Why read? Why am I committed to reading? For one, words matter. They matter to me and they mattered to Jesus and Paul too. I think words and reading should matter to you too.
Jesus apparently read or at least retained what He heard as a kid. He listened to the teachers and asked them questions and “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Lk. 2:47). So, words mattered to Jesus and especially God’s words.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He fought off the temptation by quoting Scripture (Matt. 4). Jesus clearly knew the Scriptures. He quoted from Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 13, verse 16, and chapter 8 verse 3.
Jesus read in the in the synagogue (Lk. 4:16) as was the custom on the Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
Paul in Romans 3:10-18 quotes from ten different passages. And he did it from memory. It is unlikely that he would have looked up those passages in a nearby scroll. He certainly didn’t look it up in a concordance in the back of his Bible. No. He would have read those passages and memorized them. Scripture, however, was apparently not the only thing that Paul read and could quote. He also quoted popular poets (Acts 17:28).
Paul was in prison in Rome and he was writing his dear friend Timothy. He asked Timothy for a few items. First, we see he wants him to come before winter (2 Tim. 4:21) and bring his coat. Second, we see the importance of reading along with warmth, Paul wants his books and parchments too (2 Tim. 4:13).
Reading was important for the Apostle Paul.
You should too
Reading allows us to learn and glean from people in places and times we otherwise wouldn’t. Reading can facilitate wisdom. C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of prioritizing time-tested books.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Lewis said. I think our first priority should be the reading of Scripture. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and the most translated book of all time. And Scripture gives us “the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).
So, read books but especially read the Bible. Reading is important because God had revealed Himself and His will through revelation.
How to read more?
The number one advice I have is to prioritize reading. And deprioritize other lesser things, like social media. If reading is important, make sure it’s important in practice. Also, check out my advice “10 Ways to Read More Books in 2021.”
Read. Jesus and Paul the Apostle did.
 It’s important that we realize that the tempter also knows Scripture. In Matthew 4:6 the tempter quotes from Psalm 91:11 and 12 to try to cause Jesus to sin.
*Photo by Seven Shooter
I read 70+ books in 2020. Below I’ll tell you how.
“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I don’t think you should cheat. Cheating is wrong. But you should, however, make the most of every advantage you have as best as you can.
That’s what I seek to do with reading. I take advantage of everything I can.
I read all sorts of books for all sorts of reasons. Depending on the reason for reading and the type of book, I will read it in a different way. Some people shun audiobooks. But, I personally don’t get that. There are all sorts of reasons for reading and all sorts of ways that people retain things best.
As I said, I think we should wisely take advantage of everything we can as best as we personally can.
Here are nine things I’ve used to my advantage:
Time is the most precious commodity there is. Even little bits of gold have value, how much more small slots of time!
You can get a lot read when you make the most of small time slots. Waiting can easily turn into productive reading. I always have a book on hand. And my wife often listens to audiobooks while doing dishes or laundry.
2) Old fashioned books
Always have one with you. You never know when you’ll be able to get a few paragraphs or a few pages read.
3) Kindle app on my phone
It’s always with me. I always have a book I’m reading on Kindle.
4) Hoopla or Libby
Hoopla and Libby are free apps and one of them should be available through your local library. I’ve used them both at different times to listen to tons of books.
Audible is an audiobook service. My wife and I had a membership for a long time. It was great.
ChristianAudio is an audiobook service that provides Christian audiobooks. You can signup for a free audiobook a month.
Speechify is an amazing app. It was created by Cliff Weitzman, someone with dyslexia, to help people with dyslexia.
With Speechify you can take a picture of a page in a book and it will convert it to audio. I will sometimes buy a book on Kindle and take a screenshot of each page of the Kindle book and load it on to Speechify. In this way, I can listen to the book.
I can also still make notes. If something sticks out to me that I want to capture I’ll take a screenshot on the Speechify app. Then I’ll search the keywords from the screenshot on the Kindle book and highlight and make any notes I want to make.
Speechify has been a huge blessing to me. I read very slowly but when I use Speechify I can read over 650 words per minute. Speechify probably triples my reading speed but I’m still able to retain what I read and make notes.
8) A community of book lovers
I have multiple friends (including my wife!) that love to talk books and encourage the reading of good books.
Goodreads is a social media site for reading. Goodreads allows you to track and review books you’ve read as well as receive recommendations from friends. You can see my Goodreads account here.
10) Pocket (very helpful but not for books)
Pocket is an app that allows you to save articles to your “pocket.” It’s a great way to save and organize articles. But, the thing I enjoy most is that it has a function that allows you to listen to articles.
“Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true… A careful expository sermon makes it easier for the hearers to recognize that the authority rest not in the speaker’s opinions or reasoning but in God, in his revelation through the text itself… Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community… Expository preaching lets the text set the agenda for the preacher as well… Exposition can prevent us from riding our personal hobbyhorses and pet issues… A steady diet of expository sermons also teaches your audience how to read their own Bibles” (Timothy Keller, Preaching, 32-38).
