About Paul Schlehlein

Follower of Jesus, husband, father of 6, and missionary church-planter to the Tsongas in rural South Africa.

(3) Family Worship Improves the Mind

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The third benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it improves the mind.

The family learns to focus

I read recently about the terrible working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. The people worked 12-16 hours a day. A boss would often fine employees if he caught them gazing out the window. Children eight years old and up worked dangerously long days and were punished if they “made faces” at one another. This is a cruel way to teach focus.

Family worship is the sweet and joyful way to educate children how to maintain their intellectual concentration. Solomon pressed upon his boys the importance of focus. “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding” (Pr. 2:2, NLT). You’ll find some practical ways to do this below. Continue reading

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(2) Family Worship Rewards Future Generations

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The second benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it rewards future generations.

The reward of compound interest

Fools think only about today. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1Cor. 15:32). Imbeciles spend it all immediately, while wise men invest it and watch their earnings grow. In the same way, the Christian worldview looks to the future–to children and grandchildren. In family worship, fathers teach their children’s children. The placard above his home is: “All that is good, pass on.” Continue reading

(1) Family Worship Creates Family Harmony

Though the Puritans said the benefits of family worship are “impossible to describe”, I’ll be striving to highlight some of its blessings and advantages.

The first benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it creates family harmony.

John Paton was the great missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas.

His father was resolute to lead the family in morning and evening prayer, Bible reading, catechism and singing. If this family worship had been mere homework or simply a job to check off, the Paton children would have rebelled against such hypocrisy. Instead, this sincere worship solidified the children’s bonds with their father and with each other. Paton wrote in his Autobiography:

“None of us can remember that any day ever passed unhallowed thus; no hurry for market, no rush to business, no arrival of friends or guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevented at least our kneeling around the family altar, while the High Priest led our prayers to God and offered himself and his children there.” (p. 14)

Harmony through unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1)! How many millionaires would give all their wealth for peace in their home? Most people would rather be poor and unified than rich and divided (Pr. 15:17). Continue reading

Review: How to Get Unstuck

Matt Perman, Zondervan, 2018, 288 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: it’s not enough to protect your time. You must protect your focus.

“The Preciousness of Time” by Jonathan Edwards is the best teaching I’ve read on time management because of its theological rigor. From a productivity standpoint, however, Unstuck was more profitable. Matt Perman, a Christian that blogs at Whats Best Next, provides ten principles for maximum productivity. But his greatest contribution is the importance of focus–no easy thing in our preoccupied world.

The secret to effectiveness is concentration, which is focusing on one priority for an extended time.

Concentration gets more done better. The goal is “deep work”, a state of high concentration. It is a kind of super power that most people cannot perform because it has so many obstacles. The formula is: time spent x intensity of focus high quality of work produced. Effective people are able to concentrate (doing one thing at a time) for long periods on the most important things. This takes a lot of practice.

Pros: Perman has spent decades crafting excellent habits of time management. I didn’t want to forget his advice, so I consolidated his book into my own mnemonic device: F-O-C-U-S. (1) Fight distractions. These are the biggest obstacles to deep work because it kills flow. It’s crucial to finish one job at a time because incomplete tasks dominate our attention (“I still have to get this done”) and depletes energy (“I’m so stressed”). Personally, eliminating distractions during deep work includes seclusion, having no access to my phone, closing email and Evernote, doing online reading after the work day, no “work” post 5:30 pm, and no phone checks until after breakfast.

(2) Order the day according to priorities. There’s a difference between responsibilities (duties) and priorities (chief duties). It is vital to give our best, longest and most skilled time to priorities.  It’s not a priority if it doesn’t take high concentration. (3) Complete the task. Start and complete one job at a time. Bach and Handel composed one major work at a time. Rare freaks like Mozart that could do multiple works simultaneously are not the model.

(4) Use large chunks of time to accomplish deep work. Two small chunks of 2 hours are must less effective than one chunk of 4 hours. (5) Stop work when the day is over. End your day at a specific time so you can recharge. You’ll be less effective during the day if you tell yourself you can get tasks done late at night.

Cons: Perman is a Christian and Southern Seminary grad (MDiv in two years) that used to serve on staff at Desiring God. I wish he had used more Scripture in the book. Unstuck has a little too much business/CEO feel for my taste. But I never read books from that genre, so it probably was good for me.

