Archive for the 'Reading' Category

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

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

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

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.”

Around the Web-2016’s Favorite Books

This is the obligatory roundup of posts about books that people liked from the year, devotional recommendations, and one looking forward to next year. I’ve kept the list short.

If I’m motivated enough, I’d like to put up a post about some of the books that I read.

Top 16 Books of 2016 | Desiring God

My Top Books of 2016 – Tim Challies

Daily Devotionals: Recommendations « The Reformed Reader

12 Christian Books Releasing in 2017 to Keep On Your Radar | Anchored in Christ

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System-Everything You Need to Know

C.S. Lewis and Sinclair Ferguson both said that they wish they had read the Bible more.

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System is a popular and intriguing reading plan where one chapter of each of ten ‘Lists’ of the Bible are read each day. So, List 1 is the Gospels, List 2 is the , another is the historical books, the wisdom books, Psalms is by itself, etc. so that you’re reading ten chapters a day. When you’re done with each list, you start that list over. As each section starts over at a different time, you’re reading different parts of the Bible together the next time you cycle through each list.

Instead of writing more about how the system works, I’ll let you read through the excellent article Professor Horner wrote, and then you can read a little about my experience, if that matters to you, along with a list of resources.

Professor Grant Horners Bible Reading System | Scribd – The Facebook page is no longer there.

I kept my eye on this reading plan, or ‘system’, for a few years. In April of 2015, I started praying that God would motivate me to want to start with it. About two days later I thought, “Why not just start now? You know you want to.” So I started then, very slightly modifying it to nine chapters a day, for about 18 months. It didn’t seem like a year and a half. (And it’s taken me this long to write a blog post about it!)

This system is mainly for familiarity with the Bible. Certainly, we should be praying through the Bible, meditating on it, and studying it. Right now I’m meditating and praying through much of the NT with a study Bible, and also slowly praying through the Psalms. I want to get more motivated to do more studying, which I did much more of in the past. I plan on returning to Professor Horner’s system within a year or two. So this isn’t made to be an all inclusive plan for your Bible consumption. Lately, I’ve only been able to do one aspect of Bible reading at a time. I’ve been spending the same amount of time on what I’m doing now as when I was reading nine chapters a day. Since it never seemed burdensome, I thought I’d keep up the discipline and not lose the mental callouses that have been built up.

Part of the goal of this system, as the article above says, is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. This happens more as we learn more of the Bible. For me, there was much more interpretation going on than I expected. But it wasn’t just Scripture interpreting Scripture. For sure, God was giving me insight into His Word. But I think he was doing that through the discipline of reading a lot of it. It was surprising, because as Professor Horner says, you need to just get through the text and not stop to look things up. The goal is to get to know Scripture better. It is Scripture that changes us in so many ways, and ingesting large doses of it may be helpful in ways we might not realize if we’re not usually spending as much time with it as this requires.

The best way to learn Biblical theology, the best way to get you out of the world’s way of thinking and into the Bible’s is to study the Bible itself. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. Read the Bible. A lot.

–James M. Hamilton Jr., What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns

If your Bible is falling apart, you probably aren’t.

–John MacArthur, as told to Grant Horner after looking at his tattered Bible (as found in the article above)

There’s a lot more I could write about, but I’ll stop there. I haven’t seen a list of apps anywhere, so I hope these are helpful.

Android Apps
YouVersion – This stops after one year, unfortunately. I didn’t want to start over; I wanted to keep going with the lists where I was.

Bookmarks – Complete Bible Reading Tool – Each of the ten lists are separate, so you could read each of the ten sections at separate paces if you would want to, and also pick up where you left off if you used YouVerion.

Pocket Bible – This has a ‘year 2’. I used both of these after year one of the YouVersion app.

Online
Prof. Horner's Bible Reading System

Traditional (paper) Bookmarks
New Bookmarks: Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System | Nathan W. Bingham

My wife used these and usually read about five chapters a day.

Lists for Printouts
At Scribd, you can sign up for a free month if you haven’t already. Then you can download the documents, as far as I can tell.

Professor Grant Horner Bible Reading Plan Checklist

Grant Horner Bible Reading System – Spreadsheet

Also see:
Quotes On Reading the Bible | Scripture Zealot blog

Photo of a Bible

First five books of the Bible.

Luther and Spurgeon on Books

After using Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System for a year and a half, while also having a dry spell for reading books at the same time, I’ve realized the importance of Scripture and have been less into reading books. I’m praying that my ambition for outside reading will return, but God has been using this period in my life to show me some things.

Scripture is what changes us and shows us who God is. Some of us really love our books, but I have to be sure to keep the right priorities. I hate to admit that it wasn’t until last year that I was able to spend much more time with the Bible than with books.

“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, Reformation 21 blog

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

Photo of a Bible

Been Reading

I’ve been in a big book reading slump. Bible reading is fine, and maybe it’s partly because I’ve been reading more of the Bible. But some of it is spiritual, and it’s a long complicated story that I don’t fully understand myself. I’m waiting for God to bring this back for me. Until then, I force myself to read just a little each day. Did you know that ten minutes of reading a day can amount to about 12 average length paperbacks in a year?

book-what-is-biblical-theology

The most recent book I read is What Is Biblical Theology? – A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James M. Hamilton Jr.

This is great primer for the subject and the subtitle. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now, which is why I want to mention it. I thought the end of the book veered a little off course but it’s a very good basic book on these concepts. Much of the book deals with Eden and exodus. There is a good bibliography at the end, which is nice because the book left me wanting more. It’s only 177 pages, so that’s not a complaint. Go to Jennifer Guo’s site for a more in-depth review.

Before that, I read Calvin’s Institutes for the second time. This time I read the 1541 edition, which is Calvin’s third iteration–the last one being is fifth. It was great of course. My reading slump happened halfway through. With some slow reading and skipping a couple of chapters, I made it through. By the way, I very much dislike the publisher’s subtitle of “Calvin’s Own ‘Essentials’ Edition”. It’s not a condensed version of any of his works. It’s just not as long as his final work–with less polemics–although there still was quite a bit.

Right now I’m reading parts of A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3 (90-150) by Allen Ross. He has a great portion on Psalm 119 which is my favorite one. This is a review book.

Next up is Hearing God When You Hurt by James Montgomery Boice. I haven’t read a good book on suffering for a while and really need to right now (part of the long story, but many readers are familiar with the general situtation), and I also wanted to see how I like James Montgomery Boice. Each chapter is based on a Psalm.

This was just going to be a short post giving a heads up about the Biblical theology book, but then I felt like writing a little more.

The Obligatory EOY Book Post

This is the time of year that everybody posts their favorite books of the year. I’ll just show you what I read and offer a few comments for anyone who might be interested.

Goodreads | Jeff’s Year in Books

There were very good books read this year. The Crook in the Lot had the most impact on me. Communion with the Triune God was probably the best book.

Mindscape was mediocre for me. It’s really not a bad book though. I just bought into the hype at the time with all of the blurbs by people I like. I don’t think it will be around a long time. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home was probably better as sermons, but it has good material. Horton’s systematic theology, The Christian Faith, was a whopper. It got too philosophical for me, but it was very good. I should have picked an easier one to read as my first one. I don’t feel a need to read another one anytime soon.

The rest were all very good. I learned a lot. By the way, the edition of Pilgrim’s Progress is a modernized version published by Crossway. Goodreads doesn’t have that in their system.

There will be a review of What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About coming soon.

I just happened to see that My Year in Books thing as I was adding a book to Goodreads, so I thought I’d make a post about it. I would like to read more next year than I did this year, although I’m reading more of the Bible (a post will be forthcoming about that) which takes some time away from reading other books, which is just fine.

Did you have any highlights?

Reading Is Good, Even If You Forget It

The full title should be that reading is good for you, even if you don’t remember most or all of what you read.

I was reading a blog post on why it’s beneficial to learn greek and Hebrew even if you lose it. I went through beginning Greek and am now purposely not ‘keeping it’. I would rather spend my time memorizing Scripture instead of trying to keep up my Greek vocabulary. However, I learned enough to basically know what commentators are talking about when they write about Greek, and I can read a commentary on the Greek of a book like Colossians, which is very helpful.

But back to reading–there is a quote below from the article that reminds me of how I feel about reading. And you get to read about it (yay). I’ve always felt that when reading Christian books, even if I don’t take notes and/or remember what I read, it still influences me. When things are repeated, they get learned. And most of all, reading for me is a great way to worship God.

I only like to read books that are going to affect my life with God directly in some way. All are subjects that cause me to wonder, ponder, learn and grow closer to God or show me my sin or something about myself God would like to point out. And if I forget it, part of what I read is stuck in my brain and spirit, and I know for sure that God will and has used it as he would like. He can also call it back to mind (John 14:26).

