We read great books that first broaden our world, then they sharpen our mind. Third they enflame our heart. And fourth, to develop your skills. I was not a Christian and I’m not necessarily recommending this book, ‘cause it’s probably out of print, but what I want you to get is, read books that develop your skills.
I didn't know how to be a Dad. here all the sudden, now I'm a dad and I've got two little boys. I mean, I don't know how to have family devotions. I don't know how to pray with them. I don't know how to discipline them. There was a little book called, The Christian Family by Larry Christianson. And I just read it and I did what it said. I read the Communication Key to your Marriage. My Dad and my Mom weren't believers. Theresa's parents as she grew up weren't. Her dad was an alcoholic. My dad was an alcoholic. People say, "We've got baggage." Well, we've got baggage. I think that's why when I speak on marriage and parenting I think the reason it resonates on the radio is people say, "Now, that guy's really messed up just like me. Maybe there's hope."
But I think that's how God ministers, out of our weakness. But I mean, we sat down with Norman Wright's book, Communication Key to your Marriage and we read it chapter by chapter. Did the questions at the back, which I hated. I don't read directions either. And then we sat down and talked about it. And then he came out with another book. It was sickening. More Communication Key to your Marriage. And so we went through that one. And I cannot tell you how many books and tapes we've been through. Why? You have to develop skills. I didn't know how to communicate. I didn't know how to express anger. I didn't know how to do any of the kind of things you're supposed to as a dad or as a mate. But you know what? God has produced great resources to help people like us, whether it's your marriage or whether it's parenting or for me learning to lead.
The CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, his dad was a pastor in a tiny little Methodist church. He wrote a little book called Learning to Lead for Pastors. It's like gold. Another book that I read, The Effective Executive. It wasn't a Christian book but you're a pastor and all of a sudden the church starts to grow. I didn't have a clue on how to run a church. Or, the difference between being efficient versus being effective . Peter Drucker's little book, The Father of Modern Management, man that is just a little gold book about developing skills to lead your life well. And then Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie is just something. I read because I want to develop my skills where I can think theologically, think through the issues of salvation, think through the issues of Christology. Big word, but you know we could use a few of those. Everyone's so apologetic. I don’t want to use a big word here. People won't understand that. We've figured out how in the last 25 years to dumb down the church so low we don't have anybody that thinks theologically. We don't have people that recognize air. I mean, you're leaders, you're people of influence.
We need to develop our skills, broaden our minds, enflame our hearts. How do you do it? You read great books. The fifth type of book is read great books that heal your soul. I was on an airplane and really wrestling with a big decision about whether to marry Theresa. Some of you know our history and our background. It was really big. I have learned to relate to people pretty well but I learned, in looking back, the reason I learned to relate to people pretty well is because I was so fearful of rejection I could sort of read groups and figure out. So the tough guys you're supposed to act tough and to the parents you're supposed to be the all-American boy, "Good to see you. Yes, Cindy Lou will be home right on time." The basketball guys, locker room, "Hey dude. Get out of here. Get out of my way." I could figure out how to act with whoever. And I was just a chameleon and I was a people pleaser.
And now I had the biggest decision of my life and I had one group of people saying, "We think you ought to do this." And another group of people I respected saying this. And then I'm just going, "Ugh." And what I realized was instead of making a decision based on God's word and what the scripture said I was asking people. It was really pretty clear. I was so afraid of disappointing people and being rejected that I didn't have the sheer courage to step up and be a man and make a decision and say, "You know, if this is right, good. And if it's wrong, Lord I want you to know when we get to the judgment seat of Christ I'm going to step right up to the plate and I'll receive whatever you want to give me, bad or good." You know, there's a time when you can't ask everyone else what you ought to do. There's a time where it all doesn't line up and gets real easy. There's a time where you be a man, you be a woman, you trust God based on everything you know, and you take a step of faith and you don't care with Holy regard about what other people think. And that little book, The Ins and Outs of Rejection by Charles R. Sullivan is what I was reading on the plane on my way to California to a conference when I realized that's the issue in my heart and God gave me clarity. He began to heal my soul.
