Around the Web

Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity – Reformation21 Blog – Yes! – Even if you disagree, the last four points are the at the center of it.

The Coasting Christian – The Wardrobe Door

Anxiety: My Thorn in My Flesh – A Daughter of the Reformation

Some claim that strong faith is defined by throwing our energies into begging God for a miracle that will take away our suffering and then believing without doubting that he will do it. But faith is not measured by our ability to manipulate God to get what we want, it is measured by our willingness to submit to what he wants. It takes great faith to say to God, “Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore my relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.”

–Nancy Guthrie (Hearing Jesus Speak Into your Sorrow [a good book I read])
from:
When God ordains thorns for me… | A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

New Books of Interest:
REFLECT: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History by Thaddeus J. Williams

The Uniqueness of the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul's Teachings by John F. MacArthur

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur, Richard Mayhue

Discounted Kindle Books:
Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name by Bryan Chapell – $1.99 (I read it twice. This is often on sale if you miss it.)

The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word by R. C. Sproul – $1.59

Prices as of this writing are subject to change.

9 Minutes With God – Learn Who Jesus Really Is

This is a repost. I made a few slight grammar and punctuation changes with the PDF document, and added an experimental Epub file.

When I first became a Christian, after or while reading through the book of John, I used the little pamphlet put out by The Navigators (NavPress) called 7 Minutes With God. This got me started on having a “quiet time” or what I now call devotional time or spiritual disciplines (what a scary word) which has stayed with me for over 25 years now.

While looking for this online, I found some adaptations and decided to write my own. If you like it, I would be thrilled if you use it for yourself or to give to others.

Nine Minutes With God (PDF File)

Nine Minutes With God (Epub File)

If you’re wondering how to start, or need to restart with some structure, this may help.

If you have any suggestions for ways to improve it, please let me know. This is meant to be printed and I purposely used a rather large typeface for the older folks.

Photo of a Bible

Around the Web

A Whole Bible & a Whole Christian – Tim Challies

Today the majority of those who read this site will be heading to church to hear a pastor preach the Word of God. A while back I jotted down several quotes about the Bible and thought I’d share them today.

God’s Wrath, God’s Love, and the Cross (Carson) « The Reformed Reader

Both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax – in the cross.

Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the cross.

Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the cross.

–D.A. Carson

In Defense of Praying for Aunt Sally's Big Toe – Reformation21 Blog

Prayer: Often, Short, Strong (Luther) « The Reformed Reader – I wholeheartedly agree

How Not to Help a Sufferer

Interesting Verse of the Day: Ecology

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.
Deuteronomy 7:22 NIV

I never noticed this before.

Photo of a Bible

Quotes From ‘Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow’

I’ve seen some blogs where they have 20 short quotes from each book the blog writer reads. I’m not into round numbers or always having to have a formula, and only want to post quotes I really like, but I like this idea of posting multiple quotes from books that have been read through. Anyone who frequents this little corner of cyberspace knows that I like posting quotes. I try to put some of my own commentary in there, and often mix authors with quotes of the same subject, along with Scripture. But posting a few random quotes might give you more of an idea of what a book is like.

I’ve made a new Category called Book Quotes. We’ll see how it goes. I may try to do some other recent books. See below for how I extract longer quotes in paper books.

These are from Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, by Nancie Guthrie.

When we feel disappointed by the spiritual nature of the fulfillment of God’s promises to heal us, it reveals the truth about what we think about our sin. We don’t really see our sin as that big of an issue. As we compare ourselves to those around us, we think we’re pretty good. We think of our sin problem as more like a case of the sniffles than a terminal disease.

Our disappointment also reveals that we don’t value the eternal promises of God as much as we want him to fix what we see as our most significant problems. What we really want from him is to give us everything he has promised us here and now. We think that physical life on this earth—the length of it and the quality of it—is of ultimate importance. We have a hard time grasping the signficance and the reality of the life to come.*

Pages 37-38

Honestly, I’ve come to think that looking for a specific answer to the question Why? is mostly an unsatisfying quest. What we really are in search of is not an explanation but a sense of meaning. We want to know that there is some meaning and purpose in our losses—that they are not random or worthless.

