God is Sovereign (Proverbs 16)

Pro 16:2-3, 9, 33 NKJV All the ways of a man [are] pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. (3) Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. … (9) A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. … (33) The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision [is] from the LORD.

Dear daughter, Often I’ve prayed and tried to tell the Lord what to do. One of the most humbling exercises I do from time to time is to read my old journals from the days before I dated your mother. I have the advantage now of flipping through and seeing days, weeks, and years pass by at the flip of the page. On one page I wrote out a prayer and I asked God to cause so-and-so to like me because I thought she’d make a great wife. Several pages later I wrote the same thing with a different girl’s name. The point is, I thought I had it all figured out and I was trying to tell God what to do, but the LORD didn’t need my help. He brought your mom into my life at the exact right moment.

There is beauty in affirming that God is sovereign. The LORD is in control and He knows what He is doing. When I had an infection in my heart, God was sovereign. When I was sick with covid-pneumonia, God was sovereign. The day I was born God was sovereign. The day I die, God will be sovereign. We may not understand sometimes why things work out the way they do. We may not grasp why some folks are healed and others die untimely deaths. There will be a lot of mysteries this side of Heaven I’m sure. But one thing is not a mystery, God is in control.

So we should pray and trust Him. Trust Him when His hand of providence greets us as we’d expect and hope. And trust Him when things don’t turn out as we’d dreamed. By his grace we’ll see why he let things fall the other way. We may not see it in this life, but we’ll see it one day none-the-less.

Father, thank you for the blessing of being a dad. I pray that my kids would know and love you. I am grateful that in the moments where we feel like life is the most out of control that we can rest in the confidence that you are in control. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Join us in reading a Proverb A Day through the Month of May (or any month you want)

Learn to Work Well (Proverbs 14)

Pro 14:1, 4, 23 NKJV The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands. … (4) Where no oxen [are], the trough [is] clean; But much increase [comes] by the strength of an ox. … (23) In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter [leads] only to poverty.

Dear Daughter, when I was in college I got used to the habit of cleaning my truck every weekend. I didn’t grow up in a family that cleaned out the vehicles very often. In fact my grandparents had several vehicles they just let go and didn’t maintain. So when they finally stopped running they were pushed to the side and a new vehicle was purchased. Their house looked like a junk yard. Reflecting back, my grandfather was probably clinically depressed and self medicating with alcohol.

The way I got started cleaning out my vehicle every weekend was thought a friend at college. He was cleaning out his car and asked if I wanted to clean out my truck to. He didn’t realize it, but by encouraging and teaching me this habit he probably rescued me from a cycle of depression as well. Because until that time I didn’t realize the value of maintaining the things that would maintain me. My friend used to always say, “take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you.”

There are many things in life that I pray you are blessed to take care of. Perhaps one day you will be blessed with a husband and family. There will be small thing you can do that will help you maintain and build your household. These same small things if neglected will tear your family apart. Its your responsibility to seek joy in doing the small things (like family prayer time, cleaning up, encouraging one another, taking time for gratitude, etc.) well. It won’t only be a blessing to those around you, it will bless you more than you know.

It’s a blessing to pick up toys, fold laundry, clean cars, power wash sidewalks, feed animals, clean up after animals, cut grass, clean house, make our beds, and all the other little things we do along the way. There is profit in it every time. Cleaning and maintaining a car demonstrates our gratitude for having a vehicle. Making the bed demonstrates our gratitude for having a bed.

Sharing my grandparents DNA I’m prone to fits of depression as well. I know that for some folks the issues are deeper than what I’ve faced and a chemical solution to a chemical problem might prove very helpful. But I’ve found that when I’m most prone to depression is when I let the small things go. So I’ve learned to be diligent about making my bed, cleaning out my vehicle on the weekend, etc. Doing these small things well has become an act of gratitude and worship for me, knowing that God had endorsed a healthy work ethic.

To be sure there are days we should rest (one in seven) but there are also days where we should work (six out of seven). I encourage you to work well to the glory of God.

Father, Thank you for the blessing of raising my children. I ask for wisdom for my wife and I in leading our children and guiding them. I pray that you would allow us the grace of finding our fulfillment in putting our hands to work in whatever ways you have called us to. I pray that my children will have a good work ethic and see the way to worship you in work six days a week and in rest one day a week. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Join us in reading a Proverb A Day through the Month of May (or any month you want)

Choose Your Words Carefully (Proverbs 10)

Pro 10:18-21 ESV The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. (19) When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (20) The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (21) The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.

