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TE - G'day, Tom here from Reformers Bookshop, with another Reformers Interview. And today, we're very privileged to have Dr. Joel Beeke with us. Welcome, Joel.
JB - Great to be with you.
TE - Dr. Beeke, I was looking at your bio on the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary website, and it's outrageous. You have so many different things that you're involved in, and that you do. And you've been an influence on so many people's lives. I mean, we've got a couple of events out here with you. I think we'll have about 270 people here tonight. And they're coming because you've been an impact on their life. And I'm fascinated, I'm interested to find out how you've become the person you are. So can you tell me, perhaps, what were some of the influences early on in your life?
JB - Well, thanks for that. I grew up in a very godly home. My father was a ruling elder in the church for 40 years and talked to us a lot about our soul, and about the need to have a close relationship with God. He was big into what I call Reformed experiential teaching and preaching, what the Lord does in the heart. My mother was not as open as my dad in terms of really speaking about the Lord, but she modelled it. And she was very loving, very prayerful. And so, the combination of a dad who cared for my soul, and a mother who cared for my all my other needs, and the power of both of their godliness in different forms, really was a strong influence on my life. But when I was 14, I came under a deep conviction of sin, and I thought I was a reprobate. And I thought, I had the best parents in the world, and I had rebelled against them, even though, you wouldn't have seen any open rebellion in my life, but I just felt like I was a wretched sinner. And, the church that I grew up in was good, God-fearing, lots of wonderful, God-fearing people, but it didn't give much hope for a young person seeking the Lord. Salvation was mostly for older people. I mean, they didn't say that explicitly, but that's how I felt. So when I was saved, when I was 15, and brought to liberty in Christ, and it was an overwhelming experience for me. And I just started talking to people everywhere about the Lord and the gospel. And what happened in that year-and-a-half under deep conviction, was I read my dad's entire bookcase of Puritan Banner of Truth paperbacks, and I read the works of John Bunyan. I read "Body of Divinity" of Thomas Watson, I read "Christ Our Mediator" by Thomas Goodwin.
TE - As a 15-, 16-year-old.
JB - Yes, and it just, I was reading every night from about 10 p.m. when my homework was done, to maybe midnight, one o'clock in the morning. And just loved, I couldn't get enough of it. I was reading the Bible completely through, straight through, but I was just reading these books, and looking up every text they referenced back in the scriptures, and just reading slowly, and marinating in this material. And I then decided that what I would do is I would start a church library.
TE - Oh, good.
JB - So I went to the, the session, the elders and deacons, and asked if I could do that, and they looked at me like I was kinda crazy. And they said, "Nobody's interested in reading today." Well, make a long story short, I took all the money I had in the bank, which was about $600, and I withdrew it, and I went out and I bought the 100 best books, I thought, on the market, from a Reformed perspective. And I took them to the new minister, in two big boxes, and I put them on his doorstep, and I rang the bell and ran away as if he couldn't figure out who did this. Anyway, so they finally accepted the hundred books, and I could start a library. I made catalogues of all 100 titles. And people started reading the books.
TE - Oh, fantastic.
JB - And I would walk around, and tell people, "You gotta go to the library, "you gotta read this book." And a few people got converted by it, and a few others were just believers already, and just really were fed by it. So then I said, "Wow, I've gotta start a book ministry." So I actually had a, it's crazy, but I had a dream one night, and I had started a book ministry called Bible Truth Books. called Bible Truth Books. "Thoughts on Religious Experience." Retail price, $10, our price, $7. And I woke up, and I, you know, I don't put much stock in dreams, but that's how close it was in my consciousness, I think. And I said, "You know, I've got to do this. "This is a calling. "The whole world needs this good literature."
TE - And how old are you at this point?
JB - 16.
TE - 16, okay.
