I know, long time no blog.
My last blog post was in the middle of June, and since then I spent a week teaching in the UK, spent another week in Dallas at the PCA General Assembly, traveled to Michigan for a week’s vacation, and then spent the rest of the July on study leave. Besides enjoying a lighter pace for the month—which I did: going to the pool with my kids, watching the Tour de France, mowing the lawn, playing games, helping around the house—I had two main projects.
The first project was to prepare my dissertation for publication. I’m pleased that my revised dissertation will be published with Routledge, an excellent British academic press, in the series Routledge Studies in Evangelicalism, edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones. I will be getting the manuscript book-worthy for the next couple months, with an eventual publication date sometime in 2020. Tentative title: The Religious Formation of John Witherspoon.
The second project was at the other end of audience spectrum. I’m working with Crossway on a children’s Bible storybook. The look and feel will be akin to The Biggest Story, but instead of covering the plot line of Scripture in one fell swoop, this will be a 400- to 500-page book with more than 100 Bible stories. I’m thrilled to be working again with the extremely talented Don Clark, who will be providing the artwork to accompany my text. I have finished the Old Testament stories and will be plugging away at the New Testament over the next months, while Don works feverishly to add the artwork to each chapter. The book is scheduled to release at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021.
I’m excited for both of these projects to see the light of day, though I suspect one will hit a slightly larger audience than the other.
Here are a couple stories to give you a feel for the work in progress.
And So It Begins (Genesis 1-2)
In the beginning, there was God.
Actually, that’s not quite right. Even before there was a beginning, there was God. He never started. He always has been, always is, and always will be. God is God. And there is nothing else and no one else who compares with him.
God doesn’t get lonely, or bored, or scared. He doesn’t need anything from anyone. He just IS. The great I AM. Whether people know it or not.
But don’t think that makes God a meanie. There is nothing mean about him. God is all love and all glory all the time.
Which is why in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God made everything: day and night, land and water, and fruits and vegetables, and sun and moon, and swimming things and flying things, big burly beasts and little creepy-crawlies. In the span of six days, God created our amazing universe. The power and beauty and goodness of our invisible God would now be visible.
Of all the special things God made, the most important thing was not a thing at all. It was a person. God may have been fond of fish, and he probably liked camels and kangaroos too (maybe even spiders!). But he created man in his own image. That’s us! We were made to be pictures of God’s glory—living, breathing statues whose work in the world is to show that this place belongs to God and to tell everyone what he is like.
The first person God made was Adam. He came from the dust of the ground. The second person God made was Eve. She came from Adam’s side. They were both made in God’s image, and they were made for each other. A perfect fit. Just like God had planned. So that husband and wife can be together and make lots of itty-bitty baby image-bearers to fill the earth.
Things were off to a pretty good start. God was so pleased with his creation, he looked around, saw that everything was tremendously terrific, and rested on the seventh day. A perfect beginning to the beginning.
Prayer: Dear God, we love to see all the good things in your creation. Thank you for making this world and for making us to be like you.
Grime and Punishment (2 Kings 5)
After Elijah didn’t die (but went to heaven all the same) God raised up a new prophet to walk in Elijah’s shoes. His name was Elisha, and he didn’t literally walk in Elijah’s shoes, but he did literally wear Elijah’s cloak and was blessed with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He was the next great prophet to speak God’s message and wield God’s power.
And Elisha did a lot of both. As a messenger, he instructed kings, rebuked enemies, and promised food for hungry people. And as a miracle worker he multiplied cooking supplies, purified deadly stew, made an axe head float, and brought the dead back to life.
In those days, Syria was often at war with Israel, and on of their raids they stole a little Israelite girl who would play a big part in God’s plan. The little girl worked for the wife of Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army. Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he also had a serious skin disease called leprosy. When the little girl learned of Naaman’s disease she spoke up, “You need to see the prophet from Israel!”
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stood at the door to Elisha’s house. “Go wash in the Jordan River seven times,” Elisha told him, “and you shall be clean.” You might think this would be good news to Naaman, but it made him furious. “The Jordan River!” he said. “We have better rivers in Syria. I thought this prophet was going to help me!”
As Naaman was leaving, one of his servants urged him to listen to Elisha. So Naaman humbled himself, went down in the water, and dipped himself in the Jordan River seven times. And wouldn’t you know it, the leprosy was gone. Naaman was clean.
Being a rich man, Naaman was prepared to pay for such a miracle, but Elisha refused. He would not take anything from Naaman. The grace God gave Naaman was to be a gift.
But one of Elisha’s servants, a man named Gehazi, thought differently. “I bet I can still get something for this miracle,” Gehazi figured. So he ran after Naaman and took from him two bags of silver and two changes of clothes.
When Gehazi returned, Elisha knew something was not right. “Where have you been?” Elisha asked. “Nowhere,” Gehazi replied. But Elisha saw through the lie. He knew that Gehazi had chased after Naaman. “Because you sought to get rich from God’s grace,” Elisha said, “the leprosy that left Naaman will now stick to you.” Gehazi learned the hard way: there are some gifts money can’t buy, and some money we shouldn’t accept.
Prayer: Forgive us, Lord, when we are greedy. Forgive us even more when we don’t value your grace. Amen.