Another prominent mark of a Radical Disciple is that they are balanced.
There are many Christians that we might know (perhaps we are one of them!) that are high and low. They are strong in one area and weak in six other areas. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be that person. Instead, I want to have a life that is balanced in my work, social, family, health, education, and spiritual facets to my life. I want to be a man who is characterized as not only even in temperament, but balanced in my schedule. Theologian John Stott wrote that the the marks of a well-balanced Christian can be found in one of Peter’s letters:Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Stott using I Peter 2:1-17 extrapolates that we are called to embody a portrait with six major themes. We are called
As newborn babies– we are called to growth
As living stones– we are called to fellowship
As holy priests– we are called to worship
As God’s own people– we are called to witness
As aliens and strangers– we are called to holiness
As servants of God– we are called to citizenship
These six roles are not separate though, they are strongly connected. As a follower of Jesus, we are called both to individual discipleship and to corporate fellowship. We have individual identities and yet are also a part of something bigger than our own particular story. We are called to both worship and work, praising God and pointing others to him. We are called to be pilgrims in this world and also to be good citizens in the course of our lives.
As a Radical Disciple, we are called to a life that is more than just one dimensional, instead we are called to be a well balanced follower of Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus in every aspect of our life, truly making him Lord of all.
For this month, I wanted to introduce an incredible thinker that I’ve recently discovered- John Stott. If you don’t know the British theologian John Stott, then I really hope you get to know him through his work. Quite frankly, Stott is incredible and this month will be centered on his book The Radical Disciple. With that introduction out of the way, let’s get on with the show!
In his book, Stott would write that two marks (among many) of a Radical Disciple are nonconformity and Christlikeness. For followers of Jesus, the first mark is cultivating nonconformity. We are called to live, serve, and witness to the world while also avoiding contamination from it.
The Church has tried to escape from the world many times in the past to preserve holiness, creating little subcultural ghettos. The church also has given up a bit of holiness in order to conform and go along with the world. Stott saw that the church needed to reject both escapism and conformism.
Holiness is a big theme in Scripture. We are called to be holy because God is holy (I Peter 1:15-16), to be transformed instead of conforming to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2), and to follow Jesus by not acting like hypocrites (Matthew 6:8). Overall, Radical Discipleship in this characteristic is centered on a call to engagement without compromise.
While we engage the world by being present in it, we must also affirm the uniqueness of Christ. Jesus has no rivals nor successors and we should bear witness to this belief with a spirit of humility. Radical Discipleship calls for nonconformity, not “shaking in the wind like reeds or grass, bowing down before gusts of public opinion.” Instead we are to be as “immovable rocks in a mountain stream.” We are called not to be like a dead fish floating with the current, but to swim against the stream, to stand out visibly in a spirit of humility instead of changing our color like chameleons. We are called to be different, to be like Christ.
A lot of people hear what a Christian should not do, but they do not often hear what a Christian should be. They should become more like Jesus.
Stott unpacked this positive message through three passages calling for Christlikeness.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. II Cor 3:18
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. I John 3:2
Still not entirely convinced? I John 2:6 puts it even more bluntly: “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” If we claim to be Christian, then we need to become like Christ, there simply are no other options. Practically, Stott sees Christlikeness in these ways:
In his incarnation– Christians are called to follow his humility Phil 2:5-8
In his service– Christians are called to help others and serve them, even if the task is menial of degrading John 13:14-15
In his love– Christians are called to love others in our lives, even if the love is costly like on Calvary Ephesians 5:2
In his patient endurance– Christians are called to endure, even when suffering comes unjustly.
In his mission– Christians are called to enter other people’s worlds, and to get skin into the game. We go to lost and lonely, for that is Christian love
Though suffering might come and sharing this message of Jesus might be difficult, but the reality is that we are not alone in this. God has graciously given us his Holy Spirit to help us fulfill this purpose in life.
“God’s purpose is to make us like Christ, and God’s way is to fill us with his Holy Spirit.”
I finally read a book I’ve been meaning to go through for some time. I’ve wanted to read Love Does ever since I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline conference a couple of years ago and heard about Bob Goff. Let me tell you, this book was such a lively and unique read. My recommendation is to go out and get Love Does by Bob today.