Dear daughter, if you look closely my legs and hands are filled with tiny scars. Scars that I could have easily avoided. Most of them I don’t even remember. They started as something small like a splinter but they grew because of how I dealt with those smaller wounds. I was too afraid of the pain of having a splinter removed, so I would often hide them from my parents until they festered with infection. Hiding the splinters never got rid of them, it only made them worse. I needed to have the splinter removed to get better.

It’s the same way with hate. Denying that you hate someone in your heart doesn’t remove it. It only makes it fester and grow into a bigger wound called bitterness. Bitterness creates contempt and the original wound gets bigger and bigger not because of the actual offense, but because we haven’t dealt with it. Jesus reminds us that we shouldn’t hate from our heart but that we should deal quickly with our brothers offenses (Matthew 5:21-24).

Another way I got some of my scars is by overreacting to a small insect bite. I couldn’t stand the itching and so I’d scratch until I bled. Then I couldn’t stand the scab and so I’d pick at it making the hole in my skin bigger and bigger. My parents were always telling me to, “stop picking you scabs!” I know that sounds gross but some people do that with their words. Rather than leaving situations alone or letting people cool down, they step in and stir things up. They pick a side and open fresh wounds around them all because they don’t know how to control themselves or their emotions.

Some people are careful and wise with there speech. They seek to bring healing to those around them. They seek the truth of the matter and educate those around them. They help people with their words.

We all have mouths, but we don’t all know how to use them. You will have to decide if you will be a liar who conceals hatred in their heart, or someone who stirs up trouble in those around them with gossip, and slander or if you will be someone who educates and helps people around them. My prayer is that you will know when to hold your tongue and when to speak. That you will know when to stay silent and search out a matter and when to speak to benefit others.

Father, Thank you for the gift of raising my children. I pray today that you would watch over their lives and guard their hearts from hate. I pray that you would keep them from gossip. And that you’d bless them to be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Join us in reading a Proverb A Day through the Month of May (or any month you want)

How Anyone Can Read Two Books in One Week Without Adjusting Their Schedule

There are lots of good books out there and it can be difficult to find time to read. It can be especially challenging if you are a student and your plate is already loaded with assigned reading. Great books get published every month and it is easy to fall behind.

2 books a week

I found a great way to increase my reading volume to about two books a week without making any major adjustments to my schedule. I opted to use the time I was already doing something else to read. At first I took a book to the gym, but it was incredibly difficult to read while I was bouncing up and down on the treadmill.

Finally I found that the kindle app on my i-phone could read out loud to me while I read along with the screen. This worked great and It wasn’t as distracting as trying to read a regular paper book. With the Kindle app you are also able to highlight text, post to FB, send tweets, etc. I usually knock out an extra book per week via the kindle app on my iphone, the great thing is that it syncs across all my devices and even into the cloud so I can go back and see what I’ve highlighted.

I’ve used this method to read source books for a few of the papers I wrote for my masters degree. The best thing is that the kindle app is FREE on most smartphones, tablets, etc. and books are generally cheaper than buying in print.

Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

I also found audible, a book service that has audio books for reasonable prices for audio books. I like audible because someone is reading to you and the flow of the text sounds more natural. Of course the trade off is that you are listening to a book rather than reading it, but it’s still a great way to get a book in.

I grew up listening to books on tape when our family would take long drives in the car and so it wasn’t a big adjustment to sync with my phone and listen to a book while driving to and from work. Audible is a great resource for reading fiction or books that you don’t need for academic purposes. Audible always seems to be running deals for new members so if you’ve never subscribed to the service before you can usually get one or two free books out of the deal.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Of course there are other ways that I have streamlined my schedule to include more time to read. You can catch some of those ideas and tips over at my blog article entitled: If you Want to Be a Leader You Need to Be a Reader

Join Amazon Student FREE Two-Day Shipping for College Students

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Modern Day Pharisee

Someone I once respected as a Christian leader told me that he didn’t read his Bible every day. I was amazed. He said that for him it had become something to do, just checking off another box. I heard him speak and ridicule people who just “check the box” on reading their Bibles

I guess it made sense at the time. I was impressionable. So I too started to NOT read my Bible when I didn’t feel like it and I checked another boxthe box of being so spiritual that I would not allow myself to fall into the kind of legalism. I thought I had reached a whole new plain of Christianity, one that had all the buzzwords like “authentic.” I started to revel in my failures so people would know that I wasn’t perfect. I was… authentic. I wore my flaws with pride and flaunted the fact that I didn’t read the Bible every day, or really much at all anymore. I didn’t need to. I was… spiritual.