We want to see the ways God is using our loss for good. Sometimes God, in his goodness, draws back the curtain and I shows us; we can see how he is using our loss in our lives or in l the lives of those around us. And other times we have to wait. Certainly we can never expect to see the complete purposes of God in this life.

Page 88

To forgive, we need confident faith to believe that the satisfaction of being pleasing to God will be greater than the enjoyment of putting that person in his place, forcing her to see her selfishness, mining her reputation, him hurt like he has hurt you.

Page 103

The chapter on forgiveness was unexpectedly good.

Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

For putting longer quotes in a blog post, instead of typing them out, I use an OCR app on my phone. Since I’m always having to lie down, it’s very difficult to type out quotes. I use OCR Instantly Free for Android. A photo is taken from within the app, the text is cropped, then ‘enhanced’, which just makes it very high contrast, then it does the magic of Optical Character Recognition. I then email it to myself or send it to Evernote. Since there are hard line breaks, I go to Remove Line Breaks Online Tool, correct a few errors (you may see a mistake or two–let me know), and that’s it. Probably more work than typing, but easier for me.

If it’s a Puritan paper book, I’ll look for a digital version of it to copy and paste, or if it’s a popular book, it may already be online. The Epub format, which I like to read on my phone, is the easiest to copy text from because they are all on my computer.

*Also see: What Providence Isn’t | Scripture Zealot blog

Grace and Grace in Prayer

In this manner these eminently wise and holy men [David and Daniel] thought themselves highly honoured in being permitted to contribute, by their prayers, to the execution of the divine purpose.

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I see intercessory prayer partly as participating in God’s work. We can sit on the sidelines, or be active in bringing about God’s will in other people’s lives.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6:18-20

With as little truth is it alleged that prayers are an insult to the goodness of God. We do not press them on the notice of God as the meritorious causes of the blessings he bestows, but view them rather as the marks and consequences of divine grace acting on our minds. The knowledge we have of what is good and desirable; the desire we have to obtain it, and the expression of that desire, accompanied by proper dispositions towards God, are themselves gifts which are usually followed up by another gift, the granting to us of the things desired, according to the saying in the Psalms, (Ps. 81:10) “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” The gifts of God become usually the more delightful to us in consequence of our obtaining them by our prayers. We then find that they came to us not by chance, but from the love of our heavenly Father, who keeps his ear open to our prayers. Hence arise comfort, joy, and filial love; Ps. 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” Meanwhile, it is certain that God bestows on us many blessings for which prayers have not been offered, which we did not even feel that we needed, and by his grace anticipates our application. [Eph. 3:20]

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I suppose you could call this grace upon grace, although not meant quite in the same way John put it in his gospel.

God blesses our time in the Bible by showing us and reminding us of his will as revealed in Scripture. Also, I find that prayer can be a way of meditating on God, especially praise and thanksgiving. God shows us ‘new’ (but Scriptural) facets of his character and what he’s done, and things to thank him for that he’s done for us individually that we might not yet have thought of. By that grace of insight, we are further blessed in growing in our life with him. Let’s remember to always ask him for these things.

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.

–Christian Love from Valley of Vision

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog

Union with Christ

Martin Lloyd-Jones in his Exposition of Ephesians 2 says:

There are two ways of looking at this great statement [union with Christ]. There are some people who take a purely objective view of it. They think of it exclusively in terms of our position, or our standing, in the presence of God. What I mean is that they think of it as being something that, in a sense, is already true of us in Christ, but is not true of us in practice. […] They say that it is true of us by faith now, but actually only by faith. It is not real in us now: it is entirely in Him. But it will be made real in us in the future. Now that is what I call the purely objective view of this statement. And of course as a statement, it is perfectly true, except that it does not go far enough.

