Posted in reading, theology

Do you have time to read literature books? No? Here are some tips

By Elizabeth Prata

I love to read. I’ve always been a reader. It became my profession, both as an elementary school teacher and then a journalist. I love connecting people with print.

Reading has been my friend all my life. This age-old activity provided an escape from difficult family situations. It offered never-ending, free entertainment. It informed and inspired.

When I was graciously saved by the grace and blood of Jesus, (2004) I added theological books to my reading pile, and of course I now read the Bible. There is so much to read, and not enough time!

As I’ve aged however, my eyes grow tired at night, and my energy flags. Admittedly, it’s become easier to sit there like a lump in front of the TV after my evening tasks are done. The pile of books grows ever more towering and my desire to read rises ever more lofty, but the actual reading lessens  more & more. The gap is wide.

One way I’ve attempted to combat the widening of the gap is to make a schedule for reading. I take the books I want to read, place them prominently at hand, within eye-view. Then I look at the total number of pages the book contains, and divide that total page count by a number

I’ve talked with a lot of Christians about this issue. ‘Do you want to read? Yes! Do you have time to read? No!

books here to stay
Between work, family, other responsibilities, volunteering, church, and Bible reading/devotionals, pleasure reading comes dead last, falls off the table, and gets swept under the rug, more often than any of us would like!

Lots of people, including me, find it hard to achieve that balance.

IS reading for pleasure important? Should Christians be reading for pleasure at all? Does it redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16) to read novels or other secular books? How do we strike a balance with limited reading time and pleasure plus theological books?

Here are a few resources that discuss reading and may prove helpful for you.

Tim Challies has been a reader, book reviewer, and blogger for over ten years. Here is his take on reading and how the advent of technology/screens has changed it:
Tips for Reading Better & The Future of Books

 

Don’t have time to read? Who does? Who even has time to evaluate a book you’re reading or have just finished. Here is John Frame’s 9-Point Checklist for Evaluating Theological Writings

 

Jesus commanded His followers, “Take care how you listen” (Luke 8:18). The guys at Behold Your God podcast say Take Care How You Read, explaining,

Christians simply are readers. God has revealed Himself to humanity through special revelation, which is only recorded for us in the 66 books that make up our Bibles. Christianity is a reading religion by definition, but we are not at liberty to read indiscriminately.

 

Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition presents an essay about Why J. I. Packer Reads Mystery Novels (Or, In Defense of Light Reading),

Do I urge everyone to read detective and cowboy and spy stories? No. If they do not relax your mind when overheated, you have no reason to touch them. Light reading is not for killing time (that’s ungodly), but for refitting the mind to tackle life’s heavy tasks (that’s the Protestant work ethic, and it’s true).

 

Tony Reinke wrote a book called Lit! Here’s the blurb:

Whether reading is your addiction or your phobia, this book is for you. A practical guide built on the gospel, Lit! models the skills needed to build a balanced reading diet of Scripture, theology, and devotional books, but without overlooking important how-to books, great stories, and books meant to be enjoyed for pleasure.

I bought Reinke’s book but haven’t read it yet. I plan to over the Christmas school break. Meanwhile I bought this book and started it. I like it a lot.

 

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading Revised Edition, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material. Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

So that’s it. You’ll never get me to say that reading is passe, or that it doesn’t matter, or that adults can dispense with it. I’ve found it harder to maintain the habit as I grow older and older, but that just means I have to work harder to make sure I always have good theological material at hand that includes the Bible, theology books & commentaries, and  quality literature to devote my time to. The mind must be kept sharp. This is one way to do it. I hope any of these resources help you, if you, like me, are struggling with finding time to read.

“There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.” – G.K. Chesterton

books

Posted in reading, Uncategorized

What’s on my nightstand- and why

My church family is a family of readers. That’s good. I am a reader too. That means we are also talkers about books. We love to interact mindfully and intentionally about spiritual things. Our elders model this and encourage it. Our Family Groups, Book Clubs, and get-togethers are rife with conversations that are sparked with questions like, “Can you share any insights from your latest Bible reading?” “What do you think of the Bible Reading Plan segment for today?” “What books are you reading?”

