Musings — June 2017

Hand in tiny hand they meandered their way down the aisle, flower girl and ring bearer, each gripping a bouquet, searching the crowded pews for the faces of their grandmothers.  I can’t recall ever Captureseeing a more beautiful flower arrangement than the one with the dangling rose that I received from my grandson at his uncle’s wedding.  It is no small thing to survive a journey in the hand of a small boy.

June has been a month of family, a season of gathering together around both celebration and mourning.  We’ve spent moments cherishing memories, and we’ve invested  time in preparation for the future as another son finds his balance on the edge of the nest and makes solid plans for his launch into good days to come.

We have welcomed another daughter-in-love into our family chaos, and we also continue to grow in our love and appreciation for the woman who loves our oldest son and cares for our grandchildren.

Father’s Day Celebration at Pemaquid Point

On the Blog

I enjoyed the hospitality of two blogging friends in June.

Sue Donaldson flung the doors and the windows open wide and filled the room with stories about the blessing of faces around a table.  I shared the story of our family’s ongoing relationship with missionaries who have visited in our home and have enlarged our hearts and our view of the world.  You can read the whole story here, and, while you’re over at Sue’s place, be sure to check out the series because Every Table Tells a Story.

Then, one day I received an email asking if I would share a review of one of my family’s favorite movies.  Well, of course I would, but first — which movie?  There’s been a lot of popcorn consumed in this house!  Hop on over to Melanie Redd’s writing home to find out why Chitty Chitty Bang Bang won out (over Master of Disguise) and why you should consider watching it with your kids and grandkids.  Also, be on the lookout for upcoming installments in Melanie’s series of good family films for summer viewing.

We met around four books at Living Our Days this month.  Thank you for your good thoughts — the conversation has been lively and I invite you to join us if you haven’t already.

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker addresses the longing we have for authentic friendship, and just might feel like a heart-to-heart talk with a trusted girlfriend.

Kay Warren wrote Sacred Privilege with ministry wives in mind, but if you’ve done time in a pew, you will find rich wisdom in her words for navigating life with the family of God.

I devoted two separate posts to Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel because it addressed the meaning of home both theologically (read “A Theology of Home” here) and practically (read “The Work of Home” here).  If you’ve ever read words from Scripture and longed for the permanence that is more than place, or if you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by the practical details of housekeeping (and wondered if it’s worth it), you’ll want to settle into this book for a good long re-setting read.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper was a challenging and rewarding reminder that, while we must approach our reading of Scripture with discernment and with all our diligent efforts as a student, we are mightily assisted by the Holy Spirit in our assimilation of truth and in the outworking of righteousness which comes about as a result of our having seen and savored Christ in His Word.

In the Garden

I am pleased to report that the entire garden has received its first thorough weeding . . . and now I’m starting all over again.  There is no “once and done” in this business of growing vegetables, which is an excellent metaphor for our process of spiritual formation.  I enjoyed the challenge of writing about this very thing at a new Facebook Group that I’m helping out with these days:  Seeking God Daily.  You can read my first contribution here, and you’re welcome to join the group for daily inspiration to pursue God through His Word.

Blessings and love to each one of you.  It’s a privilege to share words of encouragement and challenge here, to talk books, and to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Enjoy these fleeting days of summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!).

My favorite Sunday morning women and I are finishing up Peter’s first letter to his “elect exiles,” and since we are included in his wise offerings, let’s come into this new season with a renewed determination that  “above all [we will] keep loving one another earnestly.”

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Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place for What I’m Into where others will also be sharing their end-of-month recap posts.  Great recommendations for reading and listening and enjoying life abound!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

 

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Is Reading the Bible Different from Reading Any Other Book?

The Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book.  A Huffpost Survey indicates that 88% of respondents own a Bible, yet only 1 in 5 Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.  At one end of the spectrum are those who consider it alongside and equivalent to any other ancient text.  At the other end, it’s seen as a magical book that we can open anywhere and find immediate and personal guidance. Furthermore, multiple surveys reveal that biblical illiteracy is at an all time high (and growing!).  Has the Bible become the book that we revere . . .  but never open?

In Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper addresses the way we handle Scripture, and like a physician, prescribes regular and hefty doses of Truth for the health of the human heart, for the heart contains a “template with a form that corresponds to the glory of God.”   With our hearts “packed hard with loves of other things,” it’s easy to live an entire life without ever seeing and savoring the glory of God.  Since God has, indeed, revealed His glory in His written Word, can we read words on a page and come away with spiritual transformation?  Is reading the Bible different from reading any other book, and, if it is, how and why?

