Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10 Tips to Read More and Read Better

This is copied from Tim Challies' site and I dedicate it to Condy Richardson (because he envies my reading selections).

Also at Challies' site you can find a review of Twilight. I've not read any of these books, but they are a huge hit with teens and the first in the series has recently been made into a major motion picture.

When I turned to the readers of this site and asked for questions I could answer or topics I could address, I noted (without much surprise) that many people were interested in the subject of reading. One person sought a basic “Why, what and how of reading Christian books.” Others sought advice on how to read more and how to read better. This is a subject I have written about before but I thought it would be valuable to return to it today. Here is a list of ten tips to read more and to read better.

Read - We start with the obvious: you need to read. Find me someone who has changed the world and who spent his time watching television and I’ll find you a thousand who read books instead. Unless reading is your passion, you may need to be very deliberate about setting aside time to read. You may need to force yourself to do it. Set yourself a reasonable target (“I’m going to read three books this year” or “I’m going to finish this book before the end of the month”) and work towards it. Set aside time every day or every week and make sure you pick up the book during those times. Find a book dealing with a subject of particular interest to you. You may even find it beneficial to find a book that looks interesting—a nice hardback volume with a beautiful, embossed cover, easy-to-read fonts and beautiful typography. Reading is an experience and the experience begins with the look and feel of the book. So find a book that looks like one you’ll enjoy and commit to reading it. And when you’ve done that, find another one and do it again. And again.

Read Widely - I’m convinced that one reason people do not read more is that they do not vary their reading enough. Any subject, no matter how much you are interested in it, can begin to feel dry if you focus all of your attention upon it. So be sure to read widely. Read fiction and non-fiction, theology and biography, current affairs and history, Christian and non. You will no doubt want to focus the majority of your reading in one broad area, and that is well and good. But be sure to vary your diet.

Read Deliberately - Similar to reading widely, ensure that you read deliberately. Choose your books carefully. If you neglect to do this, you may find that you overlook a particular category for months or even years at a time. Al Mohler, a voracious reader, divides books into six categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature and has some project going within each of these categories at all times. You can draw up categories of your own, but try to ensure you are reading from a variety of the categories on a regular basis. Choose books that fit into each of these categories and plan your reading ahead of time, so you know what book you will read next and you know what you’ll read after that. Anticipation for the next book is often a motivating force in completing the current book.

Read Interactively - Reading is best done, at least when enjoying serious books, when you work hard at understanding the book and when you interact with the author’s arguments. Read with a highlighter and pencil in hand. Ask questions of the author and expect him to answer them through the course of the text. Scrawl notes in the margins, write questions inside the front cover, and return to them often (and, if the questions remain unanswered, even seek to contact the author!). Highlight the most important portions of the book, or the ones you intend to return to later. As Al Mohler says, “Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled.” I have found that writing reviews of the books I read is a valuable way of returning at least one more time to the book to make sure that I understand what the author was trying to say and how he said it. So interact with those books and make them your own.

Read with Discernment - Though books have incredible power to do good, to challenge and strengthen and edify, they also have the power to do evil. I have seen lives transformed by books but have also seen lives crushed. So do ensure that you read with discernment, always comparing the books you read to the standard of Scripture. If you encounter a book that is particularly controversial, it may be worth ensuring that you can reference a review that interacts critically with the arguments or that you can read it with a person who better understands the arguments and their implications. You do not need to fear any book as long as you read with a critical eye and with a discerning mind.

Read Heavy Books - It can be intimidating to stare at some of those massive volumes or series of volumes sitting on your bookshelf, but be sure to make time to read some of those serious works. A person can only grow so much while living on a diet of easy-reading Christian Living books. Make your way through some Jonathan Edwards or John Calvin. Read Grudem’s Systematic Theology or David Wells’ “No Place for Truth” series. You will find them slow-going, to be sure, but will also find them rewarding. Commit to reading some of these heavy volumes as a regular part of your reading diet. Consider joining in one of our Reading Classics Together efforts to add some interaction and accountability in reading one of the classics of the faith.

Read Light Books - While dense books should be a serious reader’s main diet, there is nothing wrong with pausing to enjoy the occasional novel or light read. After reading two or three good books, allow yourself to read a Clancy or Grisham or Peretti something else that never changed anyone’s life. Allow yourself to get lost in a good story every now and again and stay up way too late insisting that you’re going to read just one more chapter. You will find that they refresh you and prepare you to read the next heavy book.

Read New Books - Keep an eye on what is new and popular and consider reading what other people in your church or neighborhood are reading. If The Secret is selling millions of copies, consider reading it so you know what people are reading and so you can attempt to discern why people are reading it. Use your knowledge of these books as a bridge to talk to people about their books and what attracts them to the ones they read. Use your knowledge of these books to understand what other Christians are reading and why.