Reading has become a very important part of my life. The Bible always gets read every day; I made a commitment to that. But when I don’t also read outside of the Bible, I miss it because it’s spiritually therapeutic, at the risk of sounding like I have a self-help gospel complex. I can’t imagine not reading the Bible.

The article linked above included this quote.

Most of what is shaping you in the course of your reading, you will not be able to remember. The most formative years of my life were the first five, and if those years were to be evaluated on the basis of my ability to pass a test on them, the conclusion would be that nothing important happened then, which would be false. The fact that you can’t remember things doesn’t mean that you haven’t been shaped by them.

–Douglas Wilson

Part of the reason I’ve been blogging less is because I don’t want to give up more of my reading time. I’m trying to find a balance.

One other thing I’m thinking about if you’re still reading this is how much note-taking I should do. It takes more time and causes less reading, but the things written above doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to retain more of what we read. Some people retain more than others, and for me, I remember a lot of some books and others, I can hardly remember the title. I started using Evernote for that purpose, but I’ve purposely tried backing off on that a little. I’m always saving quotes though. If you take notes (or don’t), I’m always open for feedback.

Also see:
What I’ve Been Reading–Goodreads

Blogging Less, Reading More

I’ve been told that people who read blogs like to read regular posts. For those who for some reason like to read this blog, I apologize for that. I also apologize for not having anything dramatic to say about why I haven’t been blogging much lately. My reading has been going very well, and I haven’t wanted to take time away from that to blog. That’s about it. I may do some reposts for now. I don’t plan on quitting though.

Other than the Bible, I’ve been reading Victor Hamilton’s Handbook on the Pentateuch, along with the Pentateuch, which I’ve been wanting to do forever, and Michael Horton’s systematic theology called The Christian Faith, which is a bit of a blend between Biblical and systematic theology. It’s 1000 pages, so I’ve had my head down getting through it. I also don’t usually read two books at a time.

Speaking of reading books, I’ve always wondered about the proportion of time that many of us book lovers spend between the Bible and other books. This quote, along with the article has recently had a profound impact on me:

“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.

Luther on Book-Showers and Big, Long, Shaggy Donkey Ears – Reformation21 Blog

Maybe this is hyperbole, as Luther was wont to do, but taken literally, I seem to have a higher view of books that he did. I’m sure he thought they were very important too, to some degree. I think it’s important for everyone to read outside of Scripture to help us understand it better. Much of the Bible is perspicuous, and some not so much. Scholars debating about the degree of the ‘perspicuity of Scripture’ won’t end anytime soon.

As I began to write above, I wonder about how much time to allocate to each. A friend of mine was saying that this could be God nudging me to make some changes or it could be arbitrary. Another friend mentioned objectives. I remembered that what I really want at this point is to know Scripture better. Then I understood what he meant by arbitrary–if I’m spending XX% time with Scripture and feel guilty about it, and then change the percentage to 30% more, that’s arbitrary. It’s just to make me feel better about myself. At this point, what I really want is a better knowledge of the Bible with more emphasis on time in it.

I’m considering Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System, which is something my wife has done. Many of you are familiar with it. Since compliance is more important than time or exact method, whether it’s diet, exercise or any other disciplined endeavor, I might modify it slightly to be reading eight chapters a day and see how that goes. If I do this, the other reading will fall into place. I’m not concerned with exact proportions or minutes spent on each. I also like to vary reading styles/objectives and amount of studying, as you probably do too, so who knows if this might be something I’ll do every day for the rest of my life, should it work out, God willing and without any major chronic fatigue or other types of flare-ups.

Here’s a great article that is about the ESV reader’s Bible (I wish my translation had one) and Professor Horner’s plan:
Abandoned to Christ: Professor Grant Horner's 'The Ten Lists Bible Reading System'
I really identify with what she’s saying as far as wanting to understand everything, but I’ve also benefitted so much from reading through the Bible.

I’ve also learned that people don’t like reading long blog posts, so I will leave it there for now, since I’ve failed in that regard.

Also see:

A Problem With Electronic Books

Sometimes you read the wrong book. I’ll never forget Brian Regan doing a standup routine on how book titles are on every other page:

If reading makes you smart then how come when you read a book they have to put the title of the book on the top of every single page? Does anyone get halfway through a book, “What the h*** am I reading?”

