Learn How to Be Mentored by Books

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I believe a means a grace God has given us has been the preservation of the thoughts of His saints in the form of books.  I bless God for books.  I bless God for the printing press.  I bless God for Amazon. Within the pages of books there are many treasures to find and friends to meet—freinds that will tell you how they understood a certain passage or how they dealt with a certain trial, or how they lived a certain life despite the seemingly unbearable hardship.  I love books.  Books are an endless resource to a Timothy in training . . . if he is wise enough to foresee it and use it.  And the more books he stacks on his shelf better he can equip himself for the preparation of becoming an elder—whether he’s in seminary or not.

1. Learn how to become a Reader

I cannot tell you how many grown men say to me, “Well, I’m just not a reader.” You should be rebuked. God has preserved a storehouse of wisdom for you in books, and you should be a good steward of the vast resources that has been made available to you. There simply is no excuse to be ignorant regarding any aspect of theology.  300 years ago, most library’s consisted of 200 books at the most—I have that many if not more.  Here in the West, we’ve become inoculated to the amount of resources that are available to us.  There’s books on-line, books on CD, books on i-pods . . .oh yea, and books on paper.

But my first caution to you would be this: Don’t read just any book. As the author of Ecclesiastes has noted, “Of the writing of books there is no end”. There may be many books that are popular at the moment but they will not stand the test of time.  Why?  Because most are absent of the aroma of Scripture and merely contain random, Bible-less babble—men trying to think thoughts after God without consulting the Book He wrote about Himself.  Sometimes the best books are those which have been around for 300 years! On the other hand, there is a remnant even in our day of men who are pumping out at accelerated rates wonderfull books.  Men like Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, Sproul, Dever, Keller and a host of others are worth your money and time.


Spend your money on tools, not toys.


You should have all kinds of books in your library:

–books on philosophy: how do we think and how to we know truth and which source of truth should we read.

–books on theology: how do we understand that truth;

–biographies: how has that truth been proclaimed and maintained throughout the centuries;

–and finally, apologetics: how is that truth to be delivered.

Read for pleasure; if you’re not enjoying these books you’re not reading them correctly.

2. Learn How to Be Mentored by Dead Men

Believe it or not, but I have close to over 100 mentors who live in my own house. They live on my bookshelf. I cannot tell you how many authors have walked beside me during many dark valleys in my life, and I have found the best medicine for a storm-tossed soul is old books—especially biographies of old saints. When I am discouraged and downcast of soul, I rarely go to the country to get a spiritual breath of fresh air; I always go to the years prior to the 19th Century.


Luther, Richard Sibbs, Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathon Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Spurgeon,


There are literally thousands of men who are very qualified to shed light on any situation in which you may find yourself in.  You just need to learn how to read and what to read.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“If you don’t read the older books you starve yourself.”

As I have just mentioned there are many authors to choose from . . . and I would recommend reading them all! But if that sounds like a little too much, my advice to you would be to pick someone from the past and read all you can about that person. Read their biography; read their works; begin to think like them; begin to talk like them; imitate their faith, and eventually you may find yourself loving the Word and Cherishing Christ like they did.

We often become like the friends we hang out with. I dress like the friends I hang out with; I talk like the friends I hang out with. When you pick wise, godly friends in books you begin to become like them. Become like your friends.

3. Learn how to Use Church History as a Mentor

Biographies help you to know men of the past; Church History helps you to know events of the past—both of which are able to keep you from error. Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. In their minds the gap between Jesus’ ascension to their own day is usually a giant blank. It is my opinion that every believer should have in their hands at least one good, church history book. Church history informs you of the past, encourages you for the present, and gives you hope for the future.

Become a consumer of books and you can give yourself a glorious education even if you’re never been able to attend seminary.  You’ll learn doctrine; you’ll meet new friends.

4. The Importance of Reading Other Material

I used to be a Puritan in the area of reading, meaning this: I have never read anything other than theology books.  But I have come to learn the importance of giving my mind a break, especially since I’m in seminary.  The mind needs a break, not from God, but from the same type of books that require the same type of thinking.  The brain needs to think on many different levels, not just one.  I often find that my mind simply cannot function as well by always reading one type of genre (i.e. theolgoy books/philosophy books).  Don’t get me wrong, I would like it if I only could read theology books, but I’ve learned that if I read other genres than it helps me to think better and think clearer when I pick up my theology book.

