Radical Book Thoughts (Chapter 2)

We come to chapter 2 of Radical by David Platt. This chapter is all about our incredible dependence upon God. There is nothing in this world we have which is not from him. It is so easy to water down and to trivialize the gospel message, but there is nothing more valuable in this world.

The problem is that we often have a high view of ourselves and a low view of God. We see ourselves as more righteous than we truly are. We see ourselves as basically good people who need a little help along the way. After all we are Americans. We see the role of Jesus to make us a little better than we are now to help get us over the hump. Our motto is: God helps those who help themselves – even though it is not in the Bible. We fall prey to the self-help gospel, which is really no gospel at all.

The gospel we uphold is often short-sighted. It fails grasp our true place before God. The Bible describes all our good deeds us as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). To think we have any place or standing before God is rather presumptuous. Even if God helped those who help themselves, we are incapable of helping ourselves in regard to the things of God.

The starting point of our Christian faith is “you are wrong” and “you are bad.” That is not a message most people want to hear. This is the radicalness of this message. We would like to think there is something redeeming about us. Yet, it is not until we come to the end of ourselves that the true nature of God’s work begins to take effect and we begin to grasp how much Jesus truly means to us.

One of the things that struck me the most in this chapter was when David Platt spoke about the catch phrases that are used such as “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” Jesus does need our acceptance. That would be like the accused criminal saying he accepts the judge’s verdict. The appropriate response for the criminal is to plead for mercy. The criminal has no claim before the judge.

Our understanding of the gospel is everything. If we get this wrong, we will get everything else wrong. If you hold to a corrupted gospel you will get a corrupted faith. Without the gospel we go on believing our filthy rags are of value, when all the while Jesus is holding out priceless treasure. From the gospel we receive motivation, inspiration, reason to give all, and reason to loose all. In sum: it means everything!

So what do you think? In the comments section – feel free to share what the gospel message means to you.

Return to Radical

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David PlattA few years back I read Radical by David Platt. This book made an impression on me. It led me to question many things we were doing as a church and to set aside some of our agendas.

In January 2015 I will be leading a mission trip to Haiti. On Saturday we hosted our first team meeting. One of the things I asked the team to do was to pick up a copy of this book and start reading. I am looking forward to the opportunity to go back and read it again. And I would like to encourage you to consider doing the same thing as well. I’m going to take a chapter a week and then post my thoughts and reflections. So today we begin with the first chapter.

There is no doubt that the institution of the church in America is in decline. There is a sharp contrast between the church in America and the church in many other parts of the world. It is especially true in places where persecution takes place. The question becomes if we have lost sight of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Following Jesus is not easy. When Jesus walked this earth, most consider the cost too high. In the words of David Platt Jesus was the youngest minichurch pastor in history. Jesus spent the majority of his ministry with 12 men and when he ascended into heaven he only had about 120 people who are actually sticking around and doing what he told them to do. For many the cost of discipleship was too great.

As we turn to our modern culture, many of us have created a Jesus who is much more comfortable and palatable than the Jesus of the Bible. Our Jesus is safer and easier to follow. When it comes to following the Jesus we have created, there is not much at stake. We develop a message around catering to ourselves rather than abandoning ourselves. This paragraph sums it up well:

A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. The Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.

This Americanized version of Jesus does not have much to offer. It leaves us wanting because we miss out on what is truly valuable – treasure in heaven. While there is a cost to following Jesus, there is also a cost for non-discipleship. That cost is high for us. We miss out on the abundant life Jesus desires for us. It is also costly for others. How many others miss the calling to faith because we failed to heed the calling to go and make disciples? How many poor continue to suffer because we store up for ourselves the wrong type of treasure?

The challenge of this first chapter is to commit to believe whatever Jesus says. The approach we often take more often falls along the lines of let me hear what you have to say and then I will decide if I will follow or not. But the premise of being a radical follower is that I will go where ever Jesus leads me and do what ever he says. There are no questions asked.

