Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Under the Book

 This Christmas like most others, included a stack of books given and received. Those in the received category include Blessed Zion (the history of our 177 year old First Presbyterian Church of Jackson), Robert Edsel's Saving Italy and The Monuments Men, E.H. Gombrich's The Story of Art and A Little History of the World, two additional books about art lost or stolen during WWII and a new ESV bible.
The bible I have been using is a 1995 New Geneva study bible that is now well-worn as much as it is well-loved. Francis Schaeffer is attributed with saying, "I love the bible so much that sometimes, especially in the morning, I sit there and hold it close and pat it." I get that. I love my books. The way they look. The way they feel in my hands. The turned down corners and scribbled margins that serve as landmarks along the way. I remember a lot of what I read by seeing the page in my mind, especially what I read in my bible.
How does one lay aside a book like this?
And yet I will in order to keep it intact.
My Geneva bible will be right here on my desk.

It contains irreplaceable notes.
So many notes that some pages are difficult to read.
I write on the maps.
I consider the notes to be maps of sorts.
A light went off as I wandered through the familiar pages of this bible.
This bible came into my possession in 1995, the same year that Ligon Duncan became my pastor.
By and large these notes represent 17 years of his sermons, studies and lectures.
God has been faithful to First Presbyterian Church.
In 177 years we have had but 12 senior ministers, all of whom were diligent to preach the bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God.
We are as Ligon reminded us, "under the book."
We are under its authority, protection, illumination, wisdom, instruction, and so much more.
The pages and margins are full, and so is my heart.
God has used this preacher, teacher, theologian to inform my mind,
to change my heart, to conform my will.
A great warning of Ligon's I will always remember:
"We never get to a point in life where our desires are safe." Phil.4:8
A great reason to heed it:
"Jesus' suffering began for you during His infancy." Mt.2:13
When I asked for a new bible this Christmas I had not yet realized that the last  bible came along with my new minister. And I didn't realize that this new bible would come along with my new senior minister. Today is Ligon Duncan's last day as Senior Minister before becoming Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary. Tomorrow begins our "reformed interregnum."
The period of time in between ministers.
I think my new bible will have to wait until my new minister's first Sunday.
Until then these pages will remain clean and unmarked.
I won't write over the maps.
These pages will await new quotes, scripture references, warnings, and assurances.
And so I remain grateful for what is past and hopeful in what is to come.
The interregnum after J.R.R. Tolkien's King Earnur of Gondor lasted 968 years.
That's a mighty long wait.
Pray with me for patience as we wait the man of God's choosing.
Thank God with me for the ministry of
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan.




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