This is the way I’ve always envisioned it. Union with Christ is not only our position in Christ. It’s something that changes us, feeds us, something we meditate on, something that hopefully affects how we act as we live in union with him. If two people are married, there is usually a relationship that goes on because of it, not just a legal document that was enacted at a ceremony. It should also impel us to act in a godly manner, because he is in us and we are in him. (Acts 17:28, Ephesians 2:22, Colossians 2:6-7)

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

Later he continues:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5). The union between the branches and the vine is not mechanical: it is vital and organic. They are bound together: the same sap, the same life is in the stock as in the branches. But that is not the only illustration used. At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul says that the union between a Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ is comparable to the union of the various parts of the body with the whole body, and especially with the head. […]

All these blessings that we enjoy become ours because we are joined to Christ in this double manner: in the forensic, federal, covenant manner, but also in this vital and living manner. We can therefore claim that what has happened to Christ has happened to us. This is the marvel and mystery of our salvation, and it is the most glorious thing we can ever contemplate! The Son of God, the Second Person in the eternal Godhead, came down from heaven to earth; He took unto Him human nature, He joined human nature unto Himself, He shared human nature; and as the result of His work we human beings share His life and are in Him, and are participators in all the benefits that come from Him.

In another excellent article, Michael Horton writes:

Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life–“while you were dead…he made you alive” (Eph.2:1). […] Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).

Also see:

Union with Christ

What Providence Isn’t

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? Here is another declaration of theirs in 1933: ‘This turn of history,’ they said, referring to Hitler’s coming into power, ‘we say God has given him to us, to God be the glory. As bound to God’s word we recognise in the great events of our day a new commission of God to His Church.’

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 very careful lest we bring God and His cause into disrepute by unwise and injudicious claims. … My point, then, is this: the doctrine is plain and clear, but 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

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What is it to pray in faith?

What is it to pray in faith?

  1. It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith.
  2. It is to pray in Christ’s meritorious name. ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.’ John 14:13. To pray in Christ’s name, is to pray with confidence in Christ’s merit. When we present Christ to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say, ‘Lord, we are sinners, but here is our surety; for Christ’s sake be propitious,’ we come to God in Christ’s name; and this is to pray in faith.
  3. It is to fix our faith in prayer on God’s faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of God. Isa 64:7. By prayer we draw nigh to God, by faith we take hold of him. ‘They cried unto the Lord;’ and this was the crying of faith. 2 Chron 13:14. They ‘prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;’ ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God, is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions, irrisio Dei est, says Pelican; ‘it is to abuse and put a scorn on God.’ By praying we seem to honor God; by not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, ‘Almighty, merciful Father;’ by not believing, we blot out all his titles again.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

This can be a difficult subject. Some Scripture:

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 NIV

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

Extra credit (verse in question is emphasized):

Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:19-24

23. Jesus gently reproves the man’s lack of faith. If you can might be better paraphrased, ‘That “if you” of yours’ (where Jesus would be quoting the man’s own words): ‘Why, everything can be done for one who believes.’ This is a statement of the great biblical principle enunciated in Mark 10:27 and Mark 11:24. But we are not called to ‘put God to the test’ by irresponsible ‘believing prayer’ for what may well be our human desire but not be his will. We are free to ask what we will, but only if it is what God wills (Mark 14:36). This is no mere theological quibble: it is a statement in another form of the need for the ‘mind of Christ’ [1 Cor. 2:16] in us, given by the Spirit. It is also a warning against taking one statement of Scripture in isolation from others, and basing presumptuous prayer on it.

–Alan Cole, Mark, TNTC

The Lord's Prayer

Opposition to Opposition of the Cross

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Mark 8:21-33

When I was a kid growing up in Roman Catholic Church, I would always get so mad at those people who crucified Jesus. I used to think, “Just imagine how much more Jesus could have done if he would have been able to keep teaching and healing. How could people do that to the Savior?” It’s still hard for me to read the passion part of the Gospels.

