Take a sneak peek at the NEW French Church Planter Training Course by Pathway Learning being launched in West Africa this Fall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 8.51.50 AMThis is a guest post by my friend, Sam Storms, on Crossway blog.

Today is J. I. Packer’s 90th birthday. Longevity in life and ministry is often taken for granted in our day. We quickly forget that Thomas Aquinas died at the age of 49. Both John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards were 54 when they entered the presence of Jesus. Charles Spurgeon died much too soon at the age of 57. Martin Luther outlived them all, passing away at the age of 62. The church of Jesus Christ should pause and thank God for sustaining Packer’s remarkable life for as long as he has.

As I reflect on who J. I. Packer is and what he has meant to me personally, several things come quickly to mind.

First, few theologians are as thoroughly and pervasively Christo-centric as Packer. When I was writing my book, Packer on the Christian Life, I was repeatedly and pleasantly surprised by the way in which all exegesis, theological reflection, and pastoral application were grounded in the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It was the odd page in Packer’s writings that didn’t include a hymn of praise or a prayer of adoration focused on the person of Jesus.

Second, although I’m profoundly grateful for all his writings, I want to especially highlight a short introduction he wrote to John Owen’s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Packer openly acknowledges that no one in church history exerted a greater or more formative influence on the shape of his soul and the content of his theology than did Owen. Many of us who joyfully identify with the Reformed theology that Packer has so faithfully defended can point to our reading of his Introductory Essay as a decisive factor in persuading us of the truth of particular redemption or definite atonement. For those who are struggling to grasp the meaning and extent of Christ’s death, I can do no better than direct you to Packer’s essay.

It was the odd page in Packer’s writings that didn’t include a hymn of praise or a prayer of adoration focused on the person of Jesus.

Third, the evangelical world as a whole is deeply indebted to Packer’s relentless, yet loving, articulation of the truth of biblical inerrancy. When people on both sides of the Atlantic have argued that the notion of an inerrant biblical text is indefensible and out of touch with the discoveries of contemporary biblical criticism, Packer has held his ground. And he has done it with remarkable intellectual integrity, clarity, and in my opinion, persuasiveness. I’ve always been impressed with one statement in this regard, taken from his book, Truth and Power: “Authority,” he insists, “belongs to truth and truth only. . . . I can make no sense—no reverent sense, anyway—of the idea, sometimes met, that God speaks his truth to us in and through false statements by biblical writers.” [1] I thank God today for J. I. Packer’s immovable commitment to the truth of an inerrant Bible.

Fourth, I can honestly say that I’ve learned more from J. I. Packer about the nature of progressive sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit than from any other individual in Christian history. Of course, Packer would confess that he himself has learned from the giants of the Christian faith, most notably Baxter, Bunyan, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards. But in a way that goes beyond each of these heroes of the faith, Packer puts the dynamics of spiritual transformation in a language that is accessible to believers of all ages. The clarity, conviction, and practical value with which he describes Christian living is, in my opinion, unparalleled in the history of the church.

Of course, Packer would confess that he himself has learned from the giants of the Christian faith, most notably Baxter, Bunyan, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards.

Fifth, and finally, I want to draw attention to J. I. Packer as the consummate Christian gentleman. By this I have in mind the admirable and humble way in which he has conducted himself in numerous controversies, many of which resulted in unjustified assaults on his character. One need not agree with Packer on every issue to recognize that he has modeled for us the way one maintains a godly and principled position on disputed topics. Be it his involvement with Evangelicals and Catholics Together, his disagreements with Martyn Lloyd-Jones on church unity, or his unwavering opposition to so-called same-sex marriage, Packer has consistently displayed a unique blend, without compromise, of both immovable theological conviction, on the one hand, and the meekness and gentleness of Jesus Christ, on the other.

So, on this your 90th birthday, I say to you, “Jim”, thanks! May God richly bless and empower and extend your life as you seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ in every way.

Notes:
[1] J. I. Packer, Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999), 37.


Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and the author of more than two dozen books. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit.

July 4 Shirtless ManJPGIt’s a 4th of July I will never forget. And neither will our guests. Our celebration began normally. Becky and I had several seminary students over to our home for an old fashioned hamburger, hot dog, baked beans, etc. spread.

As it started to get dark, we all drove to our neighborhood fireworks display on the edge of a small lake near our home. A relatively small crowd of a few hundred neighbors were there. A few of the students brought to my attention that the blaring music was very boomer–70’s hard rock. Hadn’t noticed it except for my involuntary head-banging.

It was a very Norman Rockwell sort of scene with kids and dogs running around as spectacular fireworks were exploding high in the air.

What happened next is still hard for me to believe. Just after a beautiful display of fireworks over the lake had ended, a shirtless man walked over near the base where these very high-powered, professional fireworks were being launched.

He then handed his beer can to another man, who had a large American flag in his other hand, and then reached over and picked up one of the large boxes of fireworks-apparently scheduled to be shot off for the next round. I still can’t believe what happened next. This man hoisted the large, heavy box of very powerful, highly explosive fireworks over the top of his head and lifted the box up as high as his arms could reach.

Then this man started walking from the edge of the lake toward the broad yellow tape that was designed to keep the crowd (us) at a safe distance from these potentially dangerous explosives. He stopped about 10-15 feet before the yellow tape, with his arms still fully extended as high as they could go, when the first sparks began to shoot from the huge bottom of the large box of fireworks.

Standing about 6 feet away from this shirtless man was his buddy with the can of beer in one hand and raising up the American flag in the other.

If you look very closely at the video screenshot above (from my trusty iPhone), you can see this shirtless man with his hands held high above him holding the box from which all the fireworks are starting to explode. And if you look to the right of this man (his left) you’ll see his buddy, who has a big American flag in his right hand that you can’t see because it’s behind the fire. If you look closely you can even see the yellow tape (between these 2 men and the crowd in front of us) supposedly meant to keep us a safe distance from the fireworks.

What took place next only lasted for 7 seconds before the shirtless man had to throw down the exploding fireworks box. But everyone with us that evening said they will probably never have another 4th of July when they don’t remember this one. Immediately after the explosions and balls of fire stopped shooting at us, one of the seminary students, Nolan, yelled out,

“That one nearly killed you Steve! We’re lucky to be alive! We’re lucky to be alive! Friendly fire!  We just came under attack! This is unprecedented in the American society! We just came under attack at our own fireworks show!”

Becky and I think our favorite Thank You note came from another student, Tim, who wrote,

Thanks again for having us over for the 4th. It was one I’m certain we’ll never forget. It was the first time I was shot at by a shirtless man while his buddy held his beer and waved an American flag. I’d like to think that this is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. “Give me drunk fireworks, or give me death.”

To help make your 4th of July weekend more memorable, I’ve just posted below the video I took of those 7 seconds, along with some slower instant replays so you can see the most amazing and frightening fireworks display I’ve ever seen.

You’ll also hear the adrenaline-soaked comments made by some members of our group immediately after we stopped being fired on. And If you watch the video carefully, you’ll see why Nolan screamed, “That one nearly killed you Steve!”

If you’d like to see this 3-minute video Click Here.

Or watch below: