How We Are To Treat Others

For your consideration, a quote by the Puritan Richard Sibbs from The Bruised Reed. Brackets were added by me.

[Martin] Bucer [who influenced the development of Calvinism] was a deep and a moderate divine; upon long experience he resolved to refuse [reject] none [no one] in whom he saw aliquid Christi, something of Christ.

[Even] The best Christians in this state of imperfection are like gold that is a little too light, which needs some grains of allowance to make it pass. You must grant the best their allowance [Colossians 3:13 NLT]. We must supply out of our love and mercy, that which we see wanting [lacking] in them.

The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other; that we should all have ground of exercising [applying] mutually the spirit of wisdom and meekness.

This is a difficult quote. Although neither Bucer nor Sibbs are perfect, and Bucer was known for his ability to be conciliatory, it’s reflective of what Scripture says. Many of us need to offer others more grace and mercy than we do.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:12-17 NLT

Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 CSB (and subsequent)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.
James 3:17

While much of Scripture offers us exceptions, this should be our default way of living. I often feel a very healthy (in every sense of the word) guilt when reading through my Bible and coming across verses and passages like these. It’s something the Spirit has been emphasizing with me.

As I see it, two things are lacking: contentment, which results in murmuring–often about others, and the ability to recognize our own sin, including the magnitude of it, all being a result of pride.

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.
Philippians 4:11

This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
1 Timothy 1:15

Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
Titus 3:1-3

The Bruised Read

An Excellent Article on Depression

This article by Todd Pruitt is good enough to post a link to by itself:

The Hard Apprenticeship of Sorrow

A Prayer for Bible Reading

Help me to gain profit by what I read,
as treasure beyond all treasure,
a fountain which can replenish my dry heart,
its waters flowing through me as a perennial river
on-drawn by thy Holy Spirit.
Enable me to distil from its pages faithful prayer
that grasps the arm of thy omnipotence,
achieves wonders, obtains blessings,
and draws down streams of mercy.
From it show me how my words have often been
unfaithful to thee,
injurious to my fellow-men,
empty of grace, full of folly,
dishonouring to my calling.
Then write thy own words upon my heart
and inscribe them on my lips;
So shall all glory be to thee
in my reading of thy Word!

Partial prayer from The Valley of Vision. See the whole prayer.

Puritans Praying

What Providence Isn’t

This is a repost from a little over a year ago. I’ve shortened one quote and added another by John Owen that I recently read.

Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.

–D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about what providence is not at the beginning of a chapter on Providence from the book Great Doctrines of the Bible. I’m going to attempt to summarize his brief warnings, and hopefully won’t confuse the matter.

there are people who claim special providences in their own personal lives. ‘It is most amazing,’ they say. ‘Do you know, this is what has happened to me …’—and they describe to you how certain things seem to have been arranged particularly in order to suit their special circumstances! And then, when you tell them that they cannot say things like that, they resent the whole doctrine of providence.

I’m going to bluntly postulate that this is self-centered extra-Biblical guesswork.

He never really seemed to explain just what he meant until the end (somewhat):

Be careful—it is a warning! Always be careful in your application of any particular event. Let me explain: whenever anything good happens to us or to our country we are all very ready, are we not, to say that it was undoubtedly an act of God—the providence of God. I have explained what the doctrine of providence teaches, but I would warn you that it is dangerous to particularise about any particular thing. … In 1934 German Christians—and very fine Christians among them—issued this statement: ‘We are full of thanks to God that He as Lord of history has given us Adolf Hitler, our leader and our saviour from our difficult lot. We acknowledge that we, with body and soul, are bound and dedicated to the German State and to its Führer. This bondage and duty contains for us as Evangelical Christians its deepest and most holy significance in its obedience to the command of God.’ That surely makes us think, does it not? …

Now those people were absolutely sincere; they were absolutely genuine. They were evangelical Christians, and they believed that! So I think you will agree that we must be a little cautious when we come to make particular claims. … Let us be judicious and cautious, and have a great concern for the glory and the name of God when we claim any particular event as an instance of His special providence either with regard to us or our country.

