Tag Archive: community

Radical – Book Review

Title: Radical, Taking back your faith from the American Dream

Author: David Platt, Wikipedia Bio

Topics: Discipleship, Missions, Christian Living

ISBN: 1601422210

Purchase: Amazon.com ($5.33 + Shipping)

My Rating: ★★★★★

Culturally speaking, there is a growing frustration with “church as usual” amongst many Christians today. While it is easy to criticize the church in America, David Platt reminds us that we are part of that church. In his book, Radical, he seeks to raise our awareness of many cultural “blind spots” that we as Christians in the United States tend to miss.

I really like this book. I think that Platt does a fantastic job of humbly addressing the complacency that is present in the church. He doesn’t take an angry tone, but rather addresses the disparities between our cultural definition of what it means to be a Christian and what Jesus said it means to be a Christian. As the title suggests, Platt does call our attention to many Bible passages in which Jesus calls potential followers to literally sell all that they have and to follow Him. When we read accounts of those who are “radical” in their faith, we tend to just say, “The Lord has called me to do something different.” I love Platt’s approach; as he asks two vital questions:

  1. “What if God did call you to live a radical faith?” and,
  2. “What does it look like to live a radical faith?”

I love the fact that he asks both of these questions. So often, we have so many justifications for not doing radical things on our faith that we end up doing nothing but justifying ourselves. But Platt doesn’t just raise our awareness of the issue of inactivity amongst Christians. He seeks to provide direction in what it might look like to be active as a Christian. I love this aspect of the book! His main purpose is not simply to bemoan the state of the church in America. His main purpose is to motivate his reader into action. His book isn’t just a bunch of whining – it is in fact the opposite. Instead of simply bashing the Church in general, he seeks to lift our imaginations and see what we could do as Christians if we all lived radical lives. His true passion, as seen throughout the book, is to see the Church in America recognize its potential to impact the entire world.

Accordingly, he ends the book with a chapter which contains a five-point, one-year-long specific challenges for Christians in general that will help each one find his or her own individual “next step”:

  1. Pray for the entire world. Cultivate a heart for the nations. He suggests the book Operation World as a starting place.
  2. Read the entire Bible. Get used to hearing God speak to you.
  3. Sacrifice one’s money for a specific purpose. To give sacrificially, and personally (not just generally) to others (possibly just one person). To allow a generous heart to grow inside of yourself as you sacrifice that which you own for the benefit of others.
  4. Spend time in another context. Widen your view of the world and others by spending time serving in a place outside of your city, or even outside of your nation. He suggests spending 2%, or roughly one week, serving elsewhere.
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community. Be a disciple who is both being discipled by others and making disciples. Be connected in your faith to others.

Whether it is your view of discipleship or your view of international missions, this book will make an indelible mark upon the way that you think. There is just too much to write about this book for it all to fit into one blog post. I highly recommend that you go read it!


Pumpkin Passion!

Every so often I like to spice up my blog a little bit and share an interesting story with my readers. Most of my friends and family know what I have been up to this summer, but I have yet to enlighten the blogging world. These past few months, I have set out on a mission to grow a GIANT pumpkin. It all started in 1998 when my dad grew a 294lb giant and won first place at the Morton Pumpkin Festival. 294lbs is heavy for a pumpkin, but the world record stands at 1,810.5lbs!!!  This is where my story begins.

I may not be breaking the world record this summer, but I am certainly setting out to grow my first GIANT pumpkin! Before I arrive at my reasoning for writing this post, I want to share what growing a giant pumpkin entails. At this point, I believe I could come close to writing a book on the art of growing giant pumpkins, but I will keep my idea in a nutshell. In April of this year, I ordered my giant pumpkin seed online from P&P Seed Company. Because my funds were limited, I purchased one seed and put all my faith into that little guy! I first planted my seed inside and created ideal conditions for pumpkin germination. On May 15th, I transplanted Hublee (the name of my pumpkin plant) into the ground. Since that day, Hublee has emerged into a massive plant almost consuming all of his 30×30 foot square. It is amazing to watch how a seed, the size of a quarter, grows into an enormous green giant. I will also add that Hublee’s seed came from a 994lb pumpkin!

As Hublee continued to grow, small baby pumpkins started to appear on his vines. The key to growing a giant pumpkin is to choose one baby pumpkin and cut all the others off.  This way, all of the plant’s nutrients go into this one fruit. On July 5th, I chose the pumpkin I wanted to keep and began cutting the others off. As of last night, Judy (the name for my pumpkin) is the size of a beach ball. She has nearly tripled in size this past week! My goal is to enter Judy in the Morton Pumpkin Festival Weigh Off on September 13th. Some people ask me why I chose to grow a giant pumpkin this summer while trying to balance school, work, and life all at once. For one, I am fascinated at how one small seed can turn into a 1,000+ pound fruit. At the same time, I have taken another view on growing giant pumpkins.

