How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps – G.Rubin

How To Become a Better Reader in 10 Steps.

Better Than Before - GRubinThis helpful list of steps on improving our reading habits was posted last week (April 17, 2015) at “Publishers Weekly.” It is a summary of some things Gretchen Rubin put together while writing a broader self-improvement book, titled Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Crown, 2015).

This is her brief explanation of the steps:

Reading is an essential part of my work, it’s an important aspect of my social life, and most importantly, it’s my favorite thing to do….

But reading takes time, and most days, I can’t read as much as I’d like. As I was writing Better Than Before, my book about habit change, I adopted many new habits to help me get more good reading done. Consider whether these habits might work for you:

And here are a few of the ones that I would highlight for you. To find all of them, use the “PW” link above.

2. Skim. Especially when reading newspapers, magazines, and the internet. Certain kinds of materials don’t need to be read carefully. Also, even if you spend many hours a day reading, you may feel as though you don’t have any time to read. The habit of skimming ensures that low-value reading doesn’t crowd out high-value reading.

3. Set aside time to read demanding books. It’s satisfying to stretch. Try setting aside some time each week to read books that are a bit challenging—a dense biography, a religious work written hundreds of years ago, a scientific book with a lot of unfamiliar terminology. I used the habit-formation Strategy of Scheduling to form the habit of doing “Study Reading” each weekend, to ensure that I make time read books that I may not exactly feel like picking up, but that I’m very glad I read.

4. Always have plenty of reading material on hand. Never go anywhere empty-handed—digital devices are a big help in this respect. Nothing is more terrifying to me than the prospect of finding myself on an airplane, with many hours to read and a book that I don’t like. So much great reading time—wasted! I always have several options, each time I board a plane. And in order to have plenty to read…

5. Keep a reading list, and keep it handy. For years, I kept my library list on a little pad at my desk, but I’ve switched the list to my phone. A handwritten list can be left behind, but a cell- phone list is always available. Whenever I hear about a book I want to read, I add it my library list. It currently contains the names of 194 books, and one day, I plan to read them all

Calvinism’s “Solas” – Prof.B.Gritters, April 15, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April15-2015In the latest issue of The Standard Bearer (April 15, 2015) Prof.Barry Gritters adds another installment to his series on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, a series begun in the February 15, 2015 issue. This new article lays out “Calvinism’s Solas – the great Latin mottos of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – to be treated in a later editorial), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory).

If you are not familiar with these expressions, or have forgotten why they are important – especially the sola (only or alone) part – then this is a good place to be reminded. For our purposes in this post, we take you to the end of Prof.Gritters’ explanation and defense of these solas. Here he shows why Calvinism’s solas end where they do – with all glory given to God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

     So that we may always say, “To God alone be the glory!”

     To put these four solas together is not difficult:  Christ alone saves through faith alone for the sake of grace alone, in order that all glory may be given to God alone!  If any of salvation—even the tiniest bit—comes from outside of Christ, or if Christ comes to man through any other instrument than His free gift of faith, or on account of any merit in man, then the glory of that tiniest bit of salvation goes to man and not to God.  Against that “gross blasphemy” Reformed believers fight with all their might.

       Canons [of Dordt] I:7 teaches gracious salvation, beginning in salvation’s source—sovereign election:  “for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of His glorious grace….”  The fathers in this ecumenical synod were looking at Scripture’s call to give all glory, in all things, to God and to God alone.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ…according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:3-6).  And the book of Romans does nothing if it does not teach that everything revolves around God’s glory.  The heart of the reprobate’s sin is a refusal to give glory to God (1:23).  Sin is a coming “short of the glory of God” (3:23).  Paul teaches that if Abraham’s justification were by works, he would be able to glory in himself (4:2); but Abraham “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).   Paul’s conclusion of the doctrinal section of the epistle, where all the doctrines of sovereign grace are taught is, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.” (11:36).  And Paul’s own Spirit-inspired exclamation point of the epistle, his very last words before the final “Amen,” are:  “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (16:27).

     No one else saves but Christ!  Nothing but grace and faith explain our salvation in Christ!  For none but God may receive the glory!

This is exclusive, for false teachings must be excluded.  This is antithetical, for truth must be defended over against the lie.  This is distinctive, for biblical truth must be known and confessed clearly, sharply, distinctly.  There may be no doubt as to Who is worthy of praise.  All of it.  This is Reformed.

For more on this issue, visit this news item on the PRC website. To start receiving the “SB”, visit the subscription page on the RFPA website.