God orders things in his way for his people mainly for the purpose of our continuation in salvation. We have to be cautious in trying to determine what he’s doing and why. The same goes for affliction. We can usually only go by what the Bible says–that it’s for our continued perseverance, perfection, righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t normally indicate to us what he’s ‘teaching’ us if it’s not a consequence of sin. Nor can we usually tell exactly what he’s doing as he orders his web of a multitude of things far greater than we can ever imagine.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

If this is confusing, reading the whole chapter online may help. It’s one of the better treatments I’ve read on the subject.

Extra Credit:

In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

John Owen expounds on Zophar speaking to Job in Job 11:12 in Walking Humbly With God:

“Vain man would know the secrets of the counsels of God, the reason of his ways; but, in his attempts after it, he is as an ass, as a wild ass, as the colt of a wild ass;”

Not just an ass (donkey), not just a wild ass, but the colt of a wild ass. That’s pretty emphatic.

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

How Does God Guide Us?

This is a repost from 2014:

How does the Lord guide his people? Assuring us a Christian life with a beginning, a middle and an end, with the end being the tying up of all loose ends? It is an interesting fact that the apostles, in giving much doctrinal and practical guidance, never once (as far as I can see) gave guidance with respect to Christians’ futures. They are never asked, and never offer such guidance, as to what the will of God is for their lives and how they are to discern this. This is disappointing for any one hoping, through prayer or Bible study or some other discipline, to be handed a torch which has the magical power of shining a golden light illuminating the path leading from the present to an assured tomorrow, or to the next year, or the next decade of our lives.

–Paul Helm, Helm’s Deep: Ecclesiastes and the New Testament

Don’t spend your life waiting for God to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. God has already spoken.

–Carl Trueman

Our pictures of life are far too often like eating fast food, or like living under the shadow of a rule book, or like staring glassy-eyed out into the third heaven waiting for “a word from the Lord”. Wisdom challenges all this. It says to us, warmly yet firmly, “Grow up!”, “Mature!”, “Move beyond childhood into adulthood!”, “Use the mind God has given you!”

Wisdom is about learning to apply the gospel to every area of our thinking and doing. We will be tempted to justify our ignorance and mental laziness by saying that we’re trusting the Lord. We may even appeal to Proverbs 3:5-6 to defend this attitude. But that’s not what Proverbs 3:5-6 is about. Rather, it encourages diligent, careful, prayerful, intelligent and enthusiastic exploration of life in the light of the gospel.

–Mark Storm, Symphony of Scripture

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding–
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Also see:
About that little voice in your heart… | Reformation21 Blog

After all of that, I would slightly disagree with the idea that God only speaks from the outside, as the blog post above says, although maybe I’m taking that too literally. I strongly believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us from within when it comes to conviction of sin(s), God’s character, his love for us in Christ, and reminding us of what He’s taught us in the past (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to spiritual things we hadn’t realized before (Ephesians 1:18). Whenever we hear the Holy Spirit speak, we always need to confirm it with Scripture. Our hearts are too easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to be saturated in Scripture in order to discern from within, and especially nowadays from without, what is true.

The Fear of God

Repost from September 19, 2016:

The fear of God has been one of my favorite subjects. Unfortunately, it’s very misunderstood. This may be partly because it isn’t mentioned much anymore, and many tend to understand the word fear as fright, and only fright. The fear of God is a very multi-faceted doctrine (teaching). It doesn’t just mean awe. There are some translations like the NET which have replaced the word fear with awe, and I think that really flattens out the meaning.

