You and Me Forever

you-and-me-forever

If you’ve read more than one or two Christian marriage books, you may have noticed they tend to follow a pretty standard template. For a marriage to be successful, husbands and wives need to:

  • Understand how God has intended them to be (with some sort of discussion of Genesis 2);
  • Have frequent sex;
  • See how their relationship represents the gospel (as per Ephesians 5); and
  • Have frequent sex. Frequently.

And then Francis Chan went and wrote a marriage book. Or did he?

Chan and his wife, Lisa, give readers a decidedly different take, one suggests that as good as it is it try to make your marriage better, our main focus—whether in marriage or singleness—needs to be something bigger: God. This is the big idea behind You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The Chans want readers to picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.

Sounds pretty lofty, huh? So how’d they do?

Marriage problems are God problems

“As a pastor for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems,” Chan writes (20). “They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him.”

This, among all the many wonderfully helpful things you’ll read in this book, is probably the most important—and also the most contentious. While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, certainly, many of us are too quick to call everything a cigar.

Or (to mix metaphors) we treat symptoms, but not illnesses. The problem with this is what happens when you leave an illness untreated? It only gets worse (and in some cases, eventually kills you).

So think about it in a marriage: if a husband is domineering, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in his relationship with God, if one exists at all. If a wife commits adultery because another man understands her and makes her feel special, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in her relationship with God, looking to other people for affirmation instead of the Lord.

The same can be said of virtually any problem we face. They all start with our relationship with God. And that’s what makes it so contentious. Chan’s tendency is to get to the heart of an issue right away, rather than easing his audience into that knowledge. And because of his, shall we say, abrupt style of springing such things upon us, it’s easy to be turned off. But the more you sit with what he says, the more you realize it’s true (most of the time, anyway).

Marriage is for mission

This theme continues throughout the book, as both Francis and Lisa continually remind readers that marriage is a tool for the spread of the gospel:

Beautiful people make beautiful marriages. Jesus is the most beautiful person to ever walk the earth. Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus. (91)

Our mission does not call us to neglect our marriages. But a marriage cannot be healthy unless we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). (97)

Whether as individuals or as couples, our mission is to make as many disciples as we can during our time on earth… We should be constantly asking ourselves the question: How can we free up more time and resources for making disciples? (98-99)

There is an urgency to the period of time in which we live—after Jesus’ resurrection and before His second coming. We have callings from God, and those callings are bigger than our marriages. Seeking His kingdom must be our first priority, and if we’re not careful, marriage can get in the way. (114)

This, again, is a necessary reorientation for many of us (even if there are some cautions I want to address). We should be examining our lives from the perspective of our clearly stated purpose: to make disciples. If we are in Christ, each and every one of us is called to this in some way, shape or form. There is no denying it.

And if we have children, mission starts at home. We want our kids to know the gospel, to see the beauty of Christ, to see Christianity as something more than just going to church for a couple hours on Sunday. We want them to see that it involves sacrifice, sometimes including sacrificing time with them for the sake of the gospel…

How much should mission disrupt marriage?

But we also want them to see something else: sometimes the sacrifice we make is saying “no” to a good opportunity in order to be with them. Chan writes:

I work a lot. And I definitely travel more than most. Hardly a week goes by where I’m not jumping on a plane, wishing I could just stay home with my family. Some would call this bad parenting. I would argue that. I don’t neglect my children by any stretch of the imagination, but there are many times when I know God has called me to serve Him in ways that disrupt the family routine. I genuinely believe that it’s good for my kids to observe this. (165)

I sympathize with this a great deal. There are times in our lives when our family routine is disrupted. Because of work commitments or speaking engagements, I’m away from home probably five to six weeks of the year. While that might seem light in comparison to the schedules of many authors, speakers and pastors, we take it very seriously. When I have the opportunity to speak somewhere, we consider not only the opportunity, but the cost for our kids who are all very young. And there have been many times when I’ve had to say no to really good opportunities because where I’m most needed is at home playing cars on the floor with Hudson.

(There was also the time I went to Nashville and back in 36 hours when Emily was days away from giving birth to the boy, but…)

The point here is simply this: sometimes where we will be most effective for the sake of the mission will be away from home. But this is not license to “take care of the ministry and let God take care of your family,” as so many of a previous generation advocated (with their lives if not their words). I fear for the one who neglects his family in the name of Christ, because I can’t see it going well for them. Instead, what we need to do is find the right balance (in as much as something as unbalanced as ministry is). While we might have good opportunities to be used effectively away, sometimes it’s still best to be right here.

