Category Archives: Spiriual Disciplines

When the Church is the Church

words words wordsRecently, I experienced a season of being fainthearted.  I was discouraged, and I wasn’t certain that there was hope.  Webster’s defines fainthearted as “lacking courage or resolution”.  In other words, being fainthearted means feeling a strong sense of discouragement, even being tempted with despair.

That was me.  I was experiencing spiritual warfare whereby I was being tempted to quit trusting that God is sovereign, in control, and that Romans 8:28 was holding true not only for me, but for His church.  Romans 8:28 says, “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).  I was tempted to doubt that.

Yes (wait, was there a question?).  Yes.  Even pastors are tempted to despair and can become fainthearted.  And I succumbed.  I was fainthearted in the midst of looking at students in the face and preaching to them of the importance of trusting and believing Romans 8:28.  And there were a few close brothers and sisters in Christ who knew.  Instead of chastisement, instead of calling into question whether or not I should be pastoring, instead of condemning, these brothers and sisters (knowingly or not, but I like to think knowingly) encouraged me.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 says this, “and we urge you, brothers, encourage the fainthearted, be patient with them…” (ESV).  My dear brothers and sisters in Christ encouraged me.  They encouraged me by telling me that they were proud of me, that they appreciated me, and so forth.  But most of all, and most importantly, they encouraged me with Jesus.

It’s these conversations within the body of Christ that are meant to be, from God, a grace to those who hear.  The full verse of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “and we urge you, brothers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (ESV).  This verse is a verse of grace for the church.

Often, we hear people say that “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people”.  Which, yes, is true.  But what they mean is this, “therefore, I ought to not say a word to them and just sit back and do nothing”.  In that same vein, in order to be consistent, these same people would have to say that “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to encourage people, so I ought to not say a word to them and just sit back and do nothing”.

Man.  I am so glad these brothers and sisters understand that the means that the Holy Spirit uses to convict and to encourage are the words of truth that we speak to each other.  Along those lines, I want to give three ways that our words of truth are meant to be a grace of God to the church.

1. Admonish the unruly

What other types of words ought we to say to the unruly person living in sin?  Ought we to encourage the liar, “keep on, buddy, you’re doing great!”?  No!  That would absurd.  The appropriate words of truth that believers are to speak to these are words of admonishment.

Yes, words of admonishment ought to be done with graciousness, love, humility, and gentleness.  But, none the less, they need to be said to the unruly.

2. Encourage the fainthearted

These are types of words of truth that were spoken to me recently.  Generally, these types of words are shown at times of grief and celebration, but rarely are we so spiritually connected with one another that we recognize that sometimes people are simply fainthearted.

What other words would we speak to the fainthearted?  Words of admonishment?  Could you imagine?  “You are in despair, but shame on you!”  Again, how absurd!  The appropriate words of truth believers are to speak to these are words of encouragement

3. Help the weak

This category begins with words of truth, and I call these words of action.  Of course, they mean nothing if not put into practice.  So, for instance, if a sister in Christ is weak and is in need of a ramp built on the front of her house to get down off of her porch, the words of action become a physical help to her.  “I will build you a ramp to help you.”

But notice I said words of action.  That means we don’t just tell people we will help them, but we actually help them.  These people do not only need words of encouragement, and they certainly do not need words of admonishment.  These people need help.

Conclusion

The rest of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says “be patient with them all” (ESV).  When we experience unruly people, or fainthearted people, or weak people, we are exhorted to be patient with them.  We are the church, and we are called to faithfulness to the Lord and faithfulness to one another.  When the church is the church, the Lord honors and blesses the people.  I have been blessed by the church being the church.

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Filed under Church, Encouragement, Scripture, Spiritual Growth, Spiriual Disciplines, True Christianity

Church Growth – Outward or Inward?

Often in church life, I have experienced different people and groups of people who have a major concern for church growth.  Church growth gurus and books are everywhere.  In our age, the church has taken on a secular business model – measuring metrics such as growing numerically, giving increases, and explosions of ministries.  I want to be clear – I am not against church growth.  I pray every day for the Lord to bless the church I serve in with numerical growth.  I pray every day for the Lord to give me grace to trust Him and become a more generous giver, and that He would allow the other church members to have the same burden of increased generosity.  I pray every day to the Lord for our ministries at our church to be thriving, flourishing, and God glorifying.  So, I am not saying these are bad, in fact, I affirm that they are good!