April “Tabletalk”: “Our Shameless World” – Andrew Davis

Our Shameless World by Andrew Davis | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-April 2015You will recall from our previous Monday posts this month that the April issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “shame.” The third main featured article on this subject is the one linked above, written by Dr. Andrew David, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC.

His article treats the shame that we find in the world about us, due to the fall – a shame we participate in also, but a shame we are also called to respond to properly as Christians. Davis uncovers “three ways our world displays corruption in the matter of shame”. These are “delighting in what is shameful”, “suppressing true shame”, and “seeking to shame the righteous.”

I will pull a few paragraphs from Davis’ article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. There is good reading here for us, relating to how we handle the shame found in the world – and in ourselves.

The world delights in bold sinners who flout God’s Word and expect no punishment whatsoever. Our culture celebrates the skillful cold-blooded assassin, bold thief, self-righteous vigilante, foul-mouthed recording artist, creative rebel, blasphemous stand-up comedian, naked actress, fornicating “glamour couple,” self-worshiping athlete, occultic mystic, and the like. Perhaps the clearest example in our day has been the movement of homosexuality from something almost universally seen as shameful to something that ought to be delighted in. The gay rights movement is seeking not merely tolerance of what God calls sinful, but society-wide celebration.

…Conversely, our world also heaps abuse on those who stand up for righteousness in our corrupt age. Isaiah 5:20 captures the defective moral compass of our age: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!” So our culture delights in what is shameful and is ashamed of what God finds delightful. I recently saw a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Homosexuality isn’t shameful; homophobia is.” The new term homophobia (c. 1969) implies that biblical conviction on that sin is itself a form of mental illness. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam declared himself to be gay, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation at a basketball game. Anyone who refused to stand and cheer certainly would have been made to feel ashamed.

…Christians should display humility in the matter of shame and set an example to the world. We should own that our sin is a shameful thing, and that feelings of shame are reasonable responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:21). In our evangelism, it is essential to proclaim the law of God to bring about that conviction and the corresponding feelings of shame in our hearers. But we should also display and proclaim the joy of full forgiveness that the cross of Jesus Christ lavishes on anyone who believes in Him alone. As Romans 10:11 says, “Everyone who believes in him [Christ] will not be put to shame.”

“Opposition to Him (Jesus) will inevitably touch us.” – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonTaken from chapter 44 of Sinclair Ferguson’s work In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust, Kindle ed.). The chapter is about growing through persecution and suffering, and is titled “Growing Strong in the War Zone.” In it Ferguson references Peter’s first epistle, with its clear reminder to believers that to be a Christian means to suffer for Christ’s sake.

Suffering, he [Peter] underlined, is a basic element in the structure of the Christian life (1 Peter 4:12).

Faith is tested and proved genuine through trials ( 1 Peter 1:6-7). Like gold refined in a furnace, trials can cleanse and purify the Christian. The persecution that is intended to destroy you actually has the opposite effect – it makes you rely more on Christ and draws you to live closer to Him. The person who suffers in the flesh for Christ is the person who rejects the enticements of sin (1 Peter 4:1-2). When you have faced up to the cost of discipleship – socially, materially, even physically –  a new decisiveness enters into your lifestyle.

Suffering also provides the theater in which Christians demonstrate – by the radically different way they respond to opposition – that they belong to a counterculture or, better, to a Jesus culture. They submit to government, not for its own sake but the Lord’s ( 1 Peter 2:13). They submit even to harsh taskmasters because they want to follow in the steps of Christ, who left an example ( 1 Peter 2:18-21).

…Peter’s bottom line is this: don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Peter 4:12).

But how can twenty-first-century Christians in the Western world be un-surprised in times of suffering? We can do so only by being delivered from a faulty understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus was crucified by this world. To become a Christian by definition means to follow a cross-bearing Savior and Lord. It means to be identified with Him in such a way that opposition to Him will inevitably touch us.

Paul said that he bore on his body the marks of Jesus (Gal.6:17). So perhaps we should ask [These lines are taken from a poem written by Amy Carmichael.]:

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned Me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

Are you are marked man or woman?