Read Old Books - Do not read only new books. I cannot say this any better than C.S. Lewis: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.” So be sure to read old books, whether that means classics or whether that simply means books that come from a generation or two before your own. And be sure to read history as well, since there is no better way of understanding today than by understanding yesterday.

Read What Your Heroes Read - A few years ago, while at the Shepherds’ Conference, a young man who was in ministry but had not had opportunity to attend seminary asked John MacArthur what he would recommend to this man so he could continue learning and continue growing in his knowledge of theology. MacArthur’s answer was simple: He said that this pastor should find godly men he admires and read what they read. So do that! Find people you admire and read the books that have most shaped them. Visit the web sites of your heroes and you may just find that they have already compiled lists of their most formative books. Read these books and see for yourself how they shaped your heroes.

HT to Charlie Wallace for bringing this to my attention.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for Angela

I know its thanksgiving week, so I wanted to take space on here to just recount how thankful I am for my wife and son. I am very blessed to have them in my life. Angela takes care of me and is a great mom and wife. She has given me a wonderful son and we have a daughter on the way. I am blessed beyond measure. Being a pastor's wife is not always easy, but she takes it all in stride and loves our church as much as I do.

Not only am I blessed to have her in my life, but our church is blessed to have her as well. Most people will never know how beneficial she is to the ministry of Malvern Hill, but I am well aware of what God has given to me.

What are you thankful for?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Woman Receives Windpipe Transplant Grown From Her Own Stem Cells

In a very rare occurrence, a woman has recieved a windpipe transplant to save one of her lungs. The most amazing and exciting news about this transplant, however, is that the windpipe was made of her own stem cells. There was no need to use embryonic stem cells. FoxNews is carrying this story and I would strongly urge you to read it. This is just one more scientific advance to provide arguments against the use and neccessity of embryonic stem cells.

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Two Links for today.

1. I've posted a book review of G.K. Beale's We Become What We Worship at passion for preaching.

2. Al Mohler has written a review of a USA Today article that says this:

Compared with the Baby Boomers who were seniors in 1975, 12th-graders surveyed in 2006 were much more confident they'd be "very good" employees, mates and parents, and they were more self-satisfied overall, say Twenge and co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia. Between half and two-thirds of the Gen Y teens gave themselves top ratings, compared with less than half in their parents' generation. The report is in 'Psychological Science.'

Boomer parents "are more likely than their parents were to praise children — and maybe over praise them," Twenge says. This can foster great expectations or perhaps even smugness about one's chances of reaching "the stars" at work and in family life, she adds. "Their narcissism could be a recipe for depression later when things don't work out as well as they

If you are a parent or an educator, both the article and Mohler's take on the article are well worth your time.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Voddie Baucham on SBC Controversies

I normally resist the temptation to enter into a great deal of controversy with this tool. But, I ran across a post from Voddie Baucham that I found to be interesting. I had the opportunity to meet Voddie and spend a little time with him during the summer of 2003. He is scary smart and hardcore about holiness (his enormous size forces me to use those descriptive terms). I do not agree with everything Voddie says, but I do respect him greatly. If you are interested in working to be the solution to the problem of fractions in the SBC, Voddie's post may be a great place to start.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

God of This City

I'm not sure that Chris Tomlin does any bad songs, but God is surely glorified in this one.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

ADHD Causes Divorce?

Reuters reported last week on a recent study that suggests a link between children with ADHD and parents who divorce.

Parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be more likely than other parents to divorce before their child's 8th birthday, a new study suggests.

The study included nearly 500 couples - 286 had a child with ADHD and 206 had a child without this condition. The researchers found that couples with a child with ADHD were almost twice as likely to divorce before their child turned 8 years old. After that age, however, divorce rates were similar in both groups of parents.

Past research has found that compared with couples with a child without ADHD, parents of children with the disorder tend to argue more often and be less satisfied with their marriage. But studies have come to conflicting conclusions regarding the divorce rate.

Of course, I have no data to back up my theories, but should we not look at this study and question if unhealthy marriages create an environment that fosters the development of ADHD? When I read this study, I am inclined to wonder if the researchers have it all wrong. Maybe the child does not cause a divorce, but instead, marriages in turmoil serve to negatively affect the well-being of children.

Obviously, problems can occur in children who grow up even in the best of homes, but because ADHD is a clinical diagnosis, it is a diagnosis based on signs and symptoms which may or may not include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impusliveness. Of course, other symptoms and signs are common, but many of the signs and symptoms are also common for children who do not receive proper love and attention at home.

