Book Review Fri–Er, Sunday: Radical

This past Sunday, I found myself getting angry with a toilet, more specifically, with the auto-flush toilet at my church and the water waste that it represented and it got me thinking about issues of “big church”, missing Uganda, with regard to this post (Every Day’s Best: A Study in Contrasts), knowing some of it had to do with a book that I just finished reading: “Radical: Tacking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt. In this book, Platt puts forward what it means to be a Christ-follower and how, as Americans, we have warped our faith into looking like something completely contrary to the gospel we are trying to emulate.

From the beginning of the book, Platt admits that this book comes from a place of challenge in his own life, as “the youngest megachurch pastor in history”—finding himself, in his words, “on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowd, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings.” Seeing that this was not was what Jesus meant to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Platt had to ask himself 2 big questions:

Was I going to believe Jesus?

Was I going to obey Jesus?

Answering these 2 questions began his journey and out of that comes this book. He says that we can continue with business as usual in the Christian life, measuring success by the standards around us, or we can take an honest look at what it truly mean to believe and obey Jesus.

This book begins with a first-account experience in another country with a secret meeting among a body of believers–church leaders whose member’s lives and the lives of their children are being threatened because of the Gospel and how they kneel to pray in a darkened room. Their prayers centered not on themselves but on who Jesus is and their trust in Him. Juxtaposed to this scene, Platt describes his first Sunday as a pastor in America: theater-style lights, fine clothes, cushioned chairs, not much at stake there.

Throughout the book, Platt introduces and offers solutions to several important questions for every believer:

“How can I fulfill the great commission?”

“What specific steps can I take in our daily lives to go against what we have always perceived as a our God-given “right” to the American dream of success, money, fulfillment. What exactly do these sacrifices entail?”

Platt gives tenants of WHY the great commission and our answer to it is so important. In his chapter titled, “There is no Plan B”. He explains that there are 4.5 B people in the world today without Christ and he highlights a few basic principles:

-all people have knowledge of God

-all people reject God

-all people are guilty before God, saying to the argument, “What about the innocent guy in Africa?” The innocent guy doesn’t exist…there are no innocent people in the world just waiting to hear the gospel. Instead, there are people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is the very reason they need God.”

-all people are condemned for rejecting God

-God has made a way of salvation for the lost

-people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ

-Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples

Concluding this with, “We are the plan of God, there is no Plan B.” Going on to say, “If more than a billion people today are headed to a Christless eternity and have not even heard the gospel, then we don’t have time to waste our lives on an American dream.”

This book isn’t going to stroke your ego, assuage the restlessness you feel as a Christian or justify any behavior you have even thought might be contrary to what God wants for you. I think, if I could give this book an alternate title, it would be “Uncomfortable: What you need to be doing as a Christian”. It’s that convicting and yes, it calls for change. That call is addressed in Platt’s last chapter, “The Radical Experiment”, which offers practical, challenging ways we can live the calling out, but you’ll have to read the book to find exactly what those are.

Knowing that we are not alone in this challenge, Platt reminds us from the start of the book of our supreme dependence on God’s strength for making these changes, saying, “the gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him.”

Book Review Fri–Er, Sunday: Radical

This past Sunday, I found myself getting angry with a toilet, more specifically, with the auto-flush toilet at my church and the water waste that it represented and it got me thinking about issues of “big church”, missing Uganda, with regard to this post Every Day’s Best: A Study in Contrasts, knowing some of it had to do with a book that I just finished reading: “Radical: Tacking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt. David Platt puts forward what it means to be a Christ-follower and how, as Americans, we have warped our faith into looking like something completely contrary to the gospel we are trying to emulate.

From the beginning of the book, Platt admits that this book comes from a place of challenge in his own life, as “the youngest megachurch pastor in history”—finding himself, in his words, “on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowd, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings.” Seeing that this was not was what Jesus meant to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Platt had to ask himself 2 big questions:

Was I going to believe Jesus?

2) Was I going to obey Jesus?

Answering these 2 questions began his journey and out of that comes this book. He says that we can continue with business as usual in the Christian life, measuring success by the standards around us, or we can take an honest look at what it truly mean to believe and obey Jesus.

This book begins with a first-account experience in another country with a secret meeting among a body of believers–church leaders whose member’s lives and the lives of their children are being threatened because of the Gospel and how they kneel to pray in a darkened room. Their prayers centered not on themselves but on who Jesus is and their trust in Him. Juxtaposed to this scene, Platt describes his first Sunday as a pastor in America: theater-style lights, fine clothes, cushioned chairs, not much at stake there.

Throughout the book, Platt introduces and offers solutions to several important questions for every believer:

“How can I fulfill the great commission?”

“What specific steps can I take in our daily lives to go against what we have always perceived as a our God-given “right” to the American dream of success, money, fulfillment. What exactly do these sacrifices entail?”

Platt gives tenants of WHY the great commission and our answer to it is so important. In his chapter titled, “There is no Plan B”. He explains that there are 4.5 B people in the world today without Christ and he highlights a few basic principles:

-all people have knowledge of God

-all people reject God

-all people are guilty before God, saying to the argument, “What about the innocent guy in Africa?” The innocent guy doesn’t exist…there are no innocent people in the world just waiting to hear the gospel. Instead, there are people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is the very reason they need God.”

-all people are condemned for rejecting God

-God has made a way of salvation for the lost

-people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ

-Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples

Concluding this with, “We are the plan of God, there is no Plan B.” Going on to say, “If more than a billion people today are headed to a Christless eternity and have not even heard the gospel, then we don’t have time to waste our lives on an American dream.”