As it turns out, this is the same attitude that Peter (and most likely the other disciples) had. Even though Peter said this out of love for his friend and ‘the Messiah’ (Mark 8:29), they were rebuked soundly for saying just what Satan would want them to think.

The MacArthur Study Bible has a note where he says, “Jesus’ sacrificial death was God’s plan (Acts 2:22,23; 4:27-28), and whoever opposed it was, wittingly or not, advocating Satan’s work.”

In Mark 8:15, Jesus warned about the “yeast of Herod and the Pharisees”, who in part were opposed to the inbreaking kingdom of God (1 Cor 5:6-8), which was merely a human concern.

So now I think, “Imagine if Jesus didn’t come to die on the cross for our sins, be raised for our justification, and ascend to heaven to that he could send the Holy Spirit”, among so many other ramifications of the cross. After reading this in Mark, though, I realize that my perspective still needs adjustment.

The cross was planned before eternity. Over time I’ve written down verse references from the NT that apply to this.

Acts 2:22-23, Acts 4:27-28, 2 Tim 1:9, Titus 1:2, 1 Pet 1:20, Rev 13:8
Predicted–Acts 3:18, Acts 7:52 (Isaiah 53 among many others)

Recommended books:
The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul
The Cross of Christ by John Stott

Cross

Benefits of Reading Old Books

I’ve been finding that the best books on suffering are books that are about Jesus, or the cross, or God’s character, or general theology. Many modern books on suffering are either about ‘secrets’ to overcoming it, or the better books need to convince us that suffering shouldn’t be a surprise, or that it’s not outside of God’s will.

The older books on theology mention a lot about affliction both because they lived in it, and because it’s mentioned so much in Scripture.

If we only look to the Bible for verses about our own inner needs and psychological comfort, or for physical needs and material things we think we need, we may be missing the broader teachings that will ultimately transform us instead of just inform us.

The problem with reading only contemporary work is that we all sound so contemporary that our talks and sermons soon descend to the level of kitsch. We talk fluently about the importance of self-identity, ecological responsibility, tolerance, becoming a follower of Jesus (but rarely becoming a Christian), how the Bible helps us in our pain and suffering, and conduct seminars on money management and divorce recovery. Not for a moment would I suggest that the Bible fails to address such topics—but the Bible is not primarily about such topics. If we integrate more reading of, say, John Chrysostom, John Calvin, and John Flavel (to pick on three Johns), we might be inclined to devote more attention in our addresses to what it means to be made in the image of God, to the dreadfulness of sin, to the nature of the gospel, to the blessed Trinity, to truth, to discipleship, to the Bible’s insistence that Christians will suffer, to learning how to die well, to the prospect of the new heaven and the new earth, to the glories of the new covenant, to the sheer beauty of Jesus Christ, to confidence in a God who is both sovereign and good, to the non-negotiability of repentance and faith, to the importance of endurance and perseverance, to the beauty of holiness and the importance of the local church. Is the Bible truly authoritative in our lives and ministries when we skirt these and other truly important themes that other generations of Christians rightly found in the Bible?

–D.A. Carson, Too Little Reading, Especially the Reading of Older Commentaries and Theological Works in a Themelios article: Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives

Themelios

“Which is easier to say”? You’re forgiven or healed?

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
Mark 2:9-11 ESV

In reading through Mark using several study Bibles and a couple of commentaries when necessary, the comment on this passage in the ESV Study Bible is very helpful.

Mark 2:9–11 Which is easier … ? On the surface, of course, it is easier to say the words, “Your sins are forgiven,” because that is something invisible and impossible to disprove. But it is harder to say, “take up your bed and walk” because, if the man does not get up, the one who said the words will be shown to have no authority to heal. On a deeper level, however, it is harder to forgive sins, because only God can forgive sins—at the cost of Christ’s death on the cross. The logic here is that, since Jesus can do the visible miracle (heal the paralytic), this is evidence that he also has the power to do the invisible miracle (forgive sins).

I’ve been using up to seven study Bibles. All of them are available to me online except the paper version of The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB), which I have found to be the most helpful after using it and others while reading 1 Timothy through Revelation.

