Monthly Archives: July 2011

 

Jul

31

2011

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

Give Us Grace to Guard Ourselves from Idols

Father, we thank you for your Word,
which is sober but not without hope.
Jesus has reformed his true people into his own image
on the basis of his own person, death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit,
and he wants us to trust him and not be idol worshippers.

And so Lord,
cause us to revere you so we resemble you
and are blessed and restored to you,
and not ruined.
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear your truth
and give “us understanding so that we might know him who is true”
and to abide “in him who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God and eternal life.”

Give us grace to guard ourselves from idols.
Be with us to this end for your glory.

In Christ’s name,
Amen.

- G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, 311.

 
 

Jul

30

2011

Guest Blogger|3:41 am CT

To Speak the Vital Sentence

When Jesus came to Jordan
to be baptized by John,
He did not come for pardon,
but as His Father’s Son.
He came to share repentance
for all who mourn their sins,
to speak the vital sentence
with which good news begins. 

-Frederick Pratt Green

HT: Mike Neglia

 
 

Jul

29

2011

 
 

Jul

28

2011

Guest Blogger|3:32 am CT

The Idols We Worship

Guest Blogger: Joel is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and is preparing for ordination in the Presbyterian Church of America. His ministry focus is the Arabic-speaking world, and he writes about life, the gospel, and the books he’s reading at http://joelws.com.

“Everyone looks for an area into which he can throw himself completely, in which what is unique in his life can come to its own” (Johan Herman Bavinck, The Riddle of Life, 58).

Johan Herman Bavinck was a Dutch missionary to Indonesia who lived from 1895-1964. After his 20-year missionary career, he returned to the Netherlands to teach theology, but throughout both of those aspects of his ministry, he constantly reflected on how it is that people simultaneously are surrounded by God’s revelation and yet rebel against it. What is perhaps surprising is that when we see his diagnosis of the problems of the human heart in his own day—a century ago—we may recognize something of the problems that afflict the human heart in our own times.

He wrote The Riddle of Life to address exactly that issue. In chapters 9-11 he addresses the idols of the human heart. He begins his discussion of that topic with the quote above, which argues that built into the human heart is the desire to serve something, to “throw himself completely” into something. I realized the truth of this when I found myself screaming—sometimes in anger, sometimes in frustration, sometimes with joy—at my television as I watched my team play in the NBA playoffs this year. We want to be “all about” something. But of course, while God made us to serve himself, we twist that desire into service of the things that he has created. He highlights three areas in which we commonly create idols for ourselves: money, honor, and pleasure.

Money

“Money,” Bavinck says, “has a romantic glow about it” (62). Money gives such great possibilities—of a better life, of finer things, of more dazzling places—and great security in the face of a changing world. Even beyond that, though, “money is not merely something that you have, but something that you are” (61). When these things come to characterize our attitude towards money, we have fallen into what Bavinck describes as a “narrow desire” for money—an idolatrous desire—as opposed to a “broad desire” for money—the simple desire to have what is needful to feed one’s family and take care of the responsibilities that god has given us.

Now certainly, we all recognize that money is ultimately nothing that important. A green version of Ben Franklin is basically just paper to which society has given value. But because of the possibilities and security it represents, we tend to make it into something more. We make it into a god, but “it is a false god” and “in its deepest essence it is a liar” (64). It is when we come near to Jesus that we recognize our desire for money to be what is—a desire for God that has been twisted into something of our own making.

Honor

The second idol that Bavinck discusses is that of honor, the desire for praise from men. There’s a sense in which this is quite natural. We are made for relationships, for community, and encouraging words are an integral part of our relationships. Indeed, there are many honorable causes for us to work for in this life, and we want to do well in them. But Bavinck illustrates how easy it is to turn that desire from a desire that is ultimately aimed at the message, the mission, or the cause into a desire for approbation for ourselves.

Certainly, different people succumb to this in different ways. Some people are extremely confident, exuding an air of nonchalance toward the opinions and praise of others. But hidden within that very confidence is the assumption that people will generally love what one has to say. Others are not confident at all, and they are constantly wishing for the praise of others, timidly doing only what will gain them acceptance. But both can recognize the idolatrous desire for honor at one particular moment: when they grow jealous upon hearing someone else do or say something better than themselves in the service of the same cause. That is a dead giveaway that the desire for honor has grown into idolatry.

