My Reading Report on 2010

Well, another year has ended, and by God’s grace I can report it was a fruitful year of reading! My goal (the first of its kind for me) was to read a book a week (or 52 books by year’s end) OUTSIDE of my regular pastoral reading of commentaries, online/print periodicals, and, reference works.

I tend to start lots of books, reading at a time, but not always finishing a book (sometimes intentionally). I wondered if my goal would be a help or a hindrance. I can say now it was a huge help, motivating my to make better use of free time (and reduce time spent online or in other less profitable pursuits).

For fun, I set up a spreadsheet to track my reading in 2010. Here are some of the statistical highlights

• 84 books were started, representing 25,302 pages!
• 27 books (including the ESV Bible) were completed!
• over 10,382 pages (in all books) were read!
• the longest book was 950 pages, one was 35 pages

As for particulars on a few of the books…

0f spiritual profit (in addition to reading the whole BIBLE) was:
* Sinclair Ferguson’s BY GRACE ALONE
* Tullian Tchividian’s UNFASHIONABLE
* Marcus Loane’s JESUS HIMSELF

My ministry was enhanced by reading:
* Tim Keller’s PRODIGAL GOD
* WHY WE LOVE THE CHURCH by DeYong & Kluck
* PASTORAL MINISTRY by the Puritan Richard Baxter

My enjoyment of history was well satisfied by:
* TROUBLESOME YOUNG MEN by Lynne Olson (about how Winston Churchill came to power,
* THEODORE REX by Edmund Morris [I’ve already started the third/final volume, COLONEL ROOSEVELT]

The new year begins with my now owning a KINDLE — and trying it out for some of my reading. So far, it’s very good!

May we all read to improve our minds, and to better love and serve our great and gracious God!

Do it.

“Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it; that will not advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.”

~ J.C. Ryle
Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, 131.

Have you read this part of your Bible?

In my devotions this past week, I’ve been reading in the OT, and in 1st Chronicles, where I’ve not read in a long time. I was captured by the vivid and significant story in chapter 21. It tells of David’s sinful census of the nation (how many men could raise a sword for him), then of the judgment of God for this prideful act — as an angel of death killed many, and held a sword over Jerusalem itself, until God cried out stop.

There follows a great expression of mercy and grace of the Lord to David and the people. It is THIS very story of the Bible which tells us how the OT Temple site was chosen [see 1 Chr. 22:1]. Of course it is the same place [Mt Moriah by tradition] where another OT character named Abraham once held a knife over his son, Isaac, until the Lord stopped him, and provided a substitute sacrifice. Marvelous connections to be made here! The study of God’s word is so rich.

Let me encourage you to read this part of your Bible this summer. Yes, the first several chapters of Chronicles are filled with lots of hard to pronounce names, but do not let those things keep you from the rest of the book.

Let me whet your appetite for this part of the Bible with the following, worthwhile introduction by a fine commentator (and let me know if you go on to read Chronicles!) pdb

Though the Chronicler has been my companion for several years, I have not ceased to be filled with admiration for the breadth of his vision and his extraordinary perception. His conviction that God’s message is also essentially a hopeful one justifies his work being described as ‘the good news according to the Chronicler’. I have been amazed too at the relevance of his work for the modern world, especially for Christians who form a minority in their society, 9781844742653perhaps even suffering for their faith, and with little hope of seeing positive change in the political context in which they live; those who have lost hope of ever seeing for themselves the glorious times experienced by Christians of former generations; those who are concerned for the spiritual health of their nation and would like to discover what role Christians could have in being an influence for good; those who want to have a broad vision of God’s purposes for their lives and for the church; and those who want to understand what the Old Testament as a whole is about and why it is included in the Bible.

Maybe in the past you have been dissuaded from reading the books of Chronicles because of their length, or because they contain ancient history, or above all because of their lists of strange names, especially in the first nine chapters. None of these presents an insurmountable obstacle to enjoying Chronicles, however. Especially if you have never attempted to read Chronicles seriously before, may I suggest that you start at 1 Chronicles 10 and simply leave out the lists until you feel you are ready for them. it would be a shame to miss out on all that God has to say simply because of a problem about where to start.

The Chronicler’s concern is that his readers should experience genuine healing, and what he has to say on the subject goes far deeper than most contemporary discussion and teaching. It is my prayer that each of you will receive something of this healing and restoration, and that in doing so you will discover more of god’s own heart (cf: 2 Ch. 7:14,16).

by Martin J. Sehman (TYNDALE OT CCOMMENTARY, 1st Chronicles, IVP, 1994).
[boldface added]


The Lost Art of Reading

I had hoped to read 12-15 books this summer (beyond my reading for work, which is already fairly substantial), but, alas, I’ve fallen short of the goal. I do hope to close the gap in the final weeks of summer though!

