J.I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy–A Review

J. I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014). 100 pages

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Summary:

Packer divides older folk into the “younger olds” (65-75), the “medium olds” (76-85), and the “oldest olds” (85 plus). Our secular society views retirement as a time to “Relax. Slow down. Take it easy. Amuse yourself. Do only what you enjoy. . . . Practice self-indulgence.” (page 27). Packer rejects this view.

As we grow older, we face limitations, but we want to live to God’s glory and grow old gracefully in service to God and others. The Bible views aging as a time of increasing wisdom, discernment, and encouragement. “So far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our life, as we would say, flat out.” (21-22).

Packer rejects the view that our bodies keep us from the fullness of life. As we age our bodies limit what our souls would like to do. But it is wrong to think that our personal self (our soul) would be freer and happier separated from the body. God gave us bodies to live in for “experience, expression, and happiness.” Even though our bodies wear out, our zeal for serving God should not decline.

After serving Christ in our younger years, we must not withdraw from serving our Lord. “Spiritual gifts and ministry skills” do not “wither with age” rather ‘they atrophy with disuse.” (64). Seniors can continue learning, leading, and growing spiritually. We should “cultivate the maximum zeal for the closing phase of our earthly lives.” (72). Zeal is “priority, passion and effort in pursuing God’s cause.” (74).

Our zeal is fed by our hope of “an eternal enjoyment of God’s glory and beauty in ways that we cannot at present begin to conceive.” (1 Peter 1:3-9; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10). After we die, a new body awaits us. This hope is an invigorating and refreshing force as we age.

Seniors can offer service through opportunity, maturity, humility, and intensity. The “powers of the body, memory, creativity grow less. So their conscious focus on the hope of glory should grow sharper, and their meditation on it grow more joyful and sustained.” (96). Instead of retreating from service, seniors should welcome further service as extended health allows.

Comment:

Packer, who includes himself in the oldest olds, challenges seniors to use their older age as a time of learning, leading, and service. He encourages them to continue to glorify God and finish their lives with joy. This easy-to-read book is a light of inspiration and encouragement in a time with its share of dark clouds of disappointments and discouragements.

The Matheny Manifesto

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 The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old School Views on Success in Sports and Life by Mike Matheny with Jerry Jenkins (New York: Crown Archetype, 2015).

Summary:

After his major league career as a catcher, Mike Matheny was asked to coach youth baseball. He wrote a five-page letter explaining to parents when he expected from them and the players if he accepted. The youth would be taught to play the game right and with respect and class. Emphasis would be on character rather than winning. The parents were to agree not to coach from the stands or yell at the players or the umpires. The letter went viral and became known as the Matheny Manifesto.

Matheny saw the problem in youth sports was parents and coaches who made the game more about their ego than about the players learning to play the game the right way.

Parents signed on to this approach that emphasized service, teamwork, discipline, excellence, responsibility, and leadership with biblical truth as the moral compass. Matheny admired and was influenced by John Wooden and his principles for coaching and life.

Matheny lists and explains eight keys to success.

  1. Leadership: The Coach Is Always Right—Even When He’s Wrong
  2. Confidence: Let the Catcher Call the Game
  3. Teamwork: Don’t’ Think Less of Yourself, Think of Yourself Less
  4. Faith: Stand Your Ground
  5. Class: Respect the Ump—Even If He’s Blind
  6. Character: Stay in Your Lane
  7. Toughness: Nothing Worth Doing Right Is Easy
  8. Humility: Seek Help When You Need It, Express Thanks When You Get It

These principles proved successful in youth baseball, and they are proving successful in the major leagues as Matheny is now in his fourth year as coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Comment:

Mike Matheny has earned the respect and trust of those who know him. In his life and managing, he is consistent with his principles. He does not let his fierce competitive spirit deter him from respecting the game and playing the game right way and with class.

The book blends biography and coaching philosophy. He illustrates his approach to the game with experiences from his life and others who have influenced him.

Many will benefit from reading this book: coaches, parents, players, and anyone who wants to be a success in life.

In his original letter to parents, Matheny clearly states the role Christianity plays in his life. “My Christian faith guides my life, and while I have never been one to force it down someone’s throat, I also think it’s cowardly and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. . . . when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest about what I believe.”           (p. 14-15).

R. A. Dickey, Wherever I Wind Up–A Review

 R. A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball (Blue Rider Press, 2012). (332 pages)

R. A. Dickey had a difficult childhood involving alcoholism and abuse. He turned to sports to find fulfillment. Dealing with painful experiences he could not be honest or trust people. He lost a $810,000 signing bonus because of a failed physical. He spent many years in the minor leagues with several disappointments when he thought he would get to the major leagues. He developed a knuckleball pitch and finally made it to the majors for a few good years. He won the 2012 National League Cy Young Award.

