During this COVID-19 quarantine, several people have told me how bored they are. With the social distancing, isolation and self-quarantining, they say it is hard to find things to do. Well, I have a suggestion and
it's not more TV!
Actually, most of us are watching too much television to deal with the boredom. According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches over 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Think about it - How many more mindless reality shows do you need to see? How many more arguments about politics do you need to watch? How many "Law and Orders" or "Chicago PDs" do you need to view before your mind turns to mush?
Reading is a vital activity that every serious Christian needs! If you want to know, grow, flourish, and minister for God, you need to add reading to your daily regimen. No one is that smart or gifted. You need the wisdom and experiences of hundreds of people over thousands of years to help you with life, your Christian walk, and your base of knowledge to become the person God wants you to be.
With so many out of work, kids out of school, this shelter-in-place edict, and some free time, I want to talk with you about reading. Here are some reading ideas for you:
Read books to understand the Bible. In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul is imprisoned in Rome. Here Paul asks Timothy to bring him some specific items. In verse 13, Paul tells Timothy
"bring ... my scrolls." The Greek word here is biblion which refers to papyrus and its bark. So, this was inscribed paper for written documents and reference materials. Since Paul studied under the great teacher, Gamaliel, he must have had scrolls and notebooks from the lectures. Paul needed commentaries, dictionaries, lexical aids, theological treatises to study. Paul needed his books and so do you!
Now certainly Paul needed the Scriptures because 2 Timothy 4:13 uses the word
"parchments" next. This is the Greek word membrana meaning sheepskins. As a Pharisee, Paul must have had his own copies of the Old Testament because he quoted it so much in his letters. You need the Scriptures to encourage, inspire, warn, and instruct you. But there are some misguided folks who piously will say
"all I need is the Bible." They don't understand that extra-biblical sources don't replace the Bible, but that they explain the Bible. You need books to help you understand the Bible!
Whether you have a theological education or not, we need help! You might look at the back page of my sermon outlines on Sundays for commentaries on the Bible books we are studying. You might read some theology like:
Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson or Bible survey like
What the Bible is All About by Henrietta C. Mears.
Read books to deepen your walk with Christ. When you read good books by men and women who walked with God, it is like sitting down for a long conversation with the godliest people of the last two millennia. Imagine things they can teach you!
Read books like:
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A' Kempis;
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence,
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster,
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen,
Power Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds,
Meditation by James Downing,
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper,
The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas,
What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, and
Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray. Read
The Treasure Principal, and
If God is Good which are all by Randy Alcorn. Read
The Pursuit of God and
The Knowledge of the Holy which are both by A. W. Tozer. Read
The Spirit of the Disciplines and
Hearing God by Dallas Willard. If you read books like these, you will be able to combat spiritual dryness and keep your soul soft toward God.
Read pulpit greats like Alexander MacClaren, Charles Spurgeon, Clovis Chappel, F. W. Boreham, Joseph Parker, G. Campbell Morgan, and Clarence Macartney to help you grow in your faith. Some young pastors are writing some terrific books now:
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt (not a blood relative but a brother in Christ) and
Crazy Love by Francis Chan.
Read books to learn about other Christians. When I was a teenager, I read
To the Golden Shore about Adoniram Judson. Then, I read
Through Gates of Splendor about the Ecuador missionaries who were martyred. You will learn about commitment and faith from biographies of great Christians like: C. T. Studd, John and Betty Stamm, Billy Sunday, Martin Luther, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Fanny Cosby, and many more. I hope to read
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas in the near future.
Read books to move out of your comfort zone. Books allow you to fearlessly examine other points of view. Read books to see things from another's perspective. If you are dispensational, read R. C. Sproul and John Piper. If you are a Calvinist, read Norman Geisler and Charles Ryrie. I have even learned from Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen, and Jack Hayford. Like my dad used to say:
"eat the fish, spit out the bones." Use that principle as you read.
Read books to understand how the unbelieving world thinks. Read books about and by celebrities, sports figures, and politicians to see what make them tick. I read
The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton. How can we understand the unchurched mind unless we read what they read? How can we refute the world's values if we do not even know how they see things?
Read to read books to entertain you. In the book,
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!, Dr. Seuss said:
"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." Books are like a magic carpet that take you to places you have never been. Books are like time machines taking you to times past or future. Read
The Chronicles of Narnia, clean suspense, and good fiction. Idle minds are the devil's workshop, so keep reading!
Read books to educate you about things you need to know. Somebody said:
"Half of being smart is knowing what you are dumb at." When I graduated from high school, a godly man in our church gave me
How to Win Friends and Influence People, which has helped me enormously. In a college economics class, the professor had us read
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith which got me reading books on finances, stock market, real estate, and how to provide for my family. When I needed to improve my health, I bought and read
Fitness for Dummies. When I needed to lower my blood pressure, I read a book about that. Read books to improve you as a person. Books that have helped me are:
Margin by Richard Swenson,
Managing Yourself by Stephen Douglass,
Happiness Is a Choice by Frank Minirith and Paul Meier,
The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley, and
The Measure of the Man by Gene Getz.
Think about - What are my goals? What do I need to know to achieve them? What would I like to learn? Chances are that somebody wrote a book about that subject and can teach you about it.
Read books to improve your ministry. Someone has said:
"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." If you aspire to lead or teach others, you have to read. If you are a mature Christ-follower, you need books on your area of gifting and ministry. There are all kinds of books on children's ministry, teaching a Bible Study, youth ministry, being a church leader, how churches grow, evangelism and so much more. There are wonderful books on improving your marriage, rearing your kids, and being a good grandparent.
Read books to defend your faith. We need to know how to earnestly contend for the faith. So, read books like
The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin,
Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, and books by Lee Strobel like
The Case for Christ. I still read and re-read
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis because it helps me simplify what it means to be a Christian and explain faith to unbelievers.
Read books to be an example to others. If you want your kids and your grandchildren to think and grow, you have to show them. If they see you reading and growing, they will follow your lead. If you want your family to succeed in life and faith, they need to catch the bug of reading! So, show them by your example by reading!
Read books to learn empathy. Learn about conquering adversity from Helen Keller. Learn about dealing with evil from Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom. Learn about poverty from
The Grapes of Wrath. Learn about fear from
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Read
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for a perspective on life and hard times. Read the classics and you'll learn about life.
Read books to become wise. Someone once said:
"Those who do not learn from the past, live to repeat it." So, read church history, world history, and American history. If you learn from others, you don't have to pay the costly prices of mistakes.
Where do you find the time to read? Groucho Marx once said:
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." Good advice! I read on the treadmill at the gym, in the airport, on a plane flight, and when I am alone in a restaurant. I read while waiting for the doctor, the dentist, and for my car being repaired. I read on my vacations and my days off. I read before I turn out the light at bedtime. I read if I have insomnia. I read whenever I can!
Where do you get books?
Personally, I have carried a Kindle from Amazon. Since I have traveled a lot, I can't carry a suitcase full of books. But in my Kindle, I get my daily newspaper and carry about 20 books with me in a small notebook. The idea of getting books cheaper on Kindle appeals to the Swedish in me! There are some good Christian bookstores around here too. There is also Christian Book Distributors (
) which has a cornucopia of great books for good prices that you can order and have mailed to you. The same can be said for the phone app Audible. There you can listen to a wide variety of books (
Folks, this crazy time is a great time to start reading. And summer is coming too. When it is too hot to close the windows, read a book. When the sun is up before 6 AM, read a book. When are you are relaxing in the patio, read a book. When you are on BART, read a book. When it is raining, read a book! Read! Read! Read! When you start reading, you will find your heart, mind, and soul expanded. God will bless you when you read.
Well, thanks for reading my letter this week!
I am praying for you, for your health, for your family, for your finances, and for our church! I can't wait to see what great things God does through these momentary struggles. We will get through this with God's help! Keep lookin' up!