Thinking Out Loud

September 9, 2018

Awkward But Perfect Spiritual Formation Metaphor

This summer a local church ran a VBS program which had a mining theme, so I don’t know if the advertising tag line originated with the publisher or with the church, but it’s stuck in my head:

Come like a carbon
Leave like a diamond.

It’s definitely not a Biblical phrase, but it aptly describes God working to form us, shape us, mold us into the image of His Son.

And carbon, at least in the form of charcoal with which we’re more familiar, is messy. You touch it and your hands get dirty. But that’s what we hand God to work with when we ask him to assume Lordship of our lives.

On the other hand, there is nothing like the brilliance of light being reflected and refracted in a diamond. That’s the image of God’s completing His work in us, though we won’t fully see ourselves as perfected this side of eternity. That comes later.  

We all want this. But the crushing pressure of true diamond formation is unimaginable. Really, that is the metaphor. That becoming a diamond is sometimes going to be painful.

But it’s going to be worth it.

Come like a carbon
Leave like a diamond!

 

 

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April 24, 2017

Reunion: The Relationship God Wants Us to Have

Book Review: (re)Union: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners by Bruxy Cavey

You’ve got a friend who you’d like to see cross the line of faith. You want to sit down and be able to answer all their questions in a casual, non-threatening manner. Problem is, there’s aspects of your Christian pilgrimage that have left you less than articulate on various core doctrines. If only you had another friend who could join you at the coffee shop to make Christianity make sense. 

Enter Bruxy Cavey [KAY-vee] teaching pastor at The Meeting House, an alternative, multi-site congregation in the greater Toronto area described as both “church for people who aren’t into church,” and also as “Canada’s fastest growing church network.” It’s been a decade since his 2007 title with NavPress, The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus.  Since then he’s become more strongly alligned with his tribe, the Brethren in Christ and more identified with pacifist denominations which clearly are a minority in the United States.

Ten years later, that irreligious message of Jesus turns up in Bruxy’s “The Gospel in 30 Words” which forms the core of the book. 

Thinking of the parable of the landowner he writes

…But notice why people are thrown off.  It’s not because God is a miser or a tyrant, and not because he is too demanding or judgemental.  People get upset because he is too kind!  Jesus seems to be saying that God is so loving, so gracious, so generous that if you put him into a human context, he would appear crazy with kindness.

If you are a very religious person who has worked long and hard to achieve some sort of spiritual reward, you could be scandalized by this irrational grace.  If you are a religious leader stewarding a system that teaches people to work for their heavenly reward, this teaching might seem threatening, because it undermines your current system of salvation.  This is exactly what happened with Jesus: the religious leaders of his day became so threatened by his message of grace that they eventually plotted to have him executed. (pp 175-176) 

What happens when your friend in the coffee shop hears this irreligious message? I think it’s disarming; it breaks down their defenses. Ideally, it leads to a turning to Christ. 

Since we don’t have that other friend to articulate all this for us, there’s this book. But reading it and studying the language used can make the rest of us better able to share not only our testimony, but an understanding of the doctrinal puzzle pieces which fit together to form the larger theological picture; by which I mean, the pieces which matter; this is a book which refuses to be distracted. 

If you prefer more established methodology, the book includes a summary of The Four Spiritual Laws, The Bridge to Life, Steps to Peace with God and The Roman Road, but Bruxy would argue that “each of these outlines shares a common flaw: they are woefully fragmentary, reductionist and incomplete.” Most “focus primarily on salvation from sin as the central message of the gospel. This is certainly an important aspect… But if you’re going to be a student of the good news, then you need to know and will want to share the whole message.”

The book is equal parts basic Christian doctrine and apologetics, the latter in the sense of being able to explain the plan and purpose of God to the secularist. There’s something like a “sinner’s prayer” at the end, but there’s also a “seeker’s prayer” for those close, but not ready to cross the line of faith. The book releases in a few days fittingly from Herald Press, a Mennonite publishing company. 

