Old Testament Survey Students:
Greetings. Attached you should find the Bible Reading Plan for class.
A Few Thoughts on Time, Using Time Well, Relaxing Well, and a Few Other Various Thoughts
1. Paul can teach that we should be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. This can also be translated “redeem” the time. Time is fleeting, and you must be intentional about redeeming the time that has been given you
2. We should think about time as a gift from God which is the backdrop given to us, against which we can fulfill our callings.
3. Do everything in the fifteen minutes, for the hours never come (Albert Schweitzer).
4. In terms of getting things done, do not think you are above setting goals. Set some goals and go for it. You might ask: “How do I envision myself different in five or ten years from now?” Is there an author you want to be more familiar with? Is there a field of study you want to spend time reading in?
5. As you think about setting goals, consider setting some daily disciplines—even if these are not “big” or time consuming. For example, I try to work on all the languages I want to improve at. Most days I meet this goal.
6. Consider ways to disconnect from the internet and from social media. I just read about a 16 year old Australian gal—famous for some reason, with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. She has just gone off Twitter. My. This may mean simply breaks from the internet. Whatever the details of your regimen, I would strongly encourage you to do the following:
· Have some sort of regular time when you are not online (perhaps when you leave work, go off-line until the next day?).
· If you are married, do not develop the habit of always being online “together” for you leisure time. Talk together, read a book together, go for a walk together, etc.
Some of the things I have done:
· Get off Facebook.
· Have a work computer that is not hooked up to the internet.
· When on vacation I sometimes decide to go long stretches of internet activity whatsoever.
7. When you read, sometimes it is nice to have relaxing music on. Fine. But I am convinced the brain needs some extend time of quiet in order to process what one is thinking, and to grow intellectually. See A. G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life
8. Develop some hobbies that stretch you in certain ways. For example, I live a sedentary life, so I try . . .
· To exercise regularly
· To go for walks with my wife
· To work on projects around the house with the children
9. As you look ahead a few years, you might think: Is God calling me to something? We already know we are called to: Love God, love neighbor, pray without ceasing, do not get drunk on wine but be filled with the Spirit, love your spouse, raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, etc. If you do those, you have done well. I would also encourage you to dream some big dreams, and to pray to the Lord, asking what He would do with your life.
10. Whether you are a true-blue Sabbatarian or not, you would do well to have regular times of rest in your life.
In doing some work this morning, I re-read this by Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4:8. The English text reads:
"Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who give his Holy Spirit to you." Paul has, in 4:1, referred to what the Thessalonians had received from Paul and his co-workers, that is, teaching on: "how you ought to walk and to please God . . ." And Paul speaks in 4:1-7, in general, of our sanctification (4:3), and in particular sexual holiness.
Then Paul says: "Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who give his Holy Spirit to you." Bullinger's comments are interesting, for he wants to emphasize that Christ himself is the one who is doing the teaching in the Christian church. My mind went to passages like Jeremiah 31, where the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah says: "And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each is brother, saying 'Know the LORD"; and 1 John 2:27: "But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you . . ."
Here is what Bullinger says:
"For he as the only teacher and mater in the Church, teaches his disciples, that is, the Church, or congregation of the faithful, inducing them with the holy ghost, regenerating and drawing them, sanctifying and making them free from their sins. Which thing the Scripture in every place plainly teaches." (Of the Ministry and the Ministers of God)
That is, it is ultimately Christ who teaches in the Church. I am uncertain if Bullinger elsewhere links this to passages like Jeremiah 31 and 1 John 2, but it would not be surprising if he did. It is interesting that it is Bullinger who writes this, given that it was in and around Zurich you had more radical reformers, who would undoubtedly have seen in this kind of teaching something to their liking. But to muddy the waters a bit, one can also see how Rome could offer her own take on Bullinger's general thesis. Rome could say (and does say, and one finds this in Augustine), that one of the reasons for the efficacy of the (Roman Catholic) church's ministry is that it is actually Christ who is ministering to people in and through the ministry of the Church. No doubt Bullinger meant what he meant in a very different sense!
Protestants would be happy to say that Christ dwells, through the Holy Spirit, in God's people. But when one ties too closely (1) this or that act of the Church (e.g., the sacraments/ordinances) with (2) the ministry of Christ, things can get messy.