“Expository sermons help us let God set the agenda for our lives…. Secondly, expository preaching treats the Bible as God treated it, respecting particular contexts, history and style of the human authors” (Peter Adams, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, 128).
“An expository sermon may be defined as a message whose structure and thought are derived from a biblical text, that covers the scope of the text, and that explains the features and context of the text in order to disclose the enduring principle for faithful thinking, living, and worship intended by the Spirit, who inspired the text” (Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 31).
“The commandments of God are not negligible because we are under grace. They are double because we are under grace” (John Piper, Future Grace, 168).
“The way to fight sin in our lives is to battle our bent toward unbelief” (Piper, Future Grace, 219).
“The faith that justifies is a faith that also sanctifies… The test of whether our faith is the kind of faith that justifies is whether it is the kind of faith that sanctifies” (Ibid., 332).
“The blood of Christ obtained for us not only the cancellation of sin, but also the conquering of sin. This is the grace we live under—the sin-conquering, not just sin-canceling, grace of God (Ibid., 333).
“The problem with our love for happiness is never that its intensity is too great. The main problem is that it flows in the wrong channels toward the wrong objects, because our nature is corrupt and in desperate need of renovation by the Holy Spirit” (Ibid., 397).
“The role of Gods Word is to feed faith’s appetite for God. And, in doing this, it weans my heart away from the deceptive taste of lust” (Ibid., 335)
“It is this superior satisfaction in future grace that breaks the power of lust. With all eternity hanging in the balance, we fight the fight of faith. Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the Truth that says God will make our future happier. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction” (Ibid., 336).
“There are no closed countries to those who assume that persecution, imprisonment and death are the likely results of spreading the gospel. (Matthew 24:9. RSV)” (Ibid., 345).
“Perseverance in faith is, in one sense, the condition of justification; that is, the promise of acceptance is made only to a persevering sort of faith, and the proper evidence of it being that sort is its actual perseverance” (Piper, Future Grace, 26 quoting Jonathan Edwards).
“Humility follows God like a shadow” (Ibid., 85).
I recently read Peter Kreeft’s book Back to Virtue. Kreeft is a Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian, apologist, and a prolific author. He is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College.
Here are some quotes from Back to Virtue that stuck out to me:
“We control nature, but we cannot or will not control ourselves. Self-control is ‘out’ exactly when nature control is ‘in’, that is, exactly when self-control is most needed” (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 23).
“Nothing is so surely and quickly dated as the up-to-date” (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 63).
“It is hard to be totally courageous without hope in Heaven. Why risk your life if there is no hope in Heaven. Why risk your life if there is no hope that your story ends in anything other than worms and decay” (Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 72).
“The only way to ‘the imitation of Christ’ is the incorporation into Christ” (Ibid., 84).
“There are only two kinds of people: fools, who think they are wise, and the wise, who know they are fools” (Ibid., 99).
“Humility is thinking less about yourself, not thinking less of yourself” (Ibid., 100).
“God has more power in one breath of his spirit than all the winds of war, all the nuclear bombs, all the energy of all the suns in all the galaxies, all the fury of Hell itself” (Ibid., 105).
“We can possess only what is less than ourselves, things, objects… We are possessed by what is greater than ourselves—God and his attributes, Truth, Goodness, Beauty. This alone can make us happy, can satisfy the restless heart, can fill the infinite, God-shaped hole at the center of our being” (Ibid., 112).
“The beatitude does not say merely: ‘Blessed are the peace-lovers,’ but something rarer: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’” (Ibid., 146).
“There is only one thing that never gets boring: God… Modern man has… sorrow about God, because God is dead to him. He is the cosmic orphan. Nothing can take the place of his dead Father; all idols fail, and bore” (Ibid., 157).
“God’s single solution to all our problems is Jesus Christ” (Ibid., 172).
“An absolute being, an absolute motive, and an absolute hope can alone generate an absolute passion. God, love and Heaven are the three greatest sources of passion possible” (Ibid., 192).
Have you ever heard of C.S. Lewis’ book series, The Chronicles of Narnia? It’s good. But, Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy is even better. And one of the reasons for that is because he confronts scientism.
Scientism exalts the natural sciences as the only fruitful means of investigation. In the words of Wikipedia: “Scientism is the promotion of science as the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values.” In short, scientism is the view that says science, and science alone, tells us what is right and true.
Science, of course, is different. It is the study of the natural world through systematic study (observation, measurement, testing, and adjustment of hypotheses). Scientism goes beyond science and beyond the observation of the physical world into philosophy and ethics.
How can observations about the natural world tell us how to think and live? How can science tell us how to best do science? What can be said about the problems of scientism? C.S. Lewis gives us a few things to think about, and in a very enjoyable way.
Out of the Silent Planet on Scientism
Weston, one of the main characters in C.S. Lewis’ book, Out of the Silent Planet, holds to a form of scientism and belittles other ways of acquiring knowledge. Unscientific people, Weston says, “repeat words that don’t mean anything” and so Weston refers to philology as “unscientific tomfoolery.” The “classics and history” are “trash education.” He also says that Ransom’s “philosophy of life” is “insufferably narrow.”
When science is the sole means of knowledge then we are left without theology, philosophy, and ethics. We are left to decipher ought from is. And it can’t be done. Or not in a way that prevents crimes against humanity. “Intrinsically, an injury, an oppression, and exploitation, an annihilation,” Nietzsche says, cannot be wrong “inasmuch as life is essentially (that is, in its cardinal functions) something which functions by injuring, oppressing, exploiting, and annihilating, and is absolutely inconceivable without such a character.”
Weston concurs. He is ready and willing to wipe out a whole planet of beings. He says, “Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and bee-hive huts, its primitive coracles and elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our civilization—with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system… Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower.”
It is about life. Looking at life, looking at survival alone, leads us to think that alone is the goal. My life versus your life, Weston’s life versus the Malacandrian lives. That’s what we get when we derive ought from is. “Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute.” And so, if it would be necessary, Weston would “kill everyone” on Malacandra if he needed to and on other worlds too. Again, Weston finds agreement in Nietzsche: “‘Exploitation’ does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function.”
Is Weston’s view correct? No. And we know it. That is the point C.S. Lewis makes. He offers a narrative critique of scientism in Out of the Silent Planet as well as through the whole Ransom Trilogy. He shows the havoc that scientism sheared of theology, philosophy, and ethics can unleash.
The answer is not to discard science, however. That is not what Lewis proposes either, though that is what some protest. The answer is to disregard scientism. Science is great and a blessing from God, but science on its own is not enough as our guide. We cannot, for example, derive ought from is. We cannot look at the natural world around us, at what is, and find out what we should do, how we ought to live.
 C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1996), 25.
 Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet 27.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.
 Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, 135.
 Ibid., 136.
 Ibid., 137.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond God and Evil, par. 259.
Here are twenty of my favorite books that I read in 2019. I think I only read three fiction books this year. I need to fix that. I plan to read quite a bit more fiction next year. Anyhow, here’s some of my favorites… (in no particular order)
- Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
by Ravi Zacharias
- Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
- Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction to Christian Witness by Josh Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
- Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How To Heal by Ben Sasse
- How Long O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A. Carson
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
- Alienated American: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse
by Timothy P. Carney
- Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story by Christopher Yuan
- Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr by Clayborne Carson
- Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success by John C. Maxwell
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
- Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
- Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
- An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence by Alan Fadling
- Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
- Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.
- To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Out of all the books I read last year, Remember Death by Matthew McCullough, is the one I would suggest you read over all the rest.
1. “Engaging in radically ordinary hospitality means we provide the time necessary to build strong relationships with people who think differently than we do as well as build strong relationships from within the family of God” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
2. “The truly hospitable aren’t embarrassed to keep friendships with people who are different… They know that there is a difference between acceptance and approval, and they courageously accept and respect people who think differently from them. They don’t worry that others will misinterpret their friendship. Jesus dined with sinners, but he didn’t sin with sinners. Jesus lived in the world, but he didn’t live like the world” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
3. “A cold, unwelcoming church contradicts the gospel message” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 100).
4. “If you are looking for ways to evangelize, opening your home is one of the best methods of reaching unbelievers” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 102).
5. “Some theologians go so far as to state that the growth in the earliest churches was wholly dependent on the meals and hospitality of the believers” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church, 24).
6. “Jesus does not have us here to straighten out our dinner guests’ thoughts and realign their lives, and it’s good thing, because their challenges are quite impossible at times. What Jesus needs most from us is for us to be their friends” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, 73).
7. “A lot of our language presents and reinforces the idea that church is an event… we talk about ‘going to church’ more often then we talk about ‘being’ the church” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
8. “Look at any church website and what is advertised worship services for us to enjoy, sermons for us to listen to, use provision for our children, and perhaps a small group that can provide for other needs. We post pictures of our smart buildings, of our edgy youth work, and of well designed sermon series; we invest time and money and brilliant branding and hip visual identity. This all serves to reinforce the idea that our churches exist primarily as events for consumer Christians to attend” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
9. “God’s guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 16).
10. “Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive countercultural dimension” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 61).
“We welcome others into our home, but generally those who don’t even need it. Our hospitality is only lateral and transactional. We host peers in a system that expects reciprocity, not one that displays free grace” (Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
Here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the most significant theological books I have read.*
- God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment By James Hamilton
- From Eden to the New Jerusalem and The Servant King by T. D. Alexander
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Doctrine of God and The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer
- Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn
- Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
- Desiring God, Don’t Waste Your Life, God is the Gospel, Future Grace and Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper
- The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
- New Testament Theology and The King in His Beauty by Thomas R. Schreiner
- Foundations of Soul Care by Eric Johnson
- The Cross of Christ by John Stott
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Death by Love by Mark Drisscol
- The Universe Next Door by James Sire
- Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
- The Resurrection of Jesus by Michael Licona
- Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith
- Radical by David Platt
- Center Church by Timothy Keller
*This is a personal list of books that helped me in a particular way at a particular time. This is not a list on the best and most significant theological books; that list would look different.