 

 

 

 

January 28, 2017

What Americans Wanted

“These presidential orders are what many Christians voted for. This is the fruit of their political labor, but it’s not the Fruit of the Spirit.”

face-of-refugee-crisis

“For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people…”

…Continue reading Stephen Mattson’s article American Christianity Has Failed at Sojourners.


August 1, 2014

How to Be Humble Like Me

(The title of today’s post is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, okay?)

Some of you know that in the last two or three years my go-to portion of scripture has been the place in Philippians 2 where Paul breaks out into a section that translators set out from the text as poetry, leading many to conclude it was either a creed or something that had been set to music as an early church hymn. This is the passage I mentally recite when I can’t get back to sleep, and if you invite me to speak at your church on less than 72 hours notice, this is the passage I will speak on.

I’ve created my own version of it, but for sake of familiarity, this is the NKJV, not usually my default translation:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who,being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So in practical terms, how do you adopt that mindset, that attitude; or to put it another way, how do you get to be humble?

He took on the role of a servant

Of the four things the text states this is really the only one that is open to us. We have already entered into the human condition, and we will almost certainly taste death, even if it is not the excruciating form that Jesus endured. Since we have no options vis-a-vis three of the four things stated, what we must press into is the idea of adopting the towel and the basin as our personal symbols; to give up the stallion in favor of a donkey; to take a seat at the back, not the front; and to seek not be served, but to serve.

We need to remember our sin

When spiritual pride comes knocking at the door, we need to remember our sinful condition. Like David, our sin is ever before us. If you’ve mastered holiness, good for you; but I still live in the middle of two conditions, in the warfare of two wills, two natures battling for control of my mind and actions. Without making this a confessional, suffice it to say that, like my apostle namesake, I haven’t attained it, but press on to it. Remaining in Christian community will help keeps us transparent and accountable.

It’s a really big planet

We are also humbled when we consider not only our place in the universe, but that we are members of a tribe seven billion strong. No matter how large your Facebook friends list, or whether you take significance in being either a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond; on a global scale sense of personal importance fades dramatically. You may be a superstar in your local church, or your denomination, or you may have won public service awards in your community, but on an international scale you’re probably not such a big deal.

Identifying humility’s opposite

I wrote about this a few days ago and suggested that while we often name pride as the culprit that undermines a humble spirit, ambition can be equally deadly. Being able to name the players in the spiritual battle that’s always ongoing really helps us see the root of the problem. Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace wrote about how the larger society operates by the rules of un-grace. Probably most people equally operate by the laws of un-humility. Timothy spoke of the last days being characterized by people who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” We certainly do see a lot of that. When I remember how contagious these attitudes are I recognize the need to guard myself from trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

I have a good example to follow

The whole point of this passage is comparison. Let the attitude or mindset that was in him also be in you. Three months ago, I wrote about the classic CCM song Understudy that uses Hollywood imagery to describe us apprenticing to the one with the starring role. No wonder the early followers of Jesus were called “little Christs.” Or, if you prefer, you can think of the students of who “walk in the dust of the rabbi;” doing everything their teacher does.

What other aspects of Christian living can serve to keep us humble?

May 5, 2014

I’ve Landed a Role as an Understudy

In theory at least, you should get to know a little about the people whose blogs you read and follow, and I hope that’s the case here. I realized yesterday I’d never shared here a particular song from the 1980s which had a huge impact on me when I considered its ramifications. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t on either blog. So if you’re in a hurry, skip down to the horizontal line and read the explanation, listen to the song and follow the lyrics. But I decided to include the entire setup here for those who want the context of how I got searching for the song yesterday at C201…

Part of our goal as Christians should be that we grow in our imitation of Christ.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. ~ Ephesians 5:1-2

In another book, the principle is the same, but Paul adds another dimension:

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
~I Corinthians 11:1

The thing that struck me is that there are examples where the writers of New Testament scriptures take on the God-characteristics in relation to the the people they lead.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~ I John 2:1

I find it amazing that the apostle John refers to his audience here as my little children. He is taking on the heart of a father for his readers. This is not a prophetic word, because in the second part of the verse the Father (with a capital F) is distinct. Just as God regards us as his children, John feels that way toward the people to whom the epistle was written. Just a chapter later he again reminds us that we are God’s children:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. ~ I John 3:2

so he is affirming that we are all God’s children, but also, as a leader in the newly emerging Church, he takes a fatherly role of the people under his leadership.

