Radical – My Take Away

This week I finished Radical by David Platt.  It’s one in a series of books that have wrecked my normal way of thinking.  Books like Crazy Love and Mercy Rising, that God has been using to force me out of my comfort zone.  Here’s what I want to remember from Radical:  (I found this book to be amazing.  I am only including some of my highlighted points, and this is still a terribly long post.  My apologies!)

  • I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.
  • This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality.  We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus.  We do have to love Him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate.  And it is entirely possible that He will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor.  But we don’t want to believe it.  We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives.
  • This is where we need to pause.  Because we are starting to redefine Christianity.  We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.  A nice, middle-class American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.  A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, He loves us just the way we are.  A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether.  A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.
  • We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.
  • The gospel reveal eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face.  We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us.  Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture – and in the church.  We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in His Word, we might discover that He evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give Him.
  • We spurn our Creator’s authority over us….Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator… until we get to you and me.  We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.”
  • The gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus.  These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible.  And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depths of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for His grace.  Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.
  • As the American dream goes, we can do anything we set our minds to accomplish.  There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we combine ingenuity, imagination, and innovation with skill and hard work.  We can earn any degree, start any business, climb any ladder, attain any prize, and achieve any goal.  James Truslow Adams, who is credited with coining the phrase “American dream” in 1931, spoke of it as “a dream…in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are.”  …But underlying this American dream are a dangerous assumption that, if we are not cautious, we will unknowingly accept and a deadly goal that, if we are not careful, we will ultimately achieve. …While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.
  • God delights in using ordinary Christians who come to the end of themselves and choose to trust in His extraordinary provision.  He stands ready to allocate His power to all who are radically dependent on Him and radically devoted to making much of Him.
  • Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves.  Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only He can accomplish.  Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we created, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray, and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God.
  • It is the great why of God.  God blesses His people with extravagant grace so they might extend His extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth.
  • The message of biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make Him – His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness – known among all nations.”
  • We have subtly taken ourselves out from under the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m just not called to that.”  The result is tragic.  A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing that gospel with the rest of the world.
  • We have seen that God blesses us so that His glory might be made know to all nations.  But an all-important question remains.  How do we make God’s glory known in all nations?  If God has given us His grace so that we might take His gospel to the ends of the earth, then how do we do that?  …With the task of taking the gospel to the world, He wandered through he streets and byways of Israel looking for  a few men.  …The megastrategy of Jesus:  make disciples.
  • Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a command for us to go to others to share the gospel.  A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every context where we find ourselves.
  • Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship.
  • We are, by nature, receivers.  Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, What can I get out of this? But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity.  What if we changed the question whenever we gathered to learn God’s Word?  What if we began to think, How can I listen to His Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others?
  • Good intentions, regular worship, and even study of the Bible do not prevent blindness in us.  Part of our sinful nature instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and to ignore what we want to ignore.  I can live my Christian life and even lead the church while unknowingly overlooking evil.
  • So what is the difference between someone who willfully indulges in sexual pleasures while ignoring the Bible on moral purity and someone who willfully indulges in the selfish pursuit of more and more material possessions while ignoring the Bible on caring for the poor?  The difference is that one involves a social taboo in the church and the other involves the social norm in the church.
  • Wealth is not inherently evil.
  • Much error would occur if someone walked away from this chapter thinking that money and possessions are necessarily bad; they are actually good gifts from the hand of God intended for our enjoyment and the spread of His glory.
  • That Jesus did not command all His followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom He would issue that command.
  • He doesn’t give options for people to consider; He gives commands for people to obey.
  • Are you and I looking to Jesus for advice that seems fiscally responsible according tot he standards of the world around us?  Or are we looking to Jesus for total leadership in our lives, even if that means going against everything our affluent culture and maybe even our affluent religious neighbors might tell us to do?
  • There is never going to come a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, “I wish you would have kept more for yourself.”  I’m confident that God will take care of me.  When God tells us to give extravagantly, we can trust Him to do the same in our lives.
  • What if we took a serious look at them (those in need) and actually began to adjust our lifestyles for the sake of the gospel among them?  What would that look like?
  • If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.
  • The question, therefore, is not “Can we find God’s will?”  The question is “Will we obey God’s will?”  Will we refuse to sit back and wait for some tingly feeling to go down our spines before we rise up and do what we have already been commanded to do?
  • Do we believe the reward found in Jesus is worth the risk of following Him?
  • We think, If it’s dangerous, God must not be in it.  If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will.
  • You will be hated.  The reality is that if we really become like Jesus, the world will hate us.
  • The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.  Maybe this is why we sit back and settle for a casual relationship with Christ and routine religion in the church.  It is safe there, and the world likes us there.  The world likes us when we are pursuing everything they are pursuing, even if we do put a Christian label on it.  As long as Christianity looks like the American dream, we will have few problems with this world.
  • Jesus reminded His disciples that their safety was not found in the comforts of this world but in the control of a sovereign God over this world.  We can rest confident in the fact that nothing will happen to us in this world apart from the gracious will of a sovereign God.  Nothing.
  • We have settled far too long for “Bible lite,” both as individual Christians and in the community of faith.  We have adopted a Christianity consumed with little devotional thoughts from God for the day, supplemented by teaching in the church filled with entertaining stories and trite opinions on how to be a better person and live a better life in the twenty-first century.  Meanwhile, we hold the matchless Word of God in our hands, and it demands a superior position in our lives, our families, our small groups, and our churches.  If you and I are going to penetrate our culture and the cultures of the world with this gospel, we desperately need minds saturated with God’s Word.
  • When God chose to bring salvation to you and me, He did not send gold or silver, cash or check.  He sent Himself – the Son.  I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan.  How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money?  Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?  If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is.  It will happen primarily through giving ourselves.  This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.

