The Art of Making Time: Elimination

Whats Best Next -PermanSill looking at chapter 17 of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014), we are learning about “The Art of Making Time.”

The first strategy for doing this, Permans says, is to delegate. The second strategy is elimination (recall the acronym DEAD: Delegate, Eliminate, Automate, and Defer). This is what Perman (in part) has to say on this:

In addition to delegating tasks and responsibilities, we can utilize a second strategy for reducing our workload: elimination. Elimination has two components: getting rid of tasks that don’t need to be done and, when doing a task, eliminating the parts of the task that aren’t necessary.

In that connection, he suggests combining two common productivity principles or laws – the 80/20 Principle, which “states that 80 percent of your productivity comes from 20 percent of your tasks. Hence, identify the things that fall into the ‘trivial many’ so you can devote more time to the ‘vital few.’

Along with that is Parkinson’s Law, which “states that a task will generally expand to fill the time allotted for it. …Hence, to keep your tasks from taking longer than they need to, reduce the time you allow for doing them.”

But then, Perman says that it is best to combine these two principles to get the best way to eliminate tasks from our schedules:

Each of these principles is powerful in its own. But the magic happens when you combine them to harness the power of both together. Here’s how to do this: Decrease the number of tasks you have to do by eliminating what is not important (the 80/20 Principle), and then force yourself to focus only on the essential parts of those tasks by giving yourself tight deadlines (Parkinson’s Law). This limits what you do to what is most essential, and then within that framework, you are forced to do your tasks in the most efficient way (p.236).

More good thoughts for us to consider as we seek to do our best things next.

Wise Counsel to Pastors and Seminary Students – Michael Kruger

TT-Feb-2016This past week I began using the February issue of Tabletalk (the daily devotions are covering the gospel of Mark). Sunday I dove into the featured articles, which this time surround the theme of “Awakening” (read the introduction, “True Reformation”, by editor Burk Parson).

As I browsed the other rubrics, I was drawn to the interview article with Dr. Michael J. Kruger, president and professor of NT and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. The first two sections of this interview gather Kruger’s thoughts on the spiritual challenges facing pastors today and his advice to Seminary students.

I think you will profit from what he says on these subjects, so I include excerpts here. And that made me think, Am I and are you praying enough for our pastors and our pastors-to-be in these difficult days?

Tabletalk: As president of a Reformed seminary, what do you consider to be the greatest spiritual challenges that future pastors face in the United States and in the world? How can they prepare for those challenges?

Michael Kruger:

…So, the greatest challenge for pastors will be whether they will stand firm on the teachings of the Bible despite the fact that they are ridiculed by our culture. In order to prepare for those challenges, pastors need to (a) recommit themselves to the truth of Scripture, (b) become serious students of Scripture themselves, and (c) boldly preach the Scriptures to their congregations.

I would also add that pastors will not just be ridiculed by the world, but they will be increasingly ridiculed by their own congregations. Pastors will find themselves in a situation where many members of their congregation openly disagree with them about the Bible’s teaching on key cultural issues. Thus, there will be an ever-growing gap between the position of the pastor/session and the position of some portion of the congregation—and that is the kind of situation that can lead to infighting and schism. To address this challenge, pastors have to make sure that their own people are properly instructed, trained, and persuaded about these key cultural issues. We cannot just assume they agree with us. As we reach out to the culture with the truth of Scripture, we cannot overlook our own congregations.

TT: What wisdom would you give to a theological student who is struggling to connect his theological knowledge with his heart?

MK: The first thing to realize is that theological knowledge and the heart are not opposed to each other. We must avoid the idea that we have to choose between the two. Solid, biblical truth encourages and uplilts the heart. Second, the student needs to realize that the study of theology is always personal—it applies to them, too. As soon as we begin to see theological study as an abstract hobby, and not something that we apply to our own lives, we will find ourselves becoming cold and distant to the things of God. And third, students must maintain a vibrant and consistent devotional life. The intimacy of daily communion with God is an inoculation against growing cold and hard-hearted during one’s time in seminary.

To read the rest of this interview, which also gets into the issues of the Bible’s canon, inspiration, and authority, visit the link below.

