Gene Edwards’ book “Living Close to God…when you’re not good at it” is the perfect title for a book to hook people in who may be struggling with their day-to-day walk with God. I saw it and thought, “Exactly what I need to jump-start my one-on-one relationship with God.” The book promises that “you will find many practical helps, even if, like me, you are a Christian who is not endowed with a natural spiritual aptitude.” But for this reader, I didn’t find it true.
And that’s what I find dangerous with some “Christian life” books on the market. They promise something they can’t deliver for everyone. As someone who has worked on my daily times with God over 20 years there are a few things that I know: 1) there’s not one way to spend time with God; 2) the same things don’t work for everyone. So I don’t disregard Edwards’ method of fellowshiping with Christ. It may help a lot of “spiritually handicapped” people as he calls himself. It just didn’t help me.
Fortunately, the book isn’t long and drawn out. If you spend some time I think you’ll learn quickly if it’s for you or not. The question is whether to spend your hard-earned money on a book you’re not sure will be helpful. The answer to that will depend on your desperation of connecting with God. If you’re really struggling, like the author was, then try it. It’s hard to describe exactly what “it” is but the best I can do would be to call it “slow reading of meditative biblical texts as a call and response to God, listening carefully for Him. The key is “slowing down.” And in Edwards’ defense, maybe I didn’t do that enough.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books book review 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 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Here’s today’s set list at FCC. This will be linked to The Worship Community.com blog where other worship bloggers post their setlists.
Here’s what we did:
Message: Beyond the Math (first of 2 part series on giving)
Always (during communion)
Mighty to Save
Where the Spirit of the Lord Is
What does that mean? If we are truly saved by grace through faith, if our lives have been transformed by God, if we are a “found person,” then we should be “finding people.” In other words, as true Christ followers, sharing our faith shouldn’t be burdensome, fearful, and irregular. Yet, so many Christians find sharing their faith a burden, are afraid of rejection, and do it irregularly at most. That makes me wonder how many Christians are really following Christ? How many people in our pews really HAVE NOT BEEN CHANGED BY GOD.
If you haven’t been changed, then you haven’t met Christ!
Jesus did not die to get us out of Hell and into Heaven. He left Heaven to die and to get into US so that we could lead changed lives that would bring more people into relationship with God.
So when were you changed?
Too many Christ followers see Jesus as pleasantly friendly rather than unapproachably holy, as less than fully divine. Others see him has a Superman from Krypton who lived above the struggles and heartaches and frustrations of real people, as less than fully human.
I like the way Dorothy Sayers put it:
The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore–on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up the shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild” and recommended him as a fitting pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.
I would love to pastor a large, mega-church. I wouldn’t want to do it to to feed my ego but because I love leadership and leadership is all about influence. Theoretically, the more people attending the church I pastor, the larger my influence…maybe. You have to understand that my prayer every Sunday morning before the service is that God would transform everyone in attendance to become a little more like Jesus, that we would understand fully how much God loves us and how our salvation is dependent on His grace, not our works. Having said that, there are weeks where I leave the property wondering, “Did they get that? If so, then shouldn’t we be seeing some changed lives!”
At the same time, I’m sure I’m not always obedient to Christ in what the Spirit is telling me I should communicate on a Sunday morning. Maybe I’m limiting the work of the Spirit! Or maybe people come in with closed hearts and minds to God’s voice. Either way, one realization I have had come to grips with is that I would rather see REPENTANCE than ATTENDANCE. God would not be pleased with me if I gave a 1,000 people a good, winsome talk that left no one convicted or with a better understanding of who they are in Christ.
Jesus excoriated the Pharisees through this cynical proverb:
You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Both of them were unclean for a good Jew to eat and neither of them would anyone want to eat anyway. But if you had to choose one, you ought to eliminate the camel…it’s easier to choke on. This is humorous enough in English but in Aramaic the play on words “camel” (gamla) and “gnat” (galma) makes it even more delightful.
Today’s Church ought to heed this proverb. The little things in the eyes of God are often the most visible to the world (dress, church attendance, etc.) while the weightier matters often practiced in private (justice, mercy, and faithfulness). If we’re not careful we’ll wind up playing for the wrong audience and neglecting God’s priorities.
Much is made about the cost of discipleship and how hard it is to follow Jesus. While that is true, it is much harder not to follow him. James Bryan Smith addresses this in his The Good and Beautiful Life by quoting Dallas Willard:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live with him it.
“Instead of focusing so much on the cost of discipleship,” Smith argues, “I think we should stress how bankrupt non-discipleship is.”