Review: I’d Rather Be Reading

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading LifeI’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was wandering around a discount store’s book section and saw the enticing cover and title, “I’d Rather Be Reading”. I picked it up and was immediately attracted to it, but set it down. I have so many books I haven’t read, I shouldn’t buy another one. But in another part of the store, on an unrelated shelf, there it was again. Someone else had picked it up, carried it for a while, and in my imagination said, “I have too many books already, I shouldn’t buy another one.” But that’s when I changed my mind and bought it. The one word I can use to describe this book is “Delightful”. Yes, it’s in the subtitle, “The delights and dilemmas of the reading life”, but it is just true. I recommend it to all readers – of whatever genre – because you will find here a friend who knows why you pick up the next book to read.

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Dominant Thoughts

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These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. – Matthew 6:32, NLT

Wildfires. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Pandemic. Politics. The Taliban.

There’s a lot on our minds if we are watching what is happening in the world around us. It gets close to home with all of our various ways of trying to deal with COVID – or pretend COVID isn’t something with which to deal.

If you know me at all, you know I love the interactions, relationships, ability to share, and opportunities to encourage others on social media. The truth is that it is all becoming more a source of weariness than encouragement for me. It’s hard to know what to do about that. Social media is the main way we can keep up with friends and family across the miles. It seems like it has also become the main avenue of discouragement and disappointment with the world around me.

Sunday morning I was contemplating all of this before services. You know the preacher can’t be all down in the dumps on a Sunday morning! (A little bit of a smile there). So I decided to read Matthew 6 in the quietness of my office. I was reading the New Living Translation and verse 32 just hit me differently.

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. – Matthew 6:32, NLT

What is dominating my thoughts? The same things that the unbelievers are thinking about? More than thinking … worrying. These days I need to pray every day that God would help me refocus my thoughts away from the same things that unbelievers think about and onto the things to which He has called me.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33, NLT

A friend reminded me tonight of Paul’s admonition to think about the things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8). Good redirection.

I’m not advocating ignorance. I think we still have to be aware of what is going on around us – that informs our ministry efforts and fills our prayers. But what dominates our thinking? That’s the key issue. Honestly, I’ve experienced some times of sadness lately. In quiet moments as I realize the downward spiral of the world around us, I have found it hard to move on to something else. Paul did teach us, however, that “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The AMPC has it, “we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ…” Maybe the strategy is to identify the thoughts that are troubling us and leading them into the presence of Christ, where they are captive in His power and presence.

I’m just thinking about the kinds of things that have dominated my thoughts lately and how I want thoughts about Christ and His Kingdom to dominate over all. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. These are anxious times in which we live. God help us to let the Kingdom dominate our thoughts.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. – Psalm 139:23

What are your thoughts about how to lead your thoughts captive and not let discouragement dominate your thinking?

Jack Zorn

I do not know how many people are preaching today because of the influence of Jack Zorn, but I am one of them. Although I did not know Jack Zorn personally (we did meet, but I couldn’t claim to know him), the organization he originated gave me early confidence that I could be a preacher. Lads to Leaders engaged young men in the basics of making speeches, being mentored, and pursuing the practices that would help them grow in ability. At some point Lads to Leaderettes also attempted to instill leadership strength into the lives of young women.

Jack Zorn died at the age of 86 last week, as reported by The Christian Chronicle.

My memories of Lads to Leaders includes going to the church in Belle Chase to learn about the program, and I believe brother Jack was at that meeting. I remember men from the Luling Church of Christ taking an interest in helping me develop essential skills to make a speech. Men like Woody Wood, Dennis Dufrene, and Richard Travis (among others, I’m sure) kept encouraging me along. We had Sunday night services when we would all take a part in song leading, preaching, praying, etc. Richard took me to the Lions Club where I remember making a speech about why I was glad to be an American. In true LTL form, it was an acrostic. Those notes may still be in a file somewhere. And the LTL Convention was held in the Superdome one year and I made a speech. It was not on the 50 yard line, it was in a meeting room. But I can claim to have preached in the Superdome!

In more modern times LTL has taken some hits for the continued separation of boys and girls and the competitive nature of the program. Other leadership programs have developed as well. But all I can really say is that for decades now there have been young men being encouraged to preach and taught the basics. Whatever criticisms one might want to throw their way, LTL has been consistent, passionate, and effective in creating an interest in church leadership. That seems to be especially important these days as it seems to me that few young people are interested in committing to ministry, and few parents are encouraging it. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I hope so.

So, thanks brother Jack. How many voices in how many churches have proclaimed the name of Jesus because you encouraged them to preach? I am one.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

Free in Christ

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 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

The day I truly experienced freedom in Christ was the day that I realized that I wasn’t right about everything. More, I realized I couldn’t be right about everything because that would imply that I know everything. Even more, I realized that I was saved in a state of not being right about everything, I remained saved in a state of not being right about everything, and I will enter eternity not being right about everything.

