Sunday, January 2, 2011

“Secondhand Jesus” Musings and Review

 I read a book today (yes, a whole book. In one day. What can I say? It was immensely more interesting than laundry) and it was an intense eye-opening experience. The book is called “Secondhand Jesus” by Glenn Packiam and you can find the book "Secondhand Jesus" here :) I downloaded it to my "computer Kindle"-instant gratification!
The premise appealed to me-that modern day American Christians were content in knowing the rumors of God, without making direct contact. And in that, we lived a cliffs note style christian walk. He uses the story of the Ark of the Covenants’ theft and return as the theological groundwork for his book.
I KNOW for a fact how easy a trap that is to fall into. With amazing revelations around every corner being spoon-fed through the internet, church service, CD’s and even books (no, the irony doesn’t escape me) we live off of rumors and presuppositions, without embracing the knowledge OF God that comes directly FROM relationship.
God was my Jerry Maguire, my ambassador of quan, and my prayers were spiritually cloaked versions of asking Him to “show me the money‘. Not necessarily literal money-just comfort, success, good friends, and enjoyably smooth road, an unmitigated path to the peak of my game.”
I have lived that. That desire for a smooth road-and because of my sacrifices, I thought I “deserved” them. I felt like I have been a good person and banked a lot of brownie points with God, that while I was willing to look at all my flaws and shortcomings, I believed that I had earned at least a slightly easier road than someone who rebelled against God at every turn.
And then, Glenn knocked some serious holes in my own theories about how this whole walk-with-God thing is supposed to work. In the midst of trials, we often cry out for the “presence of God“ to walk with us and deliver us from whatever has risen up and messed up our pretty, smooth road. He says “God’s presence on the scene is not the end of the story, the time to breathe a sigh of relief because God has arrived. God’s presence on the scene is only the beginning of a journey. After all, life with God is not just about God’s arrival but also about our approach. The message of the misadventures of the ark of the covenant is simply this: We need more than God’s presence; we need to learn how to see Him and respond to Him, how to engage Him in firsthand contact.”Ouch. Let that sink in for a bit….
WE have to learn how to respond and ENGAGE. I know, I know, some people reading this will say “ I know how to engage-I raise my hands in worship and cry when I feel the spirit”. But don’t you think that the word “engage” goes deeper than that? I see it as embracing all of my, not just my worship experience. When something goes wrong, I know HOW to reach Him. When things are going well, that I don’t forget my communication to Him. That the connection is based on more than how I feel when overtaken by the Spirit. It allows me to see Him in the mundane-which for me is the most difficult. God’s presence is just step one, our response is what takes us beyond the experience into life-changing relationship.
There was another passage that particularly impacted me. It‘s something that I personally have felt-that sometimes we get so distracted by the “why‘s“ of a thing, that we don‘t put enough focus on what to do about it. “I am not here to say that trouble or loss comes from God. Personally, I don’t believe that. Furthermore, whether trouble comes because of your sin, someone else’s sin, or Adam’s sin is irrelevant to our discussion. Trouble, regardless of its source, is a fact of life in a fallen world. Jesus said it plainly to His disciples: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).”
This is my favorite part of that section…” Parsing the source of our trouble is not the main thing because fixing it is not the main thing. If it were, Jesus would have gone on to tell His disciples the four reasons bad things happen to good people and how they could neatly avoid those situations. He could have identified the roots of trouble and taught them the mantras for making it go away.” I get tired of people trying to sell me on the idea that they have discovered those “reasons” and have developed a formula to help rid my life of those pesky troubles. Maybe, just maybe, those troubles are supposed to be there. I don’t know. But whether they are, or they aren’t, doesn’t change that they are there.
Knowing that the author of this book is an Associate Pastor of one of the largest mega-churches in the United States made me appreciate even more so this last thought…“We have allowed our quest for immortality symbols to coexist with our Christianity, resulting in a faith that is foreign to the one Christ came to initiate. Christ came speaking the language of His culture, fully intent on undermining it. We come speaking the language of our own culture with the secret hope of being loved by it.”
God, forgive me when I speak a filtered, unrecognizable gospel in the intent to gain popularity, instead of from a heart to make YOU known to others. Do I fail? Yes. All the time. It’s so much easier to be liked, to be popular, than to speak truth. Are those things mutually exclusive? No, not always, but oftentimes they are. But we can’t stop at speaking truth, it must also be LIVED or those very lies that are uncovered find a place in our own lives, turning us into hypocrites. Saying one thing but doing another. Very basic definition but painfully true.
I can highly recommend you make this book a part of your reading queue. I really only pulled quotes from the first half, you need to read the rest and let it open your eyes to the “rumors” of Jesus, and get in place where you are experiencing the undiluted presence of God.

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