JB - Yeah. So I went to the session again. And they said, "Well, you can't start a book ministry "just like that. "I mean, we've got a man in Grand Rapids, "which is 50 miles away, who's doing a book ministry. "You shouldn't compete with him." So I said, "Well, if I go up to him and get his permission, "can I do it then?" They said, "Yes." So I went up with my brother. We got in front of his house, and we just prayed and prayed and prayed. The tears were streaming down our face, this man will give us permission. And we went in, and he was an old man with white, flowing hair. And we asked him, "You know, we wanna spread books "all around the world." And he looks at us, "You young boys wanna spread books?" And I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "The world needs it all!" he said. And we go, "What?" So we went back out in the car, we cried again for joy, And the next week, I started Bible Truth Books. By the time I was accepted into seminary four years later, we got up to maybe $10,000 worth a month that we sold. And every Saturday night, we'd get all the young people from my church together, and they'd pack up all the books. And so, a number of the young people got converted just packing up the books, taking books home, reading them. And there was a little mini revival in the church, and it was really exciting. And then I was, for four years, in seminary in Canada, and I became a minister in the Netherlands Reformed Churches in Sioux Centre, Iowa, to 700 farmers. Well as soon as I was ordained, they made me the president of the Netherlands Reformed Book and Publishing Committee - because they saw my love for books. And so I was in that denomination for 16 years, and built it up to about an inventory of maybe a million dollars' worth of books, and we were selling about $200,000 worth of books a year. And then there was a tragic split in the denomination, and I lost all the books, everything I had done, and it was very, very difficult for me. And so I determined, in our new denomination, that I would not make the book ministry denominational, but I would have my own independent board and be in charge of it. So I started right away, within a month, Reformation Heritage Books, and just started over from scratch. And I've been doing that now for a quarter of a century, and absolutely love it. And so we've now published, I think, six, 700 titles, and we try to do about 30 to 40 titles a year. And it is the most happy hobby a man can have. Because you just get so much appreciation, lives are changed. I mean, I've gotten hundreds and hundreds of letters of people who've been edified by good books, and very seldom a complaint. People appreciate 'cause we're nonprofit and that type of thing. So books, of all the spiritual disciplines, reading good solid Reformed Puritan literature, reading good solid Reformed Puritan literature, that's had the biggest impact on my life of anything. So I always try to keep one Puritan going, in terms of my reading. And I read all kinds of things, of course, of a Reformed nature. I read all kinds of things, of course, of a Reformed nature. beside The Wall Street Journal. I just focus my energy in life on producing good books and writing good books and reading good books. Life is short, I wanna make a difference.
TE - And so just, tracking back to when you were 15 and first started opening up these Puritans, what was it about the Puritan writings to--
JB - Well, they gave hope. There was a free offer of grace. But also they spoke to the soul, so they connected with my dad's experiential theology that you need to know something more than, "Hey, repent, believe." "Okay, I'm a sinner. "I believe, I raise my hand, I'm a Christian." No, I was raised in very deep theology, but it didn't give much hope. And the Puritans had that depth of theology, that wonderful, rich, spirituality. But they also gave lots of hope, and they would reason with a sinner that, "There's room in Jesus Christ for you!" and my heart would just soar. You know, that maybe I wasn't a reprobate after all. Maybe there was hope for a wretch like me!
TE - Wonderful. And the other thing I was interested in, in your story, is, you said that your father connected so well with you, in terms of feeding you spiritually. What situations did he do that in? How did he do that?
JB - Yes, well the most important one, which all of my siblings would say, too, was a special Sunday night, Lord's Day evening, family worship, in which he would read "Pilgrim's Progress." He loved "Pilgrim's Progress." And we did, too, and we would literally sit at his feet when we were kids, and he'd read with tremendous expression. He only had a 8th-grade education, but he was a good reader. And we would just be sucked up into that story. And then we'd ask questions. "Who's Mr. Talkative, what does that mean? "What is the house of Interpreter?" And he would just put the book down, and he'd just talk to us, from heart to heart. And often, there'd be tears coming out of his eyes, and sometimes down his face. And he'd talk to us about the need to be converted, and to live a life of communion with Christ, out of union with him. And he'd tell us about his own experiences, and it was awesome. At the time, I thought all dads did this. It was only when I was in the ministry that I realised, wow, I had something really unusual. So it's kind of interesting, 'cause my dad didn't seem interested at all in my daily life. I mean, he definitely, on a grading scale, I'd give him a D minus for interest in what I was doing every day. But in terms of soul love, caring about my soul, I'd give him an A plus. Like Ryle said, "Soul love is the soul of all love." And what my dad lacked, my mother had strongly, so I was blessed.
