Posts tagged books
What Should I Get The Kids For Christmas?

With the holidays right around the corner, conversations with my wife tend to center around how we can make intentional efforts to tune our kids’ hearts to the true meaning of Christmas: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV). After coming up with a course of action, squaring away a family visitation schedule, and mapping out the holiday menu, we finally arrive at what can be the most contested—quite expensive—and yet seemingly least important part of Christmas planning: what should we get the kids for Christmas?

We’ve adopted a saying that is certainly not original to us that serves as a good rule of thumb. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I’ll leave it to your children to apprise you of their wants, your discretion to determine the need, the fashionistas to set the latest trends, but I have a few ideas on what they might read. Here are a few suggestions on books that will help you cultivate your children’s biblical imagination as they grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior.


The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (Recommend Ages 0–10)

With over two million copies sold (for good reason!), it should come as no surprise that this book is a staple for us. We have read this with our kids no less than ten times, and it still moves me! The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the story beneath all the stories in the Bible from the Old Testament through the New where Jesus is the focus and purpose of God’s self-disclosure.

If you already own this book, check out Sally Lloyd-Jones’ other contributions: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Found: Psalm 23, and Loved: The Lord’s Prayer.

First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer (Recommended Ages: 1–5)

What better way to teach your little one to count to 10 than associating lynchpin theological truths to each number: “1 God,”“2 Natures of Jesus,” “3 Persons of the Trinity,” “4 Gospels,” “5 Books in the Pentateuch,””6 Days of Creation,” “7 ‘I AMs’ of Jesus,””8 Beatitudes,” “9 Fruits of the Spirit,” and “10 Commandments.” This simple, yet beautiful board book utilizes an essential primary skill like counting to communicate and instill foundational principles of biblical orthodoxy. In truth, I would commend the panoply of primer books for your little ones: Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer, Let There Be Light: An Opposites Primer, From Eden to Bethlehem: An Animals Primer.

God's Very Good Idea: A True Story of God's Delightfully Different Family (Recommended Ages: 3–8)

This book helps children understand how people from all ethnic and social backgrounds bear God’s image and are, therefore, precious in his sight. God's Very Good Idea depicts the gospel truth from Ephesians 2:14 that Jesus, our peace, through his work on the cross tore down the dividing walls of hostility and secured for himself a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

We’re big fans of the entire Tales That Tell the Truth series: The Friend Who Forgives, The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, and The Storm That Stopped.

The Gospel In Color - For Kids: A Theology of Racial Reconciliation for Kids (Recommend Ages: 7–12)

Let me start by saying that I love this book. It was a timely God-send for my family. Knowing that we wanted to discuss the issue of racial reconciliation with our kids, we still weren’t quite sure where to start. Then, a friend recommended this gem to us! Through stunning illustration and quality writing, The Gospel in Color makes clear how “color-blindness” and false ideas of race brings about suffering and division, and how the good news of Jesus Christ brings about the reconciliation the world desperately needs.

What is God Like? (Recommend Ages: 5–10)

What is God like? To start, God is a se, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and infinite. The aforementioned designations are more than ivory-tower, theological terminus technicus. They are part and parcel of God’s incommunicable attributes, and concepts I desperately want my kids to grasp. William Lane Craig’s What is God Like? series is a great place to start in teaching your little ones to become great theologians.

Check out: God is All-Knowing, God is All-Good, God is All-Loving, God is All-Powerful, God is Forever, God is Everywhere, God is Spirit, God is Three Persons, God is Self-Sufficient, and The Greatness of God.

The Church History ABCs (Recommended Ages: 5–10)

Admittedly, on the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a must read. But when it comes to church history, we should, as Karl Barth once penned, “honor our father and mother.” The Church History ABCs helps us to recognize that Christ’s promise to build his church was instituted before us and will continue beyond us. It does so by highlighting men and women from the annals of history that God has used to enact and participate in the Great Commission. If you’re feeling especially nerdy, check out the follow up book, Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation.


