Addressing a Generational Crisis: Tabletalk Magazine – October 2019

We are halfway through the month and we ought to introduce the October 2019 issue of Tabletalk, the monthly devotional magazine of Ligonier Ministries.  This month has a striking theme: “From Generation to Generation,” and the featured articles let the old speak to the young and the young to the old. It is a wonderful testimony to the unity of the church of Christ and the continuity of God’s covenant of grace.

Burk Parsons sets the tone and shows the need for this issue with his introduction, “The Divorce of Generations.” Here are some of his opening thoughts:

We are in a crisis, and it is one of the greatest crises we have ever encountered. While the world has always faced this issue in one way or another, the church has only begun to acknowledge the reality of it, and it is growing. This crisis is not merely one involving anti-establishment impulses or anti-tradition feelings that we have observed, off or on, throughout history. Nor is it simply a matter of typical teenage rebellion. Rather, it is a problem that has emerged in some ways in every age bracket.

This crisis, simply put, is the divorce of generations. Younger generations have divorced themselves from older generations, and older generations have all but given up on younger generations. While I am speaking generally, this crisis is the source of numerous other troubles in various contexts—the classroom, the workplace, the home, the state, the church, and the world. For when younger generations seek to sever all ties with older generations, the very fabric of civilization begins to rip apart. When younger men and women reject and repudiate the authority of older men and women, they are walking a path to their own demise.

That is why, in this issue, we have sought to publish articles that speak from generation to generation—from the older generation to the younger generation and from the younger to the older.

And the special articles definitely address this crisis in the church and covenant community. Let me give you a taste from each side, as we hear first from an older saint to a younger, and then the other way around. In Geoff Thomas’ address, he calls the young to “Take Sin Seriously,” pointing out powerfully for our benefit:

See the judgment of sin that fell on the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. What do the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit think of sin? Consider the end of the Son whom God the Father loves. There is no father more loving than the Father and no son more beloved than the Son. Yet, the Son bore our sins in His own body on the cross. The Son of God became the Lamb of God. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. But God the Father did not spare Him. There could not be a gram of compromise as far as sin was concerned. God did not restrain one stroke of His rod of justice in displaying how worthy of condemnation sin is. It pleased the Father to strike Christ dead. The Father lifted up His rod, and Christ took it on Himself—in our place.

All this indicates the seriousness with which God views sin, and how inexpressible is all that God endured in order for pathetic folk like us to be delivered from iniquity. And you can shrug? You can nod and yet carry on sinning in deed and word and attitude and omission?

Unbeliever, Jesus Christ is everything sinners need. He can satisfy all your desires and can snap those mighty chains that attach you to sin. Christian, young and old alike, put to death remaining sin. Strangle it and give it not a breath. Starve it. Refuse to feed it with a single tidbit. Take sin seriously because you take the righteousness and blood of Christ seriously.

And then hear this younger voice from Joe Holland, as he pleads with the older to “be patient with us as we learn”:

But now I come to the hardest part: my request of you.

As the young and old stand on either side of this age gap, one of us must make the first move. I wish I could lay the burden on us both. But the pride, frailty, and instability of youth place us at a woeful disadvantage. Older saint, we need you to make the first move and keep pursuing us. We need you to seek, mentor, disciple, and love the younger Christians in our church. I’m asking you to be patient with younger Christians with a patience such as our Lord Jesus exemplified. When we act in pride, please patiently endure us. When we are slow to listen, please patiently tolerate us. When we are quick to speak, please patiently listen to us with a knowing smile that we’ll one day learn was pity mixed with grace. When we give you the look of resentment and dismissal, please patiently receive that insult and be ready to forgive us. Please patiently correct us, pray for us, and stand with us. If you don’t move first, if you don’t stay near us with a Christlike patience, then this gap will remain between us, to the detriment of us both.

Please, older Christian, be patient with us as we learn.

