Tag: Joe Rigney

Tolle Lege: Strangely Bright

If you don’t already have your hands on this book, it’s time. When I’ve already started reading it for Crossway and am looking at a 5 star review after only a few chapters, AND THEN the Sheologians Book Club chooses it to read and discuss and that hour becomes one of the highlights of my week AND THEN the highly respected ladies leading my church’s womens ministry decide to hand it out to all the women– THEN it’s definitely time to just tell everyone to read this book. And by everyone, I mean EVERYONE, not just women. Just because there happens to be a recipe for a legendary Pumpkin Crunch Cake tucked in the back in no way feminizes the book’s masculine voice.

Strangely Bright by Joe Rigney (the newly appointed President of Bethlehem College and Seminary) couldn’t be more timely. In 7 intensely poignant but delightfully breezy chapters, Rigney asks and answers the question, “Can you love God and enjoy the world?” Long time readers of this blog know one of my main purposes is to encourage first my children and then others to see how God has made Himself known through the world He has made, the Word He has breathed and the workers He has appointed. Rigney goes a step further and reminds us that indeed ALL of the good and enjoyable gifts God has lavished upon His creatures are a means of revelation into His kind and benevolent nature.

While this message is surely timeless in nature, think of what it means for us specifically in 2020. This year we have by various “authorities” and in varying degrees been told to give up God’s good gifts of work (2 Thes. 3:10), of enjoying and indeed rising in the presence of our elders (1 Tim. 5:16, Lev. 19:32), going out and bringing our food from afar (Prov. 31:14), of breaking bread together (Acts 2:246), of showing hospitality (Rom. 12:13), of assembling together in His Name (Heb. 10:25), of encouraging one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5;19), of extending the hand of fellowship and greeting one another with a kiss (Gal. 2:9, 2 Cor. 13:12), of sharing the cheerful countenance that comes from a glad heart (Prov. 15:13), of proclaiming truth in the public square (Prov. 1:20), of weeping and rejoicing with those who weep and rejoice (Rom. 12:15). The list of these, God’s good gifts, goes on and on. But friends, these are not just suggested indulgences in the life of the believer. They are COMMANDED for our enjoyment.

Is there ever a time when God removes these good gifts from the life of the believer? Yes. It’s called suffering and Rigney addresses this in chapter 6 “When the Things of Earth are Lost.”

Is there ever a time when the believer should voluntarily give up one or more of God’s good gifts? Yes. It’s called self-denial and Rigney addresses this in chapter 5 “Denying Ourselves and Sharing Our Riches.”

Is there ever a time when the Government, worldly influencers and other Christians can command you to give up God’s good gifts? That’s the 2020 question, is it not? Alas, Rigney has no chapter to answer that one specifically. But I believe taken as a whole “Strangely Bright” does in fact address this very thing.

I for one, couldn’t read this book and come to the conclusion that the forced closure of businesses, the isolation and neglect of our elderly, the loss of neighborly interaction in the public market place, the forsaking of fellowship and the breaking of bread, the silencing of our public worship, and prayer and preaching of the Word, the withdrawing of hand shakes and hugs, the masking of our smiles, the censoring of opposing view points, the canceling of weddings, the prohibition of funerals, etc…were in any way Biblical responses to our current problems. If anything, it is Satan himself who is rejoicing over our lack of enjoyment of God’s good gifts.

Has it not been so since the garden? Had our benevolent Creator filled the earth with abundance and variety and perfect goodness and then commanded His creatures to eat freely and enjoy His bounty? There was only one restriction and that too was a good and loving and protective gift. But oh, what music to the serpent’s ears to hear Eve add the prohibition which God had NOT given, “and neither shall you touch it.” With what delight did he witness Eve’s seemingly good intentions to be healthy and wise and take what looked good to the eyes rob her of every pure pleasure on earth? Was he not gleefully observing the now infected pair cease from their God-given labors, isolated from fellowship with their only True Companion, hiding behind leafy masks to cover their shame?

