Reading

Discovering The Joys Of Audiobooks

I love to read and try to set myself up to read a couple of books each week (as measured by a year-long approach). I typically have 6 or so books going at the same time and read about 10 pages per day in each book. I organize my reading in 6 categories: Personal Growth/Soul, Pastoral Ministry, Theology, Counseling, Fiction/Pleasure, and Christian Biography. Currently my reading list looks like this:

Personal Growth/Soul: The Rare Jewell of Christian Contentment (Jeremiah Burroughs)

Pastoral Ministry: Preaching (Tim Keller)

Theology: The Meaning of Marriage (Tim Keller)

Counseling: The Trellis & The Vine (Colin Marshall & Tony Payne)

Fiction/Pleasure: The Twelfth Imam (Joel Rosenberg)

Christian Biography: D.L. Moody: A Life (Kevin Belmonte)

I have known that audiobooks were available through a variety of sources but had never thought I would enjoy listening to a book. Boy was I wrong!! I decided to try the 30 day free trial at Audible a couple of weeks ago. They offer one free credit that allows you to download one book. You can continue the monthly subscription after the free trial for $14.95/month for 1 credit (1 book) or $22.95/month for 2 credits (2 books).

audibleBeing a bit skeptical, I decided to pick a book that I knew would keep my interest and one that I would probably not buy in hard copy. My choice: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (the founder of Nike). Let me just say I was hooked from the first paragraph. I listened to Shoe Dog while working out and while driving to and from the church office (It is amazing how much of a book I can consume in a 5 minute ride). Our family also took a vacation soon after I downloaded the book and I listened to a good bit of it while we traveled to Virginia. The book was absolutely fascinating and I was blown away by the immense struggles experience in the early years of Nike (originally named Blue Ribbon Shoes). If you are looking for a great read about entrepreneurship and tenacity then read Shoe Dog. Audible’s iPhone app is incredibly user friendly and I have already picked out quite a few books that I want to listen to soon.
librivoxblogfeatureThe only issue I see with the Audible program is that regular priced books are expensive, even with the 30% discount for members. If you are planning to listen to more than 1 book each month it pays to get the $22.95/month plan that gives you 2 credits (2 books). Since I did not want to pay for an additional book I figured I would wait until my next credit drops and then pick one out. But in the meantime I discovered Librivox. This is a website and app that offers free ebooks and audiobooks. Yes you read that right…FREE! There is one major difference between Librivox and Audible though. Librivox only has books that are available in the public domain (not copyright protected). You will not find the latest bestseller on Librivox but you will find many of the classics (you should have read those by now) and other neat works that are worth reading. Currently, I am listening to Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

At the moment, I am hoping that I will be able to use both Audible and Librivox to download a couple of books each month. I think 2 books/month will be plenty and the selection both services offer should give a great variety. Truthfully, there are some classics that I need to read and Librivox will push me to read them.

Sorry for the nerdy post about books but they are a huge part of my life and ministry. After all…leaders are readers. If you have never listened to a book take advantage of your free Audible trial or the free books available at Librivox. As always, I would love to hear what you think of audiobooks and which books you are currently reading/listening to!

A Wonderful Picture Of Sanctification (Reading Notes)

In the woods of New Hampshire, near the beautiful Kancamagus River, I once had a picnic with some friends. We were talking about the transforming power of the word of God on the mind. I dug out a small rock from the forest floor and took it to the river, where I fished out another rock of similar size. I asked them to look at the two rocks and compare them. Someone said, “One of the rocks is covered with dirt, but the other one is clean.” So I crouched down and swished the dirty rock in the river for ten seconds of so. It came out wet and clean of all dirt. Again, I asked them to compare the two rocks. They took them and looked at them carefully. Another of the guys said, “The river rock is smooth and shiny, but the forest rock has all kinds of sharp edges.” New Hampshire is the Granite State, and this rock had crystalline peaks all over, hard as granite. I asked, “How do we transform the forest rock into a river rock?” The answer was simple: put it in the river. But for how long? Well, perhaps a century or so! A hundred years of river water gently flowing over the surface of the forest rock, carrying small granules of sand as a mild abrasive, would transform that jagged rock, and make it as smooth and shiny as the other. The patient activity of the Kancamagus River would do the work.

So it is with the transformation of a Christian from immaturity to maturity. Some dirt particles (sin habits) get washed off immediately after conversion, but the rest of the change is more difficult. Transformation only comes by immersing the mind in the word of God, allowing it to wash over our thoughts, until gradually we have learned to think as Christ does. And this is precisely what Paul is commanding us to do in Romans 12:1-2. (Andy Davis in An Infinite Journey)

Are You Hungry?

bird feeder

One of our favorite things to do, as a family, is fill up our bird feeder each spring. It hangs off of our back deck right outside our kitchen window. We love to watch various types of birds drop by for a little snack. They eat until their little hearts are content and then they fly away. In the not too distant future they return again. Our little bird feeder gives them exactly what they need.