The second similar passage is:

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; I Peter 5:2

Remember, Jesus himself says, “I am the good shepherd…” but Peter writes to leaders in the emerging church to themselves be shepherds of the flock. So yes, there is one Great Shepherd of the sheep, but Peter invites his co-laborers in ministry to live as shepherds also, and thereby defines pastoral ministry and eldership.


I also wanted to share something here only because I thought I had covered this already either here or on Thinking Out Loud, but it turns out I hadn’t. Stephen Crumbacher grew up around Hollywood, California and because of the proximity of the stage, film and television industry, he took the idea of being an imitator of Christ, and expressed it in terms of someone who is part of a theatrical or movie production as an understudy. This song has stayed with me since I first heard it in the mid-80s. This may not be your music style, but if it isn’t, just turn down the volume, read the lyrics and enjoy the brilliance of this appropriate analogy:

Well, I really have a shot
So I’m giving it all I’ve got
This is the break I’ve been waiting for.
Some say it isn’t so great
That it was hardly worth the wait
But at least I finally have one foot in the door.

I’m an understudy, got a long way to go.
I was once a nobody not a name you would know.
Now I’m an understudy to the star of the show.

I’ve memorized my part
Learned my lines by heart
Gonna walk the script through page by page
Always do my best
And pray that I can stand the test
‘Cause I never know when I’ll be asked to take center stage

I’m an understudy, got a long way to go.
I was once a nobody not a name you would know.
Now I’m an understudy to the star of the show.

None of know when we will be asked to take center stage, but hopefully we are prepared when God calls us to be his stand-in in someone else’s journey.

 

April 12, 2014

On First Communion and Confirmation Gift-Giving

First Communion Confirmation

…And how it relates to adult Baptism by Evangelicals

I don’t know enough Roman Catholic Church history to know at what point First Communion and Confirmation became gift giving occasions; though I do see how the Christening of a baby might occasion a little remembrance from close family. More recently, I’ve been asked if there is a gift or card appropriate for First Reconciliation, the first confession necessary before receiving the sacrament.

In the last several years, this activity has not been restricted to friends and family of Catholic Children. Believer’s baptism of adults and teens in Evangelical churches often joins the rank of religious occasions sending people out into the marketplace frantically searching for just the right gift. I’m not sure if this by outsiders who feel the gift is expected, or by insiders who have been caught up the current of purchasing started by their Mainline Protestant and Catholic friends.

As someone whose daytime employment allows for the possibility that I have a huge conflict of interest here, let me say for the record that I have always put principle over profit, and in this case I think a card is sufficient and a gift is not warranted.

Yes, it’s okay to give people Christian books and Bibles to encourage them in their Christian journey generally; and some CDs and wall plaques might even suit the occasion. But nobody reading this should ever feel that when someone desires to follow Jesus in the waters of Baptism that this necessitates a shopping trip. 

Perhaps this a microcosm of our modern consumerist disease that propels us to take any situation — good or bad — and throw money at it. There is also the possibility that if it’s a young adult being baptized, Christians are searching for a counterpart to the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah enjoyed by our Jewish friends, or Catholic or Anglican confirmation itself.

Rather, just as a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to think back to their wedding day and inwardly renew their vows, an adult baptism service allows you and I to look carefully at our own walk with God and refresh that commitment.

Someone at the early stages of their Christian journey needs you as a mentor, not a benefactor. Don’t buy something, be there for them.


I got into a much deeper Bible study using this topic as a springboard today at Christianity 201. Click here to read Cheapening Spiritual Progress With Giftware.

Image: Random pics from two Google Images searches for Confirmation and First Communion Gifts. I only saw one thumbnail picture of a Bible among the pictures selected.

