Jesus Already Called, But We’re Not Listening

people not listeningI recently learned that the popularity of Jesus Calling, the devotional by Sarah Young, is bigger than I thought. Not only has the book sold over 9 million copies but there is a plethora of companion pieces, including a devotional Bible and phone app. Clearly, it has followed the path of the Purpose Driven Life and Prayer of Jabez that makes me wonder if Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world, therefore, and make merchandise. And let’s not be too quick to throw the authors and publishers under the bus because they wouldn’t be mass marketing Jesus products unless there was a demand based on sales.

So this post is not about Jesus Calling so much as it is about “us”. And by “us” I mean Christians who have soaked up this book and embraced it as if hugging Jesus himself. Because after all, the book is written in the first person as if Jesus himself is speaking. It occurs to me that there is something about this book that is appealing to people, especially women, and they have found comfort in it.

This book obviously resonates with people. To be sure, the popularity and evolution of companion products suggest that these devotionals feed something we need, or think we need and seek after.  The demand suggests that we need to have some kind of experience of Jesus in order to be satisfied with our Christian walk. And this leads me to ask why what God has already given us is not enough?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against experience. I think it is a necessary component of our humanity and especially more so in serving and worshiping an invisible God. The problem comes when we put experience in the driver’s seat for the sake of obtaining emotional comfort based on subjective means. Life is hard and pain is real for sure. We want assurance and relief during troubling times. We generally hate uncertainty. But that should drive us to rely on what God has sufficiently spoken instead of subjective words that come from others who claim to speak from God. Then you have to go through the gymnastics of figuring out if it is from God. As I wrote about in A Sure Word, why not just rely on what has already been written? Continue reading

Re-fashioned Relationship: Creating an Emotionally Satisfying Christianity

I’ve been reflecting recently on the concept of relationship that seems to be rampant within Christian circles. Somewhere along the way, we’ve created the false dichotomy of religion vs. relationship, something I addressed in this post.

One of the neat things about God’s revelatory process is that he contextualized himself to the culture of the ancient Near East, adopting the various symbols, structures and norms but doing something unique to show that he is the one true God. This is no different when he established the covenant with Abraham, Moses and David (some would say Noah) to secure relationship with his people. Based on what a covenant was in the ancient Near East, there was both promise and expectation.

Looking at the breadth of 66 books, the fulfillment of covenant relationship in Christ was of course the whole point. One only need look at the book of Hebrews to understand that the “better way” foreshadowed in the Old Testament was Christ himself, establishing a new covenant (cf Jeremiah 31:31-34), thus fulfilling previous covenants…

The main point here is that this was the means by which God established relationship. It was not just some willy-nilly, feel good, “being in love with Jesus” type of thing that typically gets associated with our Christianity.  Relationship with God is governed by promise and expectation specified in Scripture. We can expect for him to be God based on his promises to us ultimately found in Christ. There is expectation for us to love him with our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love neighbor as ourselves. There is expectation for us to walk in his ways. I think that is an accurate depiction of religion based on its own definition.

I think the problem is that we’ve taken the concept of relationship further to define what that relationship must look like and often it is according to what we expect from our earthly relationships. We’ve imposed these expectations on Christianity. Imposed is a good word, I think, when we dictate the terms. So when we say that God is relational, it has come to mean in many cases a relationship that are emotionally satisfying to us. Continue reading