The author’s name is one I’ve never heard before (“Jonty”?), but his Covenants Made Simple: Understanding God’s Unfolding Promises to his People amazed me. It also provoked me to envy: I wish I had written this book, because in only 176 clearly-written pages it expresses what I think the whole Bible teaches, cover-to-cover. (Well, it’s clearly written, except for those really odd Britishisms, such as “I’ve plumped for the right one.” What?)
Does that sound self-serving, to plump for (praise highly) a book because it says what I think? I don’t think so. We sometimes praise books (or essays or poems or stories) because they open new vistas for us, transform our thinking, or move us deeply. But sometimes they say what we think, and help us articulate and organize our thoughts–and that’s helpful, too. So although this book won’t change my life, it does provide a resource that puts in one place and expresses well what I believe is a sound, life-promoting view of our relationship with God.
Please read it.
Because I’m getting ready to audit an Ed Welch course through CCEF with some friends, I thought I’d prepare myself by reading one of his books, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. Overall the book was good, though I wasn’t moved by several chapters–which probably says more about my mood or openness than it does about the book.
I will say, however, that chapter 26 was just what I needed. After presenting a brief case of a woman named Jen who lives in order to be valued by another person–the right person–Welch writes,
There is only one way out, and at first she won’t like it: she must rest in her association with Jesus rather than find value in her association with a mere mortal. Her past has made her vulnerable to being a value junkie. A kind word from a respected person and all is well. A snub from someone to whom she wants to be special leaves her alternating between anger and despair, with the emphasis on despair. She wants something tangible now. What she has in Christ feels distant and spiritual, which to her means he is not tangible or close. She doesn’t feel like she is asking too much. She just wants to be a valued person for once.
Of course, he goes on from there to address her struggle. Good stuff.
This is the cleverest thing I’ve seen in ages. Every Thursday a new Shakespearean sonnet–which is a rewriting of a pop song. Read some–like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Stayin’ Alive.” You will smile, perhaps even laugh.
–This odyssey is how I ply my trade;
among the spheres my livelihood is made.
[from “Rocket Man”]
Fortunately the first two Hobbit films prepared me for the disappointment of the third. It was ridiculous.
The Pilot and the Little Prince is a beautifully-illustrated and well-told biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of two of my favorite books: The Little Prince and Wind, Sand, and Stars. The main story is told in simple text at the bottom of each gorgeous page–simple enough to be a children’s book–and most pages include little snippets of story and factoids here and there, often forming a ring around a small picture.
A delightful read on Christmas Day!
I love to read books with Paula. In fact, I have for decades been collecting books that I would read to her when the kids were gone–and those days have (mostly) arrived.
Home is a great book–though I never identified with it the way I did (and do) with John Ames in Gilead. Home covers the same time period, but from the perspective of another character. That changes the way you think about some things in Gilead–which means I need to go back and read it again! But Home, as good as it is, is excruciatingly painful in the way it expounds the life of a reprobate–a man who squashes hope after hope for himself.
And now Paula will be gone for a month, and so I have to wait till the end of January to start Lila, which covers the same time period from yet another perspective: John Ames’s wife.
The new ESV Reader’s Bible is exactly what I’ve wanted for many, many years: single column, text only, simple cover without gaudy gold stamps on it. The one I have fits in my hand nicely. The page is clean and bright–and includes almost nothing but the text–no verse numbers, no footnotes, no cross-references. And, believe it or not, it makes a difference in the way I read. It’s easier to focus on the text, to read it out loud, to read large chunks of it (I’ve read 1 Peter straight through multiple times lately, soaking it up).
Give it a try.
I’m just winding up Richard Steer’s Church on Fire: The Story of Anglican Evangelicals. I’ve been only modestly happy with it. It’s too long for a general overview, and when Steer stops to go into details about a person or movement that he thinks more important–well, I’d rather read a book-length study. But these are quibbles, and the book was certainly worth reading.
But I just came across a statement that makes no sense. Speaking of “Anglican Evangelicalism’s Strengths,” Steer says, “Many Anglicans agree with Evangelicals that Scripture is, under God, our foremost authority.”
Huh? Take out the qualifier “under God” and the sentence makes sense. But how can he even separate the Bible from God’s authority? How is authority communicated without words? Aren’t a person’s words the very way he expresses his authority? Authority, as I understand it, is a person’s right to create obligations in someone else. And the one with authority creates those obligations with words. Mom says, “Clean up your room.” Before she said that, I was under no obligation to clean my room. But because she is a legitimate authority over me, once she utters those words, a new obligation springs into existence: I must either clean my room, or be in rebellion.
I hope you don’t think this is a minor point. It concerns how we think about God’s word–about God himself, and how he exercises authority over us.
In the deepest part of me, in the part that is really me, there is nothing I want more than to have my mind to be fixed on Jesus—set on him, riveted and nailed to him, screwed fast to him, welded to him, roped and tied and chained and shackled to him. I want my thoughts to rest on him, on his beauty, on his love, on his perfection, his wisdom, his kingdom, his coming again in glory, his unity with the Father, and the worship of Father, Son, and Spirit in heaven. I want my soul to find its most certain satisfaction in thoughts of God, and even to be unable to survive without thoughts of him. In a word, I want what he has promised me:
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [Romans 8:6]
From Augustine, The Confessions:
For my own part I was reflecting with anxiety and some perplexity how much time had elapsed since my nineteenth year, when I had first been fired with passion for the pursuit of wisdom, resolving that once I found it I would leave behind all empty hopes and vain desires and the follies that deluded me. Yet here I was in my thirtieth year sticking fast in the same muddy bog through my craving to enjoy the good things of the present moment, which eluded and dissipated me. “Tomorrow,” I had been saying to myself, “tomorrow I will find it; it will appear plainly and I will grasp it …”