TE - They would complement each other.
JB - Yeah, they complimented each other really well, yeah.
TE - How wonderful.
JB - And my mother was totally dedicated to my dad's work in the church, so they had just a really happy marriage. And I never... Only one time did I see my parents argue just a little bit on a certain occasion. But they just were happy in the Lord.
TE - How wonderful. And so you mentioned family worship. It's Sunday evening, family worship. I presume he did family worship throughout the rest of the week as well.
JB - He did, yeah, in the old Dutch style, which was you pray before the meal, a substantial prayer, and then you read scripture after the meal. He might make a comment or two on it, but he didn't do much in the regular mealtime of really instructing us from the Bible. I learned that later, when I studied church history, that that was a bit of a lack. But then he would have another long prayer, maybe four or five minutes, at the end of the meal. So we got the praying, and we got the Bible reading, but we just didn't get much singing and much personal instruction in that situation. On the other hand, my dad was also the lead elder in the church, and so he taught most of the Catechism classes. And so I sat at his feet every week in Catechism on the Lord's Day. And he was a very good teacher, despite his lack of education. He would use the chalkboard to write things, and just really be expressive in his teaching. And that resonated with myself, all my siblings as well.
TE - Yeah, as you're describing him, I'm imagining that he had this robust love of the Lord himself, and that's just spilling out in the way that he prays, and the way that he talks to you.
JB - Oh yes, oh yes. When he would pray, he would often weep in his prayer, too. Say, "Oh Lord, we can't miss any of our children in glory. "Lord, help us to be an undivided family, "reserved for the heavenly mansions above." And you just felt like, "Oh, if I don't get saved, "everything is lost!" So he made it real.
TE - How wonderful. And that's, when you talk about experiential Calvinism, that's what you're talking about, right? It's--
JB - Yes, yes. If I explain experiential Calvinism in a nutshell, I would use an example when I... The day I left active duty from the Army, my boss came to me and said that, "Remember, if Uncle Sam," which is the government of the U.S., "Calls you back up "to come in war, to battle, and to a war," 'cause I had six-and-a-half years yet of meetings to go to, 'cause I was in the Reserves, "Remember three things. "Remember how war should go, you've been taught to fight. "Remember how wars do go." They never go the way they should go, 'cause they're bloody, messy, surprising. "And then remember the end goal. "You're fighting for your country and for freedom." And later, I thought, "You know, that's "a good definition spiritually, of experiential preaching." Because the preacher must preach in such a way, he must preach like Romans 8 does. The ideal Christian walking by the spirit, we're more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, nothing separates us from the love of God. How things should go. But a preacher must also preach Romans 7, how things do go. The struggles, the battles, the evil that I would have done. "I find myself doing the good that I would, I do not. "Oh wretched man that I am." The struggles to live the ideal life. And then the preacher must also preach Revelation 21, 22, the end goal, "I'm willing to be "with the Lord forever, and in that freedom of perfect holiness, married to Christ, sin-free in Emmanuel's land." So I think when the Reformers and Puritans spoke about experiential preaching, they were saying, "We need to experience the great doctrines of the truths "of scripture in such a way that it moves us "from the real struggles of the Christian life "more and more, in progressive sanctification to the ideal, "even though we never reach it in this life, "with the end goal always in sight, "always living with one eye on eternity."
TE - Wonderful. And so that's a perfect lead-in to one of your newest books, one that you're very excited about, "Reformed Preaching." This one here.
JB - Yes, yes.
