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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

study to learn: rule of life

Yesterday I used the analogy of sermon preparation as a model for 'study' and I tried to provide several parallels. Today a few suggestions on study.

Just as prayer commitment is difficult because of time; busy schedules make real study a challenge. For one thing it is time consuming to even try to figure out what to study! With prayer it is much more straightforward (goal: "communication leading to communion"). With study, there a hundred legitimate starting points and goals. So where is one to start?

Well, if you are reading this then you have started. There are many blogs trying to provide information which is helpful to your journey. I have chosen several which I go to on a regular basis. They provide me with a breadth of information because they write about many different things.

I would suggest some reading in the area of prayer and spirituality. Long ago I learned that running magazines and weightlifting magazines seemed to have the same kinds of articles every month. At first this frustrated me, but later I realized that there were not going to be six new ideas about getting in shape every few weeks. The purpose of those magazines is to support of their readers in keeping with their commitments. Sure there is an occassional new idea, but in the end it is about remembering the basics. Reading a book on prayer every few months is the same sort of thing. It is not so much that you get new information as it is about renewing commitment.

I would suggest something on Church history. Biographies of great Christian people is a good idea. Right now everyone seems to be reading the bew book on Bonhoeffer. I would suggest someone old (before 600) for every one more recent. It is the best way to get to our roots. The book, "The Celtic Model of Evangelism" explained how St. Patrick and others successfully converted Ireland over fifteen hundred years ago. It resonated with me and was a real help.

Commentaries are vital. Tom Wright is probably the best there is. He has a series on the Gospels and Paul's writings which are very helpful and quite readable. They are called "Matthew for Everyone" or "Romans for Everyone." They look at a passge with a couple pages of commentary which blends scholarly information in an approachable form with reflections on every day life today. When studying about the Bible it is helpful to remember that learning should challenge you sometimes. Writing as NT Wright he has compiled some huge volumes which are more challenging but very helpful and thought provoking. He has a webpage with numerous articles.

'How to' books are also prevalent. Many contemporary writers have provided endless books on topics addressing life as a Christian today.

Probably the best advice I can give is this. You know what interests you, pursue learning more about that! Also, be aware of your weakness. If you do not know much about the Old Testament pick up Derek Leman's "A New Look at the Old Testament" and get on it. It may feel like going back to school, but my theory is graduation means we have more control over what we study. We should never "leave school" because we should never stop learning.

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