Archive for the 'Reading' Category

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.

Christian Book Lists from 2014

If you like these lists, here are some that I collected.

14 Best Books of 2014 | Desiring God

The 50 Best Christian Books of 2014 | Monergism

Staff Picks for Favorite Books of 2014 — Grace for Sinners

My Top Books of 2014 | Challies Dot Com

Been Reading: Seeking the Face of God

I would like to write a few posts about what I’ve been reading, and may keep that up as I go along. I used to write about them in my secondary blog just to keep track. Now I keep track in Goodreads and started taking notes using Evernote. I’d like to review those notes a little while after I’m done with a book and might post any highlights here. Hopefully that will help me to remember more of the important things that I learned, or just review and post the quotes that I liked. (I badger people with these on Facebook.)

Martin Lloyd-Jones on how to set the Lord before us:

There are many ways of doing this [setting the Lord always before us-Psalm 16:8], but none is more important than the Word, the Bible. God has revealed Himself to us there; so as we read it, we obtain knowledge about God. He is speaking to us through the Word about Himself and about ourselves, so that the more we know it and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much time in regular, daily reading of the Bible. And let it be systematic reading, not just picking it up at random and turning to a favorite psalm and then to somewhere in the Gospels. No; it must be Genesis to Revelation! Go through the Book year by year. I think any Christian should be ashamed who does not go through the entire Bible once a year. Go through it systematically. Many schemes have been designed and can be purchased that will tell you how to do this and will help you do so. Or if you like, you can work one out for yourself as I once did. But whatever you do, insist upon it. God’s Word speaks to you—listen to Him, and you will come into His presence. Set Him before you by reading the Bible. You can do this also in prayer—talking to God and listening to Him.

Those are ways in which you can set Him before you. Also read biographies of godly people. When you see the kind of life they were enabled to live, you will feel, “Oh, that I were like that!” You will discover that the reason for their living as they did was that they always set the Lord before them. And so you read that when they were taken desperately ill or when bereavement and sorrow came, it did not disturb their equanimity, they were not finally upset. They were not inhuman; they did feel these things, and they felt them very acutely. But they did not lose their balance. They did not feel that all was lost and gone. And when trials and calamities came, even wars, they did not feel that everything had collapsed. Not at all! They went on, and there was a kind of added sweetness and beauty about their lives and a still greater joy and peace.

Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I liked this book a lot. The Psalms are somewhat of an enigma for me, and this helped just a little bit with that, but I found it to be simply a good book on seeking God. It’s hard to imagine not liking anything he wrote.

So I did read a biography called A Grief Sanctified by Richard Baxter with reflections by J.I. Packer throughout, and found it somewhat disappointing. Packer often repeated some of the things that Baxter says. I chose it more from the standpoint of dealing with loss, but Baxter didn’t write a lot about that. The story of Baxter and his wife was interesting, but I just didn’t get a lot out of it.

Thomas Watson on Affliction

This is from Thomas Watson’s book The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve been finding that books like this are just as good for dealing with suffering as books on suffering (which many posts on this blog are about). Not just the parts of them on subjects dealing with suffering directly, but for example in this book, the extensive part on Our Father is very edifying in every way. The quote below is from part of the section on Thy Will Be Done. Notice the hierarchy of numbering goes from [] to () in the bold parts. I think the most difficult part of reading the Puritans are the lists with the numbers. They can go three and four deep. It’s more difficult when it’s an eBook, like this one is for me. At least it makes it easy to copy and paste. I think this is especially good for those dealing with suffering or who might wrestle with the subject:

When do we not submit to God’s will in affliction as we ought?

(1) When we have hard thoughts of him, and our hearts begin to swell against him.

(2) When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty. We can mourn as doves—but not pray or praise God. We are so discomposed that we are not fit to hearken to any good counsel. “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.” Exod 6:9. Israel was so full of grief under their burdens, that they minded not what Moses said, though he came with a message from God to them; “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.”

(3) We do not submit as we ought to God’s will when we labor to break loose from affliction by indirect means. Many, to rid themselves out of trouble, run themselves into sin. When God has bound them with the cords of affliction—they go to the devil to loosen their bands! Better it is to stay in affliction, than to sin ourselves out of it. O let us learn to stoop to God’s will in all afflictive providence.

