Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Real by Jamie Snyder

This book was given to me by Bethany House to read and write a review about.

I really did intend to write a few blog posts in between the book reviews, but it hasn't happened.  This book review however will likely reflect a fair amount of the thoughts I have been pondering lately anyway.

This is a book I would highly recommend to everyone.  I feel like I need to flip right back to the front cover and start reading all over again.

The subtitle is "Becoming a 24/7 follower of Jesus" and his all-consuming question throughout the whole book is this: "If Sunday didn't exist, would anyone know you are a follower of Jesus?" Now, I'm going to take a few liberties here to expound on this question in ways that Jamie didn't touch, but I don't think Jamie is Mennonite.  As Mennonite ladies we stand out in the crowd and I am pretty sure that is not the way that Jamie intended.  We look like Mennonites every day of the week, but do we look like Christians?  Do we have love and joy reflected on our faces from what is shining out of our hearts? Or do we just have religion?

Listen to his description on the difference between relationship and religion:  "Religion is defined by rules and regulations, but a relationship is built upon intimacy.  Religion can be scheduled; relationship is spontaneous.  Religion is about measuring up; relationship is about growing deeper.  Religion is man-made; relationship with Jesus is God-ordained.  Religion is predictable; relationship is passionate.  Religion earns the applause of men; a relationship with Jesus results in the applause of heaven."  So my question to you is:  which are you in?

He gives several qualities of a true Christ follower--one who worships every day of the week.  These qualities are a bit radical, but I think every last one is needed in the life of a true Christian and every last one of them touched me and convicted me of areas I need to improve in.

Unbridled generosity:  giving and giving--it's all His anyway.
Daring courage:  are we willing to be like Peter and John and risk imprisonment or worse because of our faith and our teaching.  How do I respond to the unpredictable in life: the lost job, the terminal illness, etc?  "Some people pretend to have courage; others actually do."  Which camp do I fall into?
Rebellious joy: Paul and Silas singing in prison was a complete opposite of what anyone would have expected them to do.  They refused to let their circumstances get them down.  Life can be tough, but if we think of the final result--our end goal--our final reward how can we be anything but joyful?  This is one that really struck me.  I read this chapter a day after hearing a sermon on being joyful in all circumstances and wearing that joy on our faces and I knew I had a job in front of me.  I haven't felt the greatest over the last few months and there have been way too many times where that ill feeling was expressed on my face and in my voice and I don't want to be like that.  I want to have the joy of the Lord even in the midst of feeling like happiness is elusive.
Risky faith:  How much are we willing to give up to follow Jesus?  Do we say we follow Jesus, but make sure that we stay in America in our nice homes and sleep in our comfortable beds and drive our nice SUV's? That is settling for a safe faith.  "My fear is that too many of us have adopted a faith that involves no risk.  Our idea of following Jesus looks more like a safe walk in a park than a dangerous journey through mountainous terrain.  The reality is, when you choose to follow Jesus, when you build your life on your faith in him, you are most likely going to be led to places you would rather not go.  You might be compelled to give more than makes sense.....Following him means a life of loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, and sometimes doing the undesirable."
Relentless hope: What is my hope in?  Vanity?  Success?  Money?  "Hope is the gentle voice in the depth of our souls that whispers greater things to come--maybe not in this life, but in the life to come."
Scandalous grace: unmerited favor.  We have much to learn in this respect.  I could branch off on my own hobby horse on this, but for right now I will refrain or maybe I won't.  Grace is nothing I can earn, but I think too often in today's churches we take what God has given to us freely and we make others earn it.  People have to earn the right to be a part of our church.  You messed up?  You are going to pay--oh we say we forgive, but before we are going to extend to you grace and allow you to be a part of our church again, you are going to prove yourself.  And then we can't figure out why people walk away.  Look at the story of the time Jesus was at Simon the Pharisee's house for a meal.  Simon was a very religious person and he didn't have the time of day for this lady who came to anoint Jesus' feet.  He was appalled that Jesus would even allow her to touch him--she was supposedly a prostitute.  But Jesus extended grace.  Jesus extended grace to the woman brought to Him caught in the act of adultery (by the way, whatever happened to the man in this story?).  The religious leaders were ready to stone her, but Jesus extended grace and forgiveness.  We tend to draw boundary lines--we will extend grace to these kinds of people, but not to those.  Those people are excluded by God's grace--by whose standard?  Ours, of course, definitely not God's.  Jamie's challenge was to break those boundary lines that you have set up in your mind and go extend grace to that person that you struggle to think worthy.  They are worthy--we are all worthy.
Mad love:  Hosea is a prime example of this--told to go marry the prostitute Gomer and to love her and to redeem her and bring her back from prostitution.  That is the kind of love we are to have.  It's a no-holds-barred kind of love.

I guess you can tell that I really really enjoyed this book--it wasn't exactly a book that you can read and not have it convict you in some point or in many points.  I just wonder if all of us as Christians would take these points seriously--if we would seek to live them out in our own lives, if so many of our troubles would be solved.

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