Faithful Love

My Marvelous Wife
Over the 12 years we've been married, I've had many reasons to marvel at my wife, Peggy.  However, never before have I been more touched and inspired.  Ever since she made the decision to run the L.A. Marathon to raise awareness and funds to acquire land and build a home for a family in Kenya, she has steadfastly and selflessly dedicated her life to that single cause.

Lots of Pain, What's the Gain?
Five days each week, she methodically puts on her gear and gets mentally prepared to train.  Deciding to run the marathon doesn't mean waking up one morning and signing up for the run.  Our bodies are not built to run that distance.  To run a marathon requires months of training, an alteration of diet, and perseverance through pain and injury.  Not a moment goes by where Peggy doesn't feel aches in her feet or legs.  Anybody who has run the marathon (or a similar distance) is familiar with the process and the sacrifices involved.  However, I dare say that most who choose to run find at least some satisfaction in running and finishing the race.

But what amazes me about Peggy is not what she's doing or even how she's doing it -- but rather the degree to which she submits to the why.  You see, Peggy is not a runner.  She never has been and never will least not by her choice.  Growing up, her talents and interests drew her to flamenco dancing, not cross-country or track.  At the gym, she would get on the treadmill only while waiting for her Zumba class to start.

So Why Run?
Don't misunderstand what I'm saying; Peggy cares greatly for Muia and his family.  But, if that was the only reason, she could just as easily choose a shorter distance or seek other ways of raising money.  And, she could have quit when her ankle was fractured during training.  Running is so unnatural to Peggy that the purpose must transcend her.  In running the marathon, Peggy is exhibiting love that can only come from God -- a love that costs.  She's obediently living out what the apostle John taught:
This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life  for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has this world’s goods  and sees his brother in need  but closes his eyes  to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  This is how we will know we belong to the truth  and will convince our conscience in His presence, even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.  (The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009). 1 Jn 3:16–20.)
What Then?
I marvel at Peggy's heart and her actions, but, most of all, I marvel at her faith.  In her actions, she has shown reliance on His strength to carry her through.  As I marvel, I'm challenged with the following questions:

  1. Is there something that's unnatural (in my own strength) toward which God is calling me?
  2. Am I exhibiting God's love in a way that's undeniable to those around me?
  3. Am I showing his love in truth and action rather than just in word, speech and blogging?

Review of Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax

Sometimes, the smallest books with the simplest of premises pack the biggest punches.  Such is my experience with Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax.  When I received the book, I had no real idea what to expect.  Is it a theological treatise?  Nope, because those require at least 500 pages, right?  (Clear Winter Nights has fewer than 150 smaller than usual pages.)  Is it a guide to “Christian Living”?  That would require a Table of Contents with catchy section and chapter titles.  Closer inspection of the cover says this book is, “Theology in Story.”  Hmmm…I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

The story is of Chris Walker, a young man raised in the church.  His past and future pointed to a life of faith as he and his fiancĂ©e prepared to help start a new church plant.  But his faith is shaken and that “shakening” reverberated through different parts of his life.  The book is centered on a weekend Chris spends with his grandfather, Gil, a retired pastor, with whom he wrestles with questions of faith and the role of Christianity and Christ in the world.

Theological treatises take time to digest the nuggets of insight.  Stories tend to flow faster, particularly when engaging dialogue is involved.  This book, somehow, represents both.  I copied down more than twenty quotes that I want to chew on some more.  As each of these nuggets affected me, I couldn’t help but to immediately tweet some of them to share with friends.  It’s the type of book that I can’t wait to share with friends, small group leaders and pastors. 

The relationship between Chris and Gil is one we can all wish for.  With Gil, Chris felt free to express his innermost doubts.  Before the weekend with Gil, Chris wondered whether a faith that could be faked so well meant that “faith itself was false.”  On that springboard, Chris and Gil parried and danced with questions that many, both Christian and non-believers, have:

  1. How does Biblical truth stand in a world that values open-mindedness?
  2. What’s the role of religion if not to make the world a better place?
  3. Why would anyone follow a worldview that seems to condemn natural temptations and lifestyles?
  4. Are Christians right to proselytize or evangelize?  Or does that wrongly impose our view of God and our values onto their neighbors?
  5. And ultimately, what is the ultimate goal of a Christian life?
Some in the church may find some of these questions distasteful.  We may wish that the answers would be clear and discussions unnecessary.  However, wishing such things does not make the questions go away.  This book reminds me that we must allow such hard questions to be asked while remembering to ask, “Where do you want all that wrestling to get you?”  (Pg. 40)  We must allow (and encourage!) honest questions and dialogue where, “The goal is to know more about God so that you come to know Him better.”  (Pg. 41)  In a world that values open-minded-ness, we, in the church, should value the same with the added caveat that, “An open mind is like an open mouth.  It’s meant to close on something.  We ought to make sure it’s on something good.”  (Pg. 42)

I enthusiastically recommend this book to all who have an interest in this thing called Christianity.  There will be those who have grown up in the church and relate to Chris Walker’s questions and struggles.  But just as much, this book will prove useful to those outside the church looking in waiting for some important questions to be answered before they consider putting a foot in the door.  Though the book is not written in a traditional Bible study format, the discussion question will make this book useful for small group study.

[Wax, Trevin. Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes after. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2013. Print.]

NOTE: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Review of Real by Jamie Snyer

“Would people know I’m a Christian if they didn’t see me at church?”  With that question, Pastor Jamie Snyder, embarks on this gem to examine and uncover what it means to be a Real follower of Jesus.  By allowing Sunday to become, “the axis on which their faith spins,” (Pg. 22) Christians have allowed our faith to be too closely entwined with Sunday and all that Sunday represents.  Our fellowship, worship, and study happen in the confines of a single morning and forget that “church is not a place but a people.”  (Pg. 23)

Snyder organizes the book into three sections:
1) The Real Question: The shortcoming of many Christians today
2) The Portrait of a Real Life: Based on Scripture, the characteristics of a Christ-follower
3) The Real Answer: How we bridge the gap between shortcomings and Real-ness

The book is compact (173 pages, which includes discussion questions and prayers) and packed with excellent points and information.  Snyder focuses on seven characteristics of a Christ-follower (Section 2): unbridled generosity, daring courage, rebellious joy, risky faith, relentless hope, scandalous grace, and mad love.  Readers will likely find some room for improvement in their walk in one, if not all seven, of these traits.  For example, our generosity ought to be driven by God’s love rather than out of compulsion (Chap. 6).  Happiness, which seems to be a primary aim of the world, is situational and not sustainable; Joy (Chap. 8), on the other hand, is of God, which means that it can and will sustain us in all circumstances.

The book could be useful for small groups, accountability partners, or individual study. Each chapter concludes with three Reflection/Discussion questions and a prayer.

Real from Amazon
Real from CBD

I recommend this book without hesitation.

[Snyder, Jamie. Real: Becoming a 24-7 Follower of Jesus. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2013]

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House for the purposes of this review.