Monday, March 21, 2016

Bio of J.I. Packer...

Author Leland Ryken has written J.I. Packer, An Evangelical Life (from Crossway), who has become a well-known theologian in both the UK, Canada, and the USA. Ryken wants readers to know Packer and to get a picture of his varied roles and accomplishments. In other words, it's "the man" he wants his readers to know and appreciate. James Innell Packer was born on July 22, 1926 in the village of Twyning, near the city of Gloucester, England. Packer was known as "a shy boy, who did not mingle much with others." At seven years old he began to attend the "junior school." There was some bullying going on and one day another student chased Packer out of the school grounds and onto a busy street. The result: Packer was hit by a passing van and "the injuries to his head have affected him every day since."

"Taken to the Gloucester Royal Infirmary and rushed into surgery," the injury was trauma to the head with "a depressed compound fracture of the frontal bone on the right side of his forehead."  After three weeks in hospital and six months at home for recuperation, he was able to return to school. His parents took every precaution to prevent further injury to their son's head. No physical activities in the following years, and no bike riding. When most kids wanted and received a bicycle on their birthday, Packer was surprised to receive a typewriter, which sounds strange, but proved to be a great help to him when he began his writing career later.

Packer has done so many things it's hard to relate them all, so Ryken has chosen to put his story into three parts. Part 1 is The Life and reports on Packer's early life and college years (1926--1948). Then comes Theological Education and Ministry, (1948--1954). Next is Professional Life in England (1955--1979) followed by Professional Life in North America (1979--Present).

Part 2 is called The Man, giving a portrait of the man, at first little known, and his style and rhetoric and what they tell about him. Part 3 is Lifelong Themes, and covers the Bible, Puritans, Writing, Anglicanism, Theology, Preaching and the Minister's Calling, and Controversy.

In an Afterword, Ryken gives Packer three pages to "reflect on his life," which he does nicely, like this: "I am drawn to thank God again for what he has led me to discern and attempt thus far, and to ask him to raise up other saved sinners who will travel further and faster along these trails to serve the church of tomorrow. So may God be glorified. Amen."

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bible Studies on Listening to God

Listening to God consists of 10 studies for individuals or groups. Written by Carolyn Nystrom, this is an important part of IVP's Life Guide Bible Studies series. Nystrom has written many booklets on Bible studies for IVP and I recommend  whatever she writes in this regard. But seriously, have you tried listening to God lately? Or do you just hope he is listening to you? InterVarsity Press has been working for years to provide Bible studies for those who are interested, either for themselves or for a group of people who want to learn more about the Bible and its stories and teachings. And Nystrom is always careful to give suggestions for either individual or group studies, this time in the front of the booklet and Leader's Notes, in the back, pp. 47-64. These notes are very helpful, preparing the leader for each of the 10 studies, providing suggestions and questions that will encourage the discussions at each of the meetings.

If it's a group meeting, or individuals, each should have a copy of this booklet as they go through the 10 weeks of study. Because, there is a space for each person to write their answer to the  question before them, helping them to be ready for the discussion or just in order to think it through. Nystrom explains that they are doing an inductive Bible study, meaning that each one will discover for themselves "what the Scriptures are saying." She cautions that each member of a group study should "come to the study prepared, be willing to participate in the discussion, stick to the topic being discussed, and rarely refer to other portions of the Bible." Other advice includes "be sensitive to other members of the group, listen attentively, be affirming whenever you can, be careful not to dominate the discussion, expect God to teach you." If you are the group leader, there are more helpful hints in the Leader's Notes at the back.

The first chapter is called The God Who speaks, and the second is Listening to the God Who Hears.   Chapters with ideas for listening continue, including Listening to the God of Covenant, ....when All Is Lost.....Listening as Worship, Understand.....with Holy Self-Discipline.....and finally Listening as Ears of the Church.

 As an example: note that Study 8, Holy Help in Listening, John 14:5-31, "has a purpose," writes Nystrom, "to better understand God as Trinity and so to particularly value God the Holy Spirit." The questions are part of Jesus' final conversation with his disciples. They were probably walking
toward Gethsemane......

---Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks