I have been repeatedly challenged about the importance of reading non fiction books over the past serveral months (and even years). I often will just shrug it off because I am too busy to read, or push it aside because too many books have too many seeds that need to be spit out. I once heard the comparison between reading a book and eating a watermelon. It's fine to enjoy the fruit, but make sure that you spit out the seeds. Sometimes, identifying the seeds is difficult, sometimes it is hard, but we need to be discerning readers when we are reading materials written by man (this blog included).
The book I am currently finishing up is "Thinking For a Change", by John Maxwell. I think the title has a double meaning - firstly of thinking that will bring change (improvement) to our lives, and thinking, as opposed to not thinking in our lives (for a change).
The book is well written, and thoughtful (I guess it has to be, right). It approaches the idea of thinking from many different angles that continues through the book to expand on the picture he is drawing - that purposeful, thinking makes a difference in the outcomes of our endeavors. While some of the chapters seemed to me as repetitive and overlapping, they each gave a slightly different twist to his main point, and were helpful in that way.
The 'seeds' of the book were clear by the second chapter. Maxwell states "And if I had stayed the same, I never would have spoken to more than the few hundred people I had in my first church. But I desired to reach my potential, to go to the highest level of which I was capable. I was determined to improve." This sounds good and even spiritual in trying to be the best we can be, but there are some seeds below the surface. Maxwell is a business man, he believes bigger is better. To Maxwell, preaching to a few hundred people at his first church was a waste of his potential. In his thinking, small churches have mediocre pastors, but the good pastors are given bigger churches. I'm all for personal improvement, but wouldn't leadership at his first 'small' church have been a better test of his leadership? This 'seed' is the lack of distinction between the way God's kingdom works, and the way things work in the kingdoms of men. From that point on, it was easy to digest the fruit without choking on the seeds.
I desire to be a better pastor, a better communicator, an better leader, a better evangelist, a better father, a better husband, a better friend, a better neighbor, . . . (you get the idea). I desire these things, not so that I can get a bigger church, speak to more people, lead 'better' people, get 'better' children, get a 'better' wife, get 'better' friends, or a 'better' neighborhood. I desire these things so that I can be found faithful. You might think that being a good pastor is different than being a better husband. The connection between pastor and church is much different between husband and wife. I agree, a husband and wife is a bond until death separates the two, but shouldn't a pastor be committed to the flock God has led him to? Not 'til death do us part, but at least until God separates. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" would apply to churches and pastors if we understand that God leads a man to his ministry.
I'll get off my soap box now, but I use my soap box to encourage and strengthen my resolve and my choices to live a godly life. I hope it encourages you, as well.
Monday, July 5, 2010
"There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."
- Ecclesiastes 2:24
For many years, I have enjoyed the good in my labor. I learned in my family the joy and fulfillment in working. The good of accomplishing a task, the enjoyment of being physically tired, the pleasure in being able to do things with my own two hands. I enjoyed being reminded from Scripture last week in my Bible reading that this joy is from the hand of God. Labor is a gift from God, and the blessing that we receive from it is one of those "good and perfect" gifts from God.
This past week or so I have been able to enjoy some opportunities of physical labor for others. Last week, I got to learn some haying and enjoy being tired from throwing around bales of hay. Today I got to do some cleaning on a construction site. Lathe and plaster is wonderful stuff to clean up, such a sense of fulfillment from cleaning it up and leaving the rooms cleaned up and ready for the next part of the project.
Of those that probably read my blog, most are hard workers and know this joy, but if you were looking for some encouragement this week, even God's Word tells us that labor is good. With the heat of this week, take it easy, but enjoy not just the fruit of your labor, but enjoy the labor itself.