Don’t Waste Your Summer: Read and Study!

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5-7, ESV)

As the first one to turn to Christ in my family, I never received biblical instruction while growing up, so I sought it out from older, wiser Christian brothers. The act of reading has also allowed me to sit at the feet of great saints of previous generations from whom I learned the truth, wisdom and instruction the Lord entrusted to them. As we enter summer, especially after a year of Covid restrictions, we all want to go outside and enjoy God’s good creation. We want to gather with family and friends. These are all good things we should do. But allow me to also warn you of the danger of wasting your summer. Be intentional in your activities. Also, continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Don’t put your Bible on the shelf. And don’t stop reading. In fact, if you’re not a reader, summer is a great time to start!

Since Christianity is a faith that is based on the authoritative truth recorded in Scripture, then reading the Bible should be our priority. We must purpose to read the book of God before we read the books of men. Daily Bible reading is important. Jesus reminds us that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God (Matthew 4:4); the Word is food to our hungry souls. For a list of Bible reading plans from Ligonier Ministries, click HERE.

Bible reading, though, is not the only kind of reading you should do as a Christian. Many faithful Christians have gone before us. They have left us a written legacy. Since men are fallible, though, their books are sure to be fallible as well. For that reason, always read with discernment.  Still, WE MUST BE READERS! It is arrogant for us to think that we cannot learn anything from previous generations. May we, then, be readers so that we may find wisdom and gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13).

Since even those who are readers tend to gravitate toward a favorite author or a particular genre or period of literature, we must discipline ourselves to be well-rounded readers. Allow me to suggest the following reading pattern for maturing followers of Christ. After the Bible, all Christians should read . . .

Christian Biography: Christian biography encourages us as we identify with those saints who have gone before us and recognize God’s grace working through feeble humans.

Suggestions: Select a missionary biography to read this summer. If you have young children, find a biography you can read aloud.

Biography: Reading biographies of important historical figures helps you learn about them and how they handled the challenges they faced. They also help you understand their times. It’s one way of learning history from the perspective of particular individuals.

Suggestions: Who’s your favorite president? Or what president are you curious to learn about? Last summer I focused my biographical reading on Abraham Lincoln. This summer, I am focusing on George Washington as I try to gain a better understanding of the revolutionary period, leading into the constitutional convention.

Church History: Church history allows us to connect with the church of all ages. It also helps us to learn from the church’s mistakes made in the past and humbles us when we think we are original in our ideas.

Suggestions: History textbooks can be a struggle to read, but they provide a big picture overview of history. Perhaps a more enjoyable way to read church history is to pick a period of time, say, the Reformation or a particular individual, say, Martin Luther or John Calvin.

History. C. S. Lewis called his generation “chronological snobs.” That is, he believed his generation thought theirs was the most important time in history. Well, things haven’t changed much. But, one way to rid ourselves of such snobbery is by reading history. World history. American history. State history. Regional history. Reading history gives us perspective, and it reminds us there is nothing new under the sun.

Suggestions: As I mentioned above, this summer I am focusing my history reading to the revolutionary period leading up to the constitutional convention. Choose a period of history that fascinates you and read.

Christian Theology: Every Christian must work out what he or she believes in accordance with the Scriptures. Reading theology helps us understand how the doctrines we believe affect all areas of life. Note: Popular pastors/preachers may not be the best source for theological reading.

Suggestions: Sadly, there is so much theological “junk” written these days that you need to be careful what you read. If you need help, ask your pastors. I recommend working through an introduction to theology like Daniel Treier’s, Introduction to Evangelical Theology (see HERE). Also, think of a doctrine that you have questions about. Read several theologians on that one doctrine, and you’ll begin to get a clearer picture.

Culture and Cultural Issues: Unfortunately, too many Christians are ignorant about the cultural issues of our day. It is time that we become informed, so that we can give an informed, biblical response. Take our present cultural moment: global coronavirus pandemic, racial upheaval, political divisions (just to name a few). Don’t just assume what talking heads are telling you. Read for yourself and form an informed opinion.

Suggestions: Before you form your opinion on an issue, read all perspectives so you speak intelligently on the issues. Try to understand those who’s position you oppose. Try to understand their arguments. For that, you will need to read them. Attack the arguments, not the persons. Of course, all the reading you should be doing (Bible, biography, history, theology) will help shape your thinking and make you a more discerning reader.

Christian Devotional Literature: Here, I don’t mean the devotionals that merely give a Scripture reference, add a heart-warming story and are ever so popular. By devotional literature, I mean that literature which is anchored in God’s Word and makes us think great thoughts of God and challenges us to drink deeply from God’s Word.

Suggestions: This is an area where serious pastors who are also theologians and theologians who have a pastoral heart can be helpful. Read John Piper, J. I. Packer, John Stott, D. A. Carson. R. C. Sproul. As you read, take note of who they are quoting and referencing. Read those people as well.

Christian Living: Every Christian should spend time reading about the issues where faith and life meet (courtship, marriage, parenting, personal finances, stewardship, etc.). Again, be careful with what is popular. If you need guidance, ask your pastors. We’re always happy to help. Since this is such a broad category, I won’t offer any specific suggestions. Regardless, we must be readers. Don’t waste your summer!

Pastor Juan

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