Source: The Development of the Bible: An Interview with Michael Kruger by Michael Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Comments on SCOTUS Homosexual Marriage Decision – B. Van Engen

One of the regular columns in the Standard Bearer is called “Church and State,” and in the most recent issue (Feb.1, 2016) attorney Brian Van Engen (member of the Hull, IA PRC) offers another set of comments on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage (June 2015).

SB-Feb1-2016.jpg

He brings clarification to the issues and begins to look at the implications for religious institutions such as churches and schools. I give you a part of his latest article here (his previous one appeared in the Dec.1, 2015 issue), encouraging you to read it all of it. If you are not an “SB” subscriber, you can become one by visiting the link above.

As mentioned previously, the Court in Obergefell did not create a right to homosexual marriage, but instead found that this right already existed in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and that laws contrary to this right were illegal. While that distinction may seem to be merely a matter of semantics, it does have practical implications. People from both sides of the religious and political spectrum have stated that the rulers have spoken, and we must obey by submitting to this ruling or resigning positions that would cause us to violate our conscience. For instance, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, media attention was focused on Kim Davis, a district court clerk in Kentucky, who refused to issue marriage licenses and was ultimately sent to prison for several days for her refusal. Even many Christians suggested that she must resign her position in light of the Court’s ruling.

The idea that the Court’s ruling is a mandate which we must obey is contrary to our system of government, under which the Court cannot legally create rights or freedoms or legislate, but only protects those rights which already exist under the Constitution or other laws. This is the reason the Supreme Court “found” the right to homosexual marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Under our system of laws, now that the right to homosexual marriage has been found to exist, that right is simply one right which must be weighed against competing rights. In the case of homosexual marriage, even the liberal majority on the Supreme Court recognized that people may still oppose homosexual marriage for religious reasons, stating:

  • Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.[1]

 

[1] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)

For a list of the other articles in this issue, see the cover image here.

Note to Self: Preach the Law to Yourself

     So in one sense, the law functions like a window opening up the truth of God’s will for us, but, it also works like a mirror reflecting our own failure and corruption back to us. The plain truth is, we do not, and cannot, keep God’s law [here the author quotes Romans 7:7].

The law, in showing us what is right, immediately shows us what is wrong – we are lawbreakers. This is it second purpose, to expose our sin and unbelief and make known our condemnation. But the law’s work is not done in showing us our own failure. By showing us what’s wrong, it also shows us what’s desperately needed.

In this next section, then, Thorn connects the law with the gospel:

     In exposing our own corruption, the law of God leaves us guilty and points us to our need for redemption. We are lawbreakers and need forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration. In this sense the law serves as a guide in leading us to the gospel. It fits us for it, prepares us for it. The law, while being ‘holy and righteous and good,’ is itself not good news. It is the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel so relevant. In this way, the law prepares us for the gospel by showing us our need of it.

And so he concludes with these words:

     In preaching the law to ourselves we see and admire God’s will and way, while exposing and confessing our sinfulness. This leads us toward the gospel where we find our only hope of redemption and restoration. Preaching the law to ourselves breaks our pride, leads to humility, and calls us to cry out to God and depend on his mercy (pp.26-27).

I would only add that the law does not by any power in itself, nor by any ability in ourselves, but by the GRACE of God alone!

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). For the previous post, visit this page.

Christian Apologetics: Defending the Resurrection – Guy Waters

TT-Jan-2016To wrap up the featured articles on apologetics in the January 2016 issue of Tabletalk, Dr.Guy P. Waters addresses the vital subject of the resurrection (cf. link to full article below).

To show the Christian defense of this doctrine, he takes us to Paul’s defense of it in Athens on Mar’s Hill as recorded in the Scripture in Acts 17.

This is how Waters ends his treatment of Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, with the calling for the church to continue to do so:

Thus far, Paul has reasoned with the Athenians based upon what they know of God and of themselves from the creation. He then turns to a particular fact of history—God raised a man from the dead (v. 31). That God has lifted the sentence of death from Jesus and publicly vindicated Him means that Jesus was a righteous man. That is to say, He is unlike any other person who walked the face of the earth. This righteous Jesus had claimed on earth that He would judge all people (see John 5:19–29). The resurrection vindicated this claim. In raising Jesus from the dead, God publicly affirmed Jesus’ claim to judge the world at the end of the age. Because this judgment is certain and imminent, Paul pleads with his hearers to “repent” (Acts 17:30), to turn from the service of idols to the worship of the triune God. The resurrection and the worldwide preaching of the gospel has brought to an end the “times of ignorance,” during which God was pleased to withhold final judgment (v. 30). The days of comparative but culpable Gentile blindness have come to an end. Only the gospel can dispel the ongoing ignorance and blindness in which unrenewed humanity finds itself.

