Do you love books? Love reading? I started reading fairly early, and quickly developed a raging thirst for enjoyable books. Books are magic! They can teach you or take you wherever you want to go, entertain you and inform you. They stimulate your mind! Good books are friends that will never desert you.
Recently I was looking for biographical information on one of my all-time favorite authors, Louis L’Amour. He wrote the most realistic Westerns I have ever read. At one time I had more than sixty of his Western novels. According to one source, at the time of his death, his book sales had passed 200,000,000. You read right – two hundred million! He was almost a religion among those who loved the Old West. Truly one of history’s most successful and admired authors.
Another of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie (1890-1976), makes L’Amour look like an amateur. Per biographyonline dot net, “Only the Bible is known to have outstripped her collected sales of roughly four billion world wide copies. Her works have been translated into more languages than any other individual writer.”
Christie said that she wrote to entertain, and her readers obviously were entertained.
Reading Christie’s and Joyce Anstruther’s novels set in England makes me mourn for the passing of the goodness that resided in England many years ago. But because of their writing, I can still visit that England, which makes me smile!
I still have many of Christie’s novels, and I re-read them frequently. Although I still have a few L’Amour novels and enjoy them, I’ve kind of dropped L’Amour, probably because I no longer believe that the answer to every problem comes out of the barrel of a gun. Many problems, yes, but far from all.
I have probably a thousand magazines like Mother Earth News, The New Pioneer, various homesteading skill books, gun magazines and books, food raising and preservation books, engineering books, and more I’ve forgotten. I feel comfortable having them. They represent a good deal of my mindset and values. They say, “This is me.”
But I have only about a hundred and fifty books that are special. They’re my permanent library, the books I pick up at the end of the day when I want to forget the world as it is and visit a world that beckons the heart. I began discovering outstanding books when I was very young, starting with a child’s version of Treasure Island, with magnificent color drawings of events in the book that I still remember with pleasure.
Very early in life, libraries became as exciting and enjoyable to me as I ever felt about the Florida swamp and beach I grew up near. And there are no ticks or scorpions or sunburn between the covers of a book!
Shakespeare … ehhhhh ….
I moved from Westerns to scifi and fantasy. Isaac Asimov’s space novels caught fire in my imagination for a while. Asimov was an excellent writer. But when I read his Foundation series, I realized something about Asimov: he didn’t have the answers to life or death. He wrote first three, then four, then a fifth novel in a series of humans in search of permanent peace and pleasure. He ended the fifth novel with his chief character expressing serious doubt about the solution he had chosen. Very unsatisfactory. I wanted to backhand Asimov across the mouth.
I’ll love books, and videos, as long as I live. But the last fifteen years or so, I’ve noticed that I don’t like much from the current production. Like many people of my generation, I suspect, I no longer belong in this world.
Which brings me to The Book. The Book about the world I do belong to, which anyone can belong to if they want. The Book I prize beyond all others: the Bible. Or Bibles, in my case, because I studied the Bible and read it through word-for-word in three or four English translations, and I always have extras on hand, because I’ve developed the habit of giving them away. I also have a few very helpful study aids – Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, a Greek / English Interlinear New Testament, and Vine’s Topical Word Study of the New Testament.
When I was young, even though a Christian, I thought the Bible was boring. I have to admit, parts of it still are. Reading the detailed “word-blueprint” of the construction of the tabernacle and of the temple was boring the first time and the seventh time.
But I changed my mind about the Bible being boring (overall) one summer when I was about 22 years old. It was a weekend, I was broke so I wasn’t going anywhere, and there I was stuck at home. I picked up one of my Louis L’Amours, opened it, and realized that I knew what happened on the next page. Opened another, same thing. I had read them all so many times that I had memorized all the events, and in many cases the words, in each one. Disaster! What do I do with the weekend?!?!!
Then the Holy Spirit said, “You call yourself a Christian, but you’ve practically memorized these books and never once read the Bible through.” This was a voice, one of the few times I’ve heard the Holy Spirit speaking words to me. You don’t hear His voice with your ears, by the way. You hear His voice in your mind.
Uh-oh. Caught! I grumbled because the Bible was booooring, but I had NO EXCUSE. So I started reading. A friend had given me a plan to read through the Bible in a year, and I started. I did take a year, because I found it impossible not to take time to think things over, to analyze what it meant, to consider the implications, the commands, the guidance, I found there.
There were parts that were so boring that I literally put down the Bible, stood up, threw up my arms and asked, “Why are You making me read this?? It’s boring and repetitious!!”
Then one day I got an answer. Not in words this time, but in the dawning realization that there was a singularly important reason for the “boring” parts, and when I realized what it was, I was jarred to the core.
I was reading the description of the construction of either the tabernacle or the temple; don’t remember which now. If you haven’t read that, the author was trying to use words to create a blueprint, trying to make sure that every board and pin and nail and socket was exactly correct. Easy with a blueprint, very difficult with words.
So the effect was that of taking a photo, moving over a few feet and taking another photo … egad!
What I finally realized was that this was probably the second-most important part of the Bible. Because it proves that the Israelites KNEW beyond any shadow of doubt that they were dealing with the only real and living God.
You see, pagan gods didn’t care about details. Slap some gold on it and sacrifice your bull or goat – or child – details made no difference. But God told Moses to make the tabernacle, and later the temple, according to the pattern He dictated. (Exodus 25:9 and 40, among other references)
And Moses wanted to make iron-clad certain that Israel did not lose contact or favor with the real, the living God. Because God said, “This is where I will meet with you. This is where I will give you My instructions.” And Moses and the Israelites alive at the time had seen what God could do for them. Or to them. So they made certain they got it right. Wherefore the redundant, boring instructions for constructing the tabernacle and later the temple.
At that point I began to consider the Bible to be far more important than ever before. It’s one thing to believe traditional doctrines. It’s another thing entirely to see them come alive in front of your eyes. It’s like Moses in the desert, seeing not just a burning bush, but a burning bush that was not consumed by the flames. It gets your attention. It makes your spine tingle.
That was the beginning of an adventure, a new dimension in my Christian faith. It was still hard work to read the Bible through word-for-word. When I finished, I said, “Whew! That’s done!”
But it wasn’t. Less than a year later, I began reading the Bible again, word-for-word again, in a different English translation. I had become hungry for the Word of God. And that hunger changed my life, again. Becoming a Christian at age nine was foundational, a change of citizenship, forgiveness of sins, a guaranteee of Heaven after death, but it didn’t feel earth-shaking. It was simply a logical decision on my part, because I did believe. Becoming a committed (though deeply flawed) Christian when I was sixteen or seventeen was earth-shaking. But the seed didn’t take really deep root until I began reading the Bible daily and kept it up for months on end.
I highly recommend reading the entire Bible word for word to any Christian who hasn’t already done so. You will literally be eternally grateful you did. It will give the Holy Spirit much more leverage to work in your heart and transform you. You will find at least some answers you couldn’t figure out before about Christian faith. You’ll be better prepared when trouble comes.
You will begin to become acquainted with your God.