When I ask people, “What is a Christian?” they don’t usually respond with words like love, compassion, grace; usually they describe a person who’s anti something. Jesus was not primarily known for what he was against. He was known for serving people who had needs, feeding people who were hungry, and giving water to the thirsty. If we [Christians] were known primarily for that, then we could cut through so many divisions. . . . Christians often have a bad reputation. People think of Christians as uptight and judgmental. Odd, I thought, that [our version of Christianity] has come to convey the opposite of God’s intent, as it’s lived out through us.
Both as a result of our current study through Ephesians and my recent completion of the book “Gospel” by JD Greear — I’ve been reminded how the “gospel” is so much more than a start. Growing up, the gospel was what we “shared” with unbelievers. It was the ticket to heaven, the truth you needed to believe to get “saved”. I no longer see it as that. Or better said, I no longer see it as “just that”. In fact, I’ve come to believe that there are some who “know” the Gospel and yet are not Christians. I know, I know, who am I to judge? I can’t. But I do believe in many contexts we’ve reduced the gospel to a couple of happy hops to heaven or a quick prayer to pray and have lost the significance and even the meaning of what it really is. When that happens, it doesn’t have it’s intended impact on our lives.
I am working my way through the book “Gospel” by J.D. Greear and I’m really enjoying it. Sure it’s a topic I think I know a few things about and one I talk about often, but that hasn’t stopped me from a learning a ton! I not only appreciate what J.D. shares but also the way in which he shares it. This is probably one of those books that most, if not all Christians should read because the Gospel is so central to who we are and how we live. I highly recommend picking it up and giving it a read.
Here’s a few recommended reads, maybe for your summer reading??
I recently finished reading a book called “Radical” in preparation for our current series. There were some good thoughts, particularly on the topic of money and giving. Here are some excerpts from the chapter on this topic. Allow his words to make you think or rethink finances:
(the following are all direct quotes)
Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?
What if we actually set a cap on our lifestyles? What if we got to the point where we could draw a line, saying, “This is enough, and I am giving away everything I have or earn above this line”?
So, everytime I get away for just a little bit of time, it returns. The desire to write a book or two has been resurfacing for many years now and I’m starting to think seriously about doing it. I’ve got two ideas already but I thought I would reach out to you, the readers and ask for your help. Especially for those of you who also have heard me speak a time or two (or more). What “themes” do you particularly appreciate? Have I spoken on something, sometime where you’ve said: “I wish he would do a book about that.” Okay, maybe that’s a little unrealistic, whoever thinks a speaker should do a book about something? But I guess my point is, that I’ve listened to many pastors over the years and there are certain subjects that seem to either peak my interest or I think to myself, “that pastor seems to speak well on that subject, I like when he talks about that.” Maybe I’m putting myself out there a little too much here – maybe I won’t like what I hear back? Anyway — the thought is out there now. What might be some highlights/ themes / topics you think would be interesting? Help.
OK, so by request, here’s a post from my wife about a few fiction novels she’d recommend and a parenting book (which it sounds like there’s a subtle hint that I need to read with her? 🙂 ) Enjoy her post, she is a great woman (I’ll admit I’m biased, but I still think she’s awesome!)
Here’s her post:
So Jason said I love to read novels, however, disclaimer – I don’t make as much time to read them as I would like to. This year however, I read a series of Christian novels by Nancy Rue & Steven Arterburn. It is the “Sullivan Crisp Series”, in which an offbeat psychologist, Sullivan Crisp, interacts with women who, although reluctant to meet with a counselor, find their lives intersecting with “Sully” only to have their perspective completely changed. Before they know it, they are seeing themselves through a more godly lense and they move forward in their life with new hope. The story lines are interesting and relevant. I personally connected with each one on a different level. And although I myself wasn’t pouring out my heart to Sullivan Crisp, I definitely gained perspective by “sitting in” on a few therapy sessions. Each novel involves intriguing mystery and characters that you’re rooting for. The first book is “Healing Stones”, the second, “Healing Waters” (also the novel of the year by Women of Faith in 2009) and the third, “Healing Sands”. They do need to be read in order, as Sully’s own story of pain and loss is revealed as each book journeys into his life and gets progressively deeper.
So each year around this time I like to put together a post about some of the top books you might consider for gifts. The reality is many of us have friends and family who are growing spiritually and the right book can serve as “springboard” to further steps. But here’s the dilemma: I don’t know your friends and family, so what I will do is give a brief description next to each book of what it covers and who might like it. Before I get to this year’s list, allow me two disclaimers: 1. While I read a lot, I’m not one of these “book a week” guys. So there are probably many good books I don’t get to reading. That being said, this list will include several “older” books that I think are very good but you may have heard me mention before. 2. I don’t do fiction. Lisa loves reading novels and stuff and she might be able to help you with some recommendations, but I don’t really read that stuff. I more read growth books, leadership books etc — so that’s what you’ll get from me.
We started this two part blog post by talking about what maturity isn’t and what areas it does begin to show up in. Today, let’s examine some practical steps we can take to move towards spiritual maturity.
First off, I would say keep the three key relationships handy. By allowing the 3 dimensions of relationship with God, relationship with other believers and relationship with unbelievers to form a type of grid in your thinking, you’ll already be well on your way to evaluating and beginning to take steps in your spiritual life.
So, continuing from the former post – here are some books I plan to read or work through this summer. Now, please note – the first post (Summer Reading Pt.1) are books I’ve read and would recommend as extremely helpful and essential for all growing Christians. These books, while I obviously found something (author, title or subject) interesting about them, are not yet “recommended” because I haven’t read them yet. But if you want to join me in reading some of this, great. Last disclaimer: some of these books are “pastor-type books” that I’m reading for my growth as a leader/ pastor.