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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Christian Books

It happened again today. I was Half Price Books this time, browsing through the religion section. I had lugged in two large tubs of books to sell. They told me to look around while they prepared my bid. I quickly strolled through classical books; gave scant glance at self help, and hurried on to the section where I knew I'd have the most interest.

But what I was browsing through was actually pretty discouraging. The Bible for Dummies was the most blatant. But there were soooo many others. How To Read the Bible. Decoding Scripture. Understanding Scripture. What the Bible is About. Honestly, there were literally dozens and dozens of books --- about The Book. Of course, there were the books of heresy, trying to disprove the Bible or explain why God's truths aren't. Frankly, those don't bother me. I don't like them, but I expect them from a fallen world. No, it is the vast collection of good, sound religious books that give me cause for concern.

I wonder who wrote these books. Do the authors realize that they themselves couldn't really understand Scripture without the help of the Holy Spirit? Do they actually think they can outsmart God and pass that supernatural wisdom on to the world through Random House? Will God let them get away with it? Did the Holy Spirit lead them to write these books? Do you suppose it is actually God's will that the bookstores be cluttered with dozens and dozens of books that purport to explain the Bible to us? Somehow I doubt it.

This has happened to me before. I visit Mardel's from time to time. It's a great store and I like to shop there. They are unabashedly Christian and the most religious people in town probably shop there. But --- I notice that the Bibles are actually in the right rear of this big store. To get to the Bibles, I have to walk through the Biblical candy (Testaments). I take a detour through the Christian arts and crafts section ... filled with jewelry, blankets, wall hangings, candles, etc. There are the greeting cards, pencils and pens, board games, calendars, necklaces and more.

Last week I was there and found in the clearance section tennis shoes that have Bible quotes on them. One pair just said "Sin" on the top of one shoe and "ner" on the other. Like I want to walk around town with "Sinner" stamped on the top of my shoes! But hey, they were on clearance. You see, the point is, we have to crawl over a mountain of religious trinkets and junk to get to the really valuable stuff --- God's true Word. I wonder if the Holy Spirit leads Mardel's to organize their stores like this. Do you think God would want His holy Word in the back corner of the store. Or is it likely that God would have His holy Word right up front, by the cash registers?

So here's the thing I am most bothered about. I suspect that people spend more time reading about the Bible than they do reading the Bible. If I'm being totally honest, I've been one of those people. Facing the new year, I decided to clean out my bookshelves and had two giant tubs of books to haul to Half Price Books. Most of them were religious in nature. Five of them were on fasting. Four were on spiritual gifts. That I decided to unload all of them should give you a clue as to how much I valued them. That Half Price Books only gave me $22.00 for more books than I could carry in --- some of which were brand new --- should tell you something about how much they're really worth.

But you know, the more I read my Bible ... the more I listen to God ... the less drawn to religious books I seem to be. It's as if God speaks to me and says, "You don't need this you know. I have everything you need right here in the Bible." And I turn to my Bible and find that He's right. Everything I ever needed to know is right there.

I can say quite honestly that I have not, in all my years of devouring Christian books, gained any insight, understanding or wisdom that is remarkable, memorable or valuable. In fact, the only things I've gathered that were of value were simply re-stating Scripture. I would read something profound, check it out in Scripture, and find it was there in front of me, on my nightstand, all along!

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Christian books or their authors. But I have a growing skepticism that it is the leading of the Holy Spirit that places all these books in front of us. I suspect that humans, in their denial, would find it more attractive to read books about the Bible or about God than we would to actually get to know the Bible or get to know God. Moreover, if God revealed something profound to Max Lucado, for example --- I wonder if that same revelation has the same meaning for me.

The Bible tells us that it cannot be understood or comprehended without the leading (assistance) of the Holy Spirit. The older I get, the more true I realize this is. So, what do we do with all these Christian books then?

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