What Do We Do With God?

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.51.34 PMA BOOK REVIEW
I was immediately captivated by the quote on the back cover. “We fell in love with Jesus. Then we had to decide what to do with God.” Singer and songwriters Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens in their book Transcending Mysteries: Who God Is, and What Does He Want From Us? take us on a journey of reconciling the seemed differences many of us struggle with between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New.

They begin the book with the paradox of desiring to surrender to God but not fully comprehending Him. BUT, “As we read, studied, researched, and opened our minds to God’s unyielding interactions wit the Israelites, we . . . discovered a relationship driven by love.”

I found the vulnerability of both authors to be the most compelling feature of this book. It allowed me (and I’m sure many other readers) to feel like I wasn’t alone and that God’s love and grace was available to me even at my worse.

“I tend to make decisions out of a need to control, fostering an environment of dizzying anxiety.”

“I still wonder if God loves me.”

“Feeling the weight of regret, my emotions surfaced, producing a pesky lump in my throat and blurry eyes.”

“If my journey had been different, my songs would have been different as well.”

The provided lyrics from their songs enhance each chapter and the artist inside of me resonated with each word of complaint, praise, questioning and exaltation. This book would make a welcome addition to any Christian’s bookshelf BUT especially those of us who yearn to know Him more but often find it difficult because His ways are often above our ways and just don’t make sense. I received this book for free from publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange of my honest opinion.

Andrew-and-Ginny-940x529

 

 

Distant Deity

DD1A BOOK REVIEW

In his new book Aloof, author Tony Kriz takes us on the journey of “finding a God who hides” with transparent and personal stories interweaved with great quotes, poetry, and intriguing artwork provided by artist Jonathan Case.

Right away, I knew I was going to love the book. I could relate with the raw honesty of Tony’s writing style, thoughts and questions that many of us (if we were honest) have asked ourselves:

“What are we to do with a companion who hides?”

“There are long stretches where he is wholly silent and at least a few moments where he is as loud as a hangover.”

“Sometimes I wonder if this someone, the person that this book is about, actually exists.”

Tony talks about the struggle of performing busy Christian duties in the hopes of getting God’s attention. Our exhausting business often results in a God that must be “to busy to bother” with us. This aloofness, he says, is “leading to an unprecedented exodus out of churches . . . It is causing faith famine.”

He makes sure to point out that many have acquired a skewed theology along the way – perhaps maybe it’s not God who is standing at a distance. “There is an over obsession with seeing the ways of God in terms of people just like me . . . no matter how much interpretative gymnastics those beliefs require,” he suggests. In fact, he even points out that many of us are probably quite content with God being silent and not interrupting our world and plans.

One of my favorite chapters in the book explores the disservice to God and His image that is often exemplified in some of our churches. He talks about the conjuring up of “God’s presence” at our gatherings. We fill our “church calendars with well fashioned outreaches, elaborate programs, and improved mechanisms for entertainment,” Kriz offers. And then he knocks it out of the park: “If God is real, maybe the mechanisms of spiritual longing already exist all around us. Now if we could only be attune to it.” He ends the chapter by heralding a much needed axiom: “what would happen if we just lived so that we were prayerfully prepared to be WITH (my emphasis) people in the God-longing moments that seem to happen all to regularly in this broken and cover_1hurting world?” Once again, he shares from his own story and encourages us to “live in their space” and “walk the rhythms of their world.” God’s presence should be seen by the way we live, sacrifice and love!

There is a wealth of intriguing questions and spiritual advice on every page. Some of the greatest encouragement I gained from the book came from the “betrothal discussion” between Tony and his friend Josh – look it up! If you want to be challenged beyond the “lovely little tight answers” to life’s eternal questions and want to embrace the mystery of a God who is challenging to comprehend but altogether loving, do not wait – pick up your own copy of the book this week! I received this book for free  from publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange of my honest opinion.

My Top Six

It was an exciting reading year for me. I broke a personal record by reading forty-two new books. For those who may be looking for a new addition for your own bookshelf, here are my Top Six reads/ recommendations of 2014.

61XHYWAQeYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Yawning at Tigers
Author: Drew Dyck
An amazing read and a superlative text displaying the harmony of God’s perilous mystery and love. The first section of the book in and of itself is well worth anyone’s time. I highly recommend it’s potent message to all those who pastor and have the responsibility to share the Good News and challenge their congregations to make a difference in their neighborhoods and the world.
MY COMPLETE REVIEW | AMAZON | GOODREADS

51fJeKOSd4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Kidding Ourselves
Author: Joseph T. Hallinan
One of the best books I read this year has got to be Joseph T. Hallinan’s “Kidding Ourselves.” The book explores the ways in which we deceive ourselves and how the self-deception often allows us to adjust to the stresses of life. The author does an incredible job of sharing intriguing stories and sound statistics to present the power of the human mind to shape reality.
MY COMPLETE REVIEW | AMAZON | GOODREADS


41l+5WuzS5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Next: Pastoral Succession That Works

Authors: William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird
The advice and wisdom shared within the pages of this book is nothing but brilliant! Every pastor should consider reading this together with their elder/staff leadership because pastoral succession is one of the most overlooked yet one of the most important conversations and decisions a church will ever face.
MY COMPLETE REVIEW | AMAZON | GOODREADS


41FI4GwrsoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Author: Greg McKeown
I found this book to be packed full of great leadership skills and insight on how not just to do things right but how to do them best. If we want our churches to impact our community and if we want to make a marked difference in the lives of others, we must be churches of essentialism!
MY COMPLETE REVIEW | AMAZON | GOODREADS


13799973Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

Authors: E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible is a must read for every pastor and Bible student! Begin tp see the Bible in a new light rather than being blinded by our contemporary Western biases.
AMAZON | GOODREADS

 

61z2upEqVmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Happiness of Pursuit
Author: Chris Guillebeau
Every once in a while a book comes along that motivates us to embrace life and then there are those special books that reminds us that we are doing matters and encourages us not to give up. Chris Guillebeau’s new book does both! For me personally, the book was a reassurance that my recent quest of blogging and writing my first book is exactly what I should be pursuing.
MY COMPLETE REVIEW | AMAZON | GOODREADS

A More Beautiful GOD

“The GOD Soliloquy came about from my ceaseless, lifelong search for a sensible explanation to all the ills we seem to face in this world. I have been searching for answers right from childhood for more than five decades.” ~Gopi Menon

71xfxrGB1ML._SL1257_A BOOK REVIEW
The GOD Soliloquy leads us on a spiritual journey into the mind and heart of author Gopi Menon. Written in the first person as though God was speaking, we find a spiritual construct of hope – one person’s quest to answer the tough questions of belief and life.

Menon encourages his readers to “use their own critical independent thinking and not just accept everything blindly” because “this is what GOD has gifted us with – free will and choice to think independently.” It is no wonder why the author and many of us have sought out truth on our own. Most of us, like Menon, had someone tell us “to stop asking such questions and just accept what was told.” He even rightfully warns us that some “unscrupulous people
used the fear of their god and claim “that they alone” know what it is that god truly wants.

I am a follower of Christ and yet I found this reading insightful and affirming of my own spiritual path in many ways. Here are a few of the author’s comments and my takeaways from each: (Don’t forget, Menon is speaking in first person as GOD.)

ON HEAVEN
“HEAVEN – do you really think that it makes sense for me to create a place of total tranquility and peace for ETERNITY to reward humans for what they do, during this short lifetime?”

That would seem ludicrous, wouldn’t it? My faith is so much more than a “free trip” to heaven. My faith offers an abundant life on earth and a kingdom that we can participate in now and ultimately culminate in heaven. I’ll explain more in a few.

“We believe that we are sinners and can make it to heaven only by means of lots of penance and sacrifices! These are all beliefs that came about from the false teachings we absorbed at a very young age.”

I believe in a God of grace and mercy. He (God) may call for us to sacrifice to see His kingdom of love, beauty, peace, and restoration fulfilled in the lives of others BUT I believe it is because of HIS sacrifice that we find hope.

ON GOD
The idea of god coming down to earth to answer each person’s prayers just because god is pleased with the rituals prescribed by religions is too far-fetched.”

I was taught similar things from an early age and found them to be wanting. God’s ways are above our ways and the beauty of His kingdom reaches far beyond our petty rituals and religious platitudes.

Like a good parent, GOD loves us unconditionally; his blessings are with us always; we do not have to keep beseeching him for his blessings; he does not need physical sacrifices from us; and GOD would be happy to see us make the most of ourselves while enjoying the world he has provided us with.”