Where I am concerned is that the only thing we are focusing on is outward growth.  I have had recent conversations with some close brothers about the reasons, the why, behind our different teaching ministries we have as a church.  In one discussion, it became known that some of the other church leaders want our small group ministry, which is traditional Sunday School, to be only evangelistic.  That philosophy is one that says the small group must function in such a way that it becomes the method of evangelism for our church – in essence, the Sunday School is an outreach ministry.  Again, don’t read something I am not saying.  I do not mean that this is wrong as one goal for the small group ministry.  I only mean to say that it ought not be our only, or even primary goal for the small group ministry.

I am convinced, according to the Holy Scriptures, that the primary reason to gather together and study God’s Word is to help and exhort the body of Christ towards godliness and holiness.  Some examples in the Bible of God’s people gathering for spiritual growth through teaching ministries (Bible study, preaching, Sunday School, etc.) are:

  • In Acts, when Barnabas and Paul first begin their missionary work – “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul (Paul), and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a great many people (Acts 11:25-26a, ESV, emphasis mine).”
  • To the Ephesians, Paul wrote “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV, emphasis mine).”
  • Peter, in his last words to the group of Churches in his correspondence – “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18a, ESV, emphasis mine).”
  • The first glimpse of the believer’s gathered together in the book of Acts – “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42, ESV, emphasis mine).”

These are but a few instances in the Bible where we see God’s people gathering together to teach one another in God’s Word, to train each other, and to build each other up in the faith.  In our Student Ministry at Colgate Baptist Church, we are studying through the book of Acts on Wednesday nights (our corporate youth gathering).  Recently, I preached (to youth, for over 30 minutes, and they ate it up!) on the first Christians in Antioch.  Acts 11:19-30 gives us a pattern of proper church life, and a three-fold emphasis for the mission of the church:

  1. Spiritual Birth – In Acts 11:19-21 (I will let you read this passage, it is too long to quote here), the church members were sharing the gospel with people.  See?  I am PRO evangelism!  I pray that the Lord will give us a fervency for sharing the gospel through relationship building, bold truth telling, and holy living!  As this happened in the book of Acts, the Lord adds to the church!  Over an over again, the theme in Acts is the Lord building His church – “And there were added that day about three thousand souls (2:41)”, “And the LORD added to their number day by day those who were being saved (2:47)”, “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand (4:4)”, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord (5:14)”, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied (6:7)”, and so on!  I want to be careful, because I want to make sure you know I see evangelism – or the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and calling people to repent and believe – as a good thing and a necessary thing for Christians to do.  My disagreement with the above philosophy is that the gathering of the church is not meant as the way to do evangelism.  I hope that will become more apparent in the last emphasis.
  2. Spiritual Growth – In Acts 11:22-26, the focus is on Barnabas and Paul and their teaching, exhorting, and training the people of God with the Word of God.  This shows us the reason for coming together – learning! As Christian’s learn the truth of who God is through faithful exhortation in teaching and in preaching, the Christian grows! How can we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?  By corporately and collectively gathering together, engaging, listening, meditating, talking about, and thinking about the small group lesson or the pastor’s sermon.  I was involved in a church once that had small group ministries that met throughout the week in homes.  The studies were geared around the sermon from Sunday morning!  The point for God’s people to gather is to worship God – to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  This is, I believe, what Paul meant in Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (ESV, emphasis mine).”  The more we know God (mind), the more we love God (heart, obedience)!
  3. Spiritual Overflow – In Acts 11:27-30, the Christians at Antioch learn of a famine “over all the world (v. 28)”.  They sent relief to believers in Judea by sending Barnabas and Saul, along with relief – materials, supplies.  What was this?  A mission trip! When Barnabas and Saul get to their next temporary residing place, they aren’t only giving their physical supplies, they begin the process over at #1!  In Acts 13:5a, it says “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews (ESV).”  The process began again, as a result of the overflow of the believers in Antioch.

