Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Crazy" Quote

Here's a tasty morsel of a quote from "Crazy Love":

"Ronnie, a blind boy who lives in eastern Uganda, is unique not because of his circumstances or the fact that he is blind, but because of his love for Jesus. If you were to meet Ronnie, one of the first things you would hear him say is, 'I love Jesus so much, and I sing praises to Him every day.'

"One of Ronnie's closest friends is a girl who is deaf. What stands out about these two isn't that they are handicapped or very poor, but that they are totally content and obviously in love with Jesus. They possess very little of what 'counts' in our society, yet they have what matters most. They came to God in their great need, and they have found true joy.

"Because we don't usually have to depend on God for food, money to buy our next meal, or shelter, we don't feel needy. In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable. Even if we aren't rich, we are 'doing just fine.'

"If one hundred people represented the world's population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4000 a month, you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in a week's time.

"Which is more messed up--that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don't think we're rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves 'broke' or 'poor'? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich."

(Chan, Francis. "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God". Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2008.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Crazy Love

I’m on a roll lately with picking really great books to read. CrazyLove is my latest read and it is fantastic. Francis Chan is a pastor / author who just recently exploded onto the evangelical scene, mostly, I think, because of the guys at Catalyst who have brought Chan in to speak a few times. But this guy is the real thing and he doesn’t hold anything back in his challenge to Christians. For me, the main thrust of the message is this: you can’t use your church as an excuse for not living the way Jesus taught us, and showed us, to live. In chapter after chapter, Chan lays out all of the reasons why we should love God with every ounce of our being and model our devotion and commitment after Jesus—in our time, money, talent, everything. And he’s not just teaching it, he’s living it. Chan sold his house and moved into one half as big to free up his funds to give to the poor (just one example of many that prove this guy gets it).

I think Chan accomplished what many of us in the ‘burbs thought Shane Claiborne couldn’t with “The Irresistible Revolution.” Even though Shane is just a regular guy, his specific calling had a polarizing effect on his suburban readers. But Chan’s the pastor of a mega church (like it or not), and he claims to be teaching the same stuff to his church as he is writing in this book. If that’s true (and I have no reason to believe it’s not), then it’s a wonder that he’s still got an audience in the wealthy community he’s teaching / reaching out to. Anyway, he appears to be proving that you can do this "way of Jesus" stuff in the burbs.

My only major issue with Chan is his eschatology (theology of the afterlife). Having just finished “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright, I found myself cringing at all of Chan’s references to our glorious eternity in heaven. If you haven’t read “Surprised by Hope” (yet), my comments here may confuse you. But, I pray that more and more church leaders will begin to convey a more accurate/Biblical picture of life after death and, in Wright’s words, “life after life after death.” Wright’s insights in “Surprised by Hope”, applied to Chan’s references to the afterlife, would have actually made Chan’s book better!

Anyway, go get “CrazyLove” and read it. It’s another quick read, and if you let it, it will challenge you to make changes to your life that will honor God and draw you into a deeper love of our Savior.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How To Read the Bible

Numerous studies have shown that self-professing Christians today do not have a biblical worldview. We don’t live by kingdom values. We live by the standards of the kingdom of the world. To a large extent, this can be traced to a failure on the part of professing Christians to spend time studying the Bible. Oftentimes, a professing Christian will try to read the Bible, but they don’t understand it, or aren’t sure if what it’s saying is actually what they are supposed to do. So they give up.

Please allow me to offer some tips on how to really study the Bible effectively so that you get the most out of your time and also learn how to apply what you learn to your life. Transformation, after all, is the objective—to become more like Jesus!

First, every Christian should own (and read) the book, “How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth.” This book is crammed full of practical wisdom on how to get the most out of your reading of different parts of the Bible.

Second, the authors of “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth”, Fee and Stuart, recommend using the TNIV or the NRSV as the most reliable versions to study with. I would like to suggest, that if you’re going to get a new copy of one of these Bibles, please spend the extra cash and buy the “Study” or “Life Application” versions of these. They’ll have some comments on each page to help you understand what the text means.

Thirdly, if you are studying the New Testament, then I highly recommend Tom Wright’s “For Everyone” series. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar, but does a knockout job of bringing culture, context, hermeneutics and application to everyone…not just scholarly minds. He hasn’t finished the series yet, but you can get started with the series. Go to this site to see which books are currently available.