Although I haven’t read a book devoted to this subject, it’s mentioned very often in books, in addition to, of course, the Bible (Genesis 22:12, Deuteronomy 6:1-2, Psalms 2:11, Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 50:10, Acts 9:31, Revelation 14:6-7, for a good representation). I’ve been learning that the fear of God starts out with the realization of our sin, and realizing what we’ve been saved from. Because believers have been saved from sin, and from God’s wrath, we want to obey God not because we’re afraid of him (1 John 4:18), but because we’ve come to appreciate how good his commands are, and to do what our Father tells us, because he’s spelled out the best way to live our lives (Psalm 119, Romans 12:2).

The dread of you makes my flesh creep;
I stand in awe of your decrees.
Psalm 119:120 REB

I will let my two favorite quotes speak about what it means, and there is a very short video below them if you’d like to watch and listen to it.

Biblical fear is not simply “alarm” or “fright,” nor is it simply “dread”; and even “awe” does not fully capture the fear that is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Biblical fear—in its right and mature expression—is a humble and loving response to the character of God. Such fear rightly perceives the awesome and even terrifying power of God, but this perception is tempered with marveling that one so majestic is so concerned for his people.

God is infinite in power but intimate in love. He creates and sustains the universe and yet is present with us. As the earliest of biblical writers said, such knowledge is “too wonderful for me,” and its glorious revelation always takes the blood from our faces and the strength from our knees (Job 42:3). These responses may mirror the human behaviors before a tyrannosaurus, but we would be quite mistaken to say that biblical fear is anything like that fear.

Biblical fear is not merely concern for possible harm. Rather, biblical fear is proper regard for all God discloses about himself in his glory: lordship with love, infinitude with intimacy, an all-powerful hand with a redeeming heart.2 We do not have a single word that adequately translates the term for biblical fear, but we do have a clear example to remove all questions as to its basic meaning. Isaiah prophesies of the coming Messiah, saying that “the fear of the LORD” will “rest on him” and “he will delight in the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2, 3 NIV).

Jesus fears God, and he delights to do so. This means that the relationship of God the Father and God the Son ultimately exemplifies biblical fear. Since we know eternal and infinite love exists between the Father and the Son, we must understand that Christ’s fear cannot simply be terror. Perfect love must drive out that kind of fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus’ intimacy and humility with his heavenly Father reveals that his fear is proper regard for the full spectrum of divine attributes—including his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and love.

Bryan Chapell, The Glory of God, page 191–chapter on A Pastoral Theology of the Glory of God

Christian said, “Without a doubt the right fear can be a good thing, for as the Word says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’”1

“How would you describe right fear?” Hopeful inquired.

Christian explained, “True or right fear can be known by three things. First, by what causes it: the right kind of fear is caused by saving conviction of sin. Secondly, a good fear drives the soul to quickly lay hold of Christ for salvation. And thirdly, this fear begins and sustains in the soul a great reverence for God, His Word, and His ways. It keeps the soul tender, making it afraid to turn right or left from His Word and ways. It makes the soul sensitive to anything that might dishonor God, grieve the Spirit, or cause the enemy to speak against God.”

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, Crossway Edition

1 Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28

The Fear of God and A Sense of Sin from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Also see:
Saturday à Machen: Joy in the Fear of God | Bouncing into Graceland

Fear God

Recommendation for Your First Puritan Book

Of the Puritan books that I’ve read so far, what I would recommend as the first book for someone who’s interested in starting to read them would be All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson. This is an excellent exposition of Romans 8:28. In addition to being relatively short and easy to read, it’s representative of Puritan thought on God’s sovereignty, providence, and grace as it applies to our lives. Here are two quotes from this book.