Conclusion: Perman succeeds in convincing the reader to habitually prioritize his day and focus on important tasks for long periods of time. Read chapter 13 if you only have time for one. Chapters 1, 11-12, and 16 were helpful too.

Excerpts:

  1. “The more distracted we are, the more shallow our reflections; the shorter our reflections, the more trivial they are likely to be.”
  2. “If there is a ‘secret’ of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective [people] do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” – Peter Drucker
  3. “Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day.”
  4. “The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.” Cal Newport

Ten Ways Judas Iscariot and Prosperity Preachers are the Same

  1. They betray Christ for money (Mt. 26:15).
  2. They love maintaining the outward appearance of holiness (Mt. 26:25).
  3. They show remorse at public scandals but not true repentance (Mt. 27:3-5).
  4. They sometimes refuse money to feign godliness (Mt. 27:5).
  5. They interact with Jesus’ disciples while being secretly paid to deceive them (Lk. 22:5-6).
  6. They display public affection for Christ while working for the devil (Lk. 22:47).
  7. They expertly fool the masses but cannot deceive the righteous Judge (Jn. 5:26-27).
  8. They use the guise of caring for the poor to hide greed (Jn. 12:6).
  9. They are demonic (Jn. 13:27).
  10. They show that despite their terrible sin, the sovereign will of God cannot be broken (Hb. 2:14).

Ten Gracious Steps for the Sexually Immoral

Sexual immorality is rampant all over the world. Our African village is no different. When those inside our church fall to this sin, we counsel them with a spirit of love by urging them to follow these ten “R’s”.

This always takes time and patience. Teaching through a list like this may take hours or even days. But the repentance of a sinning brother is worth this kind of investment.

  1. Remember. God’s will is that you stay far away from sexual immorality (1Th. 4:3). Don’t forget that God has created you for the purpose of imitating the holy life of Christ (Mt. 5:48).
  2. Request. Ask God to forgive your sin (1Jn. 1:9), to give you a pure heart (Ps. 51:10), to protect you from the sin of fornication (Gn. 20:6; 1Chr. 4:10; Ps. 141:9) and to help you persevere (1Jn. 2:19).
  3. Responsibility. Place the blame on yourself for your sin (Ps. 51:1-4). Do not fault the world or church for suspecting the genuineness of your Christian profession while you are living in immorality (Eph. 5:3; 1Co. 6:9-10).
  4. Run. Stay far away from the temptation, not just the sin (Ex. 13:17-18). The best way to avoid fornication is to avoid tempting situations (Dt. 25:13-15; Pr. 5:8; 7:8). Flee fornication! (Gn. 39:12; 1Co. 6:18).
  5. Read. Diligently study and meditate upon God’s Word. It is powerful enough to keep His people from sin (Ps. 119-11; Pr. 7:2-3).
  6. Reflect. Guard your thought life by thinking upon pure things (Phil. 4:8). Rid yourself of any objects that hinders this (Dt. 25:13). Meditate upon what Jesus did on the cross to forgive you of such sins (Rm. 5:8).
  7. Relate. Be around believers as often as you possibly can (Hb. 10:25).
  8. Respect. Treat younger women as sisters and older women as mothers (1Tm. 5:2). Avoid doing things with a person of the opposite sex that you would not do with your sister or brother.
  9. Resolve. Get married when you are young (Pr. 5:18) to avoid youthful sins (1Co. 7:2), provided are emotionally and financially prepared (1Tm. 5:8) and the person is a Christian (2Co. 6:14; 1Co. 7:31). If not, break off the relationship.
  10. Repent. Mourn over your fornication (2Co. 12:21). Recognize that this sin breaks God’s law (Gn. 39:9; Ex. 20:14), the church covenant and is worthy of church expulsion should you not repent in word and action (1Co. 5).

Review: The Heart of the Bible

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2005, 143 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: a list and explanation of fifty-two key passages every Christian should memorize

John MacArthur wanted to encourage his congregation to memorize more Scripture. He chose 52 passages that reflected ten main themes–the heart of the Bible. The 2-3 page explanations on each passage are theologically rich and easy to understand.

Pros: (1) This is a great book to give new Christians at their baptism. As they begin their Christian walk, these pages will encourage them to memorize and understand the Bible’s foundational passages.

(2) The book fits well into a one-year course. Our little African church is memorizing one passage for each week of the year.