Fourthly, if you are studying the gospels, then get a copy of the book, “The Upside-Down Kingdom.” This book is absolutely brilliant and is rich with additional cultural and contextual thoughts that bring the text to life and help us to see how Jesus’ words carry over to today. The way I use it is to turn to the back of the book where there is a “Scripture Index.” You can look up whichever verses you are studying and it will take you to the page or pages where the author addresses that particular verse.

Lastly, if you choose to study the book of Luke (as we are at The Well), then be aware that Dr. Gregory Boyd has spent the last 2.5 years slowly teaching his way through Luke at his church, Woodland Hills. Boyd’s insights are profound. You can listen to his entire sermon or you can download the Covenant Study Guide or the Individual Study Guide and you’ll find a written summary of the teaching with several questions for reflection and application. It’s a little challenging to find the Lukan text you’re searching for, but with some trial and error, searching through the Sermon Archives it can be done.

I hope that if you’ve struggled with studying the Bible, that you’ll give these things a try. God certainly doesn’t want the Scriptures to be a mystery to us. He wants us to dig deep and uncover the richness of the Scriptures and the way to abundant life that we find within them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Save Darfur

Every Thursday, I get on my knees and I pray for the genocide in Darfur. After praying, I got another email from the Save Darfur campaign making me aware of more violence. This time, I’m learning that women and girls are being raped by Sudanese security forces, militias, rebel groups and former rebel groups.

It’s hard for me to understand how we (humanity) watched the Rwandan genocide happen and then stand by and allow it to take place again in Darfur. God most certainly is not pleased with His children for our lack of intervention. We are His hands and feet. We hold the keys to the kingdom. And yet, our sisters and our mothers are being raped. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. Over 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes and into refugee camps. This is hell.

Can I invite you to get involved? If you’re a follower of Jesus, then this is happening on your watch and mine. We must do what we can, no matter how small. First, stay informed. Be aware of what’s happening and make it personal. Out of sight, out of mind is no excuse. Go to and browse the site and be sure to sign up for email updates. Those will give you opportunities to sign petitions and take action. Please also consider making a financial contribution. Every little bit helps, and Save Darfur accomplishes their goals in peaceful and non-violent ways.

Imagine what it would feel to find out that your mother, sister or daughter had been raped. You must believe that this is how God feels. Let the Holy Spirit break your heart for these people that God loves. We must take action. And as we do, may God’s kingdom come and His will be done in Darfur as it is in heaven.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Holy Discontent

If you’re familiar at all with the Willow Creek model of church, then I think you’d be a bit surprised at the metamorphosis that founding and lead pastor, Bill Hybels has been experiencing over the last few years. It seems his heart and his theology are expanding to include God’s kingdom purposes for addressing the hurt and pain of this world.

In his book, “Holy Discontent”, Hybels does a solid job of helping his reader to get involved in those kingdom purposes. There are a lot of great moments from this book that are worth sharing, but I think it might be best to give you an overview, so here’s the book description from the back cover:

“What is the one aspect of this broken world that, when you see it, touch it, or get near it, you just can’t stand? What reality is so troubling that it thrusts you off the couch and into action? This is what Bill Hybels refers to as a holy discontent: a personal ‘firestorm of frustration’ that, although sparked by that which is terribly wrong, can catalyze fierce determination to set things right. It is often during these eye-opening, heart-hungering moments of engagement when you will hear God whisper, ‘I feel the exact same way about this situation. Now let’s go solve it together!’

“Hybels invites you to consider the dramatic impact your life will have when you willingly convert the frustration of your holy discontent into fuel for changing the world. Using examples from the Bible, his own life, and the compelling experiences of others, Hybels shows how you can:
- find and feed your personal area of holy discontent
- fight for it, even when things get risky
- follow it when it takes a mid-course turn

“Eradicating AIDS. Fighting extreme poverty. Reigniting love-starved marriages. Embracing marginalized people groups. Feeding those who lack food. Speaking words of encouragement to those who need it most. Learn to lean into your holy discontent so that this generation can benefit mightily from your bold, bright contribution.”

I highly recommend this book. It’s a very quick read…but it’s well worth devoting extra time to process and to pray about. Go figure out what pain God has wired you to help bring relief to…and then do it! It’s what you were created for!