So much to learn...so little time!

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blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Sorry about the brain dump/long post. For those who'd rather not read the entire post, here's the condensed version: How do you prioritize those things that you'd like to learn about? Time limits what we can learn, and we can't possibly learn everything we'd like to.

[rambling]
I'd like to once again praise the Lord for this board and for its blessings - more specifically the people on the board and the diversity of thought expressed in an atmosphere, predominantly, of love and edification.

I'm sure most who have been on the board for a while can attest to the fact that they've benefitted from the time spent here. And, as I think Adam has said, its just a nice place to hangout.

It may sound weird, but I've been making a conscious effort lately not to participate on the board as much as I use to. One reason is I'd like to cut back on my trivial posts (about post count, etc) that are 'fun for a season', but in excess are a waste of time and board bandwidth.

I'll blame my main reason for cutting back on the board itself. You've instilled in me a desire to read more. At somebody's recommendation, I started reading (and am almost finished) Thomas Watson's book The Ten Commandments. I'm reading it slowly, kind of meditatively, so I can think about what he's saying. Anyway, after reading the chapter about the fourth commandment, I found myself convicted about this part of the commandment:

Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time to every purpose under heaven. In addition to seeing that I should remember the sabbath and keep it holy, I also started seeing that I need to work harder while I'm at work and, while at work, not divide my time/attention so much between work and the board. So, that's my main reason for cutting back on my participation.

Finally, my question:
Which, in a very roundabout way, leads me to my question. How do you guys/gals prioritize your study time? It seems there is so much I'd like to learn and there's so little time left to learn it.

As a baseline, I'm in the habit of reading through the Bible every six months, and will continue doing that. After that, I need to pick and choose what to study, and still have time for playing with my kids, taking out the dogs, paying bills, etc, etc.

It seems that on any given day, there are two or three things I'd like to learn about. For example:

1. As I'm reading Thomas Watson's book, it strikes me how little I've been taught about the law over the years. I can't remember a single sermon preached in the churches I've been a member of that talks about the law in general, or about the individual commandments specifically. The idea has always been, we're under grace now, not the law. Therefore, not much was said about the law. Yes, Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law, but what are those requirements?

I'm interested in making up for lost time and learning what I can about the 10 commandments, collectively and individually. I've started listening to a preaching series by a baptist preacher called Doug VanderMeulen on the 10 commandments and want to listen to another series or two after that. And, "at the same time", I'd like to read more as well.

Part of me wants to learn more so I can know what God expects of me and my family. But, more importantly, I want to get to know Jesus better by understanding what it means to say that He fulfilled the requirments of the law. What requirements did he fulfill? Its real clear what my character is like as I see myself falling short of the law's requirements, but what I want to see more clearly is what Jesus' character is like as he obeyed all the requirements.

2. I also recently read an interesting article called English Bible History, which talks about some of the high points of the development of the Bible from the time of Wycliffe to the present. Reading about those who were burnt at the stake so that I can read a Bible in the english language makes me want to learn more about those involved - Wycliffe, Hus, Gutenberg, Colet, Tyndale, Coverdale...

3. As I'm finishing up this time through the Bible, and am in the last of the minor prophets, I want to get a better understanding of where each prophet fits into the historical timeline of what was going on in Israel, and what things happened in Israel from the time each prophet wrote until the time of Christ. (When each prophet spoke of future events, I'd like to understand Israel's history well enough to recognize what was and wasn't fulfilled literally).

These are just examples of the kinds of things I'd like to be learning now. I'm realizing that I can't work, take care of family responsibilities, and learn everything I'd like all at once. I need to prioritize my learning and get to them when I get to them.

How do you prioritize those things that you'd like to learn about?

[/rambling]

[Edited on 3-25-2005 by blhowes]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Bob,

You have a lot of good thoughts and questions here.

My initial brief response on the subject of prioritizing one's study time is that you have done the first thing necessary, which is to pinpoint the subjects that you wish to study more in-depth (the law of God, the history of the men who labored to make God's Word available to others).

Having done so, my next step would be to identify books or learning sources that address those subjects. Do you have them already? Do you need to go and get them? Do you need advice on which sources are better than others? What use do you wish to make of the knowledge that you are seeking?

For my own part, there are certainly areas of learning that I wish to explore more in-depth. My two chief loves are theology and history, which come together beautifully in church history. I hope to apply what I learn in the education of my children. My wife often raises interesting theological questions in our times of family worship that bear further study. In these ways, I try to avoid accumulating mere "head knowledge" and ensure that what I learn becomes applicable to myself or beneficial to others.

I am also writing a novel so I have had to study several different fields intensely in order to incorporate them into my story.

