenly I'm temporarily transported to another time and place.  And be honest, how many of you have ever went to open a wardrobe and secretly longed to peek though the coats and clutter and see a snowy landscape with a light pole in the middle of a pine forest and a faun having a conversation with Lucy Pevensie about a great lion who rules the land?  It is one of my worst fears to one day lose my sense of wonder and creativity.  I believe as long as there is a book to read my imagination will always be engaged.

Reading Means You Will Never Stop Being Inspired

As I said, many of my beliefs grew out of something I read.  Reading inspires us.  Life is difficult, and we all need an escape.  We all need something to distract us and to inspire us.  I know that if it weren't for books I would lack inspiration.  I need to hear stories about people who have overcome tragedy.  I need to read stories about people who have been severly wronged and have somehow found the ability to forgive.  I need to read real life stories about men and women that God has used for His puroses and His glory.  I need to have my beliefs challenged and my soul encouraged.  I need to be inspired, and books provide this.

So if it's been a while since you have immersed yourself in a good book, pick one off the shelf, dust it off, and dive in.  Learn, engage your sense of wonder and imagination, and be inspired.  It's never too late to become an avid reader, and it's never too early to start reading to your children.  Embrace the power of the written word.

What books have inspired you?  Comment below with some of your favorites and why you love them!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Season of Reconciliation

Earlier this summer, my wife and I bought our first house.  It was very exciting for us.  We put a lot of work into it, and finally in October we moved in.  Because of the work and money put into the home, Rebekah and I have decided not to buy each other any gifts this year.  This has caused me to meditate more on how I can give gifts that can't be bought.  As our church has been preparing for Advent and the Christmas season, my pastor has been preaching on these intangible gifts as well.  He has mentioned several times that Christmas needs to be a season of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

The concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation saturate Scripture.  In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus admonishes us to leave our sacrifices at the altar and go be reconciled with the one we have wronged.  Paul says in Romans 5:10, say that even though we were enemies of God we were "reconciled to God through the death of His Son". (HCSB)  

If the person of Jesus is the heart of the Christian message, then the concept of reconciliation is the life-blood coursing through its veins.  Scripture is very clear that through the death of Christ we are reconciled to God, and because of the sacrifice of Christ we can also be reconciled to each other.  Forgiving someone who has wronged you or seeking forgiveness from someone you have wronged is one of the best gifts you can give this Christmas season.  Be reconciled to each other.

There is no limit on forgiveness.  Jesus commands us in regards to forgivness to do what it seems we are incapable of doing, forgive others in the same way God has forgiven you.  C.S. Lewis said in Weight of Glory, "to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you".  This couldn't be more true.

This Christmas season, if you have been wronged, choose to forgive.  If you have wronged someone else, seek forgiveness.  Choosing to forgive someone who has sinned against you is giving them the most precious gift you can give.  We are all prone to wander.  We are prone to forget the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation God has given us in Christ Jesus.

I love the words that Matthew West wrote in a song called "Forgivneness".

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Let's seek the most precious gifts this season.  Celebrate reconciliation to God and to each other.  Celebrate the Incarnation.  Celebrate the King of Heaven come to earth to set men free.  Celebrate Jesus, the Great Reconciler of sinners to God


Piper, John.  "C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Forgiveness.