Category Archives: Christianity

John 17:17

bench-1868070_640But permit me to ask you in love, if it is indeed the Word of God, why have you not paid that attention to it which it deserves? The same reasons which would deter you from willfully throwing it into the fire, should induce you to study it carefully, to make it the foundation of your hope, and the rule of your life; for, if it is indeed the Word of God, it is the rule by which your characters will be decided, and your everlasting state fixed, according to the tenor of the gospel, which proclaims salvation to all who have repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to those alone.”

-John Newton, March 30, 1800

The Fountain of Life, Part 1

fountain2015This week I returned to reading one of the Puritans – John Flavel (1628?-1691). I had first read Flavel a little over six years ago and his work called Facing Grief: Counsel for Mourners. I read this a few weeks after my dad passed away in 2010 and don’t think I was ready for the counsel at the time. But I’ve heard enough good things about Flavel since and decided it was time to return to his writings. Sinclair Ferguson counts Flavel and Thomas Watson as perhaps the two easiest Puritans to read. He may be right.

The Fountain of Life is described as a series of 42 of Flavel’s sermons that “…display Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory”. I’m only three sermons in but am grateful for the things that Flavel has opened my eyes to already. The first sermon, titled “The Excellency of the Subject”, uses 1 Corinthians 2:2 as its basic text. I would summarize Flavel’s message in this sermon as understanding that there is no knowledge so great as that of Christ and knowing Him. Flavel asks us to compare the excellency of knowing Christ to the mere natural things of this world: “O how much time is spent in other studies, in vain discourses, frivolous pamphlets, worldly employments. How little is the search and study of Jesus Christ.” I have to say this is a daily struggle for me – it is always tempting to latch on to the “low hanging fruit” that comes through my phone notifications, breaking news, sports updates, and other areas. These pass through my mind as easily as they come in, but they can still consume a great deal of time. Flavel warns of this danger: “O beware, lest the dust of the earth, getting into your eyes, so blind you, that you never see the beauty or necessity of Christ.”

Something else I found helpful from Flavel – his belief that we should always strive to see how the essential truths of Christianity fit together, like a fine watch, rather than just seeing the individual wheels and pieces and struggling to make sense of the greater themes. Meditating on 1 Corinthians 2:2 is important here: “Even so the right knowledge of Jesus Christ, like a clue, leads you through the whole labyrinth of the Scriptures.” I tend to get bogged down in bits and pieces, especially when reading the Old Testament. Flavel’s encouragement here is something that may fit well in the flyleaf of our Bibles.

I’m glad to have returned to the writings of John Flavel. I hope to write more as I progress through this work.

 

Beware of Sinking Sand

You sometimes reflect upon the state of your soul, and enquire, is Christ mine? May I depend upon it, that my condition is safe? Your heart returns you an answer of peace, it speaks as you would have it. But remember, friend, and mark this line, your final sentence is not yet come from the mouth of your Judge; and what if, after all your self-flattering hopes and groundless confidence, a sentence should come from him quite cross to that of your own heart? Where are you then? What a confounded person will you be? Christless, speechless, and hopeless, all at once!”

– John Flavel, from The Fountain of Life

Affections and Knowledge

“The grace of God influences both the understanding and the affections. Warm affections, without knowledge, can rise no higher than superstition; and that knowledge which does not influence the heart and affections, will only make a hypocrite.”

— from The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1, p. 136.

1 Thessalonians 5:17

“I always feel that there is something wrong if I go without prayer for even half an hour in the day. I cannot understand how a Christian man can go from morning to prayerevening without prayer. I cannot comprehend how he lives, and how he fights the battle of life without asking the guardian care of God while the arrows of temptation are flying so thickly around him.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, from Spurgeon’s Sermons on Great Prayers of the Bible, p. 116

Book Review: “Do More Better”

41fXfohImwL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Would you like to be more productive? Most of us would answer yes to that question, even as the busyness of our lives sometimes wears on us. But have you thought about why you want to be more productive? Along with providing tools and tips to improve your productivity, Tim Challies’ Do More Better gives insight into why productivity  matters, why doing more good is the goal, and Who is the reason for it all.

Any new habit or plan will ultimately fail if there is no strong foundation to keep it going – to return to when days become mundane. Although we want to know the tools that will help us get from point A to point Z, Challies delays providing this right away. Instead he walks his readers through a “productivity catechism”, which ultimately leads to the mission statement, or foundation, of the book:

Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.

This charts the course of the book, and Challies returns to this statement again and again. He goes on to describe common obstacles (“productivity thieves”) that often get in our way, such as laziness and busyness. Challies then asks his readers to spend some time thinking about two major topics:

  • defining our major responsibilities
  • stating our mission

This is a two-pronged approach in that we define our major responsibilities (work, family, church, etc.) and then select a mission statement to guide each of these areas. These could take some time to reflect on and complete, but they must be done if we want to use the practical tools that he provides later on most effectively.

All of us have different ways that we organize and keep track of our day. Some are basic, some can be quite extensive. In the second half of the book, Challies recommends three online tools:

Challies is quick to note that we may find other tools (paper planners, alternative software) that are more suitable to our tasks. But his main point remains – we need a place to manage the tasks we’re responsible for; we need somewhere to track our meetings and appointments; and we need somewhere to “gather, store, and access (our) information, and do it in a logical hierarchical fashion.” (p. 68)

There are other neat features of Challies’ book, including “serve and surprise” along with an appendix describing “20 Tips to Increase Your Productivity”, but you’ll have to buy the book to see these in detail.

I found this book quite helpful for a number of reasons. First, we often start out with great energy on getting things done, but just as often don’t think of the why behind doing all of it. Challies’ productivity statement, mentioned above, provides a foundation for us. I’m going to print this out and place it in prominent places by my desk at home and work. Second, the benefits of the productivity tools are clearly outlined. I’ve used Todoist for a couple of weeks now and find it useful, and it nags me appropriately to do the things that I’m behind on. I’ve been using Google Calendar for years, so he didn’t have to sell me on that. I confess that I’m not quite sure about Evernote yet, and whether the time it will take to get everything in there will be worth it. But I’m definitely going to try it out.

Overall, I think Challies blends the why and the how extremely well in this book, as we look forward to a new year and the goal of being more productive in all we do. The time invested in reading this book will pay off, if you follow the steps as he has outlined them. I’d recommend Do More Better and would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Cruciform Press in exchange for an impartial review

 

 

Beholding Him

John Newton“Look unto him again as he now reigns in glory, possessed of all power in heaven and in earth, with thousands of thousands of saints and angels worshipping before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministering unto him; and then compare your sins with his blood, your wants with his fullness, your unbelief with his faithfulness, your weakness with his strength, your inconstancy with his everlasting love. If the Lord opens the eyes of your understanding, you would be astonished at the comparison.”

-John Newton