And while I want to remember the things that I have taken away from this book, I also want to step back and be wise in my application.  Are books like this one just the new movement in Christian literature to sell more books?  Are they Spirit led or emotionally driven?  Because I cannot read these books and not be moved emotionally.  But emotion does not equal the Holy Spirit.

I found this post in Matt’s printer tray a few days ago.  I’m not sure if it fits here or not.  I am including it because I believe that in our efforts to live a “radical” Christianity we may be inclined to abandon traditional church in the name of something more “progressive”, to leave the structure of Sunday morning in our efforts to find social justice.  I agree with some of the post.  I agree there is a movement in my generation to abandon formal church for something freer, more open, and I agree that it poses its dangers to the believer.  I disagree in the sense that we do need visionaries and radicals to spur on those of us who may be content to plod along forever.  We all serve our purpose in the Body; but we must be an active part of the Body to serve in the greatest capacity.

I do believe there is truth in the words of David Platt, Francis Chan, and others.  If we look at Christ, He does look very different from the average American Christian.  There are countless reasons for this, but one significant one is the fact that we have bought into the be more/do more/have more philosophy.  I think America is a great nation.  I think our Founders were led here by God to begin a great experiment that would lead to a great leap of progress not only in science, medicine, and technology, but also in the spread of His great Name throughout the earth.  We, as American Christians, need to give thanks for the great nation we live in, for the freedoms we have, for the prosperity we enjoy.  And then we need to use those freedoms and that prosperity, not to make our own lives more comfortable, but to pour ourselves out for others for the sake of the Kingdom.

Lord, help me to consider how to live a radical faith, how to follow hard after your Son.  Help me to discern feeling from wisdom, emotion from Spirit moving. Help me to do whatever it takes to do what you have called me to do.  For your Kingdom and your glory.

Preparing Your Daughter – My Take Away

I recently finished part one of Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge.  While I don’t have a lengthy list of bullet points to share – in fact, I don’t think I underlined a single thing in the book – I *highly* recommend it to anyone with daughters.  I spent the first part of the book with my mouth gaping open at the statistics she shared about the knowledge many of our girls already possess.  It was shocking.  Truly.  Or maybe I live in a bubble.  That’s possible, too.