Time management is part of the equation too, as you know. We all have many demands on our time and "...of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecc. 12.12) For some of us, the Lord's Day afternoon or evening provides a good opportunity to contemplate a good devotional book. My commute on the train affords me a little time to read each day which is good. We should all try to "redeem the time." It goes without saying that God's Word is the first and foremost book we should be reading and studying.

When all is said and done though, life is about living, and living is more than reading and studying. As I heard in a sermon recently, whenever we "study" theology, we are giving thought to God, and to do so is to worship him. God is not an impersonal matter of study, but the Lord God who made us for himself.

Whether we spend time in books or not, at the end of the day, let us all strive to hear the words "well done, thou good and faithful servant."
 

Robin

Puritan Board Junior
Hey There, Bob,

May God bless your serious attitude about study and incite you to be diligent....

Here's a stunningly wonderful book about the Ten Commandments as it applies to Reformed faith.

"The Law of Perfect Freedom" by Michael Horton

RUN - do not walk, to get it!

Another, ground zero to understanding Faith, book is: "Putting Amazing Back Into Grace" also by Horton.

These are solid, essential treatises on learning how in the world, God saves us, what He does, what we do, Etc.

Michael Horton traveled to the Reformed side from American evangelicalism....his works are a premium investment for your valuable time!

Also, "The Unfolding Mystery" by Edmond Clowney is the explanation of how the OT is about Christ (including how the office of prophet worked.) Stunning! The OT is eschatalogical (as is the NT.) This must be considered as a necessary element to rightly understand the whole of Scripture. And last of all, but not least....

Here is a link by Dr. Scott Clark explaining the benefits of the Lord's Supper to strengthen one's faith - and increase spiritual growth:

http://www.the-highway.com/supper_Clark.html

In edification,

Robin

[Edited on 3-26-2005 by Robin]
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Andrew,
Thanks for your response and advice.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Having done so, my next step would be to identify books or learning sources that address those subjects. Do you have them already? Do you need to go and get them? Do you need advice on which sources are better than others?
Good questions. No, I haven't organized my study yet, though there's no time like the present to do that. I kind of had in the back of my mind what I'd like to do.

For studying the commandments, I thought I'd start (in addition to listening to online sermons) with the confessions and catechisms, then branch off to reading books/articles about them.There was a good site somewhere (I'd have to dig it up) that listed loads of puritan writers on the subject - it may have been the monergism web site, but I'd have to check. For studying the OT prophets, I thought I'd start with a study that Richard Pratt did called He Gave us Prophets. After that, I'm not sure. I haven't checked into resources about those who helped bring us the Bible yet.

Any recommendations for 'must reads' and/or sermon recommendations for any of these categories would be appreciated.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
What use do you wish to make of the knowledge that you are seeking?
Excellent, practical question. Mainly, so I can win debates on the puritanboard and run circles around all you seminary graduates... (jk)

Actually, I'll have to give that question more thought. In general, in a couple of ways. (1)To learn and teach my family how to live more holy lives. (2)To help guard my family from wrong teachings. (3)To help myself and others better appreciate the Gospel. Beyond that, I'm not sure.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Time management is part of the equation too, as you know. We all have many demands on our time and "...of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecc. 12.12) For some of us, the Lord's Day afternoon or evening provides a good opportunity to contemplate a good devotional book. My commute on the train affords me a little time to read each day which is good. We should all try to "redeem the time." It goes without saying that God's Word is the first and foremost book we should be reading and studying.
I agree. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day sometimes, so organizing that time and setting priorities is critical.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
When all is said and done though, life is about living, and living is more than reading and studying. As I heard in a sermon recently, whenever we "study" theology, we are giving thought to God, and to do so is to worship him. God is not an impersonal matter of study, but the Lord God who made us for himself.
Exactly, and that goes along with what I was saying about wanting to know the law better so I can better appreciate Jesus' character. Worship would be the natural response as we see the demands of law more clearly and realize that Jesus obeyed the law perfectly.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Whether we spend time in books or not, at the end of the day, let us all strive to hear the words "well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Amen!
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by Robin
Here's a stunningly wonderful book about the Ten Commandments as it applies to Reformed faith.

"The Law of Perfect Freedom" by Michael Horton

RUN - do not walk, to get it!
I read a review of the book and it looks excellent.

BTW, I really like the title of the book. It sounds so contrary to the prevailing opinion about the law - perfect freedom instead of bondage.

I don't know much about Michael Horton, but I'm guessing there are a number of people who misunderstand what he teaches. While looking for a book review, I found one site where the guy warned about Michael Horton because he believes in baptismal regeneration. I'm guessing the guy needs to look a little more closely at Horton's teachings.

Thanks for your book recommendations. I'll check them out.