But how shall we bring ourselves, in all occurrences of providence, patiently to acquiesce in God’s will, and say, “May your will be done”?

The MEANS for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are:

[1] Judicious consideration. “In the day of adversity consider.” Eccl 7:14. When anything burdens us, or runs cross to our desires, did we but sit down and consider, and weigh things in the balance of judgment, it would much quiet our minds, and subject our wills to God. Consideration would be as David’s harp, to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent.

But what should we consider?

That which should make us submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done,” is:

(1) Consider that the present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. [No one escapes bearing the lot which all suffer.] “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward;” he is heir apparent to it. Man comes into the world with a cry—and goes out with a groan! Job 5:7. The world is a place where much wormwood grows. “He has filled me with bitterness (Heb with bitternesses); he has made me drunken with wormwood.” Lam 3:15. Troubles arise like sparks out of a furnace. Afflictions are some of the thorns which the earth after the curse brings forth. We may as well think to stop the chariot of the sun when it is in its swift motion, as put a stop to trouble. The consideration of a life exposed to troubles and sufferings, should make us say with patience, “May your will be done.” Shall a mariner be angry that he meets with a storm at sea?

(2) Consider that God has a special hand in the disposal of all occurrences. Job eyed God in his affliction. “The Lord has taken away;” chap 1:21. He did not complain of the Sabeans, or the influences of the planets; he looked beyond all second causes; he saw God in the affliction, and that made him cheerfully submit; he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Christ looked beyond Judas and Pilate to God’s determinate counsel in delivering him up to be crucified, which made him say, “Father, not as I will—but as you will.” Acts 4:27, 28, Matthew 26:39. It is vain to quarrel with instruments. Wicked men are but a rod in God’s hand! “O Assyria, the rod of my anger.” Isaiah 10:5. Whoever brings an affliction—God sends it! The consideration of this should make us say, “May your will be done;” for what God does he sees a reason for. We read of a wheel within a wheel. Ezek 1:16. The outward wheel, which turns all, is providence; the wheel within this wheel is God’s decree; this believed, would rock the heart quiet. Shall we mutiny at that which God does? We may as well quarrel with the works of creation as with the works of providence.

(3) Consider that there is a NECESSITY for affliction. “If need be, you are in heaviness.” 1 Peter 1:6. It is needful that some things are kept in brine. Afflictions are needful upon several accounts.

[1] To keep us humble. Often there is no other way to have the heart low—but by being brought low. When Manasseh “was in affliction, he humbled himself greatly.” 2 Chron 33:12. Corrections are corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. “Remembering my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul is humbled in me.” Lam 3:19, 20.

[2] It is necessary that there should be affliction; for if God did not sometimes bring us into affliction, how could his power be seen in bringing us out? Had not Israel been in the Egyptian furnace, God had lost his glory in their deliverance.

[3] If there were no affliction, then many parts of Scripture could not be fulfilled. God has promised to help us to bear affliction. Psalm 37:24, 39. How could we experience his supporting us in trouble—if we did not sometimes meet with it? God has promised to give us joy in affliction. John 16:20. How could we taste this honey of joy—if we were not sometimes in affliction? Again, he has promised to wipe away tears from our eyes. Isaiah 25:8. How could he wipe away our tears in heaven—if we never shed any? So that, in several respects, there is an absolute necessity that we should meet with affliction; and shall not we quietly submit, and say, “Lord, I see there is a necessity for it?” “May your will be done!”

(4) Consider that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves; we have put a rod into God’s hand to chastise us. Christian, God lays your afflictive cross on you—but it is of your own making. If a man’s field is full of tares, it is what he has sown in it. If you reap a bitter crop of affliction, it is what you yourself have sown. The cords which pinch you are of your own twisting. If children will eat green fruit—they may blame themselves if they are sick; and if we eat the forbidden fruit, no wonder that we feel it gripe. Sin is the Trojan horse which lands a multitude of afflictions upon us. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” Jeremiah 4:18. If we by sin run ourselves into arrears with God, no wonder if he sets affliction as a sergeant on our back, to arrest us. This should make us patiently submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done.” We have no cause to complain of God; it is nothing but what our sins have merited. “Have not you procured this unto yourself?” Jer 2:17. The afflictive cross, though it be of God’s laying, is of our making. Say, then, as Micah (chap 7:9), “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” “Whatever a man sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

(5) Consider that God is about to prove and TEST us. “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:10, 11. If there were no affliction, how could God have an opportunity to try men? Hypocrites can serve in a pleasure boat: they can serve God in prosperity; but when we can keep close to him in times of danger, when we can trust him in darkness, and love him when we have no smile, and say, “May your will be done,” that is the trial of sincerity! God is only trying us; and what hurt is there in that? What is gold the worse for being tried?

(6) Consider that in all our afflictions, God has kindness for us. As there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light—so there is no condition so cloudy, but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1. It should make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, to consider that in every afflictive path of providence, we may see his footstep of kindness.

There is kindness in affliction, when God seems most unkind.

[1] There is kindness in affliction—in that there is love in it. God’s rod and his love may stand together. “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.” Heb 12:6. As when Abraham lifted up his hand to sacrifice, Isaac loved him. Just so, when God afflicts his people, and seems to sacrifice their outward comforts, he loves them. The farmer loves his vine when he cuts it and makes it bleed; and shall not we submit to God? Shall we quarrel with that which has kindness in it, which comes in love? The surgeon binds the patient, and lances him—but no wise man will quarrel with him, because it is in order to a cure.

[2] There is kindness in affliction—in that God deals with us as his children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Heb 12:7. God has one Son without sin—but no son without stripes! Affliction is a badge of adoption. Says Tertullian, “Affliction is God’s seal by which he marks us for his own.” When Munster, that holy man, lay sick, his friends asked him how he did? He pointed to his sores, saying, “these are the jewels with which God decks his children!” Shall not we then say, “Lord, there is kindness in the cross, you treat us as your children. The rod of discipline is to fit us for the inheritance. May your will be done.”

[3] In kindness God in all our afflictions, has left us a promise. So that in the most cloudy providence, the promise appears as the rainbow in the cloud. Then we have God’s promise to be with us. “I will be with him in trouble.” Psalm 91:15. It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is; I will be with him, to support, sanctify, and sweeten every affliction. I had rather be in prison and have God’s presence, than be in a palace without it.

We have the promise that he will not lay more upon us than he will enable us to bear. 1 Cor 10:13. He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter—or our faith stronger. Should not this make us submit our wills to his, when afflictions have so much kindness in them? In all our trials he has left us promises, which are like manna in the wilderness.

[4] It is great kindness that all troubles that befall us shall be for our profit. “God disciplines us for our profit.” Heb 12:10.

Encouragement For Sinners

I have been in a slump that is worse than the one before. I’m going through a very difficult time and would appreciate prayer. Faith is being tested.

I won’t apologize for lack of posts because I don’t presume that people wait for posts with bated breath (whatever that means). But I know that for some reason people like blogs to have regular posts.

I have found that similar to how C.S. Lewis found heavier theological works better devotional material than devotionals themselves, solid theological works can be just as good or better for suffering than books on suffering. I could write more about that, but for now, The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson has been a great book during a difficult time, and it’s fantastic for knowing God better as much as it is for prayer. It’s becoming one of the best books I’ve read.

On to one of the quotes that I thought might be encouraging to some readers: If we have a right hatred of sin (Romans 12:9) and have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18), and God leaves us in certain sin and tests us through it, we should consider this a normal part of Christian life. This is something I had been thinking about before I read this, which summarizes it better than I could.

The best of saints have remainders of corruption. ‘They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season.’ Dan 7:12. So in the regenerate, though the dominion of sin be taken away, yet the life of it is prolonged for a season. What pride was there in Christ’s own disciples, when they strove which should be greatest! The issue of sin will not be quite stopped till death. The Lord is pleased to let the in-being of sin continue, to humble his people, and make them prize Christ more. Because you find corruptions stirring, do not therefore presently unsaint yourselves, and deny the kingdom of grace to be come into your souls. That you feel sin is an evidence of spiritual life; that you mourn for it is a fruit of love to God; that you have a combat with sin, argues antipathy against it. Those sins which you once wore as a crown on your head, are now as fetters on the leg. Is not all this from the Spirit of grace in you? Sin is in you, as poison in the body, which you are sick of, and use all Scripture antidotes to expel. Should we condemn all those who have indwelling sin, nay, who have had sin sometimes prevailing, we should blot some of the best saints out of the Bible.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

The Best Book for New Christians

OK, so I haven’t read every book in the world that are supposed to be for new Christians. The one mentioned below is by far the best one that I have read. If you’re short on time, skip to the last paragraph and the quote below it; otherwise, you can read about a few other helpful books too.

