Forming a book list, 2022

I read a goodly number of books in 2020. In 2021, I put a slew of book selections on a “To Read This Year” Shelf, and have read a number of them, but most did not get cracked open. I wasn’t quite as prolific in 2021. For one thing, I ended up reading large portions of other books not on my list in research for my writing, and this took up some of that reading time.

Once again, I’ll clear the shelf and start over. Some titles from last year will rejoin the shelf in 2022. Others will be pushed aside and replaced by new tomes that have caught my fancy.

I tend to favor books of a certain kind, particularly theological and biblical studies. Because I want to have a variety of intellectual input, I am identifying several kinds of books that I want to read. Please note that these make up the material I read for personal instruction and development, not pleasure reading. I also do a fair amount of reading for the fun of it, and I’m not as picky on that score.

So, here goes with some of the kinds of books I want to be sure to read in 2022.

1. Some old books

There is a richness, particularly in Christian literature, in the elder works that you don’t find today. Consequently, I have picked up Volume VI of The Works of John Owen, and I intend to power through his work, On the Mortification of Sin. The full title is ever much the slog that the text promises to be: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; the Necessity, Nature, and Means of It: with a Resolution of Sundry Cases of Conscience Thereunto Belonging. Thankfully, the text is not overly long. However, despite its anachronistic verbiage for today’s ears, several quotes I have read from Owen are so insightful, so deep that I am sure to benefit from the effort.

2. Some new works

God is continually blessing his Church with great writers and great writings. I have picked up a brand-new title from Paul David Tripp called Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life. I’m always on the lookout for those works that make systematic theology accessible to the average Christian reader. And Tripp is one of the better authors I’ve read recently. At a first glance, this doctrinal survey appears to be both instructive and pastoral, as I would expect from Tripp.

3. Something borrowed, something blue…(just kidding).

3. (for real) Some books I may not agree with

Back in the 70s when I was studying in Bible college, and then in the 80s, there arose an evangelical conflict over the idea of “Lordship Salvation.” This controversy was codified in the writings of Charles Ryrie and John MacArthur, standing on opposite sides of the question of what constitutes true faith in Christ. At the earliest time of this, I recall being somewhat put off by the incongruous idea that I could somehow “believe” Christ for eternal salvation and yet even be in open rebellion to him and still be saved, as one person claimed to me. Maybe that was a caricature. And as I further studied, I came to the same conclusions as many in a more Reformed camp, that the faith that saves alone is not alone, but is accompanied by works. To others, this is akin to being saved by works.

In response to this, I have picked up a book that holds to what is now called the Free Grace position – Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence by Fred R. Lybrand. At first glance, it appears to be an attempt at a well-reasoned argument. If I’m going to read something I might not agree with, I don’t want a mere polemic that creates strawman arguments to shoot down; I want something that takes my side seriously. This book appears to do that. It is my hope that by reading a different point of view, I will come to better understand the other side, detect blind spots in my own thoughts, and be equipped to answer objections to my theology. I don’t really expect to be convinced to abandon a theology honed and developed over the course of my life, but with God, you never know.

4. A biography

Two years ago, I read a fine biography on Martin Lloyd-Jones by Steven Lawson. It especially focused on his preaching, and it really helped me solidify some thoughts on the pulpit and those times when I have the chance to preach. This year, from the same series, I am going to read The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever. Sibbes was a Puritan pastor, and I hope to glean from his example some pastoral skills that will be relevant in this divided time. Biographies are of great encouragement in the Christian life. Just peruse Hebrews 11 to see the power of biography.

5. A call to action

As I said, we live in divided times. Even withing the local church, there are differing opinions on civic matters. As a church elder, I sometimes feel paralyzed to speak, for I know that while the message of the gospel transcends political and social lines, some of the implications of the gospel are divisive even within my congregation. Consequently, I have picked up the book, Compassion & Conviction: The AND CAMPAIGN’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement. I am hoping that it helps shape my voice and action.

There will be plenty of other books on the “To Read This Year” Shelf. But each of these categories is a little bit out of my comfort zone for various reasons. I’m looking forward to the enrichment.

One Word 2021

For the past 4 years, I have lead our leadership team in the One Word exercise. Coming from the book One Word that will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page, it’s the idea that you select one word to encapsulate your goals and aspirations for the year.