Free Resources
You can find the Reformation Study Bible for free at BibleGateway, along with previews of many others, along with some commentaries, and the HCSB Study Bible on their own site. Go to the Library link on the left and find it within the book list. Let me know if there are others you’re familiar with.

Embarrassment About Bible Subjects

D.A. Carson writes about Heart Embarrassment before the Text within his article on Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives in Themelios. He’s writing about preachers, but the scary thing to me is that I could see myself as explaining some things in this way.

Not infrequently preachers avoid certain topics, in part because those topics embarrass them.

In its ugliest form, the preacher says something like this: “Our passage this morning, Luke 16:19–31, like quite a number of other passages drawn from the life of Jesus, depicts hell in some pretty shocking ways. Frankly, I wish I could avoid these passages. They leave me distinctly uncomfortable. But of course, I cannot ignore them entirely, for after all they are right here in the Bible.” The preacher has formally submitted to Scripture’s authority, while presenting himself as someone who is more compassionate or more sensitive than Jesus. This is as deceptive as it is wicked—and it is easy to multiply examples.

Contrast the apostle Paul: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:1–2).

After reading this, I hope I don’t.

The rest of the article is excellent, including a section on Too Little Reading, Especially the Reading of Older Commentaries and Theological Works. It’s hard to imagine anything by him as anything less.

Themelios

Possible Problems With Book Reading Goals

On David Murray’s HeadHeartHand Blog’s site, I found Four Reasons to Slow Down at Desiring God. I had been thinking about writing a blog post on Why Reading Goals Are Bad, which is somewhat of a click-bait title, and mention why that could be bad for personal reasons I can think of. I thought I would add things mentioned in this article to them.

His reasons, without the full explanations, are:

  1. We are pursuing transformation, not information.
    “God’s purpose in our learning is that we become Christlike (Romans 8:29), not that we become information databases.”
  2. Real growth takes a long time.
    “the most important things take a long time to grow and mature. They can’t be rushed.”
  3. Goals matter and develop over time.
    “Goals reveal how godly or ungodly our desires are.”
    I would need more clarification on this.
  4. We cannot love what we do not linger over.
    “Comprehension requires time-consuming concentration and meditation.”

He sets his goals as hours, which is what I’ve started to do–except it’s minutes per day–partly because I’ve had a big slump in the amount of extra-biblical reading I’ve been doing. I aim for a certain amount of time, and however many books that ends up being, Goodreads will tell me at the end of the year. Even though my reading slump started in spring or early summer of last year (2016), I still managed to read about 17 books, which really surprised me.

I should say at this point that I’m not saying that lofty reading goals (or challenges) are bad. I think it’s possible to read 50-100 books in a year and still not violate any of his or my potential problems.

Other reasons I’ve come up with:

  • Like the first and fourth reasons above, it can cause us not to pause and meditate on something because we want to get our book done and make our goal. Especially lamentable would be if we don’t stop to praise or thank God related to something we just read.
  • We don’t take notes or take the time to gather quotes from the book.
  • This could be an area of pride. Read 104 books in a year and don’t tell anyone about it.
  • You don’t want to read one chapter from a systematic theology, NT or OT introduction, or a reference book, etc. because it doesn’t count as a book. Or you could be tempted to cheat and call it a book. And then brag about how many books you read.
  • You might not want to skim parts of books if you feel that’s cheating.
  • You might not want to read large books like Calvin’s Institutes, a systematic theology, or a commentary.
  • Worst of all, you may be tempted to read the Bible less.* Starting last year, I was reading the Bible more than reading books, and the Bible reading was substantial, even though I was in a book reading slump. That was a good thing.

On the other hand, if you have trouble reading books:
Reading books on theology has been extremely important to me. Because of learning about doctrine (teachings), I have a much better understanding of the Bible when I read it, even if it’s just a relatively tiny amount of knowledge. This makes reading the Bible more enjoyable and it becomes more effective spiritually. A whole book could be written on many of the other benefits of reading in general, and I see articles and blog posts on that subject regularly as new research comes along. For those who don’t read, if one just reads ten minutes a day, they’ll be surprised at what they can learn and how many books can be read in a year. That includes the Bible too.

