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Archive for the ‘Book Commentary’ Category

Paul woke up in a mess on Wednesday, the kind that demands attention before he can be ready for school.

It was a moment ripe for a ‘why me, Lord’ thought.

God, instead, reminded me of Greg Lucas’ son, who frequently also woke up in a mess.  In his book, Wrestling with an Angel, Greg articulates the road I was going down:

Many mornings I leave Jake’s room dejected, hurt and emotionally drained. (Lucas, p. 22)

But he doesn’t stay there!

The only way to make any sense of this kind of relationship is to experience it through the unconditional love of the Father. (Lucas, p. 23)

Greg then unpacks what that means, in a God-centered, humble, grateful way.

And because Greg told his story about God in the midst of rotten circumstances, I was encouraged to fight my discouragement and run to God in my rotten circumstance.

If you are living in discouragement over disability right now, I highly recommend you buy and read (or read again) Greg’s book.  God is honored in this book, and I know many people personally who have understood their own circumstances differently after reading it.

And if you have a story of God’s goodness – tell it!  We honor God when we give him glory in hard circumstances.  And your story may come back, months or even years later, to encourage a hurting brother or sister.

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Joni Eareckson Tada is such a gift to the church!  She wrote her book, A Place of Healing, in the midst of terrible chronic pain – there is nothing light or breezy about this book.

And there are great encouragements to be found.  Like this one, in which she lays out the miracle God provided when he refused to heal or take away her chronic pain:

A ‘no’ answer has purged sin from my life, strengthened my commitment to Him, forced me to depend on grace, bound me with other believers, produced discernment, fostered sensitivity, disciplined my mind, taught me to spend my time wisely … and widened my world beyond what I would have ever dreamed had I never had that accident in 1967.

My affliction has stretched my hope, made me know Christ better, helped me long for truth, led me to repentance of sin, goaded me to give thanks in times of sorrow, increased my faith, and strengthened my character.   Being in this wheelchair has meant knowing Him better, feeling His pleasure every day.

If that doesn’t qualify as a miracle in your book, then-may I say it in all kindness?-I prefer my book to yours.

Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty, p. 55-56.

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My heart sank as I read over the recommended reading list from one of the speakers at a seminar last week.  I was familiar with most of the authors and many of the books on that list, and there were few I could commend as being faithful to the Bible or helpful in building up the faith.

But I had forgotten where I was.  This was an academic discussion on a university campus.  The rules are different.

During her presentation, the seminar speaker pointed out the basic problem with many of those books on her list.  It was refreshing.  And it did not diminish these books’ importance in the subject area.  Competent academic engagement with the subject requires one to be familiar with the arguments presented in those books.

Thus, “recommended” meant something different than commending them as being edifying or helpful.

I compared her list to the list Brenda Fischer has put together for the library at Bethlehem.  Not one book or resource appeared on both lists.

I wonder how we can bridge this gap.  Ideas discussed within colleges and universities have a tremendous impact on the culture.  The church needs to be engaged.

What do you think?  I’ll share some of my thoughts tomorrow, Lord willing.

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One of the things we enjoy as a family is reading together.

A good friend introduced us to Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga a couple of months ago and during our vacation we couldn’t put down book three – it was exciting, full of adventure and the unexpected.  We can hardly wait for book four to be published!

Two of the main characters live with disability: the grandfather and the youngest daughter.  But it isn’t overwhelming and it isn’t sad.  For each character it is just a physical characteristic that sometimes is relevant to what is happening.

God is also present, as the Maker.  Evil exits, and the Maker is still good:

His heart was black with despair, so the Maker’s magic was most welcome.  It helped him believe there was power pulsing behind the veil of the visible world, pulsing like blood through the world’s veins, sending life and light coursing through everything, surprising and confounding at every turn. When he remembered this, the darkness glimmered with goodness.

Andrew Peterson, The Monster in the Hollows, p. 288.

So, if you are looking for some books for younger readers with strong characters who also happen to live with disability, I highly recommend these.

Justin Taylor endorsed these books and some others we can also recommend.

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Wayne Grudem has rock-star status in our household.  We have his Systematic Theology (and so should you!) and we’ve given away copies of Politics – According to the Bible.  He is a great thinker, clear writer, Biblical scholar and an articulate defender of the unborn.

But he missed an opportunity to come out strong in defense of those living with disabilities in Politics – According to the Bible.  It reminded me that even our supporters sometimes need to be nudged on how they can best help our cause.

In the section titled “Objections regarding personhood of the preborn child” he begins with a strong statement:

2) Birth defects: Another objection concerns preborn children who are known to have birth defects. Should parents not have the right to abort such children, thus saving themselves much hardship and saving the child from a life of suffering?