These points of emphasis , I believe, are a holistic, Biblical pattern of Church life and growth.  As the gospel is proclaimed (on the outside, in our jobs, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our waiters, etc.), new spiritual life is formed (by God), and spiritual birth takes place.  People are born again!  As people are born again, the church takes on the role of growing and maturing those believers, as well as continuing to evangelize other areas.  As these new believers are discipled, they mature and grow, and as they mature and grow, they begin to overflow that which has happened in them.  They begin the process in other people.

Church growth is important, but it isn’t the only point of emphasis.  Maybe for a season, the body of Christ may need to focus on intensified discipleship efforts for its own members.  Maybe for a season, there will be a heavy emphasis on evangelism and missions.  But, I believe, there will always be a working organism with a three-fold mechanic – seeking spiritual birth, helping spiritual growth, and encouraging and participating in spiritual overflow (repeat).

Some good resources for these points are:

  • Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash
  • Creature of the Word: the Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
  • Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan

Have a comment/different philosophy?  We’d love to hear from you!

Post written by:  Aaron Hale

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Filed under Church Growth, Spiritual Growth, Spiriual Disciplines

Reflections on 2013 and Looking at 2014

Happy New Year!  Starting off a new year, people often make resolutions that quickly fade.  Even in my (Aaron) own life, I have made some resolutions of which I quickly failed at.  I rarely make resolutions for the New Year any more, but the reason may not be what you think.  I think the best time for self-examination and self-reflection is all the time, not just at the beginning of a new year.

2013 brought several points of self-examination for me, of which the Lord is graciously keeping me and growing me in.  As I stated above, I believe the best time for self-examination and self-reflection is ongoing.  It seems to be that in today’s evangelical world, self-examination and self-reflection aren’t what they used to be.  When I say “self-examination” and “self-reflection”, I don’t merely mean looking inward at oneself.  I also mean what David means in Psalm 139:24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me, and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)

I recently preached a sermon birthed out of my blog about what True Christianity is (read here).  I preached from Jude, and while preparing for Jude, I noticed in Jude a contrast within the letter.  Jude says in v. 1, “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ (ESV, emphasis mine)”.  Again, in v. 24, Jude says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…(ESV, emphasis mine)”.  Jude says, as a point of countering false teachers and false ideologies, in v. 21, “keep yourselves in the love of God (ESV, emphasis mine)”.

Do you see the contrast?  Jude, for as small as it is, is weighty doctrinally.  Jude is assuming the basic doctrine of perseverance of the saints!  We are kept, by God’s grace, so that we will keep ourselves in Him!  Paul says this about himself in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (ESV, emphasis mine)”.

Jude’s point?  Paul’s point?  God preserves us, so that we will persevere!  That is the emphasis of the Psalm 139 reflection – that God would search us, that He would find the sin that is deep in the dark corners and crevices of our lives, that He would lead us in the Way everlasting!  Our growth, our perseverance, our ability to keep ourselves in God, is absolutely by God’s grace.  But it is God’s grace that gives us the ability to grow, to work hard in our spiritual lives, to mature, to become like Christ.  Those are things we do.  We work hard, we mature, we become like Christ, through the power of God’s grace which fuels our gospel-driven effort.

What’s this to do with reflection on 2013?  What’s this to do with looking at 2014?  God’s grace.  Samuel, in 1 Samuel 7:12, set up a remembrance stone, and he called it an Ebenezer, because “Till now the Lord has helped us (ESV)”.   It was God’s grace which brought the Israelites to where they were, and Samuel wanted the Israelites to be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness and His grace.  In 2013, I have some “Ebenezer’s” I would like to share.

1. God’s Grace was Sufficient to Help Me Lead My Family

Early 2013, my wife and I began to prepare for adoption.  This wasn’t because of any problems of our own, but because God had been (and still is!) wrenching on our hearts for children who are parentless.  Shortly after we began praying through this process and looking into it, we found out we were expecting our second child, now with us, Elijah James (and what a blessing he is!).

Elijah was born 5 weeks early, with no major developmental complications save for some weak lungs.  He was in the NICU (ICU for babies) for 2 weeks.  These two weeks were a blur.  My wife and I were wrecked.  We cried together when she was released and we had to leave the hospital where our son still was.  We are thankful that he is fine now and you wouldn’t even know he was there!  God certainly gave me strength and was my portion (Psalm 73:25-26) during that time, and His grace empowered me to lead my family and be strong during that time.

