Well, it is beginning to happen. Our 4 year old son, Jonah, is starting to ask hard questions. Recently we have spent a lot of time answering questions about where Jesus is right now, why he died, and various other Jesus related inquiries. Just the other night after some discipline time Jonah told Erin, "I just want to go to Heaven and be with Jesus." That may have stemmed from his dislike of discipline but it also could be because he actually does want to be with Jesus. Regardless, it is really fun to watch him try to figure out what Mommy and Daddy believe.
This brings me to the question Jonah asked me in the car yesterday. We were on our way to his soccer practice which is about 15 minutes from where we live. Usually I use this time to tell him he needs to share and that if someone takes the ball he can't throw a fit because that is what soccer is all about. However, I decided to drive a different way yesterday and we passed by a couple churches. One church had a giant statue of Jesus on the cross hanging on the outside of the building. The other church had just a simple cross sans Jesus. Jonah said, "Look at the statchio (statue) of Jesus! He looks dead." I went on to tell him that Jesus was alive and well and that some churches have statues like that to remind us what Jesus accomplished through the cross. That made sense to him, but then he asked again, "Dad, where is Jesus?". I told him that He is sitting at the right hand of God holding all creation together. That made sense to him too. Then I went on to tell him that when Jesus went up to Heaven to be with God He told the people that loved Him that He would send a Helper to be with them. I explained that this Helper is the Holy Spirit, which is God's Spirit that lives in us. I used very simple words and he was getting it. He actually seemed to like the whole idea. He liked it, that is, until I said, "...So God lives inside Mommy and Daddy."
He looked conscerned. In the most worried and honest tone I've ever heard he asked, "Daddy, why doesn't God live in me too?".
What does a father say? How can you tell your own son that he is not a Christian? I wanted nothing more than to just say, "Well, he does buddy, because you said you loved Him the other day," but I didn't. That would be dishonest of me. So I said, "Jonah. Mommy and Daddy were very bad people, and in a lot of ways we are still very bad people, but one day God changed our hearts from stone to flesh and helped us to see that we needed Him to save us from that. What I hope is that one day Jesus will do the same for you and that God will one day live inside of you too."
What do you think he did? Was that a good answer? I don't know if it was, but he seemed to be ok with it. This is actually the second time we've talked about this but he's asked it differently the first time. Is it cruel to tell my son to his face that he is not a Christian yet? No, not if I do it lovingly. Hopefully this is God's work in slowly drawing Jonah to Himself.
I sincerely pray that all of my children would be saved, but I know that even when that day comes for each of them (if God wills) the teaching doesn't stop. I can't wipe away the sweat from years of praying for them and stop because they are "saved". I can't "let up" on how much they need the gospel just because they reached "that point". I would be in great error if all I was trying to do was get them saved so that our burden as parents could be lifted.
I really love these questions. It's really fun talking with my son about God in all His wonder and seeing him think deeply about it. I'm sure more questions are to follow, and all I can say is, "Bring 'em on little guy."
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I found The Chasm by Randy Alcorn sitting on my kitchen table in the Multnomah packaging at about 12:30pm MST today. At about 1:15pm I set the book on the coffee table and had read the entire book in one sitting. The last time I did that was with John Piper's The Supremacy of God in Preaching and that was because I love non-fiction. I rarely finish fiction that I start so for me to read this book in roughly an hour is an amazing thing. This is not a boast in my reading ability however, but rather a tribute to how well this book draws the reader in to what is a very familiar story.
Initially, the book didn't grab me. Chapter 1 was slightly confusing and I started to think that this book would be added to the "unfinished fiction pile" that sits in my office. However, I just kept reading hoping it would all become clear. The somewhat confusing beginning almost makes sense in light of what Randy Alcorn is trying to do. He is telling a story of a man who is both sure of himself and unsure of his path at the same time.
Without giving away too much of the story the main character, Nick Seagrave, is on a journey to find the city of Charis, although throughout the book he questions whether he actually wants to go there or not. He finds himself having to choose between multiple paths before him and has several guides along the way. These guides however are either at work to help him or hurt him and their motives are not entirely clear to Nick until about halfway through the story. All the while Nick is realizing more and more with every step he takes, and finally reaches a full understanding of his journey when the story comes to its weighty climax.