I stopped at the end of part one, as part two is designed to be worked through together with your daughter.  I am planning to start this soon with Grace.

The book covers a wide variety of topics including modesty, guarding our media intake, body image, and of course, boys.  It opened my eyes to the need to be willing to answer my girls’ questions more directly.  I’ve always been willing to answer but, in what I believe has been in an effort to protect their innocence, I would often abbreviate the answer as much as possible and I confess that I’ve used the “you’re not ready for that” answer for too long with a couple of them.  There are still things I want to protect them from, but when homosexuality, pornography, and abortion are being discussed plainly from the pulpit on Sunday’s, it’s hard to avoid it forever at home.  That, and when the oldest reads Genesis 19 in the NIV.

What about you?  Are you having these conversations with your kids?  How are you preparing them for puberty and beyond?

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling – My Take Away

This past week or ten days I read Leslie Leyland Fields’ Parenting Is Your Highest Calling And 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt.  If you have ever struggled with mother-guilt it is highly recommended.

Here are the nine myths she covers just to give you an idea of what’s in the book:

Myth 1:  Having Children Makes You Happy and Fulfilled

Myth 2:  Nurturing Your Children is Natural and Instinctive

Myth 3:  Parenting Is Your Highest Calling

Myth 4:  Good Parenting Leads to Happy Children

Myth 5:  If You Find Parenting Difficult, You Must Not Be Following the Right Plan

Myth 6:  You Represent Jesus To Your Children

Myth 7:  You Will Always Feel Unconditional Love for Your Children

Myth 8:  Sucessful Parents Raise Godly Children

Myth 9:  God Approves of Only One Family Design

Here are some of the things I underlined throughout the book:

  • Page 2 had this quote:  “Why wasn’t I a more joyful and loving mother?  Why were my children so lacking?  Why did I always feel like a failure”  And I was wondering, when did I write this book because those exact thoughts are in my head nearly daily.  Especially during the school year.  *sigh*
  • In a survey conducted by Focus on the Family, the most frequent comment from mothers was that they felt like failures.
  • The Old Testament records God’s parental relationship as one of great desire, incomprehensible love, unending compassion – yet Israel’s response to this perfect parental love was disobedience.
  • All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people. (Isaiah 65:2)
  • Throughout the Scriptures, we seldom see God as a happy, blithe parent.  We see instead God hungering for more.
  • There is a section in Myth 1 about the All-American pursuit of happiness and how it has caused part of this uneasiness in our mothering.  We have somehow bought the myth that devoting ourselves to our families will make us happy when in reality they often serve more to make us holy – to smooth out our rough edges, to exposes our selfishness, to make us more aware of our need for a savior – which is the real point of following Christ anyway, right?
  • Children simply cost too much – and not just in dollar figures.  They undo us.  They show us how much and how little we’re made of.  It often seems that they come only to break our hearts. And we let them.  We invite it all.  We admit perfect strangers through our doors and decide to love them wildly, without condition, for as long as we live.
  • Our children reveal to us what we know we are:  beggars before God.
  • Not even Samson’s failure could prevent the accomplishment of God’s great purposes.
  • Am I parenting faithfully?  Am I parenting consistently?  Am I honoring God as I raise my children?  This is what I am responsible for.  God is responsible for all the rest.  (Stop and let that soak in….isn’t that an amazing feeling of freedom?)
  • How do we learn to love our children and spouses?  We learn from others who love well.
  • We need to stop pretending that loving our children as God requires is natural and instinctive.  No.  It’s messy.  It’s arduous.  It’s costly.
  • We may reason that as long as we do not replace God with ourselves, as long as the God substitutes are God-given – our children and spouse – and we are serving and loving them, as God commands, then this must be good and acceptable!
  • What God asks of us, He Himself will provide.
  • Knowing this, when my children disappoint me, I need not be shaken.  I am freed to love them as God loves them.  Simply because they are His.
  • We are asked to lose our lives in Christ’s life, not in our children’s lives.
  • God parents for holiness, not happiness.
  • Holiness permeates His very being.  As Wells warns,  without some understanding of the holiness of God, “our faith loses its meaning entirely.”
  • Our faith will fail, too, if we forget that God requires us to be holy.
  • How can I parent in such a way that they are rocked free from their peer’s obsessions with here-and-now gratification?
  • It is possible to spend ourselves in the labor of preserving our children’s happiness only to have them grow up weak, unable to withstand life, seeking their immediate happiness over lasting holiness and blessing.
  • Here, then, is how God prepared this couple (Samson’s parents) for parenting:  by calling them into a deep, daily, costly, dependent relationship with Himself.
  • But these laws (the Ten Commandments) were never meant to be ends in themselves.  They were always intended as means of knowing God, learning about His holiness, and entering into relationship with Him.  When the rules are followed as external behaviors in themselves, separated from a genuine relationship with God, perversion always results.
  • God has already shown us the way.  He parents, not according to an external list of rules, but according to His nature.  Because He is a God of abounding love, He showers love and tenderness upon His children.  Because He is a God of clarity and fairness, He provides definitive expectations for His children.  Because He is a God of justice, He punishes His children’s sin.  Because He is a God of truth, who always fulfills His word, He disciplines their violations just as He promised.  Because He is a God of mercy, He makes a way for theirs sins to be covered.  Because He is a God of hope, He offers restoration even in the midst of judgment.
  • Do we accomplish the character of Jesus Christ in our children’s lives, or does Christ do this?
  • It is possible to give ourselves so fully to our families that they only learn to take what we give.
  • God’s love does not lift Him beyond the sins and rebellion of His children.  Just the opposite.  God’s love draws Him near to His rebellious children.
  • When our children disobey, when they cause harm to another, when they choose attitudes and actions that cut against the holiness that God desires, we will have an emotional response – if we truly love them.  Loving them means that we desire their highest good:  to know God and live righteously before Him.
  • Will my discipline bring my child closer to being the person God wants him/her to be?
  • By our contemporary standards, most of these families (Old Testament families) were dismal failures.  Yet God transformed their weaknesses into a faith that accomplished His eternal purposes.  I am not sovereign over my children – God is.  And God will use every aspect of my human parenting, even my sins and failures, to shape my children into who He desires them to be, for the sake of His kingdom.
  • We have made far too much of ourselves and far too little of God.
  • Their (our children’s) questions are fair.  Their experiments with hair, clothes, music, and other markers of identity are not threats but an essential part of their movement toward autonomy.  As they grow toward adulthood and independence, it is not only natural but necessary for them to examine the beliefs we claim.  We need to extend grace to them as they begin a spiritual journey that might look different from our own.
  • We need to quit asking, Am I parenting successfully?  Instead we need to ask, Am I parenting faithfully?
  • Our children will make their choices, God will be sovereign,and God will advance His kingdom.
  • Now I can focus more on my obedience than on my children’s weaknesses.
  • This is the greatest parenting truth I can know:  my children belong to God.
  • the highest call upon my life:  to love God with all that I have and all that I am.  I hope to teach my children to do the same.

Obviously, these are only excerpts from the book; the sections I underlined because they spoke to me or reaffirmed something I already thought, so the quotes may seem disconnected or random.  I strongly encourage you to grab a copy and read through it.  It’s another quick read and very encouraging.

Mercy Rising – My Take Away

I’ve finally started burning through my summer reading list at the pace I know I’m capable of.  🙂  To see the list, posted at the beginning of June May (man, this summer is flying by!), click here.

Yesterday I finished Mercy Rising:  Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion by Amber Robinson.  As I said in yesterday’s post, I highly recommend this book.  It’s a quick, easy read and full of useful, practical, every day ways to help others in the midst of our already busy lives.  She gives dozens and dozens of websites and information to facilitate the reader in her desire to serve those in need.

This little book review is mostly bullet points of what stood out to me in the book.  Hopefully it will be enough to entice you to pick up a copy and find your own way live the gospel.  (quotes are in bold italics)

Love is always a choice of will that impacts my feelings over time. This would be true in my personal relationships and in loving those I am called to serve.

