About 15+ years ago a bit of a change in my mindset took place when it came to development as a missionary pastor. We were still serving in Brno, Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic) in our first church plant and I came to the realization that I needed to be more intentional with my reading list...about what I read and how frequent as well.
From then on I always had an article or book that I was reading or readily available. Whether it was devotional, theological, or practical-ministry oriented, I had one either in-hand or at-hand for those times when I was on working or on a trip for work. I found I was frequently traveling by train/bus ride to and from Brno to Prague or to Ostrava. There were times of waiting at a doctor's office or picking up kids from school, or even waiting for a mentoring meeting having arrived early to get a table or staying late to meet with another of the men I was mentoring, etc.)
Whatever the situation, I was going to boost my reading efforst and touch on numerous authors, some of whom I had been instructed, by influential men in my life, to stay away from and never read. So, I was reading, Sproul, MacArthur, Lloyd-Jones and Boice for really the first time. I was also reading Puritan and Reformed authors such as John Bunyan, John Owen, Richard Baxter, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
It was a very growing time for me even while serving on a crucial church planting work. At one time too the Lord had us working in Brno with both an established church AND on our church plant. Now that was a loaded year of ministry and overwhelming at times. I do believe, however, the Lord's obvious fruit for all of that was bolstered by the fact that he had us spending good amounts of time in His Word and reading from solid new sources for our walk of faith and ministry.
I still take mini-excursions of reading the Puritan authors and I have just started a new one this last week. His name was Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) and his collected "Works" has been edited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones into the small, but powerful book, "A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin". Goodwin was one of those pastor-preacher-theologians who, according to Dr. Beeke, was obscured a bit due to the events of the mid 1600s in England when Puritans or Non-conformists were exiled from the Church and from higher learning.
Dr. Beeke further states that Goodwin is known as "the Atlas of Independency" and rivaled the great Puritan John Owen in his abilities with exegesis and preaching. His "Works" influenced many great men such as Edwards, Whitefield, Cotton, Gill and Whyte. Alexander Whyte called Goodwin "the greatest pulpit exegete (read expository preacher) of Paul that has ever lived" and said that Goodwin's sermon "Christ Dwelling in Our Hearts by Faith", is one of the "two very greatest sermons in the English Language".
If you desire a good read for a mini-excursion or as our good friends in Australia might call it, a "mini-walkabout", then find a copy of this small but impactful book. I received it from the Shepherds’ Conference on our last furlough.
Goodwin wrote this in his "Works"...
"The Indwelling of Christ by faith...is to have Jesus Christ continually in one's eye, a habitual sight of Him. I call it so because a man actually does not always think of Christ; but as a man does not look up to the sun continually, yet he sees the light of it...So you should carry along and bear along in your eye the sight and knowledge of Christ, so that at least a presence of Him accompanies you, which faith makes."
Dr. Beeke writes in this book's beginning that "the watchword at the time of the Reformation" and for a century later "was ad fontes – ‘back to the sources’ – so it is now: the way forward is backward". He goes on to state, "We need to go back to the spiritual heritage of Reformed Evangelicalism to find the pathway foreward. We cannot live in the past; to attempt to do so would be antiquarianism. But our Reformed fore-bearers in the faith can teach us much about Christianity, its doctrines, its passions, and its fruit.
I pray the Lord will richly bless you as you read His Word and perhaps by reading men of God who have learned and written before us about the important subjects that move us towards a deeper understanding of God's sovereignty in all things. It truly is as we keep our eye habitually on Jesus, that we will find a greater degree of growth and faith as we serve Him. This is the way forward as we live “coram Deo”…”Before the face of God”!
PS - click on the book below to go to Amazon.com and read more, perhaps purchase for yourself.
Robert Thomas Clark, M.Div.
Follower of Christ