Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Monthly Archive: April 2020

Monday

20

April 2020

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COMMENTS

Book Conversation #4: J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul Miller

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71SZ-b7CKsL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_Today is the final reading summary on the J-Curve by Paul Miller. I put this work by Miller high on the list of books that I have read that have fed my soul and helped me in my day-to-day walk with Christ.  The J-Curve is a simple visual to describe a fundamental aspect of the Christian life, namely as believers in Jesus Christ, we can expect to follow the pattern of His life. The life of Christ in us is our power and hope.

We covered a major section of the book this past week, which included important application including “The Art of J-Curve Living” (28), and Part 5 which focused on “Forming a J-Curve Community.” I appreciated Millers treatment of I Corinthians in the entire discussion on forming community as believers in Jesus.

In the Afterword, Miller wrote as he sought to comfort and help his daughter Ashley in her battle with cancer: “I reminded Ashley that God works in stories that are just like the story of Jesus. Like Jesus, we go through death and then resurrection. In death, we don’t know how or when a resurrection will occur.”

Miller was not speaking necessarily of physical death, but in the many ways God brings trials and challenges into our lives for the purpose of conforming us into the image of Christ.  Although in the case of Miller’s daughter, Ashley, she did die in her battle with cancer.  This is the ultimate reality of the believer’s resurrection hope.

The Apostle Paul wrote plainly about how believers should regard death and the future. To the Corinthians he declared “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the Philippians, he penned from prison, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Miller described in the closing paragraph of the book, “Whenever I describe the J-Curve to believers who are going through hard times (most everyone), they almost immediately brighten up. Suddenly, they have hope and meaning, even a hint of glory—they sense their story is part of his larger story. That’s the way the Christian life is meant to feel.”

The J-Curve helped bring a connection between the believer’s future hope in Christ with the daily challenges that make up our lives.  As I process Miller’s careful treatment of Scripture and helpful application, the simplicity of the J-Curve is its genius. This work is a great gift to God’s people in our pursuit to know Him and to follow in the marks of His wounded feet.

Here are a couple of links online that are helpful:

https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-j-curve/

https://vimeo.com/287514611 -Enjoyable video with Paul and his daughter Kim sharing about the experience of traveling to Florida described in Chapter 1- “I’ll Never Do This Again.”

Thanks for reading with me!

Rejoice,

 

Pastor Jim Law

Wednesday

8

April 2020

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COMMENTS

Book Conversation #3: J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul Miller

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71SZ-b7CKsL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_Glad to be back for our weekly post on the J-Curve by Paul Miller. Our reading target for this week was chapters 14-23. My effort below will be to list a number of bullet point themes from this large section of reading. I would encourage you to do the same and feel free to post to the blog if you have comments or questions.

In the J-Curve, Paul Miller has given a deliberate effort to connect the believer, through our union with Jesus Christ, into a hope-filled journey as we live by faith in “the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.” (Galatians 2:20)  The chapters this week contain some helpful teaching as we process the various challenges of life. Specifically, as followers of Christ how are we to think and respond when trials and suffering inevitably confront us.

Chapter 14- Miller provides a wonderful illustration about “Kayla” who served in a special needs camp at her own expenses and was brought into a controversy at the camp that was very painful. Miller with great precision links Kayla’s suffering to the descent of Jesus through the incarnation.

Miller writes, the Apostle “Paul’s imagination was so captivated by Jesus’ descent into love that he created a work of art, a poem. His poem tells the story of Jesus, the original J-Curve, and then applies it to our lives.”  Of course, Miller was referring to the familiar passage in Philippians 2:5-11, which he refers to as “The Descent of Love.”

Kayla’s suffering was “relatively mild,” but, I believe Miller’s conclusion is right for many in the church, “it’s in small incidents like this, when we’ve tried to do our best and then everything goes south, that we struggle to live out our faith.  Often, the accumulated slights of low-level suffering operate like a hidden cancer, souring our relationships and suffocating our soul. Knowing the patterns of the love J-Curve is helpful, even liberating.”

This observation is a wake-up call for slumbering saints that somehow we can get through life and escape suffering. Miller notes, “Even small acts of love…increase the possibility of suffering…our control decreases…suffering chooses us.” We are called to follow in the marks of Christ’s wounded feet.  Miller concludes, “One of Scripture’s most basic rules is what happens to Jesus, happens to us.” (more…)

Wednesday

1

April 2020

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COMMENTS

Book Conversation #2: “J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life”

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71SZ-b7CKsL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_Glad to have back for our weekly post on our current read through J-Curve by Paul Miller. This week our reading target was chapters 5-13, which covered a number of rich doctrinal truths and helpful illustrations for the living of the Christian life.

In chapter 1, Miller defined the J-curve as the shape of the normal Christian life as our lives follow Jesus’s. By mirroring Jesus’ life, Miller presents the J-Curve as containing: 1.) some kind of suffering in which evil is weakened or killed; 2.) weaken the flesh and form us into the image of Jesus; and 3.) lead to a real-time, present resurrection.

Chapters 5-13

“In Harvard” was the title of chapter 5. Miller points to our union with Christ which is a common picture of a believer’s relationship with Jesus found in the New Testament. The apostle Paul references this union as a believer being “in Christ,” a term he uses over 170 times.

For Miller, his aspirations of being “In Harvard” was a point of boasting in his achievement, but to be “in Christ” is to follow Paul’s example of boasting in Christ and His righteousness alone. We can substitute many things for “Harvard” in our lives, but at the heart of following Jesus is finding our righteousness in Him and responding to the trials of life by trusting in Christ alone.

Chapter 6 provides a timely example of how suffering comes in many forms for the believer and are brought by God to sanctify us. Miller mentions the trial his daughter Emily faced when she was put on the bench during her field hockey season. This chapter provided much needed correctives on our attitude toward sports and the setbacks that can come in that arena. The application included any idol that we embrace in this world.  What did you think of Miller’s response to the mother who expressed outrage at the coach’s treatment? This mother’s response is common, “’I can’t believe what the coach is doing with Emily and her friend.’ I (Miller) said, ‘I’m actually thankful Emily has this low-level suffering on my watch. Life is much more like sitting on the bench than starring in a game.’”  (more…)