Hey, even the Bible contains three different genres, so I think I’m safe in saying we as seminary students need also to have a trilogy, biography, or historical narrative close by to give our minds the mental breaks they need.  But remember to supplement them in moderate proportions.  Read enough of other books in order to read theology books with greater care and thought.

5. The Danger of Stuffing Your Shelf Full of Books You Never Read

Be honest, how many books are on your shelf that have never been read?  I bear the guilt of this myself.  Countless of times I have entered a book sale or attended a conference that provides books for a ridiculously-low-price only to greedily buy several books that are “oh so good” . . . and then they sit on my shelf and condemn me.  I have one shelf simply devoted to “Books to read”.  This can become a problem.  There is nothing worse than having a great book in which you’ve never read.  Oh that we would buy good books; and oh that we would read them!

Set goals for yourself.  If you’ve bought several books, discipline yourself not to buy any more until you’ve finished them . . . unless it’s a really good deal!

6. Don’t Neglect the Word

Finally, while there are many books that are worth our time, we must not fail to read that book in which all others are written.  Let the Scriptures be your true source of joy and study, for there is truly only one book worth reading . . . and reading again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

:: Prepare for Battle ::

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3 Responses to “Learn How to Be Mentored by Books”

  1. Ashley Rogers Says:

    I have been continually inspired by your session from the Portland Paul and Timothy Bible Conference. I have “living” mentors/models/friends, but I realized that my library was sadly lacking in “dead” mentors/friends. Thus convicted, I am in the process of reading biographies about and works by Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, John Newton, and George Whitefield, and Wayne Grudem.

    Thank you Carey for the inspiring exhortation! I am very blessed!

  2. justingunter Says:

    Well said brother! Very well written. Very to the point, which I would have surely failed colorfully at. How far I think we as men shrink into meer boys when we shy from shooting for excellence and even still from simple effort. I don´t contend that when men say honestly they are “not a reader” that they are anything else…but just as you said, we ought to be rebuked if that explanation leaves us effortless.

    May we endevour on to God…even if and especially if that means learning to do the things we will cherish sharing with our little ones one day…learning to read.

    Again, well said brother!

    justin gunter
    Multnomah Biblical Seminary

  3. Nick Jesch Says:

    Well said, and right on target. Yes, dead men ARe important. They are part of that “cloud of witnesses’ surrounding is, cheering and leading us onward from the grave. I well remember CS Lewis stating that, for every modern or recent book you read, you NEED to read one sort of old one, and one really old one. Allow the past to speak, beckon, inspire, as well the present and recent past.

    One resource for great books you did not mention, and one to which I’ve availed myself for years, is used bookstores, thrift stores, recycle yards at the county dump…… I’ve gleaned untold treasures from these places for pennies on the dollar… some of the treasures I’ve recovered from the dustbins: John Newton’s biography, Amazing Grace; Bainton’s Here I stand (Luther), The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill; a book in Spanish, on the economic and political history of Nicaragua (a country dear to me); several volumes of Winston Churchill’s maginficent seven volume series on World War Two, and some of the volumes on his life written by his son (I continue to search to fill out both of these sets.. hard to find, but a friend of mine recently found and purchased the entire 7 volume set on WW 2, hardback, mint, from the DUMP!!! for $3.50!!!!. Many other works on US aind international history, going back to Revolutionary times. Theology, biblical commentary, much of CS Lewis, (I found a complete set of the Narnia books, hardback, first US edition, no dust jackets, for about twenty five bucks.. mint, every one!!!!) Most hardbacks I’ve bought for fifty cents, most paperbacks for ten to twenty five cents… what is amazing is in the more “culturally sophisitcated” (in “modern” terms) the area, the better and cheaper is the book selection. Functional illiteracy rules in Southern California!!!

    Sure, I also spend far too much money on great books from the sources you mention, and others. Watching for the sales, conference “cost plus” tables, Desiring God’s amazing sale last summer….. but the bottom line: GET and READ books, mostly by dead guys. They are nowhere near as dead as most think them to be…….

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