As I watched the birds the other day I thought about how God’s Word plays this same role in our lives. Without spiritual food we die spiritually. But God’s Word offers us a place to eat…an opportunity to gain spiritual sustenance.

Jesus told Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need physical food but, more importantly, we need spiritual food for our souls. The Psalmist says that God’s Word is more to be desired that gold and sweeter than honey from the comb (Psalm 19:10). Have you experienced the sweetness of God’s Word like that?

Will you commit to spend daily time in God’s Word, feeding your soul? Will you allow his Spirit to speak to you and apply his Word to your heart as you read? Will you live in obedience to what you read?

My prayer for you and me is that we will experience the goodness and sweetness of God’s Word in our lives. May it guide and direct our steps. May it satisfy the spiritual hunger of our souls. May it deepen our walk with Christ!

A Tragedy In The Church (Reading Notes)

“One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is the depreciation of the pastoral office. From seminaries to denominational headquarters, the prevalent mood and theme is managerial, organizational, and psychological. And we think thereby to heighten our professional self-esteem! Hundreds of teachers and leaders put the mastery of the Word first with their lips but by their curriculums, conferences, seminars, and personal example, show that it is not foremost.” (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)

Pastors And Reading (Reading Notes)

John Piper offers this helpful advice to pastors about reading:

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we should limit our reading to quick shots one or two time a day. But if you will use severe discipline to make regular short appointments with a given book, you can live in another great mind more than you thought you could – beyond the more extended times you set aside for study and sermon preparation.

Nor do I want to give the impression that I think there is virtue in reading many books. In fact one of my greatest complaints in seminary was that professors trained students in bad habits of superficial reading because they assigned too many books. I agree with Spurgeon: “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” God save us from the allurement of “keeping up with Pastor Jones” by superficial skimming. Forget about “keeping up.” It only feeds pride and breeds spiritual barrenness. Instead devote yourself to boring in and going deep. There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books! Your people will know if you are walking with the giants (as Warren Wiersbe says) or watching television. (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)

The Gospel & Sanctification (Reading Notes)

“The gospel content is this: Christ saves sinners. The implications of the gospel include changed lives, lives lived in holiness unto God. The great news is that the gospel content powers what it implies! Grace is the power in which we stand and by which we are being saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Yes, we are to work out our own salvation, but the Spiritual reality is that it is God who is in us doing the work (Phil. 2:12-13). The gospel is not just power for regeneration; it is power for sanctification, and for glorification. It is eternal power; it is power enough for life that is eternal.” (Jared Wilson in Gospel Wakefulness)

Good Works In The Christian Life (Reading Notes)

Worship is the glorifying of God, the making much of him, the magnifying of him so that he increases in coordination with our decrease.

Jesus tells his disciples that their good works should be lights shined on God (Matt. 5:16), meant to illuminate him for the benefit of those in the darkness, showing them the way out. The only way our good works will work this way – to repeat, the only way – is if our good works are acts of worship. This means our good works must be our response to the finished good work of Christ. If our good works are viewed as currency to exchange for the good work of Christ, they will be seen by the lost not as illuminating God’s goodness but illuminating ours.

Good works as worship are acts of thankfulness and joy. Good works as merit are acts of leverage and bribery. They do not magnify the God of free grace but make him appear like a loan officer. And God is not accepting applications for service; he is redeeming captives who then gratefully serve him of their own free(d) will. We invite the Spirit’s filling with our good works as we “sow to the Spirit” (Gal. 6:8), but we do not earn him with them. (Jared Wilson in Gospel Wakefulness)

The Gospel Is The Key (Reading Notes)

“The gospel must be central to our Christian lives; it is not the ABC’s of spiritual growth, but the A to Z. The problem prior to gospel wakefulness is that we do not see how the gospel can sustain such energies, such longevity. We see it as an entry fee, an insurance certificate. But the gospel is daily bread. It is robust and resilient enough to sustain not just for all of life, but for all eternity. The gospel is the antidote for the human predicament, for all of humanity itself.” (Jared Wilson in Gospel Wakefulness)

From The Garden Of Eden To The Garden of Gethsemane (Reading Notes)

“While Jesus did not hesitate to speak openly of his betrayal, the reference to the betrayal and death of the Son of Man served to direct attention to the utter seriousness of the offense. Jesus’ apparent defenseless and humiliation in Gethsemane veiled his true dignity. Only after the resurrection did the significance of the transaction concluded there become clear. Just as rebellion in a garden brought Death’s reign over man (Gen. 3:1-19), submission in Gethsemane reversed that pattern of rebellion and sets in motion a sequence of events which defeated Death itself (Heb. 5:7-10).” (William Lane, The Gospel of Mark in The New International Commentary of the New Testament)

Christianity and Culture (Reading Notes)

“In this situation, the hope is not unfounded that a synthesis is possible between Christianity and culture, however antagonistic they may presently stand over against each other. If God has truly come to us in Christ, and is, in this age too, the Preserver and Ruler of all things, such a synthesis is not only possible but also necessary and shall surely be effected in its own time.” (Herman Bavinck in Reformed Dogmatics)