There is much to profit from in this unique issue. Make a point to read some articles before the month is out. Better yet, seek out an older saint or a younger saint at church and make an effort to listen and to speak. Yes, in that order.

Source: Latest Issue – October 2019

Expository Listening: Honoring God by Hearing and Doing His Word

God is most honored when your life lines up wholly with His Word and His Word is lived out practically in your life (Titus 2:5,8,10). Your life makes God and His Word either look good or bad. Nothing brings greater reproach on God and His Word than when those who profess to be Christians don’t live according to the principles of God’s Word. It causes people to conclude, ‘If that’s what comes out of going to church and hearing all those sermons from the Bible every day, then I don’t want anything to do with the Bible.’ But when others perceive that hearing and putting into practice biblical preaching has had a life-changing effect on you, that wil pique their interest and give you an opportunity to share with them the truth of God’s Word and how they too can honor God with their life (Matt.5:16; 1 Pet.2:12). In this way, good listeners multiply themselves, as the seed of the Word reaps a bountiful harvest.

Realizing that the reputation of God and His Word are at stake should provide all the incentive you need to carefully listen to and live out every sermon you hear so that your life accurately reflects what the Bible teaches.

But for added “punch” the author includes this “stirring exhortation” of Puritan pastor Jeremiah Burroughs to his congregation at the end of Sunday sermon,

I beseech you, brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ this morning that you who are hearers of the Word would glorify the Word, and glorify the name of God in the Word. Oh, that not one of you would be a disgrace or shame to the Word of God! …You should rather think thusly: ‘It would be better for me that I should die, and that I were under the ground and rotting there, than that the Word of God should ever be disgraced by me….’ If ever you have gotten any good by the Word, you should go away with this resolution: ‘I will labor all the days of my life to honor this Word of God that I have gotten so much good by.’ If this were but the resolution of every one of your hearts this morning, it would be a blessed morning’s work.’

expository-listening-ramey-2010Taken from chapter 6 of Ken Ramey’s book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word , (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010). This chapter treats James’ teaching to the first-century church in James 1:19-25 and is titled “Practice What You Hear” (pp85.ff.). We considered an earlier part of this chapter in August but this ending was also worth quoting.

Shall we remember to listen this way on the morrow and live this way in the week to come?

Published in: on October 12, 2019 at 8:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

Motivating Our Pastors to Joy in Their Work

October is “Pastor Appreciation” month, and though some may view this as another contrived calendar event (a “Hallmark holiday, if you will”), I believe it warrants some attention.

We should know how difficult the life and labors of our pastors is. We should be aware of how they spend themselves for the ministry, working hard and long to prepare gospel messages each week, caring for the sick and weak, leading Bible studies, teaching catechism, chairing church meetings, etc. And they are also real people, with real marriages, real families, and real needs themselves. Your struggles and mine are also theirs. Do you get discouraged in your work? So do they. Do you get down about how well you are doing in life? So do they. Do you worry about your children and parents and fellow saints? So do they. Do you fight sin daily and find the constant battle not worth it sometimes? Do you want to give up and give in? So do they.  Do you wrestle with doubts and fears about your spouse, your family, the church? So do they.

And yet they encourage us and motivate us in our life and work. What a blessing their preaching and pastoral care is to us! They lift us up and pick us up and lead us on, week after week. We need them and their faithful labors. And they need us too. We need to motivate them and help lift them up too!

A book I pulled out of the seminary library today with this in mind speaks to this powerfully. Christopher Ash as written a wonderful little book called The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask) (The Good Book Company, 2019). In his second chapter titled “Why Would You Want to Care for Your Pastor?” Ash references Heb.13:17, which reads: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (KJV) He then goes on to write this:

Just look at those last two words: ‘to you.’ I can see that making their work a joy would be good for them, and that if it is a burden, it will be tough for them. But for us?! How so?

Answer: unless there is at least some whisper of joy in their hearts as they do their work, some spring of gladness in their step, they will never persevere to the end. And – and this is the point – it is we who will suffer. Instead of being well taught – faithfully preached to with insight and depth – instead of being patiently prayed for, instead of having our souls guarded from evil, instead of being lovingly equipped, instead of being well led in our churches, we will be harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, at the mercy of all kinds of destructive evil. And our churches will be shallow places of immaturity and instability, at the mercy of every whim of cultural pressure or theological oddity.

It is therefore in our own interests, to say nothing of love for the pastor, that we should make their work a joy and not simply a heavy and gloomy burden. If you and I truly grasp the extent to which healthy pastoral oversight is a team effort – a two-way dynamic in which we , as church members, play as critical a part as our pastors – then, and only then, will we be urgently motivated to learn the better to care for them. You and I have it in our power to demotivate our pastors, so that they are gradually ground down into a slough of despond from which they will be utterly unable to do us any good at all. But we also have it in our power so to cheer them up, so to put a spring in their step, that they will gladly do for us all that we hope and pray. [pp.32-33]

From there he lays out “seven virtues that we as church members can learn, and that can make our pastor’s work a joy.” (p.33) In a future post this month we can reference those seven virtues.

For now, let’s ask ourselves: What am I doing to make my pastor’s work in my church a joy, in the midst of all the difficulties, discouragements, and disappointments he faces? Shall we start with caring about him in our hearts and bringing his needs to the throne of the Great Shepherd whom he represents and under whom he labors?

 

Published in: on October 9, 2019 at 10:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Month: Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation 500th

Ulrich_ZwingliOnce again we have entered the month of October and for true Protestants that means remembering the great Reformation of the 16th century. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Reformation, perhaps an event we might easily bypass. But we ought not, for this is another noteworthy aspect of God’s great work of reforming His church in the world – in Switzerland also.

Why is the Swiss Reformation said to have begun in 1519 – and thus, the 500th anniversary in 2019? Because that’s when Reformer Ulrich Zwingli began preaching through the Bible, and that sparked the reformation of the church in Zurich and beyond (keep reading for more on that).

As we introduce this aspect of the great Reformation in this post, we point you to a few online resources that will help you learn a bit about this godly servant of the Lord and the Swiss Reformation that God used him to commence.

First, Prof. H. Hanko (emeritus church history professor in the PRC Seminary) wrote two articles on Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation in the Standard Bearer, which you may find here and here. Here is a short sample from the first one:

Zwingli‘s conversion was probably a gradual one which began while in Einsiedeln, but which came to full expression in Zurich, to which he was called in the latter part of 1518. There were several elements which played a role in his conversion. Increasingly, as he saw the need for reform in the church, he came to hate the Romish abuses which destroyed men’s souls. As his studies turned more and more to Scripture, he, even before Luther, saw that Scripture alone had to be the authority for all the faith and life of the church. In fact, when he began his ministry in Zurich on January 1, 1519, on his 35th birthday, he began a systematic exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. During the next four years of his ministry, he continued preaching systematically through the New Testament, going from Matthew to Acts, then to the Pauline and Catholic epistles, and then on to the other books, with the exception of Revelation. During the week he preached from the Psalms.

swiss-reformation-map

Second, back in August Joe Carter posted an article on the Gospel Coalition website titled “9 Things You Should Know About Ulrich Zwingli.”  Though brief, he gives a good overview of the significance of Zwingli and his place in the cause of the Reformation. I give you a couple of his “9 things” about this Reformer. For the rest, visit the link provided here.

1. Ulrich Zwingli (also: Huldrych Zwingli) is considered the most important reformer of the Swiss Reformation of his day (and the most important until the arrival of John Calvin). He started a revolution in religious thought in Switzerland that paralleled the work of Martin Luther in Germany. Zwingli wrote, “Before anyone in the area had ever heard of Luther, I began to preach the gospel of Christ in 1516 . . . . I started preaching the gospel before I had even heard Luther’s name . . . . Luther, whose name I did not know for at least another two years, had definitely not instructed me. I followed holy Scripture alone.”

4. A hallmark of the Reformation was the recovery of biblical preaching. Zwingli’s unique contribution was the revolutionary approach of preaching through Bible books. In 1519 he started preaching through the Gospel of Matthew, a method known as lectio continua. Zwingli then continued to preach expositional sermons through Acts, Timothy, Galatians, 1 and 2 Peter, Hebrews, the Gospel of John, and the other Pauline letters before turning to the Old Testament, beginning with the Psalms, then the Pentateuch and the historical books.

Third, there are several special websites devoted to the Swiss Reformation. Here is one that is worth visiting and reading.

Grossmunster-of-Zurich

Fourth, watch for the Nov.1 issue of the Standard Bearer (which we are working on this week). This Fall’s special Reformation issue will mark the 500th anniversary of this Reformation with a focus on U. Zwingli and H. Bullinger and the work God wrought through them in the city of Zurich.

In a future post we will consider some good books on the Swiss Reformation and its Reformers.

Published in: on October 7, 2019 at 10:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

No Yeast with the Bread of Life!

1Cor5-7

And God also directed  that his people, including every one of his children among them, had to begin to wash away every bit of their yeast with all of its stimulus, excitement, excessive agitation, and sense of amounting to something. Then by God’s design, emptied, deflated, and humbled, they would have to eat the bread of their own misery for a very long time. After that, he would bring the Bread of Life to their lips. This is the bread from heaven that needs no added, unholy, or artificial ingredient.

Now do you understand what the apostle means when he says, ‘Our Passover has been sacrificed for us, so wash away the old yeast and celebrate the feast with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’?

Do you understand this? Will you act accordingly?

For the Lord our God will not allow his holy Christian faith to be abused by a kind of yeast that is really good for nothing but continues to work and ferment in the dough when it only gives the appearance of being good. God regards Christ as too sacred for anything like that! No, in you that dough needs to be better dough that rises on its own, without outside agitation, and produces bread that can truly feed you.

That’s how it has to be in your life. Every morning and evening your soul has to have a healthy slice of the Bread of Life, properly prepared and without any deceptive ingredients. What you pick up with your hands and what crosses your lips has to be prepared and made with complete integrity and absolute truth. It has to be bread like it’s supposed to be!

But this can’t happen with and for you as long as your soul only wants to go halfway. Not if one time you have a piece of Christ’s bread of life, baked with healthy wheat, and the next time you take a slice of leavened bread baked according to your own recipe.

It’s all about him as the Bread of Life. Nothing else!

The soul that it’s intended to nourish can never tolerate as much as a single grain of such yeast mixed in with what it eats. Only such bread can feed you. Otherwise all of its nourishing power will be of no benefit to you.

For the Bread of Life to nourish your soul, the last bit of bad yeast has to be washed out of it.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.219-221.

This particular meditation (#69 of Volume 1) is titled “Wash Away the Old Yeast” and is based on 1 Corinthians 5:7 (cf. above).

Strategy from the Abyss: Frustrate Christian Fellowship

TT-Sept-2019You should be aware that many of our frontal attacks against the church and Christians have proven unsuccessful. It seems that for every Christian we eliminate, more rise in his place. It is as if their blood is like a seed—producing more every time one dies. Thus, it can be wise for us to pursue a more indirect, but often more successful, plan of attack. Rather than fighting against them, we ought to get them to fight against each other.

We know that the Enemy has said that the strength of the church would be their love for and unity with each other. Therefore, if we encourage them to undermine that love and unity, we can weaken and even render impotent the testimony of the church. In other words, we must frustrate their fellowship. Here are some techniques that have often proven successful in achieving that goal.

First, encourage each one to put himself first, at the expense of others. Encourage each member to look to his own interest, with no regard for the interest of others. Yes, in the beginning, they had all things in common, and they sought to outdo one another in showing honor. But that was a different time. Remind them that that was then, this is now. Today, convince them that self-preservation is the first and greatest endeavor.