Pleasure

The final idol that Bavinck mentions is that of pleasure, by which he means the enjoyment that we may receive from any number of activities in life. However, he makes a very perceptive note: in his day (the early to mid-20th century), work and pleasure were increasingly divorced from one another. Whereas at many times the enjoyment one received from work was a real pleasure, more and more pleasure has been conceived of as gratification from something into which we must put no effort (participation in sports being a notable exception to this). The sad result of this is twofold. First, work is viewed as a horrible monotony with no real purpose, and secondly, pleasure, because it is divorced from what God has called us to do, can rarely be increased. “In the world of gratification,” Bavinck says, “1 plus 1 is never 2, but always less than two” (78). Pleasure is always limited and never satisfying, and yet it is a great idol of the human heart.

Fleeing Idols

Having identified the idols, Bavinck offers some encouraging words on how to fight idolatry, and it is with these thoughts that I will conclude:

Struggling one, you can live only if you begin with a quiet trust that you are living in a meaningful universe which was conceived and made by the eternal Father. It is possible only if you repose yourself on the confidence that He has given you your existence, your talents and your abilities, and that you have nothing more to do in the place where He has put you than quietly to shine and to serve. If you thus believe that the Father is behind everything and in everything, then you no longer need these three—money, honor, pleasure. Then you can go on your way like a child. Then you have the only true and high ideal of life that is worth the trouble to live for, namely the purpose which the Father has granted you the capabilities to complete. (81)

 
 

Jul

28

2011

Trevin Wax|2:18 am CT

Worth a Look 7.28.11

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)

To those who know and meet him, respect and affection go hand in hand. The world-figure is lost in personal friendship, disarming interest, unfeigned humility—and a dash of mischievous humour and charm. By contrast, he thinks of himself, as all Christians should but few of us achieve, as simply a beloved child of a heavenly Father; an unworthy servant of his friend and master, Jesus Christ; a sinner saved by grace to the glory and praise of God.

WSJ, The Delicate Art of Fixing a Broken Friendship

A good friend is an emotional safe haven, providing support, guidance and laughter. When someone like that is suddenly gone from your life, it can be heart-wrenching. But how do you go about rebuilding a friendship that has splintered? When do you reach out? What do you say, and what if your former friend doesn’t want to hear it? Texting “I’m sorry” probably won’t cut it.

When Parents Don’t Have a Clue

Parents that rely on a thre-minute, “How was your day?” conversation each day might be surprised one day and receive a text much worse than the one I received yesterday.

Does Modern Slavery Start at Home?

What kind of culture is producing so many men who are eager to buy women and children for sex, contributing to a $32 billion annual human trafficking industry? The same culture that produces and perpetuates a $100 billion per year pornography industry.
 
 

Jul

27

2011

Guest Blogger|3:42 am CT

Don't Use a Catechism Like This

This post is contributed by Alex Crain, editor of Christianity.com.

cat·e·chism [kat-i-kiz-uhm], noun: a summary of the principles of the Christian religion, especially as maintained by a particular church, in the form of questions and answers.

I’m no champion for the idea that catechism is the silver bullet. Maybe it’s not the one indispensible thing the church has to recover to be faithful to its task. But I have gotten pretty enthusiastic about it. Like others who grew up around evangelical churches in the 1980s and ’90s, I viewed catechism with suspicion, seeing it as a dull, dry ritual most likely used only by dull, dry churches. But several years ago, I heard a pastor named Bob Bixby talk about whole-church catechism at a conference. I started to see catechism for what it’s supposed to be—a unifying theological soundtrack for the local church.

Our statement of faith sits on the church website, but what we really want is for that doctrine to be alive in the hearts of people. We want people to “commune with God in the doctrines they say they espouse” (to paraphrase John Owen). Catechism offers a historic, unifying way to pass along the basics of the Christian faith across generations. And when taught and utilized in the context of ongoing relationships (not just occasional ‘confirmation classes’), catechism can help disconnected people move toward becoming a gospel-centered community sharing a common theological vocabulary.

Rather than repeat what others have written elsewhere about family worship and the history and benefits of using catechism, here are a few ideas that I’ve found helpful along the way. These key principles are the ones that I keep returning to as I progress—hopefully in a gospel-driven way— toward “bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

I write these from a husband’s and father’s perspective because that’s who I am. For the single moms and dads out there, I hope these can adapt to your unique set of circumstances as well.

5 Don’ts When Using a Catechism:

1)       Don’t let catechism take the place of Bible reading. To be strong in the Lord, we need both sound doctrine and a growing grasp of the whole Bible. The great thing about doing both together is that a good catechism trains the mind to read the Bible theologically.