In life, I often see and hear stories of how people waste their time with video games, the internet, television, and other consuming activities. Through my pumpkin story, I want to encourage you to seek out one of your passions or hobbies that can add value to other people. At first, I was growing this pumpkin for myself, in hopes of beating my dad’s record :). As I began sharing my story with others, in a way, I created a small community of people. Every week, I send out pictures to family and friends of Judy’s growing progress. Whenever I have the opportunity, I try to take a new person down to see Hublee and Judy. Whether I am out at work or in school, I attempt to bring up my GIANT pumpkin story and always manage to get a chuckle out of people. After the pumpkin festival, my ultimate goal is to donate Judy to a ST Jude family so they can carve her out for Halloween. From this story, I want to encourage readers to be creative with their passions. Your ideas could range from growing GIANT pumpkins to building a pumpkin catapult! (ask Tyler about that!) In the end, seek out something you enjoy and find a way to share that joy with others.

“This is one small step for pumpkins and one giant leap for pumpkin-kind.” – Anonymous

One more thing, if you would like to see Judy and Hublee for yourself, do not hesitate to ask!

Spiritual Symbiosis

Recently, God has been working in my life to show me how deeply my friends have impacted my faith (if you want to read more about how your friends impact your life, you should read Bethany’s post). He has shown me this lesson the hard way, I think. The last year has been very spiritually difficult for me. Quite simply, I just haven’t felt close to God and I feel as though I’ve been stuck inside my comfort zone.

So I began considering what sort of tools have helped my faith grow in the past. One of the largest factors, I feel, in personal spiritual growth is social spiritual influence. We, as Christians, must be surrounded by others who share our faith, and, even further, are moving in the same direction as we are. One log on a fire will quickly burn out if not surrounded by the right materials, of which other logs are the most important.

I think that one of the largest reasons that this past year has been difficult is the change in my environment. I went from a private christian school to a public university. Before, almost everyone that I knew was a Christian. Now, almost everyone that I know is not a Christian. I do have some great Christian friends, but the volume of influence just isn’t there. That being said, the Lord has truly used this past year to help me ensure that my faith is truly my own, not just the result of my friends or surroundings.

Christianity is a social religion. It is also a private religion. How are the two linked? I think A.W. Tozer spoke incredible truth when he said:

” …one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.”

A.W. Tozer (emphasis mine)
We have to have a faith in the first place, or we can’t share and contribute in a Christian community. We must be in a Christian community or our faith won’t last long.

Stories of Encouragement

Last semester Bethany and I joined a small group through our church on campus.  Through that small group we met an older couple named Barb and Dave.  They learned we lived in Peoria and asked us if we would be willing to take a package to one of their old friends, a retired missionary woman.  This past weekend I was able to complete the delivery.

Gertrude is almost 90  years old, but by the way she talks and walks you wouldn’t think she is over 40!  She spent 37 years in South Africa as a missionary and has even written a book titled Africa Treks: Stories of Victory from the African Bush.  The book contains encouraging stories of victories for the kingdom.  I went to deliver the package prepared to spend some time getting to know her, and I’m glad I did!  She first invited me to see the nursing home she lives in.  The first thing she showed me was a quote on the wall which read “Blessed is this place because it is called home.”  She read it to me with strong conviction and to her it meant that even though she was in a nursing home, she had God and other people; she was home.  What an encouragement that Gertrude could be home in a place where others are lost and that all she needs is to be with God.  She can be home anywhere on Earth.

Next, she showed me her room and we talked for a while.  She had so many stories to share!  She talked of her experiences in Africa.  She related her experiences as a  younger girl in Intervarsity at the University of Illinois.  She shared about her current prison ministries.  She told stories about various people around Illinois that she knew.  All of these stories shared a common theme – Christians succeeding in kingdom work.  In the middle of these stories she paused and taught me this lesson: it is so wonderful to hear stories about God’s work in this world, you need to share joy with other Christians and to rejoice together in what God has done.  Gertrude was leading by example in the joy department.  She is one of the happiest people I have ever met, especially for things concerning the Lord and His work.  I pray that I would have her joy in my walk.  I wonder what the church would be like if we could rejoice together in the work that God is doing more often.  If we could share in joy over those being saved and their progress around us.  Are people being saved around us?