A marriage book that’s not about marriage

You may have gotten to this point and thought, “Great, it sounds like Crazy Love: Marriage Edition.” As tempting as it might be to say, it’s not entirely true. Yes, it has all the emphases of “radical” Christianity that you see in Crazy LoveRadical and so many others. No, it’s not without it’s problems (personally, I do feel Chan’s explanation of disrupting the family routine could be better fleshed out). But in the end, You and Me Forever succeeds in giving us a different kind of marriage book—one that’s less about marriage and more about the gospel. And that, for me at least, is a welcome change of pace.


Title: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Authors: Francis and Lisa Chan
Publisher: Claire Love Publishing (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

New and noteworthy books

New-Noteworthy-09-2014

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan

In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

100% of the net profits from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards providing food, shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of orphaned children and exploited women in partnership with global charities.

And if you needed an additional reason to pick this one up…

You’re welcome.

Buy it at: Amazon


ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The latest edition to the ESV Bible family:

Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper

From horror flicks to rom-coms, the tales we tell and the myths we weave inevitably echo the narrative underlying all of history: the story of humanity’s tragic sin and God’s triumphant salvation. This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane Ortlund

Dane Ortlund invites us to explore the great eighteenth-century pastor’s central passion: God’s resplendent beauty. Whether the topic was the nature of love, the preeminence of Scripture, or the glory of the natural world, the concept of beauty stood at the heart of Edwards’s theology and permeated his portrait of the Christian life. Clear and engaging, this accessible volume will inspire you to embrace Edwards’s magnificent vision of what it means to be a Christian: enjoying and reflecting of the beauty of God in all things.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw

Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes a closer look at the key arguments skeptical scholars such as Ehrman keep repeating in radio interviews, debates, and in his their popular writings. If you are looking for insightful responses to critical arguments from a biblical perspective, easily accessible and thoughtfully presented, this book is for you. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive response to Ehrman’s popular works. It is presented in such a way that readers can either read straight through the book or use it as a reference when particular questions arise. Responding to skeptical scholars such as Ehrman, Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes readers on a journey to explain topics such as the Bible’s origins, the copying of the Bible, alleged contradictions in Scripture, and the relationship between God and evil. Written for all serious students of Scripture, this book will enable you to know how to respond to a wide variety of critical arguments raised against the reliability of Scripture and the truthfulness of Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon


God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Tom Jones by Fielding

This one’s a bit of a cheat since it’s about 200 years old and I bought it. But I bought it on the recommendation of Karen Swallow Prior.

Tom, a foundling, is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household; when his sexual escapades and general misbehavior lead them to banish him, he sets out in search of both his fortune and his true identity. Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called “the glorious lust of doing good,” but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in English fiction whose human virtues and vices are realistically depicted. This edition is set from the text of the Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding.

Buy it at: Amazon

When you’re gun-shy about discipling others

word-balloons

There’s this young guy I talk with most mornings at my daughter’s bus stop. He’s a really nice kid, not quite 25… but, man, is his life a mess (the details about which I won’t get into because, well, they’re none of your business). He’s also a professing Christian, and one who’s extremely young in his faith at that.

Both Emily and I have spoken with him regularly over the last several weeks. When I talk to him about things going on in his life, I tend to probe to find out how aware he is of what it means to follow Jesus, does he know what the Bible says on particular subjects, how aware he is of how his background affects his decision making.

He’s a really nice guy, and typically very forthcoming. For example, today Emily learned he plays Bible Roulette. Crack open the book, read wherever it falls. So she asked if I had a book I could give him on how to read the Bible.

But when she asked, I realized, reading a book on his own may not be the most helpful thing. What he needs is someone to actually work with him in learning how to read and study the Bible.

In other words, he needs someone to disciple him.

If I were doing this what would I work through with him? Francis Chan’s Multiply. As I said when I reviewed it at the beginning of the year, this isn’t really a book for individual reading—it’s a discipleship tool, and a really good one at that.

But can I be really honest? I’m terrified of even suggesting the idea to him. Why? Because discipleship is hard. There’s the time commitment, sure, but it’s the emotional investment… and the risk of failure. I’ve had mixed results in my efforts to disciple some other young men in the past (some of which I absolutely have to own), so it’s got me a bit nervous. What if I fail with this guy, too? What if he sees what the Bible says about any number of areas of life and says, “yeah, no”?