*Extra credit: Quotes on the importance of Scripture over the Bible.

All other books might be heaped together in one pile and burned with less loss to the world than would be occasioned by the obliteration of a single page of the sacred volume [Scripture]. At their best, all other books are but as gold leaf, requiring acres to find one ounce of the precious metal. But the Bible is solid gold. It contains blocks of gold, mines, and whole caverns of priceless treasure. In the mental wealth of the wisest men there are no jewels like the truths of revelation. The thoughts of men are vanity, low, and groveling at their best. but he who has given us this book has said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let it be to you and to me a settled matter that the word of the Lord shall be honored in our minds and enshrined in our hearts. Let others speak as they may. We could sooner part with all that is sublime and beautiful, or cheering and profitable, in human literature than lose a single syllable from the mouth of God.

–C.H. Spurgeon, from the sermon “Holy Longings,” as quoted in Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke, pp. 27-28

“In time,” Luther opined, “my books will lie forgotten in the dust.” This was no lament on the Reformer’s part. In fact, Luther found much “consolation” in the possibility — or rather likelihood — that his literary efforts would soon fade into oblivion. The dim view he apparently took of his own writings was intimately related to the high view he took of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, his high view of Scripture resulted in a rather dim view of all other writings, not just his own. “Through this practice [namely, writing and collecting books],” he wrote, “not only is precious time lost which could be used for studying the Scripture, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is also lost, so that the Bible lies forgotten in the dust under the bench.” Making the same point in more colorful terms, Luther complained of the “countless mass of books” written over time which, “like a crawling swarm of vermin,” had served to supplant the place which should belong to “the Bible” in the life of the Church and her people. In sum, Luther judged that folk would be better off reading and hearing the Bible than reading and hearing anything which he or anyone else had written, and the last thing he wanted to be found guilty of was producing words which distracted anyone from the Word.

–Aaron Denlinger, Luther on Book-Showers and Big, Long, Shaggy Donkey Ears

The Privilege of Fearing the Lord

Recently, when reading Psalm 130, I found verse 4 fascinating.

Lord, if you were to record iniquities,
Lord, who could remain standing?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you may be feared.
Psalm 130:3-4 ISV

Some translations use revered, honored, or respected. That may be more perspicuous (plainly understood), but I think the word fear is a much broader term. I say this at the risk of betraying what the original Hebrew means. Fear would include respect, honor, and revere, and it also may include a filial (as a son or daughter) fear of offending God our Father.

This means that unbelievers cannot fear the Lord, but when we are forgiven and our eyes are opened to who God is, we are then able to rightly fear, honor, revere, and respect him without being either afraid of eternal punishment, indifferent, or at least not be able to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Spurgeon says it much better than I ever could:

None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.

–Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, on v. 4

The point is that God forgives people in order that they might fear, meaning, that they might become his faithful, obedient worshippers.

–Allen Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms

Ross says that the verb form translated as fear only occurs here, which is why I don’t want to make a strong case for using the word fear, although that’s how it has traditionally been translated.

This portion of a Puritan prayer reminds me of this. I’ve emphasized a phrase that’s especially relevant. If you’re reading this on Sunday morning (I know that many of you are), let this be a Lord’s day prayer.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life
is a spirit of holy watchfulness
and godly jealousy over myself,
when my soul is afraid of nothing
except grieving and offending thee,

the blessed God, my Father and friend,
whom I then love and long to please,
rather than be happy in myself!

Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper,
worthy of the highest ambition, and closest
pursuit of intelligent creatures
and holy Christians,
may my joy derive from glorifying and
delighting thee.

–Devotion, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (emphasis added)

The Fear of God and A Sense of Sin (1:30) from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Also see:
Fear of the Lord posts on this blog