I became so jaded that I soon could sense the hypocrisy in everyone around me. People would say that they were praying for someone, but I knew in my heart that they were not sincere. I had developed the gift of sensing the hypocrisy of others. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite so I stopped praying for people or I would pray with them once on the spot and completely forget about them later. I was becoming so spiritual.

Then it happened. I read the Bible again one day and then the next. I realized that I wasn’t spiritual at all. My frustration with church and the hypocrisy around me was a projection of my own dry and barren soul on those around me. I had never really seen my brothers and sisters in Christ for who they were because I was so busy judging myself in them.

When I began reading the Bible again it was like a deep and refreshing drink of cold water on parched lips. It hurt, but it felt so good. It was what I needed. I had been without for so long. I had almost forgotten how life transformational the gospel really is. I had been living in a self-imposed dessert for too long.

And so now I check the box on reading the Bible every day, not because I am a legalist or a Pharisee. No, I did that quite well without reading the scripture. I go to the well of God’s word everyday now because I know how thirsty I really am and how much I need to hear from Him (even if I don’t feel like it). I’m convinced once again that “holiness” though it isn’t a buzz word is what God has called me to and I’m not as proud as I used to be of being “authentic” with my flaws.

Oh, I’m still flawed. But now I would rather boast in Christ through my failure than boast in my failure. It’s different now that I’m a recovering from being a Pharisee. I wish I never believed the lie that it was somehow spiritual to not use one of the very tools God has given us to grow. Sometimes the most dangerous lies to believe are the ones that Satan puts in the mouths of Christian leaders.

The Donkey Who Carried a King (Children’s Book Review)

the donkeyThe Donkey Who Carried a King written by R. C. Sproul and Illustrated by Chuck Groenink is a fantastic story for children and parents alike.  I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading it again and again to my son and daughter.  Dr. Sproul does a great job of taking something that kids are familiar with (like being picked last for a game) and pairing it up with a theme from Scripture (offering your best work no matter the circumstances… and of course the gospel).  Thus taking the readers along a journey from the common to the sacred.

The only draw back to this book verses the other R.C. Sproul Children’s books like The Prince’s Poison Cup, The Lightlings, and The Priest with Dirty Clothes is that the grace of the gospel comes abruptly at the end. The book seems to focus on the servanthood aspect of Christ’s ministry  The questions at the end help bear out more gospel grace reflections along with the many elements of service.

The Illustrations are amazing! The images are child friendly, compelling and illustrate the story beautifully. The use of passive light colors contrasted with darker hues of purple, and deep crimson really set the mood for what’s being described. There is enough in each section to keep my younger four year old looking at the pages while I’m reading, but not so much that he’s distracted from the story.

The Donkey Who Carried a King was a great read.  Perhaps the strongest aspect of the book was the parents section in the back.  Parents are given great questions to ask their kids and help draw the connections between the story they have just read and the scriptures.  We read lots of books at our house, but this element really seems to make this book especially useful.  I’ve noticed most all the children books published by Reformation Trust tend to have this element and its worth noticing the lengths the authors and publishers are going through to produce quality kids literature that goes beyond entertainment and into training and guidance.

Over all this was a fantastic book and I highly recommend it for parents with young children.The Donkey Who Carried a King is an excellent resource. The retail price is $16.00 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $13.60. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Trust Publishers as part of their Blog for a Free Book Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Have you been to JonathanHillOnline.com Yet?

Have you been to see JonathanHillOnline.com Yet? It’s the new home of the Hill House blog. I’ll be slowly moving all of these posts over to my new online presence. I’ve also been busy posting new articles, book reviews, etc. You can check out some of them below…

Be Sure and sign-up to receive email updates of New Blog posts over at JonathanHillOnline.com

 

The 100 Book Reading Challenge and How it Has Changed Me

For those of you following along, you know that I took up the challenge to read 100 books this past year.  I made my page number goal and then some but missed my book goal by 18.  Never-the-less I’m confident that I have read more in the past year than I have in any single year prior.

It’s difficult to asses all the changes that attempting such a goal has had on me.  Yet as I reflect on the past year and dream about the future I cannot help but notice that I have changed as a result of becoming a more disciplined reader. I am different than I was a year ago and here is how:

1. I don’t waste as much time (though I still have the ability).  I thought I was busy before and didn’t have enough time to read more, but I found out that by eliminating or reducing a few small pleasures (like late night TV, facebook stalking,  spending time with my wife and children… Ok! I was kidding on that last one.) that I have more time than I thought I did and can spend it in more productive ways like reading.

