IVP - Andy Unedited

February 14, 2018

The King Rides a Colt (Mark 11)

Each Wednesday until Easter I am posting a Lenten reflection, excerpted and adapted from Mark Through Old Testament Eyes.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here." . . . When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. (Mark 11:1-2, 7-8)

Why does Jesus specify a colt, and one that no one has ridden before? Animals without defect, or which had never been worked before, were considered holy--necessary for worship and sacrifices (Lev 22:19-25; Num 19:2-3; Deut 21:1-9). Animals which had never worked before were specified to pull one of Israel's holiest objects, the ark of the covenant, after it had been taken by the Philistines (1 Sam 6:1-9).

In donkey-3122392__480.jpgaddition, Genesis 49:10-11 associates a king from the line of Judah with a colt. Jesus's assumption that he could make use of the animal may reflect a royal prerogative of impressment (1 Sam 8:11, 16). We see a similar royal entrance announcing a new king when David designated Solomon to be king after him, with instructions that Solomon ride into the city, escorted by his followers with shouts of acclamation (1 Kings 1:28-38).

Here in Mark its significance is most tied to Zechariah 14:1-5, in which the Mount of Olives is identified as the place to which the Lord will return as a Divine Warrior to finally restore Israel and defeat her enemies. When this happens, Zechariah 9:9 tells us, her king will come humbly, riding on a colt.

Laying Mark Through Old Testament Eyes.jpgpalm branches and garments before Jesus recalls other such instances in the presence of royalty (2 Kings 9:13; see also 1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7). The theme of Jesus' Kingship, however, will reach its peak in Mark 15 which focuses on Jesus's death by crucifixion. There he is named Israel's king six times (15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32). Why is this repeated? By doing so Mark signals that Jesus is ultimately revealed as king on the cross.

Jesus's public ministry opened with a declaration that the kingdom was at hand, just around the corner (Mk 1:15). Now his public ministry is concluded with the announcement to all that the king has in fact fully arrived. Not in military victory but in suffering and death the king is enthroned.

Excerpted and adapted from Mark Through Old Testament Eyes. Used by permission of the publisher.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM | Comments

February 9, 2018

The Ministry of Spiritual Grandparenting

Note: This guest blog is by Phyllis Le Peau, someone I've known quite well for over forty years. It was recently published in "The Well." The topic is one dear to both of us, as are our thirteen grandchildren.

Andy and I had some concerns when our first child was born. Our children would be the fourth Well grandparenting photo.jpggeneration of Christians in our family. In situations like that, faith can become merely part of the family surroundings and culture -- something that doesn't sink deep at a personal or conscious level. It can just be background music. As people grow and change, they often leave their parents' values and practices behind. Faith can seem unnecessary or optional. We wondered if that would happen to us.

Now that we have grandchildren, the same questions arise for the fifth generation -- but with an additional twist. What role do we have, or does any older family member have, for children who are not our own but for whom we care deeply?

Our Family's Story

Let me tell you the story of my own grandmother.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:06 PM | Comments

February 7, 2018

James W. Sire, 1933-2018

James Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s, championing the work of Francis Schaeffer and contributing his own landmark books on world views. Joe Bayly, publisher at David C. Cook, once called Sire "the Maxwell Perkins of contemporary Christian publishing."

Sire James W Sire.jpgwas first to publish a number of influential figures. In 1971 he took a chance and published the first book (Despair: A Moment or a Way of Life) by the recent college graduate, C. Stephen Evans. That book on existentialism was the start of an illustrious career for Evans, now professor at Baylor Univeristy, who became a leading expert on Søren Kierkegaard and the philosophy of religion. Sire then traveled to Switzerland in 1972 to work with Os Guinness in developing his major cultural critique, The Dust of Death.

But Sire's finely tuned radar for quality was not limited to the academy. He had a major influence on the church when he saw the potential in the poetry of Calvin Miller's The Singer, published in 1975. Cautiously IVP printed five thousand copies for its first printing. But the book exploded on the scene and eventually sold over 300,000 copies.

I also remember the confidence Jim had in the work of Rebecca Manley Pippert, an unpublished evangelist with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As the three of us talked at lunch in 1978 about her project (to be published in 1979 and which became Out of the Saltshaker), Becky asked how much Jim thought the book would sell. He said he thought it could do 20,000 copies. I thought he was very imprudent to put a hefty number like that in front of a new author. And of course, Jim was wrong. The book did not sell 20,000 but hundreds of thousands.

When Schaeffer started publishing elsewhere besides IVP, he requested that Sire, and Jim got permission to, continue as the editor for Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? In these and other books, Jim would often edit from transcripts of talks Schaeffer had given, reworking mightily the spoken word into publishable form.

Sire is probably best known for his book on worldviews, The Universe Next Door, now a staple of the classroom in its fifth edition. The origins of that book are told this way in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength., the history of InterVarsity Press.

Jim Sire Universe next door.jpgdrew his first diagram of worldviews in the early 1960s while teaching college students to distinguish Milton's theism from Hardy's naturalism and Wordsworth's quasi-pantheism. Tom Trevethan and Steve Board (both on IV campus staff in Illinois) invited Sire to give a lecture on the topic at the two-week Christian Study Project at InterVarsity's training facility, Cedar Campus, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The next year Steve asked him to expand it to six lectures. Then he suggested that Sire write a book, which became The Universe Next Door.
Given his experience with Papers on Literature [his first book], Sire did not expect the book to sell well and never expected it to be adopted as a text (which it was immediately). Because he didn't expect classroom use, he intentionally avoided an academic tone and wrote it at an accessible level, which possibly is the reason it was so well received at hundreds of universities and colleges around the country. (p. 76)

I have many memories of learning from and working alongside Sire for over twenty years. When I was a new editor he taught me about the importance of ideas, the importance of integrity in relationships with authors, the importance of staying true to yourself and not just trying to copy the success of others.