Second, encourage them to forgive but never forget. If you can get them to hold grudges, not only will you be able to reassure them that they will never be hurt or offended again, but more importantly, you will in the process weaken and undermine their genuine fellowship with one another. Remind them that God may cover their sin, but they don’t have to cover the sins of others, regardless of what the Enemy says.

Third, encourage them to draw attention to the faults of others, even under the guise of sharing prayer requests. When someone fails, make sure others are quickly made aware of it. Rather than speaking words that build each other up, encourage them to speak slanderously and divisively to one another, thus making fellowship uncomfortable and unwanted. Remind them how delicious gossip is. Remind them, “Gossip is good.”

This assignment will not be easy. Christians have been clearly instructed by the Enemy in how they should relate to one another. In fact, there are nearly fifty New Testament references to “each other” or “one another.” These include the oft-repeated command from the Enemy Himself to “love one another.” Consequently, you may not prevent them from hearing these words, but you might be able to prevent them from believing this teaching. And if you can distract them from believing our Enemy’s words here, their fellowship will suffer, and you will have made your job easier by getting them to do it for you.

Drawn from the September 2019 issue of Tabletalk, which carries a theme as relevant as ever: “A Field Guide from the Abyss” with the subtitle, “A Training Manual for Demons.” This particular aspect of the devil’s manual is titled “Frustrate Fellowship,” that is, Christian fellowship in the church. I trust you see the relevance of this particular “plan of attack” by the real enemy (his and their Enemy is our Forever Friend! Never forget His absolute sovereignty and total dominion – and His perfect victory! Yes, the Lion of Judah is greater – infinitely so! – than the prowling lion of the abyss.).

Water for the Thirsty

sb-logo-rfpaFrom the September 15, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer comes these precious, sovereign grace gospel thoughts from the meditation by Rev. James Slopsema based on Isaiah 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

Isaiah is speaking about those that thirst for the waters of salvation. We all have need of the waters of salvation. In Adam we all fell so that we are hopelessly lost in sin, headed for eternal destruction. Without the water of salvation in Jesus Christ we will most certainly perish. However, many do not see their need for this water, do not thirst for it and, in fact, despise it. This fact is evident from Isaiah’s rebuke to Judah immediately after the call to the thirsty to come to the water of life. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Isaiah 55:2) Here Isaiah expands on the idea of water to include also the bread of life. In Judah there were those that labored for and spent their money not in the pursuit of the water and bread of life but on that which satisfied not, namely, the pleasures of this world. This is due to the depravity of sin. It blinds a person to his real needs.

One thirsts for the water of salvation only when God works faith in the heart of a person. Faith gives one eyes to see the reality of sin and the need for the water of salvation. In that faith one also thirsts for these waters.

But those that thirst for the waters of salvation have no money to buy it. Those that bought water from the vendors in Bible lands needed money. The vendors were in business to make money. Without money you could not have their water. But we have no money to purchase the water of salvation. In our fallen state we are spiritually bankrupt and are not capable to purchasing the water of salvation. Neither our money nor our works are sufficient to purchase the water of salvation. Nor are we deserving of it anyway. We deserve to perish in our sin. Those that have the thirst of faith see this clearly. Many think they can earn or merit the salvation of God by their works and efforts. Others think they are deserving of the water of God’s salvation because of their birth, their baptism, or membership in the church. But those that have faith see that they have nothing with which to purchase the water of salvation. They thirst for it. But they are deeply aware that they can bring nothing to God to purchase it.

The call of God!

The Lord calls to these thirsty, bankrupt souls to come anyway to buy water without price.

To buy something without money or price means to receive it free.

Certainly the waters of salvation have a price. In fact, the price is very high. The price of the waters of salvation is twofold. There must be a bearing away of the terrible wrath of God against sin. And there must be a perfect obedience rendered to God that meets His approval. Since we are not able to pay this price, God did it for His people in Jesus Christ. He caused Jesus Christ to bear away the full penalty of sin all His life long but especially at the cross. And during it all Jesus walked in the perfect obedience we did not and could not. In this way God has purchased and secured the waters of salvation for His elect people.

And He freely gives this precious water to His people. He calls out to His people in their thirst to come to Him to receive the waters of salvation freely, without money and without price. This is a call to acknowledge one’s sin and need for the waters of salvation. It is a call to acknowledge that one has nothing with which to pay. It is a call to seek the waters of salvation only on the basis of the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

This is God’s call to all who are thirsty. And this call is effective. It is by this call that God creates faith and thirst in the hearts and lives of His people. And it is by this call that He also brings the thirsty believer to the waters of salvation that are Jesus Christ. And as they come in faith to Him, the Lord gives freely of the waters of salvation. Freely He forgives all their sins. Graciously He strengthens them to turn from sin to the living God in loving obedience. Tenderly He cares for and preserves them as they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Most amazingly He draws near to them in His loving friendship and fellowship.

Ho, every one that thirsteth!

Come ye to the waters!

You have no money? Come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price! God has already secured it for you in Jesus Christ!

For more information on this Reformed periodical, visit the link at the beginning of this post.

New and Notable Books for September – Tim Challies

I received this Challies.com note at the beginning of this month, but it is certainly not too late to call attention to the “new and notable” Christian books pastor/author/reviewer Tim Challies highlights for September.

I give his first three and let you follow the link below to the others on this list. Looks like many of these are worth pursuing if they interest you. And, yes, I have not forgotten my promise to return to the newly published review books I have received this summer also. Stay tuned!

Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion by Kelly Needham. “Bible teacher Kelly Needham debunks our world’s constricted, small view of friendship and casts a richer, more life-giving, biblical vision for friendship as God meant it to be. As the family unit grows more unstable and the average age of marriage increases, a shift is taking place in our culture: for many people, friends now play the role of family. And just as with family relationships, our friendships often don’t turn out quite as we envisioned or hoped, and we wonder, Is there a better way to do this? In Friend-ish, Kelly Needham takes a close look at what Scripture says about friendship. She reveals the distorted view most of us have of it and recasts a glorious vision for a Christian understanding. By teaching us how to recognize symptoms of idolatry and dependency, she equips us to understand and address the problems that arise in friendship–from neediness to discord and even sexual temptation. With hard-fought wisdom, a clear view of Scripture, and been-there perspective, Needham reorients us toward the purposeful, loving relationships we all crave that ultimately bring us closer to God.” (Get it at Amazon)

The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible by New Growth Press. The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible is a new series of study guides intended primarily for small-group use. It has launched with two volumes: Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints by Iain Duguid and Ruth: Redemption for the Broken by Jared Wilson. The volumes “can be adapted for one-to-one discipleship, small group, or large group settings. The comprehensive leader’s guides are included in the text, making it an easy-to-follow structure to engage men and women.” I believe they are part of the wider and growing collection of “Gospel-Centered” resources produced by New Growth Press, which also includes two Gospel-Centered Life volumes for teens and young adults: Exodus and Mark. (Jonah (Amazon, WTS) and Ruth (Amazon, WTS))

The Whole Armor of God: How Christ’s Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare by Iain Duguid. Speaking of Iain Duguid, here’s another new book with his name on the cover. “The Christian life is a battle. We are in a daily struggle against the world, sin, and Satan. But God didn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. He gave us his own armor–armor that Jesus has already worn on our behalf all the way to the cross. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is now at work inside of us. This book unpacks each of the pieces of spiritual armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6, inviting us to take up the armor each day, all while resting in the finished victory of Christ and the assurance that our strength for the battle comes from him.” (Get it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Source: 10+ New and Notable Books for September – Tim Challies

Branch Rickey and the Jackie Robinson Story

RickieRobinson

This is a January morning in 1943 and Wesley Branch Rickey is standing outside his house at 34 Greenway South in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York City. …Rickey’s face shows eagerness and excitement even after all his years in baseball. He has asked God for help and believes that is exactly what is happening now.

