2 Tips for Reading More Books

Reading, like exercise, is something that many people do sporadically, a small population is obsessed with doing it, and almost everyone grudgingly admits to needing to do more often.

With search engines, online encyclopedias, and every kind of website imaginable, information is constantly at our fingertips. But with all of these tools, I still believe that books are one of the best forms for acquiring new knowledge.

But wait, you say, YouTube videos or internet articles can communicate the same knowledge in a more succinct fashion, right?

Well, yes and no.

You see, there is a cost-benefit ratio for using the internet, and one of the internet’s great benefits is also one of its great costs. The ease of accessibility enables us to gather information faster than ever before, but that same accessibility also allows us to shift to a new piece of information just as quick. The internet’s information can rapidly expand our knowledge, but it often does so to the detriment of our ability to focus.

And when it comes to concentration, the book has few rivals. It takes immense focus for a writer to coherently compose a comprehensible collection of words (you’re welcome for the alliteration, by the way). And likewise, it takes the reader a degree of focus to unravel the message that the author pieced together using words.

If you do not typically read books, you probably know the intimidation factor all too well, as even small books can sometimes feel like an impossible undertaking.

If you fall into this category, or perhaps you like reading books but want to read more, here are two quick thoughts to help you dive in.

1. TURN OFF THE TV

To be fair, television isn’t the only reading-killing culprit. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other such websites and applications are now just as prevalent as TV.

Many Americans devote large amounts of their free time to these forms of entertainment, and while there is nothing innately wrong with them, they are far easier to consume than even the most simply written books. Like the internet, visual media requires less focus to comprehend than written media; therefore, our attention will almost always tend toward the former.

If you truly want to incorporate more books into your life, turn off the television first.

If you use the TV for white noise, play music instead or learn to embrace silence.

Video will almost always hold our attention more than written words, so when you pick a book up, make sure the screen is turned off.

And for the sake of brevity, I will refrain from discussing on social media… perhaps another post at another time. 

2. START SMALL

Runners obviously do not start out with the ability to run marathons. When many begin their training, they can only run in short sprints before stopping to catch their breath. But over time, their bodies learn to adapt, and they are able to run distances that they once thought impossible.

For many of us, reading books proves to be as difficult as running a marathon. Fortunately, the brain, like any other muscle, can be trained to focus on long form reading with enough time and discipline.

Practically, this means if you can’t remember the last book you finished, Augustine’s City of God is probably not the best place to start. Begin with something in a more modern style and with fewer pages. Then work your way up to more complex works.

This also applies to the amount of time being given to reading.

At first, you may find reading for an entire hour to be boring and undoable.

That’s fine.

Start by reading for fifteen minutes. Once you enjoy focusing on a book for that time, up it to thirty and keep going.


So there you have it.

If you want to read more books, cut the visual distractions and begin with doable goals.

Remember that you will almost never simply find the time to read; instead, you must make time to read.

But as with most difficult tasks, it is worth the effort.

 

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Don’t Have the Sex Talk With Your Kids

My first child is yet to be born, and I’m already dreading THE talk.

Which is why my wife and I have decided not to have the sex talk with our children; instead, we want to have many talks with our kids, often including sex in the discussion.

Easier said than done!, you might say. I know that parenting is touchy subject, but allow me to describe a vision of a better way of having difficult conversations with children.

Through books, magazines, blogs, music, television, YouTube, films, and others, we consume more mass media today than any other people in history. As media, each of these is a form of communication, a medium for delivering a message.

And everything does have a message.

Each song we hear communicates a message. Everything on television is a delivery vehicle for an idea of some form. Even the intentional lack of a message is itself a message.

As Christians, it is crucial that we understand this truth.

Veggie Tales is not unique in teaching children a lesson.

Cinderella teaches a lesson.

Harry Potter teaches a lesson.

The Avengers teaches a lesson.

Taylor Swift songs teach lessons.

As we consume media, we should constantly be asking ourselves what is being taught. What message and worldview is each song, film, book, and television series conveying?

These are conversations that we should also have with our spouse and children, constantly analyzing messages and comparing them to the truth of Scripture. As families, we should develop one another into critical thinkers and wise media consumers.

It is truly lamentable that sexual messages are so prevalent within even “child-friendly” media, but we can also use these as launching pads for conversations about how the Bible’s teachings contrast with the world’s concept of truth.

Our children will be exposed to much more media than we desire; therefore, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive by teaching them how to engage it? We will never be able to fully shelter them, so let us WISELY teach them how to compare everything to the Word of God.

Whenever we watch Aladdin, Cinderella, or The Little Mermaid, we can use them to discuss what God expects a biblical romance to look like. Whenever we read of or watch a wedding, we can discuss why God values marriage so highly. Whenever we are presented with scantily-clad persons, we can discuss the harm of disconnecting nakedness from marriage.

All of this requires us to know the Scriptures well, to think critically about everything, to be constantly intentional with our children’s media consumption,  and to make thoughtful conversations a normal occurrence. It is a daunting task, but isn’t that the nature of parenting?

After all, the Bible commands us to have Scripture continuously on our lips, particularly with our children:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV)

Make a habit of dissecting media and turning yourself back to Scripture.

Make a habit of dissecting media and turning your spouse back to Scripture.

Make a habit of dissecting media and turning your children back to Scripture.

In this world, we are always consuming. Let us, therefore, teach our children how not to be consumed by the world.

To Pergamum: Hold Fast to Christ | Revelation 2:12-17

Seven Letters Week 4

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know where you dwell, where Satans throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:13)

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:16)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promising is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

OPENING THOUGHT

We have now explored two of the seven letters that Jesus gave to the churches in Asia. The church of Ephesus was strong in action and doctrine but lacking of love. The Christians in Smyrna were facing near constant persecution for their faith in Jesus as lord, yet they remained faithful, even though some of them were killed. Over the years, Christ removed the church from Ephesus and city fell into ruin, but the church in Smyrna persevered and is still striving for the faith today.

We travel now to the third church, located in Pergamum. The Christians of Pergamum receive a message of great encouragement and severe warning. Like their brothers in Smyrna, Pergamum’s church suffered greatly for following Christ as lord. Jesus even goes so far as to say that they dwell where Satan’s throne is; no doubt this is a reference to the great idolatry that existed in Pergamum. They were Christians in a culture that was very much anti-Christian. They were living behind enemy lines.

Though many in Pergamum remained faithful throughout their hardships, Jesus does not withhold His rebuke from them. The Christians of Pergamum appeared to have the opposite problem of those in Ephesus. While the Ephesians held tight to right doctrine but lost their love, the Pergamum church became accepting to the point that some of them were being swept away into false teachings and sinful living. We must avoid both extremes. We can neither separate entirely from the culture around us, nor can we submit to it. Instead, we are not of this world, but we have been sent into the world to expand the kingdom of God.

Read verses 12-13 and discuss the following.

  1. Though the Christians in Pergamum dwelled where Satan’s throne is, Jesus commends that they have held fast to Him and did not deny the faith. How does the Bible instruct us to hold fast to Christ?

Read verses 14-15 and discuss the following.

  1. In His rebuke against the church of Pergamum, Christ states that some of them were deviating into false teachings and sinful behavior of the culture around them. What are some false teachings and sinful behaviors of today’s culture?

Read verses 16-17 and discuss the following.

  1. Christ claims that unless the church at Pergamum repents it will find itself at war against Jesus Himself. Why is repentance so significant in the life of a follower of Christ and to the church community?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Just as some in Pergamum were being swept away by the sins and false teachings of the society among them, consider areas of your life in which you may be doing the same thing, and repent of them.