A friend, who shall remain nameless, once asked me: "Do you think one can be a Baptist, and believe in the possibility of Christendom?" It is a good question, deserving of a thoughtful answer. However one ultimately answers such a question, I think one certainly should say that when a person becomes a Christian, this conversion should effect every aspect of one's existence--whether be it more traditionally "personal" things, or more "public" things--including: one's job, one's marriage, how one raises children, how one relates to neighbors, etc.,
In short: to be changed by the gospel changes everything. So, when Christ is Lord of one's life, he is Lord of every facet of existence--down to the last detail.
So, I was intrigued to see the way J.H. Bavinck treated this general type of issue--the way conversion changes everything--in his An Introduction to the Science of Missions (pages 55-56). Here is what Bavinck writes:
"The whole of human life is touched by the epistles . . . . Not only is the inner life renewed, but every relationship in which we stand is also fundamentally altered and as a consequence the whole of society is reborn. Nothing in human life is indifferent, nothing lies outside the power of sin, but also there is nothing which is excluded from the salvation of God. God will rebuild our whole existence from the ground up. Then it is indeed true that he who is in Christ is a new creature, in every respect."
The whole society is reborn. I suspect the proper way to think about how the Christian faith changes every aspect of reality should be centered in these words. When a person comes to faith, when he or she is born again from above, this changes everything, and ultimately the conversion of persons leads to the rebirth of the whole society. There may be a certain eschatology lurking in the background here, but that can be pursued later.
It is rewarding when you see a number of interests converge in interesting ways. At the heart of the theology of Calvin (indeed, at the very beginning of his Institutes) is a key dyad: (1) the knowledge of God and (2) the knowledge of the self. For Calvin, these two kinds of knowledge are mutually reinforcing and intertwined. The more we know God the more we come to know who we truly are, and the more we know who we are, the more we are driven to see our need for the knowledge of God. But Calvin the great French theologian has been largely been rejected by the French 400 years later . . .
When one reads the 20th century French existentialists (and perhaps modern philosophy more generally) one sees a consistent tendency: the attempt to make sense of the self (the knowledge of the self) completely apart from the knowledge of God. Whether one reads Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, or many others, there is a consistent attempt to understand who we are without any recourse to the knowledge of God. It is no wonder that Camus, Sarte, and virtually the whole existentialist tradition was a tradition of despair--as they were quite happy to admit.
So, now I am reading an older classic book on the nature of missions: J.H. Bavinck, An Introduction to the Science of Missions, first published in 1960. There are gems on virtually every page, and I hope to share some of these. As a quick background, I think that in good Christian theology one of the important things one needs to be able to affirm, is the reality of both human and divine agency. One gets into a load of trouble by only affirming one or the other--either divine agency or human agency, but not both. This is absolutely critical. So, one must be able to affirm God's agency or action, and man's agency or action.
So, in reading Bavinck on missions, I was reading the chapter, "The Idea of Missions in the Epistles of the Apostles" (chapter 4). He writes:
"A missionary is the 'ambassador of Christ,' Christ's representative; God himself speaks through the mouth of the missionary. Paul's awareness of this is extremely striking, especially when he refers to himself. For then Paul always seeks to use the dangerous word 'I' in a responsibly Christian way, sot that both pride and helplessness are excluded" (p. 44).
Love it: "the dangerous word 'I'." One must be able to really speak of the importance of the "I". But to understand the "I" properly is to understand the "I" in relationship to God, as the one who has created and governs and rules the "I". Calvin got this right, the existentialists--and much of modern philosophy--did not and has not.
Good Christian theology--by seeing the "I" in proper relationship to God, can both affirm the importance of the "I", but can also--understood correctly--put the "I" in its proper place. The "I" is neither autonomous, nor one more meangless carbon unit in a meaningless world--a meaningless which drove Camus to assert that, even if the world is meaningless, and hence we live an absurd existence, it is nonetheless courageous to defy such absurdity, to try to go on living a "meaningful" life in a world bereft of meaning.
If the Christian understanding of reality is true, and I believe it is, the only path forward for modern man is to abandon both (1) the notion of an autonomous "I", as well as (2) the despair from trying to make sense of the "I"--the human person--apart from the reality of the good, loving, and Triune God. True meaning and freedom is only found in relating properly to that God who can show the "I" what it truly means to be a person, to be truly free.