In a nutshell, Randy Alcorn is walking in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis in the Narnia series and The Great Divorce as well as John Bunyan and his Pilgrim's Progress. This story is a very well done allegory of a person's path either to eternal death or eternal life. While it is shorter than the books I just mentioned it gets the point across quite well, and as I read it I saw myself in the main character. For a reader to feel that type of pull while reading is quite the feat and Randy Alcorn should be commended for this little book.
Another inclusion in this book is a handful of illustrations that match up with the text on the page. In all honesty I found these both helpful and somewhat irritating. While they are well done for the most part some of the expressions on people's faces as they plummet into the chasm are almost comical. I hate saying that because most of them are quite good, but there is something about them that didn't quite match up with the picture I had in my mind. Truly the book is so well written that there is really no need of illustrations. Here is a passage that I thought was particularly vivid:
Later, alone, I climbed a hill. Glancing down, I was surprised to see a huge figure, a giant in a flowing black robe, standing on the hillside, looking down over the roads...The ominous black-robed being cast a long shadow across the hillside, and when he moved and the shadow fell over others of the little people, I heard howls and whimpers. The man - or was he a great beast - stood smiling, gloating, taking pleasure in the pain he saw on the roads below him. He took out a lyre and played music and sang an otherworldly song. It sounded compelling, yet at moments seemed like a fraud, a counterfeit of some truer and deeper song. He laughed and pointed his finger at the sprawling misery and played his music like a cosmic Nero, fiddling while a world burned. He blew smoke out his nose. Then, to my horror, I saw him putting little people into his mouth. He smoked men as if they were cigarettes. Soon he had a half dozen in at once, a macabre sight that turned my stomach and made my knees tremble.The book is full of imagery like this and it really made me feel as if I were there.
If you are the type of person that enjoys fiction, and better yet allegorical fiction, you should pick up this book. It will remind of you of Lewis and Bunyan and even more importantly it will remind you of how desperately we need a Savior. I'm glad I read this book and hope others find it as enjoyable and helpful as I did.
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. Thanks WaterBrook!)
Saturday, March 19, 2011
A few days ago I was talking to a friend about how much the American Dream was pounded into my mind as a child and teenager. It impacted how I was educated in school and gave me a reason to do the hard work necessary in achieving said dream. It may be helpful to define what the American Dream actually is by way of the originator of the idea, James Adams. He said this in 1931:
"...life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement...It sounds good, but it is almost directly opposed to biblical Christianity.
This brings us to the the new book Radical by David Platt. David is a pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama which has roughly 4,000 members. The book is interesting because the author is a mega church pastor, but he is not writing a book about how to be "radical" in gaining new members. He is not throwing out "radical" pastoral ideas. Here is David's reason for writing this book:
"I am on a journey. But I am convinced it is not just a journey for pastors...I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe.(p.3)This book is a pastor's careful attempt at revealing some of the errors in the American Church and reclaiming the church as was laid out in Scripture.
If I were to recommend this book to a certain group of people that I think would be affected the most, it would easily be Christians in the United States. I am not saying it wouldn't be helpful to the universal church, but as I mentioned above, this is really focused on issues here in America and how our desire to have the perfect family, job, etc has actually blinded us to the reality of the gospel. It also asks difficult questions for those of us who would align ourselves with Christ but are really not doing much to build His kingdom. However, the author doesn't ask us to be "radical" by doing new things and being relevant, but by being faithful in the way the church started 2,000 years ago based on Jesus' teaching to "Go and make disciples..."
At 9 chapters, this books is short but is filled to the brim with useful material. The stories David shares concerning letters he has received from church members or conversations he has had with church leaders in third world countries are heart-wrenching, encouraging, and even shocking. I would share some of my favorites but there are just too many to write in this already too long review. Needless to say, this book is full of moving quotes that you will most likely meditate on for minutes, hours, or even days.
So is it worth it to buy this and read it? Yes. Absolutely yes. In fact, I thought many times while reading, "I need to get this book into people's hands!" The things written in this book, again, are not new. I have heard them before, but that is not a bad thing. This book will take you from church critique to self critique and ultimately, to wanting to lose yourself for the sake of Christ. I have much to think about, and I am thankful that I read this book.
Read the first chapter for free here.
Grab your copy here.
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. Thanks WaterBrook!)