Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn
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
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
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! + + +