In the past, I’ve used “Press” with the thought of pressing into some new routines and pressing myself to do my best. The next year, my word was “Pilgrim” to remind myself that my journey is heavenward and I ought to live like it. Last year, I chose “Ezra” (I wrote about that here), based on Ezra 7:10 and focused on setting my heart to learn God’s word, to obey it, and to teach others.

Pour is my word for 2021

I am in transition this year, as my work at Chick-fil-A will be morphing from operational to consultative. Because I will start taking Social Security this year (amazing!), I will be able to cut my hours down and devote more time to writing and developing my platform. Because of these transitions, and because of the temptation to slack off and take it easy, “Pour” just seemed to be the right word.

“Pouring” is messy; it is indiscriminate. When I think of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, I think of how she wasn’t parsimonious with the perfume; she lavished it on Jesus so that the aroma filled the room. That’s how I want the pouring of my life to be.

Isaiah wrote, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (58:10). I love the imagery of giving oneself for the sake of others as a pouring, a generous bestowal to those in need.

Finally, since I’m not getting any younger, I think more about the end of my days. Some of the Apostle Paul’s last words were, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6). While I can’t say that the time of my departure has come, it’s much closer than ever, and I want to finish strong.

Therefore, I think of “pour” in 2021 in these aspirational ways:

-I will pour into all the endeavors of my life with enthusiasm, generosity, and liberality

-I will pour out myself on behalf of others

-I will be poured out by Almighty God, to be used and used up by him with nothing in reserve

-and thus be able to say, I have fought the fight, finished the race, kept the faith

-so help me God

Clearing clutter

by The Organization Man

I’ve been on a crusaSAMSUNGde to reduce the amount of physical clutter in my life.  Like most people, I’ve managed to collect quite a bit of stuff over the years.  Couple that with a major career change some five years ago, and I’ve found myself to have saved many things that I no longer use or need.

Six years ago, I was a teacher.  As such, I collected quite a bit of tools, books, and supplies befitting my trade.  Then, I was no longer a teacher. After all this time, I’m probably not going back to it. So much of my Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) is sitting here taking up space and benefitting no one.

As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve managed to compile some thoughts and observations that you might find enlightening.

There’s a difference between clutter and organization.

You would not find my basement storage area on a typical episode of “American Pickers;” it’s too neat. My stuff is neatly stored in plastic bins and boxes, neatly tucked away on metal shelving of just the right spacing and height. So it’s organized.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not clutter.  Clutter could be defined as any resource that you no longer use and is a drain on other resources. It takes up space. It might represent potential value if you sold it, which would allow you to access other resources if you choose to. If you have to do anything to maintain your clutter, it takes up time.

My organization was a smokescreen to my real problem. I was hoarding. And there’s a good reason for that.

Getting rid of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) is psychologically hard.

I’ve taken the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment.  One of my top 5 strengths is “Input.” This makes me a collector…of ideas, facts, quotations, and even physical objects. All of which I tend to view as having value. So keeping all these possessions quite simply arose from this very real strength in my psyche that sees all things, whether material or immaterial, as potentially useful.

I found myself viscerally torn as I began to choose to part with various pieces of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM). “I could use this!” I found myself saying. I recalled other times when I’d tossed something, only to find that I needed it later. Didn’t want that to happen again.

I had to change my way of thinking. Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) became simply…stuff.

Perhaps the fact that I tended to think of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) in a “trademark” sort of way led me into this hoarding, protectionist mode. I had to change my way of thinking. Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) became simply…stuff.  Stuff I no longer used or needed.  A friend said it well: it’s not worth the time or energy to keep it.

As I began to part with my stuff, I found…

It becomes self-rewarding to de-clutter. And easier.

The more I chose to part with clutter, the easier it became.  And I began to see the rewards for doing so. Every additional bin that was emptied, every load taken to the dump or to Goodwill, every piece given and received joyfully by someone else who could use it, every “one-man’s-junk-is-another-man’s-treasure” item sold on eBay…each of those occurrences was a feel-good pat on the back for someone who previously felt very conflicted to part with his possessions.

And so, it became easier.  Items that were earlier off-limits were now on the chopping block. “What else?” has become the battle cry. “Please stop giving us stuff!” has become the plea o20180224_213806f my extended family. Where once there was a certain anxiety, there is now peace and joy.

And to the person who bought a 12-year old empty Xbox 360 box from me for $25 (that’s right, just an empty carton!), my bank account thanks you.