…the day you hear that you have cancer or that your child is blind or that a mob is coming, you turn away from the [feel good] books to the [theologically] weighty ones that were written on the precipice of eternity where the fragrance of heaven and the stench of hell are both in the air.John Piper on the Biography of John Bunyan
Like swords, books have symbolic power. Like fireplaces, they induce a sense of comfort and warmth. And, perhaps, similar to sails, they make a useful backup for when the lights go out.–Challies
Read as an act of worship. Read to be elevated into the great truths of God so that you may worship the Trinity in Spirit and in truth. Be selective about what you read, however. Measure all your reading against the touchstone of Scripture. Read more for eternity than time, more for spiritual growth than professional advancement. Think of John Trapp’s warning: “As water tastes of the soil it runs through, so does the soul taste of the authors that a man reads.”
Before picking up a book, ask yourself: Would Christ approve this book? Will it increase my love for the Word of God, help me to conquer sin, offer abiding wisdom, and prepare me for the life to come? Or could I better spend time reading another book?”
Source: Joel Beeke, Feed My Sheep (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2002)
Study the Bible and learn how to articulate your faith. The gospel should be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking people. Remember that Christianity is a central force of world history, not a religion that just happened in a corner.Jojo Agot
I started reading Andy Andrews’ The Final Summit many times but I couldn’t just get past the feeling that something was off even as early as the first chapter. David Ponder, the character who was first introduced in Andrews’ previous book The Traveler’s Gift, had a meeting with archangel Gabriel and other prominent historical figures to find out the “two words” that will save mankind and reset it to its original course.
Now this is really tricky. When an author uses Biblical characters in their story, readers who happened to read their Bibles have some sort of expectations about those characters. And when those characters turned out differently from Biblical sources, the story is already ruined for them. Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) somehow managed to pull it off when he put Mechizedek in the path of the boy Santiago; Robin Parrish (Relentless) wasn’t so lucky with his modern day Lucifer.
“What has exceedingly hurt you… is lack of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.
Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian…
You have to read to know our chaotic world. You have to read to lead. You have to read to stay sane and peaceful in an emotionally violent time. You have to read to know God. And you have to read, as C. S. Lewis said, to know you are not alone.
Get reading. Use your technology to make it easier and more readily available. Carve out the space and build a rich inner life. Set goals, share the joys, reap the harvest of a cultivated intellect and a sophisticated soul.
Source: Stephen Mansfield, A Reading Life (Blog Entry, March 17, 2011).
[This] is how heresies have arisen. The heretics were never dishonest men; they were mistaken men. They should not be thought of as men who were deliberately setting out to go wrong and to teach something that is wrong; they have been some of the most sincere men that the church has ever known. What was the matter with them?
Their trouble was this: they evolved a theory and they were rather pleased with it: then they went back with this theory to the Bible, and they seemed to find it everywhere. If you read half a verse and emphasize over-much some other half verse elsewhere, your theory is soon proved.
Now obviously, this is something of which we have to be very wary. There is nothing so dangerous as to come to the Bible with a theory, with preconceived ideas, with some pet idea of our own, because the moment we do so, we shall be tempted to over-emphasize one aspect and under-emphasize another.
Source: D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies In The Sermon In The Mount (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1 v. ed edition, 1958)
Steven Furtick, Sun Stand Still:
There’s always a trade-off. Before God can bring his promises to pass in your life, he has to strip away all the stuff that keeps you from trusting him wholeheartedly. And that stuff is on the inside. God’s invisible work in you prepares you for his visible works through you.
Certain components of spiritual success are easy to see. These are the tangible, public, and obvious victories that inspire you to admire well-loved heroes. But the training ground for those victories is the stuff you can’t see. Crossing over into God’s promise is always accompanied by a cutting-away process. And once you’ve crossed over the Jordan by embracing your [God-given] vision, there are some intense internal challenges waiting for you on the other side.
I don’t know exactly what this cutting-away process will look like for you. God has a personalized calling for your life, so the sacrifices he calls you to make will be specific and unique. All sorts of variables play into this. The things that God will call you to lay down or walk away from will depend a lot on where you’ve come from and where he’s taking you. And only he knows that.
God may have to cut away some of your self-centered dreams to make room for his bigger and better dreams. Maybe the desires of your heart are wrapped in ambition for status instead of passion for Jesus.
God has scheduled me for open heart surgery on many occasions to deal with my distorted priorities and superficial motives. At times, he’s graciously allowed me to get my heart right by inspiring me to humble myself through fasting, prayer and repentance. But other times, he chooses to strip away the ego and pride in my life through more drastic measures.
The thing is, sometimes God has to let your dream die so that his vision for you can come alive.
FEARLESS is one of those books that if you highlight the best parts with a colored pen, you end up coloring entire chapters. I’m not kidding.
When I read the first few chapters, I was blown away with the wisdom Max Lucado has put into the pages of this book. I got my copy from Thomas Nelson for book review back in 2009 and I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. How do you even say something not dumb when you are reviewing a book like this?
Perhaps the one strong message that I could not get off my head from FEARLESS was the story of the fifth sparrow. You remember the story when Jesus said in Matthew 10: 29 that two sparrows are sold for a penny? In Luke 12: 6, the story was repeated, only that this time, Luke said that five sparrows are sold for two pennies. The seller threw in the fifth sparrow for free.
I don’t know much about sparrows but I’m thinking this kind of bird is so insignificant that even if you sell it at such a low price, very few people would even care to actually buy. The fifth sparrow is much less insignificant being the free item that came with the bargain.
Let me quote Max Lucado’s exact words:
“Society still has its share of fifth sparrows: indistinct souls who feel dispensable, disposable, worth less than a penny. They drive carpools and work in cubicles. Some sleep beneath cardboard on the sidewalks and others beneath comforters in the suburbs. What they share is a feeling of smallness.”
I had to fight a lump in my throat when I read this. Every now and then, whenever I read my notes and get to this part, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed at the realization that God cares about me.
Matthew and Luke agreed. Not one of these “worthless” sparrows fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father. They are never forgotten by God.