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Blogs

How To (Finally) Quit Multitasking In These Five Daily Activities
The alternative to multitasking is called “monotasking” or “single-tasking.” Here are five situations in which to try it out, and why it might be the answer to helping you survive a jam-packed schedule—without sacrificing time, energy, or quality.”

Proverbs 8:23, the Eternal Generation of the Son and the History of Reformed Exegesis
Nick Batzig surveys reformed exegesis of Proverbs 8 and concludes that it is speaking of the Son of God.

Be a Parent Worthy of Honor
I usually find that those who most insist on their being honored are the least worthy of it:

Children do not bear the full responsibility of the fifth commandment. If children are to extend honor to their parents, parents are to make it easy for them by living honorable lives.

The Necessity of Prayer in Sermon Prep
“Do we give our study proportional prayer?” asks Erik Raymond.

Most preachers I know spend about 10 to 15 hours a week in sermon preparation in order to preach for 30 to 45 minutes. This means our preaching is about 5 percent of our preparation.

Simplicity in Preaching
Kevin DeYoung summarizes J. C. Ryle’s republished booklet on simplicity in preaching.

It’s short and so helpful that I think I can say without exaggeration that every preacher should try to read J.C. Ryle’s Simplicity in Preaching.

I’m Exhausted — How Do I Recharge My Body Without Neglecting My Soul?
John Piper answers a common question:

Hello Pastor John, I’m 41 years old and have been a pastor for nine years, leading a small but growing church of 120 people in Wales. As I have served as a pastor and leader over this time I have found that due to the spiritually, emotionally, and mentally draining nature of the work, whenever I have spare time (an evening off, a Saturday free) all I want to do is switch off and do trivial stuff like watch sports. I feel like I should be doing more personal reading or devotional, God-pursuing stuff, but I can’t find the energy or desire. Ministry is hard work, so when I have opportunity, I want to escape from things connected to it. How do you handle this tension between ministry as part of your work that you give your time and attention to for much of the day and then the need to have energy to pursue God personally outside of your formal ministry activities? Have you felt this tension and do you have any advice for a young, and already tired, pastor?

Kindle Books

Here’s a recap of the books offered for sale this week.

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament $1.99.

Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth—and How They Confirm the Gospel Accounts $1.99.


Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary ($5.99)


Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better by Brant Hansen ($0.99)


Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books by Michael J. Kruger ($5.99)


Perspectives Series on sale, $2.99-$9.99


Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money by Brad Hewitt and James Moline ($3.99)


Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer by Elizabeth W. D. Groves ($2.99)


Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley ($0.99)

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes $2.99.

A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey $2.99.

Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God by J I Packer $1.99


Digital Detox Round-Up

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to Facebook Live event on Digital Detox last week or who watched the video later. I’ll be doing another tomorrow (Friday) at 1pm. Hopefully this time the comments feature will be working so that I can interact with your questions and comments during the live broadcast.

The topic I’d like to address this tomorrow is the use of Technology in our Christian lives. Have a read of 7 Ways Smartphones Can Enhance Your Spiritual Life and then watch this video that says “Turn of your phones and go deep with God.” Who’s right?


Here are the latest links and resources to help us in our battle to make digital technology a servant rather than a master. For all digital detox resources go here.

5 Insights From Pew Research’s 2016 Social Media Update
Here are three of them

1. Sixty-eight percent of ALL U.S. adults use Facebook

2. Fifty-six percent of 18-29-year-olds use auto-deleting apps (mostly Snapchat).

3. Fifty-nine percent of 18-29-year-olds use Instagram.

Why Are Our Children So Anxious?
6 million American teens grapple with an anxiety disorder of some kind. That;s probably an underestimate because it doesn’t take into account children under 12, whom therapists say are also increasingly facing anxiety that exceeds normal childhood fears and worries. The three main reasons given are “more pressure, more stimulus, and more trickle-down stress.”

They feel pressure to create and manage a digital identity. And they have endless information at their technological fingertips which has the potential to emotionally overwhelm them.

“They’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from.”

Even young children can experience a prolonged sense of neurological agitation that comes from screen-time associated with activities such as video games. “The brain becomes overstimulated and doesn’t have a way to calm itself back down,” Goff says. “So kids stay in an anxious frame of mind.”

For this reason, a growing number of parents are beginning to realize that firmer boundaries are necessary when it comes to their child’s need to have a daily segment of time when they separate from their phones or screens entirely—even if this means facing push-back.

