Samuel Miller: Be a “Hard Student”

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9781601782984I’m devouring James Garretson’s new biography on Old Princetonian, Samuel Miller (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). This is a great read for pastors! Samuel Miller urged his students to “acquire the habit of close and fixed attention in study. I know not a more fatal defect in a student, than the want of this habit” (330).

Miller continued:

“Make a point, then, of being a ‘hard student’ as long as you live. Keep up the habit of reading much, reflecting much, and writing much, as long as you have strength enough to open a book, or wield a pen. Content not yourself with merely that kind of study which will qualify you to prepare your sermons with success; but let your constant aim be to make rich and solid additions to your stores of professional knowledge. For this purpose constantly keep under perusal some great standard work. And never consider yourself as having gotten though a year well, unless you have carefully read seven or eight such works, in addition to all your other studies. This will render your sermonizing more easy and delightful to yourself, and more profitable to others. It will keep up the activity and tone of your mind. It will avert premature dotage; and better qualify you, in every respect, to do your Master’s work” (335-336).

 

Penelope Lively on the Need for Narrative

la-la-ca-0130-penelope-lively-308-jpg-20140205“We have this need for narrative, it seems. A life is indeed a ‘tick-tock’: birth and death with nothing but time in between. We go to fiction because we like a story, and we want our lives to have the largesse of story, the capacity, the onward thrust—we not only want, but need, which is why memory is so crucial, and without it we are lost, adrift in a hideous eternal present.”

— Penelope Lively, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, p. 24.

David Platt Preaches at Southern Seminary

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1899952_738540522832823_1248517819_nDavid Platt today preached one of the most clear and convicting messages I’ve heard at Southern Seminary’s chapel. From Genesis 1, he looked at four biblical foundations relating to God and his dealing with us. He then offered four cultural implications relating to abortion, sexuality, justice, and the Great Commission. If you have the chance, make sure to listen to this sermon.

“I am zealous to show that followers of Christ do not have the option of picking and choosing which social issues we’re going to apply biblical truths to. I am zealous to show that the same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage; and the same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all its forms…. [W]e do not have the option of deciding which battles we’re going to fight and which battles we’re going to flout.”

 

Albert Mohler on Reading: Four Quick Thoughts

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Q: What is the most important advice you would give to others on reading?

A: I can’t give just one word there. Two or three. Realize that when you read, you are putting investments in a bank from which to draw, even if it doesn’t appear to have direct relevance. Second, use your books, don’t just read them. Mark in them, keep a conversation in them. Third, don’t build a book collection; build a library and make it work for you. Fourth, realize you’re never going to read everything. We will die with things we wish we had read. But the fact is too many people do not read. The problem for most is not that they are learning too much, but that they aren’t learning enough.

— Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 216.

Birdsong — Martin Luther’s Theology of Music

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Luther-s-Theology-of-Music-9783110310283_xxl“Birdsong is the paragon of creation’s praise to its creator. So exemplifying the reciprocity of the gift, birdsong is a [sic] both a gift of God and gift to God. Furthermore, the birds give instruction to humans and embarrass them by their singing…. [B]irdsong is a living reminder of God’s endlessly giving goodness. Compared to humans — who would despair when they do not have a food store for at least two weeks — birds continue to sing though they do not necessarily know where they’ll get food tomorrow. God has made birds our masters, to teach us to trust in God and to cast all our troubles on him.”

— Miikka E Anttila. Luther’s Theology of Music: Spiritual Beauty and Pleasure. Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann Band 161. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. pp. 88-89.

Is Productivity a Fruit of the Spirit?

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Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 88:

Yes — and this goes to the heart of this book. Most of the time when people look at the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22 – 23), they think in terms of character qualities. The fruit of the Spirit, it is thought, is about who you are, not what you do.

I certainly do not want to dispute the primacy of character in the Christian life. That is one of the key themes of this book: Who we are is more important than what we do, and the true basis of effectiveness in our lives is not strategies and techniques but character. But character always manifests itself in action (see, for example, James 3: 13 – 18), and it turns out that the fruit of the Spirit does apply to what we do as well as who we are.

For, as we’ve seen, being productive is about doing good for others — creatively, competently, and abundantly. Understood in this sense, productivity is indeed a fruit of the Spirit, for this is actually the meaning of “kindness,” which Paul lists as one of the chief fruits of the Spirit.

