By / Jan 4

Near the end of his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul includes what may seem to be a mere instruction to a helper: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13, ESV).

But in 1863, the English Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on this verse in which he said,

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.

Many of us recognize that reading is a key way to gain wisdom and insight. But it’s not always easy to find the time or motivation to read books. If this is problem you face, consider some of these tips for how you can read more books in 2018.

Set aside 15 minutes: “Most of us don't aspire very high in our reading,” says pastor John Piper, “because we don't feel like there is any hope.” But Piper recommends reading at least 15 minutes per day.

What can be accomplished in that amount of time? Quite a lot, actually. The average adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute. With 15 minutes a day, you could read 3,750 words. By the end of 2018 (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute, and you get 1,368,750 words per year.  Most books have between 300 and 400 words per page.

If we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year. In five years, you could read 100 books; 200 in a decade. All with only 15 minutes per day.

Make a commitment to read for a minimum of 15 minutes every day. No matter how busy our lives may be, we can find a quarter of an hour out of the 24 God has given us to find time to read.

Make a reading list: After you finish a book, you want to have another one ready to start. Make a proposed reading list of the books you want to read. Be sure to include a variety in case you decide that the next book on the list isn’t the next one you want to read. You don’t have to use the list as a rigid schedule, but it will help prevent you from losing days or weeks while you search for new reading material.

Use audiobooks: Yes, audiobooks count as "reading" (don’t let print snobs tell you differently). Audiobooks may not be the best fit for topics you are unfamiliar with or that require close concentration, but they can be a refreshing way to help you “read” more books. They can also help you add more fiction or other imaginative literature to your daily reading.

Have vegetables and dessert: If the only time you read is when you force yourself to “eat your cultural vegetables” (i.e., read books that require serious focus, attention, and thought), you may soon grow tired of reading and give it up altogether. For every “vegetable” book you read, add a “dessert” book to read on the side. Find a genre you enjoy, such as science-fiction, detective novels, or young adult fiction that can keep you entertained. Light reading (as long as it’s not corrosive to the soul) can help keep our minds fit and limber for the heavy-lifting of more serious texts.

Redeem the time: Make a list of all the activities you do every day. Look for areas in which you can trade some time spent on unproductive leisure activity. If you reduced the time spent on watching television or playing video games or browsing social media you’d find you have more time than you thought to develop wisdom and insight by reading more.

By / Nov 17

If you want your “dream baby,” do not adopt or foster a child: buy a cat and make-believe. Adopting an orphan isn’t ordering a consumer item or buying a pet. Such a mindset hurts the child, and countless other children and families. Adoption is about taking on risk as cross-bearing love.

For years, I’ve called Christian churches and families to our James 1:27 mandate to care for widows and orphans in their distress, to live out the adoption we’ve received in the gospel by adopting and fostering children. At the same time, I’ve maintained that, while every Christian is called to care for orphans and widows, not every Christian is called to adopt or foster. As a matter of fact, there are many who, and I say this emphatically, should not.

Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense, for every mother, every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. Someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished, or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not a “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.

We live in a time in which our commitments have become the opportunity often for simply a narcissistic self-realization. Weddings have become events for planners and photographers putting on what seems to be a state dinner honoring the “love of the couple.” Children often become props in a life of parents who are seeking to grasp whatever they believe the world owes them. It’s easier to pull off that kind of an illusion of self-centrality with your engagement photos and wedding party than it is with children, though. Children are alive. Children are persons, with individuality that can’t ultimately be suppressed. Children, of all sorts, are, by definition, unpredictable. Children shatter your life-plan. Adoption certainly does.

It’s worth it.

But Jesus tells us we ought to know that a king going into battle must measure his troops, a tower-builder must count the expenses of the project (Lk. 14:28-31). Those who see adoption as a warm, sentimental way of having a baby are mistaken and dangerous. There are far too many who plunge in without counsel, without a commitment to fidelity no matter what. They search around for a baby who fits their specifications. And babies never fit your specifications…at least not when they grow up.

If what’s behind all of this isn’t crucified, war-fighting, eyes-open commitment, you are going to wind up with a child who is twice orphaned. He or she will be abandoned the first time by fatherlessness and the second time by the rejection of failing to live up to the expectations of parents who had no business imposing such expectations in the first place.

We need a battalion of Christians ready to adopt, foster, and minister to orphans. But that means we need Christians ready to care for real orphans, with all the brokenness and risk that comes with it. We need Christians who can reflect the adopting power of the gospel, which didn’t seek out a boutique nursery but a household of ex-orphans who were found wallowing in our own blood, with Satan’s genes in our bloodstreams.

If what you like is the idea of a baby who fulfills your needs and meets your expectations, just buy a cat. Decorate the nursery, if you’d like. Dress it up in pink or blue, and take pictures. And be sure to have it declawed.

This was originally published here.