I do want to offer a word of caution. The challenge with this book is that it is easy to confuse the Law with the Gospel. The danger is to make radical obedience a requirement for salvation. We must always keep in mind that eternal salvation does not come because I sell my possessions or go to the ends of the earth. I am saved through what Jesus has accomplished for me. It is because he has given all for me and held nothing back. My natural response now is to surrender all. I wonder how much our lack of obedience goes back to a failure to grasp our salvation.

So here are some questions for reflection to share in the comments below:

  1. Why do you think the church in America is in decline while so many churches where persecution exists are thriving?

  2. How do we make Jesus a means to achieving the American Dream? How is this different from the dream Jesus has for us?

  3. What is the cost of discipleship?

  4. How might we confuse “being radical” with salvation? What is danger of doing so?

Why is Good Shepherd Going Haiti?

Shortly after Easter, I took a trip to Haiti. This trip was to be a scouting trip for a future mission trip in January 2015. Randi Rutan from Good Shepherd, along Gary and Sue Kessler from Lord of Life, accompanied me on this trip. Together, we made some amazing discoveries.

One of the most amazing discoveries was the Timoun se Espwa Demen Orphanage. This was an orphanage of of 28 kids. They live in a three room house and sleep on the concrete floor. Their living arrangements are spartan. They are also malnourished and have a lack of supply of adequate drinking water. Upon arriving back in New Jersey, we found 28+ sponsors for these children to sponsor the kids for $30 a month to help supply them with basic necessities.

On June 1 we hosted a mission lunch at Good Shepherd. We served a meal very similar to the meals we ate while in Haiti. We served goat, spaghetti, and hard boiled eggs. During this lunch, Randi shared a presentation about her own personal experience and the need she witnessed while in Haiti. This video is a recording of that presentation.

If you would like to be a part of our mission team to Haiti, you can apply at our church website. The deadline to apply is June 30.

If you would like to financially support our efforts in Haiti, you can do so at gs4nj.org/haitisupport.

2 Counter-intuitive Steps to Greater Productivity

Yesterday was Memorial Day. I loved the day off to spend with family. We went to Great Adventure, our local Six Flags Amusement Park. The weather was beautiful and we created some wonderful memories. While I may not have got any work done, the day off with family was one of the most productive things I could have done. With that thought I offer two counter-intuitive ideas to be more productive. Getting more done is not always about working more. Oftentimes it means working less.

  1. Take time off. It seems counter-intuitive. But I have found that my most productive time often comes before I take time off. I seem to work more efficiently and effective. When I return I feel refreshed and revived and more eager towards my tasks. I once read that you will expand the amount of time to accomplish a task in proportion to the amount of time you allow for the task. In other words, making less time for your work, will make you work faster. There is a reason God created the Sabbath. Working 24-7 is not the way he designed us.

  2. Take something off your to-do list. I have a long to-do list. In fact it is too long. It is time to purge. My goal is to eliminate three things off my to-do list today. But I am not going to eliminate these tasks by accomplishing them. I am going to eliminate them by giving up on them. That does not sound like a productive solution, but these are things I should not be doing in the fist place. What are some things you have burdened yourself with that you need to eliminate? Take the burdens off yourself and give them to God.

40 Days of Blogging Follow Up

The 40 Things to Give Up Lenten eDevotional will be emailed daily starting on Ash Wednesday

Wow! God is amazing. A couple of days ago I shared how I was going to make a commitment to blog during the 40 days of Lent. Well it seems I will be putting together a devotional book for the season. Starting tomorrow I will be releasing the first issue of 40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond. This idea was inspired by a post entitled 20 Things to Give up for Lent which seemed to go viral on the internet. Earlier today it caused our church website to crash. According to Google Analytics we have surpassed a half million views in the last few days.

So if you would like to follow along with the daily posts, make sure to get the email Devotionalsubscribe on our church website.

Cleanse Me from Within

And he (Jesus) said, "What comes out of a a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. Mark 7:20–23 ESV

I pondered these words for some time. Evil things come from within. Wow! The greatest evil threat in my life to deal with is nothing outside of me, but in my heart. It puts a new perspective on things.

It is no wonder the Psalmist David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

I recognize this cleansing does not happen on its own. This is the work of God. It is the Holy Spirit which leads me to repentance. Good does not come from me. It comes from him.

More of him. Less of me.

Empty me. Fill me.