Prayer

Father, take away my need to be right, erase any lines I’ve drawn, remove any labels I’ve made, and open my mind to your Word and your will. Teach me to love others well.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Proposal: Read Along With Me

keller-quote-introThe times these days seem to be a burden that drags us all down.  There’s so much turbulence, chaos, confusion and division.  I get caught in it regularly, and not in a good way, so I decided to order a couple books that I hope will help.  The first one came in today, and I had an epiphany.  A series of Read-Alongs!

You can choose to purchase the books to read along and discuss with me/each other, or you can read the my “Read-Along” posts here (my take on the books).  Here’s the thing, though.  I’m not reading the whole book and then writing a series of chapter summaries.  I’m going to be reading a chapter and then summarizing that chapter before moving on to the next. (That’s why I called it a “Read-Along”).

As I read through a chapter, I’ll post quotes that stand out to me to our page on Facebook, to Instagram, and to Twitter, as well as update posts letting you know (through those same links) each time I post a chapter summary here.

For those of you that want to read along literally, I’ll also provide links to at least two book sources online with e-book sources where available, and all the information to search for it on your own. For example, here’s the first Read-Along book:

Jesus Outside the Lines, Scott Sauls, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Published 03/2015
ISBN 978-1-4964-0093-2

Description:

“Whether the issue of the day on Twitter, Facebook, or cable news is our sexuality, political divides, or the perceived conflict between faith and science, today’s media pushes each one of us into a frustrating clash between two opposing sides. Polarizing, us-against-them discussions divide us and distract us from thinking clearly and communicating lovingly with others. Scott Sauls, like many of us, is weary of the bickering and is seeking a way of truth and beauty through the conflicts. Jesus Outside the Lines presents Jesus as this way. Scott shows us how the words and actions of Jesus reveal a response that does not perpetuate the destructive fray. Jesus offers us a way forward–away from harshness, caricatures, and stereotypes. In Jesus Outside the Lines, you will experience a fresh perspective of Jesus, who will not (and should not) fit into the sides.”

Intro to Jesus Outside the Line

I decided to read this book more diligently than my normal method. That meant reading the reviews on the fly-pages, too. There were several names I recognized. One in particular stood out – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Governor Haslam commented, “I am among many who have the privilege of trying to figure out how to do this alongside him.” That gave me an immediate goal and push to be thorough in reading this book; I planned to see whether Gov. Haslam is successfully doing what the book teaches. After all, I’m a Tennessean and he’s currently Tennessee’s governor.

More compelling to me, though, was the Foreword by Gabe Lyons.  In particular, two questions he asks and answers:

“But Christians are supposed to know what they think about everything, right? We are the ones tasked with – commissioned even – to go and tell everyone else what to believe, how to act, and whom to judge. Isn’t that, at least in part, what it means to be Christian? 

Unfortunately, generations of Christians have grown to think so, but this perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. That is, if the truth is Jesus…”

And a paragraph that really resonated with me:

Jesus doesn’t call us to be simple. He calls us into complexity. The human soul, psyche, mind and emotions are complicated. And if he calls us to anything, it’s to enter into the mess that is day-to-day life alongside broken people in the midst of chaotic circumstances.

I see so many devotionals and posts from various sources, especially targeting or for women, that try to over simplify following Christ, and let’s face it: Following Christ on a day to day, out there in the world basis is hard and makes all those over-simplified bits of “advice and inspiration” fall into the “yeah, right” category.  Gabe Lyons’ foreward affirmed what I was already feeling.

In Scott Sauls’ (the author’s) Introduction of the book, he opens by admitting he is tired of taking sides, and then asks you, the reader, the following questions:

  • Are you tired of gossip and negative comments?
  • Are you tired of labeling and being labeled?
  • Are you tired of opinions being presented and talk-show outrage?
  • Are you tired of opinions being presented as facts?
  • Are you tired of critiques and condemnations that forgo listening and relationships?
  • Are you tired of indignant blog posts and tweets and Facebook posts that take a stand against everyone but that persuade no one?
  • Are you tired of divisions over silly and secondary things?
  • Are you tired of racism, classism, sexism, generationalism, nationalism, denominationalism, doctrinalism, and all other isms that stem from the ism that feeds them all: elitism?
  • Are you tired of the glass being half empty?
  • Are you tired of the endless quest to find something to be mad about?
  • Are you tired of us against God, us against them, and us against ourselves?
    and …
  • Are you tired of the ways that you, too, have succumbed to the against-ness of it all?

I read that list three times and, I have to admit, I’m tired, too. How about you?

Sauls goes on to set up the message of the book as he talks about Jesus outside the lines … outside the lines of his Christian “Tribe” (Christian colleagues and friends) and even outside the lines of Christianity (other faiths and even atheism) … interspersing scriptures with real life stories and quotes from other pastors, writers and theologians to illustrate his points.

I finished the Introduction wanting to read more and with a deeper understanding of some scriptures that I’d been failing to see in contemporary context, and feeling more than a little convicted. Remember Gov. Haslam? I was ready to measure him against the book without considering that I should first – and probably only – measure myself.

Sauls finished the Introduction by asking some additional questions and issuing a quasi invitation:

  • Are you looking for a way forward in which more bridges are built and fewer burned?
  • Do you want to express your faith in ways that move beyond stereotypes and that are coherent, beautiful, and true?
  • Do you want to be known for the people, places, and things that you are for instead of the pople, places and things that you are against?
  • Do you want to overcome the tension of wanting to be true to your beliefs and engage the culture?
  • Are you ready to move away from polarizing conversations and toward Jesus and your neighbor?

This is our journey.
It’s a journey that Jesus invites us to embark upon.
It’s a journey outside the lines.

Thank you for traveling this far with me, and I hope you decide to stay the course. We begin Part One – Jesus Outside the Lines of My Christian Tribe with Chapter 1 – Red State or Blue State?  Since I’m a vocal (and opinionated) Blue living in a (super) Red state, you should at least have fun watching me learn to swim upstream!

jesus-matt-5-46-48-niv

Credit: All quotes in this series are directly from “Jesus Outside the Lines”, including those by others Mr. Sauls used in his book. Mr. Sauls has included a list of end note citations for his sources in the “Notes” section of the book.

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