1043_39_56---Old-Library-Books--The-Literary-and-Philosophical-Society-Of-Newcastle-upon-Tyne_webI run into a lot of people who say they love to read, but rarely read a whole book. How about you? I encourage you to withdraw from our 24/7, techno-driven culture and pick up a classic piece of literature, or a fine volume of Christian material. Reading is about more than gaining new information. Reading is a special event when you engage your mind with the mind of another, and interact with their thoughts and worldview. David Ulin writes this…

Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves”

This comes from an article in the LA Times THE LOST ART OF READING. It wanders around a bit, but makes some very keen observations. Here’s another paragraph….

This is where real reading comes in — because it demands that space, because by drawing us back from the present, it restores time to us in a fundamental way. There is the present-tense experience of reading, but also the chronology of the narrative, as well as of the characters and author, all of whom bear their own relationships to time. There is the fixity of the text, which doesn’t change whether written yesterday or a thousand years ago. St. Augustine composed his “Confessions” in AD 397, but when he details his spiritual upheaval, his attempts to find meaning in the face of transient existence, the immediacy of his longing obliterates the temporal divide.

You can read the whole thing here.

Now, logoff and read.

Why read fiction?

I thought Dr Bob Godfrey (Westminster Seminary of California) had a great answer in this thought-provoking essay on their site. He is one of the bright theological lights of our day, and a name you should remember.

Here’s a taste of Dr Godfrey, quoting C S Lewis, to whet your appetite…

… Lewis argued that the value of reading literature was a way to experience many things that we would not otherwise experience. “We want to see with other eyes, imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own” (137). Lewis explains what it means to see with other eyes in these terms: “In reading imaginative work, I suggest, we should be much less concerned with altering our own opinions – though this of course is sometimes their effect – than with entering fully into the opinions, and therefore also the attitudes, feelings and total experience, of other men. Who in his ordinary senses would try to decide between the claims of materialism and theism by reading Lucretius and Dante? But who in his literary senses would not delightedly learn from them a great deal about what it is like to be a materialist or a theist?” (85-86). When we read well, we enter into new worlds: “A true lover of literature should be in one way like an honest examiner, who is prepared to give the highest marks to the telling, felicitous and well-documented exposition of views he dissents from or even abominates” (86).

Of course, I think the best fiction is “historical” fiction, which helps to accurately illumine another time and place for us (for example the series of novels by Patrick O’Brian).


Spring Has Sprung

In the early morning sunshine Thrusday, I was walking into a place for a breakfast and could not help but notice the abundance of spring flowers surrounding the entrance: bunches of yellow daffodils, ranks of hyacinths, tulips (my favorite) and lots of other colorful things I don’t know by name. Spring has finally sprung here in upstate NY. But when I got home, and walked up to my front door, things still looked bleak and drab; no flowers in sight here. What’s up? Ah, the truth pinches me now as it did that morning: no sowing, no reaping! I did not plant flowers that would come up this spring.

Sowing and reaping is a mainstay of a biblical worldview (Gal. 6:7, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. esv).

Let me apply this concept (sowing or planting, giving rise to something to reap) to just one area of life: your mind. If you desire to grow spiritually, love the Lord your God with all of your mind — so that the thoughts and expressions coming out of you are like those beautiful spring flowers —  you must first consider what you’ve planted (or failed to plant). What do you ‘sow’ to your mind? What goes in by way of watching, or hearing, or reading? And then what do you reap? What springs forth? Is your thinking and your conversation looking drab and barren?

In Luke 6 Jesus teaches about a tree and its fruit:
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Of course this verse points to the reality of grace — which if God implants in our hearts, will bear good spiritual fruit in our lives, confirming our new nature (new birth) as Christians. But further, it also reminds us of the principle that our thinking and our conversation is the fruit of what is treasured within, and what is sown to our heart and mind.

So let me ask you: do you read your Bible? Do you read it daily? This is the Word of God and by it (alone) will you grow to understand God, yourself and the world you live in. Or is your daily mental diet simply watching TV or reading newspapers? (A fellow named Ben Hecht, once said, Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.)

And further, what else do you read to sow godly thoughts in the seed bed of your mind? When was the last time you worked through a good book? How about one of the great Christian books so readily available? (I could easily recommend several books that have significantly impacted my life; just ask me).

It was Sir Francis Bacon who said, Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. The Word of God (Psalm 119) says,

97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Spring has sprung, but the time for sowing is not past. It is new every day! Sow away!