One of the primary roles of the Christian parent is to—in the spirit of Archibald Alexander—place firewood on the hearth of our children’s hearts, so that when the Spirit of God strikes, their souls may be set ablaze. A sure way of doing this is to make certain that you’re continually stacking up logs of truth: through catechetical instruction, family worship, and equipping them with quality resources. That being said, Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!

Paul, His Cloak, And His Books

As one who spends the majority of his day pouring over books, I have long been encouraged by this homily from the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, on an oft neglected verse (2 Tim. 4:13). When I find myself overwhelmed, with the words of Qoheleth ringing in my ear (Eccles. 12:12), I typically run here for balm. “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).

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…

Spurgeon believed the parchments to be the Holy Scriptures. He urged that Paul’s particular emphasis for the parchments (“especially” or “above all”) shows a level of commitment to the Word of God over all other forms of literature.

Persons read the views of their denominations as set forth in the periodicals; they read the views of their leader as set forth in his sermons or his works, but the Book, the good old Book, the divine fountain-head from which all revelation wells up—this is too often left. You may go to human puddles, until you forsake the clear crystal stream which flows from the throne of God. Read the books, by all manner of means, but especially the parchments. Search human literature, if you will, but especially stand fast by that Book which is infallible, the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A selection from, Paul—his Cloak and his Books. Delivered on November 29th, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington (italic emphasis original, bold emphasis mine).

My Top 10 Books

I have been wanting to put together a list of books that have had the most impact on me through the years (outside of the Bible). In no particular order and without further adieu, here are my top ten:

1. 'The Knowledge of the Holy’ by A. W. Tozer

2. ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion' by John Calvin

3. ‘A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live’ by Richard Baxter

4. ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S. Lewis

5. ‘Religious Affections’ by Jonathan Edwards

6. ‘Original Sin’ by Jonathan Edwards

7. ‘Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life’ by Donald Whitney

8. ‘Orthodoxy’ by G. K. Chesterton

9. ‘Till We Have Faces’ by C.S. Lewis

10. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

What books have had the greatest impact on you?

March Breakdown
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“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25:2, ESV).

After a month of Big Brother, Fangs of Dang, and a brood of Wingfeathers I’m hard-pressed to go back to the monotony of monochromatic nonfiction. Like I said, fiction is fun. Fiction is especially fun because it serves as a mental vacation. The extraordinary is just that, because it is not ordinary. Said differently: if every day was a holiday, holidays would be called days. With that, let’s put on our thinking caps and drown in some philosophy. I wanted to do write: “Let’s get philosophical...philosophical,” like that song. But felt it might be weird, so I didn’t.

This month’s theme is ‘read over your head.’ To know that certain philosophies are right or wrong is good. To know WHY said philosophies are right or wrong is better. As the puritan pastor Cotton Mather once said, "Ignorance is the mother not of devotion but of heresy." It is no coincidence that Evangelicalism is on the decline while anti-intellectualism in the church is on the rise. Loving the Lord with all of one’s mind is not a helpful suggestion but an essential part of the greatest commandment. The church, in which I include myself, has been retreating from the public square for far too long. On hearing the imperative to be prepared to give an answer, instead of obedience, we opt to take our ball and go home. We have confused the call for childlike faith with childish thinking. This month we will storm the keep of the ivory tower, and touch profundity with our own hands. Oftentimes before reading something I fear to be over my head, I read CSL’s introduction to Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ to pump myself up.

If you need more motivation, Kevin DeYoung recently shared five benefits of reading over your head.

He wrote:

  1. Reading over your head keeps you learning and learning keeps you fresh.
  2. Reading over your head keeps you humble.
  3. Reading over your head keeps you hungry.
  4. Reading over your head keeps you balanced.
  5. Reading over your head keeps you edified.

With that, let me introduce you to what I’ll be reading over the next month. I hope that you’ll join me!

MARCH:

HOW WE WILL DO IT:

By now, I realize that I am likely traveling alone on this read-venture. That’s fine, I don’t need you– I’m lying. I’m so lonely. Last month was hefty, I know, but this month we will be reading half of last month’s total.

Like we did last month, let’s rationalize this fear by crunching some numbers. Not counting Calvin’s tome and reader’s guide, there are approximately 697 pg. to read this month. Again, say we only wanted to read on weekdays: there are 21 weekdays in the month of March.

