Monday, March 24

Identity Struggles

I have been enjoying The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner. I found these words in his preface refreshing and stimulating:

"In all of creation, identity is a challenge only for humans. A tulip knows exactly what it is. It is never tempted by false ways of being. Nor does it face complicated decisions in the process of becoming. So it is with dogs, rocks, trees, stars, amoebas, electrons, and all other things. All give glory to God by being exactly what they are. For in being what God means them to be, they are obeying him. Humans, however, encounter a more challenging existence...

"With a little reflection, most of us can become aware of masks we first adopted as strategies to avoid feelings of vulnerability but that have become parts of our social self. Tragically, we settle easily for pretense, and a truly authentic self often seems illusory.

"There is, however, a way of being for each of us that is as natural and deeply congruent as the life of the tulip.... Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity."

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, (and I paraphrase), "I wouldn't give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would stake my life on simplicity on the far side of complexity." I feel that phrase "simplicity on the far side of complexity" may be something of a "life-phrase" for me, to coin a term. 

I long for the kind of simplicity Benner's talking about, a simplicity of identity--on the far side of complexity. Jesus has been discipling me through a long, sometimes arduous journey which I believe will eventually lead there--at least, that is my hope. 

Wednesday, March 19

A Very Important Book for the Church

Most people today agree something is seriously wrong with the church, because people in it seem little different than people outside the church. Christiandom today has some pretty major flaws. People have been leaving local churches in droves, and Christian leaders have struggled to know what to do about it. I'm oversimplifying quite a bit, of course, but I think you have an idea of what I'm getting at.

The Great Omission is not only the easiest of Willard's books I have ever read, but I believe one of his most important. That's hard to say, because all of his have been very important. But to me this book, actually a collection of lectures, gets at the heart of Willard's contribution.

He addresses what is wrong with our current understanding and practice of the Gospel, and particularly of Jesus' great commission to make disciples. I think he gives a powerful post-mortem of Christian discipleship, showing we have actually omitted the heart of that, and yet presenting a clarity that should, if we follow it, bring true Christian discipleship back to life.

I think Willard presents some of the clearest teaching on discipleship, what it is, and what it isn't, that I've ever found. I will put it alongside Coleman's Master Plan of Evangelism as my top two books on practical ministry, and see how it holds up. Of course, being written by a philosopher, it's not exactly brimming with practicals. But he lays out the principles so clearly that I would say it's chock full of pointers with very practical implications.

I would love to hear what others of you think of this book. For now, it's going in my top 5 recent books. I think predict it will stay there for a long time...

Tuesday, March 11

It's more blessed to give...

“In some sense the most benevolent, generous person in the world seeks his own happiness in doing good to others; because he places his own happiness in their good. His mind is so enlarged as to take them, as it were, into himself. Thus when they are happy, he feels it; he partakes with them, and is happy in their happiness.” —Jonathan