Trinity College Library (Ireland)

[Adapted from Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory of 1673]

Because God has made available the excellent, holy writings of his servants; and many may have a good book, on any day or at any hour of the week, even those who have no access to a good preacher – I advise all God’s servants to be thankful for so great a gift as books, and to make use of them, and to read much. For reading can be more conducive to knowledge than hearing is, because you may choose what subjects, and the best treatises, you please; and you may read as often as you please; and you may peruse again and again whatever you forget; and you may take your time as you go, to fix it in your mind. And as is the case with very many, reading does more than hearing to move the heart – because lively books may be more easily accessed than lively preachers.

Especially these sorts of men and women should be much in reading:

  1. Mothers and Fathers, or heads of households, who have more souls to care for than just their own.
  2. People who live where there is no preaching; or, where there is only bad preaching. (Bad preaching is even worse than none!)
  3. Infirmed people, servants, and children, who are forced on many Lord’s Days to stay at home, while others have the opportunity to hear the Word preached.
  4. And non-working persons, since they have more leisure than others have.

To all these, but especially to parents, I shall here give a few directions.

Direction 1 – I presuppose that you keep the devil’s books out of your hands and house. I mean graphic romance novels or “love-books”, and the false, bewitching and seducing books of all false teachers; and the railing books by various factions written against each other, on purpose, to teach men to hate one another. For where these are allowed to corrupt the mind, other useful writings are forestalled in their benefits. It is an awful wonder to see how powerfully these kinds of writings poison the minds of children, and of many other empty heads.

Also refrain from books that are written by contemporary “sons of Korah“; those written to breed distastes and discontents in the minds of the people against their governors – both magistrates and ministers. For there is always something, even in the best leaders, for the tongues of seditious men to fasten on, and then to aggravate in the people’s ears and minds; and there is something even in godly people, which tempts them all too easily to become ill-tempered,  then to take aim and take fire, before they are aware of what they are doing. Rarely do most people, even godly people, foresee the evil to which such treachery leads.

Direction 2 – When you read to your family, or to others, let it be seasonably and timely – at a time when silence and participation are most likely to bear fruit; not when children are crying or talking, or servants bustling to disturb you. Distraction is worst in the greatest businesses.

Direction 3 – Choose such books as are most suitable to your condition, or to the spiritual condition of those you read to. It is worse than unprofitable to read books designed for comforting troubled minds to those that are block-headedly self-secure, and who have hardened, obstinate, un-humbled hearts. It is just as bad as a physician giving medicines or remedies that are contrary to a patient’s need, and that would actually nourish the disease! So it is to read books that are too high-a-style, or subject too deep, to dull or ignorant hearers. We use to say: “That which is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison.” It is not enough that the substance is good – but it must be agreeable to the situation for which it is used.

Direction 4 – In a common family, begin with those books which both, and at once, inform the understanding about the fundamentals of the faith and awaken the affections of the heart, such as treatises about regeneration, conversion, or repentance.

Remember that they are not the most learned, who read most – but those who read that which is most necessary and profitable.

“Remember that they are not the most learned, who read most – but those who read that which is most necessary and profitable.”

Direction 5 – Next, read over those books which are most suited to the state of young Christians for their growth in grace, and for their exercise of faith, and love, and obedience, and for the mortifying of selfishness, pride, sensuality, worldliness, and other of the most dangerous sins.

Direction 6 – At the same time labor to methodize your knowledge; and to that end read first and learn some short catechism, and then some larger catechism. And let the catechism be kept in memory while you live, and the rest be thoroughly understood.

Direction 7 – Next read (to yourselves or or to your families) some larger expositions of the Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments; such as Thomas Watson on the Commandments; that your understanding may be more full, particular, and distinct, and your families may not be limited to a mere general knowledge, which, in truth, is not as valuable as genuine understanding.

Direction 8 – Read often and much those books that direct you in a course of daily communion with God, and a holy ordering of your daily life.

In 2 Corinthians 8.7 the Apostle Paul challenges us to grow in the grace of generosity through giving:

“But as you excel in everything -in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

Within his textbook, Biblical Ethics, Robertson McQuilkin, formerly President and then President Emeritus of Columbia International University, likens personal giving patterns to personal maturation stages, as a metaphorical expression of spiritual maturity.   McQuilken says the Bible teaches us that our giving patterns are “Jesus’ material yardstick for measuring spiritual maturity”.

In sum, here is the “yardstick”:

  • Infancy: Non-giving
  • Kindergarten: Impulse Giving
  • Elementary: Legalistic Giving
  • Secondary: Honest Managership
  • Higher: Love Giving
  • Graduate: Faith Giving

Benedict Option collage

Since I already have some pretty definite opinions about the book, I thought maybe I ought to read it.  My preliminary thoughts about Rod Dreher‘s The Benedict Option is that it offers a good analysis of the present states of both culture and Church, but Dreher’s solution seems more imposed than necessary or biblical. In other words, Dreher seems to have a fascination with the Rule of Benedict, and uses the current social climate as an excuse to encourage others to embrace it.

