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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

What the Bible Says About Contentment

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I was reading 1 Timothy 6, and verse 6 reminded me of a lot of other verses on contentment, or closely related to it. Looking at the context is always encouraged.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:1-2 NIV (all)

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9

What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 1:15, 7:13

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Colossians 4:11-13

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love; but when I am contented with the hand of God and am willing to be at His disposal, that comes from my love to God.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I have created a one page PDF file with only the Bible verses if you would like to save it or print it out.

Also see:
Find two great books that I’ve read on the subject on Amazon:
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The former is shorter. The book by Burroughs is very thorough[s].
or
Search for them as E-books from Monergism. The Crook in the Lot is similar subject matter.

Photo of a Bible

Around the Web

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

What Is Self-Discipline? | Steven Lawson – Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism are explained.

15 Lessons on Bible Interpretation I Learned in 2016 | PEW THEOLOGY

I totally agree with Beth Felker Jones’ Practicing Christian Doctrine. “The discipline of theology is not first about gaining information or building a system of knowledge. It is about discipleship: we learn to speak and think well about God so that we can be more faithful followers of Jesus.” Bible interpretation is not about gathering facts to arm yourself for a debate. It’s about acquiring the right knowledge of Christ. And becoming faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Wisdom for Reading the Proverbs | The Christward Collective – This might be the best short article I’ve read on interpreting Proverbs.

Quotes about the Bible – I don’t agree with all of these, but it’s a great read and organized well.

To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus. For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas.

–Michael Horton

Photo of a Bible

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.

Around the Web – Mental Health Edition Pt. 2 of 2

Part 1 was related to depression. These are related to anxiety.

3 Ways Technology Makes Us Anxious

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety – Tim Challies – If you only read one of these links, please read this one. It explains what those of us who live with anxiety disorder go through, even if we don’t all have exactly the same symptoms and experiences. This is one of the best blog posts I’ve seen all year, but then I’m biased in this direction.

There are some responses to this post (not on that page) where people make all kinds of assumptions about Adam and anxiety that may not be or aren’t true. One is: “If there’s a physiological component to it, then there would be a medical test for it. So since there isn’t a test, there is none.” This one boggles my mind. Many of these things make me more reticent to post about struggles with mental health/illness, although I know that my small audience here is sympathetic. In the beginning of his followup article, he deals with these things very well in the first few paragraphs:
Some things that have helped me in my struggle with anxiety – Adam4d.com

Anxiety at Work – Medium

Does trusting God remove anxiety? | Musings of a Christian Psychologist

Although this post is mainly related to anxiety, I found another article on depression, although not from a Christian perspective. It’s very long, but very interesting. It addresses many of the misconceptions, along with explaining what experiencing depression itself is like, and also what the treatment entails.
Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share | TED Talk | TED.com

If you told me that I’d have to be depressed for the next month, I would say, “As long I know it’ll be over in November, I can do it.” But if you said to me, “You have to have acute anxiety for the next month,” I would rather slit my wrist than go through it. It was the feeling all the time like that feeling you have if you’re walking and you slip or trip and the ground is rushing up at you, but instead of lasting half a second, the way that does, it lasted for six months. It’s a sensation of being afraid all the time but not even knowing what it is that you’re afraid of. And it was at that point that I began to think that it was just too painful to be alive, and that the only reason not to kill oneself was so as not to hurt other people.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5 HCSB

Around the Web – Mental Health Edition Pt. 1

This is part one of two. The next one will deal with anxiety.

Can Depression Be Cured? Latest Research | HeadHeartHand Blog – There is good, but also disturbing news here.

Depression is a neurodegenerative systemic disorder rather than a chemical imbalance.

There is chemical imbalance in depression but the primary cause is a loss of brain tissue in key areas (and abnormal increase of brain tissue in one key area).

A number of areas in the brain are physically changed in this disorder of the stress response.

In melancholic depression (which affects 35% of those with major depression), the stress response is disordered in that when triggered it does not terminate quickly enough or sufficiently enough. It gets stuck in the “on” position.

The last paragraph above (which was actually earlier in the article) makes a lot of sense to be, as I experience this pretty much chronically.j

The parts about damage to the brain and the rest of the body is very disturbing.

I’ve always been reticent to say that ‘depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain’, because that’s mainly a guess. A few years from now, there may be other significant information to add to the equation. Unfortunately, this research is still in the beginning stages. (Maybe it’s past ‘infancy’?)

New Fast-Acting Anti-Depressant Drugs on the Way | HeadHeartHand Blog – What bothers me about this is cost, and efficacy over a long period of time.

New Depression Research: Appreciation, Critique, and Gospel Opportunities | HeadHeartHand Blog – Conclusion to the above

We can know that God created us and knew ahead of time what our how lives and bodies would end up. (Psalm 139:13-16) Believers can look forward to new heavenly bodies. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!
Luke 12:27 HCSB

Substitute wildflowers with Thanksgiving Cactus:

Thanksgiving Cactus Flower
Photo © Jeff – Click on the photo to see a larger one

I take pictures of these almost every year, but this flower was so perfect, I had to do just one more.

Give Thanks In Bad Circumstances?

A Small Thoughts post.

It’s amazing how many times God tells us in the Bible to be thankful.

It’s mentioned three times within three verses in Colossians:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17 ESV

There are an infinite amount of things to be thankful for, and we can never be thankful enough.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says to “gives thanks in all circumstances.” But how do we do thanks in bad circumstances? Should we be thankful for them?

Back to Colossians:

We can always thank God for saving us who are believers–and all the other things he does–and for the offer for those who aren’t. This is always bigger than anything we’re going through, even though there are circumstances, sometimes ongoing, that can be absolutely overwhelming at the time.