Another book, again probably out of print, is called The Strong and the Weak by Paul Tourneau. He's a Swiss psychologist. Believer. I happened to be pastoring. Twenty eight years old and had this opportunity to go out into a little country church. In fact, the metropolitan area was no stoplights, 4,500 people total, and then the church was about 15 minutes outside of town. One little white building and we had some rodents that would run across the back. We had 35 people in the church. And there was a group of business people that all had businesses in Dallas and were kind of the upper, middle to really upwardly mobile. And they wanted to have a good strong bible teaching church about 30 miles outside where they lived.
So we created a little church and it had its ups and downs. I think I was the eighth pastor in about four years so they definitely had some ups and downs. I think when they got me they thought they may going to have some more downs. I didn't have any idea what I was doing. It was like a little country church but then you'd go into one of their houses and Southern Living would be here and it would be super nice. I was overwhelmingly intimidated. I'd never been around people with money before. Both my parents were school teachers. Boy I just thought they were way up here and I'm a little pigmy down here and I was nervous. And then I pastored there for a couple years. And when I got to know them I found out some of these very wealthy, powerful people that owned big businesses and drive downtown to Dallas and walk into big shiny buildings and everyone thinks they're wonderful, man they've got really big problems in their marriage and some of their kids are going through some really bad stuff. And pretty soon I'm realizing they're just like me.
Then at the same time I read this book called, The Strong and the Weak and I'll save you a whole read. The thesis of the book is everyone in the world is desperately insecure. Thousands of hours of counseling, Godly Christian men, everyone is desperately insecure. Some people demonstrate their insecurity with strong reactions. They power up. I've got so many zeroes. Here's my portfolio. This is what I drive. Look at that watch. You know how many letters are behind my name? Hey, you'd better get out of the way. And they intimidate people and they're strong and powerful. You know what they do? It produces distance. Why? Because now that distance keeps the real them from being exposed and they're desperately insecure.
And I learned when I saw people like that, instead of being intimidated I thought, "Oh, wow. That guy's really insecure just like me. He probably needs some help." The other group masks their insecurity with weak reactions. "I could never do that. No, no, no. I have a hard time looking up. I like to gaze at my navel most of the time. I'm a victim." And you know what they are? They're just insecure like me. I read that book and I thought, "Everyone's wearing a mask so what the heck. I just think I'm going to rip mine off. What you see is what you get. You like it, you like it. You don't, you don't." I've learned in the last few years who I am in Christ is what matters. What He thinks of me is what matters. And when people power up, I can kind of look beyond that and say, "Boy, I've sure done a lot of that myself" and have compassion. And when people are shrinking back you can say, "You know something?" You can put your arm around them and also challenge them to say, "I don't want to be critical here because I know you tell this story and it works for a while because you get a lot of affection and attention, but sweetheart or brother, what you need to do is get your eyes off yourself. You really have something to offer and you not believing that is pretty arrogant because God says you do. So why don’t you get your eyes off yourself. You've got struggles. I've got struggles. Even that guy you're intimidated by, he's got struggles too."
See, there are books that can heal your soul. In my 40’s I think – late 30’s and early 40’s especially, I think you go through a time where you start – you know when your kids are starting to get older and your parents are starting to get older and you're right in the brackish water of life – both in salt water and the fresh water. You're trying to figure out about parenting and all of a sudden your kids are starting to say and feel some things that you've felt about your parents. Your parents right now are not looking really near as dumb as they did about ten years ago. You know that place you get mentally? And then you're working through some identity issues and then you realize, gosh, my dad wasn't perfect. My mom wasn't perfect.
Depending on your background, you can spend anywhere from a decade or a decade and a half internally, even if you do not do it externally, you can whine about all that you didn't get. "My dad never told me he loved me. I came from a very difficult family. My mother and I didn't really bond and connect. My sister did this and we did that. And this happened and this happened." You can spend a lot of energy focusing on all that you didn't get. And you know there is a period of a time when you need to get a window and get some insight, but boy that's a bad way to live. It's a very unfruitful way to live.
