‘Biblical Spirituality’ Category

“We Reap on Zion’s Hill”

April 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After a life consumed in service to Christ, on April 12, 1850, Adoniram Judson entered his heavenly rest.  Judson’s eminent biographer, Francis Wayland, comments on the effect of Judson’s heavenly-minded piety on his life and virtue.

In treating of his religious character, it would be an omission not to refer to his habitual heavenly mindedness. In his letters, I know of no topic that is so frequently referred to as the nearness of the heavenly glory.  If his loved ones died, his consolation was that they should all so soon meet in paradise.  If an untoward event occurred, it was of no great consequence, for soon we should be in heaven, where all such trials would either be forgotten, or where the recollection of them would render our bliss the more intense.  Thither his social feelings pointed, and he was ever thinking of the meeting that awaited him with those who with him had fought the good fight, and were now wearing the crown of victory. So habitual were these trains of thought, that a person well acquainted with him remarks, that “meditation on death was his common solace in all the troubles of life.”  I do not know that the habitual temper of his mind can in any words be so well expressed as in the following lines, which he wrote in pencil on the inner cover of a book that he was using in the compilation of his dictionary:

“—In joy or sorrow, health or pain,
Our course be onward still;
We sow on Burmah’s barren plain,
We reap on Zion’s hill.”[1]


[1]Wayland, Memoir, 2:381-382.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Uneducated Ministers?

April 3rd, 2014 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

Sometimes theological education can be downplayed as though it were an unnecessary hobby for left-brained seminarians.  Unfortunately, rigorous biblical/theological training can be disparaged and treated as peripheral for “real” ministry to “real” people with “real” problems.  Doctrine divides, Jesus unites; deeds, not creeds; practical application, not propositional truth… so goes the post-modern, anti-authoritarian mantra.  One of the most oft-cited examples supposedly in support of this anti-intellectualism is that Jesus chose uneducated simpletons to be his disciples, not the highfalutin scribes and Pharisees, as though pure spirituality corresponds to untrained simple faith.  However, this is not the case.  Eckhard Schnabel explains in Early Christian Mission vol.1, 277-278:

The calling of the twelve disciples in Galilee must not be burdened with the view that Jesus called uneducated Galileans to the task of preaching and teaching.  It is rather probable that Jesus’ disciples, including the fishermen Simon and Andrew, were educated.

According to John 1:44, Peter, Andrew and Philip came from Bethsaida, an up-and-coming town that was granted the status of a polis in A.D. 30 and was located in the vicinity of the Greek city Caesarea Philippi.  Rainer Riesner argues that people “who grew up in such close proximity to a Hellenistic city must have spoken more than a few scraps of Greek.  Thus John 12:21 presupposes that Philip could speak Greek.”  Andrew, Philip and Simon had Greek names, which may not be coincidental.  Riesner observes, “The Galilean fishermen in Jesus’ group of disciples belonged not to the rural lower class but to the vocational middle class.  As the latter had religious interests, we may assume a certain degree of education in the case of the disciples such as Peter and John….  We may assume that several disciples came from that segment of the Jewish people who displayed religious interests and that they received, like Jesus, a good elementary education in the parental home, in the synagogue and in elementary school.”  A Jew who came from a pious background “had a solid, albeit one-sided, education.  He could read and write and he could retain large quantities of material in his memory by applying simple mnemonic devices….  Whether a boy of the lower classes received an elementary education depended on two preconditions:  the piety of the father and the existence of a synagogue in the village.”

The view that Jesus had untutored disciples is a romantic and entirely unwarranted one.  Note, for example, the calling of Matthew-Levi, a tax collector….  A tax collector belonged to the higher levels of society.  His position presupposed not only that he was wealthy but also that he had…education.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Preaching from the “Spiritual Sense”

March 27th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Pastoral Ministry, Puritans

By Evan D. Burns

The Puritan John Owen argued that preachers must have “experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls….  A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.”[1]  So his resolution was: “I hold myself bound in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, ‘I have believed, and therefore I have spoken.’”[2]

Would that the Holy Spirit raise up more preachers who would resolve never to preach a text unless they have already tasted its spiritual sense.


[1] Owen, Works, XVI: 76.

[2] Works, X: 488.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

 

Samuel Davies on Meditation

March 24th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Joe Harrod

Samuel Davies (1723­–1761) expected Christians to meditate. He included meditation among various “duties of religion” and encouraged his hearers to make meditation a habitual practice.[1] By meditating, believers were following Christ’s own practice of devotion.[2] Davies never defined “meditation” or offered specific details on its mechanics, nor did he describe his own practice of this discipline; rather he expected that his hearers were acquainted with this practice. For him, meditation was an act of the mind that involved sustained, attentive reflection on God, his attributes, works, creation, and word, for the purpose of stirring one’s affections toward God.

Davies proposed several subjects upon which his hearers could affix their thoughts: God’s infinite and saving love[3]; heaven and hell[4]; “the glories of God displayed in a crucified Jesus . . . the scheme of salvation through his blood”[5]; as well as God’s glory and kindness.[6] He also encouraged meditation upon Scripture: “Read, and hear, and meditate upon his word, till you know your danger and remedy.”[7] Davies mentioned his own deliberate, meditative study of Romans.[8] By citing these objects, Davies placed himself within the Puritan tradition of meditation. Yet Davies believed that even unbelievers who were spiritually dead could “meditate upon divine things,” warning his hearers against adherence to spiritual disciplines as a sure indication of genuine faith.[9] Believers ought to meditate before taking the Lord’s Supper.[10] Davies believed that meditation afforded the believer delight and helped one to grow in holiness, which fueled happiness.[11]


[1]Samuel Davies, “Sinners Entreated,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 1 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1854, repr. 1993), 148. Cited henceforth as Sermons. See also idem., “Present Holiness and Future Felicity,” in Sermons, 1:281, and idem., “A Sermon on the New Year,” in Sermons, 2:207.

[2]Samuel Davies, “The Sacred Import of the Christian Name,” in Sermons, 1:348.

[3]Samuel Davies, “The Method of Salvation through Jesus Christ,” in Sermons, 1:130–31.

[4]Samuel Davies, “The Nature and Process of Spiritual Life,” in Sermons, 1:194. Here Davies suggested subjects upon which believers ought to meditate by mentioning subjects upon which unbelievers may ponder without affect.

[5]Samuel Davies, “The Divine Perfections Illustrated in the Method of Salvation, through the Sufferings of Christ,” in Sermons, 2:273.

[6] Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:480.

[7]Samuel Davies, “The Christian Feast,” in Sermons, 2:167–68.

[8]Samuel Davies, “The Nature of Justification, and the Nature and Concern of Faith in it,” in Sermons, 2:663.

[9]Samuel Davies, “The Nature and Universality of Spiritual Death,” in Sermons, 1:166.

[10]Davies, “The Christian Feast,” in Sermons, 2:167.

[11]Samuel Davies, “Present Holiness and Future Felicity,” in Sermons, 1:278. See also Samuel Davies, “The One Thing Needful,” in Sermons, 1:556.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Reading from the Long 18th Century

March 20th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality

By Evan D. Burns
I echo the sentiments of Martyn Lloyd-Jones when he said he was an 18th century man.  The “long century” (1680-1837) is a deep mine of precious evangelical jewels worth searching out.  Here are some reasons (in no particular order) why reading evangelical writers from the 18th century is so profitable:
  1. They took the Great Commission seriously and sought to obey it no matter the sacrifice; they viewed the church on mission for the extension of Christ’s kingdom.
  2. Like the choice of Moses, they fled the fleeting pleasures of this world and considered the reproach of Christ as greater reward.
  3. They were men of the Book; they desired the Book of God at all costs; they meditated and studied it assiduously.
  4. They loved the gospel system, and the cross of Christ was all their theme.
  5. They courageously engaged in theological controversy for the sake of gospel purity and missions advance.
  6. They spoke with holy love and religious affections for their Sovereign God.
  7. They prayed with earnest desperation for the Spirit’s empowerment and sanctifying work.
  8. They preached with evangelical fervor for the conversion of souls and for the revival of the church.
  9. They promoted the Lord’s Table and Baptism as a significant part of the life and piety of the church.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Samuel Davies on Reading Scripture