Our boys are young, so we don’t bite off more than we can chew here. We generally follow the pace of our church’s preaching schedule in our Bible reading at home. Our elders are committed to expository preaching sequentially through books of the Bible, which is a great blessing. As a family, we talk about the sermon that we heard all together that week, using our older son’s notes as a springboard for discussion.

2)       Don’t wing it. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing poorly. But not poorly forever.  If you’re waiting for everything to be perfect, you’ll never do anything. I’m a firm believer that formal family devotion times should be brief, enjoyable, and regular. A habit of family worship fosters a healthy context for individual teaching times “when you walk by the way” (Deut. 6:6-7).

Take a few simple steps of preparation. #1 pray. As the time draws nearer to family devotions, get alone for a moment and pray briefly in advance for God’s grace during what can sometimes turn into a time of chaos. #2 plan what you’ll teach or rely on a trustworthy resource. I’m currently going through the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Baptist Version) and using the book Training Hearts Teaching Minds (by Starr Meade) as a supplemental guide. Also, before we gather for devotions, I ask our older son who reads to look up a few Bible verses that are related to the Q&A we’re going to discuss. At devotions, we start with a quick review and say aloud the current Q&A. Our son reads the Scriptures he looked up and we talk through them, relating each verse to the catechism. I briefly explain the catechism and invite questions. Then we say the Q&A again, sing a few songs including our hymn for the month, and close in prayer.

3)       Don’t allow memorization to occur without understanding. You may need to take time to personally understand the verses and how they tie in to the particular doctrine being taught. There is no substitute for the quickening power of the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of your wife and children. But God does work through means—particularly the hearing and explanation of His Word.

Martin Lloyd-Jones said that true evangelism is highly doctrinal.1 He’s right. Catechesis is a way to faithfully evangelize your children. Be clear and be excited about what you’re teaching. Children need to see that we have a genuine passion for God. Invest time studying the doctrine that each Q&A emphasizes. Bring a sense of God to every text and doctrine you teach. Also, you may occasionally come across antiquated words and phrasing, depending on the catechism you use. For that, see #2 again.

4)       Don’t let all this memory work go to waste by not reviewing it and encouraging meditation on it. In school, children memorize multiplication tables because we know they’ll use that information all their lives. People use theology all their lives too. Unfortunately, it’s often very poor. Make review times enjoyable. There are a couple of creative things we’re doing as a family to bolster long-term retention of what we’re learning. I’ll hopefully share more about these in a future blog post. But for now, let’s move on.

5)       Don’t neglect to draw encouragement from others as you catechize. This is especially critical if your church leadership does not stress family worship or the use of catechism. To get you started, here are some reassuring things that have been helpful to me. John Calvin once wrote:

Believe me, the Church of God will never preserve itself without a catechism. For it is like the seed to keep the good grain from dying out, and using it to multiply from age to age. And therefore, if you desire to build an edifice which shall be of long duration, and which shall not soon fall into decay, make provision for the children being instructed in good catechism. This catechism will serve two purposes, to wit, as an introduction to the whole people, so that everyone may profit from what shall be preached, and also to enable them to discern when any presumptuous person puts forward strange doctrine. 

Lastly, here’s a thought-provoking video clip from an interview I did with modern reformer, Michael Horton.

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com and a contributing editor for Crosswalk.comJesus.org, and BibleStudyTools.com.  He also serves as the pastor of worship at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Mechanicsville, Virginia and blogs at Christianity.com. You can follow him on Twitter @alex_crain

Knowing the Times, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 58.

 
 

Jul

27

2011

Trevin Wax|2:07 am CT

Worth a Look 7.27.11

Ben Myers, On Catechesis and Catastrophe.

In our eagerness to make sure everybody is included, to reassure inquirers that the Christian faith is indeed an easygoing undemanding thing, we are looking only at the dimples and batted eyelashes. We are forgetting the longer view, the screech of tyres and the shriek of twisted steel and the long split-second when a windscreen becomes a million tiny diamonds in the sky. We blame the new converts if after some time they make a wreck of their faith.

Timothy Dalrymple, Was Anders Breivik Really a Christian?

What do we do with the fact that Anders Behring Breivik — the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in downtown Oslo and the mass murder of children on the nearby island of Utoya — identifies himself as a Christian?  How do we make sense of the fact that he refers three times in his “European Declaration of Independence” to the “Lord Jesus Christ”?