697 pg./21 wkd.= 33.2 pg./wkd.

If you follow my guide, you will have read another 5 BOOKS THIS MONTH! Listen, if I can do it, you can too!

Full disclosure: In January I snuck in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. In February I added Catcher in the Rye to the list. If you want to see my progress and ratings, click here. If you would like to see the master checklist, click here.

*I should mention that Calvin’s Institutes (as well as the Reader’s Guide) will be read over the course of the year. Ergo, you will see it on every month’s breakdown. I put the link for the reading schedule alongside the book.

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February Breakdown

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“It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” - Mark Twain

How are you doing on your new year’s resolution? More importantly, how goes your progress in the Read-venture? If you fell a little behind, no big deal. Finish your current book and move on.

“What about the other books on my January list?” you might ask. Well, in the words of Tony the Italian mob-boss Tiger, “fuggedaboutit, because ain't nobody got time for that!” We have to keep trucking along and I am here to announce February the month of FICTION! Hoorah!

“A whole month of fiction?” First, why are you so whiny? Yes, a whole month of fiction. Second, of course there’s a perfectly good reason why we would dedicate a whole month to one genre of reading; I just have to think of one.... Ah, thought of one, here we go:

Dan DeWitt recently shared a post on ‘Why C.S. Lewis Didn't Write for Christianity Today. In that article he shared that Carl F. H. Henry, founding editor of the magazine, had in 1955 invited Lewis to contribute to the magazine's first issue. Lewis declined. Carl Henry wanted more 'Mere Christianity' and direct theology. Lewis didn't. As Lewis told Henry, “If I am now good for anything it is for catching the reader unawares—thro' fiction and symbol. I have done what I could in the way of frontal attacks, but I now feel quite sure those days are over." Lewis felt that through the medium of fiction, he could best flesh out not only Christian doctrines but the Christian worldview in its entirety.

This is the part where I would typically set out to explain to you why I see value in reading fiction. Instead, I will share with you six points listed by one of my favorite undiscovered theological thinkers, Marc Cortez (does that make me a Christian hipster?).

He wrote:

  1. Fiction reveals truth. A good story makes us experience truth.
  2. Fiction strengthens the imagination. Imagination is the skill of seeing the world as it could be.
  3. Fiction manifests beauty. Soaking up a good story can be like watching a beautiful sunset – a reminder that there is still beauty in this broken world.
  4. Fiction expands horizons. Fiction expands my window on reality, letting me see reality through another’s eyes.
  5. Fiction makes better writers. One pragmatic issue to consider is that reading fiction makes you a better writer. Fiction authors use language differently than non-fiction writers.
  6. Fiction is fun. Enjoying yourself is simply part of being who God has created you to be. And reading good fiction is fun. Enjoy it.

Enough of that, let’s get to the list. This is what I’ll be reading over the next month. I hope that you’ll join me!

WHAT WE ARE READING:

February

HOW WE WILL DO IT:

Ok, I know it sounds scary, but wait a second. Yes, while we may have more total pages than last month, there are less total books. Not only are we reading less total books, but we are only reading in the genre, fiction. “No Duh, Dave, you already declared February a month of fiction.” Why are you so rude? If you caught my last post no excuses you will remember that I said, “you don’t have “a” reading speed...you read varying types of literature at differing levels of vehemence.” Well, reading a month of fiction is like coasting downhill on a road bike: fast, furious, and Vin Diesel.

Like we did last month, let’s rationalize this fear by crunching some numbers. Not counting Calvin’s tome and reader’s guide, there are approximately 1388 pg. to read this month. Again, say we only wanted to read on weekdays: there are 20 wkd. in the month of February.

1388 pg./20 wkd.= 69.4 pg./wkd

See! It’s not that bad...kinda. I understand that this may sound like a lot, but boys, this is the equivalent of watching three duck dynasty episodes or one half of a football game. Ladies, it shouldn’t take you more than one and a half episodes of your coveted Downton Abbey to read that much in one day. If you follow my guide, you will have read another 4 BOOKS THIS MONTH! You can do this (probably)!