The penetrating questions perform two functions. One function is that we are a like-minded bunch who love to read! We unite around literacy. This is good because it means we also read the Bible. Secondly, it keeps us accountable. It keeps me accountable anyway. When I read, I need to comprehend, and then retain and then share.

I’ve noticed that though I love reading and I’ve been a reader all my life, lately I was reading less. I read fewer books and the time I spent reading them was growing shorter and shorter. I was comprehending less too, and retaining almost nothing. I realized that most of my reading was done on a laptop. And that was weird because I dislike reading on screen.

I soon realized the type of reading I was doing was the issue. With my limited time to read after work, I was reading tweets, GroupMe chats, Facebook shares, short blogs, and the like. Digital reading predisposes us to reading superficially and quickly. Bible reading demands the opposite. Uh-oh.

In his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, author Tony Reinke exposed the issue. Several experiments had been done on reading and they were summarized in The New Yorker. (July 16, 2014). Turns out there is a difference in the way people read depending on if the text is on a screen or on a page.

On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, [Ziming] Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.

Of Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldmsith’s experiment, published in the Journal of Psychology Applied it was discovered,

The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate.

In addition, of Mary Dyson’s research, we read,

The online world, too, tends to exhaust our resources more quickly than the page. We become tired from the constant need to filter out hyperlinks and possible distractions. And our eyes themselves may grow fatigued from the constantly shifting screens, layouts, colors, and contrasts, an effect that holds for e-readers as well as computers.

Of Anne Mangen’s research,

The shift from print to digital reading may lead to more than changes in speed and physical processing. It may come at a cost to understanding, analyzing, and evaluating a text. Much of Mangen’s research focusses on how the format of reading material may affect not just eye movement or reading strategy but broader processing abilities.

Goodness! Reinke interviewed Trip Lee for the 12 Ways book, and Lee said the following. See if it resonates with you:

The more time I spend reading ten-second tweets and skimming random articles online, the more it affects my attention span, weakening the muscles I need to read scripture for long distances.

I certainly noticed a decline in my own analyzing, processing, and retention abilities. I needed to do something about this! I purposed to make a schedule of all the books I wanted to read this summer. I had a bunch laying around that were half read and others had been ‘on deck’ for over a year.

I’m blessed to have 9 weeks off from school during the summer, and my deep desire was to use the time well for Jesus. I also wanted to revive that atrophying reading muscle. So here’s what’s on my nightstand so to speak:

I am going through Exodus with Dr Abner Chou’s lectures, and Romans 1-8 with my church family on Tuesday nights. Also, I’m reading John MacArthur’s Romans commentary. Review: What can you say about the Bible! It’s great! A JMac Commentary? It’s great!

A few months ago, I  read Erik Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within, a summarized version of Puritan John Owen’s Indwelling Sin. I was irked that I remembered little of it. I decided to read it again, and pair it with Owen’s actual book Indwelling Sin (an abridged and slightly modernized version.)

I like this pairing. The topic is difficult, as it necessitates a deep look into one’s own heart to purposely uproot the sin there. Lundgaard’s version is sort of like a Cliff’s Notes which gets me ready to read the same chapters in Owen the next day. Owen’s Indwelling Sin in Believers is a monumental, wonderful, convicting book. I highly recommend it. I bought the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperbacks version.

Here is a resource for Owen. He wrote three towering books on the subject of sin, a trilogy if you will, Indwelling Sin as mentioned, Mortification of Sin, and Overcoming Sin and Temptation. This writer has created a “Monster Cheat Sheet for the Mortification of Sin in Believers” that you might find helpful if you decide to read that Owen book.

Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners is a book by Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan, another Puritan. The version I’m reading has not been modernized and I love it. Owen’s language is dense with lengthy run-ons. Bunyan’s isn’t, hence is easier to read. Hugh Martin said of the book,

Grace Abounding is among the greatest stories of God’s dealings with the human soul– to be put on a shelf beside such treasures as Augustine’s Confessions, Law’s Serious Call, and Baxter’s Autobiography, and Wesley’s own account of his spiritual travail.

One great thing about reading the Puritans and older books is that the thread of sin, evil, guilt, despair, salvation, comfort, and assurance is the same no matter what century one lives in. Here is a resource on Bunyan’s works- 3 Lessons from the Life of John Bunyan.