Question. What shall we do to love God?
[short] Answer: Study God.
[long] Answer: Did we study Him more, we should love Him more. Take a view of His superlative excellencies, His holiness, His incomprehensible goodness. The angels know God better than we, and clearly behold the splendour of His majesty; therefore they are so deeply enamoured with Him. Labour for an interest in God. “O God, thou art my God” (Psalm 63.1). That pronoun “my”, is a sweet loadstone to love; a man loves that which is his own. The more we believe, the more we love: faith is the root, and love is the flower that grows upon it. “Faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5.6). Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. This is an acceptable request, surely God will not deny it. When king Solomon asked wisdom of God, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3.9), “the speech pleased the Lord” (verse 10). So when you cry to God, “Lord, give me a heart to love Thee. It is my grief, I can love Thee no more. Oh, kindle this fire from heaven upon the altar of my heart!” surely this prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour of His Spirit upon you, whose golden oil shall make the lamp of your love burn bright.

Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. ‘Fret not thyself to do evil’ (Psalm 37:8). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning Jonah (Jonah 4:9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast. Let this text produce patience, ‘All things work for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?

–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (Puritan Paperbacks)

If you would like other ideas, Joel Beeke has some recommendations in an article Reading the Puritans, which is from his book Meet the Puritans.

The Puritans can be difficult to read. Their wording, grammatical structure, and detail can be hard for the contemporary mind to grasp. It is best to read short books from some popular Puritan writers before atempting to read Puritans of more theological profundity, such as Owen and Thomas Goodwin (1600–1679). I recommend beginning with Puritan divines like Tomas Watson (c. 1620–1686), John Flavel (1628–1691), and George Swinnock (c. 1627–1673). Watson wrote succinctly, clearly, and simply. His Art of Divine Contentment, Heaven Taken by Storm, and The Doctrine of Repentance are good places to begin.

Flavel, who was pastor at the seaport of Dartmouth, became known as a seaman’s preacher. He is one of the simplest Puritans to read. His Mystery of Providence is flled with pastoral and comforting counsel. Swinnock showed a special sensitivity to the Scriptures and could explain doctrines with great wisdom and clarity. You might try his The Fading of the Flesh and The Flourishing of Faith, recently edited by Stephen Yuille and printed in a contemporary style.

I’ve read Watson’s Art of Divine Contentment. I think All Things for Good would be an easier read. I’ve also read Flavel’s Mystery of Providence, which is an excellent choice, in addition to A Saint Indeed: Or the Great Work of a Christian in Keeping the Heart in the Several Conditions of Life (or just Keeping the Heart), which is an exposition of Proverbs 14:23 which I really liked a lot and would also highly recommend.

All Things for Good

2 Corinthians 12:8 and Answer to Prayer

I just found that I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, although not very much lately. II thougt I would post some from the archives:

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 12:8-9
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Three times he pleaded for his affliction to be taken away. This is reminiscent of Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane. “So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44) “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 b)

We can see that Jesus and Paul were persistent in prayer. Maybe there is significance in comparing the fact that Paul and Jesus both prayed three times but that isn’t a magic formula. Jesus may have prayed that same thing many times before that night. And Paul received a definite answer after three times.

The parables that illustrate persistence in prayer are the impudent friend in Luke 11:5-10 and the bothersome widow in Luke 18:1-8.

Both Jesus and Paul got an answer of “no” to one of their most fervent prayers. This should give us comfort when we and our loved ones don’t get what we wish.

But by no means is that the end of it. God accomplished in Paul and Jesus much more after an answer of “no” than anyone would imagine. God is good (Nahum 1:7) and His will is perfect (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” I never thought that this could apply to the answer of “no” until now.

As far as our prayers go, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “Calvin explains that there are two kinds of answers to prayer:

We ask without qualification for those things about which we have sure promise, such as the perfecting of God’s kingdom and the hallowing of His name, the forgiveness of sins and everything profitable* to us. But when we imagine that God’s kingdom can and indeed must be furthered in such and such a way, or that this or that is necessary for the hallowing of His name, we are often mistaken, just as, in the same way, we are often deluded as to what in fact tends to our own welfare.

We can ask with full confidence for what is certainly promised to us, but ‘we cannot prescribe the means.’ God may grant the end that we ask for in prayer, but God may use a means that we do not desire.”