 

November 23, 2012

A Great Message: It Just Isn’t Christian

Phil Vischer posted this on his blog nearly a week ago. I knew that it needed to be featured here with more than just a link, but as I looked through for a cutoff point and considered the actual click statistics, I realized that what I needed to do was reblog the whole thing. But as I remind my readers at C201, it would be a nice courtesy if you were to click over to his blog; the link is in the title below.

“Lord, make me popular.”

by Phil Vischer

I listened this morning to a TV sermon from a popular TV preacher.

“Sermon” may be the wrong term.  It was a motivational talk about the power of positive thinking.  It could have been given by Mary Lou Retton to a ballroom full of industrial lubricant salespeople.  There were biblical references, but they were for the purpose of illustration, not exposition.  Christ had nothing to do with the message.  Positive life change comes from replacing negative messages with positive ones.  The preacher inadvertently almost quoted exactly Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live – “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…”

It was a helpful message.  People applauded.  They were encouraged.  What it wasn’t, was Christian.  It wasn’t Christianity.  Life change in Christianity doesn’t come from positive thinking.  It doesn’t come from thinking more highly of yourself.  Or replacing negative messages with positive ones.  It comes from dying to yourself and being reborn in Christ.  A new creation.

Here’s a thought:

Christian mass communicators often resort to self-help motivation over actual Christian teaching because it is easier to communicate, and, in fact, it gets results.  People’s lives ARE improved – on a mass scale.  There wouldn’t be a self-help industry if self-help didn’t work.  There wouldn’t be an Oprah if self-help didn’t work.

The problem is, what they’re teaching isn’t Christianity.  Even when sprinkled liberally with Bible references.  Christianity starts with dying to one’s self, not thinking more positive thoughts about one’s self.  But that’s harder to teach through mass media.  It is not a particularly appealing message.  It’s countercultural.  And it doesn’t initially sound like what we want.  We want to achieve our dreams – not die to them.  Not give them up.  We want to “increase,” not “decrease.”  We don’t actually want to follow Jesus.  We want Jesus to follow us – to pick up after us – clean up our messes with his Jesus superpowers.

We want Jesus to make our dreams come true.  And if that means we have to be better people, well, we’ll give it a try.  But it’s about us.  Our goals.  Our dreams.  Our lives.

The most discouraging thing about this sermon was that Jesus was only mentioned once, and it was a misapplied reference to Jesus’ baptism as an example of God being pleased with us even before we’ve done anything amazing.  Just like God was “pleased” with Jesus even before he had done any miracles.

This preacher has robbed Christianity of the power of God, and replaced it with the power of positive thinking.  Which is, quite frankly, a much more appealing message.  You can get something without giving up too much.  Sure, you need to work on your vices.  But that’s just common sense.  But there is no need to let go of the idolatry of “me.”  I can still come first.  The good me.  The me I’ve always wanted to be.  Me, me, me.  I can get God’s blessing, while still focusing on me.

We miss one thing, though.  Putting ourselves first is sin.  Clinging to our dreams and goals is sin.  Rebellion against God.  So the power of positive thinking can improve our lives, but it can’t redeem us.  We’re still enemies of God.  We’re still fallen.  Broken.  Slaves to sin.

Our preaching has become limited to what is easily and appealingly communicated on a mass scale.  And the reality of taking up your cross and dying to yourself is NOT easily and appealingly communicated on a mass scale.  If it didn’t work on a mass scale for Jesus, how do we expect it to work on a mass scale for us?

Jesus had the most followers when he was giving people what they wanted – “signs and wonders.”  Then he got down to teaching – to laying out the gospel.  And people said, “This is difficult teaching!”  And suddenly the crowds started wandering away.  ”Um… More signs and wonders, please?”

Why do we think the difficult message of the gospel will work better for us than it did for Jesus?  Even more vitally, why do we think we need to HELP Jesus appeal to a wider audience by CHANGING his message?

Jesus asks us to preach the gospel.  To make disciples.  Nowhere – not once – does he say, “And you are going to have HUGE success!”  Not once.  He actually says the world “will hate you as they hate me.”

