Finding Time and Fighting Flesh

While I certainly appreciate technology and its benefits, there are also many downsides. Technology is not neutral! One of the most significant negative influences of incorporating the current technological milieu into our daily diet of information intake is the speed at which we are almost instinctively drawn to consume it. Checking e-mails, reading blogs, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, checking Facebook and Twitter… and then when the cycle is over, doing it all over again. I am of the opinion that 21st Century Americans live in a culture of information overload, and we’ve become addicted. Therefore, sitting down with a book for more than a few minutes is a fight with the flesh – a fight we must win if we’re going to be growing, disciplined Christians. Reinke offers some good insight to the flesh war involved in book reading:

“Book reading is not just a matter of time management; it’s a matter of warfare. Wherever sinful self-indulgence dominates our free time, we can be certain that personal idols are at work in our flesh, seeking to divide and conquer the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). Idols of entertainment and pleasure make the discipline of book reading a battle with our flesh. We’d rather avoid discipline and be occupied with easier tasks like e-mail, Internet browsing, and movies. We neglect books because our hearts reject the discipline required to read them. And that is a spiritual problem, a lack of personal discipline, not a lack of time. And until we apply the sin-freeing gospel to our own hearts—and the idols therein—we may never cultivate the self-discipline required to read books. Our flesh wars within us. If we don’t kill the idols of laziness and self-indulgence, these idols will kill our literacy. So expect a fight from your flesh.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011). Kindle Edition, 131.

You Can Read 70 Books per Year…

“First, most people can find sixty minutes each day to read. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t: fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes at lunchtime, and another thirty minutes in the evening. No problem. At this pace, you can devote seven hours to reading each week (or 420 minutes). The average reader moves through a book at a pace of about 250 words per minute. So 420 minutes of reading per week translates into 105,000 words per week. This book is roughly 55,000 words. Assuming that you can read for one hour each day, and that you read at around 250 words per minute, you can complete more than one book per week, or about seventy books per year.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), Kindle Edition, 130.

Women and Theologically Weighty Reading

I have always had a goal of encouraging Christians to read substantive Christian books. As was mentioned in a previous blog post, reading fiction and/or non-Christian books isn’t wrong (and most certainly can have value), but Christian people are only hurting themselves when they do not pick up and read good Christian works. The Lord has blessed His people with many generations of theological gold, and it would be a shame to ignore it. Many wise Christian men and women have penned some excellent words to help us know and love God more. Let us not neglect this kind of reading!

I found Reinke’s quote about reading theological weighty books among women to be interesting. I think the challenge/encouragement to women he offers through a quote by Elyse Fitzpatrick is fitting and helpful:

Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul—for men and women. And although women purchase the majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books, writes counselor and author Elyse Fitzpatrick. In her 2003 evaluation of the Christian publishing industry, she writes, “Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is ‘theological’ in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive.” And she confronts women who would rather read only novels as a way to escape personal disappointments, and who read these books to “build fantasy castles filled with knights on white steeds who will come to rescue her from her mundane, stressful, empty, or disappointing life.” Rather, she offers this challenge: “Let’s become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He’s revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let’s not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011). Kindle Edition, 96-7.

Christian Reading Priority

The bottom line is that no single book should receive more attention in our lives than Scripture. The Bible is the greatest book and our highest priority—it ignites us with spiritual light and life, it fuels us with eternal hope and grace, and it stokes us with inexhaustible pleasure and delight.

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011). Kindle Edition, 95.

Reading Priorities

I hope you’ve decided to take on the 2012 reading challenge – if you haven’t done so yet, why not jump on board? We’re only a few days into 2012, so there’s plenty of time!

If you’re currently reading our first challenge book, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Kindle edition here), you are no doubt benefiting from some sound, biblical wisdom as it pertains to the things we read. Perhaps it’s obvious, but I wanted to start with this book to give us a good framework for the rest of our reading, and to help you develop a framework for your own reading priorities.

In Chapter 7, Reinke shares his reading priorities and how he groups them. This is a practice I have engaged in for several years and find it tremendously helpful in weeding through the millions of options that are available to read. Reinke has 6 categories (which I assume means he has all 6 types of reading going on consistently/simultaneously – this is also how I read):

1. Reading Scripture

2. Reading to know and delight in Christ

3. Reading to kindle spiritual reflection

4. Reading to initiate personal change

5. Reading to pursue vocational excellence

6. Reading to enjoy a good story

I like his categories and think they offer good diversity. My personal categories are as follows:

1. Reading Scripture – This year (and probably into next year) I am reading individual books of the Bible entirely, 20 times each, until moving onto the next one (to include a chapter of Proverbs every day).

2. Reading devotionally – (Tabletalk Magazine, Valley of Vision, Morning and Evening, etc.) – probably similar to Reinke’s #2

3. Reading for study – books related to what I’m teaching/preaching now or in the future.

4. Reading to counsel and be counseled – (Books on marriage, parenting, depression, relationships, etc.) I always want to know how to better counsel my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I want to grow in my sanctification. Reading a wide range of books related to the hearts/minds of sinful people has proven helpful to me and has given me much to recommend to others when they have specific needs. Books in this category have proven helpful in identifying specific areas of sin in my life, and the Lord has used these books for my sanctification.

5. Reading theology and ecclesiology –  (Books on God’s nature, attributes, works, etc. and books about God’s Church) All Christian reading is inherently theological, but this category is for specific works that relate to systematic theology, biblical theology, and ecclesiology.

6. Reading biography and autobiography – I think it’s important for Christians to regularly read about the lives of other Christians and non-Christians. I like biographies and autobiographies and always have 1 going.

7. Reading to learn something new – I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I like to learn new things. In this category I read about all sorts of different things: Beekeeping, gold/silver investments, politics, golf, running, music, education, business – it’s a catch all category that doesn’t specifically relate to Christianity/theology.

8. Reading fiction – I don’t spend much time in this category, but I’ve increased my fiction reading a bit. I resonate 100% with Reinke’s statement: “In all honesty, it has taken me many years to simply delight myself in beautiful books. Now they provide me with relaxation, pleasure, and a delightful weapon to foil the devil.” I have mostly found fiction to be a waste of time, but there is good fiction and, if nothing else, I like to read good writing no matter what it’s about, so there are some gems of fiction worth reading. The last fiction book I really enjoyed was Peace Like a River (Kindle edition here) by Leif Enger.

Of these 8 categories, I usually have 5-6 of them going at one time. But, I realize that’s not going to work for everyone! Some people need to read one book to completion before picking up another. Others read a lot of different books, but perhaps haven’t discovered the joy and importance of categorizing and prioritizing them. So, let’s look at Reinke’s challenge:

“Now make your own list of reading priorities. First, look at the books you have read over the last twenty-four months that have benefitted your life. Create categories for those books. Second, include any category that you don’t currently read but would like to add, perhaps something mentioned in [chapter 7]. By now you should have a list of two to five categories. Start small and be realistic. Third, begin making book selections informed by your reading priorities. Invest the time you need to define a purpose to why you want to read books. Once you have an answer to this question, you will find it much easier to choose your next book from the twenty-eight million attractive options.”

 

So, what are your reading categories/priorities?