A counselor helped him deal with his dark secrets that kept preventing him from being authentic with people. His wife stuck with him as they worked things out in a sometimes rocky marriage. His Christian faith is a key to helping him deal with setbacks and failures both personally and professionally.

The book is a psychological and anecdotal autobiography in which Dickey discusses the demons in his life that he faced and overcame. It is a story of perseverance in spite of setback after setback. Dickey does not whitewash his flaws and gives credit to those who helped him on his way to success with his life, his family, and his knuckleball.

“Brother Boatman” A Man of Conviction Who Led by Serving Is Now Available


Books may be ordered from:

Ozark Christian College Bookstore, 1111 N. Main St., Joplin, MO 64801.

The price of the book is $15.00. Shipping would be an additional charge.

What readers are saying:

Roger Boatman, son of Don Earl and Gail Boatman:

“I read it from cover to cover with deep appreciation for your format and wonderful stories it contains capturing his values and spirit.”

Dr. Garland Bare,:

“What an interesting book about a fascinating life!”

Bob Stacy:

“What a beautiful book of memories! It means so much to me. I’ll never forget the influence that man had on my life. his spirit was certainly the Spirit of Christ. Nell was a freshman at OBC the year he came, so we’ve known him for a long, long time.”

“Brother Boatman” A Man of Conviction Who Led by Serving

I have written a book which will be published in the near future on the life and ministry of Don Earl Boatman, long-time president of Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) in Joplin, Missouri.

Strong convictions and servant leadership guided Don Earl Boatman as he led Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) in Joplin, Missouri, from 86 students to a peak enrollment of 803 in his twenty-seven-year presidency. The college emphasized biblical studies, preaching, evangelism, missions, and Christian service.

Learn of Don Earl and Gail Boatman’s early lives, his ministries and education, his career as a Bible college professor and president, and his priorities and principles for a Bible college. Why did he step aside from the presidency? Learn about the transition to Ken Idleman, his successor. What role did Mrs. Boatman take in his ministry and the life of the college? You will be inspired and challenged to live by your convictions and to serve others.

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 “After reading this book, people should be able to say, ‘Now I feel like I know Brother Boatman.’” Sam E. Stone, former editor of Christian Standard, Ozark alumnus

“What an enjoyable, nostalgic read! Having known the Boatmans since 1952, we are thrilled to see them honored in this way.” James and Marje Taylor, minister and counselor, Ozark alumni

“Dr. Lynn Gardner has done us a great service by documenting and articulating the convictions and servant leadership of Brother Boatman—the essence of his legacy.” Ken Idleman, Ozark Christian College President, 1979-2006

“Theology is at its best as biography, when we see God’s truth lived. Dr. Gardner has shown us in the life of Brother Boatman what Christlike service looks like.” Matt Proctor, Ozark Christian College President, 2006 to present

 

 

 

Good News from Louisiana

A Federal Judge Upholds Traditional Marriage

District Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana upheld the state’s traditional marriage law. More than twenty federal judges had previously ruled against the traditional definition of marriage.

He said the states have the right to regulate marriage. The traditional law and the Constitution “are directly related to achieving marriage’s historically preeminent purpose of linking children to their biological parents.”

World Magazine, October 4, 2014, p. 8.

 

A State Prison Warden Known for Respecting the Prisoner’s Dignity

Warden Burl Cain manifests Christian values and leadership in Louisiana’s Angola Prison. Eric Metaxas states, “Actually, to call Angola a ‘prison’ and Cain its ‘warden’ is a bit off the mark. With 6,300 inmates and 1,800 employees and covering 18,000 acres, The Louisiana State Penitentiary, as it is officially known, is more like a small city with Cain as it mayor.”

A guard, who has worked at the prison for 37 years, said that “prisoners are offered incentives to better themselves, and when they prove trustworthy, they take positions of responsibility within the prison.”

Cain’s leadership expresses his Christian values. In the group, Malachi Dads, prisoners “pledge to provide spiritual leadership for their kids.” New Orleans Baptist Seminary offers a four-year degree the inmates can earn while in prison. Some become prisoner-pastors ministering to other prisoners. In their hospice program prisoners care for dying prisoners.

Cain and his employees respect the prisoner’s humanity. They seek their moral transformation and restoration to society.

Breakpoint, Eric Metaxas, September 19, 2014

Some Books that Have Influenced My Thinking and Life (in addition to the Bible)

1. Elizabeth Elliott, The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliott.

2. Ned Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir.

3 & 4. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There and How Should We Then Live?

5-7. Merrill C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection, New Testament Survey, and Interpreting Revelation.

8. Seth Wilson, Learning from Jesus.

9 & 10. J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on Acts and Evidences of Christianity.

11 -13. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, and Between Two Worlds.

14 & 15. J. I. Packer, Knowing God and God Has Spoken.

16-18. Leon Morris, I Believe in Revelation, The Gospel According to John, and Atonement.

19. John Wenham, Christ and the Bible.

20. Herman Ridderbos, The  Authority of the New Testament Scriptures.

21, Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible.

22. Carl. F. H. Henry, ed. Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought.

23. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.

24-26. F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? and The Epistle to the Hebrews.

27. Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries.

28. Augustine, The City of God.

29. James North, Union in Truth: An Interpretative History of the Restoration Movement.

30. Louis Cochrane, The Fool of God: A Novel Based on the Life of Alexander Campbell.

31 & 32. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism and The Origin of Paul’s Religion.

33. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?

34. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants.

35. Gerald L. Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss.

36-38. Os Guinness, The Dust of Death, In Two Minds (now God in the Dark), and A Free  People’s Suicide.

39. Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay and Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith.

40. David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

41. Harold H. Titus, Living Issues in Philosophy, 2nd ed.

42. James Sire, The Universe Next Door.

43. Elton Trueblood, The Idea of a College.

44. S. A. Witmer, The Bible College Story: Education with Dimension.

45. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge.

46. Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.

47. Kenneth O. Gangel, Feeding and Leading: A Practical Handbook on Administration in Churches and Christian Organizations.

48. John Wooden, My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey.

49. Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A Life, Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.

50. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

51 & 52. David McCullough, John Adams and 1776.

53. William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction.

                                                 

Taking God at His Word–A Review

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Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway, 2014).

Summary

Kevin DeYoung’s goal with the book is to get the reader to fully embrace and love the truth in the Word of God. He states, “I want to convince you . . . that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant things you can read each day.”

Taking God at His Word  is not an defense of why we believe the Bible or how to understand the Bible. It is not a technical academic book. “This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible. . . . a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.”

He sees Psalm 119 as a love song affirming what we can believe, feel, and do with the word of God. The word is true, demands what is right and provides what is good.    We should feel delight in the word (Psalm 119:14, 24, 47, 70, 77, 143, 174), have a love  for it ((119:48, 97, 119, 127, 140, 167), feel a desire to keep it (119:5, 10, 17, 20, 40, 131), and to know and understand it (119:18, 19, 27, 29, 33, 35, 64-66, 74, 124-125, 135, and 169), and depend on it as Jesus did (Deut 8:3; Matthew 4:4).

The certain truth of Scripture is emphasized in the second chapter based on 2 Peter 1:16-21 which identifies two kinds of evidence: eyewitness testimony and authoritative documents. The Bible accounts are not myths. Any view that denies miracles stands at odds with Scripture. “The most important claims of Christianity are historical claims, and on the facts of history the Christian religion must stand or fall.”

Peter’s passage teaches three truths about Scripture:

1. Scripture is the word of God. The prophetic word refers to God’s revelation in Scripture. “The authority of God’s word resides in the written text–the words, the sentences, the paragraphs–of Scripture.”

2. The word of God is no less divine because it is given through human instrumentality.” “God used the intellect, skills, and personality of fallible men to write down what was divine and infallible.” “The divine authorship of the Scriptures does not preclude the use of active human instrumentation, but as human participation does not render the Scriptures any less perfect and divine.”

3. “The Bible is without error.” The source of Scripture is divine not human.”The ultimate authorship of Scripture, Peter informs us, is God himself.” “And if it is God’s word than it must all be true, for in him there can be no error or deceit.” “When we reject inerrancy we put ourselves in judgment over God’s word.”  “There is no more authoritative declaration than what we find in the word of God, no firmer ground to stand on, no ‘more final’ argument that can be spoken after Scripture as spoken.” Continue reading

Double Lung Transplant–Ten Years and Counting

 

Father’s Day, June 15, 2014, started as a usual Sunday. I ate breakfast, did some last minute study on my Sunday School lesson, got dressed and went to church. After church, Barbara said we would get together with family later, so we ate barbeque sandwiches at our usual restaurant. We came home, and I watched the St. Louis Cardinals. I asked Barbara if I should stay in my good clothes, and she said, “Yes.”
She came dashing into the family room at 3:05 pm and declared, “We have to leave, right now! We were to meet the Arnces at three.” Perplexed, but obedient, I went along as she drove us to the church house. I noticed several cars in the parking lot. We entered the church fellowship hall. A crowd of people wished me congratulations on the ten year anniversary of my double lung transplant!