Art and the Bible is a small book dealing with the topic of beauty. We should use the arts to the glory of God, author Francis Schaeffer wrote, and I agree. “Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art.” Recommended.

For secular books, I’m into Moby Dick, with cliff’s notes. Here is RC Sproul on Moby Dick in his essay The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick:

It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.

I agree. Moby Dick is THE Great American Novel. It’s towering, lyrical, breathtaking. It is also demanding, difficult, cumbersome. Is it worth it? YES. But again with this one, I needed notes. I use Read Moby: A Guide for First Time Readers. Why did Sproul believe this is one of the greatest hundred books, ever?

its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism.

Read Dr Sproul’s recommendation above for why we should read this book.

Some Writer! The Story of EB White by Melissa Sweet. This is a graphical book, one that includes ephemera, notes, and drawings. It’s a sweet and lovely book and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

PS if you like graphical books, Up The Down Staircase is another one that contains ephemera to tell the story.

“largely assembling her story through an accretion of found objects: bureaucratic circulars, homework assignments, wastebasket contents, doodles, and interoffice memos among teachers”

I am also reading a hilarious and wildly interesting book about the summer of 1927 in America by Bill Bryson aptly called One Summer 1927 America. He is such a good writer that the detailed sections on aviation (It was a Charles Lindbergh summer) and baseball (Babe Ruth summer) interesting, and I don’t gravitate to either subject but he makes them so fascinating I can’t put the book down. Recommended.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows. A friend sent me this book and it is soooo good. It is a story told through the exchange of letters. This, like Up the Down Staircase the Some Writer! are episolary novels.

Fun Fact: An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic “documents” such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived from Latin from the Greek word epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).

The Elusive Mrs Pollifax is on deck for August when school starts again.

I am noticing that when I push away from the laptop and just read, whatever book it is, I feel more relaxed. Moreover, my mind is slowly adapting to literature again, and my comprehension is lengthening. Slowly.

Watch out that digital reading might be changing your mind for the worse. Set aside a time to read without distraction some good theological books, leisure books, and of course the Bible. The Bible demands attention, study, and meditation. Our minds are being shaped away from that kind of reading and this impacts our Bible reading.

The thing I hated worst was that after I read the Bible, I’d remember some fun insight or nugget about it to share the next day at work. Of late, I’ve not done that, because I can’t really remember. I dearly want to proclaim His glories among the people with whom I work. Hence, my summer of reading recovery.

I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:15-16)

 

Posted in bible, reading, sanctification

Meditating on God’s Word

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. (Psalm 104:34)

Thomas Brooks offers an excellent description of Biblical meditation…

Remember that it is not hasty reading—but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey (cp Ps 19:10-note; Ps 119:103-note)—but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most—who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

I’ve read oftentimes that meditating on God’s word is similar to chewing on cud. Not having an agricultural background, I researched exactly how cows digest their nutrients when they graze grass.

What is cud, and why do cattle chew it?

Have you ever noticed that when you see a cow it always seems to be chewing something? The reason is because cows must chew their food twice in order to digest it properly. Cows spend nearly eight hours out of every day chewing their cud. This plus normal chewing of food can total upwards of 40,000 jaw movements per day. 

Cattle are ruminant animals, this mean their stomach contains four compartments:
1. Rumen
2. Reticulum
3. Omasum
4. Abomasum 

Cows have one stomach with four different compartments. 

When a cow first takes a bite, it chews just enough to moisten the food. Once swallowed, the food goes into the first section, the rumen, where it mixes with other acidic digestive liquids and is softened. The softened food is called cud, small balls of food. 

Next, the rumen muscles send the cud back up to the cow’s mouth, where it is re-chewed and swallowed again, this time going to the Omasum section of stomach in order to squeeze out all of the moisture. 

Finally, the food enters the last part, Abomasum of the stomach where it mixes with digestive juices and makes its way to the intestine to be completely digested.

To “chew” on the Bible, we must first read it. I’m always surprised at the number of professing Christians who simply don’t directly read the Good Book. Secondly, when I meditate on God’s word, this is what I tend to do. It may not work like this for you but I find it’s easier to ask questions.

Why is this word here? What does it mean in the original language? What kind of writing is this, Law, Narrative, Poetry, Prophecy? What is the symbolism Agricultural? Cultural? Symbolical? Eschatological? An Idiom?

For example, we read many times in the Bible that they will be “going in and coming out”. (Psalm 121:8, Ezekiel 37:28). Barnes Notes (as well as other commenters) tell us that this is a common Hebrew expression meaning

The Lord shall preserve thou going out and thy coming in – Preserve thee in going out and coming in; in going from thy dwelling, and returning to it; in going from home and coming back; that is, everywhere, and at all times.

Who is the audience here? What do the parallel verses say? What does it make me think of? How does this inform me of God’s attributes?

Like that.

You may write some thoughts in a journal. You may want to discuss the verse or passage or chapter in your small group, or one-on-one with a friend or elder. However you meditate, as the saying goes, just do it.

Some people find that they are distracted during the day and forget the morning’s devotion or the day’s quiet time quickly. Here is where the very present help in the Holy Spirit aids us. He brings these things to mind, He keeps our mind focused on God. He reveals the attributes of Jesus. If you pray and ask for wisdom from reading and learning the verses, He will give it. One of His ministries is to draw us closer to the Lord. We do this through His word. (Ephesians 2:18, 1 John 3:24)

The Spirit sanctifies us through His word. When we meditate upon it, we aid the sanctification process. Ask the Spirit to apply the word you’re meditating upon to your heart and mind’s sanctification to the good of your soul. (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:26, Psalm 119:9-12, James 1:21)

He Guides into all truth. When we meditate upon the Word, the Spirit uses that clay of the Word as a Potter uses the lump of clay to form it into a new creation.

When I meditate upon the Word I find it helpful to mention it during the day, even at work. I might say, “I’m reading Genesis 40 and this morning I read about Potiphar’s wife. Where it says in Genesis 39:12 that Joseph fled the wife and left his coat behind…Man, Joseph and his coats, two times his coats were used against him.” This does several things. It gets the Word into public for any hearers nearby. It helps me process what I’ve read by talking about it out loud. And it helps wash the person you’re talking to when you use the verse, and last, they might have an insight to share back. I like sanctifying conversations.

However you meditate, I encourage you to do it. The process enlarges our heart, solidifies biblical world views in us, sanctifies us, and keeps our focus on Jesus.

“Cud” you do it? 😉

Posted in bible, discipline, reading

Of Reading Plans and Audio Bibles

EPrata photo

This essay will be more if a “fireside chat” than a theological exploration.

I’ve never done a formal “bible reading plan” as you see commonly discussed every January. I just read through a book of the Bible and see where it takes me. But I thought perhaps it might be a good idea this time to formalize my study instead of it being loose and organic as it has been.

I chose to do the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible reading plan, and use the audio option. I don’t listen to audio books, I don’t like them. But for some reason I decided to try listening to the Bible (Max McLean reading) and my hunch was right- it brings another aspect to the text. For the texts meant to be heard, such as Peter’s great sermon, or Paul’s sermons, or the legal arguments in Romans, hearing them spoken brings a layer of understanding I’d missed previously. What a joy to hear these sermons and passages read aloud, it ignites a different area of my mind. And no doubt, hearing the names and places in Genesis and Nehemiah spoken correctly is a joy (and a relief).

However the downside is, I don’t feel as though my depth of connection to the text is really there as it has been. I do read along, my eyes going over the text as McLean speaks it, but it’s not the same as when I read it myself. I feel that listening is actually more shallow than the way I used to do it. I gave it a month, and I’ll give it more time to decide if this is working for me. It’s maybe that I just don’t like change.

I’m not impervious to trends and tradition and peer pressure. I see all the hoopla on social media in late December and early January about “which Bible reading plan are you using” and all the posts about the choices and all the Facebook talk about how good these plans are. I think to myself, ‘Should I do one of these? Am I “doing it wrong”? Is there a more rigorous way to go about it? Can I be honoring Jesus further by studying better?’

In the end, I think it’s good to try different ways to read the Bible, such as this plan or that one, or audio v. reading, Kindle vs book, personal reading v. an organized plan. I think it’s good to ask one’s self occasionally if I could be doing better. Slacking is always a problem. The flesh battles with the soul and rebels against the things of Christ, (1 Peter 2:11) so an occasional shake-up won’t harm anything if it’s to ensure that I am still focused on Christ and involved in His word to His glory.

slacker cat. EPrata photo

It’s good to “check in” with yourself to see how things are going, look back over the past year or years to see if your sanctification has leveled off or deepened or weakened, and try to identify the causes. It’s good to be active and proactive about one’s study. The goal of course is to know Christ better, so attempting different levels through the scripture to determine differing measures of successfully engaging with it is OK.

The problem would arise if I sensed that my depth of study was shallower in using a certain Reading Plan and settled for shallow. We always strive to go deeper, know more of Christ, pray for wisdom and insight, pray for the Spirit’s leading on how to use the knowledge gained. Never settle. Strive, press on-

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12)

Posted in beth moore, encouragement, reading, worldview

The moment Jesus entered heaven, Reading as parenting, A Prophet for an Un-discerning Church, Worldview

Mark Jones at Reformation 21 wrote a tremendously uplifting essay. Tremendous. Christ’s Entrance into Heaven speculates on the scene in heaven, after Jesus ascended to heaven. Here is how it begins:

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like when Christ entered heaven after having ascended? This was a unique moment in redemptive history, and one that we should probably meditate upon a lot more than we do. At the risk of being occasionally speculative, here are some thoughts on Christ’s entrance into Heaven as the glorified God-man.

The effect upon those in heaven must have been incredible. We are told that there is much joy in heaven when a sinner repents (Lk. 15:7). But what about the joy when Jesus, who saves all who enter heaven, arrived to take his seat at the right hand of the Father?

Please read his short piece. You will be glad you did.

A reader sent the following, JC Ryle on 8 Symptoms of False Doctrine. Here it is in its entirety. It was posted at the link in 2013 but written in 1967 and published in the excellent Banner of Truth. His list is as true or truer today than ever.

Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous.

  1. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their ‘earnestness’ makes many think they must be right.
  2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides.
  3. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties.
  4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong.
  5. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense.
  6. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for a more sensuous, ceremonial, sensational, showy worship: men are impatient of inward, invisible heart-work.
  7. There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, and a determination to forget that Satan often masquerades himself ‘as an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11:14).
  8. There is a wide-spread ‘gullibility’ among professing Christians: every heretic who tells his story plausibly is sure to be believed, and everybody who doubts him is called a persecutor and a narrow-minded man.

All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing person to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, ‘Do not be carried away!’

From J. C. Ryle’s Warnings to the Churches [Banner of Truth, 1967], ‘Divers and Strange Doctrines’, pages 76-77, with slight editing.

As someone whose profession is education and whose specialty is literacy, I appreciated this post from The Christian Pundit regarding Reading As Parenting

Reading as Parenting

When we think about parenting, the word “books” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But reading to our children is a fundamental aspect of parenting little people, though we rarely talk about it in the context of raising children.

Here is something I’ve posted before but am doing again. Todd Pruitt at the Mortification of Spin, on Beth Moore, A Prophet for an Un-discerning Church

But those who don’t much care about popularity or physical safety have in recent years been willing to challenge some of the outrageous claims and troubling teachings coming from Beth Moore. It would be one thing if Beth’s claims of direct revelation, sloppy exegesis, and squishy ecumenism were confined to a small corner of the church. The trouble is that Beth Moore is hugely popular which means she has a lot of influence.

What is your worldview?

Barna noted that substantial numbers of Christians believe that activities such as abortion, gay sex, sexual fantasies, cohabitation, drunkenness and viewing pornography are morally acceptable. “Without some firm and compelling basis for suggesting that such acts are inappropriate, people are left with philosophies such as ‘if it feels good, do it,’ ‘everyone else is doing it’ or ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s permissible.’ In fact, the alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: ‘whatever.’ The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.”

This Barna study quoted above was conducted in 2002, thirteen years ago as of this writing. He noted that the study and survey was aimed partly at young people, and it is to be strongly noted that the young people who expressed such a world-view thirteen years ago are now the adults of today. And these adults are having children of their own, and passing the worldview on to them.

Posted in blackaby, books, hybels, reading, spurgeon

(Updated) A pile of books, oldies and I hope goodies!

Update at bottom

A year ago, our pastor resigned/was fired for having discovered that he’d spent years in serial plagiarism. The deacons and staff were cleaning out his office this week (because it looks like God may just now have sent the man He wishes us to have lead us) and there was a stack of books left over on the old pastor’s shelves. The staff put them on the bench with a “free” sign. One of the men saved aside a book for me. I was bowled over with delight. Here it is:

This book was published in 1892 just after Charles Haddon Spurgeon, AKA “The Prince of Preachers” had died in Menton France.

I’ve read about 50 pages so far and it is charming, well-written, and of course, glowing (being in the height of grief over the loss of the word’s foremost preacher at the time).

Other books that were set aside for me include some I’m very much looking forward to reading, such as–

W. Eugene Sallee: Christ’s Ambassador, a biography written by Sallee’s wife. They both were missionaries in China in the very early 1900s. I have high hopes for this book- it should prove very interesting. I hope I’m not let down… It is the book I’ll read next.

Life and Sayings of Sam P. Jones: A Minister of the Gospel, a famous Georgia preacher of some note who preached in the late 1800s. Wikipedia says Jones “was one of the most celebrated revivalists of his day, at the close of the 19th century. Famous for his wry wit and masterful story-telling, he is credited as a principal influence on Will Rogers.

Home of the Bible: What I Saw and Heard in Palestine (1895), by Marion Harland, AKA Virginia Terhune, a prolific American writer. She lived from 1830 to 1922, and was still writing at age 90 even though she had gone blind. This book was her travelogue, having made an expedition to determine for herself to see what God was doing in the original Christian lands with the peoples there.

Up Among the Ice-floes (1890) by James MacDonald Oxley. I always love me a good old Arctic expedition book.

I also received biblical non-fiction and reference books-

The Second Coming of Christ by Len Broughton, (1902)

Jewish Tales by Leopold Von Sacher Masoch (1894)

The Revelation: Verse by verse study by Oliver B. Green (1963)

Exposition of Ecclesiastes by H. C. Leupold (1952)

Arnold’s Practical Sunday School Lesson Commentary (1926)

The Church of God at Corinth: verse by verse commentary on 1 & 2 by Corinthians John R. Rice (1973)

These three came together in a little case: they seem kind of elementary but will be useful as a quick guide, and also of course to give away to someone who needs something a little elementary when the time comes to give it away!

  • Who’s Who in the Bible by Dietrich Gruen (2011)
  • Bible Almanac Anna Trimiew
  • Bible Facts: People, Places, Events David M Howard Jr.

The Discipling Pastor beat me to the commentaries but I’m thrilled he got some good ones. He offered to let me see what he got, already tucked away in the back of his car, but I declined because I knew it would lead to the sin of me coveting!!

I was just saying to myself, “Self, you’ve given away a good many books lately, I wish I had some more. The shelves are looking mighty thin.” So thank you Lord, for your provision. I’m delighted to have been graciously re-stocked, and just in time for school ending next week. I will actually have time and energy to read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read….

Sometimes there are simple things that tell the story. For example, the old pastor had books like the life of Spurgeon and other solid books from AW Pink, John R. Rice, and the like, but also alongside those old venerable standards were Purpose Driven stuff from Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, and Henry Blackaby on ‘how to hear God’s voice’. The solid and practical and expositional had over time, been relegated to the back of his book shelf and at the forefront were books illustrating his heart and his penchant for the mystical, emotional, purpose driven leaven that eventually clouded his judgment and polluted his heart. It was shortly after that his massive sin was uncovered: serial lies from the pulpit in the holy name of Christ. And his bookshelf was a graphic display of his sad decline into apostasy.

If a bookshelf told your story, what story would it tell?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A couple of days after this essay was published, Pastor John MacArthur tweeted out a link to a three minute chat called “The Christian Bokshelf”. In it, Pastor MacArthur mentions the kinds of books he likes to read (Commentaries, theology, biogrpahies, with occasional other historical books thrown in, like The Athenian Navy, Salt, and the Great Influenza).

He goes on to explain what publisher to look for (“Banner of Truth) and urges CHristians to buy books and fill their bookshelves with solid kinds of books like these. Enjoy

//player.vimeo.com/video/93187462
Truth for Today | The Christian Library from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.