*I’m guessing his definition of “profitable” may be different than what we may think.

We’re not better than Old Testament Christians

Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
Psalm 73:25 KJV

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes how we aren’t any better than Old Testament Christians in his book Faith On Trial, a great exposition of Psalm 73.

One often finds a tendency amongst Christian people to depreciate the Old Testament. It is not that they do not believe in it as the Word of God. They do. But they tend to contrast themselves with the saints of the Old Testament ‘We are in Christ,’ they say, ‘we have received the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saints did not know of this and they are therefore inferior to us.’ If you are tempted to think like that I have one simple question to put to you: Can you honestly use the language that this man uses in these two verses? Have you arrived at a knowledge of God and an experience of God such as this man had? Can you say quite honestly, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee’? How prejudiced we are. These Old Testament saints were children of God as you and l are; indeed, if we read these Psalms quite honestly we shall at times feel rather ashamed of ourselves, and occasionally begin to wonder whether they have not gone farther than we have ever gone. Let us be careful lest we press the difference between the two dispensations too far and make distinctions which end by being thoroughly unscriptural.

A Prayer On Prayer

May the matter of my prayer be always
wise, humble, submissive,
obedient, scriptural, Christ-like.

Give me unwavering faith
that supplications are never in vain,
that if I seem not to obtain my petitions
I shall have larger, richer answers,
surpassing all that I ask or think.

Unsought, thou hast given me
the greatest gift, the person of thy Son,
and in him thou wilt give me all I need.

Partial prayer from The Valley of Vision. See the whole prayer.

Puritans Praying

Praying About Prayer

I’ve been reading in various places about how difficult prayer is for the vast majority of Christians. The possible irony (and by that I don’t mean humor) is that we can forget to pray about prayer. Whether it’s praying about wanting to pray, or praying more, or our experience of praying becoming more and more like the one below–which is what spurred me on to write this post–as the person who wrote this models in the last line, this is something that God is very willing to help us with.

In prayer I see myself as nothing;
I find my heart going after You with intensity,
and long with vehement thirst to live to You.
Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit
that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish,
and nothing seems important
but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear,
and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what You are doing for Your church,
and I long that You should get Yourself a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys;
entering into the eternal world
I can give myself to You with all my heart,
to be Yours for ever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Your hands,
to be entirely at Your disposal,
having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Your kingdom to come,
with greatest freedom, ardent hopes,
as a son to his father,
as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer
and never to cease praying.

This is a portion of a prayer found in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

This isn’t something to feel guilty about, but to aspire to through the Holy Spirit, asking him for zeal, discipline, and affection.

Puritans Praying

New Year’s Puritan Prayer

I’m not much for holidays, but as I was reading/praying this prayer, it sounded like it fit well for this time of year. This is part of the prayer Christian Love, from The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse with thee.
May I grow in thy love and manifest it to mankind.

Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus;
give me his benevolent temper,
his beneficent actions,
that I may shine before men to thy glory.

The more thou doest in love in me and by me,
humble me the more;
keep me meek, lowly,
and always ready to give thee honor.


Bible Reading Plans

As the new year comes along, many people evaluate their Bible reading or want to start reading it, and this blog can’t go without a post on something so important, so here is a modified repost. Scripture doesn’t command us to read it exactly once a year, but there are many who live by a book they haven’t read in its entirety. There was a long period of time when I didn’t read my Bible as much as I should have, but I always loved it, and because of God re-instilling the want to do it, thankfully the enthusiasm and purpose returned later on.

Some want to, but just can’t get themselves to do it. I suppose time management is part of this. It shouldn’t be difficult because it only takes about ten minutes of reading a day to read through the book in a year. It may seem like a big task that’s hard to get started. More importantly, asking God to help one want to read it is as important as anything. There are a wide variety of plans, and if the whole Bible is daunting, there is something about that below.

