I have been converting my file life from paper into e-format (for another post!). While scanning the documents, I came across a treasure trove of articles by Sam Crabtree–Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist.
While at Bethlehem, I remember the short but poignant interactions I had with Sam. He is a man after God’s own heart. Upon requesting a coffee with him, I remember him telling me that his job was to work in the obscure things in order to free up Pastor John for what he is gifted at. I remember being astounded and confounded as a green pastoral candidate. Didn’t Sam want to be known and quoted and re-tweeted? His desire to serve marked me forever. I have been since struggling to aim at serving and not renown. May God grant me such a heart and service and willingness to live in the obscure places for the glory of God’s name and not my own.
All that to say I just subscribed to Sam’s blog and would highly encourage you to do the same. Short and pithy, just like Sam (metaphorically, not literally).
Kevin Belmonte is a visiting author at Gordon College and has written on William Wilberforce (being the lead historical consultant for the movie Amazing Grace), G.K. Chesterton, D.L. Moody, and John Bunyan.
In this work, Belmonte offers the church a service by way of the back door. By the title of the book I thought I was going to be reading an encyclopedia of miracles throughout history (after all, look at the subtitle!). You know someone receiving his sight in New Delhi, a limb regrown in Buenos Aires, a bumper crop of vegetables in rural Africa in the midst of a two-year drought. But he threw me for a loop when he started with the Bible. Imagine that. Of all places, he starts with the Bible. Not only this, but he begins by the fiat lux in the opening of Genesis. He pauses to make his reader consider the amazing miracle that Creation is. It is easy to breeze through the day and want something that is extra-ordinary and be blind to the fact that leaves are amazing. Belmonte starts with that wonder and lets it sink in. He moves on through the biblical narrative, highlighting the varied accounts of miracles in it: Noah & the Flood, Abraham & the friendship of God, Moses & the Exodus, Elisha’s stupendous feats, the Incarnation, Jesus’ Miracles, the Resurrection, Paul’s Conversion.
Okay, that was only cursory right? Unfortunately, we still have not let the miraculous amaze us. Instead of being blind to General Revelation in the world, we have been blind to Special Revelation in Scripture. Too often have these accounts been taken for granted. Belmonte does all of us a service by hitting the slow motion button and making us deal with the miracle of Scripture itself.
The next stage of Belmonte’s work takes us into the lives of men and women who experienced the miraculous. Yet what is astounding about these accounts is how ordinary they seem. He tells us of Perpetua who gave testimony to Christ in the midst of the bloodthirsty coliseum. Why not tell us about the hagiographies of Thecla or Polycarp or Ignatius? It seems that Belmonte wants us to be astounded by the sheer fact that it is a miracle that someone does not deny Christ in the face of certain death. This is reiterated in his account of Augustine. Sure, the Bishop of Hippo heard the children’s voices telling him to pick up the Bible and read, but Belmonte seems to highlight to utterly ordinary occurrences in Augustine’s life–namely, that his conversion came through a book and not from a great, penetrating light.
Martin Luther’s chapter brings the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper into the realm of the miraculous (p.146). Gilbert Burnet’s life highlights the immensity of God making his dwelling with us through the power of his Spirit. While Jonathan Edwards’ chapter speaks of the strange happenings in New England, it was Edwards’ parsing of the strange by the clarity of Scripture that helps us think rightly about the extraordinary. That is, people are constantly looking for verification of God’s involvement in the world–expecting cats to talk or dogs to drive a car or babies to feed themselves. Fact of the matter is that you and I are swimming in the miraculous. We just haven’t trained our eyes to see.
In light of that, Belmonte aptly has a chapter dedicated to Dr. Clyde Kilby. This chapter alone will make you have new eyes. Going through Kilby’s ten resolutions made my heart swell with joy and a desire to commune with God through the ordinarily miraculous world I live in.
I enjoyed and marked up my copy of Belmonte’s work. At times he can be a little tedious with details that don’t move the thesis along. However, these excursions are just as enjoyable as the main point of the book. They humanize and help give a holistic picture to the models he gives. The author’s sheer breadth of reading is admirable and encourages me to read widely and voraciously.
RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend this as an after dinner reading with the family. The chapters are easily digestible and give food for thought and discussion. I give the book a 4/5 stars due to the excursions that (although enjoyable at times) made the book a little laborious.
I recently came across a witty, but hauntingly truthful sentence from Will Ferrell. He said, “May your life one day be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.”
Why haunting, because it rings with a lot of truth to it. Too many folks have abdicated real life for the fantasy of cyber fellowship. Media is not ethical in nature; how it is utilized determines the ethics behind social media. Therefore, it is foolish to condemn all social media because it is social media. Merely because someone uses Facebook for unsavory ends does not mean that the medium is, itself, unsavory.
I fear people have not thoughtfully engaged in how to capitalize and use the medium (just like we have used radio, television, and the telephone) as a means to spread the glory of God’s fame. However, there are many of us who have swerved off-kilter to the other side of unthoughtfulness. I am reminded about Jesus’ admonition to his disciples that they be careful not to practice their righteousness in order to receive men’s praise (Matthew 6). If we were able to peel back the layers of various Facebook posts or tweets, we might find that our lives are more boring and less connected that we would like to imagine.
More than anything this is merely a caution, not a rebuke (unless, that is, you find that you are guilty). Do you find an insatiable desire to post your latest picture of yourself smiling broadly with your BFF at the trendy restaurant? Maybe your desire isn’t insatiable. Perhaps it’s merely a matter of course. You have so wedded your life to the cyber-world you can’t imagine actually engaging flesh and blood without pixelating them. It is is a sad state of affairs when we constantly glance at the floor (checking for the latest update) rather than look our companion in the eyes.
Let’s be careful to have integrity on the world-wide web. Is that dinner you had at Applebee’s really the “most awesome of salads I have ever eaten”? Is that trip with your friends “better than any trip I have had in my existence”? What are the other 999 friends of yours to think who took a trip of a similar value just last week with you?
Yes, be careful. God knows your true status and he is patiently waiting for you to rest in that status.