I have seen lists of books for new Christians written by bloggers. I think they almost always overshoot. They recommend fantastic books like Knowing God by J.I. Packer, which is one of the best popular level, contemporary books on God ever written (again I realize I haven’t read all of them), but I know from experience that there are Christians who’ve been saved for decades who still need milk and can’t handle this book. (That’s another subject.) I think many Christians, especially those who are well read, forget what it’s like to be new. This is that ‘one book’ that I think every Christian, or certainly everyone in the early stages, should read. But how many times have you read that? Everybody has their opinion.

At one time I was on the lookout for books that fit this category. I looked at The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson, which is a great book aimed at newer Christians. See posts where this book is mentioned. I read this recently and learned a lot from it, but I think it might get to be too much for new Christians. He’ll start out explaining what the gospels are, but then goes on and gets a little ‘thick’. It’s really a great book though for an ‘advanced beginner’. He starts out writing a lot about Genesis, then goes to John, then to Revelation (but not everything in-between). I’m not sure if he is one to write a book for new Christians. He knows like 39 languages and can quote book, chapter and section from Calvin’s Institutes like he wrote it himself. As a tangent–sometimes I tend to exaggerate a little. I think he only knows about 29 languages, or maybe 7.

I also looked at Basic Christianity by John Stott. The book is true to its title, but I don’t know if the content, including the tiny typeface of the edition I have, is quite suitable for most new Christians these days. Maybe it was when he first wrote it 50 years ago.

Then I remembered the one I read when I was a new Christian. It’s upstairs among some really old books that I don’t have on my regular bookshelf. Turns out that the book with the red cover and yellow title has been reprinted over and over in that span of 30 years and now has a nice new cover. You can’t go wrong in buying The Fight: A Practical Handbook for Christian Living by John White, for a new Christian. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen it mentioned. Maybe the title is off-putting. But people are obviously buying and reading it, and for good reason.

Here is a guide through the basic areas of Christian living we wrestle with throughout our lives: faith, prayer, temptation, evangelism, guidance, Bible study, fellowship, work. In this very personal book he offers new Christians sound first steps and older Christians refreshing insights into the struggles and the joys of freedom in Christ.

The Fight by John White for Young Christians

Do you have any suggestions?

Also see:

God Is Love–And Many Other Things

I just finished reading The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson. The Kindle version is on sale right now for $3.99. It’s aimed at new Christians, but with all due respect, I don’t think he is one to write a book for new Christians. I learned a lot. He’s a quote machine. Because of that, it took me a long time to get through the book. I’ve been taking notes on books I read, and I was taking notes and blogging (first four links) on so much of what I read, it seemed to take forever.

I highly recommend it. The book is friendly to new Christians who like to read and investigate more than just the basics. It’s also great for seasoned Christians. He mainly uses Genesis, John and Revelation to talk about who God is and how he deals with people.

The quote below is something I think about a lot. It seems like there is so much focus on the fact that God is love, it’s to the exclusion or diminution of all of the other things God is, as well as having a distorted view of his love as you’ll see below. God is to be feared (which shouldn’t need to be qualified), God is awesome (in the traditional sense of the word–not how it’s used now), he is a God of wrath, judgement, anger, he hates. For those in his Kingdom, these can be comforting things, in addition to warnings. I hope you like the quote.

Why People Today Find It Easy to Believe in God’s Love

If there is one thing that our world thinks it knows about God–if our world believes in God at all–it is that he is a loving God. That has not always been the case in human history. Many people have thought of the gods as pretty arbitrary, mean-spirited, whimsical, or even malicious. That is why you have to appease them. Sometimes in the history of the church Christians have placed more emphasis on God’s wrath or his sovereignty or his holiness, all themes that are biblical in some degree or another. God’s love did not receive as much attention. But today, if people believe in God at all, by and large they find it easy to believe in God’s love.