We often think of kindness in rather dull terms — simply as being “nice.” But as Jonathan Edwards points out in his book Charity and Its Fruits, to be “kind” doesn’t simply mean to be nice. Rather, it means to be proactive in seeking good for others. It means to be free and liberal in doing good. Hence, when Paul says that “love is kind,” he means, as Edwards summarizes, that love “will dispose us freely to do good to others.”

As we’ve seen, that’s exactly what productivity is. Hence, productivity is indeed a fruit of the spirit.

Albert Mohler’s Recommending Reading for Preachers (2013)

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One of my favorite times of the year: Mohler’s book recommendations for preachers. You can read about each of them here. I’ve listed them below convenience sake:

(1) John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (P&R Publishing, 2013)

(2) Tom Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Mentor, 2013).

(3) Michael J. Kruger, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2013)

(4) Thomas R. Schreiner, The King and His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic, 2013)

(5) John S. Feinberg, Can You Believe It’s True?: Christian Apologetics in a Modern and Postmodern Era (Crossway Books, 2013)

(6) Douglas J. Moo, Galatians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2013)

(7) Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Zondervan, 2013)

(8) John Elliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Knopf, 2013)

(9) Daniel Brook, A History of Future Cities (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013)

(10) Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Reading for Preachers: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists (Eerdmans, 2013)

Single Best Piece of Advice on Productivity

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Mike Allen, of the Washington, DC, based news organization Politico, got right to the core of things and gave the single best piece of advice I encountered in all of my interviews.

Q: How would you define productivity?

A: Being a maximum steward of your time, talents, and resources.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to your productivity?

A: The biggest obstacle is what I think afflicts all of us: the amount of input. The amount of data and inputs are a blessing, but a challenge to manage.

Q: For Christians who want to be productive and make the most of their time, what is the most important piece of advice you would give?

A: To every day think about what is the single thing you could do today that would serve God and your employer or audience or family. And if you think about one thing that you can do, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll do it. Just do it. Instead of putting it on a list, pick one thing and do it.

— Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 65.

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Productivity and the “Intangibles”

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One key concept I’m learning in Matt Perman’s new book on productivity is that of the importance of intangibles, which he argues are “the main source of value in our knowledge economy.”

Tim Sanders rightly notes that “success in the future [which is now!] will be based on the fuzzy intangibles: the culture you nurture, the processes for managing information you set up for your people, the partnerships you form around technology’s opportunities and challenges.” Technology, hardware, and capital can be copied easily. What can’t be copied easily is the culture and human capacity that create those in the first place — and does so in a way that engages not just functionally with people but also emotionally, so that people want what your organization offers. Effectiveness, in work and life, is thus more and more about the intangibles because effectiveness comes from people first, not things. Things are replicable; people aren’t.

So many organizations miss this, and that’s why they are miserable places to work. People become clock watchers, just putting in the time, because the organization doesn’t care about them but cares only about what they can do. In my opinion that’s not just unfortunate; it’s unethical. It’s not right to treat people that way because people are made in the image of God and are more than economic beings. They work for meaning as well as for a paycheck. Therefore, we ought to manage to the whole person, treating people as people, not as machines who are merely here to get a job done. And ironically, when you treat people this way, even though it is harder at first, you get higher productivity in the long run….

This is the great irony: defining productivity mainly in terms of immediate measurable results undermines the measurable results in the long run.

— Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 47, 48.

9Marks at SBTS — Recommended Reading

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Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.58.50 AMThe 9Marks conference is underway at Southern Seminary. Here’s the recommended reading in their conference booklet. I’ve compiled the list here (with links)
  1. Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2009.
  2. ———. The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah. Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 2003.
  3. Beale, G. K. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
  4. Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
  5. Dempster, Stephen G. Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible. New Studies in Biblical Theology 15. Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003.
  6. Gentry, Peter John, and Stephen J. Wellum. Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
  7. Goldsworthy, Graeme. Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament. Exeter, UK: Paternoster, 1981.
  8. Hamilton, James M. What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.
  9. Lawrence, Michael. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry. 9Marks. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
  10. Roberts, Vaughan. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
  11. Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
  12. ———. The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.
  13. And all the volumes in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D. A. Carson.

For other book suggestions, see this post by 9Marks.

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