Leap Over A Wall by Eugene H. Peterson–Book Review

Eugene Peterson is best known for his translation of the Bible published in 2002 when Peterson was seventy years old. He spent many years before then as a college professor (teaching Hebrew and Greek), then a small-town pastor but became known all over the world with the publication of “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.”

Though long familiar with “The Message,” Leap Over a Wall (1996) was new to me. A picture on instagram of a book labeled “reflections on the life of David” and subtitled: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians quickly caught my interest, and it was well worth my search.

 

Peterson’s mother’s possessed fantastic storytelling abilities, so Peterson grew up being fascinated with the characters of the Bible–not because of their spiritual depth or insights–but because of their stories. “Story is the primary way in which the revelation of God is given to us. The Holy Spirit’s literary genre of choice is story.”

Of all the people in the Bible, David is one with an overwhelming presence and gives us some of the Bible’s greatest stories. Who doesn’t know the story of David and Goliath? David and Bathsheba? God uses his life–in all its sordid details–to teach us about Himself and how we should respond to our Creator. Though we often think of the Bible as being full of doctrine, laws, and theology (and it is), God uses the stories of His people to teach us.

“God reveals himself to us not in a metaphysical formulation or a cosmic fireworks display but in the kind of stories that we use to tell our children who they are and how to grow up as human beings, tell our friends who we are and what it’s like to be human.”

In each chapter, Peterson goes through different areas, specifically relationships, of David’s life and how he responds to God in each one. How did these various relationships in David’s life (Saul, Jonathan, Abigail, Doeg, etc.) help him to see God? To turn to God? To trust in God? Peterson’s own imagination combined with his scholarly knowledge of theology creates a book full of wisdom and insight told in his own “earthy” way. If you’re familar with “The Message,” you won’t be surprised to see a chapter titled “Boneheads–David and the Sons of Zeruiah.”

Peterson explains how in much of David’s story, it’s not how he lives or the decisions he makes that put his story in the Bible. They are there to teach us about God and how He continually works in our lives and in those around us. “God’s salvation, not David’s shoddy morals or clever genius, is the subtext here.”

Though David seems to spend much of his life going from one disaster to another, he ultimately ends up praising and trusting in God as expressed in the title taken from one of David’s more lengthy psalms of praise. “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” Psalm 18:29

“The primary concern of the spiritual life isn’t what we do for God, but what God does for us.”

Declare to (the) Next Generation

 

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Well, I said a few weeks back that I would take some time to explain the name of my blog. When I started my blog, I had in mind writing about homeschooling and sharing news in education (mostly in reading and writing). I wanted to share and review any books that I consider worthwhile, as well as give information on any events going on that other homeschoolers might find helpful. (I’ll go ahead and say, I don’t post reviews on books I didn’t like or can’t recommend. I may blast a book privately, but knowing the struggles of writing, I have no interest in being public about one that maybe just wasn’t my cup of tea; though I just returned one to the library that might make me change my stance on that). Being a mother, a teacher, and a mentor–sharing with the next generation is always very much on my mind, so hence the title. The idea to “declare to the next generation” is hardly an original thought. (Do I actually have those? Sorry; that would be another blog). There are several verses in the Bible that instruct us to declare or say to the next generation what we have learned concerning Him and His Name.

Psalm 78:4–We will not hide them from their children but tell to the coming generation, the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might and the wonders that He has done.

Psalm 145:4–One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. In the Amplified Version: One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty and remarkable acts.

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All of these verses express a desire and an expectation. We are expected to declare, to commend and to praise–not to hide–His works; especially to another generation. And that is what I want to do with my reading, my writing, my life. Since I decided to recharge my blog (focusing more on reading and writing and less on education), I thought of changing the name, but what could be more important than declaring His works to the next generation? Whether reading, writing, or educating, it is only because of Him that I can do any of these things.  “If we grant that as artists, our ways of creating and seeing begin with the creativity of God, then let’s look at the root of that imaginative impulse.” (Luci Shaw)

Though I am writing and sharing with my peers, as well as older generations (yes, there are still one or two of those still alive), my ultimate goal would be to pass on my learning and experiences to the next generation. What we learn is worthless if it is not passed on to others. It is also this thought that has inspired me to begin the book I am writing. But, more on that at another time.

The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung

The Good News We Almost Forgot is about a 16th century catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was published in 1563 and was basically a commentary on three things: the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.

The faith I was raised in did not use catechisms and I only learned of the Apostles’ Creed when I was in college. Nevertheless, being interested in history and specifically the history of my faith, I was curious to learn more about this book.

To begin with, what in the world is the Heidelberg Catechism? The Heidelberg Catechism was ordered by Elector Frederick III of the Palatinate, a princely state of the Holy Roman Empire (now a part of Germany) for his territory. A team of theological professors & ministers were brought together to write the catechism, though the prime author was Zacharias Ursinus. Ursinus, a professor at the University of Heidelberg University was a firm Protestant with Calvinist leanings. The catechism was designed to serve three purposes: a tool for teaching children, a guide for preachers, and as a form for confessional unity among the Protestant factions in the Palatinate. Translated into Latin, Dutch, French, & English, the catechism was widely circulated and became the most loved catechism of the Reformation.

So, what could that possibly mean for us today? DeYoung spent a year studying the catechism and writing weekly devotions from it for his church. He takes the straight forward questions and answers of the catechism and gives us some further understanding of the truths laid out in the catechism, making it a type of devotional within a devotional.

I’m not sure exactly how long I spent reading it, but probably close to a year as it was not something I just read straight through. I picked it up at different times and read it as a devotional. In spite of being very familiar with the topics, I was continually blessed and challenged by the reading. To quote DeYoung, “the Heidelberg Catechism has been good for me.”

How it was good is that it gave me a fresh look at the gospel, what I believe & why, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. All these are elements of our faith which can never be studied enough, but must also never be taken in a casual light. Again, quoting DeYoung in his introduction, “My own personal assessment of my pastoral ministry is that over the past two or three years the gospel has become much more central. Not that I didn’t know the gospel or didn’t believe or preach the gospel before. But recently, I have taken more delight in the gospel, stayed more focused on the gospel, and made the gospel more explicit in my ministry. The Heidelberg Catechism is partly to thank for this renewed passion.”

Renewed passion for the gospel is the best endorsement I can give for any book.