Expository Thoughts On The Gospels (book review)

J.C. Ryle was an Evangelical Anglican bishop who lived in England in the latter half of the 19th century. When Ryle’s words—written over 100 years ago—still resound with truth today, I would call that “a classic”! That is exactly what we find in his Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. 

The Gospels obviously focus on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Ryle takes how Jesus lived and taught and pulls out of them practical applications for Christians in his day, which still have perfect application for Christians today. I think what keeps his words so relevant is how closely he sticks with the biblical texts, seldom straying into his own opinion, but simply saying to us, “Did you see that?” 

His thoughts are presented to us section-by-section, not verse-by-verse as many biblical commentators do. This method has two distinct advantages for us: (1) It’s easier to get a “big picture” view of what Jesus was doing and teaching, and (2) It’s more manageable to use this book as a complement to a personal or group Bible study. 

In fact, Ryle himself suggested that the design of his commentary was with family devotions in mind. Purposely, he doesn’t delve into deep doctrine so that the youngest or most novice of Christians can gain much insight. But don’t confuse that statement with this being “light reading.” On the contrary, even the most tenured Christian will find ample thoughts to challenge his mind. 

I highly recommend this series of commentaries to those who want a deeper Bible study time.  

12 Quotes From “The Strenuous Life”

Teddy Roosevelt believed firmly that a nation rose or fell as individuals exercised strong character or lived a slothful life. He not only preached it, he lived it! The Strenuous Life is a collect of TR’s speeches that emphasized what he called “the manly characters.” Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life.” 

“A man’s first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation’s first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.” 

“If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.” 

“Scant attention is paid to the weakling or the coward who babbles of peace; but due heed is given to the strong man with sword girt on thigh who preaches peace, not from ignoble motives, not from fear or distrust of his own powers, but from a deep sense of moral obligation.” 

“Strive manfully for righteousness, and strive so as to make your efforts for good count.” 

“We are in honor bound to put into practice what we preach; to remember that we are not to be excused if we do not; and that in the last resort no material prosperity, no business acumen, no intellectual development of any kind, can atone in the life of a nation for the lack of the fundamental qualities of courage, honesty, and common sense.” 

“If a man permits largeness of heart to degenerate into softness of head, he inevitably becomes a nuisance in any relation of life. If sympathy becomes distorted and morbid, it hampers instead of helping the effort toward social betterment.” 

“The quality of self-help is so splendid a quality that nothing can compensate for its loss; yet, like every virtue, it can be twisted into a fault, and it becomes a fault if carried to the point of cold-hearted arrogance, of inability to understand that now and then the strongest may be in need of aid, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, the strong should always be glad of the chance in turn to aid the weak.” 

“The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of ‘harmless,’ it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.” 

“The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses or defeats.” 

“Softness of heart is an admirable quality, but when it extends its area until it also becomes softness of head, its results are anything but admirable.” 

“A man is worthless unless he has in him a lofty devotion to an ideal, and he is worthless also unless he strives to realize this ideal by practical methods. He must promise, both to himself and to others, only what he can perform; but what really can be performed he must promise, and such promise he must at all hazards make good.” 

More quotes from TR are coming soon, so stay tuned! 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Lifelong Learning (Proverbs 30)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Surely I am more stupid than any man… (Proverbs 30:2).

That’s what he said, and then Agur records some incredibly wise words for us! I think Agur is a man who is continually learning, and realizing how little he knew before he learned something new. 

He’s learning things like…

…how vast, and powerful, and wise God is (vv. 3-6).

…how frail and dependent on God he is (vv. 7-9). 

…how disrespectful people undermine their own success and happiness (vv. 10-14, 17).

…how destructive greed is (vv. 15, 16).

…how wonderfully God has made things (vv. 18, 19).

…how sin deceives (vv. 20-23). 

…how observing even the littlest of things can teach big lessons ( vv. 24-28).

…how boastful proud people are (vv. 29-33). 

What lessons are you learning? 

When was the last time you learned something new? 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 23

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 23

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 23.] 

     If the preaching of a servant of God does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better. At sometime or other all of us have had a detestation of being better. The rage produced by being faced with a life which in reality is better than our own, awakens either a desire to be like it, or else hatred without cause against that life. “They hated Me without a cause,” said Jesus. …  

     God makes His Word living by speaking it to you. There is a feeling of deep settled peace when the Holy Ghost brings a word, full of light and illumination, you know better than you can express, “The Lord said that to me.” …

     The Bible student must be careful to distinguish between the speculations of his own heart and the Word of God. … Be simple and obedient, and the Word of God will open to you as naturally as breathing. …  

     In reading God’s Word be careful of being guided by affinities instead of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us face facts for which we have no affinity. …

     Never ridicule the way in which people say God guides them; all you know is that God does not guide you like that, but never ridicule. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is contrasting true and false prophets. In order for us to distinguish the true from the false today, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. Don’t get God’s Word solely from a man’s or woman’s preaching (although that does have its place), but be a student of the Word for yourself. 