If that’s the case, perhaps massive success should make us concerned.  Perhaps we’re preaching “signs and wonders” – easy answers.  Telling people what they want to hear, that your life can still be about you.  That Jesus wants to clean up after you.  Make your marriage work, give you healthy kids.  A good job.

This is not what Jesus preached.  And the more he preached, the fewer followers he had.

Don’t take the easy way out.  We want everyone to be a Christian, so we try to make the Christian message as appealing as possible.  Like political candidates “spinning” their message to attract followers. We want to be popular.  We want Jesus to be popular.  We completely ignore the fact that Jesus was NOT popular, and neither were his followers.

Jesus asks us to make disciples.  He doesn’t promise us great success in that endeavor.  It isn’t about results.  It’s about obedience.

Get ready to have a very unpopular TV show.

April 16, 2012

Follow Jesus and Receive Lovely Gifts

I don’t know enough Roman Catholic Church history to know at what point First Communion and Confirmation became gift giving occasions; though I can see how the Christening of a baby might occasion a little remembrance from close family.

But lately, believer’s baptism of adults and teens has joined the rank of religious occasions sending people out into the marketplace frantically searching for just the right gift.

As someone whose daytime employment allows for the possibility that I have a huge conflict of interest here, let me say for the record that I have always put principle over profit, and in this case I think a card is sufficient and a gift is not warranted.

Yes, it’s okay to give people Christian books and Bibles to encourage them in their Christian journey generally; and some CDs and wall plaques might even suit the occasion. But nobody reading this should ever feel that when someone desires to follow Jesus in the waters of Baptism that this necessitates a shopping trip.

Rather, just as a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to think back to their wedding day and inwardly renew their vows, the baptism service allows you and I to look carefully at our own walk with God and refresh that commitment.

Someone at the early stages of their Christian journey needs you as a mentor, not a benefactor.

Image: Canyon Ridge Christian Church

February 6, 2012

Non-Biblical Terminology is Counter-Productive with Men

This was a fairly busy weekend here at Thinking out Loud, so be sure to check out the posts from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Today’s article is from a rather unique blog, Church for Men and features the writing of David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church — now available in a revised edition released late in 2011 — where this book excerpt appeared under the title Terminology Matters to Men.

The word religion gets a bad rap in our culture. It conjures images of people practicing empty rituals, going through pointless motions, devoid of power and bereft of love. Post-moderns tend to see religion as old-fashioned, oppressive, and false.

So when a person has a life-changing encounter with Christ, he needs a new way of speaking of his faith. He needs terminology that tells everyone he’s not simply practicing the old, dead religion of the past. Twentieth-century Evangelicals coined two phrases that attempt to separate living faith from dead piety. Both have become very popular, and unfortunately, both are somewhat repellent to men.

The first of these terms is, “A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s almost impossible to attend an evangelical worship service these days without hearing this phrase spoken at least once.

Curious. While a number of Bible passages imply a relationship between God and man, the term “personal relationship with Jesus” never appears in the scriptures. Nor are individuals commanded to “enter into a relationship with God.”

Yet, despite its extra-biblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men. Guys have a hard enough time maintaining relationships with people they can see and hear (audibly).

Nowadays it’s not enough to have a personal relationship with Jesus; many of today’s top speakers encourage men to have a passionate relationship with Him. They invite men to rest in his arms, look up into his eyes, and experience a warm, gooey feeling for him. Speaking as a man, the idea of having a passionate relationship with another guy is just plain gross.

The second popular phrase popular with preachers and authors is “intimacy with God.” The term is spreading like a virus through the church, communicated by men with advanced degrees who write religious books. Here’s an example I read just this week: “Through Jesus God reveals that he loves us passionately and longs for an intimate relationship with us.”

So what’s the problem? God loves us. What’s the harm in using this quasi-romantic language to describe what we have with him?

Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place in a man’s mind as he pictures himself becoming passionate with Jesus—kissing him, staring into his eyes, or lying in his arms. If you don’t detect homosexual undertones in this imagery you’re not looking very hard.

