Optimize Your Commute

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Years from now, historians will look back at our day and observe — among other things — the disproportionate amount of time we spent commuting to work. I’m blessed with a commute that is only about 15 minutes each way, but I know many whose daily traverse eats up hours each day. I’ve recently been convicted that these hours should not be squandered away, but can and should be exploited. Your morning commute can become a very productive part of your daily routine.

Here are a few suggestions for improving your commute:

1. Listen to Audiobooks

If you’re like me, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything you want to. I’ve started taking advantage of several inexpensive (and even free) ways to listen to great books. I once listened to half of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the drive into the mountains. Another time, I listened to Dostoevsky’s 800-page classic The Brother’s Karamozov in about three weeks during my daily commute.

Most public libraries now have audiobooks on CD you can check out for free. I’ve recently discovered the iPhone app OverDrive that allows users to check out and download audiobooks to their phones and listen for 21 days. The biggest selection of audiobooks is at Audible. They offer audiobooks with a no-hassle return policy. I buy 12 credits every year.

2. Listen to Podcasts, Sermons, Classes, and Teachings

I also regularly use my iPod to listen to sermons, teachings, courses, and podcasts that are specific to areas in which I want to grow. You can use your commute to sharpen yourself vocationally and socially, as well as spiritually. Consider areas of your life you’d like to grow, and look for resources you might be able to listen to. Personally, I’m always looking for wisdom on interpersonal communication, leadership, teaching, and writing, and I have discovered several great resources.

3. Listen to Scripture

Keep an Audio Bible in your car and listen to the Scriptures. I prefer the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible. This has been a great aide to my study and teaching. I was once teaching a class on James at church and listened to the book upwards of 20 times as part of my preparation. It was a pretty easy way to become very familiar with the book. I recently committed to a focused study of the Prophets. I’m going to start it by listening through a few times. Reading through the Prophets feels daunting. Listening to them feels much less daunting.

4. Some Time Praying

The daily commute can be a good time to pray for your day. I spend many mornings praying over my deadlines and projects. It’s amazing how quickly prayer can disarm worries and anxieties. Many blog ideas and solutions to problems I’m dealing with have come to me during a prayerful commute. Coincidence? I think not. (Disclaimer: Boundless strongly recommends driving with your eyes open.)

5. Spend Time in Silence

As a general rule, our lives are too noisy. Some avoid the uneasiness of silence altogether, but we are wise to remember silence has long been considered a valuable spiritual discipline. I don’t do silence well or as frequently as I should. But I do recognize that regular times of silence are beneficial. Take a morning once and a while, and spend a portion of your commute in silence.

There are certainly other productive ways to optimize your commute, but most will find a little intentionality goes a long way. If there are audiobooks, podcasts, sermons, classes or other resources you’ve recently benefited from, please recommend them below. I’m always looking for new resources to add to my own commute queue.

Haddon Robinson on Reading

Beloved preacher and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson writes on the importance of reading for ministers of the gospel:

Among the last words Paul wrote were in a letter to his young friend Timothy. “When you come,” he asked, “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). The apostle was an old man facing death at the hands of the emperor. He was chained in a drafty dungeon in the city of Rome. He needed his cloak to keep the chill off his bones, but he needed his books and parchments to keep the rust off his mind.

Charles Spurgeon took a lead from these words when he observed, “Even an apostle must read. He is inspired and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord and yet he wants books…. He has been caught up in the third heaven, and he had heard things which it is unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books. He had written a major part of the New Testament and yet he wants books.” Paul had no more sermons to prepare and no more books or letters to write, but he needed to keep on reading. Even though life was running out on him, Paul needed books.

Ministers must read. We are required to read not as a luxury but as a necessity. We cannot go it alone. Our study of the Bible is enriched by the insights of scholars who have studied particular sections of the Bible more than we have. Only the lazy or stupid ignore the use of commentaries in their preparation. But we should also open our minds to wider vistas through reading books that are not sermon direct.

Working ministers cannot make this broader reading a top priority, but it can be done. Determine to read 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do that for 50 weeks, and you will have read 125 hours in a year. If you read 30 pages an hour, you will have read over 3,750 pages a year. If you keep up that pace for ten years, you will have read more than 150 books of 250 pages. If those books were well chosen, you could become an authority in any field. As the venerable adage puts it: “Constancy surprises the world by its conquests.”

If you have a book in your hand, you are never alone, and reading enables you to have continued education without having to pay tuition.

J.I. Packer: The Cross and the Destiny of Those Who Reject God

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“Think … of the destiny of those who reject God.

Universalists suppose that the class of people mentioned in this heading will ultimately have no members, but the Bible indicates otherwise. Decisions made in this life will have eternal consequences. “Do not be deceived” (as you would be if you listened to the universalists), “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7). Those who in this life reject God will forever be rejected by God. Universalism is the doctrine that, among others, Judas will be saved, but Jesus did not think he would. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21) How could Jesus have spoken those last words if he had expected Judas finally to be saved?

Some, then face an eternity of rejectedness. How can we understand what they will bring on themselves? We cannot, of course, form an adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross.

On the cross, God judged our sins in the person of his Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God’s judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that he had before: all sense of his Father’s presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from him, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness.

The physical pain, though great (for crucifixion remains the cruelest form of judicial execution that the world has ever known), was yet only a small part of the story; Jesus’ chief sufferings were mental and spiritual, and what was packed into less than four hundred minutes was an eternity of agony – agony such that each minute was an eternity in itself, as mental sufferers know that individual minutes can be.