This book isn’t going to stroke your ego, assuage the restlessness you feel as a Christian or justify any behavior you have even thought might be contrary to what God wants for you. I think, if I could give this book an alternate title, it would be “Uncomfortable: What you need to be doing as a Christian”. It’s that convicting and yes, it calls for change. That call is addressed in Platt’s last chapter, “The Radical Experiment”, which offers practical, challenging ways we can live the calling out, but you’ll have to read the book to find exactly what those are.

Knowing that we are not alone in this challenge, Platt reminds us from the start of the book of our supreme dependence on God’s strength for making these changes, saying, “the gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him.”

Harps, Sheepskin and Hidden Potential

I was part of a discussion the other day based on the believer’s gifts listed in Romans 12 (prophecy, service, teaching, etc.), when our discourse took a surprisingly different turn, one that’s given me a lot to think about. Whatever our gifts and how we are exhibiting them, God sees our hidden potential, let’s take David for example. He came from extremely humble beginning—a shepherd. Not very glamorous, but he was faithful with it.

Where his father and brother saw a scrawny little brother who smelled like sheep, God saw a king.

Where a giant saw a boy with a sling and a couple of stones, God saw a mighty warrior who would one day stand leading thousands into battle.

Where Saul saw a young upstart threatening his kingdom, God saw a man full of favor who, on more than one occasion had the opportunity to kill this man who threatened his life. David knew that God’s anointing belonged to him yet continued to make the right choices—trusting that He would take care of Saul in his own time.

Where men saw as just a boy and a harp with a gift for creating soothing music, God saw the Psalmist who would one day pen some of the most lyrically beautiful, heart wrenching prose in Scripture.

Where men saw, in the wake of adultery, lies and murder someone completely broken by his own sin, God saw a man after his own heart.

How easy it is for us to judge. Can I issue you a challenge today?

Are there people in your life that you have “written off”? People, whom you’ve said/thought on more than one occasion, “That’s it, lost cause. Move on.” Here’s the thing, God loves them, He loves them as much as he loves you and me. Is there something you can change about that today? A prayer you can offer before God, a phone call you can make and e-mail that should have been written months ago?

I’ll leave you with the words God spoke to Samuel right before he anointed David as king of Israel:

I Samuel 16:7 “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

This Great High Priest


Having recently started a study on Hebrews, we have of course been concentrating on the Supremacy of Christ, greater than the angels, greater than the Law, greater than our efforts to keep the law (Hebrews was written primarily to an audience of Jewish converts), and because of His supremacy, Christ, the spotless Lamb of God was the only one worthy enough to offer a perfect sacrifice of our sins.

We looked briefly at the duties of the high priest in Leviticus 16: he entered the sanctuary in a prescribed manner with animals for sin offerings and burnt offerings, dressed in pure linen, ritually washed in order to make atonement. And what does atonement mean? In verse 21 of this chapter we see that on the head of a live goat is to be placed all the sin and wickedness of Israel. Once this has happened, it is to be sent away into the desert in care of a man appointed for the task.

I’ve also been reading the book A Reason for God by Timothy Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. This scapegoat theme hit me hard when I read the following excerpt from page 29 of Keller’s book, under the chapter title “How could a Good God Allow Suffering?”. In it, Keller talks about the suffering of God himself.

Because here’s the thing: we’re no longer talking about a goat or a lamb or a bird or whatever, we’re talking about a person. And we’re not just talking about any person, we’re talking about the Son of God, who was there from the beginning. There’s no way for us to fully comprehend the pain of the separation that Jesus had to experience in his last hours, but Keller puts it in these terms:

“To understand Jesus’s suffering at the end of the gospels, we must remember how he is introduced at their beginning…The Son of God was not created but took part in creation and has lived throughout all eternity “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18)—that is, in a relationship of absolute intimacy and love. But at the end of his life he was cut off from the Father.

There may be no greater inner agony that the loss of a relationship we desperately want. If a mild acquaintance turns on you, condemns and criticizes you, and says she never wants to see you again, it is painful. If someone you’re dating does the same thing, it is qualitatively more painful. But if your spouse does this to you, or if one of your parents does this to you when you’re still a child, the psychological damage is infinitely worse.

We cannot fathom, however what it would be like to lose not just spousal love or parental love that has lasted several years, but the infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity. Jesus’s suffering would have been eternally unbearable. Christian theology has always recognized that Jesus bore, as the substitute in our place the endless exclusion from God that the human race has merited. In the Garden of Gethsemane, even the beginning and foretaste of this experience began to put Jesus into a state of shock. New Testament scholar Bill Lane writes: “Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered.” On the cross, Jesus’s cry of dereliction—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—is a deeply relational statement. Lane writes: “The cry has a ruthless authenticity…Jesus did not die renouncing God. Even in the inferno of abandonment he did not surrender his faith in God, but expressed his anguished prayer in a cry of affirmation, “My God, my God.” Jesus still uses the language of intimacy—“my God”—even as he experiences infinite separation from the Father.”

So here we have this great high priest and sacrificial scapegoat rolled into One. The ritual cleansing, sacrificing, and scapegoat procedure was take place once a year for all the sins of Israel. Not only did Aaron need to make atonement for the people but for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar–and only then could he bring forward the live goat, place his hand’s on it’s head and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites. But, here’s the amazing thing: Christ did it once, for all time, splitting in two the curtain that separated the Holiest of Holies so we now have direct access to the Father.

And so, in this, we receive our confirmation that Christ is the fulfillment of this law (in his own words) in Matthew 5: 17-18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

picture licensed under Creative Commons by John H Wright Photo