2. God’s Grace was Sufficient to Help Me Lead in My Church

When 2013 began, I looked back at a difficult 2012.  Shortly before 2012 began, I began a new ministry role as Family Pastor, which essentially meant I was overseeing both Children’s work and Youth work in our church.  This had been a tough transition, and with the help of some really faithful and godly volunteers, we tried some things (which failed miserably), and tried some new things, and tried even some more new things.  Also in 2012, my personal life took a hit early on when my father passed away on December 27, 2011.  When 2012 began, I was in Florida with my wife, our three month old daughter Ava Grace, and the rest on my family grieving his death after a battle with lung cancer.

Even now, typing this blog, I am teary eyed thinking of God’s grace and seeing that it truly was the Lord that has brought us as a church to where we are now beginning 2014.  Our Children’s ministry is experiencing solid growth and our youth ministry is able to focus on discipleship for the new students we have gained in the past few years.  I have never been more hopeful and secure that God has placed me in the right place, not because I’m special, but because He is working through me.

3. God’s Grace was Sufficient to Help Lead Me in School

I have been in college since 2005.  Coming up on 10 years.  TEN!  I know, most of you may be thinking of the Tommy Boy reference “lots of people graduate college in 10 years, they are called DOCTORS!”  Yeah, I tell myself that everyday.  But, some unforeseen things have happened in the past 8 1/2 years – I had a really prideful attitude early on, one that made me goof off much of my first 2 years; I had a full time job, which was managing a bookstore, and it was difficult to balance with school; I got married 4 1/2 years ago, and we had our first child 2 years ago; I took 2 years off; I only took 1 or 2 classes for 4 semesters; etc.  Enough of the excuses.  But 2013 was the first time I attempted to go back full-time.

I see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.  It was difficult, but the grace of God, coupled with a gracious wife (and patient!), saw me through a very busy schedule for 2013.  I pray the same for 2014!

So, what about 2014?

I am confident even more than I was last year.  Why?  I see how God has orchestrated and directed every single step of the way, and brought us here by His grace.  But it was not without effort!  2014 may be challenging, we may experience failures and disappointments, but God is still working!  I have never been so confident (not that I was a doubter) that Philippians 1:6 holds true:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (ESV)”.

For 2014, I have some goals (I prefer to say goals, sounds less cheesy than resolutions):

1. By God’s grace and my faithful effort, I want to become a better husband and father, shepherding my family into mature hood in Christ.

2. By God’s grace and my faithful effort, I want to become a more diligent reader, reading things which broaden my knowledge of the world and of God.

3. By God’s grace and my faithful effort, I want to shepherd and lead the flock of God with ever-increasing passion, zeal, and commitment to Christ and His church.

To close, I encourage you, self-reflect, self-reflect, self-reflect!  Let’s be on our knees, praying over and over Psalm 139, asking God to search us and grow us.  Look back many times as a reminder to see how faithful our God is to His people and to His promises.  And look forward to this new year with great anticipation, knowing that God wants our ever-increasing joy in Him, and trusting that He will never leave us or forsake us!

Have a comment?  Have your own Ebenezer’s?  Have your own goals?  We would love to hear from you!

Post Written By: Aaron Hale

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Filed under New Year, Reading, Spiriual Disciplines

Developing a Healthy Reading Diet

When I was growing up I was not into reading at all. I would much rather play sports or sit in front of the television with a controller in my hand. I thought reading was a boring waste of time that was reserved exclusively for “nerds” who had no social life. I would even make fun of my dad who was somewhat of an avid reader. But something happened–I had an encounter with God! The Lord began to draw me through certain people who were sharing the gospel with me. As this was happening I felt a strong desire to read the Bible so I went to the local Christian bookstore and picked up a KJV Scolfield Study Bible. I began to read the book of Acts, and by studying Paul’s life it had a profound impact on me. I thought I was a Christian in spite of the wicked life that I lived, but by reading about the life of Paul I realized that there was something missing in my life. Paul had an encounter with Christ and he was different. It was through reading God’s word that I finally realized that I must repent and trust in Christ alone for my salvation. After this happened I continued to read God’s word more and more. It wasn’t long before I discovered the value in reading books by godly Christian scholars who have provided the church with resources to guide them in their studies. By God’s grace I was introduced to books by John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer. One of the ways that I knew that I had been converted was that I had an appetite to read.

I believe that reading is a neglected discipline in our society. This should come as no surprise, but it is a little troubling to find the same negligence in the church. There are a number of excuses for this. We simply do not have the time to read. I find this argument ironic because we spend countless hours watching television or satisfying the lusts of the flesh. When we say that we do not have time to fit reading into our busy schedules what we are really saying is that we do not value reading and we do not find it important. When this becomes the case it is indicative of where we are spiritually. I want to argue that reading is infinitely important. Reading is the primary way the God as chosen to reveal Himself to us. Many Christians spend a great deal of time trying to receive a word from God without spending significant amounts of time reading their Bible. This was not the attitude of the biblical authors. When the children of Israel were preparing to enter the promise land God told Joshua “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Joshua 1:9). The apostle Paul believed that studying God’s word was important right up to the time that he took his last breath. The last letter that Paul wrote was 2 Timothy. It is a letter that Paul wrote from a Roman prison near the end of his life as he was awaiting execution. What was his last request? “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (1 Timothy 4:9). Paul was essentially on his deathbed and he wanted the books and parchments. Obviously he valued reading.

I want to make myself clear at this point. I am not suggesting that reading is the only spiritual discipline that is important and undervalued. We could say the same thing about prayer. Prayer is also essential to a fruitful Christian life. It is also very neglected. I know that this is true even in my life. But I think that prayer and reading go hand and hand. We should never pick up God’s word without praying. We should never really pick up any book without praying for discernment. I am also not suggesting that we should just lock ourselves away from the world and study like we are a part of a monastic community. We should be involved in the work of ministry. There are many areas in life which require our faithfulness such as, family, ministry, prayer, church, work, and study. The reason that I am singling out reading is because I believe that in the midst of our busy schedules reading (and prayer) is the easiest thing to neglect. I want to offer some suggestions that I have found helpful that I hope will make your reading more fruitful.

1. Set aside blocks of time everyday for reading.

This is the first step in developing a healthy reading diet. Time is a lot like money. You have to budget your time. If you do not budget your time you will end up wasting a lot of it. It is essential to set aside specific amounts of time everyday for specific types of reading. Like a money budget this does not mean that there will not be unexpected things that come up from time to time that alter your budget. There will be days when you have to depart from your schedule. But it also does not mean that you are limited to just the time that you have set aside. When you have additional free time use it to read. Instead of turning on the TV open the book that you are trying to finish. When this happens it is extra, do not let it replace the time you have carved out for reading. When setting aside time in your schedule for daily reading it is best to set aside 20 minute blocks. Even if you are a slow reader (like I am) you can get to where you can read 10 pages in 20 minutes. Also remember to set aside time for specific types of reading. Set aside 20 minutes for Bible reading, and 20 minutes some other time in the day, like when you are on your lunch break, for reading other books.

2. Read your Bible every day.

I mentioned this under point one, but I want to emphasize it again. There are Christians who enjoy reading, but do not read their Bibles on a daily basis. They would stay up all night reading a mystery or romance novel, but would never stay up all night wrestling with Paul’s letter to the Romans. This happens when reading becomes purely entertainment. I think reading is fun, but as Christians we read for more than just entertainment. We read for God’s glory. If we are not reading our Bibles then we should not read anything else. The Word of God is our first and foremost priority.

3. Supplement your Bible reading with study helps.

I maintain that picking up the Bible and reading it is the most important thing that we should do, but it can be dangerous to pick it up and misread it. I want to be clear, I believe that a person can pick up a copy of God’s word, read it, understand the gospel, and by God’s grace apply it. But it is also true that we can pick up God’s word and misinterpret portions of it because we simply do not have an accurate understanding of the culture and context in which the text was written. The Bible was written thousands of years ago in languages that we do not speak. God has given the church gifted scholars who are able to help us in these areas. If you are desiring to do in depth study then reading commentaries and Bible dictionaries can help. There are some excellent one-volume commentaries and dictionaries that are easy to use. Examples include The MacArthur Bible Commentary and The Holman Bible Dictionary. There are also good study Bibles that are available. But always remember that commentaries and study notes are secondary and are fallible.

