Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Thoughts

1) Audrey and Gracie were both born in China and adopted into American families. Until recently, neither of them knew they had a twin sister. Grab some tissues and watch them meet one another for the first time. It does a soul good and it will "hit you in the feels." It is a powerful reminder of how important family is, even when you don't realize you have them. God created us for community.

2) Passing the Baton? Yes, but...
"Passing on the faith has been compared to handing off a baton in a relay race. And there are many things to commend that analogy to us. There is a real gospel—the baton—to pass on. It must be passed on individually. The one with the baton has to hold it out, and the one receiving the baton has to reach back for it and close his hand around it. There is a time to pass on the baton, the exchange zone, which does not last forever. All of these are excellent pictures to help us think through this subject.
There is a problem with this illustration, however. We are not handing off the baton at a friendly track meet. Rather, this exchange takes place on a battlefield! We are attempting to pass on this baton of the gospel while we and our children are being shot at. And what about those observing in the stands? A few are cheering us on, but many in the stands—the world—are laughing at our child’s attempt to run the race." (Chap Bettiss, The Disciple-Making Parent)
3) The year 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Many conferences will meet to mark this seminal event. The year will also be marked by a number of important documentaries on important figures in the Reformation. This one by Stephen McCaskell on the life of Luther looks particularly good.

4) At the church where I serve as preacher, I have been deeply enjoying a weekly reading group with my fellow ministers. I mention this in case you serve the church as leader: dear friend, readers are leaders! 

Reflecting on the importance of reading for the Christian, I thought of this relevant passage on reading and the discipleship of the mind from Kent Hughes' excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Man:
Along with reading the Word, we ought to be reading good books. The brilliant Jewish radio talk show host Dennis Prager, a man who makes sure he is well-informed, said in a recent interview in The Door
"One thing I noticed about Evangelicals is that they do not read. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the great Christian thinkers, they have never heard of Aquinas. If they’re Presbyterian, they’ve never read the founders of Presbyterianism. I do not understand that. As a Jew, that’s confusing to me.The commandment of study is so deep in Judaism that we immerse ourselves in study. God gave us a brain, aren’t we to use it in His service? When I walk into an Evangelical Christian’s home and see a total of 30 books, most of them best-sellers, I do not understand. I have bookcases of Christian books, and I am a Jew. Why do I have more Christian books than 98 percent of the Christians in America? That is so bizarre to me."
It is bizarre — especially when a commitment to Christ is a commitment to believe in things that go far beyond the surface of life. Sadly, the bulk of the non-reading Christian public are men, who buy only 25 percent of all Christian books. 
Men, to deny ourselves the wealth of the accumulated saints of the centuries is to consciously embrace spiritual anorexia. Great Christian writing will magnify, dramatize, and illuminate life-giving wonders for us. Others have walked the paths we so want to tread. They have chronicled the pitfalls and posted warnings along the way. They have also given us descriptions of spiritual delights which will draw us onward and upward. 
In preparation for speaking and writing about the subject of the mind, I mailed a questionnaire to thirty Christian leaders, including such people as Charles Colson, James Dobson, Carl F. H. Henry, J. I. Packer, Warren Wiersbe, and Calvin Miller. I received twenty-six responses. The survey asked four questions
1) What are the five books, secular or sacred, which have influenced you the most? 2) Of the spiritual/sacred books which have influenced you, which is your favorite? 3) What is your favorite novel? 4) What is your favorite biography? 
The devotional/theological books mentioned most were C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest, John Calvin’s Institutes, A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, and Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. The most frequently mentioned biographies were Mr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor’s Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret and Elisabeth Elliot’s Shadow of the Almighty. The favorite novels were Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Fyodor Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov (which was, for example, the favorite of Charles Colson, Wayne Martindale, Harold Myra, J. I. Packer, and Eugene Peterson). These titles make a superb list from which to select if you have not done some serious Christian reading.
Also, today many books are available as audiobooks (great for listening as you drive to work or when traveling, etc.). For example, my own town’s public library carries audio versions of such great books as Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevski, the Diary of Anne Frank, Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Homer’s Odyssey, Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and many others. 
Men, you need to fill your mind with good stuff. I am not suggesting a manic spree (George Will, for example, is able to read two hefty books a week). But many of you would do well to commit to reading two or three good books this next year.