the power of words

Category : God, book review

   

R3 has a regular feature called “what i’m reading”.  It’s a way to share the things that are influencing me and my journey with God.  Not everything I read makes it into this spot – just the things that make me think about how I should live out a life of faith. 

Wide Awake falls into this category. 

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about dreams.  Not the kind where you fall asleep, but the kinds that make you live “wide awake”. 

Erwin McManus is a brilliant speaker, and a gifted thinker.  But where he truly excels is giving you a framework to understand yourself, the world, and God.  And somehow he does this in two word phrases. 

The Barbarian Way (which is technically three words) showed me that God wasn’t a wimp, and even better, he doesn’t want us to be wimps!  A Barbarian wouldn’t shy away from helping someone just because it was difficult – he (or she) would charge right in and do it.  Because that’s what Barbarians do.  Now, whenever I am afraid of taking action, I think about being a Barbarian.  And it encourages me to act.

Chasing Daylight was just as influential.  If being a Barbarian was about going to places others wouldn’t, Chasing Daylight was about seizing a moment in time when no one else could.  It made me realize that some opportunities only come once, and if we don’t act, no one will.

Soul Cravings showed me just how much we need relationships and our dreams.  It isn’t that we just want these things in our lives; it’s that we crave them.

Wide Awake is no exception to this rule.  But instead of receiving the benefits for myself, it’s shaping the way I see other people.  It’s given me a framework to help other people live out their dreams. 

Each of those phrases has a deep meaning for me.  They allow me to sum up hundreds of pages of thoughts and examples, and boil it down into something that prods action.  I might not be able to think of a 10 point argument as to why I should act, but I can remember a phrase.

They also serve as a reminder of how God works.

For instance, my dream is to help people develop a relationship with God.  I want people to connect the dots of their faith, with the lines of their lives.  By writing R3 I am able to live out that dream.  But without The Barbarian Way to help me become a Christian, and without Chasing Daylight to prompt me to start this site, I never would have been in position to be asked to review Wide Awake.

Funny how acting in faith works out like that.

what i’m reading: Wide Awake

6

Category : God, book review, feeding my brain, hope

   

If you’ve been reading R3 for any length of time knows that I’m a huge fan of Erwin McManus.  So when I was approached by his publicist about reading an advance copy of his latest book, I was thrilled.  But I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive.  What if I didn’t like the book?  What if I had to say a bunch of bad things about it?  What if I had to come up with a third question that started with the phrase ‘what if’?!

That concern only grew as I had a hard time figuring out what to say about this book.  So much of it seemed familiar: the influence of The Barbarian Way, Chasing Daylight, and Soul Cravings is obvious.  But I’ve already read those books.  I already get that way of thinking.  I’m already on board. 

There’s no question Erwin’s writings have had a profound impact on my life.  The Barbarian Way helped bring me into a relationship with God.  While Chasing Daylight forced me to be bold, and was a  major reason this site was launched.   But when I read Wide Awake nothing immediately jumped out at me.

“Sure it was good.  But it wasn’t brilliant.” I told myself.  “What am I getting out of it?”

But that view changed when I was, of all places, at the gym.  I have no idea what caused the light bulb to go on.  Maybe it was sheer exhaustion.  Or maybe I just was looking for an excuse to stop exercising.  But in one moment everything crystallized.

Wide Awake isn’t so much about me and my dreams, but about other people and their dreams.

As I mentioned, I already get Erwin McManus.  And for the last few years I’ve been doing much of what he talks about in Wide Awake.  But what I hadn’t been doing is helping other people live out their dreams.  I had no framework for even recognizing that people were searching for their dreams.

Wide Awake changes that.

It gives me a way to relate and communicate with people about their dreams. 

At it’s core Wide Awake is about identifying the dreams God has for us, and then learning to live a life that makes those dreams a reality.  Considering most of us probably can’t even identify a dream we want to live, that’s no small task.

Since that moment at the gym, I see just how many people are sleep walking through their lives (myself included).  When I hear people talk about their unfulfilling jobs I no longer think in terms of job satisfaction, pay raises or a career change.  What I realize people are saying is that they long to live a different life.  They want to wake up, but they don’t know how.  And so they feel trapped.

When I hear that story of loneliness, I no longer have to say, “gee, I’m sorry to hear that,” because I have nothing else to offer.  Now I can offer them some hope.  I can talk about the potential in their lives, and the dreams that God has created them to live.

No matter how spiritual we are, it’s funny how we still take a consumerist attitude toward God.  I wanted Wide Awake to benefit me.  I wanted a blueprint of how to live the life of my dreams.  What I got was a road map of how to help other’s achieve their’s.

And you know what?

That’s letting me live out my dreams.

what i’m reading: Chasing Daylight

1

Category : book review, feeding my brain, revolutionary

   

Erwin McManus’s first book, The Barbarian Way, is the most important book I’ve ever read.  I know it’s considered “bad” to say this, but it has been more important to me than reading the Bible.  Without The Barbarian Way I never would have read the Bible, let alone seen the beauty of it.  McManus has a way of presenting an idea that fundamentally alters the way you view the world and God.  As I’ve often said on this site, I grew up believing God was this safe, quiet, wimpy thing.  I thought that to be a Christian you had to be a push-over.  The Barbarian Way shattered that view and showed me that being a Christian is this radical, dangerous thing.

In a similar way Chasing Daylight (formerly known as Seizing Your Divine Moment), has completely reshaped the way I “listen” for God to answer my prayers.  In the past I always thought I had to get a specific “yes” from God before I could act on anything.  Instead McManus argues that God has already given us a “yes” on a lot of things.  We have been told to spread the message of Jesus.  We’ve been told to love our enemies and care for the hurting.  We’re already supposed to help one another and support those in need.  We don’t need to wait for a “yes” when we want to do these things – we already have it.

To illustrate this point, McManus uses the story of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14.  Jonathan was bold and aggressive when it came to pursuing God’s will.  You kind of have to be when you decide to charge an army with just two people.  But he also recognized that God’s will often takes us to dangerous places that may cost us everything we have.  Jonathan knew full well God may not save him saying, “Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf.”  Perhaps?!  Perhaps?!  If I was about to engage in a life threatening endeavor, I’d want a bit of a stronger word than “perhaps!”

But Jonathan represents a model of action.  He worked under the assumption that God had already said “yes” and promised victory to Israel.  He wasn’t waiting for a reconfirmation of God’s word, Israel already had it.  Jonathan knew that victory was just waiting to be grasped.  When we choose to take action McManus calls this “seizing your divine moment.” 

This is such a foreign idea to me that it was hard to accept at first.  But I quickly realized just how revolutionary it was.  We need to flip our usual way of listening for God.  Instead of waiting for “go” we need to assume we have permission to act.  What we really need to listen for is God to say “no.” 

I’m not sure exactly how this idea will shape my life or R3.  But I do know it is going to fundamentally alter how I respond to people as a Christian.  In fact, even before I finished reading Chasing Daylight I knew God was asking me to seize my first divine moment by giving the book away

Chasing Daylight is an amazing book that really challenges us to change our lives.  I don’t usually recommend books to people – I think they should choose to read them (or not) on their own.  But this is a book that I believe everyone should read.