Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books

Today Dr Al Mohler, one of the brightest men around, put these thoughts up on his website. As an avid reader myself, I can confirm his strategy is a good one — reading books in several categories, tackling large sets bit by bit, etc. May God bless your resolve to grow your mind — and your life — through reading in the coming year! pdb

I cannot really remember when I did not love to read books. I do know that I was very eager to learn to read, and that I quickly found myself immersed in the world of books and literature. It may have been a seduction of sorts, and the Christian disciple must always be on guard to guide the eyes to books worthy of a disciple’s attention—and there are so many.
As Solomon warned, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. I read a great deal, and a large portion of my waking hours are devoted to reading. Devotional reading for spiritual profit is an important part of the day, and that begins with the reading of Scripture. In terms of timing, I am somewhat unorthodox. My best time for spending time in the Word is late at night, when all is calm and quiet and I am mentally alert and awake. That is not the case when I first get up in the mornings, when I struggle to find each word on the page (or anything else, for that matter).

In the course of any given week, I will read several books. I know how much I thrive on this learning and the intellectual stimulation I get from reading. As my wife and family would be first to tell you, I can read almost anytime, anywhere, under almost any kind of conditions. I have a book with me virtually all the time, and have been known to snatch a few moments for reading at stop lights. No, I do not read while driving (though I must admit that it has been a temptation at times). I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. (Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here). I remember the books; do you remember the games?

A few initial suggestions:

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and it also keeps me working across several disciplines.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead—not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. Choose carefully here, but identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development. No author can complete his thoughts in one book, no matter how large.

4. Get some big sets and read them through. Yes, invest in the works of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set and give yourself time. You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. I like books across the fields of literature, but I really love to read historical biographies and historical works in general. In addition, I really enjoy quality fiction and worthy works of literature. As a boy, I probably discovered my love for reading in these categories of books. I allow some time each day, when possible, for such reading. It doesn’t have to be much. Stay in touch with the thrill.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours. Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled. (Make an exception here for those rare antiquarian books that are treasured for their antiquity. Mark not thy pen on the ancient page, and highlight not upon the manuscript.) Invent your own system or borrow from another, but learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.

I would write more for this post, but I must go read. More later. For now: Tolle lege!

(by Dr Albert Mohler)

PS — I will post next week on the results of my reading in 2013. Did I reach my goal of 52 books in one year? Which books were favorites? Stay tuned…

Something the Lord never says

When reading 1 Corinthians 3:20 this morning, an implication rushed to my mind. Every so often, in the midst of a discussion, I have had to admit “I never thought of that.” But, according to this verse, The Lord has never had to say that: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”


The God of all comfort

Every so often find the Bible passage I am reading to be “perfectly timed” for the season of life I find myself in (and this seems to happen more frequently as I age). Reading the first chapter of 2nd Corinthians today was one such instance, with deep waves of blessing. Let me share the passage, and a few thoughts with you. May the Spirit of God bless you as well…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (vv.3-4)

Our God has a clear purpose in mind for every affliction I face. And in the midst of these, He aims to also provide a place/time/supply of comfort for me. And these two (a goal & our comfort) work together — for if it is God’s aim for us to be “successful comforters of others” (and it is), then he will well equip us by comforting us well.

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (vv.5-7)

The times in which we suffer are not times apart from our Lord Jesus Christ, but times when He is quite near us. The comfort God supplies can – and will – keep pace with our sufferings. Again, it is God’s aim for me to so gain from my experiences with Christ so as to comfort others in significant ways. Believers are not alone in these experiences, but have the companionship of others in Christ.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (vv.8-10)

Ah, what a dawn of hope and sunburst of insight this passage brings! In our most difficult circumstances God designs that we rely upon and lean upon Him; and not upon ourselves! The Lord brought Paul to the end of his own resources — a death-like end to his own vitality — only to roll away the stone of despair, and impart resurrection-strength to his weakness. God is so powerful! And He is consistent, He will continue to help me again and again. I must affix my hope on Him!

O Lord, thank you for giving us this passage of Scripture, with clear encouragements for those believers in the midst of difficulties!
Increase our faith in your word, and our hope in You.
You are most worthy.
You are, indeed, the God of all comfort!