For the first time in a long time, or maybe ever, I couldn’t decide what book to read. I have so many I want to read–two (more) books on Ecclesiastes, a few books on Luther for a foray into his theology, Michael Horton’s systematic theology (not ready for a 1000 page book right at the moment, but I’m looking forward to it), parts of A Puritan Theology, Living Sacrifice, On Communication With God–that I was stymied. So I decided to read Derek Thomas’ The Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, a free Kindle book. But wait, I saw R.C. Sprouls’ The Work of Christ. I love reading about Christology, so I just picked that. It was a free Kindle book also. I also recently read a short one, possibly a chapter pulled out of a book, called Mystic[al] Union With Christ by Thomas Watson. I was going to read a paper by Horton called Union With Christ in addition to it, but noticed there is a chapter on that in his systematic theology, so I’d hold off. But I did look at it in my eReader on my phone. Somehow when reading The Work of Christ, it reverted back to Union With Christ and I never knew it until I finished it way too soon. And the strange thing is, earlier today I was thinking about how much I learn from both Horton and Sproul, and that I should read more of them in the future. They have similar styles apparently.

So maybe there is a value to having the title of a book on every single page.

Hasty Review: The Crook in the Lot

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston

I hesitate to put this review here. I posted in on Goodreads for myself as much as for others. It’s a hastily written review. I don’t want to spend any more time on it than this. The book was life changing for me. As suffering has increased in my life, God has been teaching me more and more about his sovereignty and providence as time goes on. Part of the reason it takes so much time is because my pride is involved.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

This verse is the premise of the book. Accepting our lot in life is one of its messages. Hopefully that will help you understand what crook and lot means if those terms are unfamiliar.

One of, if not the best book on dealing with affliction that I’ve read. It’s just what I’ve been looking for. Boston covers it from many angles. If you don’t come away more humble and God fearing after reading this book, you might not have understood it or been able to take in what he has to say at this point in your life.

This isn’t a modern ‘comfort’ book or seven steps to overcoming affliction. Some of the older English can be difficult, but I was able to get used to it.

As with most or all Puritans, everything is Scriptural based on how the author interprets it. Lowliness, glorifying God, and God’s ordaining of everything are stressed. I suppose for those who are ready for it, this book is comforting; at the same time, the truth isn’t always easy to accept.

I would obviously recommend this to anyone dealing with affliction, but also to anyone who isn’t, in order to prepare for what may come in life, and to learn more about God’s sovereignty and how we should live as God’s children.

See other reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Vindicating God Instead of Ourselves

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston is one the best, if not the best books I’ve read on dealing with affliction. I may write more about that at some point; but here is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It may take a few reads to understand it.

Even good men … think God deals His favours unequally, and is mighty severe on them more than others. Elihu marks this fault in Job, under his humbling circumstances. And I believe it will be found, there is readily a greater keenness to vindicate our own honor from the imputation the humbling circumstances seem to lay on it than to vindicate the honor of God in the justice and equity of the dispensation. The blindness of an ill-natured world, still ready to suspect the worst causes for humbling circumstances, as if the greatest sufferers were surely the greatest sinners, gives a handle for this bias of the corrupt nature. But God is a jealous God, and when He appears sufficiently to humble, He will cause the matter of our honor to give way to the vindication of His.

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot

Contemplating Jesus

See if this makes sense; I’ve been thinking about it for a while:

The temple Jesus spoke about was his own body.
John 2:21 GW

I have asked the LORD for one thing –
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD
and contemplate in his temple.
Psalm 27:4 NET

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. […]
“but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:39, 42 NET

I read a book about the Lord [Jesus] by a Catholic scholar (they can be quite good in many things) quite a few years ago and he said that Mary was contemplating (word used in the NET for Ps 27.4) Jesus. I liked that description.

We contemplate what Jesus says by reading the Bible. I’ve always loved that passage. The ‘historical Jesus’ (not the polemic, apologetic, or reconstruction types) or Jesus as a man has been one of my favorite subjects. Do you have any books you like on that subject? I have one by another Catholic scholar called The Lord by Romano Guardini, although extremely comprehensive, not just about Jesus when he was on earth as a man. I read it quite a few years ago like the other one. I want to read it again. The only two Roman Catholic things I noticed at the time were that he said Jesus had no blood brothers because Mary remained a virgin, and he was especially lenient with John the Baptist when describing him in prison, questioning if Jesus was the Messiah. I want to read it again as a devotional. There are probably some things I would disagree with now, but it’s too good not to read. The Glory of Christ by Owen was excellent.