March 17th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Joe Harrod

Although Samuel Davies (1723­–1761) defended Scripture’s divine authority from various eighteenth century detractors, notably the Deists, his devotion to Scripture as God’s word was greater than a series of doctrinal propositions and interpretive strategies. He found Scripture of matchless spiritual value: “The word of Christ has been the treasure, the support, and the joy of believers in all ages.”[1] When instructing congregants in using various means to pursue holiness, Davies’ frequently mentioned personal disciplines which involved Scripture.[2]

Hearing the Bible read and proclaimed was part of congregational spiritual exercises and domestic responsibilities, but public piety was only part of the Christian’s duty, for genuine spirituality thrived in a believer’s “secret” or personal duties. For Davies, reading the Bible was a necessary and vital way of pursuing personal holiness.[3] He exhorted congregants to “read the word of God and other good books, with diligence, attention, and self-application.”[4] As his people read Scripture, God would meet with them.[5] Reading might also stir the affections, as Davies recalled from his own reading of 1 Thessalonians 2: “I can remember the time, when the reading of [this chapter] has drawn tears even from [a] heart so hard as mine.”[6] On the other hand, the neglect of reading Scripture often contributes to “cooling in religion.”[7] The diligent reading of Scripture may also convince the unsaved sinner of their need for Christ.[8] Hearing and reading Scripture are a delight for Christians, because through these disciplines they enjoy filial and communal fellowship with God.[9]


[1]Samuel Davies, “Christ Precious to all True Believers,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 1 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1854, repr. 1993), 384. Cited henceforth as Sermons.

[2]See Samuel Davies, “A Sermon on the New Year,” in Sermons, 2:207; idem., “Tender Anxieties,” in Sermons, 2:424; idem., “The Nature of Love to God and Christ Opened and Enforced,” in Sermons, 2:464–65; and idem., “Christians Solemnly Reminded,” in Sermons, 3:608.

[3]Samuel Davies, “A Sermon on the New Year,” in Sermons, 2:207.

[4]Samuel Davies, “The Connection between Present Holiness and Future Felicity,” in Sermons, 1:281.

[5]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464–65.

[6]Davies, “Love of Souls,” in Sermons, 3:501.

[7]Davies, “Christians Solemnly Reminded,” in Sermons, 3:608.

[8]Davies, “Tender Anxieties,” in Sermons, 2:424.

[9]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464–65.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Steve Weaver
Patrick Cover

Michael Haykin’s new biography of Patrick. See below for a free giveaway opportunity.

We are blessed in our society today to have holidays such as Easter, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day which are filled with Christian significance. Unfortunately, almost all of the Christian meaning for these important markers on the Christian calendar has been forgotten. As much as we Christians like to blame the nebulous society around us, I don’t think it is the “world’s” fault that these holidays have not retained their Christian meaning. Instead, I fault Christians who are either unaware of their heritage or just plain derelict in their duty to educate their children. We shouldn’t expect unbelievers to celebrate Christianity, but we should expect Christians to seek to pass their heritage on to the next generation.

Hopefully you do use the holidays of Christmas and Easter as opportunities to talk to your children about the birth and resurrection of Christ respectively. However, days like St. Valentine’s Day and especially St. Patrick’s Day are often missed opportunities in evangelical homes. Perhaps we’re frightened away by the fact that these individuals are often associated with the Roman Catholic Church. But there is no need to fear Patrick for in him evangelicals have not a foe but a friend.

Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary to Ireland in the 5th century. His story of being kidnapped as a boy in Britain to become a slave in Ireland, his escape back to Britain, and his call as a missionary to return is a fascinating tale of God’s providence and grace. His dedication to the doctrine of the Trinity is both admirable and worthy of emulation. Talking to your children about how Patrick taught the Trinity to the pagans of his day provides a tremendous opportunity to explain this difficult biblical teaching to them. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. Likewise, Patrick’s commitment to take the gospel to unreached peoples (Ireland at the time would have been considered the “end of the world.”) is another important teachable aspect of this remarkable life for our children. Read, in Patrick’s own words, his commitment to take the gospel to Ireland:

I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for his name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me. (Confession 37)

In short, St. Patrick should be introduced to our children as a courageous missionary hero who believed and taught the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Many legends are attached to the story of Patrick and though I believe most are grounded in some true events, the discerning reader must be aware of the mixture of legend and history on this early Christian figure. However, we are not dependent merely on legends to know about the life of Patrick. His autobiographical Confession has survived the centuries and is a fascinating recounting of his life.

For those interested in learning more, there is a helpful modern biography of Patrick by Philip Freeman. For parents wanting a good introduction that can be ready by or to their children, I highly recommend Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Joyce Denham. In addition, a new biography of Patrick has been penned by Michael Haykin, which is already available in the UK and is available for pre-order in the US. We are going to give away a free copy of this book today. Enter the contest below!

A few short, but very helpful articles about Patrick’s modern-day relevance are available online.

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012 on pastorhistorian.com. It has been lightly edited and reposted today on that blog in honor of St. Patrick’s Day 2014.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

Spurgeon’s Missiology: “Go and Teach Them”

March 13th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Charles Spurgeon equally upheld a passion for converting lost souls and for making disciples of all nations.  In his sermon, “The Missionaries’ Charge and Charter,” on April 21, 1861, Spurgeon unpacked the role of teaching disciples in missions, as commanded in the Great Commission:

First, my Brethren and very briefly, indeed, a few things about the COMMAND.  And we must remark, first, what a singularly loving one it is….  It is the voice of love, not of wrath. “Go and teach them the power of My blood to cleanse, the willingness of My arms to embrace, the yearning of My heart to save! Go and teach them. Teach them no more to despise Me, no more to think My Father an angry and implacable Deity. Teach them to bow the knee, and kiss the Son, and find peace in Me for all their troubles, and a balm for all their woes. Go—speak as I have spoken—weep as I have wept; invite as I have invited; exhort, entreat, beseech and pray, as I have done before you. Tell them to come unto Me, if they are weary and heavy laden, and I will give them rest….

Note, too, how exceedingly plain is the command, “Go you, teach all nations.”…  Why, it is the mother’s work with her child! It is the tutor’s work with the boy and with the girl—“go you and teach.” How simple! Illustrate; explain; expound; tell; inform; narrate! Take from them the darkness of ignorance; reveal to them the light of Revelation. Teach! Be content to sit down, and tell them the very plainest and most common things. It is not your eloquence that shall convert them; it is not your gaudy language or your polished periods that shall sway their intellects….  Go you and teach them first the very simplicities of the Cross of Christ!…

There has been heroism in every land for Christ—men of every color and of every race have died for Him; upon His altar has been found the blood of all kindreds who are upon the face of the earth. Oh, tell me not they cannot be taught! Sirs, they can be taught to die for Christ; and this is more than some of you have learned. They can rehearse the very highest lesson of the Christian religion—that self-sacrifice which knows not itself, but gives up all for Him. At this day there are Karen missionaries preaching among the Karens with as fervid an eloquence as ever was known by Whitefield! There are Chinese teaching in Borneo, Sumatra, and Australia, with as much earnestness as Morison or Milne first taught in China. There are Hindu Evangelists who are not ashamed to have given up the Brahmian thread, and to eat with the Pariah, and to preach with him the riches of Christ!… Well was that command warranted by future facts, when Christ said, “Go you, teach all nations.”

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Samuel Davies on the Nature of the Spiritual Life

March 4th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Revivals

By Joe Harrod

Samuel Davies (1723–1761) used the language of communion or fellowship when describing the nature of spiritual life: “If you love God and the Lord Jesus Christ, you delight in communion with them.”[1] True friends seized every opportunity for fellowship and a dear companion’s “absence is tedious and painful to them.”[2] God was such a friend to believers. Davies balanced God’s transcendence and immanence:

Though God be a spirit, and infinitely above all sensible converse with the sons of men, yet he does not keep himself at a distance from his people. He has access to their spirits, and allows them to carry on a spiritual commerce with him, which is the greatest happiness of their lives.[3]

Jesus had promised this communion (c.f. John 14:21–23) and it was a “mystical fellowship” that believers enjoyed, which sinners knew not.[4] Just as friends experienced communion through mutual exchanges, so God drew near to his people as a father might approach his child, showering grace, kindling love, and fostering assurance of his closeness. For their part, Christians had freedom to approach God through acts of devotion, especially prayer:

And oh! how divinely sweet in some happy hours of sacred intimacy! This indeed is heaven upon earth: and, might it but continue without interruption, the life of a lover of God would be a constant series of pure, unmingled happiness.[5]

Contrary to the opinion of some detractors, religion provided “a happiness more pure, more noble, and more durable than all the world can give.”[6] Such happiness was the believer’s present joy, and consisted of “the pleasures of a peaceful, approving conscience, of communion with God, the supreme good, of the most noble dispositions and most delightful contemplations.”[7] These blessings were gospel fruits and it was through Christ that believers had “sweet communion” with God, “the reviving communications of divine love, to sweeten the affections of life; and the constant assistance of divine grace to bear us up under every burden, and to enable us to persevere in the midst of many temptations to apostacy [sic], deliverance from hell, and all the consequences of sin.”[8]

Occasionally the believer’s experience of God did not seem so intimate, for “at times their Beloved withdraws himself, and goes from them, and then they languish, and pine away, and mourn.”[9] He recognized that the deep communion with God that he described was foreign to many, and he anticipated objections that such talk was “enthusiasm, fanaticism, or heated imagination.”[10] He appealed to more than a  half-dozen passages of Scripture (James 4:8; Hebrews 7:19 and 10:22; Psalms 69:18 and 73:28; Lamentations 3:57; and 1 John 1:3) which promised such intimacy, but replied that such communion was indeed true of God’s friends and if some critics questioned the possibility of such a close relationship, then their distance from God testified to their alienation.[11]


[1]Davies, “Nature of Love to God and Christ Opened and Enforced,” in Sermons by the Rev. Samuel Davies, A.M. President of the College of New Jersey, vol. 2 (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1854, repr. 1993), 463. Cited henceforth as Sermons.

[2]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[3]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[4]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463.

[5]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[6]Samuel Davies, “The Ways of Sin Hard and Difficult,” in Sermons, 2:549.

[7]Davies, “Ways of Sin,” in Sermons, 2:549.

[8]Samuel Davies, “The Gospel Invitation,” in Sermons, 2:631.

[9]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[10]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:464.

[11]Davies, “Nature of Love to God,” in Sermons, 2:463–64.

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jch_cropJoe Harrod serves as Director for Institutional Assessment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is a doctoral candidate in the areas of Biblical Spirituality and Church History. He and his wife, Tracy, have three sons.

Fuller on Reading the Scriptures

February 27th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller carefully explained the usefulness and spiritual benefit of prayerfully reading the Scriptures, as opposed to reading commentaries in substitution of meditation.  He said that reading assists prayer, and prayer assists reading.  Here are some suggestions he gives for reading the Bible prayerfully:[1]

  • Read Scripture prayerfully at set times each day, preferably in the mornings.
  • Let reading the Scriptures precede prayer, and then let prayer spur on more reading.
  • Maintain a tender, humble, holy frame of mind.
  • Pause, think, pray, and apply to your meditations to your daily life.
  • Only use commentators/expositors when you cannot resolve a difficult issue, and that only after thinking hard by yourself.
  • Writing down interesting thoughts fixes them to memory.

[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 788.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.