Directions for Reading Christian Books

“Because God has made the excellent, holy writings of his servants, the singular blessing of this land and age; and many may have a good book, even any day or hour of the week, who cannot at all have a good preacher — I advise all God’s servants to be thankful for so great a mercy, and to make use of it, and be much in reading. For reading, with most, does more conduce to knowledge than hearing does, because you may choose what subjects and the most excellent treatises you please; and may be often at it, and may peruse again and again what you forget, and may take time as you go to fix it on your mind. And with very many, reading does more than hearing also to move the heart — because lively books may be more easily accessed than lively preachers.

Especially these sorts of men should be much in reading:

1. Masters of families, who have more souls to care for than their own.

2. People who live where there is no preaching; or bad preaching — which is worse than none!

3. Poor people, and servants, and children, who are forced on many Lord’s days to stay at home, while others have the opportunity to hear the Word preached.

4. And non-working persons that have more leisure than others have.

To all these, but especially masters of families, I shall here give a few directions.

Direction 1. I presuppose that you keep the devil’s books out of your hands and house. I mean cards, and idle tales, and play-books, and romances or love-books, and false, bewitching stories, and the seducing books of all false teachers, and the railing or scorning books which the men of several sects and factions write against each other, on purpose to teach men to hate one another, and banish love. For where these are allowed to corrupt the mind — all grave and useful writings are forestalled; and it is a wonder to see how powerfully these poison the minds of children, and many other empty heads.

Also refrain from books that are written by the sons of Korah, to breed distastes and discontents in the minds of the people against their governors, both magistrates and ministers. For there is something in the best rulers, for the tongues of seditious men to fasten on, and to aggravate in the people’s ears; and there is something even in godly people, which tempts them too easily to take fire and be distempered before they are aware; and they foresee not the evil to which it tends.

Direction 2. When you read to your family, or others, let it be seasonably and gravely, when silence and attendance encourage you to expect success; and not when children are crying or talking, or servants bustling to disturb you. Distraction is worst, in the greatest businesses.

Direction 3. Choose such books as are most suitable to your state, or to those you read to. It is worse than unprofitable, to read books for comforting troubled minds, to those that are blockishly secure, and have hardened, obstinate, unhumbled hearts. It is as bad as to give medicines or remedies contrary to the patient’s need, and such as nourish the disease. So is it to read books of too high a style or subject, to dull and ignorant hearers. We use to say: That which is one man’s meat, is another man’s poison. It is not enough that the matter is good — but it must be agreeable to the case for which it is used.

Direction 4. To a common family begin with those books, which at once inform the judgment about the fundamentals, and awaken the affections to entertain them and improve them. Such as are treatises of regeneration, conversion, or repentance.

Remember that they are not the most learned, who read most — but those who read that which is most necessary and profitable.

Direction 5. Next these, read over those books which are most suited to the state of young Christians for their growth in grace, and for their exercise of faith, and love, and obedience, and for the mortifying of selfishness, pride, sensuality, worldliness, and other the most dangerous sins.

Direction 6. At the same time labor to methodize your knowledge; and to that end read first and learn some short catechism, and then some larger catechism. And let the catechism be kept in memory while you live, and the rest be thoroughly understood.

Direction 7. Next read (to yourselves or families) the larger expositions of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Ten Commandments; such as Thomas Watson on the Commandments; that your understanding may be more full, particular, and distinct, and your families may not stop in generals, which are not understood.

Direction 8. Read much those books which direct you in a course of daily communion with God, and holy ordering your daily life.”

Richard Baxter, Christian Directory

The Meaning of Marriage – Timothy and Kathy Keller

Above is an interview of Timothy and Kathy Keller on their book The Meaning of Marriage. I recently finished reading this book and though I have not read many books on marriage, this is my favorite and I would highly recommend it to married couples and singles alike. If are not persuaded by my endorsement, read Tim Challies’ review. Purchase  The Meaning of Marriage here.

