It was a Sunday night in Georgia. As usual, I was sitting on the front row of the church. I don’t know what it feels like to sit on row three or four. Most of you can identify each other by the back of your heads; I can’t. This particular evening, a young lady came up to me and asked, “Can I tell you my story?”
“I would love to hear it,” I said. So she began to share with me about her life, growing up in foster homes and being moved around from place to place. I sensed the heaviness as she talked about how, from early on, she had endured both physical and mental abuse. I’ve heard the same story many times, each from a different person.
Suddenly, her mood changed as she told me how she met the most wonderful man. She went on to tell me how Jesus had come into her life and changed it. Excited about walking out her newfound faith, she asked if I had any advice.
“I have something I want to give you,” I told her. I reached into my backpack and pulled out my book Escape the Lie. I asked how to spell her name, and I wrote it on the inside cover along with the simple phrase, “You are my Father’s favorite daughter.” I told her, “Take your Bible and study this book. It will help you grow in understanding how wonderful and beautiful our heavenly Father has created you.” She thanked me; I thanked her for sharing her story; and she walked away.
There are only three things the Holy Spirit has ever prompted me to give a stranger. The first is the gospel; the second is money; and the third is a book.
I know one thing about books: you don’t throw them away. In fact, I can’t ever remember throwing a book away. It almost seems sacrilegious to do so. Books have value. You throw away newspapers, or at least recycle them; you throw away flyers and magazines; but you don’t throw away a book.
I used to have bookcases and bookcases filled with volumes, but on my climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, I had an epiphany. Those books had sat on my bookshelves long enough.
I began to seek out young pastors just starting out in the ministry who could use these books. I began the process of dividing up my commentaries, language study books, doctrinal study books and books filled with stories of biblical characters. One by one, I have given them to young men and women who were serious about handing the Word of God. I have only two bookcases left.
I have found myself at garage sales (not on purpose but as the driver of someone who seeks out destinations like this). But every garage sale has—guess what? Books! Some of them are so old the pages are yellow and brittle. The cover is falling off, and the pages are worn from use, but the book still hasn’t been thrown away. Every so often, while I am waiting for my wife as she wanders through the tables of priceless objects, I will scan through the books. On occasion, I have even purchased one or two.
Of course, the greatest book of all is the Bible. King and tyrants have sometimes tried to eradicate the Word of God from the face of the earth, but to no avail. I have friends who risked their lives sneaking Bibles into closed countries. No other book has moved men to make such sacrifices to share it with others.
I recently passed on my oldest Bible to my youngest son, who is a pastor. That Bible is beyond repair, but I didn’t throw it away. How many of you still have your mother’s or a grandparent’s Bible? I bet many of you do, because a Bible has more than monetary value; it has heart.
One year, I had a speaker come to our mission conference. In her breakout session, she shared that as a young girl, she struggled with her identity: depression, suicidal thoughts and more. One day, almost 40 years ago, her father brought her to me and asked if I could talk to her. During our conversation, I had her bring me her Bible. I took it and wrote something on the inside. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but she told our students it had changed her life.
Why did I write in her Bible? Because no one ever throws a book away—and especially not when it’s God’s Holy Word. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you’” (Jer. 30:2).
Bless someone with a book today.