TE - So, can you tell us a little bit about what you're trying to do in this book?
JB - Yes, okay, so this book really is just a basic textbook on the experiential dimension of reformed preaching. And so what I'm doing in this book is three things. I'm first giving you a definition of what we mean by reformed experiential preaching in a variety of ways. Then I'm beginning with the first reformed preacher, Ulrich Zwingli, and moving through to Lloyd-Jones, and looking at two dozen examples or so of preachers from the Dutch tradition, the English tradition, and so on, who preached experientially, which was just about actually everyone from the reformation up to the 1830's. And then I'm crossing the bridge, and saying in the last third of the book, "So how do we then preach experientially today?" And of course, one of the big thoughts in the book is, you reach people's souls not just by preaching from your mouth, but your whole life, your whole being, your whole demeanour, your whole soul needs to be preaching together with your mind to them. So that's why the subtitle is "Proclaiming God's Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People." So I'm arguing that historic reformed preaching was not just academic or intellectual. It was, but it reached the whole man, head, heart, and hands, and feet.
TE - And given your father's example that we just talked about, this sounds like a great book for all fathers to read, not just preachers.
JB - Absolutely, yeah. It's not just for preachers or teachers or workers in the church. It's also for lay people to read, to understand how preaching should impact them, and to encourage their pastors to preach more in a reformed, experiential way.
TE - Yeah, wonderful. Another book that you've done recently is "Reformed Systematic Theology." This looks like a hefty piece of work, and I think there's three more on the way.
JB - Yes, this is my life's dream since I was a teenager. And I gave up the dream for a while. But now I have a teacher's assistant who's taking my notes of systematic theology teaching. I've been teaching that for a quarter of a century or longer, and he's fleshing them out, putting footnotes, adding some things, and so I'm giving him a full co-authorship. And then I go over every chapter that he does. He gives it to me, I go over it, we talk again. We pray about it almost every day. And every day he's at work, we're praying about it. And then volume one just came out from Crossway. That deals with the prolegomena, the doctrine of the word in Revelation. And then the second half deals with the doctrine of God. Volume two is at the printer being edited right now. And that deals with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of Christ, and we're working on volume three, on the doctrine of salvation. And then volume four will be on the church and the last things. So it'll be a few years, if God spirits us both, before it's completely done. But this'll be my life's legacy, my kinda magnum opus that I leave behind. And what we do in this set of books is four things. It addresses contemporary issues, but it follows the old, old pattern of doing systematics where ethics is attached to it rather than divorced from it. And so we look at four things, basically, in each doctrine. We look at, what does the Bible say about this truth? What does church history say? How do you experience this, how can you commune with God in relationship to this doctrine? And then fourthly, what are the major practical takeaways for your Christian life of this doctrine? And the goal is that by the end of each chapter, you'll be moved with excitement, and your affections, and your mind, and your conscience will all be moved, so that you'll break out into doxological praise, or examination, or comfort. So we're arguing, doctrine is anything but dry or dead. It's exciting. Luther said, "Doctrine is heaven," so that's what we're trying to manifest. So this book, too, it's written at a beginning seminary level, but a lay person who's interested in Bible truth can make their way through this and actually find it easier reading than they might think.
TE - And it sounds like it's very applicable. It's not just dealing with arguments about logic or theology, but applying it to people's lives.
JB - Yes, yes.
TE - So, very practical for lay person. Can we talk for a moment, switching gears a little bit about family worship?
JB - Yes.
TE - So you've you've said it's been an influence in your life. and I've heard talks that you've done that, how you've passed that on to your children as well. Can you tell us briefly why you think family worship is so important?
