Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Disappearance of God & Eyes Wide Open

I've been giving a lot of thought to how God is working in my life lately, and Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite (review below) really clarified things for me. In junior high, high school, and even in my early twenties, I can't count the amount of times I prayed to Jesus to come into my heart and take over my life. I'd read about salvation moments and how a person's entire life would change, feel clean, want to follow God's will, and be a better person. I remember lying in bed and just hating everything about my life. I hated that I wasn't a better person and that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to be any better. I knew that having Jesus in my heart would make things better; I'd heard it enough in church to know it was true. I prayed asking Jesus to save me and pledging to turn my life over to Him. I figured I'd wake up in the morning and be a whole new person, but it never happened. I still woke up the same old Christy and couldn't decide if I wasn't good enough for Him to save or if He just didn't exist.

It wasn't until 30 that I did have my salvation experience, and I did feel completely clean and changed. The first person I called was my father, and he warned me that the feeling wouldn't stick. I would go back to feeling guilty and facing temptation. Dad was right, as usual, but this time something had changed: I had Jesus to help me fend off those feelings, and when I did give in to temptation, I knew just how to get rid of the guilt. When I prayed all those years ago, I wasn't asking God to come into my life and help me live differently, I wanted Him to take complete control of me making sure that I wouldn't make any more mistakes. I was so sick of making mistakes and disappointing people, I wanted to turn it all over to Him and not deal with it any more. It wasn't until I was willing to work with Him that He took me up on my offer to take up permanent residence in my heart.

Like Wilhite says in Eyes Wide Open, I wasn't willing to let God work on me. I wanted salvation to be a big, one time deal with immediate results. I thought it would ensure that I would never swear, lose my temper, gossip, feel hatred, etc. But God doesn't work that way, Wilhite compares it to restoring furniture. First you have to be stripped down before you can be built up, and it takes hard work and long hours. Today, five years after Jesus became my best friend, I am a much different person than I was, but I am still far from the person I want to be. I know that the creation of that person is a lifelong effort, and when it's finished, I won't be a perfect person here on earth, I'll be a perfect resident of Heaven. I figure I'll have an incredibly long life, because He has quite a bit to work out in my yet, but I've finally learned to start enjoying the journey.

The Disappearance of God by R. Albert Mohler Jr is a stark look at how the church has been transforming into the image of popular culture instead of the other way around. Mohler tackles some tough issues like the emerging church, discipline within the church, and moral relativism. The book has some terrific points, but it felt much like a college lecture. I wanted Mohler to start speaking in layman's terms and create more of a conversation than a lecture. If you can wade through the high language, you'll find some excellent arguments about how the church is failing its people and vice versa. I learned a great deal about the emergent church and how church discipline is supposed to work. I am concerned with how Mohler is addressing this topic however. I think that a lot of older members of the church will love this book and it will be preaching to the choir. However, the younger members of the church do want a more loving, compassionate church. Generations X and Y tend to communicate in a different way than previous generations, and while that doesn't excuse forgetting about the core of what Christianity is about: Christ's divinity and the Trinity, the church does need to find a new way to speak so those members will listen and want to be a part of it. Mohler's church seems to exclude them and want to discipline them right out the door.

Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite is a beautiful look at just how much God loves each and every one of us. This book was such a joy to read. Wilhite uses Scripture after Scripture to show the loving nature of God and just how much He really wants a personal relationship with each of us. By reminding readers that they are members of a royal priesthood and God's own possession, he offers a wonderful gift that sometimes gets lost in the message of Christianity. Yes, we are sinful, but He loves us anyway, loves us huge, beyond anything our minds can imagine. He uses stories of people like Evil Kneivel and Johnny Cash to show what God's real love looks like, along with personal anecdotes. The true loving face of Jesus shows on each page and in every story, like the one about the former stripper who goes into strip clubs and pays girls for their time to talk to them and share the Gospel. Sometimes faith doesn't look like we expect it to, but we need to judge a tree by its fruit. I will be looking forward to more books by this author. This is a book to take to your heart and then pass on to a friend.

Today is your last day to sign up to win a copy of Never the Bride. You don't want to miss out on this fun romance, so send me an email before 10 pm tonight. I'll announce the winner here tomorrow.