“The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.” Ecclesiastes 12:11 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
In my work as a country preacher, a lot of mamas ask me for advice. Often they want me to help them to choose a book of devotions that has a portion of spiritual reading that can be read each morning. I’m not going to suggest any titles today, but I’m going to share a principle to guide you in your search: “Sometimes the books that sound the most interesting aren’t very helpful, and the books that sound the most boring turn out to be wonderful.”
If you’re like most Christians, you’ve already bought a book from the Bible Book Store. The book you bought was showcased in a glossy display stand, complete with a life-sized cut-out cardboard photograph of the author. It had a beautiful dust-jacket cover that had glowing endorsements by major evangelical leaders on the back. You bought it in great hope that it would warm your heart. But when you got it home and read it, the book left you cold. You were disappointed.
I have found that this is often the case in new books that were written for mass appeal. Christian books are a big business, and the publishers need to sell a million of them. Because of this, authors can’t afford to offend any one. Pretty much everything controversial is edited out, and that eliminates pretty much everything that is helpful, too.
I buy most of my Christian books at thrift stores and library sales. I instinctively reach for books that are small, black and old-looking. If a book is bound in leather, so much the better! I rarely ever pay more than $2.00 for a book. I have found that if a book is over 100 years old, it almost always has a great deal of spiritual food in it.
Let me share an example with you. Saint Augustine was a bishop in Africa who lived about A.D. 400. He was a theologian and a philosopher and one of the Church Fathers.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah right, John. Riveting stuff. Sign me up. I want to read the whole set.”
But, take a look at this quote by good St. Augustine, who lived so long ago:
“Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.”
Dear Mama, could any “new” book come up with anything more profound and helpful than that? My goodness, if we all lived by what he said, well, we’d all be so happy we’d have to walk backwards to keep from flying!
The reason Augustine’s words are as relevant to us now as they were when he penned this is simple: Much time has passed, but people have not changed. They still have the same problems and spiritual needs they’ve always had.
At the grocery store, you already purchase the best of the new meat and the finest of the old cheese. In the same way, be sure to read the new medical information, but seek out the old religious books.
Mother dear, take a bit of time to read something good today, whether it be old or new. By taking time to bless yourself, you’ll bless your babies and the entire world around you!
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” (Sing that to the title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”). He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church, where you can find new Playstation games and the old religious books. You can cheer him with a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.