*I should mention that Calvin’s Institutes (as well as the Reader’s Guide) will be read over the course of the year. Ergo, you will see it on every month’s breakdown. I put the link for the reading schedule alongside the book.

No Excuses
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“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." - Harry S. Truman

How are you doing on your January reading list ? Me? I’m done. Want to know how I read six books (1,100+ pp.) in nine days? I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

  • Short Sleeper: I’m a chronic short sleeper. I typically go to bed after 1:00 AM (sadly, sometimes much later), and I get up around 6:30 AM every morning. You don’t need as much sleep as you think you do.
  • Caffeine: I know, I know... Coffee, Tea, and Red Bull are my vices.
  • No TV (kind of): I watch about 3 hours of TV a week. Pick up a book instead!
  • Uninterrupted Reading: I am a huge fan of the pomodoro productivity technique. I read in undisrupted blocks of 25-30 minutes. I use a cheap cube timer I found on amazon as my drill sergeant; I am pretty militant about it.

Lastly, I am able to speed read.

Speed Reading: I was registered for 17 credit hours of classes when we had our first child. I had to make a choice. I could: a.) lie and said I read everything, or b.) neglect my family completely by reading for 3+ hours EVERY NIGHT! Then I had an epiphany: if I could learn to speed read, I could cut my reading time in half, and therefore be a faithful student and a faithful father.

By utilizing just two techniques I was able to increase my reading speed range from about 184 wpm to 320-ish wpm. Allow me to myth-bust for a second, you don’t have “a” reading speed because you will find that you read varying types of literature at differing levels of vehemence. Example, you wouldn’t (shouldn’t!) speed read your Bible, an instruction manual, or your medical prescriptions. But you could speed through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (652 pp.) in about 7 hrs.

To put this in perspective, I read Chesterton’s Heretics (140 pg.) at about 200 wpm, whereas I was able to read Harper Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird (336 pg.) at approximately 400+ wpm.

So, what are these techniques? Lifehacker recently commissioned a decent post on three essential techniques of speed reading, but the instructions were a little lacking. I have taken the liberty of combining their advice, mixed with other things I have read, and personal experience into one, relatively short, instruction manual on how to speed read.

1. Subvocalization: the habit most of us have where we "hear" words in our minds as we read them. We were trained to read aloud (to correct our diction). Naturally, when we were old enough we were asked to, “read silently at our desk.” While our mouths might not have been moving (some people still read aloud but in an almost murmur), we were still enunciating in our heads.

Here is the problem, you can read almost twice as fast as you can speak.

Lifehacker suggests:

All you need to do is disengage the speech mechanism in your brain, which means chewing gum, humming, or even eating while you're reading. Another method is to repeat ”A-E-I-O-U” as you read to teach yourself to stop reading with your mouth.

To be clear, the goal is to stop saying the words in your head. Breaking this nasty routine can dramatically increase reading speed; realistically, I would guess by about thirty percent. However, for me at least, this was by far the hardest hurdle to overcome. I found that counting through a repeating pattern of five (1-2-3-4-5-1...) in rhythmic timing not only helped me break the habit of subvocalization but also gave me a cadence to pace my reading.

2. Avoid Pit Stops by Pointing at the Text: While reading our eyes tend to backtrack/bounce. Most of us will grab a book with one hand and stare at the current line in an undisciplined manner. Because of this, we tend to lose our place quite frequently. If you’re not careful you’ll find that you’ve read the same line twice. Other times, you’ll have read a sentence and realize that it didn’t make sense. Reason being, you may have combined the current line with the next line and taken two spliced sentences and made them one. This not only slows us down, but it is terribly discouraging to realize that you’ve been reading the same page for three minutes. The easiest way to break this idiosyncrasy is to point at the text! 

