Monday, December 13, 2010

At the risk of making my friends hate me....

You may remember that a few months ago, I read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan & blogged about it here. (If you missed that, scroll to the bottom of this blog & click on the "Crazy Love" label. That will take you to all the posts on that book.) I was WOW'd and amazed by the book, convicted & moved. I LOVED it & recommended it to many, many people after I finished it.

Lots of people told me that Chan's Forgotten God was the logical next book to read. I bought it before I finished reading Crazy Love so I could go straight into the "sequel" as soon as I finished the first book. (It's really not Crazy Love's sequel, but many people view it that way.) But it didn't "hook" me. I couldn't get into it and had a hard time forcing myself to read it. After a couple of chapters, I gave up, put it on & sold it. It just didn't do anything for me. All this time, other friends were telling me that Crazy Love, Forgotten God & Radical (by David Platt) were all similar-styled books that should be read together. After reading a ton of great reviews about Radical, I decided to buy it. Right off the bat, I enjoyed David Platt's honesty & writing style and felt like I'd fall in love with this book as much as I did with Crazy Love.

I made the mistake one day of laying it down one day. My husband picked it up & got really involved in the book & read it. And then he lost it. I really wanted to read it, but couldn't find it! Over the next month or so, I asked friends if I could borrow their copy. I looked for it in the church library. I never could get my hands on a copy until I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for my birthday in early November. I hopped online & bought a new copy of the book that same day and anxiously watched for my favorite UPS driver to show up on my doorstep in the coming days. The day I got the shipment, I dove in headfirst. Here we are nearly 6 weeks later. I'm just now finishing the book. I typically devour books that really move me. So I guess that tells you about my level of enthusiasm for this book. (which is why I titled this post the way I did....I hope my Radical devotee friends don't hate me...ha ha)

The full title of the book is Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. This sort of faith is something that Larry & I are passionate about. It's hard to put into words exactly how passionate about it we are. Having almost always lived most of our married years with financial struggles, we're totally in tune with what it's like to have to live on little. Long ago we learned how to scrimp & save and pinch pennies. So when we hear about a church spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lights & sound equipment & fancy new buildings & parties for the church members, it grates on us. Couldn't that money have been better spent feeding hungry children, buying Bibles for missionaries to share, paying for clothing & shelter for homeless people....and on & on? Wasting money on temporal things that only affect your status in the world really strikes a chord in me. So when this book told a story early on that made me squeal "YES!!!", I knew I'd found a book I would enjoy. The story goes something like this:

The author picked up a Christian magazine of some sort & was reading through it one day. Two articles side by side jumped out at him. The first article's headline was in a big, bold font. It talked about the new $23 million dollar building that the First Baptist Church had built. The marble design in the flooring, the beautiful stained glass windows, all these details & a long article about it. Then, immediately beside that article was one in a smaller font. The title read "First Baptist Church raises $5000 for Sudanese refugees". The article went on to describe nearly 1/2 a million refugees who were dying from malnutrition.

Seriously? We can fundraise & do building project dinners for the church & ask for building fund pledges & work with a building committee to work up an enthusiasm to build a multi-million dollar building....but the level of compassion we show to a starving people is about 2% of that. How screwed up are our priorities??

That, in a nutshell, is the whole book.

With that story being so near the beginning of the book, I felt like I would be 'hooked' all throughout the book. I will be honest. There are a LOT of awesome, poignant reminders throughout the book of these sorts of stories---examples of how messed up we have become, choosing to live "the American dream" rather than living out the gospel the way the Bible tells us. I will share those high points here. But I spent many pages of this book flipping pages to get past what seemed to me like the author tooting his & his church's own horns. I realize he's proud of what the members of his church are doing. And I really don't think he meant for things to come across the way that I felt like they did, but from the angle I was reading it, I saw a lot of "look at how great a people we are...look at the good things we're doing." And there were lots of not-so-powerful stories & quotes & such.

There were convicting parts to this book, but there were lots of underwhelming pages that made me yawn. I won't dare say that maybe Larry & I are already living a "Radical" life & perhaps the book was a yawner because of that. While we may have a few details down, we still have miles to go before we 'arrive'. And I pray that we never fully 'arrive' this side of Heaven. If we stop pressing onward to living a radical faith based on the love of Christ, we will become complacent and I don't ever, ever, ever, ever want that to happen! So why didn't I enjoy this book as much as some of my friends? I'm not sure....but I think it might be that Crazy Love was still so fresh on my heart & mind that perhaps it just didn't have enough room to sink it past all that 'craziness'. Who knows? I would still recommend this book because there are some great parts, but I can't give it 10 stars like so many others have. Still a good read for someone who's attempting to live a more sold-out life for Jesus, but not quite the life-changing, foundation-shaking book that some of my friends have felt it was.

(Ironically, Larry loved this one more than Crazy Love and I loved Crazy Love more than this one. I swear...we are perfect complements to each other!)

Here are some of the "biggies" from the book. I hope you are moved & changed by them.

In reference to who God really is...."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 @#!*% 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."

In a section about getting a hunger for the gospel..."I pray that we will be a people who refuse to gorge our spiritual stomachs on the entertaining pleasures of the world, because we have chosen to find our satisfaction in the eternal treasure of his Word. I pray that God will awaken your heart and mine a deep and abiding passion for the gospel as the grand revelation of God. ........ if preachers can't come up with something other than inspirational speeches, then maybe they should just read from the Word for their sermon. The Spirit is good to work with just that."

In a chapter about the importance of relying on God's power.... "As long as we achieve our desires in our own power, we will always attribute it to our own glory. ..... The goal of the American dream is to make much of ourselves. But the gospel and the American dream are clearly and ultimately antithetical to each other. ..... The goal of the gospel is to make much of God."

In a section called "Exalting Our Inability"....."God actually delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts His people in situations where they come face to face with their need for Him. In the process He powerfully demonstrates his ability to provide everything His people need in ways they could never have mustered up or imagined. And in the end, He makes much of His own name..... That is how God works. He puts His people in positions where they are desperate for His power, and then He shows His provision in ways that display His greatness."

Dependent on Ourselves or Desperate for His Spirit?
"Clearly, it doesn't require the power of God to draw a crowd in our culture. A few key elements that we can manufacture will suffice.
1st--a good performance (entertainment)
2nd--a place to hold the crowds that will come, so we build a multi-million dollar facility with all facets of the building excellent & attractive--that's what our culture expects.
3rd-- we have to have something to keep the crowds coming back"

In a chapter titled American Wealth & a World of Poverty
"Are you & I looking to Jesus for advice that seems fiscally responsible according to the 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 & maybe even our affluent religious neighbors might tell us to do?"

"There is never going to be a day when we stand before God and he looks at us and says 'I wish you would have kept more for yourself'. I'm confident that God says He will take care of me.


There are a lot of other good points that I've underlined & highlighted throughout the book, but I think you get the idea. The book is about getting our priorities straight -- finding ways to help others, to give extravagantly, to live our lives not based on the standards that the "American dream" sets for us, but by the standards Christ set forth for us in the gospels.

Radical is a great book, but I've gotta say....I would still recommend Crazy Love first.


Ruth said...

I tend to see folks as either 'guilt givers' or 'guilt takers'. I have been a guilt taker for most of my life. I've realized there are 'guilt giver' authors too. Some people need a good dose of guilt to move them to action. I don't. That's why I had to quit listening to Tony Campolo! So, for me, I can't get hooked on a book that uses guilt as a motivator. Please don't hate me either!

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