Throughout the book, I was constantly reminded that love is not a theory, it’s not something you can quantify or theoriticize (let’s make that a word). If we can talk about love and can write about it, then I’m afraid we just don’t know what love is, for knowing what love is requires action.
Love doesn’t just stop at thinking or planning for it, love takes action. Love is not safe. When we choose to move from the theory of love to actually loving someone, then we can see how costly love truly is. Love is filled with vulnerability, risk taking, and it shatters our world. When we choose to love others, we move from looking in to looking out at the world, actively engaging it.
What I really appreciated from Love Does is the constant reminder that love, well, that love does. Love just doesn’t think or can be read about in a textbook. Love actually gets skin into the game and is a lived experience. Paul wrote to Corinth about this lived out love:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Whimsy is another big theme in this book. Love does memorable acts and it brings joy to other people. Love goes with people on adventures and it invites others onto a path centered on an incredible life amid ordinary times. Love brings whimsy, it brings new adventures that are meant to be shared with others.
For me, I’m going to go on more adventures, even in the ordinary times, even if I cannot fly to London on a spur the moment trip for high tea with my daughter. Instead, we’ll have other adventures that aren’t as far away but are just as fun.
Love takes risks and is meant for all. Love does not stop at warm thoughts and fuzzy feelings. Love takes action, makes life interesting and more incredible.
Love does because that’s how love rolls.
Well I did it, I finally read the controversial Rob Bell book Love Wins. Let me just say that it is a quick read that is both refreshing and slippery. Wait, what?
Love Wins is a book that made me feel very pleased and very uneasy at the same time. Rob Bell, in his trademark style, approached this work like he was talking to a small group. It was very personal and made you think through the salvific matters that have been so prevalent in American Evangelicalism.
To me, it seemed like Bell’s work was meant for those people who are skeptical of church, maybe they were hurt by it. They might have had a bad run in with a militant fundamentalist or perhaps they were weirded out by the older blue-haired ladies. If you doubt, this book could be for you.
The portion that received the most focus, his take on salvation, hell, and the “afterlife” (as most people think about it), is handled in a conversational way like the rest of his book. I did appreciate the fact that he did not handle the subject flippantly, but he did seem to be pretty light on it. It’s tough to say he went all the way into universalism, since his other chapters are centered around coming to Christ. The argument here is muddled at best, and it flirts with the suburbs of universalism. This hell chapter was tough to work through though. For me, I felt like I was left with more questions than answers. Perhaps that’s what he was looking for, letting his readers sit in the tension of the topic.
The part that’s worth the cost of the book is the discussion on how we often time shape God in our own minds. We make him out to be Santa Claus or (pardon my French) a total douche. We make him to be a wizard of sorts or an abusive father. I’ve written previously that I pictured him at one point as Gandalf in the Sky, and that had ramifications on my faith. I suspect that Bell is trying to change our view of God, helping those who might be a little jaded with God himself.
God is good, and the story that is told starting from the great creation poem of Genesis 1 offers a whole life. He offers a story that redeems our broken ones. He takes the hurt (both emotional and physical) and transforms it somehow.
He takes your story and puts it within a grander story. He offers a chance at life, and life abundant.
This book is still worth reading, because it helps those of us who might be uneasy with those people on the street corner with the “turn or burn” signs. Don’t take it lightly though, think through it. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to walk through them with you. Perhaps you can find out in the end if love wins.
Have you read Love Wins? What’s your take on it?
What do you fear?
Do you fear commitment? How about spiders? Perhaps it’s failure? I can tell you what I fear, I fear starting.
If you have ever had a dream, some unfulfilled vision, then my friends, Jon Acuff’s book START might be up your alley. If you have ever wanted to do something exceptional, but find that sometimes life is either too demanding or your dream scares the heck out of you, then you should consider picking this book up.
START is written by the incredibly funny Jon Acuff. Not only is he on Dave Ramsey’s team, but he also has a pair of blogs that are on my must-read list. Stuff Christians Like is a great satire website dedicated to poking fun at Christians. His main blog helps people focus on living a better story by starting on their dreams now.
