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Monday, January 18, 2010

Afghans & Candle Holders

So there is a large Christian bookstore in the city where I live. It's part of a regional chain called Mardel's. As Christian bookstores go, it's probably one of the best in terms of having a large selection of Christian books and music. I've always been delighted to receive gift cards to Mardel's, and have spent a fair bit of my own money shopping in there.

I especially like the music section at Mardel's. They have a whole row of headphones where you can listen to demo CD's of just about anything they have for sale. They also have these music booths, where you sit on a stool, shut the door and just commune with the music demos. These are especially great for the music soundtracks. I sometimes will sing a solo for a church service and these come in handy. Sitting in those booths I can almost break out into a solo right there in the store!

So as much as I like Mardel's, I have to tell you that something about their stores has always disturbed me. It is that the most important Christian thing you could sell is in the far back corner of the store. It's right next to the room where they have the clearance items and the toilets and staff break room. For sure, it's a big Bible section with just about every type of Bible you could want. And they have an enormous selection of Bible study guides, commentaries, etc.

But when I enter the Mardel's stores, I first run into the "Testamints" candies. Then I have to climb over the afghans, candle holders, wall plaques and jewelry to find any Bibles. After climbing over that stuff, I walk through the greeting card aisle, the calendars, and on to the school supplies. Honestly, I wonder why you wouldn't put the most important items in the front of the store!

Another troubling thing at Mardel's is the rows and rows of books they have by Christian authors. Many of them are the top writers like Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado or Beth Moore. There are dozens of books written by authors whom we've never heard of too. (Most of those are on the clearance racks.) And there is a huge section for fiction, another for non-fiction, one for Christian living, and so on. So I'm thinking to myself, "If people would read their Bibles they wouldn't need to read all of these books."

And there you have it. The problem with Christian book stores is that they sell books written in the name of Christianity. And people read those books. Many of them, I suspect, at the expense of reading the Bible. I know several people, for example, who have read more of Max Lucado than they have of their Bibles. There are people who join Christian book clubs and become voracious readers. This is all well and good. But I suspect the gospel of Jesus Christ may be substantially more important than the gospel of some Christian author.

You see, the Bible delivers transformed lives when it is read and applied. Can any other book in the Christian bookstores make such a claim? Really, not even the Christian diet books do! Transformation occurs when the Holy Spirit lives in us and our minds are renewed with God's Word. So if I only rely on what God said to Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer ... I may be totally missing what God would like to say to me (through His Word).

Recently I came upon a Bible verse that I hadn't noticed before. And I wasn't too keen to see this one. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, "These commandments ... are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them ... Tie them as symbols on your hands and bend them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Admittedly I am probably too cynical for my own good. I look down on the Christian jewelry, t-shirts, bumper stickers, candle holders, goblets, plates, afghans, quilts, doilies, dresser scarves, and other bric-a-brac groaning from the shelves of the Christian bookstores. I consider most of them pretty sappy and useless. But here is God's Word, suggesting there is a place for Christian jewelry, and home decorations. Who knew?

Now it seems I am going to have to reconcile my cynical view of Christian jewelry and home decorations with God's Word. Is this stuff pleasing to God? Or is it like most other things that we have to keep in moderation in order for them to be pleasing to God?

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