Filtering by Category: The 4 R's

Studying for Joy: A Forgotten Discipline

Psalm 111:2 - "Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them." I have been thinking about this verse a lot of recent. It motivates me and encourages me as a student of the Lord. Studying is a hobby of mind, as well as reading and collecting good books, so a Scripture like this ready ammunition against those who demean the labor of study and hard thinking.  But what can we learn from this verse?

First, studying is one of the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Praising, praying, and pushing back our plates to fast are all basic disciplines but we rarely talk about this one, the discipline of study. Studying takes time. Studying requires effort. Studying requires patience. It is more than reading. It is doubtless related to seeking solitude and meditation but it goes beyond that. It involves an intentional seeking out, investigation, process of discovery, and the capture of one's effort by pen, paper, keyboard, or computer.

Second, this discipline is engaged in by those who delight in the works of the LORD. There is a sense of inevitability here, like the moth drawn to the flame, or to give a more life-affirming metaphor, a deer drawn to a stream. We see here that the "upright" (vs. 1) are those who delight in God's work. And because they delight in God's works they are pulled into contemplation, reflection, and deep thinking on what God has accomplished, revealed, and spoken. This impulse to study is not driven by duty or demand but by delight. Delight is the greatest motivator in the world.  People do what they enjoy. What kind of people are the upright? Those who enjoy thinking upon the things of God. 

Of course, studying is not easy. We are talking about disciplines but drudgery is not a necessary component of discipline. Some use verses such as Ecclesiastes 12:12, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh," in reference to study of the Scriptures but it does not apply here.  Ecclesiastes is a book which poetically and proverbially lays out the futility of man-centered thinking. In that context, the kind of study implied in Ecclesiastes is from a man-centered view of the universe that is "vanity of vanities." Just think of the piles of books in the stacks of your nearby public university and imagine being stuck there forever looking for answers from the great learned men of the ages-Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, and all the rest with their lineage of interpreters-and never able to arrive at coherent answers. Yes, that is futility!  Those books will wear you out, but the Book will give you life. University studies may exhaust you, but those who wait upon the Lord receive strength (Isaiah 40:31).

Third, the focus of study is on the works of the LORD.  It is the great works of the Lord that the upright delight in, not the exercise of study itself. Study for the sake of study for the sake of personal smarts is not the goal here, that kind of study is the kind that leads to weariness of the flesh! The works of the Lord is a broad term encompassing all that God has done from the awesomeness of His creative power, to His mighty acts of deliverance and judgment, the giving of His law, and His inspired words through the prophets.  This is all of reality under God and God-filled.  The upright see the universe as a stage for the drama of God's plan.  This allows the believer to stake a claim on everything and study it before God with God in clear view but giving each subject its own due.  However, we must not lose sight here that the centerpiece of this study is God Himself and all His works.  There is an implied circle of delight here: God reveals Himself in His works, the upright delight in them and study them, God reveals more of Himself, the upright study and find delight, and forever this will continue...  As Lewis ended the Chronicles of Narnia with the words, "...and every chapter was better than the last!"

5 Things: On Presenting

...or 5 things relevant to speaking, preaching, teaching, talking, or leading discussions in front of other people.  2 truths about speaking in front of others: (1) most people are very afraid of it; and (2) your career, calling, or ministry will be much more rewarding if you become good at it. Here are five resources I have found interesting on the subject of speaking.  There's a lot to learn on the subject and we should learn from as many sources as we can.  Particularly, I think there is a lot to learn here on the use of multimedia and slides.  Good stuff. Enjoy.

1. Garr Reynolds @ Google

Reynolds is a professional at developing presentations using powerpoint, slides, and media.  The advice may surprise you.  This is one area where truly less is more.

2. Scott Berkun @ Google

You seeing a pattern here?  Google has this great thing called Authors at Google to which they regularly invite well known authors on many subjects and allow them to give a presentation to their employees.  They then post the video to Youtube!  How cool is that?  Berkun wrote an interestingly looking book called Confessions of a Public Speaker which I haven't read but would love to pick up.

3. Toastmasters

This organization exists to equip people for public speaking.  Their may be a club near you.  I'm thinking about looking them up locally myself.  The link will lead you to free resources on the subject.  The basics are the basics and the reason most of us aren't that good at speaking publicly is that we do not follow the basics.

4. Public Speaking Isn't Life or Death... by Andy Le Peau

A good, short post on some things to guide your approach to public speaking.  And all of these apply to preaching in my opinion, particularly: know your audience, be yourself, and keep them (the audience) wanting more.

5. AmericanRhetoric.com

AmericanRhetoric.com is a website dedicated to the use of rhetoric, which is simply the art of persuasion, and thus has everything to do with public speaking.  It has a number of interesting things such as a list of the top 100 speeches in America during the 20th century.