New York Times, Left-Leaning Tower

Why are conservatives such a minority at so many graduate schools? Conservatives like to blame liberal bias. Liberals like other explanations.

John Johnson, What Ministry Can Learn from Starbucks

Here’s what I sometimes wonder—how is it an entrepreneur can take something so basic (be it coffee beans or running shoes) and make it a powerful part of culture, and we in the church can take the greatest message in the world and make it so domestic?

 
 

Jul

26

2011

Guest Blogger|3:36 am CT

5 Early Warning Signs Your Shields Should Be Up

This post is contributed by Marc Cortez, Th.M. program director and academic dean at Western Seminary in Portland, OR and blogger at Scientia et Sapientia.

Jean Luc Picard frustrates me. Not only do women find him more attractive than me despite the fact that he’s old, bald, and has a pointy nose, but he also has one really annoying habit: He never puts the shields up in time! If you’ve seen many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, you know what I’m talking about. Faced with a terrifyingly dangerous situation, the Enterprise will be sitting there with it’s shields still down. Only after some alien vessel has actually blown a hole in the side of the Enterprise, will Picard finally yell, “Shields up!” And, it always leaves me thinking, “Um, couldn’t you have done that a bit earlier? You know, before people started getting killed.”

Having your shields down at the wrong moment can be very dangerous. The same is true in theology.

5 EARLY WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR SHIELDS SHOULD BE UP

Sometimes you need to have your theological shields up. These are situations when you should be on high alert. Some of these are obvious. If someone is trying to convince you of an idea that is obviously contrary to God’s word (more on this in a moment) or immoral, go ahead and raise the shields. You don’t need me to tell you that. You can even yell, “Red alert!”, if it will make you happy. It might be worth it just to see the look on the other person’s face.

But, I can think of at least five situations that are far more dangerous. These are times when we’re likely to feel safe and comfortable, confident that we don’t need our shields because nothing is threatening us. And, we completely fail to realize that these are the very times when we should be at our most alert.

1. When you want to believe.

Nothing is more theologically dangerous than wanting to believe that something is true. If we want it to be true, we’ll do almost anything to convince ourselves that it actually is true. So, we’ll subconsciously lower our defenses, paving the way for believing what we want. It’s so easy to put the blinders on.

For example, in many ways, I want to be an egalitarian. I like the way it sounds: we’re all equal in every way. Who wouldn’t like that? And, with a talented wife and some amazing daughters, egalitarianism is very attractive. Consequently, there’s a part of me that would like to ignore the whole debate, disregard the data, and just conclude that egalitarianism is true. I’d get what I want that way.

Whenever I find myself wanting something to be true, I should immediately be on guard. Of course, just because I want it to be true doesn’t mean that it’s not true. (I’m also not saying that egalitarians only believe in egalitarians because they want to.) It just means that “wanting to believe” can be dangerous. And, in any dangerous situation, we need to have our shields up.

2. When it would be easier to believe.

Theological convictions have practical implications. How we understand the nature and purpose of the church shapes how we disciple, worship, and preach; our view of the “end times” affects whether we get involved in environmental issues and how we think about social justice; our understanding of the Gospel and salvation impacts almost everything we do, from how we parent our children to the way we approach our jobs. Theology has practical implications; it’s for the town, not the tower.

But this means that we’re constantly faced with the temptation to believe something because it would make our lives easier. It’s easier to believe that there’s nothing wrong with having lots of material possessions, because then I don’t have to change my comfortable American lifestyle. It’s easier to believe that my relationship with God is primarily a private matter between him and me, because then I can justify sleeping in on Sunday morning. It’s easier to believe that evangelism is a spiritual gift that only some people have, because then I don’t feel as guilty for not telling people about the Gospel very often.

Anytime believing that something is true will make our lives easier, or allow us to continue in an easier direction, we need to check ourselves. We’d like to believe that we’re all spiritual versions of Indiana Jones, bravely walking down even the most dangerous paths. But, if you’re at all like me, the reality is far less complimentary. The easy path beckons, and it’s hard to ignore.

3. When the broader culture wants you to believe.

We are creatures of our culture. That’s unavoidable. We receive a steady stream of messages from our culture about what is good, true, and beautiful, most of which we barely even notice. Slowly and steadily, that stream shapes us. And, nothing would be easier than to let go and drift pleasantly along. And, that very comfort is why we need to be on guard. Peer pressure isn’t just for kids.

