No Bounds for Spiritual and Gracious Appetites

Jonathan_Edwards

On Fridays, I am posting quotes from some of my favorite authors as a way to review golden nuggets of truth and keep them in the forefront of my own heart and mind throughout the year.

I also hope it serves you, as a reader of RevivingTheSoul, in offering comfort, encouragement, and strength for your own journey in the ups and downs of life on this side of heaven.

Today’s quote comes from the sermons and discourses of Jonathan Edwards in “The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 17, Sermons and Discourses, 1729) and “Sacrament Sermon on Canticles 5:1” as quoted by John Piper in his excellent book When I Don’t Desire God.

Edwards writes,

“Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites, {instead they ought] to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures… Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can’t be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value…[Therefore] endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement… There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.”

Attitudes Are Contagious

iStock_000011037137Contagious

I don’t know about you, but I personally had a rough start to the new year.

The first full week of January, I had the flu. I had taken a trip to Knoxville to attend a wedding, and as I returned home I was immediately confronted with a fever of 102, cold chills, a deep cough, and corresponding aches and pains all over my body. It was not my ideal way of attacking my new year’s goals.

When I returned to work a few days later, I discovered that several guys from my office had started the new year in a similar fashion (at home, laid up in bed, sick). The interesting thing I noted was that the sickness hit 4 people from our office at the exact same time.

We must have all been exposed together.

The Flu Isn’t The Only Thing That Is Communicable

Everyone knows that the flu is very infectious. It is easily transmitted by physical contact.

My oldest daughter instinctively scoots her chair away from any of her siblings who are sick because she doesn’t want to “catch” their illnesses.

Attitudes work in much the same way. They are contagious. They are easily transmitted from one to another.

That’s why it’s so important for us to monitor our own attitudes and to be cognizant of ways in which we are being influenced by others.

After one particularly challenging day this week, I vented my frustrations to my wife. She replied with a very convicting and helpful statement:

“When you come home and complain to me, it is contagious and tempts me to be grouchy with my circumstances and take it out on the kids.”

Ouch. Through my wife’s correction, I saw how my sinful attitude was infecting the whole family like a communicable disease. By the grace of God, I repented and asked her forgiveness. My attitude changed and my family was spared from a cycle of harm.

God’s Goodness Is of a Spreading Nature

In contrast to a destructive attitude, we have the wonderful opportunity to impart grace to those who hear our words (Eph. 4:29), and grace spreads.

Richard Sibbes has written that “God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness.”

“That is peculiar to God and to those that are led with the Spirit of God, that are like him; they have a communicative, diffusive goodness that loves to spread itself…God’s goodness is a spreading, imparting goodness” (The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume VI, page 113).

What I’ve discovered is that an environment that is saturated with criticism begets criticism. Others are critical toward you and your knee jerk reaction is to then find fault in them. Before you know it you are “biting and devouring one another” (Galatians 5:15).

If we are not careful and we spread criticism, fault-finding, back-biting, complaining, and a culture of put-downs, we’ll end up spreading destruction. Attitudes are contagious and “a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

On the other hand, we can look to our gracious God and spread his goodness and glory to those we interact with.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Exodus 33:18-19, ESV)

I am so grateful that God has revealed Himself as a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness! (Exodus 34:6)

As we meditate on how merciful and gracious He is toward us, how can we not spread His grace and goodness to others?

God’s mercy and His grace are contagious.

O Lord, please work in us what is pleasing in your sight and make us more like You, for the good of Your people and the glory of Your Great Name!

How to Find More Time to Read

iStock_000028155448Time to Read

Sometimes I’m envious of my kids and how much time they have to read.

Yesterday, my wife took our children to the Library, a weekly ritual of hers, and they returned with a huge stack of books. Each one immediately set off to a quiet place to read and devour what he/she had received. They were occupied for hours, and I know it won’t be long before they all make their way through every bit of their reading material and will be begging for another Library trip.

It’s a lot harder for me to find time to read. In fact, in this season of life, I have to fight hard for it. I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones sentiment, as John Piper describes it, that “the fight to find time to read is a fight for one’s life.” Piper states,

“I, for one, am not a self-replenishing spring. My bucket leaks, even when it is not pouring. My spirit does not revive on the run. Without time of unhurried reading and reflection, beyond the press of sermon preparation, my soul shrinks, and the specter of ministerial death rises. Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.” John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, page 66.

Here Are Some Ways I Am Fighting To Find Time To Read:

    1. Plan Time To Read. You would think that if you value something so much, that you wouldn’t have to be disciplined about it. But that’s not the case for me. With the regular demands of family life, work, and church-related responsibilities, reading time does not come naturally. I have to literally plan time to read. I have found that I do my best reading and thinking in the morning hours between 5-8am, before the rest of the family is fully active. I have some very good friends who think better at night, and they use their late-night hours to read. The important thing for me has been to find a time that works best for me, and to establish a rhythm and routine of reading.

    2. Take a 20/20/20 Approach. If I wait for large-chunks of time to appear before I crack open a book, I may be waiting for a long time. However, even in the busiest of seasons, I find that I can usually carve out 3 separate 20-minute time-slots to read each day, for a total of an hour a day. I do this by reading for 20-minutes in the mornings before going to work. I can then utilize my commute (20 minutes round-trip) to listen to an audio book or sermon series. Finally, in the evening, I can read for 20 minutes before going to bed. Evening reading is the hardest for me because I tend to fall asleep, so I prefer more time in the morning.

    3. Cultivate a Love for Reading in the Home. If everyone is occupied with a book, it’s so much easier for me to be occupied with a book. Some of my favorite times are when the entire family is curled up on the couch reading separately. (This should get easier as the kids get older). My wife and I try to cultivate a love for reading in the home, first by example and then by regular trips to the Library or Bookstore, by discussing what we have read at the dinner table, and by reading together in the evenings.

    4. Utilize Weekends and Vacations To Read. Weekends and vacations provide a wonderful time for us to rest through reading. Here you have large chunks of time that the hustle of regular weekdays does not provide. It’s fun for us to think ahead and plan for what books we want to enjoy or tackle over a vacation. God has met me in profound ways through reading as a means of grace in these times of extended reflection.

    5. Be Creative and Enjoy It. I have a friend who listens to audio books while he travels. Because he has a good bit of travel time for his work, he said he is able to listen to a book a week, on average. That’s 52 books a year consumed during travel time that could otherwise be easily wasted! Taking this approach, I recently set up a speaker system in my bathroom to enable me to listen to audio books while getting ready for work in the morning. Using my iPhone, I can continue listening to the same material while I commute and when I exercise. I’ve found that doing this often affords me the opportunity to consume an extra hour a day of reading material, while making other mundane activities more enjoyable.

    6. Give Up Something Else. Finding more time to read may mean that we have to sacrifice something. It may mean that we turn the TV off by 9 or 10pm. It may mean that we limit our time online. Personally, I didn’t join FaceBook until 2011 and only joined Twitter in 2013. I enjoy them both. I’m also amazed at how much time those two sites can suck from you, if you are not careful. I can no longer use the excuse that I don’t have 20 minutes to read, because I know for certain that FaceBook and Twitter take at least 20 minutes of my day, each day.

Again, it is a fight to find time to read. And it’s a fight that’s certainly worth our attention and effort!

How do you find time in your busy schedule to read?