It’s not that I think there is no benefit from Benedictine practices. On the contrary, I was intrigued a few years ago when reading Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People with a group of pastors with whom I would meet monthly or so.  What I appreciated from Okholm’s work, and expect to appreciate from Dreher, are the categories of thought the Benedictine’s have developed.  I appreciate many of their disciplines, and I can see that many of their practices could help cultivate a disciplined and rich spiritual vitality.  However, the notion of withdrawal from the world at the root of Benedictine discipline, is not only an impractical option for most people, I am convinced that it violates Jesus’ command to his disciples found in John 20.21:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And it is out of line with God’s expressed instruction to his people who were living in Babylonian exile, as recorded in Jeremiah 29.7:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In other words, despite some – even many – ideas worthy of serious consideration, and that might be appropriate to be adopted with some adjustments, it seems to me that The Benedict Option is not really an option for those who want to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  And Dreher himself seems to understand this since, despite the provocative title, he spends much energy explaining that what he is encouraging is the employment of some of Benedict’s principles without necessarily actually withdrawing into monastic communities.

See also:

Two Sides of Holiness

October 24, 2016

east-knox-reflections

Jerry Bridges offered a powerful insight and challenge to Christians about the nature and focus of the Christian life:

“Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. God has made provision for us to live holy, but He has also given us definite responsibilities to pursue holiness. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

The third gathering of Race and the Church in Richmond, Virginia took place on Saturday May 14.  Featured speaker Leonce Crump addressed the diverse crowd on the subject of The Church’s Commission.

Leonce Crump’s bio, from the Race and the Church RVA web page:

Originally from Louisiana and raised Catholic, Léonce began following Jesus at age 16. Always an athlete and a talker, Léonce outran his first mall security guard (and pregnant mother) at age 3, and spent most of his grade school years talking with his principals on the subject of public speaking during class. He has been in ordained ministry for 9 years, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma; and holds Masters degrees in Criminal Justice, with a focus on Case Law, from the University of Tennessee, Missional Leadership from the now defunct Resurgence Theological Training Center, an; is currently finishing his Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary.

At Oklahoma he was an All-American wrestler and played a short while on the Sooner football team. He experienced an extended time of rebellion and running from God during college, but after 22 months of living as though he were not a Christian he surrendered to Jesus and ultimately to God’s calling into ministry. After college Léonce competed to make the world team in wrestling, played professional football for the New Orleans Saints and coached collegiate wrestling.

Prior to planting his present church, Léonce had served in 3 churches, starting and leading 3 college and young adult ministries. In 2006 he felt called to plant a church and settled on the under-served area of downtown Atlanta; and in early 2008 he and his wife began the process of planting Renovation Church, in partnership with  Acts 29 and Perimeter Church.

A prodigious reader and engaging speaker, Léonce regularly speaks and preaches across the country at conferences and churches of all denominations. Léonce enjoys boxing and MMA, studying theology, history, leadership, church structure and poetry. He likes Soul music, jazz/standards, and Bossaniva. He also loves to lift, keep up with wrestling, football, and rugby, playing with his kids, hanging with the homeless dudes.

To view the first two gatherings of Race and the Church RVA:

The second gathering of Race and the Church in Richmond, Virginia took place on Saturday morning March 12. The theme was: Why Do We All Look the Same? A Cultural & Theological Analysis of Underlying Church Dynamics; featuring speaker Dr. Alexander Jun.

Alexander Jun is a professor at Azusa Pacific University, a TED Talk speaker, and author. He has published extensively on issues of post-secondary access for historically underrepresented students in under-served areas. Jun is also a respected Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

To view the message from the first gathering, with featured speaker Sean Lucas, click: Race and the Church: Telling the Truth.

Stanied Glass Pathway

I pledge my life to Jesus and the Gospel. I want Jesus not to be just part of my life or something that makes me feel good, but to be the very center – controlling everything. I want only the knowledge of the love of God. I want to know Christ.

I want no desire, idol, or sinful way of dealing with hurt to control any part of my life no matter how small. I put away from myself the love of money, power, comfort, and success. I count everything rubbish.

I bind myself to Christ as bond-servant for life. I want no master other than Christ. I purpose to own nothing. I surrender to Jesus my family, my friends, my ministry, my ideas, my possessions, and my future.

I commit myself to submission to others and a willingness to learn from all kinds of Christians. I commit myself to speak only your words, not my own. I commit myself to speak the truth in love to others.

I want to love people. I want to lay down my life for others, especially those closest to me, as God gives us grace. I want to love people by telling them about Jesus.

I understand that this will mean suffering in my life, that I will join in the sufferings of Christ. But that I always want to be dying, so that I can always be living in Christ.

~ Paul Miller