Sunday Worship Thoughts: Rejoice with Trembling

The following quotation is part of this weekend’s devotional as found in Tabletalk, which I find appropriate for our worship today. It is based on Psalm 2:11 – “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

…It is important to remember that the Bible does not in reality offer us a ‘normal’ experience of God We never get used to the majesty of the Being who has called us into existence, that is, and called us to Himself. Psalm 2:11 is one biblical text that makes this very plain…. Life lived unto God is not the equivalent of spiritual elevator music. It is the equivalent of a roaring symphony, an exhilarating performance of holiness.

It is only when we ‘rejoice with trembling’ that we fully grasp who the God of Scripture is. He is the one who has made us and who has brought us to Himself in fulfillment of His covenant promises. Because of this, He lifts our burdens. But our consciousness of His love never leads us to forget the magnitude of His perfections. We are always delighted to be His, but also aware that He is a great and terrible God.

Our modern minds resist this kind of double-sided testimony. We would rather focus on one concept, not two. But Scripture pictures God as a resplendent king. He roars over His creation, claiming it all (see Isa.45). As Christians who have fellowship with Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are subjects of the most powerful sovereign imaginable. We are able, by the kindness of His grace, to enter His court, and to dine at His table, and to see Him smile at us with love. But we never forget whose kingdom this is; we never lose sight of how majestic is the King. We always rejoice to be with Him; we always tremble before Him, for He is holy (Dr. Owen Strachan, p.51).

Paul’s Desire for Timothy to Bring Him Books to Read!

Paul Was Inspired, Yet He Wanted Timothy to Bring Him Books to Read! | TGC.

StPaul - RembrandtJustin Taylor posted this yesterday on the Gospel Coalition website (April 17, 2015), and it certainly has my attention. He quotes Charles Spurgeon’s comments on Paul’s words to Timothy recorded in 2 Tim.4:13, where Paul directed his spiritual son to “bring …the books” to him while he was in prison.

While Spurgeon’s words are directed particularly to ministers of the Word, he also makes a wider application to the “people in the pew” at the end. These are words worth hearing and heeding. Starting with myself.

Is there a better time to read than at the end of the week in preparation for the Lord’s Day? And besides the worship of our Lord on His day, is there not a better way to nurture our faith than to spend time reading sound literature?

Here is Spurgeon on the necessity of reading – for Paul – and for ourselves.

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . .

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!

He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service.

Paul cries, “Bring the books”—join in the cry.

Published in: on April 18, 2015 at 9:20 PM  Leave a Comment  

Iowa Driving: Cars and Cows – John J. Timmerman

bewarecowsA little Friday humor compliments of John J. Timmerman, professor emeritus of Calvin College, who wrote the following paragraphs in his memoir Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987). Here are his reflections on his father and mother’s car driving experiences while living in Grundy Center, Iowa.

In 1917 my father bought his first and only car for $800 -a Chevrolet. He was a gifted man, but driving a car was not his forte. Not that he didn’t prepare: he would don driving coat and hat, goggles, gauntlets. I also doubt whether a car was ever better groomed. He drove at a slow, steady pace, peering through the windshield as though he were Captain Ahab looking for whales. Occasionally he would drive it to a preaching engagement. A trip to Holland, four miles away, consumed about twenty minutes. One time the car stopped dead a mile from town, and he sent me for help. I got it: I went to three garages, and three rescue crews descended upon him.

A drive to Marshalltown, some thirty miles distant, became a major experience. What really finished my father off, though, was the drive to Wright, Iowa, where he was to serve for the summer. Rounding a little bend in the road, he ran squarely into a herd of cows. Since he drove slowly and applied his brakes vigorously, the damage was slight. But my future brother-in-law had to drive us home at the end of the summer. During that summer my mother thought that she could learn to drive it, and she decided to rehearse in the large pasture where we kept the cow that had been donated for our use. Mother took the wheel, with my brother-in-law beside her and my sister and I in the rear seat. Father watched from the fence gate. Cows are curious, and this cow began to approach the car. Mother, as though mesmerized, drove straight toward the cow, who went loping off – with the car in pursuit and my sister and I in gales of laughter in the back. Finally my brother-in-law stopped the car. My mother had had it. After we returned, my father sold the car. For the balance of his career he walked, took the bus, or used paid help to visit the sick (12-13).

Published in: on April 17, 2015 at 6:22 AM  Leave a Comment  

In This Digital Age, Book Collecting Is Still Going Strong – WSJ

In This Digital Age, Book Collecting Is Still Going Strong – WSJ.

This interesting article appeared in the April 12, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal (online). It reports on the fact that despite the surge in digital publishing and reading, book collecting is alive and well – among the young as as well as the old.