Bob

[Edited on 3-26-2005 by blhowes]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Bob, I'm so glad for the blessing that Thomas Watson's book has been to you. I would also commend to you further study on God's Law:

1) the Westminster Larger Catechism;

2) Zacharius Ursinus' Commentary on the Heidelberg Catchecism see here

3) and the readings found here (with the exception of Jordan and Bahnsen)
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Bob,

The first thing you should do is make a list of things you would like to learn, first by subject matter (history, theology, creeds, etc) and then by book (Calvin's Institutes, Watson's God Man's Pictures, Calvin's Institutes, Hodges' Systematic, Calvin's Institutes, Brainerd's biography, Calvin's Institutes, etc.) :D

Then make yourself a brief reasonable schedule for the next couple of years. HERE is an IMPORTANT point:

Vary your reading/learning. Do not just do theology. Mix in biographies, history, good fiction (Shakespeare, Milton). Make sure you have a steady Bible reading plan. I say that not because theology is bad, but because many have an exclusive diet of theology; and you actually understand theology better if you have a varied diet (that is, in fact, what Calvin, Hodge and others had).
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by fredtgreco
Bob,

The first thing you should do is make a list of things you would like to learn, first by subject matter (history, theology, creeds, etc) and then by book (Calvin's Institutes, Watson's God Man's Pictures, Calvin's Institutes, Hodges' Systematic, Calvin's Institutes, Brainerd's biography, Calvin's Institutes, etc.) :D

Then make yourself a brief reasonable schedule for the next couple of years. HERE is an IMPORTANT point:

Vary your reading/learning. Do not just do theology. Mix in biographies, history, good fiction (Shakespeare, Milton). Make sure you have a steady Bible reading plan. I say that not because theology is bad, but because many have an exclusive diet of theology; and you actually understand theology better if you have a varied diet (that is, in fact, what Calvin, Hodge and others had).
Fred,
Thanks for the advice. I'll do that.

I agree with what you say about the Bible reading plan. As interested as I am in learning theology or whatever, that definitely comes after Bible reading. I'm hooked on systematically reading through the Bible.

BTW, out of that list of books, which would you recommend? Would it be Calvin's Institutes, or Calvin's Institutes, or Calvin's Institutes?

Thanks again for your advice.
Bob
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Bob, I'm so glad for the blessing that Thomas Watson's book has been to you.
Please excuse my poor memory, but weren't you the one who recommended the book? If so, thanks so much. I don't know of many who would admit it, but at times I think I have, or have had, the attitude expressed by the rich young ruler:

Mat 19:20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Watson's book helped pull the rug right out from under that idea.

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
I would also commend to you further study on God's Law:

1) the Westminster Larger Catechism;

2) Zacharius Ursinus' Commentary on the Heidelberg Catchecism see here

3) and the readings found here (with the exception of Jordan and Bahnsen)
Thanks for the additional recommendations.

The larger catechism looks like an excellent one to start with. I can't help but think how much of a shame it is that so many churches are seemingly against confessions and catechisms. There's such a wealth of Biblical information contained in them.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Robin,
I don't know how many times I have loaned out Horton's book to those wanting an introduction to the Reformed Faith. I have probably read it two ro three times.

I am also writing a novel so I have had to study several different fields intensely in order to incorporate them into my story.

Tell me when your done so I can buy it. I also want you to autograph it for me.

My personal study habits are thus,
I get up in the morning--systematically read Bible.
I read from Institutes (second time around)
Read from whatever book I am going through (I am rereading Fair Sunshine. At the moment I am reading Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura.
Then light reading from Bios, Histories, sometimes fiction, although I am taking a Literature class and I get fiction from there.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by Draught Horse
My personal study habits are thus,
I get up in the morning--systematically read Bible.
I read from Institutes (second time around)
Read from whatever book I am going through (I am rereading Fair Sunshine. At the moment I am reading Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura.
Then light reading from Bios, Histories, sometimes fiction, although I am taking a Literature class and I get fiction from there.
I wonder how many on the board follow a similar regiment, reading several books at the same time. I typically read one at a time (with excursion to different articles), but it does sound like a good idea to multitask the way you do.

As I mentioned, I'll probably start studying the 10 commandments by using the larger catechism. I was wondering if any of you guys know of a downloadable version of the catechism and/or the Westminster confession that uses something like the windows help file? For the 1689 baptist confession, I use a help file called BCF Assistant that I really like. For each section of the confession, it has the scripture references underneath the text. You can click on the references and a separate window is opened next to the confession that has the scriptures. Its really handy and I was wondering if anybody has seen anything like that for the catechism and/or the WCF? (I also use Reformed Confessions for the WCF, but you can't click on the reference to display the verses)

[Edited on 3-26-2005 by blhowes]
 
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