Friday, January 30, 2009

Guilt Trips

Guilt Trips

I took the post "Guilt Trips" that I wrote on Stuff Christians Like and plugged it into a word mapping tool called (All credit goes to them for the coolness)

Here is what it looked like:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Club: Week 2 - Chapters 3-5

Book Club: Week 2 - Chapters 3 - 5, Crazy Love

Wow, I feel like we had some great back and forth discussion about some of the points Chan raised in the first two chapters of Crazy Love. We explored issues like God's punishment of sin, the definition of discipline and how our own experiences can often impact how we view faith.

For this second session of Crazy Love, we're going to go through chapters 3-5. I found them as challenging as the first round of chapters and look forward to hearing what you thought. Here are my ideas from chapters 3-5.

1. "Over time I realized that when we love God, we naturally run to Him—frequently and zealously… Our motivation changes from guilt to love." Pg. 57. I really want that and sometimes, more now then ever before, I experience it. But sometimes, I don't go to the Lord out of an overflow of love and joy, I go to Him because I think that's the right thing to do. The challenge for me is that I often will say, "Well, I need to wait until I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and love before I do my quiet time." I think that's dangerous, because in some ways, love is a choice and our feelings lie. There are a lot of things in life that I don’t “feel” like doing but I still do them out of discipline. Do you ever struggle with that thought process?

2. On page 58, Chan talks about taking a four day spiritual retreat by himself. Have you ever done something like that? What did you do? What do you feel like happened during that time? If you were going to recommend that to another Stuff Christians Like Book Club member, what would you suggest?

3. I love Ephesians 2:10 about us doing works that God prepared in advance for us. That's such a great reminder that it's not about me and my mission, it's about me being obedient to God's mission.

4. "His being is utterly complete and perfect, apart from humanity. He doesn't need me or you." Pg. 61. I love this and actually spoke on this idea at the Dave Ramsey organization back in October. I need to write about this at some point on SCL, but God doesn't need us, He loves us. There's a huge difference between those two mindsets.

5. Chapter 3 concludes with some questions I've been writing about a lot lately: "Are we in love with God or just His stuff?" "Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you?" Those are great questions to ask yourself. How would you answer? For me, writing this book has forced me to answer those types of questions constantly. From the beginning, God has been asking me, "If the only life that changed from this book you're writing is your own, would that be enough? If all you get out of this experience is a closer relationship with me, is that enough?" Honestly, for a long time, the answer was no. I wanted money or admiration or approval or popularity or a bunch of other stuff. But in the last few months, I've started to realize how temporary and shallow all that stuff is when held up against the all consuming love God offers us.

6. "According to the account in Luke chapter 8, when a crowd started following Him, Jesus began speaking in parables –'so that' those who weren't genuinely listening wouldn't get it. When crowds gather today, speakers are extra conscious of communicating in a way that is accessible to everyone. Speakers don't use Jesus' tactic to eliminate people who are not sincere speakers." Page 66. How do we reconcile this paragraph with the seeker friendly approach to church? Is that even a helpful exercise?

7. Most of chapter 4 focuses on the list of what lukewarm people do. There are 18 different descriptions. Which descriptions could be applied to how you live? For me, I would say that I struggle most with the following:
"Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict." Pg. 69
"Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act." Pg. 70
"Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven." Pg. 75
"Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control." Pg. 77
"Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to." Pg. 78

8. "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33. What does giving up everything look like on a daily basis? Because I don't think it's a single act so much as it is a lifestyle.

9. "Is this idea of the non-fruit-bearing Christian something that we have concocted in order to make Christianity 'easier'?” Pg. 85. Good question. I wonder if we did invent the concept of a "casual Christian?"

10. "The reality is that, whether we acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually." Pg. 90. I don’t know if I ever thought about it this way. I think it's really interesting that he follows this line up with the two stories of the rich man and the camel/needle and then Zacchaeus. I always knew he was a wee little man, but I never really thought about the situation the way he described it "The impossible happened that day –a rich man received his salvation!"

11. I'm not sure who Tim Kizziar is but he dropped a bomb when he said, "Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter." Pg. 93

12. Did you do the challenge Chan presented on page 94 where you take 1:Corinthians 13:4-8 and substitute your name where love was? "Jon is patient, Jon does not envy or boast." It would be hard for me to say that last one given how prone I am to arrogance.

13. "We disgust God when we weigh and compare Him against the things of this world." Pg. 97. Do we disgust God? If you're saved and covered in the blood of Christ, does God ever look upon you, and see your actions and say, "You disgust me?" I don't think Chan was saying that exactly, but that's how I read it and I think in my brokenness I could easily interpret that as a call to perform for God and earn His love by doing things that do not disgust Him. Again, not saying that Chan said that, just how the condemnation inside me wanted to take it.

Those are my thoughts. What did you think? What did you like? What did you dislike?

Let's talk.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Club Reminder - Wednesday Chapters 3-5

Book Club Reminder - Wednesday, Chapters 3-5

Don't forget, on Wednesday, January 28 we're discussing chapters 3-5 of Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love." I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the "Lukewarm Christian" section.

See you on Wednesday.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Apathy is easy, but expensive.

Apathy is easy, but expensive.

When I'm afraid of certain situations, I often try to pretend that I don’t care about the outcome. I insulate myself in a quilt of apathy, and tell everyone that will listen that I'm not really concerned about the future. Worse than that, I try to disguise my apathy with an air of holiness. Take the Stuff Christians Like book that I'm writing for instance. The other night I told my wife something like, "I don’t really care if it sells a ton of copies as long as God's will is done." She immediately called me on that lie, because she's great like that, but that thought is so deceptive. It's true, God's will is infinitely more important than the sales figures. I believe that, but because I'm afraid the book won't sell well I'm trying to avoid the hurt of that possibility by pretending I don't care now. And I've used the truth of God's will as a way to mask that fear in fake holiness. But in praying about that, in wrestling with the idea that I use apathy as an escape method, I realized something:

Apathy is easy, but expensive.