A Different Purpose

Building a case over the course of several chapters, John Piper uses intense imagery and moves back and forth between the voices of “Dr. Piper” and “Pastor John” to argue that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is this:

” . . .that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

He introduces each new implication by devoting a chapter to its unfolding, and then pauses for frequent review along the way.  The apostles Paul and John provide the foundation for the truth that it is possible for the glory of Christ to be put on display for 21st century believers by reading a text that was written by eye-witnesses — and, thereby, to share in the very same glory that they saw.  

First, the familiar words of John 20 (which give the purpose of the gospel) tie the written word to belief, and then, in his first letter, John affirms that his readers will see the glory of Christ “shining through the inspired writing.”

In addition, Paul, in Ephesians 3:3-8, essentially states, “When you read my words, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.”

A Different Response

The point of all this seeing of glory is two-fold:

  1. God has provided His Word as a means for believers to grow in affection for God, to savor and to enjoy God.
  2. The intended outcome of this emotional response to truth is transformation into the image of Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was on to this centuries ago when he wrote:  “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”  If you are hearing echoes of Piper’s signature statement that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,”  we’re on the same page!

A Supernatural Reading

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, then, is the only way to accomplish God’s purpose for the reader, for “God intends for us to read His Word in a way that involves actions and experiences of the human soul that are beyond ordinary human experience.  Seeing the glory of Jesus is not accomplished merely with our ordinary physical eyes, but with ‘the eyes of [our] hearts (Eph. 1:18).”  We depend upon God’s supernatural help because we are predisposed to spiritual blindness and bent on colluding with the enemy in our own deception and destruction.

It is this need for divine intervention that was behind Jesus’ accusation that the Pharisees (proud scholars of The Law, every one!) had “never read” the Scriptures!  Their eyes had certainly passed over the scrolls, and chances are they had memorized great chunks, but a supernatural reading (a right reading) of Scripture has not occurred until the essence has been absorbed and the heart has interacted with the substance of the message.

Fullest Use of Your Natural Powers

Without an open book, open eyes, the ability to make sense of grammatical structures, and the ability to intuit meaning from written words, there will be no reading.  Add to this the need for focused attention, a rested brain, adequate nutrition and exercise (and caffeine?) to aid in alertness, and the possibilities are endless, because — going back to our original question — the answer is Yes and No.  Reading the Bible is different from reading any other book because of the need for dependence on God to accomplish His spiritual purposes.  However, it is exactly like reading any other book in that it will not yield its contents from a remote spot on my nightstand or in my backpack — unopened.

The plain hard work of sitting oneself down in a chair for repetitive reading with a pen and an open book and a list of questions — only half answered — is the natural component of reading Scripture.   It is met with the supernatural work of God Who takes the natural birth process and incarnates a Messiah, and, therefore, is able to intervene and bring about spiritual enlightenment to a human heart.

“God gives the miracle and we act the miracle.”

For someone who has been reading the Bible her entire adult life, Reading the Bible Supernaturally offered truth that I already know but practice so imperfectly that it was important for me to hear it all again in a new way.  Those familiar with Piper’s writing will already know his acronym for the cooperation between God and humanity in spiritual formation (A.P.T.A.T.).  I had not stumbled upon I.O.U.S., but copied it into my journal as an important reminder that when I open the Bible, I am dependent upon supernatural help for the kind of seeing, savoring, and transformation that God desires for me:

I – Incline.  “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain” (Ps. 119:36).
O – Open.  “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18).
U – Unite.  “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11).
S – Satisfy. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14).

God invites believers into an aggressive pursuit of Truth — and then stands by to assist.  When we open the pages of Scripture, there is more going on than meets the eye.  He “watches over [His] Word to perform it.”  He makes huge claims that the Word will accomplish His purpose and will not fail.  The natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally is a metaphor for the entire process of sanctification, a delightful paradox in which God inspires our work, enhances the impact, and radiates His glory as he accomplishes His purposes in the world.

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This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

CaptureReading the Bible Supernaturally is John Piper’s follow up to his 2016 work, A Peculiar Glory, in which he examines the concept that the Bible reveals its complete truthfulness by the shining forth of a self-authenticating, peculiar, divine glory.  It provides helpful background, but even more important, it helps to put on display the uniqueness of God’s Word as the means by which we see and savor the glory of God.  I reviewed the book last year when it came out, and you can read my thoughts and get an overview here.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

The Head and Heart Behind Narnia

The Romantic Rationalistedited by John Piper and David Mathis:  A Book Review

Even though he died over fifty years ago;

Even though he was an atheist during his early adult life;

Even though, as a confirmed Anglican churchman, he never jumped onto the evangelical bandwagon, C.S. Lewis’s popularity as an author is greater today than at any time during his life.  John Piper attributes this to his “utter commitment to both the life of the mind and the life of the heart,” and has compiled a comprehensive tribute to and analysis of Lewis’s contribution to the shaping of the evangelical mindset.  Because he has partnered with four other Lewis scholars, each chapter of the book brings a fresh perspective on the life, theology and writing of “the patron saint of evangelicalism.”

Philip Ryken on Inerrancy:  If anyone ever has a beef against Lewis, it’s probably related to his doctrine of Scripture (unless they won’t read him at all because he smoked and drank alcohol).  Ryken is clear on Lewis’s most important theological shortcoming:  he “placed the inspiration of Scripture on a continuum with other forms of literary inspiration, thus downplaying to some degree the uniqueness of the Bible.”  Add to this the fact that he “believed there were contradictions and probably errors in the Bible,”  and that he “doubted or denied that certain parts of the Bible were historical,” and you have to wonder how C.S. Lewis has gained his rock star status among conservative evangelicals.   Oddly enough, Lewis came into criticism from liberals of his day because he was committed to the veracity of the accounts of miracles in the Bible, specifically the resurrection of Jesus Christ.    While I acknowledge the fact of his suborthodox stand on Scripture, Lewis’s story of Aslan’s charge to Jill Pole to remember the signs, to repeat them morning and night, to get them word-perfect so she would have them ready when needed is always my go-to story when I need a strong illustration of the importance of Scripture in the Christian life.  Clearly, Lewis had a high view of Scripture and lived a better theology than he knew when it comes to the importance of biblical truth for discipleship.

Douglas Wilson on Soteriology:  The question in this chapter is:  Was Lewis “reformed” in his understanding of God and salvation?  Wilson comes down on a solid “probably” here, but, of more importance is his exploration of Lewis’s magnificent portrayal of the undragoning of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as well as his analysis of the masterful storytelling by which Lewis created a world where we see Truth more clearly for the unfamiliarity of the setting.  Sarah Arthur has said many things well, and this is one:  “When the front door of reason is locked and double-bolted against the gospel, . . . the back door of the imagination often stands wide open.”  This is Lewis’s shining contribution to the conversation on salvation, and the fact that he did not claim to be a theologian at all seems to make the question of whether or not he was “reformed” a case of measuring a mile in ounces.

Kevin Vanhoozer on Imagination:  Laying the foundation of C.S. Lewis’s awakening to the truth of Christ through the baptism of his imagination, largely from the influence of George MacDonald’s writing, Vanhoozer makes a fascinating case for the role of imagination in discipleship and theology.  As a disciple, Lewis was, in the words of one biographer, “the most thoroughly converted person he ever met.”  As a theologian, he was a committed amateur who loved the map that theology provided for being “taken into the life of God.”   He put reason (“the organ of truth”) and imagination (“the organ of meaning”) in their most useful relationship to one another through his use of story.  His body of writing promoted a Biblical imagination, which, in Vanhoozer’s words, “sees reality as it truly is.”

Randy Alcorn on Heaven:  Better than Alcorn’s examination of the end of all things in the Revelation and his enlightening clarification of the term “new earth”; even better than his references to the Chronicles of Narnia — which paint the most compelling picture of the afterlife that I have ever read — is Randy’s own story of finding C.S. Lewis and thereby finding Christ.  The account of his hunger for truth and its satiation is (for me) the most important part of this collection of essays.

John Piper on the Use of Creation:  “[God] likes matter.  He invented it.”  Beginning with this Lewis-truth, Piper urges his readers to join C.S. Lewis in enjoying all the good and enjoyable things that God has made and to do so with thanksgiving.  When we do, it becomes an act of worship, for God has given to us Himself in all of creation.  This is not Pantheism, nor is it true that a shriveled and ascetic approach to all that is good in this world is a higher holiness.  The wisdom of C.S. Lewis is that Aslan (who is good, but certainly not safe) has given all the delights of His creation so that, by enjoying them, our eyes would turn to the Giver and our hearts would long to go “further up and further in” that we might know Him better.

For my review of another recommended biography of C.S. Lewis, click here: https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/this-is-not-that-kind-of-biography/