The world, the flesh, and the devil himself muster their collective energies to deceive us into orienting on God’s word as some mere duty, rather than receiving it as the delight it is. We’re prone to take one of the single greatest gifts available to us and treat it as a life-sucking obligation rather than a life-giving opportunity.
I stumbled upon these guys at Reformed Outlook (and their podcast), and I’m glad I did. This article discusses the difficulties and joys of shepherding your children. Since my wife and I desire (but currently don’t have) children, it was a particular blessing to read.
Considering last week I wrote a post about my confession of gluttony, this article certainly affirms much of my thinking. Especially as leaders of the church, pastors are called to be self-controlled and disciplined, which includes our bodies.
The guys at The Bible Project consistently crank out outstanding content, but due to my love for Ecclesiastes, this one just swept me away. But don’t forget to watch their Proverbs video first, if you haven’t already.
You might expect a hypothetical smoothie to be terrible if it combined the following ingredients: comedy, doctrinal and Scriptural teaching, societal insights, and cartoon drawings.
But Adam4d combines them wonderfully.
In light of his new book, which I have yet to read, I’ve decided to recommend Adam’s first book, Implications Abound. It is a short book, collecting some comics from his website, while also adding some exclusive ones.
Each comic varies in length and scope. Some are as short as a single page, and others span several. Some comics are a light-hearted affair, and others offer deep, poignant insights.
Instead of providing a list of notable quotations, I’ll link to a few of Adam’s comics found within the book.
Anyone who enjoys humorous, yet serious, reflections should check out Implications Abound.
Obviously, he writes from and for a Christian perspective, but the comics’ fast-paced and humorous style gives non-Christians an entertaining snapshot into the Christian worldview as well.
Why should I read it?
Adam4d is a gifted thinker and artist. His comics provide an overview on topics and issues that some writers might struggle to explain over the course of an entire essay. That’s not to say that this style of writing should usurp the power of the plain written word, but in an increasingly visual-oriented world, I am thankful for godly men like him rising up to speak the Truth within visual mediums such as this.
Simply put, read his books and follow his website. You won’t regret it.
Just in case you need a little more incentive for purchasing the book, my favorite comic “Don’t Waste Your Internet” is a book exclusive.
For the uninitiated, lifehacks are tips and tricks for doing mundane tasks more effectively and efficiently… at least, that’s their aim. And whether it’s getting the most out of a 7 minute exercise or amplifying your phone’s speaker with a cup or bowl, the internet is filled with hacks designed to make life simpler.
But can you lifehack Christianity?
Let’s find out.
Carter provides a great summation in the introduction: “The NIV Lifehacks Bible contains a collection of 365 articles that attempt to explain that process. It’s a how-to guide on how to change your life. It’s a compilation of practical advice on the most important journey you’ll ever take. It’s a toolkit for restructuring your life so that you can become more like Jesus.”
The goal of each article is to help Christians in spiritual formation (aka sanctification) through various spiritual disciplines. The spiritual disciplines (or habits, as Carter calls them) are as follows: Bible memorization, character formation, developing wisdom, engaging Scripture, evangelism, faithfulness, fasting, fellowship, gratitude, habit formation, hospitality, journaling, meditation, obedience, overcoming sin and temptation, prayer, redeeming time, rest, sanctification, sanctified imagination, seeing Jesus in Scripture, self-reflection, service, silence and solitude, stewardship, story and patterns, trusting God, understanding Scripture, vocation, and worship.
The articles are concise, typically two or three pages long, and most contain bullet point information for ease of reading. Also, every discipline (or habit) includes a self-assessment article to help us evaluate ourselves in that area.
Every day we are becoming either more like Jesus or less like him. Spiritual formation is the name for the process by which Christians in union with Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit become conformed both internally and externally to the character of Christ for the purpose of communion with God. (Kindle loc. 2168-2170)
After drinking constantly from the fire hose of information, a day without info-tech might seem like a yearlong drought. But by unplugging you might just find something new: a still, quiet voice sharing the information that matters most. (loc. 71138-71140)
The main equipment you need for prayer is a quiet place, a quiet time and a quiet heart. (loc. 71220)
Who should read it?
The practicality and content make the NIV Lifehacks Bible a great read for any Christian. If you would consider yourself lacking in many spiritual disciplines, Carter’s insights and suggestions might be just the boost needed to help you grow in them. On the other hand, if you consider yourself spiritually disciplined, there is still much wisdom and help to find in these articles.
Why should I read it?
I had two hesitations before I began to read the articles of this Bible.
First, the NIV is not my favorite translation. I’m certainly not in the camp that it is a Satanic translation, but I do think there are much better English versions of the Scriptures out there. I also already own multiple copies of the NIV, so I certainly did not need another one.