I remember reading Nowen's book on the prodigal son and Abba Father by Brendon Manning. Those two books have one very simple message: God loves me and God loves you at this very moment as much as you will ever be loved, ever, ever, ever. There's not something you could do to get Him to love you. There's not something you could do that will stop Him from loving you. He doesn't love you if and He doesn't love you because. While you were yet a sinner, He loves you. You are the object of His affection. And as you read and grow in Christ, what you'll find especially among those who've spoken much about the spiritual life and growth, it all boils down to receiving and accepting the unconditional love of God as your real own identity. Then having the freedom because of that to love and accept other people. We all wrestle with that.
Every family talks about their family as a dysfunctional family. My theory is there are really, really dysfunctional families, not quite so dysfunctional families, and mildly dysfunctional families. And that has all of us. So everybody's got issues. So you need to read books that will heal your soul.
And finally, what I want to say is first and foremost, I saved it for last. Some of you are thinking, "Is he ever going to get to this one?" First and foremost, read the Bible. Don't ever let books written by men substitute the book written by God. Set your mind on the things that are above. Allow your mind to be renewed. This word, Moses would say, is your very life. Man will not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Father. This isn't read a chapter to keep the devil away. This isn't have a little list so that you've done my devotionals and check that off. "Let's see. I've worked out. I took my juices that are good for me. I've read my bible. I've prayed my 12-15 minutes." No, this is about God saying, "I sent my son and you now, as my child, have my spirit in you. And I will take that spirit that bears witness with your spirit, that cries out to me, Abba Father, and I will take the written word and I will allow it to become in your life and experience the living word."
The God who spoke and all the world and all the galaxies came into existence invites you and invites me and He will speak to you. And He will encourage you. And He will share things from His word and they will leap off the page at times that will so convict you that – there's times that I've just thought, "Lord, I've been a Christian 30 years now. That attitude is so ugly. I didn't think I was capable of that bad of an attitude and I thought, “I have so far to go." And there's the times where you will open it and you will hear God's voice through his word, "love you" and "affirm you" when there's no other person that understands in ways that will be beyond your wildest dreams. He'll guide you and He'll direct you.
But I believe that the greatest decision I made, and I praise God for Dawson Trottman, because Dawson Trottman lead someone to Christ who lead someone to Christ who lead someone to Christ who lead someone to Christ who lead a bricklayer to Christ who invested seven or eight years in me. And he came down to my dorm room every Tuesday morning and I didn't want to meet with him. And I didn't want to get up. And he taught me how to have a quiet time. And for two years, just so you know, for two years I just could not get out of bed. A long quiet time was like six minutes with me and God, "Read four verses and, “How you doing God? I’m doing fine. Catch you later." Why? Because I was arrogant. I had no idea what was available and I had no idea the depth of my need.
For a while then I finally took my alarm clock and I put it in the bathroom so I at least had to get up out of bed. Finally I had to get a roommate to help me. I was in college. I knew I wanted to be in God's word. I could not discipline myself. I was so undisciplined. And I got my roommate who was a heavyweight wrestler and I said, "Bob, I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying. I make it two mornings out of seven. I know I've got to be in God's word. I want to but when the alarm goes off, my will is gone." And Bob said, "Chip, do you really want help?" I said, "Bob, I do." He said, "Chip, now don't mess with me. You really want help?" I said, "Bob, we've been roommates. I want help." He said, "Chip no matter what, do you want help?" I said, "Bob, I want help." He said, "Okay. Tomorrow morning you'll get in God's word." I said, "All right."