But the relevant question here is this: Would we think it right to put such a child to death after it is born?

If we have already established that the preborn child should be treated as a person from the moment of conception, then being born or not yet being born should make no difference in assessment of the child’s personhood. If we would not think it right to kill such a child after it is born, then we should not think it right to kill the child before it is born.

Therein lies the problem – it is NOT established that all preborn children should be treated as people.  Even for those who are generally inclined to have a pro-life orientation, disability seems to tip the balance toward abortion rather than bringing that child into the world.

There is also a philosophical line of thinking that sees disability as negating the personhood of a little human being, and that the strong (parents, doctors, government) have the right and possibly even the obligation to ‘humanely’ end the life of a little human being – even one who has already been born!

Secondly, Dr. Grudem wanders into an argument that we can’t win against the culture:

Moreover, prior to birth the “possible” or “probable” diagnosis of birth defects can be in error. Sometimes children can be perfectly normal even though there was a diagnosis of a “possible” or “probable” birth defect. Many birth defects can be very small and not have significant impact on the child’s life. And even when the birth defect is quite significant (for example, Down syndrome) the child can still lead a happy life and bring much joy and blessing to his or her own family and to many others.

Diagnoses of genetic disorders are becoming more accurate and less expensive.  The argument that ‘it might turn out ok’ is of no comfort to a family facing disability if they have no orientation toward God’s sovereignty over all things; they are just as likely to say it isn’t worth the risk.

The fact that most birth defects are not that significant has little weight in a culture obsessed with comfort, wealth, status and beauty.  We’re already seeing the first signs of sex selection in the United States; why would a family put up with a minor disability if they don’t even want to keep a boy or a girl of the ‘wrong’ sex?

Finally, the ‘brings much joy’ argument is certainly true, but must rely on sentimentality.  There are abortionists across the country who are willing to grant that we can be sentimental about our own ‘choices’ with our child, and will even disingenuously agree that people with disabilities have value.  They will not deny for a minute that we experience joy in our children with disabilities.

But in the end, sentimentality will at best be a minor argument (if presented at all) and will not spare the child who’s parents do not want to be subjected to all the expense, suffering and inconvenience.

Even as I re-read my own words I’m feeling like I’m being harsh with Dr. Grudem.  I don’t want that to be the last word – I have deep regard for him and for his work and can happily recommend you buy and read Politics – According to the Bible.

But maybe in his next edition of the book he could re-write that section, putting more of his significant intellectual and writing abilities squarely on this issue in defense of little children with disabilities.

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Over conversation with a friend, he told me that his brother had been taken in by a health and prosperity preacher who taught him that communion is ‘the meal that heals.’  It was easy enough to find what was meant by that, along with the book this preacher would gladly sell to you (emphases in bold are mine):

The Meal That Heals explains the power of the Communion experience to bring physical and spiritual healing to the life of a believer. . .  It shows the power of receiving daily Communion, which allows the life of Christ to work in your body, driving out every sickness, disease, and weakness that hinders your life.

If you watch the video this preacher prepared, you’ll notice that HE’S WEARING GLASSES!

So much for driving out every weakness.

I hate the health, wealth and prosperity gospel.  But there is one thing about the above I will agree with – we should come to the communion table expecting to get something.

But the something we should be longing to get – more than perfect health in ourselves or healing for our kids, more than extraordinary wealth or any sort of prosperity in this life – is more of God.

Pastor John summarized it really well during his sermon this past week, No One Will Take Your Joy From You:

The aim of corporate worship is to awaken and express together our joyful admiration of all the wonders and works of God.

“I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God” (Psa 43:4).

I do not criticize you for coming to “get.” I think God is greatly honored when people come to corporate worship starving for God. And deeply desiring that they will meet him, and hear from him.

John Piper, No One Will Take Your Joy From You, May 8, 2011

And I think Pastor John would agree that God is greatly honored when we come to the communion table starving for God as well.

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If you still haven’t downloaded Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life (still free as of Friday for the Kindle and the Kindle app which can work on most computers and mobile devices), I hope this will encourage you to do so:

I was walking down from our campsite to our Dodge Caravan when I noticed our fourteen-year-old daughter, Ashley, standing in front of the van, tense and upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I lost my contact lens. It’s gone.” I looked down with her at the forest floor, covered with leaves and twigs. There were a million little crevices for the lens to fall into and disappear.

I said, “Ashley, don’t move. Let’s pray.” But before I could pray, she burst into tears. “What good does it do? I’ve prayed for Kim to speak and she isn’t speaking.”

Kim struggles with autism and developmental delay. Because of her weak fine motor skills and problems with motor planning, she is also mute. . .

Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim’s muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn’t work.

If you’ve ever thought that, I encourage you to read his book.

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