It costs you vulnerability.

It costs you honesty.

Above all it costs you hope.

And regardless of my fear, that's a price I am not willing to pay.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Next chunk of Crazy Love

Next chunk of Crazy Love

Great discussion so far. It's been fun to see people with different ideas about the book "Crazy Love" checking in.

On Wednesday, January 28th, we'll be discussing chapters 3-5.

In the meantime, Katdish sent me an article that Catalyst did with Chan called "A Gathering Force."

Here is the intro paragraph. Check out the rest if you get a chance:

Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Stuff Christians Like Book Club - Francis Chan - Crazy Love

The Stuff Christians Like Book Club - Francis Chan - Crazy Love

Today, we're going to talk about the first two chapters of Francis Chan's book, "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God." If you read it, great. If you didn't, there's still time to join the SCLBC because we won't discuss the next section (chapters 3-5) until Wednesday, January 28th. You can buy the book here at or get it at your local library.

My hope is that this won't be me writing a book review and folks then responding to that book review. I'd rather treat this like a discussion, as if we all got together in someone's living room and just started talking about the book. So let's throw out some questions for each other, be honest about the things we liked, the things we were challenged by, the sections we would challenge etc.

The first chunk of Crazy Love - Pages 1 -52

I'll go first in simple numerical fashion:

1. Did you read the preface and the foreword?

2. I loved that Chan says upfront on page 18, "Don't worry-this isn't another book written to bash churches." I'm pretty tired of the whole "church as a pinata" approach to things.

3. I liked that on page 20, he described his initial church teachings as "incomplete" and not "incorrect." I think about that a lot because I'm afraid that as I mature I'll look back on something I wrote on a blog or a book and say, "Wow, I was really wrong about that." But I think to some degree, the more time we spend with God, the more time we spend in the Bible, the more we mature and hopefully grow passed our initial thoughts.

4. Did you go watch the online videos when the book told you to? I did eventually, but not right away. Sometimes I wasn't near a computer when I was reading it.

5. "God will not be tolerated," a statement on page 28, was really challenging to me.

6. "We don't get to decide who God is," on page 31 rocked me a little. All too often I wake up in the morning and try to dress up God like Mister Potatohead, "OK God, today, you're going to be a super helpful generous God. Here's a wheelbarrow to carry all the gifts you're going to give me." But I don't get to decide who He is.

7. I wanted to side hug the sentence, "Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?" (Page 31.)

8. I didn't love the soda can/ocean analogy on page 32. I felt like some of the other analogies in the book were a lot stronger.

9. "As much as we want God to explain himself to us, His creation, we are in no place to demand that He give an account to us." (Page 33) Do you ever do that? I do it all the time. "God, why hasn't this job come through yet, why is so and so being such a punk to me, why haven't you rescued me from this situation?" I think it's good to honestly and openly ask God questions, but demanding answers is a whole other thing. What answers do you demand from God?

10. I struggle with worry. I'm getting better at handling stress and worry, but anxiety is still a drug I sometimes try to get high on. Chan's section about worry starting on page 40 was great. From his excuse of "I couldn't really help it that I was the worrying kind" to his thought, "When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about my life, my family, and my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice," I was blown away. Am I the only one that missed that "rejoice" is a command?

11. I liked the movie extra analogy on page 42. I remember sitting on a train going through Italy once and looking out the window at all the villages and people speeding by and thinking, "None of these people know I exist or how important my silly problems and challenges are. Maybe I'm one small person in a much bigger story." Going to the beach always makes me feel like an extra because the grandness of God feels overwhelming there in a good way.

12. I wanted to clap when I read this section on page 45, "If life were stable, I'd never need God's help. Since it's not, I reach out for Him regularly. I am thankful for the unknowns and that I don’t have control, because it makes me run to God." I want to live that way and sometimes I do. But sometimes, I hate the unknowns, and think that if I was a "real Christian," I'd have a better plan for life and would have it all "figured out." Do you ever feel that way or do you embrace the unknowns like Chan?

13. The story of Stan Gerlach on page 46 made me cry, especially the line, "One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him!"

14. 1 Corinthians 3:15 is a tough verse to swallow: "If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." I've never thought about the idea that I could lead a quiet Christian life and end up "as one escaping through the flames." Have you?

Those are the things I would say if I were sitting on a flowered hand me down couch in my living room.

Did you like the first two chapters? Was there anything you loved or hated?

Introduce yourself if you don’t mind with your first comment. First name and city, state, country. (If you’re comfortable with that)

I’m Jon and I live in Alpharetta, Georgia which is in the United States.

Let's talk about the book.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The car crash, the note, the beauty of things that don't make sense.

The car crash, the note, the beauty of things that don't make sense.

There are a few reasons I love what pastor Shaun King wrote about a car crash he was in:

1. The title of his post was "I experienced a miracle and I'm not a loon."

2. It contains these words:
"Knowing that I would not be able to talk once they started operating on my face (while I was awake),
I began to beg nurses to write a note on my chest that said,

"I still believe in the Goodness of the Lord"

After begging two nurses to write the note and trying to tell them that I wasn't crazy, the third nurse wrote the note and placed it on my chest. I asked her to not let anyone remove the note and pointed to it every chance I got. It is on my chest with my blood on it in this photo.

3. It reminds me that God is big and wild and unexplainable.

Click here to read the story