But maybe I’m overthinking it. And maybe this fear also brings to light something I need to remember myself: the results of any sort of discipleship relationship are not in my control. When I worry about “failing” this guy, what I’m really saying is I want to control the outcome. Or at a minimum, I want a guarantee that things will work out alright.

But God doesn’t give us those kinds of guarantees.

Nowhere does the Bible say that every relationship is going to result in good fruit. After all, the apostle Paul experienced this when men he considered his brothers in the faith and co-laborers abandoned him and turned against him—including Hymenaeus and Alexander whom he “handed over to Satan” so they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:20).

So why would I expect to have greater success than one of the authors of Scripture?

The thing I have to remember, again and again, is that I’m not responsible for the results of my efforts in this area. I can sow the seed, I can water, but only God is going to give growth. So that should probably be enough for me, shouldn’t it?

Around the Interweb

Give Them Grace

Tullian Tchividjian shares his foreword to the new book, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus:

It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children…and you should to. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that we’re responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.

The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants Christian parents to buy is the idea that grace is dangerous and therefore needs to be “kept it in check.” By believing this we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in the lives of our children. A “yes, grace…but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in their hearts. And if there’s anything God hates, it’s moralism!

I understand the fear of grace. As a parent of three children (Gabe is 16, Nate is 14, and Genna is 9), one of my responsibilities is to disciple them into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have (wrongly) concluded that the only way to keep licentious hearts in line is to give more rules. The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical unconditional acceptance of sinners.

The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s. In other words, the children who actually end up performing better are those who understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on their performance for Jesus, but Jesus’ performance for them.

Read the rest and order a copy of the book.

Also Worth Reading

Books: Francis Chan is writing new book, Erasing Hell. (If you’re wondering, yes, I will be reviewing the book.) Here’s a video explaining the book:

Giveaways: Tim Challies is giving away Iain Murray’s new biography on John MacArthur. Enter here.

Theology: Reading the Bible Backwards

Announcement: The winner of the Note to Self giveaway is Jesse Benack!

Ministry: Hiring Questions for Pastors

Teaching: Download Audio from All 38 TGC11 Workshops

Funny: Jon Acuff on referencing locusts whenever two or more bugs are present

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: You Need To Feed Yourself

Book Reviews: But God by Casey Lute and Note to Self by Joe Thorn

What Are You Reading this Summer?

Richard Phillips: Shall Not The Judge Of All The Earth Do What Is Just?

John Flavel on The Sincerity of Our Profession and the State of Our Hearts

Around the Interweb (12/26)

Partnering to Remember

 

Image via Tim Brister

A few weeks back, I wrote about the benefits of memorizing Scripture. Tim Brister wants to help you develop this discipline by partnering to memorize the entire book of Philippians by Easter 2011:

The goal is to memorize the entire book of Philippians by Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011) through partnering with other believers using the memory moleskine.  Paul praised the church in Philippi for their partnership in advance of the Gospel, and in the spirit of that partnership, this project intends to bring Christians together for the deepening work of God’s Word in their lives.  Simply put, we are partnering to remember.

Using the Cahier moleskine, we have created a pocket-size notebook that provides a practical and accessible way to memorize Scripture. Through collaboration with The Resurgence, a customized PDF has been created for you to download with a week-by-week outline for memorizing the book of Philippians in 16 weeks using the English Standard Version (ESV).  On one side of the moleskine you simply paste the week’s verses to memorize, and on the other side you write your reflections on the verses while indicating how many times you rehearsed them each day.

You can download the materials here.

Also Worth Reading…

 
Justin Buzzard: “The Gospel is not like dessert”

Ben Reed: “The art of small talk”

Desiring God: “An Open Letter to Clarence the Angel (from the film It’s a Wonderful Life)”

David Platt at CNN: “My take: Why my church rebelled against the American Dream”

CNN on Francis Chan: “Christian famous” pastor quits his church, moves to Asia”

In Case You Missed It…

 
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Charles Spurgeon’s 1859 Christmas message, “A Christmas Question”: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

William H. Smith: “When I look into the manger, I come away shaken as I realize…Christmas is disturbing.”