For example, my American culture desperately wants me to believe that homosexuality and gay marriage are just fine. The current in that part of the stream is very strong. More subtly, my culture wants me to believe in consumerism, individualism, democracy, and American exceptionalism. And, knowing how easy it is just to let the stream shape me however it wants, I need to be extra careful with each of these messages.

Interestingly enough, though, many of us need to be equally careful of an opposite reaction here. Some of us are so sensitive to the cultural danger, that we need to beware the temptation to assume that if our culture wants us to believe something, it must be wrong. Returning to egalitarianism, some conclude that because egalitarianism is a cultural value, which it certainly is, anyone who affirms egalitarianism is simply capitulating to culture. The egalitarian does need to be aware of the possibility that they’re being shaped by culture here. But, non-egalitarians need to have their shields up as well, making sure that their position is not just a knee-jerk reaction against culture. Both approaches are dangerous to good theology.

4. When your immediate culture wants you to believe.

Cultures come in all sizes. Usually when we hear warnings about “culture,” people are thinking about the overall messages sent by an entire society. But, our immediate culture shapes us at least as much, if not more. So, we need to be alert to those dangers as well.

For example, one of my most formative “cultures” is the seminary where I teach. And, that culture would really like me to believe that the Bible is inerrant. Indeed, they want me to believe it so much that they put it in the document I signed when I agreed to teach here. It’s a strong cultural value. So, nothing would be easier than to believe in inerrancy simply because that’s what my culture wants.

Time for a gut check. Something as important as how I view the Bible should not be determined simply by the fact that it’s what a particular culture wants me to believe. Once again, of course, the fact that they want me to believe it doesn’t mean that it’s not true. It also doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t take into account the faith-commitments of my local community. Indeed, I’m a big fan of history, tradition, and the church. So I’d be the first to say that the theological commitments of my “culture” is important. But, it becomes a problem when I slip comfortably into the position of assuming that what my local culture wants me to believe must be right. That may be comfortable, but it can also be dangerous.

5. When the right answer seems obvious.

Of the five, this may be the most subtle. When the right answer is so obvious, why worry about it? Anyone who holds to the opposite view is either an idiot or isn’t really paying attention. The answer is right there. People can be so stupid.

I hear this problem most often when people start throwing around adjectives like “biblical” and “logical.” Nothing dismisses a contrary view faster than referring to yours as the only biblical or logical conclusion. The alternative, of course, is that the other view is unbiblical or illogical.But the problem is that any theological controversy worth the name involves people arguing for the other side who are not idiots and who do in fact read their Bibles. If that wasn’t the case, the discussion would have ended long ago. You can, of course, argue that they’re not reasoning well or interpreting their Bibles properly, but, at the very least, you have to acknowledge that your answer doesn’t seem at all obvious to them. And, you need to figure out why.

In my context, the clearest examples of this problem come from the Calvinism/Arminianism debate and in the argument between credobaptists and paedobaptists (i.e. believer’s baptism vs. infant baptism). There’s a tendency in each of these debates for people on both sides to act like the others are idiots (i.e. their arguments are fundamentally irrational) and unbiblical (i.e. there simply isn’t any biblical warrant for their position). The problem is that for this assumption to work, you have to believe that some really intelligent people in the history of Christian theology are also really dumb. Because, of course, both sides have their theological “giants.”

When the answer to a difficult issue “obvious” to you, then STOP. Unless you are Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius), it’s quite possible that you’re missing something. And, until you’ve come to understand how perfectly rational people can see the other perspective in a way that makes good biblical sense, you haven’t really understood it. You don’t have to agree with it, but you should try to understand it.

DANGEROUS SITUATIONS EASILY MISSED

Why are these situations so dangerous? Because we don’t see them as dangerous. Instead, these are the times when we’re likely to feel the most comfortable and safe. Rather than being occasions when we raise our shields and take a closer look at what we believe, these are the times when we’re likely to let our shields down, relax, and just continue in the same direction. And, in a perfect world, that would probably be the right response. But, this is far from a perfect world. And, when we let our shields down at the wrong time in this world, some alien is going to blow a hole in our hull.

What about you? What do you think are some theologically dangerous situations that we tend to miss? When are you likely to have your shields down when your really should be on high alert?

 
 

Jul

26

2011

Trevin Wax|2:21 am CT

Worth a Look 7.26.11

New York Times, The Masters as the New Bachelors

Call it credential inflation. Once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D. or just a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree.

