Anxiety for a Bibliophile


Hi.  I’m Martin.  And I am addicted to books.

Anyone who knows me is not shocked or surprised by the words above.  I have loved to read as long as I can remember.  I have always had a bookshelf with books on it, whether it was in my own bedroom growing up or a joint bookshelf in our den where my father and I shared (actually, still share) books.  (Sorry, Dad.  I’ll get my books out of there some day.)

I have multiple bookshelves in my house with books.  Most shelves are now two deep.  I also have boxes in my garage with books.  And I have boxes in my parents’ shop with books.  And I have some on a bookshelf at my parents’ house.

Okay.  I have a problem.  I admit it.  I can justify it by talking about how great it is to have books, and I still think that is true.  But I still have a problem.

Books are my trophies.  Whether I have read them or not, I love to be able to point to them on my shelves.  I justify keeping them.  What if I want to read them again (which I have done on occasion, but not all that often)?  What if I want to reference them? (After all there was that one sentence on p. 24 out of a 300-page book that was great.)  One day I will have a room as a study/library.  (The fact that I don’t have one now and will have no way to have one anytime in the near future is irrelevant.)

Lately it has been weighing on me more thinking about just how many books I have.  My wife (Chrissy) has been leaning toward minimalism more lately, and I am impressed by how much it has taken hold of her.  In some ways, it has taken hold of me, too.  (Don’t tell her I admitted that.)

We have a smaller house.  It’s enough room for us, but it’s not huge by any stretch of the imagination.  Because it is a smaller house, it is all too easy for it to fill up with various items.  Add to this that we are both teachers who work about 45 minutes away from home, and we struggle to keep up with tidying up the house with all the things we have laying around.

I hate to admit this.  My books are a large part of the problem.

Recently I have gotten better about getting rid of books by donating them to my church library or by giving them away.  But it is kind of like using a thimble to bail water out of the Titanic while it is sinking.  I am constantly taking in more books than I can read or get rid of.  (Did I mention I have a problem?)

I really got thinking today when I read an article by one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies.  He wrote an article titled “Going All-in With Ebooks.” In the article, he thinks through the possibility of getting rid of his entire library and going all digital.  I like some of the reasons he brings up.

I also read several articles today by minimalists on the idea of at least trimming back one’s collection to one bookshelf (or less, in some cases).

I have to admit, the idea interests me . . . but it makes me extremely anxious at the same time.  It would be very beneficial to cut back on my book collection, transitioning to mainly digital.  I say “mainly” because at this point I have no plans on getting rid of certain collections I have (C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Randy Alcorn, etc.), but that would reduce the number of books I have to probably about one complete shelf, maybe a little more.  I currently have four bookshelves in my bedroom, so that would be a huge improvement.

I keep getting almost ready to take the plunge, and then the anxiety kicks in.  It is at this point that I understand at least a little how hoarders struggle.

So, I feel stuck and indecisive.

On one hand, I could help my wife with her minimalizing.  I could reduce the amount of books I have to keep track of and take care of.  I could have my entire library always at the touch of my fingertips on my Kindle.  And I could focus on having a library with more purpose and focus on only a select few authors.

On the other hand, the time and money I have spent collecting books would be wasted.  I feel like I would be betraying my bibliophile ways.  The ease of referencing something in a physical book would be gone.  (I am extremely visually oriented and mentally map many of the books I read.)  And I would possibly have a nervous breakdown.  (Okay, not really; but it certainly feels like it.)

Perhaps I will make a decision sooner rather than later.  But I am interested in your thoughts.

Do you prefer physical books or digital?  Have you found yourself overwhelmed with books, or do you think, as I tend to, that there is truly no such thing?  Is the comfort of a large library worth the hassle of having more items all around the house?  Is the convenience of having all books in digital form worth giving up a large collection?

Comment with your thoughts!



Book Review – “Unleashed” by Eric Mason


Lately, I have been extremely focused on issues relating to growing in Christlikeness.  It should be a major aspect of our lives as Christians.  I was very interested to see how Unleashed by Eric Mason from B&H Publishing Group would add to my understanding.

The book is not overly long, at 185 pages including the notes.  But there is a lot of great information contained in those pages.  Throughout the book, Mason focuses on different aspects of how God conforms us to image of Christ, to paraphrase the subtitle.

Chapter 1 reminds us that being sanctified is ultimately tied in to the gospel of Christ.  Mason points out that “Paul shows us that we never ‘get beyond the gospel’  in our Christian life” (p. 9).  I think this is a much-needed reminder, as all that we are as Christians begins and ends with the gospel of what Christ has done for us; we live and grow out of that.

Chapter 2 focuses on how the Holy Spirit aids in our conformity to Christ.  He points out that the Holy Spirit is often not given His proper due for the work in our lives, either by underemphasizing Him (making mention of Him, but not much else) or overemphasizing Him (by focusing too much on gifts of the Spirit, etc.) (pp.29-30).  Mason seeks to provide a proper balance and explanation of how the Holy Spirit helps us grow in the image of Christ through our lives.

Chapter 3 focuses on the role of faith and repentance throughout the Christian life.  Faith and repentance establish us in Christ, but they are not merely something we use to enter into a relationship with God.  Rather, they are ongoing aspects of our lives with Christ.  We live lifestyles of repentance, constantly seeking to ensure we are walking as God would have us walk.