God wants to speak to you through His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the biblical authors wants to illuminate that Word to your specific life and situation. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.  

Saturday In The Proverbs—The Best Things Are Hard, But Rewarding (Proverbs 25)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Good things—the best of things—usually require hard work. They don’t just come to us but we have to discover them. However, the good things are always worth the effort!

Things like:

  • Revelation, insight, new discoveries (vv. 2-3)
  • Righteousness (vv. 4-5)
  • Recognition (vv. 6-7)
  • Quality relationships (vv. 8-10)
  • A timely word (vv. 11-13, 25)
  • Good gifts (vv. 14, 21-22)
  • Confrontation that leads to restoration (v. 15)
  • Temperance (v. 16)

The opposite is also true: cutting corners, looking for the quick fix, and not considering long-term consequences bring pain. Things like:

  • Frayed relationships (vv. 17, 20, 24)
  • Provoking anger in others (vv. 18, 23)
  • Distrust (vv. 19, 26)
  • Self-promotion that rankles others (v. 27)
  • Lack of self-control that leads to destruction (v. 28)

Good things are hard, but they’re so worth the effort! 

12 Quotes From “Developing The Leader Within You 2.0”

Whether you’re a novice or a veteran leader, there’s so much to learn from John Maxwell in his book Developing The Leader Within You 2.0! Check out my full book review by clicking here, and stay tuned for even more quotes coming soon. 

“Developing yourself to become the leader you have the potential to be will change everything for you. It will add to your effectiveness, subtract from your weaknesses, divide your workload, and multiply your impact.” 

“You have influence in this world, but realizing your potential as a leader is your responsibility. If you put effort into developing yourself as a leader, you have the potential to influence more people and to do so in more significant ways.” 

“When you say everything is a high priority, then nothing is a high priority. It really indicates that you’re unwilling or unable to make a decision, which means you won’t get anything done.” 

“Instead of filling every space in my calendar, what I needed to do was create some white space. If I didn’t, nobody else was going to. People who keep burning the candle at both ends aren’t as bright as they think they are.”

“People cannot climb beyond the limitations of their character. Leaders cannot succeed beyond the depth of their character.” 

“Instead of wanting to point to my breakthroughs, I want to direct people to the brokenness that has led to my breakthroughs.” 

“When it comes to character, I believe the best guardrails are the decisions you make before you face high-pressure situations.” 

“People do not naturally resist change; they resist being changed.” 

“If life is tough for individuals, its difficulty is multiplied for leaders. Individuals can think me, but leaders must think we. A leader’s life is not his or her own. Thinking we means other people are included, and that means their problems are also yours to deal with.” 

“You can’t solve problems for others. If you do, you’ll be forever solving their problems. You must solve problems with them—at least until they get the hang of it.” 

“Good leaders don’t just resolve the issue to get it off their plates quickly for the sake of their own comfort. They help create solutions that take their people and their organization forward and put them in a better position than they were in before they experienced the problem.” 

“As a leader, you need to see opportunities differently than most people. They are a chance for you to learn about yourself, your team, and your opportunities. They provide you a way to improve your own life, improve the lives of others, and gaining influence.”

Developing The Leader Within You 2.0 (book review)

I not only read John Maxwell’s Developing The Leader Within You for myself many years ago, but I have used the content from this book in numerous teaching settings. When I heard that a 25th-anniversary edition of the book was being published, I originally thought of young people to whom I could introduce this helpful book. 

But I was totally blown away to discover that although Dr. Maxwell had promised his publisher that he would revise 15 percent of the book, he actually revised 89 percent of the book! So not only am I excited to get this book in front of people who haven’t read it previously, I’m also encouraging those who read the first edition to get a copy of Developing The Leader Within You 2.0.

In leadership it’s quite simple—you cannot teach accurately what you haven’t internalized yourself, or else risk being called a hypocrite. So any leadership teaching must start with the leader being educated and expanded as a leader himself or herself. I can think of no better resource on the market than this book. 

In typical fashion, Dr. Maxwell masterfully weaves together leadership principles, supporting quotes, transparently personal stories of how he has—sometimes painfully—learned the principles he is teaching, historical and contemporary examples of those who followed or violated these principles, and up-to-date findings from researchers and other front-lines leaders. 

Bottom line: this is a book that is loaded with content but is also very easy to read and apply. At the end of each chapter, you will find some very helpful application ideas for each of the ten principles Dr. Maxwell presents in this book. 

If you’ve already read 1.0, I encourage you to get a copy of 2.0. John Maxwell has learned so much since the first edition and he liberally shares it with us here. 

And if you’re an emerging leader, or simply want to take your leadership to a higher level, this is an excellent foundational book for you to digest and apply.

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