Paul’s mention of the resurrection yields two very different results. Some mock and sneer—the very idea that one’s body would have immortal existence was laughable to the Greek mind (v. 32a). Others, however, want to hear more and, trusting in Christ, follow Paul (vv. 32b–34).

Proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus did not, on this occasion, win Paul the accolades of the Athenian intelligentsia. Neither did it yield a visibly impressive host of converts in Athens. But Paul did not preach the resurrection because it was popular. He preached it because it was true. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed the coming judgment but also secured blessing for the undeserving. However God is pleased to use this truth in the lives of unbelievers, the church’s task remains the same—to tell others that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

Source: The Resurrection by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

Family worship – Joshua and his house

family-worship-whitney-2016A recent publication of Crossway that I asked to review is Donald S. Whitney’s little book Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.). It came in the mail Friday and I thought I would share an excerpt from the first chapter this evening.

The chapter is titled “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord” (with the sub-title, “Family Worship in the Bible”), taken from the familiar verse in Joshua 24:15. After treating the family worship of Abraham and Moses (and subsequently Job, Asaph, Paul, and Peter), Whitney gets to Joshua, where he has the following to say:

     Have you ever considered how infrequently people gathered for congregational worship in the centuries comprising nearly the entire Old Testament? Even after the tabernacle and temple were built believers did not gather in large groups to worship God as often as is sometimes assumed. Only after the Babylonian exile, late in Old Testament history and hundreds of years after Solomon built the temple, did the local synagogues develop and people begin to worship God congregationally on a weekly basis. Of course, with the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, most believers are now privileged to experience the riches of being in God’s family through regular participation in a local church.

But God was worthy of worship in the days before regular congregational worship as he is now. Those who believed in and loved God, people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and others, wanted to worship God in their days as much as people do today. Keep that thought in mind as you read the famous words of Joshua 24.

And then after quoting v.15 – Joshua’s exhortation to the people, along with his own example – Whitney writes:

     How would Joshua and his house have served the Lord? Part of serving the Lord for them back then, just as it is for us now, is worshiping the Lord. But in a day when congregational worship was so infrequent  – after all, for many Israelites it involved a trip of several days to travel to the tabernacle – regular family worship of some sort would have been a part of carrying out Joshua’s resolve, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (pp.19-20).

As we experience the blessed freedom of public, congregational worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we also remember that true worship begins in our own hearts and in our own homes. May we have Joshua’s resolve for our personal families, even as we gather with the family of God on the morrow.

Gopher Delegation vs. Stewardship Delegation

Whats Best Next -PermanWe have been looking at “The Art of Making Time”, which is the title of Chapter 17 of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014). Part of the fifth main section of the book, called “Reduce,” at this point in the book Perman is addressing the problem of cramming our schedule with so much – even good things – that we become unproductive in getting the best things done.

Belonging to the ways of freeing our schedules is the task of delegating, and the last two weeks we have been quoting from this section of the chapter. We do so one more time, where Perman distinguishes between “gopher delegation” and stewardship delegation,” with the latter method being the best way to free up your time.

First, here’s how he describes “gopher delegation”:

…In gopher delegation, you hand people specific tasks as the need arises and are closely involved in supervising how they do them. The other person does not utilize much independent judgment and initiative, but is basically operating in a ‘wait until told’ context. You have something for them to do, and you tell them to do it. Responsibility for the results and methods lies with you, not them. You have not handed off responsibility; the other person is simply doing what they are told.

In this approach, the other person doesn’t grow because this relationship doesn’t require the other person to use their wisdom or judgment or insight. They are treated almost like a tool.