Book Review: Halfway Herbert by Francis Chan

“Herbert Hallweg was seven-and-a-half years old, three-and-a-half feet tall, and fifty-five-and-a-half pounds heavy. He had lots of friends, but none of them called him Herbert. Instead, everyone called him… Halfway Herbert.”

That’s how Francis Chan begins his children’s book, Halfway Herbert. Herbert only ever does things halfway. He brushes half his teeth, does half his homework, eats half his food and gets half the sleep he needs. So when he is riding his bike and is only half paying attention, he hits his dad’s car & decides to tell only half the truth… and gets caught in a whole lie. When his dad confronts him, he teaches Herbert that none of life isn’t meant to be lived halfway—especially our lives as Christians.

In this book, Chan does a terrific job of distilling the core message of Crazy Love into a powerful reminder of the importance of loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. That there’s no such thing as being halfway obedient to Christ—He demands all of us. Although we always follow imperfectly, even in that the Holy Spirit is making us more and more like Christ.

I was quite impressed when I read Halfway Herbert. It’s geared perfectly to children around ages 4-8 (my oldest daughter listened attentively as my wife read it to her before we secretly bought it as a Christmas gift)—but it also has a lot to teach adults. Our children learn as much from our example what it means to be a Christian as they do from reading the Bible themselves. And when they’re really young, they learn almost entirely from us. So what’s the example we’re setting? Do we live like people who are completely sold out for the cause of Christ… or are we, too, Halfway Herberts?

I’d highly encourage parents to pick up a copy of Halfway Herbert for their children. Read it together and encourage one another to live a life fully devoted to Christ.

Title: Halfway Herbert
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook

Think Hard, Stay Humble: Francis Chan on the Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride

Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Francis Chan’s message at Desiring God’s 2010 National Conference, Think Hard, Stay Humble, is incredibly challenging and more than a little convicting for me as one who is very much a “love the Lord with all your mind” kind of guy.

A few standout remarks from the notes:

Some of you in this room think really hard through the Scriptures. My challenge to you is, How hard do you think about people? About the lost? When was the last time you wept for the lost?

It’s so easy to seclude ourselves from the world of lost people. We step out of it for a season to think hard about the Scriptures and keep going on in school to learn more, and we eventually get to the point where we realize that we don’t love the lost like we should. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t pursue learning, but we ought to be able to do both, to love people and know the Bible better.

John MacArthur wrote years ago, “Knowledge is essential, but it’s not sufficient.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Some of you could be brilliant and worthless. You could be like a great basketball player that never misses a shot but always shoots at the other team’s basket. He’s a great shooter, but he’s killing the team.

Why did God gift you the way that he did? It’s for us, not for you. We should constantly be thinking, How can I build up other people?

Now here’s the big question that Chan’s talk has left me with:

Does my knowledge of God my study of theology lead to an increased love for God and for His people?

Am I “puffed up” by my knowledge of God—or does it break me?

Watch the message and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Francis Chan: "International Man of Fu Manchu Mystery"

Ever since he announced that he was leaving his pastorate at Cornerstone Church in Simi, California, it seems everyone’s been wondering, “What the heck is going on with Francis Chan?”

In a conversation with Francis Chan and Joshua Harris, Mark Driscoll asks, “Everybody thinks you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. You’ve got a good church going on and you hit the eject button and now you’re an international man of Fu Manchu mystery. What is going on? What are you thinking? And what’s going to happen to your church?”

You see Chan’s response in the video below:

HT: The Gospel Coalition

Truth and Lies: Francis Chan – The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice

Francis Chan is the bestselling author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God. Until recently, he was also the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. His message, The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice, was, perhaps, one of the most intriguing for me to see at the conference. Largely because I didn’t know where he was going to go with it.

Chan’s message found its foundation in Colossians 1:16:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

“We’ve been talking about one-ism and two-ism [at this conference],” said Chan. “Here’s the ultimate [example]: Everything was created for Him!”

Robbing God of His Glory

“Everything we do is to give God glory,” he continued. “Somehow everything I do should give glory to God and in the area of social justice it’s difficult. These are good things, but if we’re not careful but we can get lifted up instead of God.”

The bad part is there are times that I like it. In the last few years my life’s gotten really weird. Our American Christian rock star thing… it’s really messed with my heart at times. And the Lord’s shown me at times… I was at a pastor’s conference, and my face was on the magazine, and on posters and people were talking about me, and he impressed upon me, “You actually like that, don’t’ you? You actually enjoy the buzz of your name around the room?” [Read more…]

The Long Road to the Middle

Francis Chan vents about the rise of the evangelical “middle road:”

Every notice Chan’s ability to make you laugh while he’s smacking you upside the head? It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Anyway, his point is well taken. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV). Yet, somehow we’ve gotten this idea into our heads that we can read the Bible, but not do what it says.