The Irish Times, The Fearful Fathers

Angry, isolated, paranoid and ageing, many of Ireland’s ‘ordinary’ Catholic priests feel failed and abandoned by the church hierarchy. But where were the ‘good priests’ when they were needed

Bill Mounce, Apollumi, “destroy,” and Annihilationism

In what sense will people “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction (olethros), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9)? The semantic range of a word gives you the possible meanings. Context — both literary and theological — picks the right stick out of the bundle.

Wired, In Praise of Vagueness

Vagueness is hard to defend. To be vague is to be imprecise, unclear, ambiguous. In an age that worships precise information, vagueness feels like willfull laziness.

And yet, as William James pointed out, vagueness is not without virtues. Sometimes, precision is dangerous, a closed door keeping us from imagining new possibilities. Vagueness is that door flung wide open, a reminder that we don’t yet know the answer, that we might still get better, that we have yet to fail

 
 

Jul

25

2011

Trevin Wax|3:15 am CT

Reading When You Can't Afford Books

lifeway-campus-bookstoreWhen I was in seminary, I had an insatiable desire to read and learn and read some more. It was difficult to find time to read.

But even more difficult than finding time to read was finding money to buy books! It took all the spare cash I had to buy the books required for school. Looking at the new books at the seminary’s LifeWay, I sometimes thought to myself: If someone were willing to donate to me all of the books I really want to read, I’d write a 5-page review of each one – just to show them their money didn’t go to waste!

In some ways, that wish has come true. I now receive new books from publishers. The books that come from publishers then turn into lots of book reviews on the blog. But I still remember the feeling that I’m sure many readers of this blog have: you want to read more, but you can’t afford the books. I’ve been there. Yes, cost can be prohibitive.

Here are a few suggestions for how to be a reader when you can’t afford books:

1. Read good book reviews.

There is nothing more frustrating then spending your precious few dollars on a book that winds up being a disappointment. The more book reviews you read, the better you will understand which books are worth picking up.

Book reviews also give you information about the theological conversations taking place in the book world. Check out Discerning Reader. Or the book reviews in the back of Theology Journals. Most of them are now online. TGC also reviews books. As does Christianity Today. Look at the reviews from scholars regarding new releases. Read author-interviews and book excerpts so you can find out “in a nutshell” what different authors are trying to say. When you don’t have the time or money to read a book, find a book review instead.

2. Read your favorite books again.

That’s right. Take the books you already have and give them a second go. Not all of them, of course. But the good ones… the ones you remember well.

Reading the same book twice is never the same experience. I remember reading a book when it first came out and liking it a lot. Then, I remember reading it again a couple of years later and being horrified at the lack of discernment I’d had the first time.

Some books that you love the first time will leave you dry the second time. Other books that seemed too deep or uninviting the first time may be just what you need the second time. So be a good steward of the books you already have. Read them again!

3. Beg, steal and borrow. (Actually, just beg and borrow.)

Borrow books from family and friends. I was home for a few days around Thanksgiving and saw that my dad had just finished Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. I took it home and read it in a few hours.

My dad is a history lover too. So he is my resource for biographies and and books about American history. I don’t need to buy a lot of books in that field. Dad always finds really interesting titles and then passes them along to me.

Theology-lovers: ask your pastor what he is reading. See what he recommends. Find friends and family that read and then rely on them to “feed” you books!

The best thing about borrowing? You can ask the person if the book is worth your time and attention. So you not only get to borrow books – you get a screener this way too!

One caveat: make sure you return books you borrow. If you don’t, you won’t be borrowing many more.

4. Go to the library.

Sounds crazy, I know. But you can find good titles (generally secular) at the library. If you have a seminary in town or a theological institution, get a library card and enjoy the books that are available.

5. Get used books cheap.

If you find some books you would like to buy, try to find them on Ebay or Amazon Marketplace. Used books are just as good as new books (for me anyway). Bestsellers from two or three years ago are often sold at low prices online. You might have to spend a little time searching, but you will make up the difference in money. And sometimes you have more time than money!

6. Find classic books online.

GoogleBooks is incredible. There is no excuse for us today to not read the classics of Christian history. More and more books are being scanned and entered into Google’s database. The amount of knowledge available at the click of a mouse is simply breathtaking. There are thousands of classic works of literature available for free on Kindle. Spend some time sorting through the books that have stood the test of time. And then enjoy the insights of those who now form the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on in the race.

- adapted from a post first published in March 2009