Volume. XXXV, No. 15
Sunday, 11 October 2020

From the Pastor’s Heart: Educate Your Mind (3)

I have a bad habit of reading a few books at the same time, something I should avoid; and these books are not related in subject.  It detracts from understanding and keeps me from attaining perfection in any one subject of study.  It may seem slow but to study one subject at a time is a better strategy for better reading.  In fact, German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher had this bad reading habit.  He read books on wide-ranging and impressive but unsystematic subjects.  He later said that his reading was, “like chaos before the world was created.”  Thus:

First, reading should be well organised and systematic.  Jefferson advised his young nephew to organise systematic reading around chronology.  He said, “having laid down your plan [of reading], the order of time will be your sufficient guide” (“Education of a Future Son-in-Law”).  In other words, read books in the order in which they were written.  Lydia Sigourney agreed in her Letters to Young Ladies, that chronological reading was a good way to read books.  She said, “good reading should be done with the help of a table of chronology… It is a good practice to fix in the memory some important eras – the subversion of an empire, for instance – and then ascertain what events were taking place in all other nations, at the same period of time.  A few of these parallels, running through the History of the World, will collect rich clusters of knowledge, and arrange them in the conservatory of the mind” (5th ed, New York: harper & Brothers, 1839, 138). 

Second, reading requires time.  Any reading plan should not begin with a list of fantastic books but with finding time in which we can devote ourselves to “thought rather than to activity.”  Therefore, anyone who wants to teach himself/herself must set a time for it.  Everyone may have different time preferences.  However, in general, morning is better than evening.  Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew Thomas Mann Randolph Jr, “Particularly after dinner it should be applied to lighter occupations.”   In most cases, though there may be individuals’ different preferences according to their work schedules, it is usually the case that late evening is far from ideal for the project of reading seriously. It has been generally suggested that it is far better to spend thirty minutes reading before breakfast than to devote two hours to it in the evening.  We may want to listen to Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice, “early to bed and early to rise.” 

Third, reading needs a humble beginning.  When we make any plan, we tend to make it accommodate our ideals for maximum result.  Thus, plans become grander, but they are short-lived, and we fail to follow through with them.  We are discouraged and this mistake repeats itself.  I would not make a big plan but small ones, like allocating short periods of time for reading. 

Some years ago, when Myung and I visited Thailand, we walked to a nearby park in the mornings.  There were lots of people practising various kinds of exercises.  I saw a lady stretching her legs over pretty high iron bars.  I thought that was what I should do.  You can probably guess what happened afterwards.  I felt extreme pain in both of my thighs and had to rest for a while, although probably my leg was up about half of the lady’s.  By the way, shamefully I must admit that she looked at me and laughed heartily.  Our brain is an organ like our legs.  In order to increase the load of our brain work, we need to exercise it, gradually and gently.  A simple principle we should know is “start short.”  Do not make a plan like getting up at 4:30 in the morning and reading for about an hour from the beginning.  Just develop a habit of reading by sticking to small and simple reading plans first. 

Fourth, reading plans should be carefully maintained.  Our reading plan is not that we read as much as we can today and then ‘die’ tomorrow.  It is a lifetime, on-going practice.  If someone makes a plan for daily exercise, seven days a week, or a diet plan to lose weight seven days a week, I can see that he will pretty much fail to keep it.  Whether physical exercise or a weight-loss plan, it should be practical and useful.  In other words, the best plan is a plan that we can keep continually.  As most physical trainers say, aim for 4-5 days per week.  We should take some time off, like during the weekends or for special occasions.  There are times when we need to visit people or to receive visitors, or we may be sick, or house repairs need to be done….  Make room for such planned or unplanned interruptions. 

Fifth, reading aids mind development.  The world is production oriented.  In other words, we are measured by the results or products we produce.  We are pressured to produce results.  If we fail to do so, we receive a negative appraisal.  It inevitably pushes us to focus more on external and visible productiveness.  But how about reading?  Good books can touch our hearts and minds deeply even changing our perspective on many things, and we gain wisdom.  However, our improved character, refined thought life and ideas gained do not have anything to do with the demands of the world.  As long as we do not perform as the world expects us to, reading, rather than working, is not appreciated.  However, on the other hand, reading that improves the mind is a constructive revolt against the world that counts us only as a commodity.  Reading helps us reflect on many things in meaningful ways.  Reading makes us think and improves our mind. 

Sixth, reading has many varieties.  We may say that we are readers.  In such a case, we need to see what kind of reading we have engaged in.  We often read just to collect data.  This reading produces more information and data we are looking for.  However, it neither feeds our minds nor helps us to reflect.  It just informs us.  There is a different kind of reading that develops our mind.  Or, according to the terminology Mortimer Adler uses, we “become enlightened.”  He said in How to Read a Book, “to become informed is to know simply that something is the case.  To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about.”  In other words, as Susan W. Bauer has said in her book, “To be informed is to collect facts; to be enlightened is to understand an idea (justice, or charity, or human freedom) and use it to make sense of the facts you’ve gathered” (p.25). 

Seventh, reading sees expansion.  If we truly want to educate our mind, we need a variety of serious reading.  Many people tend to read books only related to their work or profession.  Such reading does not expand their mind, though their knowledge of their work field may be increased.  Or, sometimes people Google to search for more information about the topics they are interested in.  Surely technology helps us find more information easier than before.  However, serious readers expand their horizons by reading books from different branches of thought, including history, theology, politics, philosophy, science, and even editorial columns.  Mind-educating reading is a consuming process.  It is a lifelong process and of slow progress.  It must expand itself. 

We must not forget that reading the Bible is not to collect data, though unfortunately many people treat the Bible in such a manner.  Instead, slow, long, and continuing meditation of the Word of God is commanded.  In other words, we are to read the Bible and think at the same time.  Then our mind will be affected by the truth and we shall be conformed to the image of God. 


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



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Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily guidance, protection & providence.
  • Holiday Bible Club & IF Conference – Speaker: Rev Kyle Graham; helpers & attendees.
  • God’s mercy & protection from COVID-19 in SA & easing of restrictions in Australia.



  • Healing: Rev Mathews Abraham, Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore) & others who are sick.
  • COVID-19 pandemic – God’s continued guidance and protection for Australia & all who are affected.
  • Journey mercies: Rev Kyle Graham & family (Pt Lincoln).
  • Missions: Sis Ang Liang Phoa & family, Filadelfia BPC, orphanage, kindergarten & primary school (Batam).  




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