Yet being comfortable with the notion of the love of God has been accompanied by some fairly spongy notions as to what love means. Occasionally you will hear somebody saying something like this: “It’s Christians I don’t like, I mean, God is love, and if everybody were just like Jesus, it would be wonderful. Jesus said, ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’ You know, if we could all just be nonjudgmental and be loving the way Jesus was loving, then the world would be a better place.” There is an assumption then about the nature of love, isn’t there? Love is nonjudgmental. It does not condemn anyone. It lets everybody do whatever they want. That is what love means.

Of course, it is sadly true that sometimes Christians—God help us—are mean. Certainly it is true that Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). But when he said this, did he really mean, “Do not make any morally discriminating judgments?” Why then does he give so many commands about telling the truth? Don’t such commands stand as condemnation of lies and liars? Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves: doesn’t that constitute an implicit judgment on those who don’t? In fact, in the very text where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he goes on to say just five verses later, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matt. 7:6), which means that somebody has to figure out who the swine are.

In other words, when Jesus says something as important as “Do not Judge, or you too Wlll he Judged,” there is a context to he understood. Jesus, after all, cuts an astonishingly high moral swath through his time. So if people think “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” means that Jesus is abolishing all morality and leaving all such questions up to the individual, they have not even begun to understand who Jesus is. Jesus does condemn the kind of judgment that is judgmental, self-righteous, or hypocritical. He condemns such judgment repeatedly and roundly. But there is no way on God’s green earth that he is condemning moral discernment or the priority of truth. In any case there is more to God’s love, to Jesus’s love, than avoiding judgmentalism.

That means that when we think of God’s love, we need to think of God’s other attributes too—his holiness, truthfulness, glory (his manifestation of his spectacular being and loveliness), and all the rest–and think through how all of them work together all the time. Sadly, precisely because our culture finds it relatively easy to believe that God is a God of love, we have developed notions of God’s love that are disturbingly spongy and sentimental and almost always alienated from the full range of the attributes that make God, God.

the-god-who-is-there

Know Sin To Know Grace

This quote isn’t quite a key text in my estimation as was the one from a previous post, but it’s too good not to include. I’ve believed that we need to know the depth of sin of people and our own sin in order to more fully appreciate God’s grace. I now see that this is another good reason to read a book like Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen.

He uses italics, but I wanted to emphasis something, so if I may be so bold, I used bold. Bracketed Scripture is supplied by the book’s editors. (Parenthesis are used by Owen, but there aren’t any here.)

Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briars that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself.

It may be some, who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls. It is more than probable that many a false hypocrite, who have deceived themselves as well as others, because they thought the doctrine of the gospel pleased them, and therefore supposed they believed it, might be delivered from their soul-ruining deceits if they would diligently apply themselves unto this search of their own hearts. Or, would other professors walk with so much boldness and security as some do if they considered aright what a deadly watchful enemy they continually carry about with them and in them? Would they so much indulge as they do carnal joys and pleasures, or pursue their perishing affairs with so much delight and greediness as they do? It were to be wished that we would all apply our hearts more to this work, even to come to a true understanding of the nature, power, and subtlety of this our adversary, that our souls may be humbled; and that—

In walking with God. His delight is with the humble and contrite ones [Isa. 57:15], those that tremble at his word [Isa. 66:2], the mourners in Zion [Isa. 61:3]; and such are we only when we have a due sense of our own vile condition. This will beget reverence of God, a sense of our distance from him, admiration of his grace and condescension, a due valuation of mercy, far above those light, verbal, airy attainments, that some have boasted of.

I also like the very last sentence. How relevant this is today.

There have been a plethora of books on the gospel, and for good reason. The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges, which I read, will have at least one chapter on sin. But it seems a little lopsided. I’ve noticed that many Puritan prayers are half contrition and confession of sin, and half on God’s grace. (Owen was a Puritan.) I read about a fairly well known Reformed pastor who said that he likes the Puritan prayers, but also needed to read some more ‘positive’ (I’m going from memory) material because the Puritan prayers seemed to dwell on sin so much. Maybe some aren’t used to that because of how things are skewed nowadays. I don’t feel similarly, but everyone has different perspectives and needs.

The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23