The Jesus Experiment - Book Review

“WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?) is a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. Yet it almost seems cliché to ask the question. But before we DO something, we are thinking something, and feeling something, both of which potentially impact how we do something.    When I’m in a specific situation where I have a choice to make, I have rarely stopped to ask myself “what would Jesus THINK?” or “what would Jesus FEEL?”

The book The Jesus Experiment, by Bill Perkins, brought the mental aspect of being like Jesus to my attention.  Conforming my thoughts and feelings to those of what Jesus might think or feel impacts what I will say and do.   To get such a grip at the very front on my thoughts and feelings would truly be life-transforming and this book was just what I needed to begin moving my head in this direction. 

Bill Perkins states that the purpose of the book is to show how to have a real-time on-going connection with Christ so we can test His promise to give us abundant life. If we line up our feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds to be guided by Jesus, we will experience the abundant life He offers.  He dares us to try the experiment and see what happens.  But be aware that the abundant life is not based on a health/wealth prosperity-gospel life.  Rather, the abundant life (by his definition based on Scripture) consists of having our basic needs met, a life of power and purpose, a circle of close and trusted friends, and accomplishing God’s will. 

This practical book is divided into twelve weeks of looking at what Jesus did and thought in private, in public, and with people, with each chapter ending in reflection and Bible study.  Each chapter looks at some aspect of what Jesus would feel, think, say and do in the situation we are in and comparing it to what we are feeling, thinking, saying, and doing.  Does it line up? If not, how can we prepare for the next time we’re in a similar situation?

As Bill Perkin’s personably and honestly relayed his own weaknesses, he encouraged me to keep striving even as I lament how much unlike Jesus I am. I must note that I disagreed theologically with his interpretation of what Jesus laid aside when he came to earth as referenced in Philippians 2:5-8 (I think it was status, not divine attributes), but he is still able to make his point soundly with other Scripture passages that point to how Jesus depended completely on the Father.  I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. 

Doing "Whatever"

You might think no one notices, but they do.  You might think your hard work, your integrity, and choosing the right thing when no one is there to see are invisible before the world.  But maybe it’s not.

You might think only God notices when you do “whatever” for His glory – and that is good enough, but it would feel more fruitful if the “whatever” impacted the world for Him and produced visible fruit.  Maybe when you think you are invisible, you really aren’t.  

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the floor next to my closet in my bedroom, tying my tennis shoes for a hike in the woods.  My twelve-year-old nephew walked in unexpectantly from outside through the sliding glass door of my bedroom and was startled when he saw me.  He apologized profusely, over and over, and I kept telling him it was okay.  Still apologizing, I tried to re-assure him, checking to make sure I really was wearing pants or a shirt, that he hadn’t actually walked in on me half-naked. Not sure what he thought he saw, I finally informed him I was just putting on my shoes and it really wasn’t a big deal, to come on in.  Relief replaced the guilt on his face as he crossed the threshold and said, “Oh! Okay, I thought you were praying.” 

As I thought more about it later, he must have thought I was praying when I was actually putting on shoes because he had caught me down on the floor in my bedroom before, on my face in desperate submission before God, unaware I had been observed. I have been doing that a lot lately. 

One day this summer at work, I was overseeing a driller as he probed deep holes into the ground to evaluate the extent of contamination from an underground chemical.  While the sun cooked us at 110 degrees that afternoon, he continued to labor hard, all by himself on a two-man job, never once complaining.  Early into the evening at the last hole, we plopped on the grass with exhaustion, waiting for the results so we would know if the day’s work was finished or more holes were needed.  He smiled cheerfully and announced, “I’m really praying this one will be clean.” I was too!

I knew immediately his brightness and work ethic originated from the light of Jesus in him.  I will likely never see him again, but I will never forget he worked hard without a single gripe on a miserable day conducting mundane, tedious work that may have seemed senseless.   He may think it went unnoticed, but it impacted me.  I’m sure God was proud of him that day and all the angels were applauding because he was doing his “whatever” for the glory of God.