As Chan puts it in the video clip, “When we play Simon says, the leader says ‘flap your wings,’ and you flap your wings. But follow Jesus is a totally different game. When Jesus tells you to flap your wings, you can just sit there and ‘do it in your heart.'”

I wonder if the confusion, and the creation of the evangelical middle road, can be chalked up to one thing:

Fear. [Read more…]

Of Whom the World is Not Worthy: Persecution in India

Francis Chan and Cornerstone Church recently shared this difficult but important message about the persecution of Christians in Orissa, India. An edited transcript follows:

For the last year, I’ve been hearing about the persecution of the pastors and missionaries and just the Christians in India, in the Orissa area, and my heart’s been stirred towards it.

Just recently, I saw a video fo the persecution, and I just wasn’t ready for it.

I thought I understood what was going on over there, and then I saw the video and… I wanted to throw up when I was done watching. It caused me to question everything in my life—I mean everything. Everything about me, everything about church.

When I saw these men of god being beaten… I’ve never seen someone being beaten to death, I’ve never seen people getting mobbed. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen death in a violent manner. And when it’s the real thing, it just makes you sick. You knew it was going on, but… I can’t explain it.

It made me really sick to think of people that may lift me up because I have a gift of communication or some other Christian who has an ability to sing or play an instrument and how we lift these people up as our heroes, or great writers when these are the ones that… their lives look like Christ.

When I talk to the people in India that are going through it… they’re not asking for money, they’re just asking that we would remember them, that we would pray for them. They’re saying many people are converting out of Christianity out of fear. People are saying, “Look, if you get out of Christianity, we won’t do this to you.” People are scared, and they’re saying “Would you pray for us, for courage.”

And I don’t know what emotions go through your mind when you see some of these images, but what they’re asking for is, “Would you channel that toward prayer for us?”

I mean, you’ve listened to me speak for the last three or four minutes…

Could you spend the next three or four minutes praying for our brothers and sisters in India?

[Read more…]

Book Review: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Depending on who you talk to, the Holy Spirit is either overly discussed or utterly neglected. Francis Chan would be firmly in the latter group.

“[W]hat if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? .  . . [Y]ou would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive,” writes Chan (p. 16). And that’s why Chan wrote Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit—to help believers recapture the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life.

Running on Fumes

Chan feels that we have lost a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have neglected Him. This neglect has caused us to look and act no differently than our surrounding culture. But this should not be. Chan writes,

If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (p. 32)

In this assessment, I think Chan is right on. If our lives do not have a marked difference in any way aside from what we do on Sunday morning, perhaps we have some bigger questions to ask ourselves, no? If we were dead but now live, there should be some kind of marked difference in how we live, what we think and how we speak… shouldn’t there?

Absolutely, there should. And it’s only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This is a truth that we dare not take for granted and I appreciate Chan highlighting it.

The Spirit’s Work

Chan does a solid job of reminding readers of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, a “He,” not an “it.” He is God; eternal & holy; omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He has emotions, a mind and a will. He prays for us. He teaches and reminds us of what we we need to know. He applies our salvation to our lives. Chan wants these truths to lead readers “to a deeper relationship with and a greater reverence for the Spirit—that good theology would lead you to right action, genuine love, and true worship” (p. 77).

Chan encourages readers to read John 14-16, to notice “how Christ desires that His disciples have peace and how He comforts His disciples with the truth that they are not left alone” (p. 110). He continues,

Part of His answer to how we are to have peace and be comforted is through the provision of the Holy Spirit, the other Counselor, who He promised would come once He left.

Having read these chapters, I notice that the peace that comes with the Holy Spirit is the fuller knowledge of what it means to be grafted into the vine (cf. John 15:1-11), and it’s the Spirit who does the grafting. The Spirit brings us peace and comfort by giving us the words to act as witnesses to the gospel, even as the Spirit Himself bears witness to Christ (cf. John 15:26-27). Truly, the Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus and to guide us into truth:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

A Life of Obedience

The heart of Chan’s message is that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ, to the glory of the Father. We must not quench His work in our lives, caring more for comfort than for holiness. To walk by the spirit is to live a life that is counter cultural and often antithetical to the world in which we live.