Just like personal relationship with Jesus, the Scriptures never use the term intimacy with God. And lest you think I’m dirty minded, whenever the words “passionate” or “intimate” appear in the Bible, they always refer to sex or lust between humans.

When a man loves another man, he uses the language of respect. “Hey Joe, you’re a stand-up guy. I admire you.” Men do not speak of passionate, intimate, or even personal relationships with their leaders or male friends. Can you imagine a couple of bikers having this conversation?

Rocco: Hey, Spike, let’s go for a ride in the desert so we can develop a passionate relationship.

Spike: Sure, Rocco. I’d like to enjoy some intimacy with you.

One more thing on relationships: men really do need to have a relationship with God. Religion without relationship is bondage. The problem is the word relationship. It’s is not a term men use in conversation, except when describing a male-female couple.

(Phone ringing) 

Ron: Hey Bruce, it’s Ron from the church. How you doing?

Bruce: Fine, Ron. What’s up?

Ron: Hey Bruce, can we have a personal relationship?

Bruce: (click)

When Christ called disciples, he did not say, “Come, have a personal relationship with me.” No, he said, “Come, Follow Me.” Hear the difference? Follow Me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.

We should use the same active terminology Jesus used when describing our faith. The next time you’re sharing your faith with a man, call him to follow Jesus. To walk with God. See if that doesn’t make a difference.

~David Murrow

May 23, 2011

Book Review: Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

I believe what we’re looking at here is a book that has the potential to pick up where books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt left off and move us to the next level of commitment.

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman is one of those “Snakes on a Plane” type of titles; since once you’ve seen the cover, you know exactly where the story is headed.  There were people in Jesus’ day, just as there are in ours, who are fans but not followers.  End of synopsis.  The book consists in accurately delineating the difference.

But I am, in fact a fan — of the author, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky and host of the brilliant but underrated H20 video evangelism series, Kyle Idleman; which is why I begged the people at Zondervan to toss me a freebie of this one, which, I can now say, I would have gladly paid for anyway.

Just as the ten short films in the H20 collection cut back and forth between teaching and story, Not a Fan cuts back and forth between Bible narrative and illustrations from people Kyle has known, including some very candid stories from his own life and family.

The book begins in an off-hand, light-hearted way, using occasional footnotes suggestive perhaps of an ADD or ADHD author who is his own worst distraction.  But there’s nothing light at all about the book, which sets the bar high in terms of what Christ followership implies.  If anything, the relatability of the author, including some rather self-deprecating moments, leave you totally unprepared for the moments where the hammer falls in terms of truly deciding if you’re a follower or a fan.

The first seven chapters include snapshots from the gospels of people at various levels of intimate relationship with Jesus.  The next four chapters are a superlative breakdown of Luke 9:23–

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

— while the last three chapters continue to explore the implications of that theme.  For the last seven chapters in total, it rolls out this way:

  • Anyone: No list of pre-qualifications or character references required
  • Come After: Pursuing God with passion; with abandon
  • Deny: What happens when it costs everything to be a follower
  • Dying Daily: Taking up your cross today, tomorrow, and the next day
  • Wherever: It’s probably not where you think
  • Whenever: Right here, right now, no excuses
  • Whatever: No second thoughts

Each of the 14 chapters ends with a testimony of someone who wishes to stand up and be counted as being “Not a fan.”  Honestly, if you can live out everything this book challenges us to do and to be, there ought to be button you remove or a sticker you peel off on the last page to demonstrate your desire to make that same commitment. 

I am giving this book my unqualified full endorsement as the book to read in the summer of 2011.  But I want to go beyond that; I want to suggest that Not a Fan is the book for house church, small group or adult elective study for the fall.  You can combine chapters one and two to create a 13-week curriculum out of this, if you have to stick to a quarterly schedule.  Others may want to take even longer to flesh out the implications of Luke 9:23 and what Jesus truly intended when he said, “Follow me.”

My name is Paul Wilkinson, and by God’s grace, and with God’s help, I am not a fan.

Read an excerpt of the book posted here on May 1st and another at Christianity 201 on May 11th.

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