…He waits in cold, fresh air for his ride to downtown Brooklyn, where he runs the Dodgers baseball team. [Yes, that now LA Dodgers team!] While this does not sound so vital, especially in time of war, today he is doing the work of the Lord with all his heart and mind and these large, gnarled hands he waves. He is going to a crucial meeting with the banker who holds the mortgage on the Dodgers baseball team.

Rickey carries with him a Midwestern Christian religious fervor as strong as a wheat crop, and a political faith in anything Republican. Already he is a familiar figure at his new church in Queens, the Church in the Gardens…. On Sundays, Branch Rickey brought with him to church a prayer book and a background of Methodist studies from Ohio Wesleyan University, and sometimes he delivered the sermon. In one, he announced he was here to run the Brooklyn Dodgers and to serve the God to whom they prayed, and the Lord’s work called for him to bring the first black player into major league baseball.

You held the American heart in your hand when you attempted to change anything in baseball. If a black was involved, the cardiograms showed an ice storm.

…In no calling, craft, profession trade, or occupation was color in American accepted. The annals of the purported greats how that everyone was paralyzed with the national disease: color fear.

But here on this street corner stands Branch Rickey, a lone white man with a fierce belief that it is the deepest sin against God to hold color against a person. On this day he means to change baseball and America, too. The National Pastime, the game that teaches sportsmanship to children, must shake with shame, Rickey thought. Until this morning in Forest Hills, there has been no white person willing to take on the issue. That is fine with Rickey. He feels that he is at bat with two outs and a 3-2 pitch coming. He is the last man up, sure he will get a hit.

Taken from the first chapter in the powerful story of this professing Christian and his singular goal to integrate baseball with black players. The book is Branch Rickey: A Life by Jimmy Breslin, and it is my second baseball read this summer (another of those thrift store finds that turns out to be a gem!). The pages quoted here are 5-7.

Branch-Rickey-Breslin

Branch Rickey is the one who introduced the great Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, finally breaking a barrier that opened the door for many other great players. Many may forget the Christian background to the story (Robinson was also a professing Christian), but Breslin tells it straight. You may also be interested to know that when he was a player, Rickey himself refused to play on Sunday, keeping a promise to his godly mother. Yet, sadly, he broke it later as a manager.

“What I Need Is a Deadline” (for Reading)

Choosing my next book sometimes feels like a complicated dance. With so many books to read, how can I possibly decide what to read? What to read now? What to read next? There are many factors to juggle, but I’ll tell you this: I agree with Duke Ellington, the jazz great who famously quipped, ‘I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline.’

A deadline – apologies to my library patron friend – isn’t an obstacle to my reading life. (My fines might tell a different story, but never mind those.) In the face of overwhelming options, a deadline clarifies what I want to read right now.  It focuses my attention on what I want to happen next. Just like a journalist who lives and dies by their deadline, a reading deadline ensures my books get read sooner, not later.

I often tell myself I’ll get around to reading a certain book one day. But good intentions are worth only so much, and sometimes one day never comes. A good deadline forces me to ask myself if I’m ready to read it right now. (If I’m not, does it even belong on my To Be Read list?)

…It hurts my children’s feelings not to read what they want me to read, and so I do, on deadline. Duke Ellington understands: ‘Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.’ Without a deadline, Duke, I wouldn’t do nothing – but I wouldn’t read as much either. And, baby, I love to read.

rather-be-reading-bogel-2018Taken from a good summer read I recently bought at Baker Book House. In I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, lifetime reader Anne Bogel reflects on the paradoxes of readers and bibliophiles like herself. The chapters are short and packed with great insights and encouragements about the literary life – the highs and lows, the tears and triumphs of reading.

The above quotation is taken from chapter 12, “What I Need Is a Deadline” (pp.80-85).

Published in: on September 16, 2019 at 10:26 PM  Leave a Comment