But I will end with one final memory. The two of us were at a large dinner held in honor of John W. Alexander, the recently retired president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. At the dinner, probably held in 1985, Dr. Alexander exhorted the group to not become too enamored with ideas about Christianity, its philosophical underpinnings, its intellectual implications. Yes, they had their place in apologetics and so forth, but these ideas were not the center of Christianity. Christ was. We should always and ever focus on Jesus. The person of Jesus is and should be our center.

As I sat next to Jim, I wondered what he would think of this as someone who had spent a career focused on the very kinds of ideas Alexander was saying were of secondary importance. After it was over, Jim turned to me and said, "You know, he's right. Jesus is the center."

I was surprised if not stunned. And from that point on I noticed a marked shift in Jim's own writing and his own spiritual life. In retrospect I see the humility of someone with substantial intellectual accomplishments, someone who was willing to remain open to the Spirit and to grow throughout life. That is perhaps the most important lesson he taught.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:58 AM | Comments (8)

January 30, 2018

Lincoln's Startling Conclusion

I remember visiting the Lincoln Memorial and being amazed by the Second Inaugural engraved on the North interior wall. Did the builders really know what it said? For a country that says it separates church and state, Lincoln provided perhaps the deepest theological reflection by any U.S. politician, and something far deeper than that of many theologians.

The Lincoln Memorial cropped.jpgCivil War, he suggests, was not so much the responsibility of either North or South. Who caused the war then? Perhaps, says Lincoln, God in his sovereignty did. Perhaps the "offense" of slavery meant that "all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword." The two sides spent over $6 billion directly on the war. Over 600,000 died and an additional 400,000 were wounded. Did this equal the treasure and blood extracted from two hundred and fifty years of slavery? Lincoln did not know. But if that was God's will, would it not be just?

This was no obligatory "God Bless America" unthinkingly tossed off at the end of a speech which "fails to come to terms with the evil and hypocrisy" woven into the fabric of the country along with whatever grace God had given us (p. 203). No matter how just we see our cause to be--and both sides saw it as just and worthy of God's assistance--Lincoln remembers that the Bible which both sides read portrays God as sovereign while we are not.

If judgment may rightly fall on us all, then what should we do? Should we not all look for mercy, and should we not seek to be channels of mercy, even to our enemies? This is precisely what Lincoln proposes with his famous words, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

ThisLincolns Greatest Speech.jpg is not the triumphalistic chest-thumping that we are so familiar with today. These are the deep theological deliberations of a man who wondered why his country's mighty efforts had seemed to have so little effect on the course of events over the previous four years. God was sovereign far more than we were in control, was what he proposed.

Many have questioned the genuineness or depth of Lincoln's faith given his lack of church membership and sometimes spotty record of church attendance. But certainly no U.S. politician has ever publicly embodied the best of Christian thinking and ethics more fully than Lincoln. Here strength of conviction is matched by strength of humility.

In Lincoln's Greatest Speech, Ronald C. White Jr. walks us through the mere 700 words of this speech clause by clause, stopping on the way to give us the historical background and context that lay behind each phrase. I have read a number of books on Lincoln, and I am as pleased with this one as any for highlighting this capstone not just of Lincoln's career, but of his life.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2018

The Human Story of a Man-Made Disaster

I remember driving in the south and southwest during the late 1950s and early 1960s on family vacations. We'd see rows and rows of tall, narrow trees (many probably being tower poplar) planted between fields. "Why did they do that?" I asked my parents. They were windbreaks, they told me, used to stop the soil from blowing away like it did in the great black, rainless storms of twenty-five years before.

Continue reading "The Human Story of a Man-Made Disaster"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:01 AM | Comments

January 3, 2018

A New Spiritual Classic

Centuries ago Brother Lawrence wrote the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God. There that monk taught us to be aware that God is with us in each moment, even when performing such mundane tasks as working in the kitchen or cleaning a floor. In Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren has provided us with such a classic for our day.

From Practicing presence.jpgwaking to brushing teeth to making phone calls to getting into an argument to going to sleep at night, she opens to us how we live each moment in God's presence. These gifts of repeated patterns or recurring events in our lives offer us the opportunity to see God's grace in each moment and give thanks for his gifts when life is hard and when it is good.

The liturgy of the ordinary.jpgspirit this book creates is wise, warm, encouraging and at the same time very honest. It is neither sugarcoated nor moralistic. We don't find do's and don'ts. Rather, in this Christianity Today Book of the Year, we find a winsome invitation to join our day to God's.

While the book uses the motif of liturgy to frame the book, readers certainly don't need to come from or be familiar with the liturgical tradition to benefit from this. Instead it provides fresh dimensions for and expands our appreciation of Immanuel, God with us.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Andy Unedited

Subscribe to Feeds

Got a Book Idea?

Please follow our submissions guidelines. We cannot respond to book proposals or inquiries within the context of this blog.

Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.