Second, the idea of lifehacking spiritual disciplines was a little off-putting. A lifehack implies simplicity and ease, and disciplines are supposed to require discipline, right? How can we lifehack something that is meant to be difficult?
Unfortunately, they do not sell the articles apart from the NIV, so I now own another copy of a translation that I rarely use. However, I purchased the Kindle version, which allows you to read articles back-to-back, so other than the large file size, I have been able to use the articles effectively on their own.
And in answer to the second concern, fortunately Carter does a wonderful work of keeping the gospel at the forefront of practicality. He never loses sight of the finished work of Christ that ought to be motivating us in gratitude toward the spiritual disciplines. Striking that balance is as difficult as walking along a tight rope, but Carter does it very well.
It is also important to note that these articles do NOT take the discipline out of the spiritual disciplines. Yes, he provides helpful advice for living each discipline out, but actually doing them is no less challenging. For example, he offers great advice, incentive, and suggestions for memorizing Scripture, but if we truly desire to memorize Scripture, we must still do the work of actually committing it to memory.
The NIV Lifehacks Bible is not going to make spiritual disciplines any easier for you, but if you are looking for a gospel-centered guide for how to approach them, then grab this Bible today.
How much of your time do you give to prayer daily?
Do you enjoy praying?
Questions like these can be difficult to answer because honest answers might prove to be painful as we quietly hope that no one is really supposed to enjoy praying.
The reality is that prayer is a treasure of the Christian life, but like many treasures, it often isn’t sought after because the path leading to it is too difficult.
Fortunately, prayer is worth the effort. And E. M. Bounds is ready to urge us toward a deeper life of prayer.
Bounds’ book is largely focused on prayer and the pastorate. He argues throughout that great preachers must be men great in prayer, sternly warning against pastors who preach without a desperate reliance upon God. He calls these dead sermon, preached by dead men. Without God’s strength, the pastor can do nothing for the Kingdom of God, and without prayer, the preacher will not find God’s strength.
A great point of conviction between Bounds and myself is his insistence upon spending much time in prayer. Of course, he emphasizes that time spent in prayer is not a direct indicator of the prayer’s value. Short prayers are often required and are just as pleasing to God. However, if we truly treasure being made children of God in Christ, why would we not long to spend much time with our Father in prayer? Bounds concludes that if our faith does not cause us to desire prayer, “then our faith is of a feeble and surface type.”
If I could summarize Bounds’ ultimate goal with this book, I would suggest that it is to stir up our desires and affections for being alone with God in prayer.
The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.
The preaching man is to be a praying man. Prayer is the preacher’s mightiest weapon. An almighty force in itself, it gives life and force to all. The real sermon is made in the closet. The man—God’s man—is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit, his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with God. Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the pastor.
We have emphasized sermon-preparation until we have lost sight of the important thing to be prepared—the heart. A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.
Who should read it?
As stated in the summary, pastors appear to be the target audience for this book, and he certainly succeeds on that front. Power Through Prayer has become my first recommended reading for anyone who feels called by God to the pastorate.
But it is not a book for pastors alone. All followers of Christ are called to be faithful men and women of prayer, and the final few chapters, in particular, dive into the importance of churches being composed of prayerful people.
Why should I read it?
Too many Christians think far too little about prayer. We give a few minutes to it in the morning, before bed, and before most meals. Bounds notes, “We are not a generation of praying saints. Non-praying saints are a beggarly gang of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of saints.” This is because if we are failing to see the beauty of prayer, we fail to see the beauty of God. Prayer is a marvelous privilege that was bought for us by Christ’s death and resurrection. By His atoning blood, we are able to come near to God, who spoke galaxies into existence and created quantum mechanics, calling Him our Father. We should not pray out of obligation; rather, we ought to long for prayer out of our heart’s well of thanksgiving.
There are certainly better books worth reading on the mechanics or theology of prayer. But I have found no book greater than Power Through Prayer for passionately pleading for our hearts to desire being with our Father in prayer.
A few months ago, I was praying about what sermon series to preach next, and Proverbs stuck out in my mind. Last year, I preached a quick series from the Psalms called Biblical Worship, so I could something similar with the Proverbs, calling it Biblical Wisdom.
But I as poured over the book, I quickly realized that I could not adequately preach such a series. Proverbs’ wisdom pierced my heart, held it in front of a mirror, and revealed how little I abided by its godly wisdom.
It was difficult to admit, but I did not yet have the necessary wisdom to preach about wisdom.
So I’ve continued to pour over the Proverbs, hopefully storing its treasures in my heart.
And during this quest for wisdom, I stumbled upon Get Wise, an engaging and quick primer on the wisdom of Proverbs.