But, it’s one thing to talk about what “walking by the Spirit” can be, and another to show it.

Where Chan best illustrates this is in the wonderful biographical sketches of men and women whose lives have been completely transformed as they’ve sought to obey the Spirit’s leading. These serve as testimonies to the truth that the Christian life is one that glorifies God in extraordinary ways.

A married couple in their 50s, Domingo & Irene, fostered thirty-two children and adopted sixteen. A teenage girl who works multiple jobs all summer to sponsor 14 children. Thomas Yun, who gave up a fortune in the restaurant business to work at a rescue mission because he believed that God was calling him to serve there.

These are the stories that move me and inspire me, probably more so than the rest of the book (no offense to the author).

The Primary Voice

What I find lacking is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Chan writes that Spirit “teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember” (p. 74), but I think this needed to be more than a bullet point. God’s written Word is the primary means through which God speaks to His people—it is the Spirit who gives us the ability to understand them. It’s through the hearing of the Word that the Spirit’s primary active role takes place, bringing the spiritually dead to life, sealing them as God’s people and sanctifying them (cf. Eph 1:13), all serving to glorify Jesus.

If Scripture is the primary means by which God speaks, it should probably have a more prominent role in any discussion on the Spirit’s work. I would have really enjoyed seeing Chan address this a little more, in addition to focusing on the “private nudging” of the Spirit (which is where he spends the bulk of his time).

Is the Holy Spirit Forgotten?

In Forgotten God, Francis Chan reminds readers just how much we need the Holy Spirit. “There is no such thing as a real believer who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, or a real church without the Spirit. It’s just not possible,” writes Chan. Without the Spirit’s active presence in our lives, we cannot live a life of obedience to Christ. The question for you is, is the Holy Spirit forgotten in your life?

Read the book. It’s challenging and there are likely parts you’ll disagree with, but it’s worth investigating.


 

Title: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David Cook

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

A Living Sacrifice

We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we can need. The good things we cling to are more than money. We hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we begin to see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words, “Thank you.”

Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I’m listening to Francis Chan’s Crazy Love while I’m writing this. This is a very challenging and convicting book, to be sure. It’s about taking the words of the Bible seriously. About living like Jesus really matters to you.

As I’ve been listening to Chan speak, I am reminded of Paul’s words, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1), and I find myself asking, “What am I holding back?”

A question that’s been on my mind today has been, “How much of myself should I be giving away here, on a blog, for anyone to see? How much of myself should I share with those around me?”

And the answer I keep coming to is, “All of me.”

If my life is not my own, how can I not share who I am & what God is teaching me with others, not just here, but with those closest to me?

If my life is not my own, what risks am I willing to take for the sake of the gospel?

Big questions with answers that have some scary implications.

So here’s my question for you, dear reader; do see your life as not your own?

If so, what risk are you willing to take for the sake of the gospel today?

Sunday Shorts (07/05)

Crazy Love: Free Audiobook of the Month

Francis Chan’s much talked about Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God is this month’s free audiobook at ChristianAudio.com.

Here’s the video introduction to the book:

Use the coupon code JUL2009 to get this audiobook for free.

Why Do the New Calvinists Insist on Complementarianism?

Kevin DeYoung recently took some time to respond to the question of why the “new” Calvinists insist on complemetarianism. Here’s a snippet:

I think you can be a Calvinist and an egalitarian. My denomination–the one I grew up in and have always been a part of–strongly supports egalitarianism. This is very problematic to me. I can understand why some would leave an egalitarian denomination, but I don’t think egalitarianism necessitates that one must leave. For the time being, I am content to work with, through, and in my denomination, where both views are at the table (though my view is usually put at a card table somewhere in the basement far away from the corridors of power).

But (you knew there was a “but” coming) I am glad that the network of “New Calvinist” organizations and conferences have made complementarianism a plank in their platform. I can live in a church environment without this doctrinal boundary, but I think it would be better to have it.

Read the rest at Kevin’s blog.

The Gospel Coalition Serves Pastors – C. J. Mahaney

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In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Watchmen How does Ezekiel’s call to preach repentance to Israel apply to believers today?

Book Review: The Truth War Reviewing John MacArthur’s call to contend for the faith.

Reflections on the Old Testament What have I taken away from my brief study of the Old Testament? Anticipation.