And here’s one on how technology is making parents more anxious too!

3 Reasons I Returned My New MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for a Refund
To prove that the newest and latest does not always mean the best, Apple addict, Michael Hyatt, returned his new Macbook pro because it was needlessly complicated and resulted in less productivity.

‘She’d gone from a happy teenager to a wreck’: The day my daughter was caught sexting
Almost a third of teenagers have shared explicit pictures of themselves online and regularly share naked photos with each other via their smart phones, seemingly blissfully unaware – or in denial - of the pitfalls. Read Kate’s painfully common story.

7 Reasons I Refuse to Quit Facebook
Increasing numbers of people are leaving Facebook. Before you do so, you may want to consider these reasons to stay. Digital Detox is not about eliminating all digital media but about reducing it to manageable and beneficial proportions.

Book Review: ‘The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter’
This book argues for less digital and more analog in our lives. Or, to put it simply, for more of the tangible and visible and less of the digital and invisible.

No one, including myself, advocated a return to the predigital lives we once knew. No one was flinging their phones into lakes, or exclusively living off the grid. An entirely analog existence was unattainable and unattractive, but so was an exclusively digital one. What was ideal, and what lay behind the Revenge of Analog, was striking a balance between the two.

Smartphones and How They Change Us: An Interview with Alastair Roberts
Here’s an extensive and detailed discussion between two men who have thought deeply about the role of technology in our lives. Look out for Tony’s excellent upcoming book: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

Time to Shut off our Phones and Go Deep with the Lord
Here’s one to show. Although the opening image is in Dutch, the video is in English. Maybe one for your Youth Group. Transcript below.

You know what, we can run to a thousand things. You can quickly call somebody on your phone. Just, every one of you just about, you have a phone right in your pocket, right in your purse. You can…

You know, it’s difficult to mourn when all of a sudden you get a text message, and then you respond to it. I mean, right at such a time where you’ve sinned and you’re actually beginning to feel something, and have some deep and real dealings with the Lord, and suddenly you hear a phone beep, and you actually respond to it!

I’ll tell you, one of the reasons we don’t go so deep and we don’t mourn so deeply and we don’t weep so bitterly and we don’t contemplate things like David did is because we’re so caught up in the trivialities of our – you know what, there’s a time to turn off your computer, turn off your phone…

Guys, when I was a teenager, phones had cords that went to the wall. We didn’t even have phones you could walk around the house with. There were no phones in cars, yet. Cell phones weren’t even… that was on Star Trek! I’m saying this because people actually have for a long time lived without these things.  There’s a time to shut ‘em off and get alone with the Lord. If you can’t do that, you’re not gonna know the victories of the men and women who have gone really deep with the Lord. That’s just, that’s just a truth.

If you’ve gotta take a 12-gauge shot gun and put a slug hole through the front of your television in order to get alone with the Lord, then do it.


Check out

Blogs

Why is Genesis 1:1 So Controversial?
Good to see this on PJ Media

Here are twenty-six reasons why Genesis 1:1 is the most offensive, enraging verse in the Bible to the modern mind.

In the Valley of Postpartum Depression
Did you know that Postpartum depression is the number one complication of childbirth?

The CDC reports that it affects one in eight women. PPD differs from the “baby blues” that affect 80 percent of mothers because it lasts longer and is more severe. The National Institute of Mental Health describes postpartum depression as “a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth,” explaining, “Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.”

Stop Saying “Yes” So Quickly
Find it difficult to say “No” to ministry opportunities?

I have a problem with overcommitment. I used to say “yes” to almost every ministry opportunity that came my way for these reasons: I love God and want to use the gifts he gave me. I love his bride and enjoy helping her leaders thrive. I need to be needed and thrive on appreciation. That last one was hard to write. I would prefer to have only godly motives to blame for my ministry addiction.

Set An Example: The Booklet
Tim Challies offers a free booklet for young Christians

I recently wrote a whole series of articles on this verse and its implications for young Christians. I’ve now collected those articles, had them edited, and compiled them into a booklet that is free to download. I hope it will prove helpful to young believers and perhaps serve as a resource for individuals and groups. Set An Example is available as a PDF in 3 formats. You are free to print and distribute it as you see fit.