Get Wise by Bob Merritt is an entertaining and accessible meditation on the book of Proverbs. Loaded with stories of his own personal wisdom and foolishness, Merritt dives into some of the main themes of Proverbs. He does this by breaking the book into five parts.
Part one discusses the overall topic of wisdom and why wisdom is such a godly distinctive. The focus of part two is upon personal wisdom and how it guides and shapes our character. Part three deals with how we are to wisely interact with those around us. Family wisdom, such as marriage and parenting, is the subject of part four. Finally, part five closes the book with a look at successful wisdom, which includes studying the finances and work ethic of the wise.
Work, parenting, sex, money, and revenge.
Get Wise provides quick lessons on each topic, and more, from the Bible’s book of wisdom.
Truth and knowledge confront my normal way of behaving; truth and knowledge force me to look at things in a new way and then adjust my behavior. Doing so takes humility and work, two things fools don’t have and don’t want to do. Proverbs 1:7 says, “Fools despise wisdom.” This is why it’s hard to talk to fools—they’re not open to truth or correction. In fact, they often react with anger and violence. (p. 100)
Fearing God means living every day with the awareness that God is in charge and that he’s put us on the planet to live our lives according to his plan and purpose. It means that the smartest thing I can do is look toward heaven every day and say, “God, there is nothing more important in my life than knowing and following you. Lead me, fill me, and show me the way.” Simply put, it’s looking to God every day and inviting him to be at the center of your life… Anyone who does that is a wise person, because they will make decisions based not on popular opinion or talk show advice but on God’s eternal Word. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33, emphasis added). Put God and his kingdom first in your life, and all the things you stress about—money, work, school, relationships—will eventually fall into place because you’ve learned to do them God’s way, not your way. (p. 142)
Who should read it?
Obviously, because Merritt bases the book upon Proverbs, Christians are its intended audience, yet the practicality makes it a good read for anyone, especially if you are interested at all in exploring the wisdom of living according to the Bible. Also, the simplicity and clarity of Merritt’s writing make the book accessible for any level of reader.
Why should I read it?
Wisdom cries out to anyone who will listen:
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will be at ease, without dread of disaster. (Proverbs 1:33)
Unfortunately, many of us do not head the voice of wisdom. It’s simply not something we consider on a daily basis. But Hosea gives a stern warning of life without God’s wisdom and knowledge:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Merritt is correct in identifying biblical wisdom as the understanding that God knows better than we do. Foolishness leads to death because we take matters into our own hands, ignoring God’s Word. In wisdom, we must submit ourselves to God’s law and knowledge because He is infinitely wiser than we are.
Because that thought is the central aim of Get Wise, I highly suggest reading it for a crash course on biblical wisdom.
Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Proverbs 4:7)
Nope. It just so happens that most of us don’t know how to read a book.
Fortunately, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren are there to help.
How to Read a Book by the two men mentioned above has the difficult task of addressing a problem that few people think exists. Their purpose for the book is not to teach speed reading or similar skills; rather, they aim to instruct readers in how to best gain understanding through the reading of books. As the subtitle states, the authors hope to guide readers in the intelligent reading of books.
They do this primarily by breaking reading into four levels: elementary (this is the most basic stage of reading words on a page), inspectional (which is all about developing a book’s main idea through skimming and superficial reading), analytical (which dives deepest into a book, gaining as much understanding as possible), and syntopical (which is comparing a variety of books to gain an even greater understanding of a particular topic).
In the appendices, there is also a list of recommended books, spanning millennia and genres, and self-assessment tests and exercises for evaluating one’s competency within each of the four levels.
[Television, radio, and magazines] are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think. (p. 4)
Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keep you awake—not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author. (p. 49)
I honestly can’t think anyone, who is able to read, that would not benefit from this book.
We often seem to equate skilled and mature reading with enhanced vocabulary, but the authors argue that there is much more to it than that.
If the goal of reading is to gain a greater understanding, then we should constantly press ourselves to read books that are just beyond our comfort zone.
How to Read a Book puts the tools in your belt for tackling books that just might presently seem too difficult for you.
Why You Should Read This Book
This purpose of the book fits well with Proverbs 3:13, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” The Bible beckons Christians to learn, to grow in knowledge and wisdom.
Proverbs 1:7 states that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Because it is impossible to know the God of the Bible without also fearing His holiness and omnipotence, true understanding comes through knowing God.
Convenient to the discussion, God chose to reveal Himself to us through a book, the Book. Therefore, learning how to better read books will help a Christian better understand the Book, the Bible, which leads us to knowing God more.
Before you pick up another book (the Bible excluded, of course), read this one. It’s that helpful.