When reading 1 Corinthians 3:20 this morning, an implication rushed to my mind. Every so often, in the midst of a discussion, I have had to admit “I never thought of that.” But, according to this verse, The Lord has never had to say that: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
— Psalm 119:15 (esv)
Many would argue against the practice of meditating on Scripture, or doing deep (theological) thinking, by saying “it’s not my thing” — as if it comes only by nature to some (and not to others). Puritan Thomas Manton (c. 1680) unmasks this excuse, and exhorts all believers to get it in gear.
“Many think it is an exercise that does not suit with their temper; it is a good exercise, but for those who can use it. It is true, there is a great deal of difference among Christians; some are more serious and consistent and have a greater command over their thoughts; others are of a more slight and weak spirit, and less apt for duties of retirement and recollection; but our unfitness is usually moral rather than natural; not so much by temper, as by ill use. … Partly, want [lack] of love; we pause and stay upon such objects as we delight in. Love naileth the soul to the object or thing beloved. “O how I love they law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
…which only God Himself can fill.
This famous phrase, reportedly coined by Blaise Pascal (philosopher, scientist & author), referring to “the God-shaped vacuum” in everyone, may actually be (according to Dr Douglas Groothuis), a paraphrase from one of Pascal’s Pensées —
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
(Penguin ed., 148/428).
Thomas Manton wisely said,
“The praise of a Christian is not in the wittiness, but in the graciousness of his conversation. That which is Aristotle’s virtue is made a sin with Paul* (foolish jesting). You should rather be refreshing one another with what experiences you have had of the Lord’s grace; that is the comfort and solace of Christians when they meet together. …A Christian that has God and Christ, and his wonderful and precious benefits to talk of, and so many occasions to give thanks, he cannot want [lack] matter to discourse of when he comes into company; therefore we should avoid vain discourse.”
*Ephesians 5:4 in the KJV says, “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” The Greek term for “jesting” here is eutrapelia, which Aristotle, in his Ethics, makes a virtue. Today, the term “jesting” is simply taken to mean harmless joking around. But the ESV translation captures its original, worldly sense: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
Lord help us to please you with our lips.
I had hoped to read 12-15 books this summer (beyond my reading for work, which is already fairly substantial), but, alas, I’ve fallen short of the goal. I do hope to close the gap in the final weeks of summer though!
I run into a lot of people who say they love to read, but rarely read a whole book. How about you? I encourage you to withdraw from our 24/7, techno-driven culture and pick up a classic piece of literature, or a fine volume of Christian material. Reading is about more than gaining new information. Reading is a special event when you engage your mind with the mind of another, and interact with their thoughts and worldview. David Ulin writes this…
“Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves”
This comes from an article in the LA Times THE LOST ART OF READING. It wanders around a bit, but makes some very keen observations. Here’s another paragraph….
This is where real reading comes in — because it demands that space, because by drawing us back from the present, it restores time to us in a fundamental way. There is the present-tense experience of reading, but also the chronology of the narrative, as well as of the characters and author, all of whom bear their own relationships to time. There is the fixity of the text, which doesn’t change whether written yesterday or a thousand years ago. St. Augustine composed his “Confessions” in AD 397, but when he details his spiritual upheaval, his attempts to find meaning in the face of transient existence, the immediacy of his longing obliterates the temporal divide.
You can read the whole thing here.
Now, logoff and read.
From philosophy professor James Spiegel (via JT):
Augustine (5th century): Remember that you are a citizen of another kingdom.
Martin Luther (16th century): Expect politicians to be corrupt.
Thomas Aquinas (13th century): God has made himself known in nature.
John Calvin (16th century): God is sovereign over all, including our suffering.
Jonathan Edwards (18th century): God is beautiful, and all beauty is divine.
Thomas a’Kempis (15th century): Practice self-denial with a passion.
John Wesley (18th century): Be disciplined and make the best use of your time.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (19th century): God’s grace can reach anyone.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (20th century): Beware of cheap grace.
Alvin Plantinga (21st century): Moral virtue is crucial for intellectual health.
Read the whole post to get the bigger picture.