Acuff’s book breaks down the journey of average to awesome in several steps:
These areas all flow together and are all connected. Once you start, you must learn as much as you can, begin to edit that learning down until you begin to master it. Once you have planted the seeds though, it is time to reap the harvest of hardwork you put into your dream. Harvesting then leads into guiding, where you help others through the cycle.
START is about going after your dreams. It’s about not settling for less than average. It’s about starting out small, and working your tail off on your big dream. It’s about not wasting the gift of life, so START today on your dreams.
Why should you START now?
Because starting is the only thing you can control. You don’t know when you’ll hit the finish line, heck, you don’t even know when you’ll turn from amateur to pro. All you can do now is START. Why not do it today? Be brave and try it, even if you feel like you might fail. START today, live with purpose today. After all, now is all you are guaranteed to have.
Make no mistake about it though; going after your dreams will be tough. Let’s not get delusional and think that all will be well. But take heart, for stories without dragons are boring and every great hero needs a villain. START is about confronting that tough road and overcoming it.
Perhaps the villain in your story is the endless rejection letters you have received from editors. Know that fear will always be a chief villain in your story. Your archenemy though can be conquered. As Acuff would remind me in his book, “a dream that you don’t fight for isn’t a dream- it’s a nap.”
Pick up the book and give awesome a chance. START today and be awesome!
Seminary has finally come to an end for me, which means that I am now able to read whatever I want. But with great power, comes great responsibility to read through the book list I’ve compiled. So I decided to take a dive into the books of the popular and controversial Rob Bell (who now lives in Orange County!).
In his latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell takes up a pastoral perspective to the faith. Being in seminary for the past couple of years, I have tried to maintain the balance between cultivating both a personal and scholarly touch to my faith. I was always fearful of being that guy in that one class who goes on this long monologue about the importance of some theoretical point to a hypothetical question that has no roots in our daily lives. Bell’s book confronts this in a lot of helpful ways.
He wanted to address the questions that he often received as a former pastor, those doubts that would stop someone from putting their hope in God. In his easy to read, conversational manner, Bell tried to ease the minds of his readers that God does not have to be left behind in a modern world, like an Oldsmobile. He is not a relic from another era. God is not anti-science, as some rabid fundamentalists and Atheists might portray him to be. As humans though, we have the space to doubt and believe, holding BOTH of those two in tension.
After laying down the case for being open to God and then giving permission to doubt, Bell moves into the main points of his book on faith:
I’ve written on each of those topics previously, but the main point of this is to move you into action. To move you into a community, where you have permission to doubt. Where you have permission to wrestle with God. I recommend this particular book to those who might be questioning God, it really is an excellent, quick read. Let me know what you think!
(I have not read his other popular/controversial book Love Wins. That will be the topic later on this blog)
“You are not yet who you are supposed to be.”
Phew! What a relief.
Are you stuck with labels given to you justly or unjustly? Perhaps you have been called a loser, loner, liar, or loon. Well, I have something to tell you: Craig Groeschel has some good news for you! God knows who you are, and he sees past those labels. God sees them, and then transforms them, he makes something new. God uses prostitutes, he uses liars, he uses murderers, and he uses cowards. He uses broken people in a broken world, and he gives them an Altar Ego. An identity that is rooted in Christ.
Craig constantly raises the point that “without Christ as the center of your life, there’s something terribly wrong. But with Christ, you are God’s masterpiece.” This is the key to developing an altar ego, a life that is made new. By giving our life to God as a sacrifice (hence altar, not alter), we are directed into a new territory. We are given new values- patience, integrity, honor, and gratitude. Once new values have been established (though not perfectly followed, see beginning quote), we are then moved to boldly following Jesus through our actions, prayers, words, and obedience.
Altar Ego was very well done. This was my first time reading a book by Groeschel, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I was worried that this might veer into a self-help book, but Groeschel was very faithful to the biblical texts. It is readily accessible and digestible.
I took my time reading this book, each chapter really could be used as a daily reading. It is very encouraging, especially to those who might be upset about their spiritual lives. Cultivating an altar ego, instead of a two-faced alter ego, is where we can truly become alive. For those who are in Christ, our new lives are with him. You and I can be who God made us to be, through being in Christ.
______________Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the r BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255s
When I feel like I’m in a rut, after reading how a follower of Christ ought to act towards others (blasted Gospels and Epistles!), I often times get really discouraged. God wants me to be at “100%” to be righteous and awesome, but I feel like I’m at a “1” on the Christ-like scale.
While that might be a little on the emo-side of things, certainly I’m not the only one to have this emotion. Right? Bueller?
The good news is that God is there one step ahead of me, holding out his hand to draw me one step closer to Him. Through Christ, I can move from that “1” to a “2” and slowly move to “3.” It is in by being in Christ that we can move forward, closer to the 100. It is by being in Christ that God can lead us out of the darkness into light, as I mentioned previously in my first post.
In a brutal ancient world, God called Israel, his people to be different. He called them forward. They certainly did not arrive at a complete just and compassionate society. But we haven’t either. Whether as a modern society or individual, we are still far from that perfect reality.
But when you feel discouraged like me, I pray that you would take heart. For if you are in Christ, God sees Christ in you. He sees his goodness and declares you righteous. If you are in Christ, you will be whole- you will get there one day. But not yet.
One step at a time, my friends, one step at a time. We’ll get there soon enough.
(3rd of 3 parts on Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God)
I once heard a Jewish speaker and a Christian man on two separate occurrences speak about the necessity of being good. If you want to get right with God, then you need to be more good and less bad. Not a bad system, right?
Personally, I like to think that I’m good. I like to picture myself stopping for someone in need when I am able. I like to think that I would meet someone else’s needs and that I’d let people into my traffic lane on the 405 (yes, the 405, you non-Californians).
My dirty secret is that I don’t go the extra mile on a daily basis, I don’t stop for others at a drop of the hat, and I grudgingly let others into my lane (only if they might dent my car if I don’t brake). Truth be told, I have issues!
The good news is that I don’t have to go up to God with a chart showing my gold stars or a screenshot of how many ‘likes’ I have. In fact, the good news is when I go down and down further into my issues and baggage that God is there.
This shocking, counterintuitive, and revolutionary good news is that in my greatest moment of despair, failure, sin, weakness, losing, failing, frustration, inability, helplessness, wandering, and falling short that God meets me there.
He doesn’t meet us on the ground level or basement.
I’m talking about the bottom of the deepest, darkest coal mine. God meets us in the inner recesses of that mine and whispers comfortingly: “I am on your side.”
God meets us there, in the bowels of despair, and he takes us by the hand and leads us out of that darkness.
Being led out of the dark into the light. God meets us in ordinary times, as I mentioned in the last post. God is with us, and he meets us in the darkest corner of our lives and demonstrates that he is for us. That, my friends, is news you can use.
(2nd of 3 parts on Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God)
Have you ever had one of those experiences where the normal suddenly becomes something else? Where the average turns out to be above average and the ordinary is replaced by something special? When the coffee appointment you casually went to turned out to be a deeply enriching experience and the conversation turned into a deep seated connection with a friend.
I hope you have.
I was reading Rob Bell’s latest book What We Talk About When We Talk About God (put away for a moment your visceral reaction, either way) when this idea was brought up by the author. For me, it’s like the moment when I was in the limo with my groomsmen on our way to my wedding. That was a time when I realized more was going on than a mere car ride. Some of my closest friends were in that limo with me and our collective stories all were coming together for that ride. Something ordinary, a car ride, became extraordinary.
I believe that God is with us, that he is there in between the gaps and in the ordinary things. He’s not there like pantheists might claim. Believe me, I am not god and that tree out the window is not god either. But somewhere around there, the Spirit of God is there.
The whole earth is God’s, dear reader.
The whole earth is filled with his glory and is infused with his goodness. Ordinary things can become something more, because the whole earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. Along these lines, CS Lewis pointed out that there are no ordinary people, all are on a path to resplendent glory or immortal horrors. And in the world surrounding us, ordinary things and times can become places where extraordinary life events happen.
Be on the lookout for the ordinary becoming something more. You never know where you might catch a glimpse of God.
(1st of 3 parts on Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God)