I wonder if some children diagnosed with ADHD should really be diagnosed with bad parent disorder instead. Remember, I write as a fellow ADHD sufferer (I was a late bloomer, not diagnosed until I was completing my Masters Degree) and so I am not questioning the reality of the disorder, but I do call into question the popularity of the diagnosis, especially in light of the research stated in the Reuters article cited above.

I'd love your comments on this issue.

HT: Bowden McElroy

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Something Interesting To Start Your Day

Ed Young Jr. has a great challenge for the members of Fellowship Church. Read about his Seven Day Sex Challenge. His perspective is great and he is spot on in his analysis:

"God says sex should be between a married man and a woman," Young said. "I think it’s one of the greatest things you can do for your kids because so goes the marriage, so goes the family."

Sex is God's gift to married couples and should be practiced by married couples, not only for their enjoyment, but for the health of their marriages.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Brit Hume Retiring to Pursue Christian Growth

Justin Taylor has posted an article about Brit Hume that is nearly unheard of in our day. Hume is retiring at the top his career game so that he can spend more time with his family and grow in his Christian faith. This is a great story that you should read.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Links

A prayer request here.

Russ Moore's thought's on judgment house evangelism are interesting.

A reminder of what may be the greatest victory for Christians in the 2008 election from Denny Burk.

The need for a mondern day Wilberforce.

And, for anyone slightly interested in the Puritans, Timmy Brister has written Who Is Richard Baxter?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

95 Reasons I Love My Church

In celebration of Reformation Day last Friday Night, I got home to find my house and yard covered with 95 copies of Luther's 95 Theses. Several of the students from the church pulled their own Reformation Day Prank on their pastor. I also received a Reformation Day gift bag. In the bag was a rubber mallet and a dvd of the first season of Monk...that's right, a monk and a mallet for Reformation Day.

We are blessed for the efforts of those who have gone on before us proclaiming the gospel and for the reformation that they brought. I am blessed to be a part of a church that loves me and is interested in learning about the Word of God and the rich heritage of our protestant history.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The King Is On The Throne

Elections are big deals in America, and they should give Christians an opportunity to reflect upon our citizenship, not only in this country, but our heavenly citizenship as well. We have selected a new president and that new president holds great power, however, as Christians we still serve the same King. Jesus came to set up a kingdom that is not of this world:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
-John 18:36

Even as we participate in the political process, we know that our God holds sway over the politics of the kingdoms (countries) of this world. Take heart, whether your candidate won or not, your God is still seated upon his throne and his will shall be done!

Jesus said, "let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, beleive also in me..." No man or woman has ever undone what God wills to be done. Praise God this morning that he is still the KING!
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free Books!

Passion for Preaching is hosting it's first ever book give-away. Click on www.passionforpreaching.net and sign up to win a copy of Robert Smith's, Doctrine That Dances.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Teen Pregnancy Linked To Watching Sexy TV

An article on FoxNews today reports the findings from a recent study that suggests a link between increased pregnancy rates among teens and television shows with sexually suggestive/explicit content. The three year study by Rand Corp. showed that teens who watch the raciest shows are twice as likely to become pregnant as those who don't.

Participants were asked how often they watched any of more than 20 TV shows popular among teens at the time or which were found to have lots of sexual content. The programs included "Sex and the City," "That '70s Show" and "Friends."

Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the racy programs.

Admittedly, other factors (such as family structure, economic situation, self-esteem issues, religious affiliation, etc...) were not considered, but the data does seem to speak for itself. In a study of more than 2000 teens, presumably a conglomeration that covered a wide range of life-situations, the statistic is alarming. Parents cannot ignore this study.

The article continues:

Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data suggesting only about 19 percent of American teens say they can talk openly with a trusted adult about sex. With many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media to serve as a sex educator, he said.

"For a kid who no one's talking to about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as this is what the cool people do," the outcome is obvious, Walsh said.

He said the message to parents is to talk to their kids about sex long before children are teens. Parents also should be watching what their kids watch and helping filter messages sex-filled shows are sending, he said.

This needs to be just one more wake-up call to parents and church leaders. If we are not talking about sex with our children, they are learning about it from somewhere. Hollywood should not set the sex-education curriculum for our children. The Bible gives some explicit guidelines for sexual relationships, specifically, that sex is reserved for a monogomous relationship between a man and a woman inside of marriage.

Pop-culture and most TV portray sex as something far removed from the biblical ideal. When TV becomes our baby-sitter, then the media from it's screen also becomes our children's teacher. Stand in the gap for your children, honor God with the blessings he has given you.

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