The next week and a half is the climax of my seminary career as my thesis is due on March 4th. Because of that I’m not going to be blogging much during that period. So instead here is an important article by somebody else about applying your Christian worldview to the issues of the world around you – Why Your Christian Worldview Blinds You.
I normally don’t put sermons on this blog, but this is so helpful that I had to post it. In short, Darrin talks about what churches should be so that they can fulfill their mission. He discusses the different types of churches – teaching focused, liturgical, devotional, etc and insists that all the different types must be combined into one. Since this is impossible for man, the Spirit has to be in control. A wonderful, succinct teaching on the church. One of the best I’ve heard.
The other day I posted some tips to help you understand the prophetic books. In this post I will demonstrate why using these tips is essential, and why our Bibles come with maps.
Amos begins, “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel…” Most people just skip over this but this verse tells us a couple of important things. Get out a detailed map of Israel around 760 BC and find Tekoa. Where is it? It’s near Bethlehem in Judah. This means that Amos is from the Southern kingdom and is writing to the Northern kingdom (those guys didn’t get along too well). Continue reading
The other day I was listening to a talk by Michael Ellsberg of The Education of Millionaires fame, and he said something that has changed my entire ministry and personal focus. He said that our impact is equal to the strength of our ideas multiplied by our persuasive ability. School teaches us ideas. We learn about history and great thoughts. However, we live in a corporate society. If we are going to do anything with those thoughts we have to have the ability to persuade people. Depending on the situation, that may mean persuading someone to buy something, it may mean persuading people to think like we do, or it may mean getting people to come to our event. Whatever the “it” might be, persuasion must be present if there is going to be impact. The company with a decent product and great persuasion is going to outsell the company with a great product and poor persuasion.
Let me apply this to my context – seminary and the church. Are the most popular Christian leaders the ones with the best ideas? No, they are the ones with the most persuasive ability. This is a problem because that means the church is being impacted by ideas that might be unhelpful or just plain wrong. For example, a few years ago a very large church, whose model was much copied all over America, admitted that their model didn’t work and was actually harmful. In Charismatic circles persuasion is everything. If a person is gifted, say in healing or prophecy, their teaching is listened to whether they know what they are talking about or not. Of course there are exceptions to these stories, guys like Tim Keller who have both great ideas and persuasive ability, but generally the guys with the best ideas are guys you’ve never heard of. Why is that? It’s because no one ever told them they were supposed to persuade; they’ve spent their lives in school. Ellsberg said that most schools don’t teach us how to persuade, they simply give us ideas. Of the getting of ideas there is no end. A person could easily spend 70 years of their life learning about the Bible and church practice while writing erudite books about them. But people won’t read them, unless they are forced to for a paper.
Take away – Get good ideas that will help people and learn how to persuade people to embrace them. Good ideas without persuasion is a waste of time. Persuasion without good ideas is dangerous.
On Monday I posted that Dr. Michael Bird was coming to the seminary I attend. I was able to ask him a question about productivity, the answer to which I wanted to pass along to you guys.
Dr. Bird has a tremendous literary output, and I asked him what his work schedule was like to allow him to accomplish so much. He kindly answered me in some detail. He started off by telling me that he doesn’t watch much tv. He gets up at 6 am and is at work by 7. He works until 4 and goes home to spend time with the family. Every other night or so he works from 8 pm to 10 pm. I forget what he said about the weekends. He makes sure he writes 1000 words every day. This is a reduced schedule. He used to work from 8 pm to 1 am 6 days a week in addition to his morning work, but can’t keep that up anymore.
One thing he attributed his success to was discipline. He defined discipline as doing what you have to do before doing what you want to do. That’s helpful. Almost all of us would rather be watching tv or surfing the internet than reading hard books, or praying, or running sprints, or whatever discipline we are working on. The best put in the hours whether they feel like it or not.
I’m a foodie and love reading about top chefs, although being in seminary I can’t afford to go to their restaurants anymore. Their work ethic has always inspired me. A top restaurant expects their chefs to work 15 hours a day six days a week, many of them for free (to get experience). Of course this isn’t healthy or balanced, but I love people who push themselves towards excellence. Christian ministers need to be willing to devote themselves to God like cooks devote themselves to food. I don’t believe 15 hours a day is healthy even when it’s spent in ministry. But whatever it looks like for each of us, we need to pour our lives out before God remembering that our labors have eternal value and have great reward.
I’m so excited. Tomorrow I get to meet my favorite New Testament scholar, Michael Bird. He has written a wonderful intro to Paul’s theology, which I reviewed here. He is probably best known for his blog Euangelion, which always worth reading.
You can find the meeting schedule here. The meetings are free and open to the public so stop by if you are in the area.
As Christians we want to understand what Jesus said, but that’s not always easy when we come to his parables. Below are the best resources I am aware of to learn how to interpret Jesus’ parables well:
Shorter Scholarly Work –
Interpreting the Parables by Craig Blomberg
This book is more focused on how to interpret the parables as opposed to going through each and every parable, though he does go through some of them.
Longer Scholarly Work –
Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus by Klyne Snodgrass
This work goes over each and every parable and therefore is quite long, 864 pages. Still a great reference, or read if you have the time and inclination.
The prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 12 minor prophets, and Daniel) are the books of the Bible I understand the least. Thankfully I’m taking Prophetical Books with Dr. Jack Collins this semester. He is the editor of the OT portion of the ESV; basically he is the man when it comes to reading the Old Testament well.
Today I wanted to pass along some questions he gave us to help our understanding of these books. Considering these questions will help us get at what the authors was trying to communicate. This is the initial goal when reading Biblical books. Actually that is probably the first principle, or one of the primary principles, of Biblical interpretation. First, figure out what the author meant to communicate to his audience. Only then do we work that into our 21st century Western setting. If we read the prophets as if they were speaking to our particular time and culture we can get all kinds of strange readings (a different meaning for each different setting) that have may little to do with what the author meant to get across. Continue reading
From my reading this evening:
“Belief in a personal God is both natural and normal; it arises in human consciousness spontaneously and universally. Unbelief requires enormous effort. There is no proof available to it.” Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2, p. 53. Italics mine.
“There is no people so barbarous as not to believe in the gods.” Cicero