Just as the loaves increased when they were broken, the Lord has granted those things necessary to the beginning of this work and when they (are) given out, they will be multiplied by His inspiration, so that in this task of mine I shall not only suffer no poverty of ideas but shall rejoice in wonderful abundance. – Augustine

Daily bread.  I’m empty, but security will not fill me. Daily bread – not what He gives, but Him.

The list of websites in the book is not comprehensive, but it is abundant.  Here are just a few:

www.goodsearch.com – shopping

www.freerice.com – vocabulary fun

www.freepoverty.com – geography game

www.betterworldbooks.com – buy and sell used books; profits help fund world literacy

www.warmwoolies.org – knitting group (as the girls and I get better at knitting, I think we’ll check into one of these)

www.projectlinus.org – knitting group

www.kidsofcourage.com – activity sheets, coloring pages, etc

www.questforcompassion.org – interactive game for kids; characters explore foreign countries and collect information

www.servlife.org – take a family missions trip

www.worldorphans.org – help an orphan stay off the streets

www.nationalsharedhousing.org – share your home

www.artistshelpingchildren.org – take your children to visit, and share their art work with sick kids.

www.slaverymap.org – see where human trafficking has been found around you; watch for signs of it and report offenders

Mother Teresa said people should begin in their own homes to remedy poverty.  Her prescription to love grates against the culture of grand gestures that tells us to serve where we’ll be seen.

All of chapter 5 is on shopping.  How to shop ethically, to make sure you are not (unknowingly) supporting human trafficking/slavery, how to shop in abundance so you can give your extra to others.  A whole chapter on how to be a justice-minded consumer.  As women, we spend much of our time shopping – either for pleasure or necessity.  What an ordinary, but important, area where we can make an impact.

Don’t reach for your billfold; it is not close enough to your heart.  Don’t raise your hand to volunteer for another committee in the ecclesiastical bureaucracy; tokenism is an unfit gift.  Rather, look within.  What invigorates you?  What causes you to wake up before dawn with a new idea spinning in your mind?  What fuels your imagination, even when you are fatigued?  Here is where you will find your most valued treasure.  Here is where you will find a gift worthy of your Lord. – Robert Lupton

The Greek word for “hospitality” meant “the love of strangers” and “generosity to guests”. (emphasis mine)

The true end of education is not only to make the young learned,

But to make them love learning,

Not only to make them industrious,

But to make them love industry,

Not only to make them virtuous,

But to make them love virtue…

Not only to make them just,

But to make them hunger and thirst after justice.

–       John Ruskin

Loving the poor can be very messy.

Pick a corner and work your way out. (This quote is mostly for me…..it is from a story in the book and is relevant, but I’m not going to go into that here.  I think it’s just a pretty good philosophy on the messiness of life. )

Organize a baby shower for low income moms. – What a great, simple idea!

The impact God has planned for us does not occur when we’re pursuing impact – it occurs when we’re pursuing God. – Phil Vischer

This next section astounded me:

Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson, authors of Passing the Plate, compiled a list that challenges our thinking.  They tally $46 billion in lost revenue each year just from regular church attendees who don’t practice biblical tithing, which is ten percent of their income.  Money isn’t’ all that’s lost. With this amount of lost revenue we could –

–       Complete the funding needed to eradicate polio within the next year.

–       Build 1,000,000 wells.

–       Send livestock to 4,000,000 needy families.

–       Give food, clothes, and shelter to all 6,500,000 refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

–       Triple the resources being spent on translation work to provide Bibles to the 2,737 people groups lacking Bibles in their own languages.

–       Raise the salaries of the 50,000 lowest paid pastors in the United States by $15,000 each.

–       Quadruple the amount spent on global evangelism.

Only 27 percent of United States Evangelicals are tithing, and 36 percent gave away less than two percent of their income according to a December 2008 article from Christianity Today.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. – CS Lewis