Many feel that they need to understand everything they read. I’ve learned that there are different objectives in the various types of reading and studying. Reading through the Bible is to familiarize ourselves with what it says. This needs to be done regularly, whether it’s once a year, twice a year or once every few years. We need to be saturated in Scripture to learn and be reminded of what it says, which is something the Holy Spirit helps us with (John 14:26). But we have to read it for him to remind us of what it says. Also, if Scripture interprets Scripture, then we need to read the Scripture that might interpret the Scripture that we’re interpreting. There is also repeated reading of smaller portions for even more familiarity. There is ‘devotional’ reading, for lack of a better term, where we read a very small portion very slowly and intently and pray through everything we read. Reading the whole Bible is essential.

Here is a great post on this subject:
How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014 – Justin Taylor

You can also find just about every type of reading plan there is on YouVersion. I would stay clear of many of the devotionals on this site.

If you’re really ambitious, then you probably know about Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System. I wrote about it in a previous post.

There are some of you reading this post who have an extraordinarily difficult time reading anything that takes concentration, whether it’s because of mental illness, medication, pain, learning disability or whatever. As the first of the previous links quotes, “it is better to read a single chapter of the Scriptures every day without fail, than to read 15 or 20 on an irregular, impulsive basis1.” And as someone else has said, nowhere in the Bible does it say that we need to read through it once a year.

There is no timetable, schedule, deadline, demand or guilt put on us by God. Although those who are able must get to know and spend time in the Bible, for those who it is a great challenge, just read one paragraph a day and think on it afterwards or later in the day. If you can’t read, there are many audio sources out there for free. For this too, you can do a small amount a day. With all this talk of reading through the Bible in a year, or twice a year or 90 days, I want to encourage those who may feel guilt because of an unusual situation, to give it their all to just read a little and know that God is pleased with you because of what Christ did on the cross for you, not because of what you do. If you have limitations, God knew you would have these (Psalm 139:13-16) and created you to glorify Him (John 9:2-3).

What a great treasure we have. I pray that we will all relish Scripture more and more, and that God will reveal more of himself through His Spirit as we read and study.

Also see:

1. Cf. Orthodox Daily Prayers (South Canaan: St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1982), page 3: “It is better to say a few prayers every day without fail than to say a great number of prayers on an irregular, impulsive basis.”

Holy Bible

Biggest Book Blog Post Ever–Christian Books Read in 2017

By biggest, I mean on this blog. I read far more books in 2017 than I have in any other year. In case you’d like to see all of what I’ve read, you can find them at Good Reads journey in books for 2017. I never, ever thought I’d be someone who would read a book a week (although many of them were short). I only mention this because I had a very bad reading drought–as far as books outside the Bible–around the first half of 2016. I was rather bewildered and prayed quite a bit about it. A wise person told me that God sometimes prunes the good things in our lives (John 15:2b). It showed me how much God is in control of even our desires for what we like to do in our leisure time. Spending more time reading is part of the reason I’ve been blogging less.

I often have ‘the year of…’. This year was the year of Puritans, in addition to fiction, and reading books for the second or third time. I also spent time on learning about speed reading and comprehension/concentration, which helped with the amount of books read, (somewhat–I didn’t get that fast, and you don’t want to speed-read Puritans) and some memory type stuff, along with mind mapping.

Here are some highlights, although I’ll mention all of the Puritan books because every one of them was great:

Puritan Books

I had a strong interest in the Puritans a few years ago; at first I think I liked the idea of them as much as anything else. I got just a little tired and needed a break from them. Then after reading Perkins, I got to appreciate them so much more. I think they have become a permanent staple.

  • The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1 – This was the best book of the year–most of it an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount.
  • A Treatise of Self-denial by Thomas Manton – This is not a very popular subject (!) but for me it’s the second best book of the year.
  • The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded by John Owen – I think this is underrated.
  • The Person of Christ by John Owen – This was difficult to read but had some deep content that was great material for praise and wonder.
  • Sacred Dissertations on the Lords Prayer by Herman Witsius – He’s not technically a Puritan, but Dutch Further Reformer is close enough. This is so far my favorite of the books I’ve read on this subject. I read the original facsimile on my tablet, which is pretty much all you’ll get in any printed book.
  • The Soul’s Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself by Faith by Richard Sibbes – This was the most difficult book to read. It’s within Volume 1 of his works. I’ll be reading more from that. This was one of the books that got D. Martin Lloyd-Jones interested in the Puritans. He says that it was very helpful for him and I can see why.
  • The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod by Thomas Brooks – God used this in a major way.
  • The Vanity of Thoughts by Thomas Goodwin – An excellent and unusually book on our thought life, but not enough on how to deal with them.
  • Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke – I didn’t read all 900 pages, but this really got me straightened out on their history and some of who’s who. (Borrowed)

Contemporary Christian Fiction

I was going to read more of this and watch a little less TV. I read four fiction books and they were a disappointment. Since I was so unfamiliar with the subject, I spent a lot of time looking at books and reviews. It wasn’t worth it. I might read a couple more in 2018. I’d like to go old school and try Dostoyevsky. In any case, I’m watching less TV.

Reading Books for the Second Time

  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer – I can see how much this influenced me when I first read it around xxxx decade(s) ago.
  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair B. Ferguson
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer – This is a good spiritual barometer for me, even if I don’t agree with some of his theology.
  • A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering by Michael S. Horton
  • All Things for Good by Thomas Watson is a book what I would recommend for reading a Puritan for the first time if anyone has trouble with the old English. The paperback edition is inexpensive and the ebook is free.

I would like to continue re-reading more of the good books I already have, which is very beneficial.

Introductory Biblical Theology

  • From Creation to New Creation by Tim Chester
  • What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton Jr.

I plan to continue reading this subject in 2018. These books are very helpful.

I also read two excellent books each by Carl Trueman and Timothy Keller. Some people I follow on Twitter have been poking fun of Keller’s flowery language, among other things, but I really liked his books on Prayer and Suffering. Below is a photo of a book signed by Carl Trueman that a pastor friend of mine had him sign when he was at a conference. This was really nice since I’m not able to attend them, and I’m a fan of the fellow curmudgeon. The book was an excellent introduction to Luther’s theology, even if some of it was a bit over my head. He makes history relevant. I also borrowed Fool’s Rush In Where Monkeys Fear To Tread. This is a fun book. If I owned it, there would be highlighting all over it; if it were digital, you would have seen a lot of quotes here.

Carl Trueman Signature

I could go on, but I better stop there. I didn’t take the time to link the books or insert cover art (do you blame me?). If you’d like to search for any, you can use my Amazon affiliate link. I’d also recommend Reformation Heritage Books, Westminster Books, and also searching on Monergism for free e-books, which is where I’ve gotten many of the Puritan books that I read.

This post might be for my own benefit more than anything else. I commend you if you made it all the way here.

Around the Web

Reflections on R.C. Sproul
“Reflections on his life and legacy continue to be shared online—whether in short tweets or longer obituaries. Below is a collection of some of them.”

Better Man Project: 7 Things I’ve Learned From Reading More
“I never noticed how much easier it was to sit down and actually do it when I was doing it regularly. Not reading made it harder to read. Reading a few hours every morning made it easier to sit down and read in the evening instead of watching television. I have found it easier to read as a leisure activity.”

Love before logic: politics, persuasion, and the Puritans
“the Puritans believed that a lack of love makes it hard to hear. If a disagreement was going to proceed civilly—if it was going to be aimed at actual edification—then only an underlying unity of affections (some basic sort of sympathy with one another) would make it possible.”

Reading Books and Why We Have to Dive – This year I began to really discover the benefits of re-reading good books that I already have. I’ll write a little about this in an upcoming post on reading done in 2017, and maybe more later on.