So I go to sleep. Alarm goes off. I put my head under the covers. Bob goes, "Hey, Chip. Time to get up." "Hey, Bob. I'll read later this afternoon." "Hey, Chip, remember?" "Bob, leave me alone." He comes over, takes my covers, throws them off, leaning over me. "Bob, what are you doing? Would you just get out of here? I'm freezing, man." He said, "Chip, are you coming?" I said, "I'm not getting up." So I take the pillow over my head. He goes out, gets a glass of water – fountain drink size - comes in saying, "Chip, you getting up?" "No." Throws water. Splash! Now, I'm ticked! And he's in trouble I’m about 150 lbs. and he's about 100 plus that. And it never entered my mind to do anything except, "Get out of here." And gospel truth, he goes to the end of the bed and grabs my ankle and lifts me up. Now I'm upside down. This is for real. And he walks in – remember the dorms where they had the big local showers? We go out our door. He opens that one. He turns the shower on. He says, "Chip, do you want to get up?" Now I'm trying to do sit ups. And he takes me just lays me down in there. He said, "Chip, I'll meet you back in the room. If you want more of this, it can be every day."
Can I tell you something? I thank God for Bob Meyers. It started as a duty, 10, 12, 15, 18 minutes, got to where Lord at least I'm in the Word. I can't tell you the ooey gooey feelings and God things. You know, a lot of times it was like eating a good breakfast. I’m sure it was good for me I just can't remember what I ate. And little by little by little I just made a covenant with God, no bible, no breakfast. You will be the first person in my life. You will be the most important person in my life. I will meet with you and I will talk with you and I will ask you to speak to me and I made a covenant that's what I'm going to do. Have I gone into legalistic times? Of course. Does God love me any less when I miss a morning? Absolutely not. But I had to focus my heart. I had to set my heart on doing what God wanted me to do.
I want to tell you after about four, five, or six years, God spoke more and more. By another seven, eight, nine or ten, I didn't need an alarm. And now I can't even remember the last time I ever looked at an alarm clock or ever had to set it. The greatest, delightful, most wonderful hours of my day are in the morning. And I just get to meet with Him and He talks to me. And I have all these struggles and all these problems because I'm insecure and I came from a dysfunctional family just like you. But there's a God who loves me and accepts me just like I am. And He knows what's going to happen today. It's amazing. I can open it anywhere and He can speak to me from anywhere and He knows the meeting I'm going to have and the conflict I'm going to have and the struggle that I have. And He's going to know the insecurities and the things that I keep wanting Him to do but He doesn't seem to want to do them when I want them to get done. And He just keeps speaking and loving. And for about 30 years now, that pattern has been the most transforming event in my life.
Read great books. Why? Because you don't want to be conformed to this world. You want to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That your life could prove or demonstrate what the will of God is, that which is good. I want a good life, that which is acceptable, that which is well pleasing.
You notice I've put some very practical steps because some of you are going to say, "You know there wasn’t all that much scripture in this one." Next session. Because what I know is you're not going to read 30 books next month. You need a plan. You need to get on the right path and the right journey. So four suggestions: one, begin with a regular time in the bible in a version you can understand. If nothing else comes out of this, say, "I'm going to start in the bible at a regular time in a version I can understand."
Number two, use a resource that will provide some structure, understanding, and additional insight. And if this sounds like a commercial, it could be construed that way. But it's a commercial because we love people. I read the Daily Walk for the first 10 or 15 years of my Christian life. I read through the Bible in a year. Do the Bible in a year. You can do it. I don't know about you, who are the Hittites anyway? Who are the Moabites and the Jebusites? And what does it matter what happens to them…I don't know any of that stuff. But here you have a tool. It tells what was happening in history and so that's how it's broken up. And there's something specific for me. And now a regular ordinary people like me and you and Daws and Cameron and Hudson can just grow and be who we're supposed to be and we get some help from some resources.
Third, don't be overwhelmed, but develop a plan to read one book every month or two. I don’t want you going away feeling guilty and overwhelmed and, "I turned on the TV. Because I’m a sinner! I remember what Chip said. Turn it off more, Okay? I don't want to interfere with what God's speaking to you. But what I want you to do is say, "I'm going to start substituting media for some meat, some intellectual, spiritual, psychological, mind renewing, God ordained, meat. And I'm going to enjoy it."
That's the final one. Enjoy the journey. It is not about how many books you read. It is about how deeply the books you read sink into your life.