JB - Yes, well, when my oldest child was three years old, I got an assignment to do a talk on family worship in South Africa, and I thought, "Well, that will be fairly easy. "I just talk about my dad, and model it, and find some "scriptural support, and..." But as I began to study, I realised that, it's Scottish church history, Dutch church history, English church history. Family worship was a fundamental part of the God-fearing peoples' lives. And that they did four things. They prayed, they read the Bible, the father instructed each day from that chapter, his children, and then they, well, they prayed again, and then they sang. And so I spent, I don't know, a couple hundred hours, maybe 300 hours, preparing that talk, the better part of a summer. And read all this literature, and all these books on family worship from the past. And I realised I was in a gold mine. And when I actually delivered the talk, it was so pent up in me. And I changed my own family worship accordingly, right away. And I just poured it out. And I went to my cabin at that camp. And everybody else went to lunch. i just got on my knees and prayed that God would bless it. And then I came, like 10 minutes later, and walked into the room. And you know how a cafeteria, at lunchtime, everybody's talking, there's a buzz. You could hear a pin drop. And I go, "What is going on?" I sat down next to a guy and said, "What's going on?" He said, "Well," he said, "The president of Potchefstroom University was asked to lead in prayer, and he broke down and wept, and he said to all of us, 'You have all gotta go out." These are the old days of cassette tapes. "You've all gotta go out and order as many cassette tapes "of this talk as you have families in your church, "and give one to every father."
TE - Oh wow.
JB - And about 15 minutes later, he came over to see me, and he said, "I want you to make a promise to me. "I want you to promise that you'll write this up in a book, "and you'll do what you can to give this talk "all around the world." I promised him that, and I have given it in 20, 30 countries at least, and--
TE - Is that the Family Guidance series?
JB - Yes, yes. It's called "Family Worship." You can read it in two hours. And then later on, what we did, was we determined that no one has ever done a family worship Bible where you take each chapter, and you give fathers helps, major takeaways of each chapter. So we spent five years doing, in a King James version, we did reformed notes, with a group of guys, four of us mainly and some other helpers, and then we did two or three major takeaways from each chapter. Well that just sold tens of thousands, almost right away. But people kept clamouring, "We want the family worship section extracted, so we can use it in the Bible translation we're doing." And we said, "Okay." So we actually produced this Family Worship Bible Guide, and this just takes the family worship sections from that regular Bible in each chapter. And this is now, I think our best-selling book now. We sell thousands of these. And yeah, tens of thousands. And people just contact us all the time, saying how they're using it every day, it's changed their family worship. So even my wife and I now, all our kids are married. We read this faithfully. Every time we read it, every day, we read a Bible chapter. Then we read these two or three takeaways. We talk to each other about them. Most of them end with a question. And so it takes a lot of that prep work from a father, out of the way, so a father doesn't have to feel guilty that he didn't prepare family worship that day. And the conversation can go in all kinds of directions once that question is opened up and you start talking, and that's fine. I think it's good in family worship when kids spontaneously ask you other questions, and you end up just talking about the Lord.
TE - And they're really engaged.
JB - Yes.
TE - How wonderful. And so using this family worship guide, you're suggesting we could just read a chapter of the Bible, read the questions, and then discuss it, pray, and sing.
JB - Yes.
TE - Really simple, real easy.
JB - Yes.
TE - Anyone could do that. How wonderful.
JB - Great.
TE - And actually, since you've been here, and we've been selling a whole bunch of these, people have told me that even just for private devotions, if they don't have a family, or just doing it by themselves, they've found it very useful.
JB - Yes, that's why it's called "Thoughts For Personal/Family Worship." It's good for... And also, like single moms, you know. I mean, that's a very difficult, busy life. And to use this, and the mother then plays the role of the father and leads family worship. It's just a tremendous help, yeah. So I've done many conferences where people will buy it. Like I say, on a Friday night, I talk about it. They'll buy it on Friday night. And Saturday morning, they'll come to me and say, "We did family worship on Saturday morning! "And we used this Family Worship Bible Guide! "It was wonderful, we're gonna keep doing it!" You know, it's so rewarding.
TE - Yeah, wonderful. Excellent. And just lastly, you've done a couple of books on, big books on the Puritans. You've done a lot of books on the Puritans, but these two in particular are worth mentioning. So I'd love to hear you describe what these books are doing.