EXTRA: 12 Public Speaking Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.

Lastly, here is a great idea, that of Augustine: "the purpose of public speaking is to love your audience as your neighbor" (http://quentinschultze.com/books/public-speaking/)

Writing to Think Clearly

Writing out is a key exercise in learning to think well.  Writing puts the thought out there on paper to behold.  It expresses it; gives it reality in space and time.  Ink meets paper (or pixels illumine liquid-crystal-display) and the thought is now outside your mind and ready to be argued for or with or against or to be refined or reshaped or rejected.  It is indispensable to clear thinking and useful for study, believing, discipline, prayer, reading, and just about anything else you do with the mind. John Piper has this to say about the function of writing in his thinking:

“…In my English class [in 1963], the desire to read serious books and the desire to write serious essays and poems was born. This has never gone away. Writing has been an almost daily habit since then—in one form or another—notes, letters, journal entries, poems, ideas, reports, essays, and more. Writing became the lever of my thinking and the outlet of my feelings. If I didn’t pull the lever, the wheel of thinking did not turn. It jerked and squeaked and halted. But once a pen was in hand, or a keyboard, the fog began to clear and the wheel of thought began to spin with clarity and insight.”

-John Piper, “The Pastor As Scholar: A Personal Journey,” Chicago, April 23, 2009.

The whole lecture from which this quote was pulled is quite interesting, or you can read it.  Whatever suits you best.

5 Things: On Writing

This week's 5 Things take the next R in the three R's to give five resources on writing.  There are a lot resources on writing out there and it seems that there are as many theories on writing as there are writers.  Like many things, you become a good writer by writing, or as they say in the sticks, "ya get good at writin' by writin' a whole bunch!"  Nevertheless, a few good resources can be very helpful.  Of course, when it comes to writing there are many types of writing and yet general rules still apply and you can learn from many types of writers so cast your net wide and get tips from essayists, historians, novelists, poets, and others. 1. Last week I recommended a piece on reading by Doug Wilson and this week I want to recommend some more by Mr. Mablog.  Did I say last week that I enjoy his blog?  Let me say it again: Wilson is many things but never boring.  That is a great virtue in a writer.  It hardly matters what he's writing about, he's having fun and you can tell.  Often times I think, "I can't believe he just said that?"  He is no prisoner of the thought police and He genuinely enjoys himself.  Wow, what a thought!  Deep thinking expressed in joyful and provocative writing.  Wilson gives you permission to have a good time when you write, be all visual, and just go metaphorical.  Anywhoo, here is his stuff:

Seven Basic and Brief Pointers for Writers - The first article in a series which he expanded into the following articles.

A Russian Doll of Writing Tips - Wilson presents a basic attitude towards writing, one without pretensions and hubris.

Read Until Your Brain Creaks - This one I gave you last week, but here it is in the series.

Word Fussers and Whowhomers - On really learning the language.

Born for the Clerihew - On stretching before you run, and exercising with variety.

The Memoirs of Old Walnut Heart - Practice, practice, practice.

Ancient Roman Toddlers - On the value of learning other languages.

Uncommon Commonplaces - On the scavenging of other writers.

A Three Pound Fruitcake - After a great deal of advice, Wilson here turns to some apt warnings for the writer.

Marauders of Literary Fashion - And the cautions continue.

 

2. And here is a series on writing by the son of Doug Wilson, N.D. Wilson, aimed primarily at those desiring to write fiction.

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 1 (Don’ts)

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 2 (For the Critics, These Pearls . . .)

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 3 (Prose for Body and Brain)

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 4 (An Exercise)

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 5 (Found Dialog)

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 6 (The Obstacle Course)

3. Thomas Sowell, a great writer on economics , politics, and contemporary social issues, has put his thoughts on the discipline of writing together here: Some Thoughts About Writing.  He is honest and frank about the joys and pains of trying to get published.

4. It was only after reading his obituary that I learned of Denis Dutton, the founder of the very interesting website Arts & Letters Daily, and consequently did some digging around and found a few interesting and useful things he had put together.  For several years running he led a yearly contest on bad academic writing in an effort to fight the obfuscation of academic prose.  In other words, he was campaigning against dense, difficult, and ridiculously confounding writing in academic publications.  He proved his point every year.  This may or may not help you, but if you ever have to write or wish to write anything of an expository, explanatory, or persuasive nature, I think this will be a cautionary exercise for you (and me).  Here it is: The Bad Writing Contest.

5. Here is a list of resources from a seminar at Southern Seminary: On Writing and Publishing.

Today's extra resource, for those deeply interested, is this essay by the great writer of politic parables, George Orwell on Politics and the English Language.

UPDATED: Extra, extra, I should have included this but I had forgot about it till digging through my files a bit: Fifty Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

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