What should Christians think Osama bin Laden’s death?

We do well to begin with the question, “What does GOD think of the death of Osama bin Laden?” The answer(s) found in the Bible might surprise you. Let me direct you to the wise, helpful, and biblical words of Pastor John Piper at his blog:

God’s emotions are complex—like yours, only a million times more. Right now, your emotions about bin Laden are not simple, i.e. not single. There are several, and they intermingle. That is a good thing. You are God-like.

In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” That is true.

It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.

Is God Double-Minded?

This is not double talk. All thoughtful people make such distinctions. For example, if my daughter asks me if I like a movie, I might say yes or no to the same movie. Why? Because a movie can be assessed for its 1) acting, 2) plot, 3) cinematography, 4) nudity, 5) profanity, 6) suspense, 7) complexity, 8) faithfulness to the source, 9) reverence for God, 10) accurate picture of human nature, etc., etc., etc.

So my answer is almost always “yes, in some ways, and no in other ways.” But sometimes I will simply say yes, and sometimes no, because of extenuating circumstances.

Here is why I say God approves and disapproves
(click through for rest of Piper’s thoughts)

Pastor Piper goes on to explain the two sides of his answer under these headings:
In one sense, human death is not God’s pleasure (Ezekiel 18:23, 32)
In another sense, the death and judgment of the unrepentant is God’s pleasure (several verses)

~ pdb

Get better acquainted with your Bible

The wise J. C. Ryle writes —

Let us learn the high authority of the Bible, and the immense value of a knowledge of its contents. Let us read it, search into it, pray over it, diligently, perseveringly, unweariedly. Let us strive to be so thoroughly acquainted with its pages, that its text may abide in our memories, and stand ready at our right hand in the day of need. Let us be able to appeal from every perversion and false interpretation of its meaning, to those thousand plain passages, which are written as it were with a sunbeam. The Bible is indeed a sword, but we must take heed that we know it well, if we would use it with effect.

~ J. C. Ryle

‘tweeting’ truth….

I have a Twitter account (“dbissett”), and enjoy catching those little updates (only a sentence or two) from family and friends around the country. One fellow I follow is Paul David Tripp. His brief “tweets” are potent little messengers of truth! Let me share a few here, and (hopefully) in the future. You can follow him for yourself (“PaulTripp” on twitter).

You are in desperate need of help today. Grace guarantees you a Helper, who’s never unfaithful, weary, impatient, irritated, or hopeless.

In the face of inescapable sin, unrelenting grace is our only place of help, hope, courage, comfort, rest, and lasting peace.

Whenever you argue for your righteousness you deny both the diagnostic accuracy and curative potency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For the guilt of sin, Jesus is the Lamb. For the inability of sin, Jesus in the Victor. For the foolishness of sin, Jesus is Wisdom.

Prayer calls me to abandon the present as my only lens on life and to commit to look at life from the perspective of eternity.

Survival skills for a fallen world (Paul Tripp)

Survival skills for a fallen world. One of the helpful series of audio presentations by Dr. Paul Tripp — a very gifted Christian preacher, teacher and counsellor.

Here at PAUL TRIPP MINISTRIES you can listen for free to these and other audio sessions (they open and play on your web browser). They are engaging and helpful, and are anchored to the truth of God’s Word.

Let me know (add a comment) if you listen to any of them…

Praying some Proverbs…

In my devotional reading this week, I have read some chapters of Proverbs. I have been looking forward to it each day, as I hunger and thirst for more wisdom from above. As I read Proverbs 15:8 I found a call to prayer:

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

When I read Proverbs 16:3, I noted another call to pray:

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

I was immediately stopped in my tracks, summoned by the Spirit to pray. It is not enough to read seeking truth and help in God’s Word, but we must ever ASK for these things from our Father in heaven! And, yes, the remainder of my reading time was blessed as I PRAYERFULLY read other timely truths I hungered after…

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. (16:23)

Make sure to interweave your reading of the Word with prayer — and your prayers with the very Words of Scripture!

Yours by divine mercy,