As mentioned before, I believe that He does call us to sacrifice but not in the ways many religions suggest. Other than that, I completely agree with Menon’s statement. He IS a God of unconditional love and if we’d just open our eyes, we might see the amazing blessings He has provided us and in turn share them with others.

ON “IMAGO DEI” or BEING CREATED IN HIS IMAGE AS CO-CREATORS
I have so designed the world that you can create your own reality! I have given you some of my powers and made you a Co-Creator!” “The other side of the coin is that you can use your great powers to destroy, to maim, to enslave, etc. and many of you have also chosen to do so!”

Many religions and (sad to say) many believers of the “same” God I have put my trust in, frequently use their God-given gifts as tools of hatred, deceit, power, and destruction rather than being co-creators and embracing their “imago dei.” I believe that we were created to create beautiful new realities all around us – to enter the stories of others and help bring joy, peace, hope, restoration and love to those we meet each day. We were made to make a difference!

Dear Gopi Menon:

We may not see things exactly the same but I would have to agree with much of your thesis. I too believe that there is a much better way and I have experienced many who “begin to think of religion as being more important than the people it was meant to serve, and became more inclined to protect their religion rather than protect the people.”

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to review your book and catch a glimpse of your spiritual journey. Books like these help me continue asking the hard questions and point me towards a more glorious Gospel.

Your View of Jesus/God: EXPRESS Yourself!

series125Here it is . . . Question #3 from our New Dawn Narrative Collection: What is your view of God and/or Jesus?

Here are the responses I received.  Read.  Enjoy.  Then share!! (Do you Agree/ Disagree?)

View of God: Does he exist? Maybe? I don’t really know but there is nothing that I have personally seen that gives me definitive proof that He exists. I am also open to the idea that He exists but has got bored with humanity or isn’t listening anymore or something like that. Or maybe He just likes to watch us and take notes. I have no idea. If He really loved us I think its high time He gave us a real purpose instead of letting us run around like chickens with our heads cut off. If God personally came down to earth, clearly visible to everybody, undeniably real and all-powerful and loving and said “I created you to go to the moon, go there”, there would be colonies on the moon within 2 years, tops. This is just an example of course.

View of Jesus: Did he exist? I believe that he existed as a person. I don’t know anything more than that. Maybe he had divine power. Maybe he was the son of God. Maybe he was a wizard or magician or a time traveler or an alien or a mutant like from X-Men. He was on earth so long ago that there’s really no way to tell. And to me, it really doesn’t matter. It’s great storytelling, Jesus’ tales are pretty neat what with the healing and walking on water and the earthquakes and clairvoyance, never mind the resurrection part. I don’t care who or what he was or where he was from, the bottom line he brought to the table to me is peace. Stop killing each other, stop putting everybody down, live life without regrets and don’t be afraid when your time is up. The whole “The only way into heaven is through me” thing? Not so important to me.

They represent love and understanding. One of the most beautiful things about our Saviour is his forgiveness and mercy. We are all sinners and not worth of salvation but he still provides a simple path to it.They exist, They love their creation, and want them to be happy which is why we have laws… although I think it can get confusing because some ppl say if you break a law your going to hell. I think it’s like breaking a parents rule, you’ll get in trouble but that doesn’t mean there going to kick you out. However you can go so deep lets say become a drug addict who sells their stuff, other ppl’s stuff maybe their own body to get drugs in which loving parents would kick you out and or try to get you help. If you drifted so far from God often a lot of stuff happens to you. Now I do think God puts in his hand in these situations sometimes and sometimes just you wanting to clean up for his, or your sake will also get you cleaned up. Even if he does nothing directly your belief and his guidelines can get you through a lot.

I still believe in the trinity. Still believe God sent his son to die so we could be saved. I don’t believe in the scare tactics to get people saved anymore. Can it work for some people ?? yes. but If you read the bible Judgment only came when people didn’t listen or sinned. God is a God of love not hate, rejection and unforgiveness. Jesus walked with sinners to save them not cast them out or look down on them. His example should be our example. we should love people for who they are not what they can offer the church.

I do not particularly believe in God, however I do believe in a “Higher Being” no matter what He be. Whether he be God, Buddha, Allah, whatever.. God is God. Every religion has his own and who are we to depict which one is the “true” God when they are all generally based upon the same form of higher being?

I feel there is a higher being, God being the most obvious name to me. Jesus, however you want to classify him, is an important figure in regards to religion and could be used interchangeably with “God”