Now contrast this with “stewardship delegation”:

Stewardship delegation, on the other hand, has the aim of not just getting tasks done, but of building others up through the accomplishment of tasks. It is concerned about tasks, but it is equally concerned about the other person. As with good management in general, the aim is not just to get things done, but to develop people in the process. The aim is the effective accomplishment of tasks and the good of the other person.

Stewardship delegation delegates the task – or, more often, an area of responsibility – and allows the individual to determine their own methods for accomplishing the tasks. The focus is on achieving the intended results, not on how they are done (as long as they are done in alignment with the overall guidelines and values). The one delegating hands over true responsibility for the accomplishment of the task to the one being delegated (p.232).

When you look at delegation in this light, it should be clear which is the better way to hand over your work to others so as to free up your time. I appreciate the use of that word “stewardship”, both because it indicates what you are trying to do with your own time (namely, be a better steward of it) and because it indicates what you are teaching the delegated person to do (be a good steward of new tasks and responsibilities).

Which kind of delegation would you like to be involved in? Would you rather be a gopher or a steward?

Thinking about Change: How about the book? – Tim Challies

codex-1In this month’s Tabletalk, Tim Challies has an interesting and important article on how we as Christians face change in this world – especially in the light of God’s sovereignty and our hope for the return of Jesus Christ.

Challies demonstrates from several examples of history how change has worked for the good of God’s cause and kingdom in this world, as well as for the coming of Christ. He comments:

With all of the changes—not to mention the speed at which they occur—we can develop a deep uncertainty about the future. Whatever we know about our current situation, the future will be very different. We know that we cannot predict future changes with any degree of accuracy. After all, the technologies we consider so normal today existed only in the realm of science fiction just twenty short years ago. And as a result, many Christians have a nascent fear of the future, wondering what it may hold both for them and their families.

Understanding the past allows us to identify trends and to see that even though the pace may have changed, the pattern has not. Seeing history through the lens of God’s Word comforts us with the sure knowledge that all change is unfolding only and exactly within God’s good and perfect will.

KindleereaderOne such example is that of the book. Here are his thoughts on that:

Consider the book as well. The book—printed pages bound between two covers—is a relatively new innovation, a new technology. For the vast majority of human history, the book as such did not exist. King David never read a book. Jesus never read a book. They read scrolls. The book as we know it today is a product of developments in the centuries after Christ’s life. First the codex, an ancient form of the modern book, was invented, and then the printing press was invented many centuries later. Yet the book has become so deeply embedded in our society that we cannot imagine the world without it. We even call the Bible a book, as if it had always existed in this format.

It seems comical now, but when the book was introduced to society, people feared it, just as they had feared the rise of writing centuries earlier. People feared that the book would take ideas too far, too fast. They tied knowledge so closely with memorization that they feared the ramifications of recording words on paper instead of in human minds. After all, why would we ever want to store something in our memories if we can store it on paper? And yet today we can see how the book was used to record God’s Word and to spread it across the world. We can see that it sparked a great Reformation. We can see that it sparked revival and awakening. We can see that the Bible quickly became the best-selling book of all time. That technology changed the world. God used that technology for His own purposes.

To read the rest of Challies’ thoughts on this subject, follow the link below.

Source: Thinking about Change by Tim Challies | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Note to Self: What is Preaching to Ourselves?

Note-to-self-ThornLast Sunday I began to introduce you to a “new” book I picked up in a local thrift store – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

The main part of the book consists of specific “notes to self”, applying the gospel we hear each week to ourselves. These personal applications are grouped into three sections:

  • Part One: The Gospel and God
  • Part Two: The Gospel and Others
  • Part Three: The Gospel and You

We will be taking a look at some of these specific “notes to self” in the weeks ahead, but for today we should start by looking at the author’s introduction. Under the heading “Preaching to Ourselves?”, Thorn starts by defining what he means by “the discipline of preaching to yourself”:

…Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.

In that connection, he also explains why this is so important and so necessary:

     …It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through his Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

And he closes out this part of his introduction with these words:

     This personal, devotional work is essential to our own health, but also to our effectiveness in sharing the law and the gospel with others. The more deeply we understand and experience law and gospel, the more capable we become in communicating and applying it to those around us. A good teacher or evangelist is first of all a good preacher to himself (p.24).

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