Next week is Thanksgiving. Dear Christian, do not be fooled into thinking that the healthy, wise, good looking thing to do is to refuse God’s bountiful provision, close the door to others made in His image, and silence your joyful public declaration of Thanksgiving to the One who has given us EVERY GOOD THING. Let us love God AND enjoy His gifts. And let us do that as the Giver intended, together.

I’ve had to do one too many “Shred It” reviews for Crossway. Mainly their stuff has been ranking a bland “Shelve It” of late. But “Strangely Bright” has earned a solid “Share It” in my book and I hope it will in yours too.

Tolle Lege: Stack Attack

Enough is enough. The stack must be mitigated. I owe it to Crossway and Baker to at least mention that they sent me a couple of books, I added them to my stack, I failed miserably at consuming them in a timely manner and now I have to rearrange the literary rampart to retrieve them, review them, and reassess my reading strategy.

I suppose the best way to attack a library pile would be alphabetically.

So first: “Anyone But Me: 10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear and Be Prepared to Share the Gospel” by Ray Comfort. I love this guy. I’ve binge watched his evangelistic Youtube videos and followed his work with Living Waters Ministry. Our family has even handed out copious amounts of his tracts. But I’d never read one of his books. Can I just say, his message loses just a tiny bit of attraction without the New Zealand accent?

Although the accent may be missing from the book, the blunt, methodical, somewhat sarcastic style remains and is an easy going, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, delight to read. Ray Comfort can pierce your conscience with daggers and make you like it at the same time. This book is full of great stories that illustrate practical methods of evangelism but makes you squirm for liking the stories so much while having very little intention of learning the hard lessons from them.

But that discomfort is a good thing. As he says on p136, “Pain and discomfort often lead to action.” I can’t imagine anyone finishing this book and not being changed by it.

And now “An Introduction to John Owen” by Crawford Gribben. I’ve read biographies of puritans before and loved them. In fact one of my most recommended books ever is the 2-volume set “Memorable Women of the Puritan Times” by James Anderson. I thoroughly enjoyed Iain Murray’s “New Biography of Jonathan Edwards” and consider Leland Rykan’s “Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were” a must read for everyone. So I truly believe reading ABOUT the puritans can be a weighty delight.

Gribbon’s take on Owen however, I found neither weighty nor delightful. One would benefit far more from just reading another book BY Owen then this one ABOUT him. The format however was intriguing. Gribbon divides Owen’s life into four sections: Childhood, Youth, Middle Age, and Death and Eternal Life. As one would expect the author chronicles all the major events, both personal and political, of each of those eras. But Gribbon further utilizes that framework to introduce some of Owen’s writings by cataloging their subject matter according to these relative life stages.

For example when writing about Owen’s birth and childhood, Gribbon takes the opportunity to survey Owen’s writings on baptism and the education and catechizing of children. And when delving into his latter years he covers Owen’s writings on suffering, grief, the resurrection and the glories of heaven. This format added just enough interest to the otherwise dry compilation of facts to make the book bearable but not much more than that.

So with the obligatory reviews out of the way, what’s left in my personal reading pile? To begin with there’s Thomas Sowell’s “Charter Schools and Their Enemies” for going to war against our homeschool hating governor, Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” for reading on the water whenever I’m near some, and Joe Rigney’s “Strangley Bright” for reading with the women of Sheologians book club. Plus there’s all the stuff I’m reading aloud for the younger boys: “Story of the World,” “Exploring Creation Through Zoology,” Ogden Nash’s “Zoo” plus “Ave Ogden” cause if you’re gonna read Nash ya might as well do it in Latin. Then there’s all the High School material I have to cover for the older boys: German, Government and Econ, American Lit, History… it all adds up. Attack the stack, people! Tolle lege! Veni, vidi, vici and all the rest. Whatever. Just read. It’s good for you.