An Intentional Guide to Reading

BqMxeVhCQAIq7NaReading is my hobby. It’s one I never thought I’d take up. However, due to the volumes I was required to read in seminary the habit turned into a joy. So much of one that now when I come home from conferences it’s not uncommon I return with many free books. In fact, the picture to the left of this paragraph shows the amount of free books I received at one conference alone. Humorously, my wife has requested that I not purchase any more books until I read or discard of some of the ones I currently own. Yet, there still remain some I can’t go without purchasing anyway. In truth, my wife has a point, which is why I developed a plan to be more selectively towards what I read. It’s a plan that I think can benefit anyone at any reading level. So here are my suggestions:

  1. Read the Best

A few years ago my friend and I, Tom Hicks, were discussing how to not read everything, but how to read a lot. In summary his advice was, “Read the best!” This sound advice I’ve found to be true, but the question still remains, “How do we determine the best books?” My answer involves a few tests.

  1. Seek Out Authors Who Are Dead

As morbid as this may sound, hear me out. No matter what genre of books you prefer there is a never endless supply of books one could read. In fact, as I’ve read a vast amount of books over the years there is one thing I’ve found; many of them repeatedly say the same thing. Therefore, a weeding out process I use it to choose authors who are dead. This is because if people today are still talking about their books then the content has stood the test of time. The way they write and the things they say are worthy enough of our attention because something about their writing has reflected quality over time.

  1. Seek Out Books That Are Ten Years Or Older

Local bookstores feature all the best-selling books prominently. Some of these books a year from now will not be best sellers. Some will, but even some of those are still not the best. Literature fads come and go and as they do the wisdom in these books may not apply over time. However, if someone is talking about a book ten years after it was first published there is a strong chance it’s advice will be a valuable investment of our time.

  1. Enjoy Some Recent Authors

So far I have argued that we should focus on older books and authors. While this approach can be helpful, admittedly it can ignore current events. In response to this it’s helpful to have a few favorite authors. Try to limit it to only five or less and include authors from different genres. This way you can stay current with recent topics while enjoying your favorite modern authors too.

  1. Enjoy Some Current Books

CIIhZNiVEAEyT-PLastly, list out some of your favorite topics or genres you like to read. For example, I love books on leadership and on grace. As a result, I will consider buying a more recent book on either topic. For others I know they enjoy certain types fiction and this tip allows them to include those areas too.

Conclusion

Like my posts on journaling, you are free to disagree or adapt my approach to your own needs. Again, I share with you what has found helpful for me. My aim is to enjoy reading than getting bogged down in the piles of books could be read. Rather, I want us all to focus on the best works, both past and present. This way our hobby of reading energizes us than drains us. So please alter these tips anyway needed and let’s learn for life as we read together.

Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller

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A lot has been written about the book of Romans. Some people interpret it in fragments and fail to see the holistic theme of the book. For example, some people have taken chapters 9 through 11 as written only for Israel, while the rest of the book is meant for non-Israel. Yet neither approach is correct. Rather, as Tim Keller has written Romans 8-16 For You, Romans is about the Gospel. He writes,

“The first seven chapters explain the wonderful truths of the gospel: of justification by faith, of union with Christ, of salvation through Christ alone and not through our works…Then comes the second half of the book. In chapters 8 to 16, Paul is going to continue to answer a question he began to ask in chapters 5 to 7: How does faith in the gospel of Christ actually lead to change in real life?”

Basically, Romans has a unified theme and a simple message, which is, the Gospel for salvation and transformation. From this simple message Paul relates it to very complex issues to show the truth. He practically relates the Gospel for all aspects of life. Each of these issues – adversity, predestination, Israel’s salvation, loving enemies, relationship to government, loving one’s neighbor, stumbling blocks, unity, and women’s roles in the church – Keller directly interprets. Below are some of the issues in more detail.

Love and Gratitude Flow from the Gospel

Keller spends time exegeting chapter eight. He wants to connect to the first seven chapters of Romans to “remember what Christ has done and will do for us…to feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.” By doing so Keller is able to explain the doctrines of divine election much easier. This is because living in gratitude for what God has finished about salvation allows Christians to directly see the importance of biblical predestination. A connection that will be explained further in the next section of this review.

Divine Election and Predestination’s Connection to the Gospel Continue reading “Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller”

Book Review: Am I Called? by Dave Harvey

UnknownSeeking to become a pastor or minister is confusing. Every group has a different way of vetting those who believe they’ve been called to serve others. Different denominations have different requirements and each church offers a variety of methods. Depending on the type of church you belong the process can be easy or difficult. But, what does the Bible say about a ministerial call? Author Dave Harvey offers some principles he bases on scripture in his book Am I Called? to help men of all ages decide if they are called to pastor.

Written from a reformed perspective, Harvey discusses various elements to determine if one is called to pastor. He believes ministry is a calling and not just another career someone pursues. This is important because with the calling comes certain gifts needed to effectively carry out the duties of a pastor. Some of these gifts are an ability to preach, being able to shepherd and love people, loving the lost, having godly character both personally and with one’s family, and more. Each of these are skills are needed for the Gospel ministry, and they serve as a personal affirmation along with the external confirmations others give for one’s call. The uses of these validations are important because one should know God has called for His purposes and not for their own benefit.

Sadly, within some Christian circles and laity, the ministry can become more about the people involved than proclaiming the glory of God. When this happens a minister turns into a career professional, which is opposite from the idea of a sacred servant. As a result, Harvey is wise to use the Bible as the standard to interpret one’s ministerial qualifications. This is because God called ministers should point others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not themselves.

Harvey is right to biblically define pastoral ministry by using the qualifications in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1. In fact, he writes, “Too often, when a man’s character hasn’t stood the test, he remains in ministry by simply rewriting the test.” In other words, there must be an objective standard. If one is called to Christian ministry then it would reason their qualifications would agree with scripture. Therefore, a man’s personal life, his family, how he speaks, and more should be examined because the higher his character is the better one will listen to him about the Gospel. Continue reading “Book Review: Am I Called? by Dave Harvey”

How Will The World End?: Book Review

Unknown-1When writing a good story the ending can be the most difficult part. God’s story of redemption found within the Bible is no different. The difficulty is found when one is required to interpret the Bible’s ending from a list of possibilities. As a result, for centuries many scholars and layman have debated exactly how Jesus will return. Churches have split, false teachers have risen, and new Christian sects have developed from a variety of end time theologies. Therefore, it is very important that Christians interpret prophetic passages in the Bible carefully.

According to author Jermaie Rinne in the book How Will The World End one can be careful by simply remembering that, “Jesus is returning.” No matter how Jesus will return, He is returning. When He comes back one won’t argue if His return is theologically correct or not. Rather, one should be glad He has returned, period. This simple, yet profound truth allows Christians to be able to “focus on the work at hand” than “watching the clock” for His return. By knowing He will return, Christians should be motivated to engage in missions more. After all, this best prepares as many people as possible for His certain return. These pieces of sage advice are sprinkled throughout How Will The World End, along with specific theological explanations and other practical applications.

For example, one-way Rinne made How Will The World End practical is by using contemporary examples people are familiar with. Early in the book he references movies like Armageddon, and Pacific Rim to contrast what the Day of Judgment will look like from the happy endings often shown in Hollywood. However, if one has professed Christ as Lord then there will be a happy ending for the Christian. This book is also concise, which makes it easy to understand basic end time theology without the elaborate prophecy charts found in other eschatological systems. Continue reading “How Will The World End?: Book Review”