My nightmare on the pill – BBC News
Very rarely acknowledged or reported. Good on the BBC for breaking ranks.

It takes an average of 12 years to recoup the cost of getting your Bachelor’s degree, according to a new report from The College Board. In other words, you will have earned enough money to repay the cost of your degree and make up for your time out of the workforce by the age of 34.

Kindle Books

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes $2.99.

A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey $2.99.

Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God by J I Packer $1.99


20 More Tips for an Email Detox

After writing yesterday’s post on email detox, I decided to look though my digital files for articles on email and see what else I could glean from them. Here are some of the results:

How This MailChimp Employee Limits His Email Time To 90 Minutes A Day.

Processes emails in two windows each day. 60 mins each morning and then 30 minutes at the end of each work day.

The 60 minutes is used to process less important and less urgent messages. The 30 minute window deals with top priority items that require more thought.

Does not use multiple folders for different subjects but has three basic folders:

  • His Inbox: Marks most important messages as unread so that they stay in front of him
  • A “To-Do” folder: Items that I need to take action on or get responses on (just not necessarily right away)
  • A “To-Read” folder: He also has filters that automatically direct newsletters into the “To Read” folder.

Everything else is archived. He rarely deletes anything

Does keep his email open through the day to see  subject lines but is not usually replying until his two windows.

He marks important emails in his Inbox as unread so that they stay in his view (and processes these in his 30 minute session).

How to Write Email with Military Precision

“By adopting military email etiquette, you will introduce a kernel of clarity to your correspondence and that of your colleagues and clients.”

1. Subjects with keywords. The first thing that your email recipient sees is your name and subject line, so it’s critical that the subject clearly states the purpose of the email, and specifically, what you want them to do with your note. Military personnel use keywords that characterize the nature of the email in the subject. Some of these keywords include:

  • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
  • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
  • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
  • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient
  • REQUEST – Seeks permission or approval by the recipient
  • COORD – Coordination by or with the recipient is needed

These demarcations might seem obvious or needlessly exclamatory because they are capitalized. But your emails will undoubtedly stand out in your recipient’s inbox, and they won’t have to work out the purpose of your emails. (It also forces you to think about what you really want from someone before you contribute to their inbox clutter.)

2. Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). 

Military professionals lead their emails with a short, staccato statement known as the BLUF. (Yes, being the military, there is an acronym for everything.) It declares the purpose of the email and action required. The BLUF should quickly answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.

3. Be economical. 

Military personnel know that short emails are more effective than long ones, so they try to fit all content in one pane, so the recipient doesn’t have to scroll.

Could you go a week without checking work email?

Time Management Ninja describes what he did to avoid checking email on vacation.

  • Set Expectations – Simply setting expectations in your absence is a powerful method of preventing many communication issues. Make sure people know you are out of the loop. When I am on vacation, I ensure that my out-of-office notification clearly states that I will be away and who to contact in my absence.
  • Trust Your Team – Too many leaders want to “be in on every decision.” You need to trust your team to make decisions and act in your absence. No one person should be indispensable to operations. And if they are,  you aren’t empowering your people.
  • Reachable for Emergencies – Maybe not for the general population, but my boss and my direct reporting manager could reach me via text or Slack.

A Modest Proposal: Eliminate Email

I love this idea

Employees no longer have personalized email addresses. Instead, each individual posts a schedule of two or three stretches of time during the day when he or she will be available for communication. During these office hours, the individual guarantees to be reachable in person, by phone, and by instant messenger technologies like Slack. Outside of someone’s stated office hours, however, you cannot command their attention. If you need them, you have to keep track of what you need until they’re next available.

On the flipside, when you’re between your own scheduled office hours, you have no inboxes to check or messages demanding response. You’re left, in other words, to simply work. And of course, when you’re home in the evening or on vacation, the fact that there’s no inbox slowly filling up with urgent obligations allows a degree of rest and recharge that’s all but lost from the lives of most knowledge workers today.

6 Steps to Tame Your Email Overload

1. Unsubscribe

Unsubscribe from newsletters, promotional email messages, and other non-essential email messages using something like SpamDrain. Other services like Unroll.me round up your promotional email messages and newsletters and let you unsubscribe in a single click. Those you want to keep are organized into a single email delivery each day.

To cut down on future junk email messages, establish an email address to use for subscriptions and online purchases.