I have been learning that everyone and every place has a story.  These stories are worth knowing!  I took the time to learn part of an old missionary woman’s story, and I was so encouraged and blessed by it!  When you meet someone new, ask them their story and be able to share your own.  What is the story of the town you live in or of your family?  Could you write it down?  If you are a leader, can you write your organization’s story. Where you have been will shape where you are going.  Take some time to “look down the mountain” alongside your followers.  Share your stories of encouragement more often.  We all love to get encouraging news from our friends about their current projects, dreams, and work.  So be sources of encouragement for one another.

Called for a Purpose – Building a Community

When Sir Winston Churchill was called to head up the war effort for Great Britain, he remarked that all his life had prepared him for this hour.  Churchill knew his calling, as I believe we can all know the call that God has for us.  In the past year God has been teaching me about one of His callings  in my life – building community.

I met my current roommate while we were neighbors living in the dorms at the University of Illinois.  His name is Bofan but most people call him by his English name Dean.   He is Chinese but has lived all over the world including China, Japan, Canada, and various states in the US.  He doesn’t have an accent and he acts American in most ways.  For the first half of the semester we were acquaintances but did not see very much of each other.  I got to know Dean during daily meetings with another guy named Daniel.  We met an hour every day for prayer, sharing, and quiet time with God.

The idea for us to become roommates came from Daniel.  After one of our meetings,  Daniel suggested, “Why don’t you two room together?”  I freaked out about how to respond.  I thought, “Me room with Dean, what have you gotten me into now Daniel?”  I worried about Dean’s habit of gaming late into the night and that he would never leave the room.   I worried that he would not want to build a community like I felt called to do.  On the bright side Dean could not be any more messy than my current roommate and the more I thought about the proposition the more I felt led to accept it.  I cannot exactly put into words how my fears were calmed, I believe that God was pushing me in the right direction for His plan.

My plan was to stay on the 4th floor and continue the work that had been begun by Daniel, and others.  God had other plans.  During the second semester, a few Christians from Blaisdell met to talk about our vision for the dorm.  It was decided that we wanted to take  the spirit of community found on Blaisdell 4 and spread it to other floors.  During that meeting, Dean and I were nominated to start the new floor!  Neither of us were very enthusiastic about leaving the 4th floor.  During the next week we considered if this was the right idea, if God was calling us to go.  We determined it was, and late in the registration period I became official roommates with Dean on the second floor of Blaisdell, room 228.

The issue was laid to rest as we went home for the summer.  We returned three months later and moved back in to PAR.  The first few weeks of the semester were hard for me.  Again, I was full of doubt.  What if we had made a mistake?  We left a great floor and community to move here among strangers.  What if we had gotten the message from God wrong?  I doubted for two weeks.  Then I met Josh one of the twin Korean guys living down the hall from us.  This was the first sign from God that He had a plan.  We talked for over an hour and I found that he was a strong Christian!  I was amazed that God had brought such people to our floor.  I had nothing to do with it, I just moved in.  In the course of that third week of school I met 4 Christian guys and over 10 guys who would later become instrumental to building our community.

During the year I saw God build community despite my fears.  It turned out that Dean did game a lot and never left the room but his gaming turned out to be one of the gifts that brought the floor together.  We ended up playing 8 person HON (a multiplayer game) matches.  We played the entire storyline of a really scary game called Amnesia – The Dark Decent.  We gathered 7-10 people in our room, turned the lights off, and freaked out together when monsters chased after us.  A friend of mine a floor below us asked what all the screaming was about!  Dean and I played through Portal 2 together while a bunch of people watched and helped solve the puzzles.  It was amazing what God did with Dean’s gift despite my doubts!

Blaisdell 4 was amazing, I made lifelong friendships there, and I will always fondly remember the time I spent there.  In the end Blaisdell 2 was not the same as Blaisdell 4.  The communities were built with different gifts.  I think that this is very exciting because it means that all of us are able to build our own unique community, with our own unique gifts.  It’s an invitation and a challenge.  Will you be a gatherer for God’s kingdom work?

God’s Calling

What always amazes me when I think about God’s calling are the “random coincidences” that line up to bring us to the place we need to be.  There were many of these random coincidences that brought me to room 228 Blaisdell Hall.  The University of Illinois was the only school that I applied to because I felt called there.  I was randomly assigned to a crazy roommate who I chose to room with a second year.  He decided, without much consulting me, to move back to Blaisdell 4 where he had roomed his freshman year.    I took a chance by becoming roommates with Dean and we took a chance by moving to the second floor.  More than 10 great people came to the second floor which formed a core group to drive the building of a community.  The last coincidence: we pulled it off!  God’s direction is clear in this set of circumstances; He called me to build a community on Blaisdell 2.  I think that Frederick Buechner’s advice sums my point up, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”