Chapter 4 discusses the role of the word of God in our sanctification.  In order to become more like Christ, we have to know what God says and instructs, and we can only know this as we read, memorize, study, and meditate on His word.

Chapter 5 explains the role of prayer in our spiritual growth.  Prayer is the way we draw near to God and bring ourselves in line with His will.

Chapter 6 is an exceptionally good chapter, focusing on the role of suffering in our growth in holiness.  This chapter is a wonderful way to help us look at our struggles and suffering through the lens of Scripture, seeing those things not as hindrances to our spiritual life, but often as the means God uses to help us conform to Christ’s image.  Christ Himself suffered, so we should not expect anything less.  Rather than losing hope, we find joy in the midst of our suffering and allow it to help us mature in our character.

Chapter 7 discusses strongholds in our lives and how to overcome them so that we may continue to grow rather than being hindered.

Chapter 8 is a wonderful examination of how marriage is often God’s means of helping people become more Christlike.  As husband and wife look after each other and take on the God-ordained roles laid out in Ephesians 5, they begin to help each other become more like Jesus in their lives.  With the husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and the wife submitting to her husband as to Christ, the home becomes a constant place of mutual growth and encouragement as we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, ESV).

Chapter 9 explains the importance of Christian community for our sanctification.  We need each other, and Mason lays out the “one another” passages in Scripture very clearly.  I think it is great to be reminded of how we need others in our Christian walk, especially in our extremely individualistic society.

Mason’s book, Unleashed, is very solid in terms of theology and biblical understanding.  While there were some new ways of wording things so that I could think through them differently, there was not much here I had not read in other places.  So for those who have been Christians for a while and have read and studied a lot, they may find this book more of a refresher than eye opening.  It would be an outstanding book for those new to the faith, however, as it would lay out sanctification in a clear and easy-to-understand way.  The back of the book hints at this with it’s question “You’re a Christian.  Now What?”

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of sanctification, but especially to new believers who are just getting started in their walk of faith.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Do All Things How?!


One of the best things about memorizing Scripture is how God uses it to convict my life.  I am currently in the process of memorizing Philippians, and I am working on chapter 2.  God has been using it to give me quite a few attitude checks recently, and I want to take just a minute to focus on one of them.

As I often do, let me preface by saying I am not writing from a position of having attained this.  (I suppose that puts me in good company, as Paul hadn’t attained everything either. See Phillippians 3:12-16.)  I am merely sharing the thought process I have had the last few days.

Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (ESV)

If you read over that quickly because of familiarity, please stop and read through it a few more times slowly.  Let it sink in.

Let’s break it down a little bit.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  Notice the text.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing.  Not some things.  Not most things.  Not convenient things.  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (emphasis mine).  What does that mean?  As I understand it, grumbling is more of an internal attitude.  It is the inward thoughts that are negative toward something.  Think of mumbling to yourself about the issue.  Disputing is the outward form, where we begin arguing with others about what we are doing.  In other words, we are not to be reacting negatively outwardly (toward others) or inwardly (where others won’t easily know, although it still usually impacts our attitude).

Honestly, I’m not sure I could even say I do most things or half the things I do without grumbling or disputing.  Later I will list a few ideas of times this might apply, but I want to push forward with the text first.

What is the result of doing “all things without grumbling or disputing”? We will be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish.”  Obviously, if we are still sinning in other ways, then we are not blameless and innocent and without blemish.  The idea here is that we are to strive for those things.  And obviously, if we have it down to the point that we are able to control our attitudes this way, then in theory we have already taken care of most or all of the bigger issues.

I realize this flies in the face of a lot of teaching today.  We hear how we are just “sinners saved by grace.”  We hear how we will never be perfect this side of Heaven.  We are told that we sin every day in thought, word, or deed.  I understand where people are coming from there and what they are reacting against.  But I think we are overemphasizing some teachings of Scripture and neglecting the call to holiness and sanctification.  We are to strive to live like Jesus and to constantly be more conformed to His image.  Whether or not we will ever attain “Christian perfection” (to borrow John Wesley’s wording), we should certainly strive for it.

If we are doing “all things without grumbling and disputing,” we will be “blameless and innocent . . . in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.”  This part of the verse doesn’t need much notation.  Check the news to see that this is an accurate description of our generation.

In the middle of this generation, if we are doing things as Paul says above, we will “shine as lights in the world.”  Think about it.  The vast majority of people do quite a bit of grumbling and disputing.  If we, as children of God, could begin to live this out in our homes (regardless of what our spouses or children are doing), in our workplaces, in the slow-moving lines at the store, while waiting for food that seems to be taking too long in the restaurant, and many other places, we would stand out.  We would be different.  We would be exceptional.  We would “shine as lights in the world.”  What a witness that would be!  Think of the conversations that could start up as a result of someone who knows us well never seeing us grumble or complain or argue!

I have most certainly not arrived here.  But now that I have stored up those verses in my heart, I cannot grumble and dispute without the Holy Spirit bringing them to mind and convicting me.

May we all strive to live up to Scripture.  I pray that you will make it your goal, as I am making it mine, to live in a counter culture way and “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  May God strengthen and bless you!