This will accomplish two things:

    1. First, it will help you stay on point. By pointing at a line you are disallowing your sight to be scattered all over the page. Utilize the sagacious words of Mel Gibson from The Patriot, “aim small, miss small.” No wasted time reading, rereading, and re-rereading the same line.
    2. Secondly, by pointing at the text you are giving your brain a reading direction. I would strongly encourage you to drag your finger at a faster pace than you feel comfortable with. Trust me, your brain will catch up! This technique is also known as “meta guiding.” Growing up, we watched the sing-along videos with the white bouncing dot; our eyes are accustomed to following the bouncing dot, or in this case, your finger, they just need something to set the pace.

That’s it! Sound too simple? It is and it isn’t. It takes a lot of discipline and practice to learn this new skill, but I promise you IT IS WORTH IT! By utilizing the listed techniques, I was able to read over 40 books and almost 11,000 pp. last year, and if you commit to these disciplines you can too!

January Breakdown

Image“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” - C.S. Lewis

Have you thought much about it? Are you going to join me on my Read-venture? Well, assuming you are, (YOU SHOULD!) here is what's in store for the month of January.

WHAT WE ARE READING:

January

HOW WE WILL DO IT:

Is this list intimidating to you? Let's rationalize this fear by crunching some numbers. Not counting Calvin's tome and reader's guide, there are approximately 884 pg. to read this month. They say the easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time (who eats elephants?), it may then prove prudent for us to break this massive chunk down in bite sized pieces.

So far we have established that we will need to read 884 pg. this month. Yikes! But, say we only wanted to read on weekdays: there are 24 wkd. in the month of January. 

884 pg./24 wkd.= 36.8 pg./wkd

See! It's not that bad. If you can read 37 pg. per day using only weekdays then you will have read 6 BOOKS THIS MONTH! 

WHY WE ARE READING:

Ok, I know I'm likely being too ambitious, but is this not part of the Pauline imperative to do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth? What does reading have to do with rightly handling the word of truth, you ask? Let's see...

I remember the first time I read J. Ligon Duncan's sermon on 2 Timothy 4:6-22 entitled Finishing Well. He spent some time exploring Paul's vague instructions for Timothy to, "bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments." Duncan then makes reference to a Spurgeon sermon– Paul-his Cloak and His Books–  a sermon that has forever changed my reading habits. Below you will find Spurgeon's second point from that particular message, but I would strongly encourage you to read the whole of it. 

II. We will LOOK AT HIS BOOKS. 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.Some of our very ultra Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle! 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. (source: http://goo.gl/1M4Z1)

After chewing on this homily I had an epiphany: the Holy Spirit used Paul's extracurricular reading from Epimenides of Crete (probably) and Aratus’s poem Phainomena to help him contextualize the Gospel message for the men of Athen in Acts 17:28. You see? God uses truth (ALL TRUTH) spoken not only from the mouths of prophets, but philosophers, poets, and story tellers to help us understand, explain, and share His Gospel truths with all people. 

All that being said, TAKE UP AND READ!

*I should mention that Calvin's Institutes (as well as the Reader's Guide) will be read over the course of the year. Ergo, you will see it on every month's breakdown. I put the link for the reading schedule alongside the book.

2013 READING PLAN
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Books-06Every year I set out with a resolution to read a lot over the next twelve months. Problem is, ‘a lot’ is an ambiguous term. More than that, it’s an ambiguous term with little to no direction. There is no rhyme or reason to my reading list; it’s typically random and intemperate. This year I thought I would try my hand at setting out with a plan of attack. Below you will see listed a wide array of books that range from the apologetics of G.K. Chesterton to the whimsical stylings of Andrew Peterson. This list (it was so hard to whittle down) is my tentative reading plan for 2013.

You are invited to join me in reading one, some, or all of these books over the course of the next year. Or, you can root me on and hold me accountable by following my progress on goodreads (http://goo.gl/UgknK). If you are interested in joining me, I have cataloged the length, cost, and format of each book.

Also, here is the breakdown for the month of January. Will you join me on my READ-VENTURE?

2013 READING PLAN

Theological Classics:

Alternative Worldviews/Philosophy/Apologetics/Ethics:

Fiction/Classic Literature/Poetry: 

Biographies:

Theology:

Productivity/Leadership:

Lewis:

I will leave you with an inspirational quote to motivate you to kick your reading habit (or lack thereof) into gear this next year.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” - Charles William Eliot