2. Scan and sort

Scan your emails and sort them into folders that will allow you to process the same kinds of emails together which is far more efficient than jumping from one subject to another or one level of intensity to another.

21 Do’s and Don’ts To Improve Your Email Communications

#4 Write your Emails Backwards – To improve responses to your emails, lead with the question or call-to-action as the first line in your email.

#7 Don’t Play Email Ping-Pong – Avoid the back-and-forth email conversation. If you have to reply more than twice, you should probably pick up the phone and call the individual. Email is not a good medium for conversations.

How To Get Things Done: Taming the Email Beast

Open your inbox and begin with the very first email. Open it up and immediately decide what you will do with it. You have a few options:

  • Trash it. If it is junk or something that is irrelevant to you, erase it.
  • Archive it. If it is something you may need in the future, but that requires no action on your part, archive it.
  • Reply to it. If you can reply to it in no more than ten or fifteen seconds and with little mental exertion, do that right away.
  • Move it to your Reply folder. If you cannot reply to it in just a few seconds or if it will require some thought, move it to your reply folder.

Now move to the next email in your inbox, and then the one after that, and the one after that. Do not skip emails and do not allow yourself to do nothing with your emails. By the time you are finished, you should have 0 emails in your inbox.

Only Check Email Twice a Day

My plan is check in at the beginning and end of the work day and spend that time to read and respond to emails for a concentrated 30 minutes. The rest of the day, my inbox will be closed and I’ll set an auto response to let people know that they’ll have to wait a little while longer for a response.

5 Ways to Keep Email From Taking Over Your Life

TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS! “If you’re interrupted, even if you handle it in one minute, it takes another four minutes to get back to what you were doing before,” she explains. “It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. If you can reduce 15 interruptions a day, you’ll find yourself with at least an hour more of productivity. If you do this for a week, that’s five more hours of uninterrupted working time.”

LIMIT CHECK-INS! For maximum productivity, she suggests, limit your checks to just three times a day: first thing in the morning, after lunch, and near the end of the day. If that seems completely unreasonable, add in a mid-morning and mid-afternoon email fix. “Anything but the direst emergency—which shouldn’t be conveyed in email anyway—can wait 90 minutes or more,”

DON’T CHECK IF YOU WON’T REPLY: If you can’t give your email the appropriate attention, don’t bother checking it. “Check your email only when you have time to respond, not just react,” Egan advises. “Why would you check your email five minutes before you go to sleep? If someone sends a scathing note, you’ll stew about it all night, and there’s nothing you’ll be able to do about it.


Check Out

Blogs

No More Channel-Flipping Sermons. | Scribblepreach.com
I’m with Nick on this one:

So pick a section of scripture, and stick to it. Put down the clicker. Maybe change the channel once, from Old Testament to New, or vice versa. But hunker down. Tell the story, make the argument, sing the song. If I had to make a rule of thumb, I’d say three different texts is plenty, but two is ideal.

Does Sermon Prep Get Easier? | Richard Caldwell, The Expositors Seminary
“Can I expect that the longer I preach, and the more times that I prepare sermons, the easier it will become to be ready by Sunday? I would answer, yes and no.”

3 Ways to Recognize Workaholism in Ministry | Eric Geiger
“Ministry can attract workaholics because working non-stop in ministry can feel holy and attract applause. But being a workaholic in any role is never holy, and it always leaves one hollow. Families suffer. Relationships are harmed. No one wins.”

Six Questions to Diagnose Subtle Gossip | Desiring God
Ever sent a message about someone to others and then realize you’ve also sent it to the person too? Yep.

Best Possible Gift: The Legacy of Mike Ovey (1958–2017)| Matthew Barrett, TGC
“Sadly, and without warning, Mike died this past Saturday evening, leaving behind his wife, Heather, and their three children: Charlie, Harry, and Ana. It is an understatement to say Mike’s death was an absolute shock to the close-knit seminary community at Oak Hill as well as to the wider evangelical world. Countless stude nts, colleagues, and friends continue to grieve such a great loss to the church in the UK and in America. To many the timing seems premature. Why Mike Ovey . . . and why now, O Lord?”

Isabel Hardman: When my mind stopped working, I realised just how badly we treat mental health| The Telegraph 
“At first, I found work was an escape from my personal problems, and colleagues remarked on how well I seemed to be coping, given what had happened. But gradually I found my mind becoming foggier, and my reactions to everyday troubles more extreme and anxious. I’ve had times in my life where I have been miserable. But never before had I struggled to control my mind.”

