A bright spot in a difficult year.

This has been a tough year — one of the toughest of my life.  From the loss of my church home due to a dispute that required my leaving it, to bad health/dental news and multiple rounds of dental work with unusual long-term pain and allergic reactions afterward, to the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, to various relationship difficulties and disappointments, to being unable to find any medical help for weird “sick spells” that are now ruining and stealing about 50% of my life — life has been hard, though also filled with blessings.  One big bright spot this year was a friend inviting me to be part of a book club.  The book that was selected for reading and discussion is Knowing God by J. I. Packer.  I have been reading and studying/meditating on it since August.  I believe it is the best Christian book I have ever found.  (I do not consider the Bible merely a Christian book– it is the inerrant, amazing Word of God in a category by itself.)  Knowing God is considered one of the great Christian classics for good reason.  There are lots of reviews and summaries about it available on the internet, so I won’t try to do a complete book review here.  But I wanted to record a few thoughts about this book for myself and hope it might also be encouraging or helpful to others.

Knowing God contains three main sections.  1, Know the Lord, explains the importance of seeking and knowing God.  2, Behold Your God!, discusses some of the important attributes of God.  3, If God Be For Us, is a deep explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ with a call to fully realize, apply and live out the joy of the gospel and great salvation and hope we believers have.  This third section of the book is especially excellent, deep, and so meaningful to me personally.  The last chapter entitled The Adequacy of God explains the importance of the book of Romans and the incredible truth and promises of Romans Chapter 8.  I recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition by InterVarsity Press, published in 1993 rather than the original 1973 edition.

If I were to try to share some of the highlights of this book that were most meaningful, this would become a very long post.  So, I am going to share only one thought in particular that has most recently been very helpful for me.  In the last chapter on The Adequacy of God, Packer explains the importance of right evangelical thinking, not just emotional thinking.  (p. 260).  I have a very bad tendency to let the hardships of life lead me to despondency or even despair at times.  I also have a bad habit of wanting to return “evil for evil” to anyone who I feel has hurt me or misjudged me.  These are terribly difficult sins and bents toward evil for me to overcome.  Yet I know God calls me to do better and seek his overcoming power in these areas of my sinfulness.

I would like to insert a direct quote from Knowing God here from page 260, but because I do not know how hard it is to get permission from the publisher to include a quote, or what the legal rules are concerning that, I decided I had better not.  Packer explains in the last chapter of Knowing God that because of the incredible greatness of Romans 8 and how great the assurances and promises we believers in Christ have, as explained there, we should apply evangelical (Biblical) thinking instead of just reacting according to our emotions.  See Romans 8:38-39.  “I am convinced that neither death nor life … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Packer wrote that we should talk to ourselves of how great our salvation and eternal hope really are.  We must talk ourselves out of our bad moods and wrong thinking.  This should solve the problem of despondency, despair, and wrong reactions to being hurt or mistreated.  This is often easier said than done, but I desire to apply this fine teaching and reminder as explained by Packer.  Packer has a way of explaining the gospel and Bible doctrine that is especially meaningful and easy to understand.  Rarely do I feel this strongly about the impact of any book.  When I do, I feel compelled to share it and recommend it.

Dear believing reader, please pray for me to fully grasp and apply the incredible truth of Romans 8.  Please pray for me to experience and grasp more fully the joy of knowing Jesus Christ personally, with all the benefits and future hope, as well as strength for today, that entails.  And I will pray this for all my loved ones, friends, and readers.  If anyone would like a copy of Knowing God as a gift from me, please be in touch, and it is readily available at bookstores and online for a remarkably reasonable cost for all it contains.

Dear God:  Thank you for helping J. I. Packer to write this wonderful book Knowing God.  Thank you for the way you have spoken to me through this book and through your perfect Word in Romans.  Please guide all those who can benefit from the truths explained in Knowing God as well as the Book of Romans to take the time to consider it.  Please bring your great salvation to everyone I know and love.  Please continue to use Knowing God for your glory and to encourage your followers to walk in a manner worthy of You.

Please note that while I have not contacted the publisher for permission to write this post, I believe that no copyright laws have been infringed upon.

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