Yes, I was surprised and overwhelmed. With long-distance discussions with our son and wife, Barbara with our daughter and husband and daughter-in-law and their families had masterminded this surprise party without my knowledge or even suspicion. (Barbara found it exhausting to give me vague answers all the time and decided she is not cut out to be a secret agent.) It was a special day and a wonderful celebration for me. Everyone from our care group and our Sunday School class joined our family and a few other friends–a valuable support group of forty.

Barbara planned the celebration. Our daughter’s family provided the refreshments and decorations and our daughter-in-law made the cake. The cake had a picture of lungs with the heading “Breathing Easier for Ten Years” with the words, “The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126:3).

The day marked a significant milestone. We did not know if I would survive long enough to get the transplant. After the transplant, doctors told me that the average time of survival for persons with lung transplants was five years. Here I am, doing relatively well, at ten years and counting (June 15, 2004-June 15, 2014). What a privilege to have these ten years with my wife and family and friends. This extension of life has enabled me to continue my writing and teaching ministry.

I am blessed. I give thanks to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful to my wife and family, friends, and the medical persons who have served and supported me.

 

Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness–A Summary

 

 

Seven Men and the Secret of Their Success by Eric Metaxas (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).  Page numbers are in parentheses.

Os Guinness states, “This is a book to be read aloud to others, and then read again. In a day when children are growing up stunted because of our diet of empty-headed celebrities and contemptible villains, true heroism and manliness need special nourishment.”

The book addresses the idea afloat today that no one is in a position to declare anything right or wrong. Metaxas wanted people to see moral greatness in heroes and role models. He choose these seven men because they surrendered “themselves to a higher purpose of giving something away that they might have kept.” (xxii). Service and sacrifice is at the heart of great people. They selflessly put their strength in God’s hands and give what is theirs to the service of others.

Great examples challenge us and inspire us. This is an excellent book for families to read, especially boys.

George Washington (1732-1799) refused to be crowned King George I of America for the good of the country choosing rather to go back to being a Virginia farmer. His voluntary surrendering of power caused King George III of Britain to say he was “the greatest man in the world.” (24) His voluntary surrendering of power as Commander of Chief of the army and stepping aside as president after two terms demonstrated that he realized that he did not rise above human weakness. Though he could have enjoyed the luxury of his home he chose to serve and sacrifice for his country and his men. He prevented a possible mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans by appealing to their shared sacrifice.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) gave up the chance to be prime minister of the greatest empire of his day to promote the cause of freedom for slaves and other oppressed people and abolishing slavery. Metaxas calls him “The most successful social reformer in the history of the world. . . . His life stands as a shining example of what one human being–submitted to God’s purposes for his life–is capable of doing.” (33-34) By age 24 Wilberforce had a powerful seat in Parliament. William Pitt was prime minister.

Conversations with Isaac Milner on a trip together changed his life. He came to believe in the God of the Bible, Jesus as the Messiah, and the Bible as truth. He believed God had called him to champion the cause of abolishing the slave trade and bring a biblical world view to his culture so they would respect everyone as a person made in the image of God. He knew he had to change hearts before he could get laws passed to improve social conditions.

When he was 48 the bill abolishing the slave trade passed. In 1833 a few days before he died, he learned that the House of Commons outlawed slavery. “The world that Wilberforce left behind was dramatically different from the one he had entered seventy-three years earlier. Not only had the slave trade and then slavery itself been abolished, but the once foreign and strange idea that one should help those less fortunate had taken hold.” (55)

Eric Liddell (1902-1945) gave up the chance to run for (1924) Olympic gold medal in the 100 meter race, an event he was favored to win, in order to honor God. He could not conscientiously compete on the Lord’s Day. He held the Lord’s Day as a day of rest and worship and believed he was obeying God rather than men. This Flying Scotsman used his world class talent as a runner to glorify God.

He was part of the Oxford group  from Oxford University advocating surrendering themselves to God each day and pledging themselves to absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, absolute love.

In the 400 meter race, not on Sunday, he won the gold metal against all odds. He announced to the world he would stop running and be a missionary to China. He studied theology preparing to go to the mission field. He placed obedience to God above the greatest treasures the world could offer.

Eric and his finance waited three years while she completed nursing degree before their marriage in 1934. They had two daughters while serving as missionaries in China. Japan attacked China in 1937. (74-76)

Because of Japan’s war with China, his wife returned to the States in 1940 with their two daughters and pregnant with a third. He never saw his family again. He spent the last years of his life ministering in an internment camp. He died of a brain tumor in 1945.

When honored after the 1924 Olympics one said Liddel deemed the honor of being the fastest runner in the world “as small dust, compared to remaining true to his principles.” 86 Continue reading