JB - Yes, well this book, "Meet the Puritans," that gives you the life story, not of all the Puritans, but of all the Puritans who have been reprinted in the last 50 years.
TE - And how many is that?
JB - 150 of them.
And there's 700 titles that have been reprinted in the last 50 years. And then we give a little summary of each one, usually about that long, sometimes a whole page, sometimes a few lines, of what each book entails. And the publisher, and the date, and so on. So it's a bibliographical tool, to help you be guided in your purchase of Puritans. But you should also read it. Their life stories are very, very moving. You should read it together with your daily devotions. One story a day is what we recommend. So it'd take you about half a year to read the book. This book is the biblical teaching, a Puritan theology, and it's subtitled "Doctrine for Life" because always, in Puritan thinking, theology is for your daily life. And so it looks at the regular, traditional, six-fold order. The doctrine of God, of man, Christ, salvation, the church, and the last things. And it picks out 50 areas where the Puritans stood on the shoulders of the Reformers and enlarged on their teaching and have something really substantive to say. So it's not a total, systematic theology. But it picks up the cream. And then the last eight chapters, we talked about how the Puritans took all these doctrines and apply it to their home life. One chapter to their prayers, one chapter to their meditation, to their conscience, to other practical things, to show how they connected doctrine and daily life.
TE - How wonderful. And they go together as a bit of a set.
JB - Yes, yes. That's why the covers are sorta like matching covers. And we recommend that people buy both volumes. If you wanna get into reading the Puritans, which I hope you do, that's a good place to start. Read these two books, get also the Puritan documentary that we have coming out in a few weeks. That's a two-hour movie on the Puritans, which has together with it a basic 150-page intro book on the Puritans by Michael Reeves and myself, 35 additional lessons on different aspects of the Puritans that are 17 minutes long each, and then a workbook, a 200-page workbook on those 35 lessons. That whole package will be available for $125 in U.S. funds, and that will really introduce you well to the Puritans, together with these two books. And then when you actually start reading the Puritans themselves, we have a series of books called "Puritan Treasures for Today." And they're small books, about 100 to 150 pages. And great, we picked out the cream of the Puritan writings, and we edited every single sentence. Took out all the Latin, all that stuff, so that it reads like it was written yesterday. And I can promise any reader who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and wants spiritual depth, when you start reading those books, you're gonna say, "This is incredible." It reads so well, it reads so easy, and it's so much better than so much of the fluff we get in so many books today. And then, you read a few of those, then you'll be ready to go back to the original Puritan writings, and read, I recommend starting with Thomas Watson, "Heaven Taken by Storm." It's a great book. And then move to John Flavel, and John Bunyan, writers like that. And eventually, you can move up to Thomas Goodwin, and John Owen.
TE - The mighty John Owen. Perhaps a helpful question would be, can you tell us what is a Puritan?
JB - Yes. Well Puritans are people who... I mean, the narrow definition of Puritanism is a people who, in 17th century England, little bit in the late 16th century, a little spillover into the 1700s, mostly 17th century. People who wanted to purify the church and live godly lives themselves. And so they were nicknamed the Puritans as a term of reproach by the Anglicans. But the Puritans first thought it was a vile, put-down term. But later on, they said, "You know what? "We really do wanna purify the church. "We wanna purify our own lives. "So I guess we'll just accept the term, the name." So, they're looking for the Reformation to happen again. Because what happens in church history, is you have what's called the second-generation phenomenon, where the first generation gets excited about Bible truth. Second generation, the kids grow up, they take it for granted. So that happened in the mid-16th century. And the Puritans were a group of people that became alarmed that we were losing the Reformation. And they wanted it to go even further. And so they wrote books on marriage. They wrote books on family and how to live as a Christian at work, things like that. The reformers didn't have time to do all of that. They were hammering out the big doctrines, which the Puritans totally agree with. But they said, "We wanna carry Reformation further now, "into every area of life." So they wrote 29 books on marriage and child rearing. They wrote 41 books on how to meditate in your private devotions, and all kinds of practical areas. So they wanna just dedicate their entire lives, wholly and solely, to the Lord. And that's what attracts me about the Puritans. They would say with the psalmist, "Give me a single eye, "thy name to glorify in every area of my life." And when you live that way, by the grace of God, you're really alive. And the fear of God is present with you. That's what the Puritans thought was so important. One of them said, "To fear God is to value the smiles of God "to be of greater weight than the smiles of men, "and to fear the frowns of God more than the frowns of men." And that's the way I want to live. I come far short, but I want to live that way.