The Necessity of the Spirit to Pray and Continue in Prayer

“As the heart must be lifted up by the Spirit, if it pray aright, so also it must be held up the Spirit when it is up, if it is to continue to pray aright. I do not know what or how it is with others’ hearts, whether they be lifted up by the Spirit of God, and so continued, or no: but this I am sure of, first, that it is impossible that all the prayer books that men have in the world, should lift up, or prepare the heart, for that is the work of the great God himself. And, in the second place, I am sure that they are as far from keeping it up, when it is up. And indeed here is the life of prayer, to have the heart kept with God in the duty. It was a great matter for Moses to keep his hands lifted up to God in prayer; but how much more then to keep the heart in it! (Exod. 17:12).

The want of this is that which God complains of; that men draw nigh to him with their mouth, and know him with their lips, but their hearts are far from him (Is. 29:13; Ezek. 33:31), but chiefly they that walk after the commandments and traditions of men, as the scope of Matthew 15:8-9 testifies. And verily, may I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought, it is enough to make your poor, blind, carnal men to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loth to go to God, and when it is with him, so loth to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers, first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only blessed be grace, the Spirit helps our infirmities (Ps. 86:11).

O the starting-holes that the heart has in the time of prayer! None knows how many by-ways the heart has, and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God. How much pride also, if enabled with expressions! How much hypocrisy, if before others! And how little conscience is there made of prayer between God and the soul in secret, unless the Spirit of supplication be there to help! When the Spirit gets into the heart, then there is prayer indeed, and not till then.”

– John Bunyan, Prayer, p.31-32

The Death of Hip Hop, Marriage, and Morals – Phanatik


Brady Goodwin, also known as The Phanatik of Cross Movement has recently written a new book called The Death of Hip Hop, Marriage, and Morals. For the past two years he has been out of the studio and has been in the classrooms of public schools of Philadelphia. He has been researching and taking the temperature of the culture and how believers can be wise, faithful evangelists of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This book is the fruit of his research. Buy the book at Urban Remix Project or Amazon.

A Puritan’s View of Lust

9780851519814mImpure Lust is a small book from Banner of Truth‘s Pocket Puritans series. The author, John Flavel, addresses the sin of lust for the first half of the book (46 pages) and the second half was a concise introduction to Flavel’s life and his writings (34 pages).  The book breaks down into ten arguments to show the sinfulness of the sin of lust and warnings why you should avoid it, and then gives seven directions to follow if ensnared by lust.

Reflecting back on the book, I thought it was heavier on sin than on grace. (A big surprise coming from a Puritan.) Using scriptural arguments, he clearly communicated the evil of the sin of lust, but with that conviction I felt that the reader isn’t lead to the cross where that sin is atoned for (for the believer). I don’t know if I would recommend it to a believer who isn’t rooted in grace. But maybe I am the one who is imbalanced in my theology. Perhaps I need to take lust more seriously and not presume on the grace of God in this area. In our sex-saturated culture, I am certain that I am desensitized to the filthiness of lust. I probably needed to read this book (and need to return to it later).I don’t doubt that these warnings to avoid sexually immorality isn’t done in love, but I wanted to hear more of the Gospel that is available to adulterers,fornicators and impure sinners who repent of their lust and trust in the perfectly pure righteousness of Christ.  To be fair, it was a very short book, so it’s easy to say there could a have been more written. Also, I imagine that this was not intended to be an exhaustive book, but just a small selection of his writings on the topic of lust. Regardless, there are several nuggets worth chewing on that I have been posting recently (and will continue to post in the near future). Here is one quote that impacted me the most:

“Oh consider, how will [God’s] almighty power rack and torment you! Think on this when sin comes with a smiling face towards you in the temptation. Oh think! If the human nature of Christ recoiled, when his cup of wrath was given him to drink; if he was sore amazed at it, how shall you, a poor worm, bear and grapple with it for ever?” (p. 31)

I read through this book slowly and I believer that is the way it was intended to be read. If battle lust in any way (and if you have a pulse, chances are you likely do), then you should read this book. I would especially recommend to it if you regularly practice this sin and you aren’t convinced of it’s impurity in light of a Holy God. If you do consider reading it, read and meditate on one argument/direction at a time for at least day or a two.

Overall, I give it 4 stars out of 5. Both the section on lust and the brief biography made me somewhat curious to read more of Flavel’s work. His writing is typically classed with other popular Puritan divines such as John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, and John Owen.