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John Wesley the founder of United Methodism wrote a letter to John Premboth (a pastor under the leadership of Wesley) on August 17th, 1760 in which he stated the importance of pastor’s reading. Here is what Wesley wrote:
“What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.”
In many ways I think the same thing can be said for all Christians. I know that some of you do not like to read, or do not read for many reasons. But, as Wesley told John Premboth, “You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian”. Then he told him to take some time everyday to read, to learn, to grow, and to develop as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I believe John Wesley is calling us to do the same thing. Here are four books (the Bible is a given, I expect that all of us are reading our Bibles on a regular basis. How else are we to know this Jesus that we are following?) that have meant the world to me, has shown me Jesus and deepened my love for God and allowed me to see that I am indeed loved by Jesus beyond my wildest imagination.
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis – This book actually in so many ways saved my faith. I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ because of this book. Yet, let me warn you. It is a hard book to read but definitely worth it.
“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”
What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey – This book taught me that God’s love was constant, always, unconditional, sacrificial. That indeed the infinite God loves us as much as an infinite God can possible love.
“Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more – no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less – no amount of racism or pride of pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possible love.
Strength To Love by Martin Luther King Jr. – This book taught me the beautiful reality that love is the greatest force on the face of the planet. There is no greater strength then when we put love into action.
“Never in history was there a more sublime example of the consistency of word and deed. During his ministry in the sunny villages of Galilee, Jesus talked passionately about forgiveness. This strange doctine awakeded the questioning mind of Peter. ‘How oft’, he asked, ‘shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?’ Peter wanted to be legal and statistical. But Jesus responded by affirming that there is no limit to forgiveness. ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.’ In other words, forgiveness is not a matter of quantity, but of quality. A man cannot forgive up to four hundred and ninety times without forgiveness becoming a part of the habit structure of his being. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans – This book was a beautiful reminder of why we, the church, do what we do. Some call these things sacraments, in the Untied Methodist Church we call them the means of grace. The ways in which God breaks forth into our world and offers us the greatest gift of all, His Son Jesus the Christ.
“But there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”
“But if the world is watching, we might as well tell the truth. And the truth is, the church doesn’t offer a cure. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace.”
Read, grow, develop, flex your spiritual muscles. Learn Jesus and know Him so well that you will know and recognize Him in your daily lives. May we continue to learn, to fall in love with Jesus more and more. To live as Jesus lived and to love as Jesus loved. And may this love caste out all fear; because “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) and “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of courage, of love and of self-disipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). May we not live in fear, but may we live in love!
What are some books that you love? What books would you recommend for others/me to read?