TE - Yeah, it's a compelling way to live. And in addition, I think, to it being good for our souls to live that way, I think it's that sorta living that changes countries, and societies as well.
JB - Absolutely, it's contagious. And when you really live wholly and solely for the Lord, as the Puritans would say, people will sit up and notice. Now, there's a danger, of course, that some people, whenever you're more conservative in your lifestyle than the guy sitting next to you, he's gonna call you a legalist. And the Puritans got a lot of that. And there were a few Puritans that, at times, you know, were a little bit too legalistic, I think, in their, "Thou shalt nots." But in the main, I've been reading Puritans all my life. I can count on one hand the Puritans I think that fell into that area. Now there probably were more, and their books didn't get reprinted. But all the Puritans that are being reprinted are just godly, wonderful, wonderful writers, and great to read.
TE - Wonderful. And just one last question before I finish. You've read a lot, you've written a lot. Can you perhaps give us one tip for reading that you've found to be helpful in getting the most out of a book? I didn't prepare you for this.
JB - No, no, that's fine. Yeah, I think, I've given talks on this, how to use your time wisely. I think to see time, first of all, as more precious than gold. And to really take time to feed your own soul, to read the great classics. Read the Puritans 'cause they feed your soul so much, but read them slowly. Don't rush. And it doesn't matter if you can say, "I've read this book." The real question is, were you blessed in reading this book?
TE - Has it impacted you?
JB - Yeah. So I don't do it anymore. I wish I did. But when I was 15, 16, 17, that era, I would have a Bible open next to me. And you know, I mean on one cross, one page, John Owen will quote 40 texts, right? I would look up all those texts. And so, I'd just marinate myself in scripture as I'm reading. And then I would underline in pencil, and put notes in the margins. My dad let me do that with his books. And I still have those books today, most of them. And it's really interesting to see places where I put a question mark when I was 16 years old. And now I look at it and say, "Why is there a question mark? "It's so obvious what he said." But it shows you how I was learning and growing and struggling, but absorbing. And I think that's the thing. You wanna absorb when you're reading. So I have plenty of things that I read, skim read, when I read other people's sermons on the text I'm going to preach on next Sunday. I spend about five minutes per sermon, just to see if anything jumps out at me. But when I'm reading for myself, and reading a private devotional material to feed my own soul, I wanna read slowly. I wanna stop while I'm reading and pray. And confess my sin. And praise the Lord. Get down on my knees, and get back up, and read some more. So it's more like a spiritual exercise. That's the way to read good books.
TE - I actually think that's one great benefit of reading over and against listening to podcasts, or things, which are all useful, but one benefit of reading is that you can stop. And you can just--
JB - You can reread, and yeah. And in my mind, when I read a book, like if something impresses me, I would be able to tell you later, "Well, it's around page 322, "and it's near the bottom of the page, "where this author said that." Now, I'm starting to lose that as I'm getting older. My dad could do that, too, and anybody can do it, really. But that only comes when you're really reading slowly, and you meditate on it, and you observe what is being said, and you pray over it, and you pour your heart into it, and then you read it again. And maybe that night I only read half a page. That's okay. It's okay not to speed read. And you'll learn more in the long run.
TE - Excellent. Well, I wish we could talk all day, but it's time for us.
JB - Right.
TE - Thank you very much, Dr. Beeke, for joining us.
JB - Thank you...
TE - [It's] been fascinating.
JB - Well, it's good to be with you.
TE - Thanks.