Here is the opening of the article; read the rest at the WSJ link above.

Digital disruption notwithstanding, book collecting appears to be alive and well, sustained in part by the very same people who are driving adoption of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and the like.

Take JT Bachman, a 28-year-old architect with Rockwell Group in New York. He gets his news from digital sources but prefers printed material when reading for pleasure and says he has become a recent convert to book collecting. Mr. Bachman says he has about 100 new, used and out-of-print titles on his shelves, including the architectural tome “Herzog & de Meuron: Natural History” by Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, and plans on buying more.

“I started collecting books because it is a way to catalog time,” Mr. Bachman says. “I want to keep them for the longer term.”

As you know, I am a collector of books also. Not necessarily rare ones, although I am always on the lookout for such. But I also appreciate unique books and books that match my special interests. One that I picked up in the last year is titled Lincoln’s Devotional, (or here) with an introduction by Carl Sandburg (Channel Press, 1957).

This little book is actually a replica/reprint of Abraham Lincoln’s copy of the devotional pamphlet published by the Religious Tract Society of London in 1852. It contains Lincoln’s handwritten name in the front (see image below), scanned from my own copy. Some believe that Lincoln was given this devotional after the death of his young son Edward in February of 1850.

Lincolns Devotional-1957ed

However he happened to come into possession of it, the book is a fine devotional, with texts in KJV and thoughts (brief poems) for each day of the year. Keeping in mind the possible context of this devotional of Lincoln – and remembering the 150th anniversary of his assassination this past Tuesday (April 14, 1865) – here is the listing for August 1 (which month has the theme “Sorrows of the Believer”):

These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John xvi.33.

The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.
No traveller e’er reached that bless’d abode,
Who found not thorns and briars in his road.

“Woe is I! – More “Mixed Doubles”

Woe-Is-I-3rdedIn the past we have examined some selections from part of chapter five in Patricia O’Conner’s helpful book on English grammar and word usage. The book is Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (Riverhead Books, New York, c.1996), and it contains a section headed by the phrase “mixed doubles,” which has to do with words that are commonly confused or mixed up, because they are close in spelling and sometimes in meaning.

It’s time to look at a few more of these confusing couplets today. Discern and learn! :)

continually/continuously.  Yes, there is a slight difference, although most people (and even many dictionaries) treat them the same. Continually means repeatedly, with breaks in between. Continuously means without interruption, in an unbroken stream. ‘Heidi has to wind the cuckoo clock continually to keep it running continuously.’ (If it’s important to emphasize the distinction, it’s probably better to use periodically or intermittently instead of continually to describe something that starts and stops.) The same distinction, by the way, applies to continual and continuous, the adjective forms.

deserts/desserts. People who get what they deserve are getting their deserts – the accent for both is on the second syllable. (‘John Wilkes Booth got his just deserts.‘) People who get goodies smothered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce at the end of a meal are getting desserts – which they may or may not deserve: ‘For dessert I’ll have one of those layered puff-pastry things with cream filling and icing on top,’ said Napoleon (95-96).

Published in: on April 15, 2015 at 6:34 AM  Leave a Comment  

National Library Week – Join in the Celebration!


This week is the annual observance of National Library Week (April 12-18), sponsored by the American Library Association, but marked by many library associations, including the Association of Christian Librarians of which I am a part.

You will find this brief description of the event on the ALA website:

National Library Week (April 12 – 18, 2015) is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and library workers and to promote library use and support. From free access to books and online resources for families to library business centers that help support entrepreneurship and retraining, libraries offer opportunity to all. The theme for 2015 National Library Week is “Unlimited Possibilities @ your library.”

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate.

So what can you do during this National Library Week? I can think of a number of things:

  • Make a special effort to visit your local public library this week and appreciate the resources it makes available to you.
  • Take your children or grandchildren to a public library and expose them to the value of its place in the community and in their education.
  • Visit a “new” library in your area and discover its special resources. Have you ever been to the large and rich Grand Rapids Public Library downtown? Or how about the State of Michigan Library in Lansing? Why not make this the week you take one of these in?
  • On a smaller scale, but no less important, help support your local Christian school library. Make sure your children make use of it. Thank the librarians who serve in them. Offer your help, including donating good books.
  • Build your own library at home, making good books available for yourself, for your friends, and for your children and grandchildren.
  • Give thanks to God for our PRC Seminary library and the role it plays in the preparation of men for the ministry of the Word. And continue to support it – especially with your prayers! Thank you!



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