4. Read books on Church History.

Studying church history can be very encouraging. I once heard about a Seminary professor who began his Church History course by telling the class that “something happened between Jesus and your grandmother, and it matters.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, but most of us do not know what happened between Jesus and our grandmothers. Studying church history can help us to see the way that God has preserved his church up to the present time. One of the best introductions to Church History that I have read is A Summary of Christian History. You may want to start with something like this, and then read some books that focus on the history of your own tradition. It would also be wise to read books that were written by those who have gone before us. Read Calvin, Wesley, Luther, the Puritans, etc.

5. Read Christian Biographies.

It has been my experience that reading biography is some of the most fruitful reading that I have ever done. When I moved to Louisville to go to school it was difficult. Especially after about a year of being here. I picked up a short biography of Francis Schaeffer and it was very helpful. I read about Schaeffer and the similar struggles that he had. I also love to hear about how God has worked in people’s lives to change the world, and biography is the literature to go to for this.

6. Read books on Christian doctrine.

There are a number of good theology books available for study. Again, the Bible is our primary source for doctrine, but I have tried to demonstrate much can be learned from other books as well. There are several books on systematic theology. These books cover all major Christian doctrines. The best systematic theology book to start with is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. This is a big book and can seem intimidating. But it is well written, easy to reference, and is even devotional. The book also comes in a number of abridged versions as well. The same is true for other recent Systematic books such as Michael Horton’s and Millard Erickson’s. Systematic Theology books are good for surveying all major Christian doctrines, but there are also many good books available that deal with just one specific doctrine.

7. Read books that are devotional .

There is a danger for people who, like me, read a lot of books that are somewhat academic. Many of these books tend to be dry and are not concerned with application. Thankfully there are a number of good devotional type of books available. There are books with devotions designed for morning, some for evening, some for teenagers, some for married people, and so on. There are also Bible commentaries that are geared to devotion and application. The point is to not burn yourself out with books that are a lot of heavy reading. Take time to read something devotional.

8. Read books on the beliefs of others.

This is crucial for the thoughtful Christian who is seeking to reach others with the gospel. Currently I am reading James White’s new book What ever Christian Needs to Know About the Qu’ran. White’s book is a great introduction to Islam. It should be required reading for anyone who is interested in Muslim evangelism. Learning what others believe is very important. How can we expect others to study our beliefs if we are not willing to read what they believe? It is also a good idea to read about what other Christians believe.For example, if you are a Calvinist you should spend time reading the best books available on Arminianism. If you are Arminian then you should read what Calvinists have to say. Any healthy reading diet should allow time for reading books that you may not agree with. This is a great way to strengthen your beliefs.

9. Realize that you do not have to read every word in a book to benefit from it.

I like to read carefully. I am one of those people who will actually read the footnotes in books. There is certainly a time and place for this kind of reading, but do not feel like you have to read every word and footnote. I use to become discouraged because I couldn’t read every book that I wanted to. But I realized I didn’t necessarily have to. When I get a book the first thing that I will do is look at the table of contents. After looking at the table of contents I will read the introduction or maybe the first chapter. Here what I am looking for is the author’s thesis or stated purpose in writing the book. Finally, I will skim each chapter to see the headlines and to see how the author develops his thesis. By doing this I can understand what the book is about even if I do not have time to read it. It also allows me to be able to reference the book later even if I haven’t read it through. One final benefit of this practice is that when i do have time to read the book then I will already be familiar with it. Even books that you are taking the time to read through do not feel like you have to get bogged down in sections that are overly wordy. Let’s face it some authors are overly wordy. Sometimes when the author has developed his point but is belaboring it too much I will begin skimming, or I will just skip ahead. Over time I have gotten better at skimming, and now I can absorb quite a bit by doing it. This does not mean that you should always read this way. There are times where you will want to slow down and really digest a book. Obviously, this is the most effective kind of reading. It is also important to realize that different books are going to require a different kind of reading. You will learn when to speed up and when to slow down.

In this article I have attempted to provide the reader with insights and pointers that I have learned in my home reading time. It is my prayer that this will encourage Christians to become more diligent readers.

Post written by: Matthew Gay

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Filed under Reading, Spiriual Disciplines