2. I’m a faster reader now. I didn’t set out to increase the rate at which I read or even comprehend what I read, but as a result of reading more often it just happened. I read faster now and comprehend better than I ever have (but I’m still not a speed reader by any stretch of the imagination).

3. I’m a more discerning reader.  I’ve learned that the quality of the books you read is more important than the quantity of books you read. My goal next year is not to read more books, but to read better books.

4. My Daughter is a better reader. She’s five and she’s advanced from just knowing the sounds that letters make to reading on a first grade level in the past year. (Technically if you count all the books I’ve read to her I’m well over double my 100 book goal.)

5. I’m actively and intentionally encouraging others to read. This past year I volunteered to mentor a couple of kids at our local junior high and have been impressed to see them start reading at and above their grade level. I’m also involved at my daughters elementary school helping her peers learn their sight words.

I’m sure I’ve changed in other ways as well. These are just the 5 that jumped out at me.  I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks about my goals for next year! And I’ve got some big ones.  How about you? What are you thinking about challenging yourself to next year?

 

If You want to be a Leader, you need to be a reader: how I find time to read two books a week.

I set out to read 100 books by the end of the year.  You can check my progress here.  Some people have come to ask… Where I find the time to read.

The short answer is while everyone else is watching TV… I’m reading.  Actually most of the time that I’m watching TV, I’m also reading a book.  I picked up the habit while in college and I was assigned 30 pages of reading every night for a literature class.  No one ever told me that it was strange to read all the assigned reading and so I read and I also watched TV with my roommates.  Somewhere along the way, I actually became decent at being able to navigate two narratives at once.

I also take a 15 minute lunch break 2 or 3 days a week depending on my schedule and read a chapter in a book while I eat the soup that I have brought with me to work. I’ve found that this is a great way to add 45 minutes to my work day (Normally I’d take an hour out to meet someone) and get in 15 minutes of reading.  I also read while doing other activities that require a minimal amount of response like cooking and brushing my teeth.  When all is said and done I get in about 1 to 2 hours reading each day. Most of it at night after I have put the kids to bed.

Bottom line.  If I spent as many hours reading as the average person spends watching television each year I would be able to read well over 100 books. Sometimes it is all about perspective and time management.  On occasion I’ve been criticized for reading too much. Yet, not many people would think much of me spending 2-4 hours a night watching television or cruising the internet.  What matters more to you?  The complete season of CSI or NCIS or the half dozen books you could read while one of these shows is on this season? Since I’ve never found anything of lasting value from watching episodes of CSI* I choose to have the TV on in the background and read about 50 -100 pages of a good book.

5 Tips for Becoming a More Disciplined Reader

So you haven’t done so well at finishing a book once you start.  Or you are a little sporadic in your reading.  Here are a few tips to help you become a more disciplined regular reader.  Whether you are reading a book a day or a book a year, hopefully these tips will help drive you further along in the process.

1. Set a realistic deadline.

I found the syllabus in college very helpful in providing a daily or weekly schedule of reading.  If you have trouble starting and finishing a book, why not take a few minutes, flip through the book you want to read and set out a realistic reading schedule.  Maybe a chapter a day or a chapter a week.  Figure out a deadline and work your way back from there.  When you find yourself getting behind, double up until you have caught up.

2. Read at a set time.

Maybe you have time in the morning before work or Tuesdays at Lunch or for an hour on the treadmill in the gym.  Find a time and place that work best for you and fit into your regular schedule and start reading.  Incorporate reading into your daily routine

3. Read good books.

Check out a few book reviews before you read a book.  See what other readers thought after reading the book.  Try and find both favorable and unfavorable  reviews to read.  Once you have found a good book that still piques your interest after reading the reviews… read it.

4. Don’t move on until you have finished.

If you are an undisciplined reader, don’t start a new book until you have finished the last book you were reading.  This will help you press on through the later chapters of the book once you have already been well introduced to the topic.  Otherwise you will end up with several half-read books.

5. Have a reading list at least 2 or 3 books deep.

This will motivate you to finish the book in front of you.   Go ahead and plan the next book or two out.  That way when things begin to lag, you will have an incentive to finish the book you are reading to get to the next book that you are highly interested in.