May we experience the benefits of being thankful because of what God has first done for us. We know this is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Remember those who are struggling this Thanksgiving.

Photo of a 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

Difference Between Justification and Sanctification

This blog has been down for a while and I didn’t know it. I hope it’s fixed now.

I want to offer a quick quote now that it’s back up.

For at least the first decade that I was a Christian, I’m not sure if I could have told you the difference between the two, along with righteousness, or at least not explain it very well. Maybe this will be of help to some people.

Though justification and sanctification are not the same—yet God never pardons a sinner without sanctifying him. Justification and sanctification are not the same. Justification is without us, sanctification is within us. The one is by righteousness imputed, the other is by righteousness imparted. Justification is once and for all, sanctification is gradual. One person is sanctified more than another—but one cannot be more justified than another. One has more grace than another—but he is not more justified than another. The matter of our justification is perfect, namely, Christ’s righteousness; but our sanctification is imperfect, there are the spots of God’s children. Deut 32:5. Our graces are mixed, our duties are defiled.
–Thomas Watson, The Prayer of the Lord

There are those who like to use the word sanctification as ‘made holy’ when we are regenerated, and then use a different term for ongoing sanctification, like growing in Christ, or growing in our Christian life. The Puritans, like Watson, prefer the terminology in the quote, as do most of the other theologians I’ve read.

You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:11 HCSB

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 HCSB

Vinca white

Who are the ‘Weak in Faith’?

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
Romans 14:1 NASB

Short version: read the quote below from The MacArthur Study Bible to see what ‘the weak in faith’ really means.

A few years ago when I was reading posts on Facebook, I came across a video that autoplayed (which has now been rectified) of someone dying in a car crash, or something awful like that. When someone who deals with chronic depression, or is just very sensitive sees something like that, it can send them into a deeper depression, with that image being added to all of the other images that bombard the mind, if the conditions are right. So I wrote to the person who posted it and asked him very politely if he could either give a warning, or not post material which can be so upsetting to people.

–As an aside, I wouldn’t do this now, for fear of appearing to be a Social Justice Warrior (SJW–you can look it up) These are not people who work towards legitimate social justice causes. These are people who are offended by any little thing, and I mean little. I didn’t know about them until recently. I’ve actually been less willing to talk about mental health because of this, although I’m probably over-reacting.–

Back to the story–he was extremely polite and took the video down. But, he said that he didn’t realize it may upset “the weak in faith.” I didn’t write anything back, I just let it go, because he was so understanding.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been reading Romans with some study Bibles. I found this in The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). It’s the best description I’ve seen of what the weak in faith really are. It’s definitely not people who deal with mental illness, or are extremely (legitimately) sensitive in this way for one reason or another.

weak in faith. This characterizes those believers who are unable to let go of the religious ceremonies and rituals of their past. The weak Jewish believer had difficulty abandoning the rites and prohibitions of the Old Covenant; he felt compelled to adhere to dietary laws, observe the Sabbath, and offer sacrifices in the temple. The weak Gentile believer had been steeped in pagan idolatry and its rituals; he felt that any contact with anything remotely related to his past, including eating meat that had been offered to a pagan deity and then sold in the marketplace, tainted him with sin. Both had very sensitive consciences in these areas, and were not yet mature enough to be free of those convictions.

passing judgment on his opinions. The mature believer should not sit in judgment on the sincere but underdeveloped thoughts that govern the weak believer’s conduct.

Certainly, there are similar things that would be applicable here. Anything that might fall into “a weakness of conscience causing him [someone] to think that something lawful is actually sinful”, as the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible puts it.

Study Bible Image

Puritan Prayer-Desires

This is a portion of a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled Desires.

Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.
Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity.
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.

Reading these prayers is like reading Scripture that’s put together as a poem. I added these verses to go with almost every line of the prayer.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:26 KJV (all)

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
1 John 5:14

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Matthew 6:8

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:19

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:15

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness,
than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
Proverbs 28:6

give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with food convenient for me:
Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say,
Who is the Lord?
or lest I be poor, and steal,
and take the name of my God in vain.
Proverbs 30:8b-9

See their online devotional.

Praying

Philippians 4:13-What Is Everything or All Things?

This is a Repost from 2008 (if you’d like to see the comments), except a comic from Adam4d has been added here that a friend tipped me off to, and an addendum. Also, this post was written when the TNIV was the update of the NIV which they released in 2005, before they changed it back to NIV in 2011. (If that’s confusing, there’s basically an original NIV from 1978 and it has been updated, with the TNIV rendering the same as the [more] updated NIV.)

Comic - Philippians 4:13

Click on the comic to go to his site.

Philippians 4:13 NASB
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NIV [’78]
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 TNIV/NIV [2011]
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I really like the TNIV rendering. Can you imagine if the TNIV was the standard rendering throughout the years how this wouldn’t be constantly taken out of context (shown below) and/or misinterpreted? Even if it is a little bit interpretive.

Philippians 4:11-13 TNIV
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I’m not only learning the importance of context [and still am] but also that the word all or everything isn’t always “an amount or quantity from which nothing is left out or held back” even in English:

Everything
1.
a. All things or all of a group of things.
b. All relevant matters: told each other everything.
2. The most important fact or consideration: In business, timing is everything.
American Heritage Dictionary

Addendum:
This has implications for a lot of Bible interpretation.

Two books based on Philippians 4:11 are The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and The Art of Contentment, both written by Puritans. I’ve read both and they’re excellent. The latter is shorter, but I prefer the former.