You might think what you do every day is insignificant. But He wants us to do “whatever” it is that we are doing for His glory (I Corinthians 10:31).

And who knows just what people see in us on a day-to-day basis? Whether checking out at the grocery store, typing a report, taking care of our homes, loving our husbands, or teaching our children –  our efforts will not go unnoticed. And even should you think they do, God and a whole realm of the unseen are watching you on the stage of your life and He and the angels are yelling “encore!!” while you are doing “whatever” for the glory of God.

Afraid to Believe in Free Will - Book Review

I never thought about free will outside the realm of theology, so I was confused as I started reading the book Afraid to Believe in Free Will by Carl E. Begley.  Rather than an Arminian versus Calvinism argument, it is focused on free will in the discipline of psychology.
Since this was a new concept to me (the psychological aspect of free will versus determinism), I needed some definitions up front to know what the author was discussing.  Who really believes that we are predispositioned to turn out the way we are, that our choices are already determined? Free will upsets psychology, which is based on a system of fixed relations.
By the time I got to the second chapter, I was asking who was afraid of free will (as defined psychologically, not theologically)? What’s to be afraid of? Isn’t free will obvious? But he points out how much our culture and media are opposed to the idea of free will by searching out root causes for destructive behavior. A violent crime is committed because the perpetrator’s past as a victim of child abuse or an alcoholic – well, the explanation of whether or not an alcoholic has free will boggles my mind. The author says, “It would help if the media would stop affirming all the excuses and send the message that the person acting destructively is responsible for the bad consequences.”
He goes on to say that he estimates that 30 percent of our behavior is not free, but determined.  “We need to know when we are powerless and have to rely on outside help; we need to know when we have the power and responsibility to act on our own, without making excuses.”
Finally he approached the theological argument in the latter part of chapter 3. He claims that Jonathan Edwards and R.C. Sproul resist the importance of free will and rely so intently on emphasizing God’s sovereignty that they leave no place for human faculties.  When the creature is diminished, the Creator is more glorious. The author says, “Taking this to its logical conclusion, we have to say that it is more glorious of God to create a creature with little or no free will than to create a human with authentic free will.” This isn’t the logical conclusion for me!  He further accuses them of making so much of the irresistibility of grace that there is no place for free will.
This book is very academic and requires complete concentration.  It’s deep. I confess I skimmed the parts that didn’t interest me (a couple entire chapters). The biggest thought that I take away from this book is how often do I rely so much on the sovereignty of God that I fail to acknowledge my own responsibility or even take action? In a seminary or college setting, there is much material here for students to discuss and argue.
To comply with regulations by the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, I am disclosing that BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Going Deep - Book Review

Don’t be intimidated by the title of this book.  When I selected to review the book Going Deep, by Gordon MacDonald, I had no idea that the book would shake me awake from my doze into the land of mediocrity.  Tomorrow’s church is headed for trouble without an abundance of “deep people,” according to the author, who bases the premise of his book around Richard Foster’s statement that there is a desperate need today “not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”    Through a fictional account of a pastor and the people in his New England church, the author explains his points in an entertaining style.
The idea of what it means to cultivate deep people and how to accomplish it is illustrated through the dialog of a core group of people who have a dream of ensuring their church is sustainable in the years to come.  Deep people are people who have a reverence for Jesus, care for others, remain calm with certainty in the face of difficulty, make Christ and spiritual things real to others, and are someone people look to for inspiration, guidance, and assurance.  Deep people don’t just happen – they must be cultivated, nurtured, and trained.  The story continues in sharing the steps of how this church took action into growing deep people through a diverse group of people with differing personalities.
While this book was long, it was a joy to read.  The short chapters and writing style made it easy to pick up and read a few minutes here and there.  Besides, I always think it is fun to study and learn when you don’t even realize you are doing it – to get lost in a story of another life but find perspective and ideas to pull back into my own.  If you are looking for something to inspire you to be a better spiritual leader or searching for ideas on how to disciple people, I highly recommend this book.
To comply with regulations by the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255, I am disclosing that BookSneeze® provided me a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.