With the coming of Christmas, we’re all getting our lists together of what we will give to our friends and family. Most of what we will buy will have no eternal value; it will (a) wear out, (b) become boring, or (c) break. Some gifts will be out of style before we get the credit card bill. Much of it will be nice but not necessary.
To be honest, most of us can’t remember what we got for Christmas last year. We tore the paper off, said thank you, and then went on to the next thing in the pile. We buy toys for our kids, perfume for our wives, tools for our husbands…and we don’t know what to buy for our parents who have everything they need.
I would like to suggest a new tradition at Christmas. Obviously, you should think about giving to the church, to missions, and to others in need during the holidays. You might want to put some money in the Salvation Army kettle. You could (and probably should) think about cutting back on your Christmas spending. Be honest, we all spend too much at Christmas and giving “stuff” has gotten out of control.
My new tradition would be to give books, good books to those you love. I have a library with about ten thousand books in it. I have books on theology and doctrine and hundreds of commentaries on the Bible. I have books on prayer, grace, discipleship, holiness, the church, revival, and leadership. I have several hundred biographies as well has over two hundred books on history (if we don’t learn from the past, we will repeat it).
Reading is a lost art. We now spend our money on videos and video games. We play instead of meditate. If our kids spent as much time reading good books as they do watching junk on TV or playing a mindless game they’ve played a thousand times, they wouldn’t be sucked into the culture so easily.
I believe it’s time to have some quiet time in the home where everyone agrees to turn the TV off and read for at least a half hour a day. I believe it’s time for parents to significantly reward their kids for reading.
When Erin was in the first grade, she had a teacher who encouraged reading. She was challenged to read 100 books in the first grade. She did it before halfway through the second semester. Along the way, when completing 10, 25, 50 and 75, there was a reward from her teacher. I can’t tell you the difference that one teacher made in her life.
With the popularity of iPads and tablets, audio books can be downloaded with ease. This certainly has more value than listening to a random song for the 25th time. We’ve got tunes in our head, but no song in our hearts. We know words, but we’ve lost meaning. We know stuff, but it’s not transformational, it’s mostly trivial.
Reading is dangerous because it is so powerful. Books can change you. Books can destroy you or build you up. They can encourage or cause you to doubt. That’s why reading any old book will not do. You need to read good books. Manley Beasley used to say he tried to focus on books over a hundred years old because much of what was written today was just fluff. I’m tired of “sermon books” with 90% illustrations and 10% biblical content. I read the old writers like Morrison, MacLaren, Spurgeon, Tozer, Havner, and others because they had something to say.
I would dare say most believers aren’t familiar with names like George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and others of their literary stature. In 1882, Mark Twain asked MacDonald for a new copy of his book At the Back of the North Wind because Twain’s children had “read and re-read their own copy so many times that it looks as if it had been through the wars.”
I’d like to suggest that you have the following books in your personal or home library. Give them to someone in the family for Christmas. Make a list of the ones you want and let your family buy them for you. You may not find all of them, as some are out of print. You can search www.abe.com and find many of these books in great “used” condition at a discounted price. I would rather have a great used book than an average new book. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer
Your Life in Christ, George MacDonald
The Be Series, Warren Wiersbe
When Heaven Is Silent, Ron Dunn
Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something, Ron Dunn
Not Peace but a Sword, Vance Havner
Repent or Else, Vance Havner
A Hunger for the Holy, Calvin Miller
Walking With the Giants, Warren Wiersbe
50 People Every Christian Should Know, Warren Wiersbe
Just As I Am, Billy Graham
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards
Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot
A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody, Lyle W. Dorsett
Prophetic Untimeliness, Os Guinness
The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis
The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala
Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper
Ron Dunn (biography), Ron Owens
Manley Beasley: Man of Faith, Instrument of Revival, Ron Owens
The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley
Thinking for a Change, John Maxwell
The Noticer, Andy Andrews
The Noticer Returns, Andy Andrews
Living by the Book, Howard Hendricks
Kingdom Education, Glen Schultz
As Iron Sharpens Iron, Howard and William Hendricks
The Myth of the Greener Grass, J. Allan Petersen
No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, Os Guinness and John Seel
When Skeptics Ask, Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks
The First Person, The Second Person, The Third Person (three books), Lehman Strauss
Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey
Start, Jon Acuff
All In, Mark Batterson
The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman
At least one biography on great men like John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, C. T. Studd, Winston Churchill, Stonewall Jackson and others
Leaders in Action biography series (including books on Theodore Roosevelt, C. S. Lewis, Booker T. Washington, Patrick Henry, Winston Churchill, Robert E. Lee and others)
Various books on prayer by Andrew Murray and E. M. Bounds
How about buying one of these books for your school’s library? Or, you could also buy someone a subscription to Christian History Magazine. Or better yet, buy one for your child’s school.
Hey, I’m into books. I’m looking for people who want to think, not park their brain in neutral in front of the TV and veg out physically and mentally. Who will join the “Leaders Are Readers” club this Christmas?