So, too, those who reject God face the prospect of losing all good, and the best way to form an idea of eternal death is to dwell on this thought. In ordinary life, we never notice how much good we enjoy through God’s common grace till it is taken from us. We never value health, or steady circumstances, or friendship and respect from others, as we should till we have lost them. Calvary shows that under the final judgment of God nothing that one has valued, or could value, nothing that one can call good, remains to one. It is a terrible thought, but the reality, we may be sure, is more terrible yet. “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” God help us learn this lesson, which the spectacle of propitiation through penal substitution on the cross teaches so clearly; and may each of us be found in Christ, our sins covered by his blood, at the last.”

(J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 194-195)

The Innkeeper: A Christmas Poem by John Piper

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Don’t miss this powerful reading by John Piper of his poem, The Innkeeper. Westminster Bookstore is selling beautifully illustrated hard copies 50% off for a limited time, making it is $10 instead of $20. Reading it might make a great new Christmas tradition for your family.

J.C. Ryle & J.I. Packer on Holiness

Few things are as important and daunting as personal holiness. Doubts as to whether its even possible to be holy this side of glory and the promise that Christ will one day make his followers holy anyway have stagnated this pursuit in most.

In 1877, Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle wrote what would become a classic on holiness. A few years ago Crossway released a fresh version of this great work with a brief biography by J.I. Packer. As the publisher explains,

Packer aims to open up the life of this godly man for a contemporary audience. Readers new to Ryle’s work will especially benefit from a first encounter with his essay on holiness.

I’m chewing my way through this work this summer and am benefiting from this classic wisdom. I’m hoping many join me in gleaning from this classic work.

Ten Books Every Christian Should Read

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I was recently asked to compile a list of the 10 books every Christian should read. It was tough to pick only ten, but I boiled it down to these books that have been the books I believe have influenced me the most.

1. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

2. Desiring God by John Piper

3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

5. The Glory of Christ by John Owen

6. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

7. The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre

8. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

9. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

10. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What books would you add to this list?

Why Buy a Bible with No Study Notes?

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Are you in the market for a new Bible? If so, you might want to sit down. There are a lot of options out there. You could go with the popular ESV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible or the Literary Study Bible or the MacArthur Study Bible (although, I think he just wrote the notes) or the Apologetics Study Bible or the Woman’s Bible or the One Year Bible or Amplified Bible or the classic Ryrie Study Bible or the Journaling Bible or the Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible or the Outreach Bible or the Life Discovery Bible or the Life Application Study Bible or the Key Word Study Bible. And that’s just some of the adult Bibles out there. I didn’t even list the ones they make for students and kids.

It’s amazing the variety of Bibles available for purchase. I recently purchased a plain old ESV Classic Reference Bible. No frills, no study notes, just the biblical text. My choice was more than a mere avoidance of the seemingly impossible choices created by the above. It was strategic.

One of the goals of my life is to immerse myself in the Bible as much as possible. I want to read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, live it and teach it to others. I’ve been using Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System for a couple years now. I love that the Horner’s plan balances my daily intake of the Bible. It’s forgiving if you miss a couple days (or weeks) and it let’s you read some sections more frequently.

For example, I read through Proverbs and Acts once every month, the Gospels and the rest of the NT about four times a year, the wisdom literature and Psalms twice and the historical/prophetic books at least once. In each of these sections, I read just a chapter a day. I agree all Scripture is beneficial, but there are some sections I want to read more frequently. Horner’s plan let’s me customize what I really want to focus on at given times throughout my life.

That being said, I’ve noticed my study bibles are not good for this plan. They are big and bulky. They take up lots of space with introductions, articles, illustrations and notes. These are all great for study but slow me down when I’m reading. I just want the text when I’m reading. The ESV Classic Reference Bible is perfect for this.

I’ve also decided this will be a kinda legacy Bible for me. I’m going to track how many times I read through it over the next years and, Lord willing, one day pass it on to a child or grandchild. I want them to know that I loved God’s Word and read it a lot. I want to show it to them and tell them this book has been God’s regular communication into my life. I want it to lay open on my desk in the hour of my death, worn out from years and years of use, but dust free.

I admit if felt weird buying a Bible without all the bells and whistles, but sometimes to see the Bible’s bells and whistles, you have to ignore some other bells and whistles. For my daily reading, just give me the text!

The Secret Key to Heaven (Thomas Brooks)

Last week, I bought a copy of Thomas Brooks’ The Secret Key To Heaven.

 

I admit I do have an affinity for the Puritans. If people are looking for me in heaven, I ‘ll probably have slipped into some Puritan family reunion somewhere.  I used to try to write entire seminary papers, citing only the Puritan writers, which might be why my contemporary worship paper didn’t make any sense…

I’ve been devouring this book on prayer! Brooks basically writes on one verse Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

He argues meticulously that secret prayer (or closet prayer) is one of the most important habits a Christian can cultivate. I’ve been greatly challenged and thankful that Thomas Brooks could walk me through how and why to increase in this “duty”.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“…nothing glorifies Christ more, nor exalts him more, than secret prayer”

“there is not a great hindrance to closet prayer than sloth and idleness”

“If there be any way or means on earth to bring us upon our knees before God in secret, it is the serious and solemn thoughts of eternity.”

“In all the ages of the world, the saints have kept up secret prayer. In spite of all opposers and persecutors, in prisons, in dungeons, in dens, in chains, on racks, in banishments, and in the very flames – the saints have still kept up this secret prayer. A Christian can as well…hear without ears, and live without food, and fight without hands, and walk without feet – as he is able to live without secret prayer!”

I highly recommend this Puritan classic. Like most Puritan works, it’s hours of chewing that leads to years and years of growth.