For some time in my younger years I ministered under the weighty idea that being correct to a set number of Bible doctrines was how God knew He could save me. I blame no one for that because I can’t actually remember anyone specifically saying that to me. But I do remember the kinds of sermons that formulated that teaching in my heart. It didn’t occur to me that my faith family might have missed the mark on some things.

The truth is that even if I were right about every teaching found in the Bible, that fact could not save me.

That is the kind of enslaving dogma that sinks anyone who embraces it. The only true freedom we will ever find is in Christ. So, yes, we need to be right about someONE, not someTHING. New believers only know they need Jesus to save them. They hear the initial words of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. Following the teaching Jesus gives us, they learn of him and become disciples, are baptized, and learn more.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  – Matthew 28:19-20

It is the Christian’s privilege to grow in understanding throughout the rest of life. To be a disciple is to be a student who learns.

My goal in life is to become more enlightened about Jesus.

A few days before I was thirteen years old I was baptized into Christ. I believed. I learned. I obeyed. In my youthful obedience, my sins were washed away as I called upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). If I had perished that day, with all of my misconceptions, misunderstandings, immature comprehensions … I would be in the arms of Jesus.

Christianity has always been plagued by the people who insist you have to know the right answers to all the right questions – or else. Some want you to have the right experience or be filled with a certain feeling – that’s the only assurance!

My goal in life is to become more enlightened about Jesus. I can give you my opinion about a thousand doctrines, but I will not see you in heaven because of my amazing conclusions. Because some of them will likely be wrong, which I will discover as I keep on studying and learning.


Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

We can study and talk all day, delighting in the Scriptures and learning as we go. Freedom in Christ will only come, though, when we totally trust Him and not ourselves. It really is a journey to get to the place of totally trusting Jesus, and not ourselves, to save us.

Strong Prayer for Strong Faith

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I’m in a YouVersion Daily Plan with some men from our church. I love that we can read the same devotional and scriptures, interact with our thoughts, and develop the discipline of daily fellowship with God and one another. In one section of the reading was a reference to the spiritual armor found in Ephesians 6. It reminded me that I had written a prayer based on this text that I prayed daily for a long time. But somewhere along the way I didn’t any more. I think I’m missing some of the strength this prayer asks God to bring into our lives. So, in this post I’m revisiting this text, this prayer, and my desire to pray it often. Eight verses that shape a power-filled prayer life:

Ephesians 6:10-20 (NLT)

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Admission

I do not doubt for a minute that many Christians are trying to face up to a powerful enemy on their own strength – and failing miserably. I can speak from experience. It is only when we put on God’s armor that we are able to stand. This is a spiritual battle and it requires spiritual resources. Putting on God’s armor is not like putting on a metal suit, but it is a spiritual exercise for a spiritual battle. In an effort to bring to mind the spiritual armor of God and to engage in prayer, I have taken the Apostle Paul’s words and lightly formed them into a prayer for each day as we face a merciless enemy.

Prayer

God, I am calling out to You from the battlefield of my life. I face an enemy I cannot defeat on my own power. I must have Your help to overcome. I confess that only You have the strength to help, enable, empower me to stand against a smart and strong enemy who is working against me. In faith, I enter the battle with Your presence to equip and sustain me. I take up the FULL ARMOR of Your Strength so I can resist and stand.

I take up Your truth to see Your will clearly, unclouded by the enemy’s deception, to protect my mind.

I take up Your righteousness to protect my heart and impact my life and others, by living for You.

I take up an attitude of readiness to protect my will…to bring the Gospel of Peace to overcome in spiritual conflict.

I take up faith to protect my spirit so that the devil’s attacks can be extinguished.

I take up salvation to protect my soul so that I may find my confidence in Your ability and not mine.

I take up the Scriptures to advance your word, defeat every false way, and empower every struggling believer.

I pray these things with the Spirit … alert … persevering … interceding for others.

In the Powerful Name of Jesus, Amen.

Journal

In some of my earlier prayer journals I wrote this prayer and the Lord’s Prayer in the front cover. It was important to begin each session of prayer by acknowledging that without God’s help I can do nothing, but with His Son by our side, we can experience victory. Journaling reminds me to pray – to pray specifically – and to keep up with the requests for which I pray.

The Spiritual Armor of God is ESSENTIAL in the fight against our enemy, Satan. We can’t put it on like we do a new pair of shoes. Putting on God’s Armor is a spiritual exercise. Write it down. Say it out loud. Memorize it. Say it throughout the day. When it becomes a part of our way of thinking about spiritual things, then we are advancing forward in the battlefields in which we used to be defeated.

Thanks for reading.