What Christianity Alone Offers Transgender Persons | Sam Allberry, TGC
“A day barely passes without transgender issues hitting the news. It might be a human interest feature about someone transitioning from one sex to another, and how they’ve been received (or not) by their communities. It might concern the politics of rights for transgender men and women, and which restrooms should be available to them. It might have to do with complex discussions about the causes of and treatments available for transgenderism. But one thing’s for sure: This issue isn’t going away anytime soon, and we Christians can’t afford to avoid it. ”

Featured Book

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.


Living the Christian Life: Selected Thoughts of William Grimshaw of Haworth

Kindle Deals


Perspectives Series on sale, $2.99-$9.99


Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money by Brad Hewitt and James Moline ($3.99)


Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer by Elizabeth W. D. Groves ($2.99)


Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley ($0.99)


10 Tips for Email Detox

Following on from yesterday’s post which highlighted the email deluge that’s drowning so many of us, here are the steps I take to hold back the flood. I’d love to hear what you do in the comments below.

1. I check email three times a day

I do a quick check as soon as I get to my desk at 7.15am. This is mainly to make sure there aren’t any urgent family messages from the UK overnight. I very rarely reply to any emails on this check, unless there is an emergency.

My second check is 12 noon. Again, I very rarely reply to anything on this check unless it’s something urgent from a colleague or in my congregation.

My third check is about 3pm when I process all my email in one batch until (ideally) I have nothing in my Inbox.

2. I set a time limit of about 45 minutes to process email

This deadline forces me to minimize the time on each email and squeeze in as many as I can within the time. I keep them as brief and to the point as possible. If there’s an email that’s going to take more time than usual, I will usually put it in a folder marked Friday. If there are emails I haven’t got to in that time, I usually just leave them in my Inbox until the next day and deal with them first.

3. Each Friday afternoon, I devote an extra hour to longer emails

This is when I process my “Friday Folder.” These are emails that involve me doing some research or offering some counseling/pastoral advice. I usually process these in the order I’ve received them. Sometimes I get through three or four, sometimes less. If it looks like I won’t be getting back to somebody for a while, I’ll let them know that. I also use this hour to process any Facebook messages.

3. I check email twice at weekends

I take a quick look once on Saturday and once on Sunday and very rarely reply to any.

4. I do not check email on vacation

When I go on vacation, I set up an auto-reply specifying the dates I am out of the office and will not be responding to email. On the auto-reply I give the email address of my assistant, Sarah, and ask them to contact her if there is anything that cannot wait. She then decides whether to contact me by text or to just ask the person to wait.

5. I have standard replies for my assistant

I have 4-5 standard replies for my assistant to send to common questions and enquiries. These include requests for counseling/advice, preaching/speaking, book reviews, book endorsements. I used to use this more and need to get back to it again (my fault, Sarah!).

6. I delegate some replies

Sometimes I ask my assistant or a student to answer an email for me. I may give some brief guidance and leave the exact wording to them.

7. I delay some replies

If someone is emailing me too much, I will often delay answering for a few days or a week or so. I don’t do this very often, but I have found that delaying replies lowers expectations and eventually reduces unnecessary emails.

8. I don’t feel obliged to answer every email

Email has made it possible for just about anyone to access us at any time of the day (or night) with a request or a question that may take 15-30 minutes to answer. There have been times in my life when I could have filled most of my working day with answering such emails from people I’ve never known or met. I no longer feel obliged to do that. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t respond. No longer. My primary responsibilities are to the Seminary and congregation that have called me (and pay me) and I should feel guilty if I am not serving them in the way I have promised. So, often, I will ask my assistant to explain that I cannot answer due to my moral obligation to serve my employers.

9. I keep junk out of my Inbox

This is a constant battle but I regularly purge my Inbox to ensure that it’s not being clogged up with newsletters, offers, promotions, spam, etc. It’s too distracting when I’m trying to process real email.

10. I turn of all notifications

I hate the idea of being constantly interrupted by beeps and banners on my phone or computer. I just think that’s insanity if we’re trying to do any worthwhile work and train our brains to think well and think deeply.

Hope some of these tips help you.  I realize some of them may not be applicable in your situation. And, as I said, I hope you can give me some tips too.

For more on Digital Detox go to the resources page.