Jesus Loves Me (Despite Knowing Me)

sunset-hands-love-woman

As kids, most of us sang the words “Jesus loves me this I know…” Perhaps we didn’t fully understand the depth of what we were singing, but we sang it. And we believed it.

The knowledge that God loves me is a tremendous comfort. It brings peace and joy and elicits faith. And though it is often relegated to children’s lessons and songs, it is one of the most profound and amazing truths about God. What makes it so incredible is the fact that He loves me despite the fact that He knows me perfectly.

In his book, Knowing God, Packer says “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me…and quench His determination to bless me.” Packer continues to say that despite the fact that “…He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow men do not see and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see myself…He wants me as His friend…and has given His son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? So often we approach relationships with the fear that if they only knew me they wouldn’t love me. However, we can rest in the knowledge that God loves us fully and completely despite knowing us fully and completely. I am both known and loved. I need not fear rejection by God because of who I am or what I’ve done. He knows me, faults and all. And loves me anyway.

When I consider this great gift of love, I feel compelled to worship Him. I cannot help but love Him in return. I also recognize that this is the truest and best way to love. As He has loved me despite knowing the worst of me, so I too should love others when I have seen or heard or felt their worst.

This is true love. This is the love that God has for us and it leaves me humbled and overwhelmed. I pray that you will join me in rejoicing over the fact that Jesus loves me even though He knows me.

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Reviewing Radical

Over the years, I have acquired a great many books. I have stacks and shelves and even boxes of books, many of which I have never read. Beyond that are the many books I have acquired now in digital form and those that I have access to through libraries and other means. And the possibilities are ever increasing. In the “Christian Living” category alone, Amazon shows over 1,800 books released in the last 30 days! With the almost endless possibilities of new books to read, a book would need to be pretty significant to warrant being read more than once.

Radical by David Platt is one of those books. I have just finished reading it for the 3rd time in just over that many years and decided that it might be time to review and recommend it for any who have not yet taken the time to read it. Released in 2010, it is already, in my opinion, one of the most significant books that any Christian could read. The subtitle summarizes the general direction of the content quite well: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. At the close of the first chapter, the author himself provides us with a simple overview of the purpose of this book.

“In the pages to come, we will together explore the biblical gospel alongside our cultural assumptions with an aim toward embracing Jesus for who He really is, not for who we have created Him to be. We will look at the core truth of a God-centered gospel and see how we have manipulated it into a human-centered message. We will see a purpose for our lives that transcends the country and culture we live in… We will discover that our meaning is found in community and our life is found in giving ourselves for the sake of others… and in the end we will determine not to waste our lives on anything but uncompromising, unconditional abandonment to a gracious, loving savior who invites us to take radical risk and promises us radical reward.”

For me, that paragraph was enough to convince me that I had to finish reading this book and relieve any concerns I might have had about his intent. He is clearly not espousing some sort of social gospel that ignores man’s need for salvation. Instead, this book serves as a challenge to take all of Jesus’ words seriously, commit to obey them and then consider what the implications would be if we did so.

It is not my intention with this review to provide so much detail that you do not need to read the book yourself. Rather, it is my desire to provide a few highlights that give you a desire to read it. With this in mind, let me offer some of my own observations that might prove helpful.

  •  Radical proposes that the biblical gospel, when received, will produce in us a heart that abandons everything to follow Christ. The book is intentionally critical of a Christianity that embraces the American dream, lives for self and has little or no regard for the poor and suffering of the world.
  • Radical clearly and passionately presents the gospel of grace apart from works (p39). Though Dr. Platt is quite adamant that Christians should be sacrificing to meet needs all over the world, he is also quite clear that doing this can never save.
  • The primary message of Radical is total abandonment of self and total devotion to Christ for the sake of the gospel. Meeting the needs of the poor and suffering are seen as a necessary part of taking the gospel to them and not as a replacement for giving them the gospel.
  • Radical challenges the church to embrace our role in God’s plan as the means for taking the gospel to the nations.

My conclusion is that everyone should read this book. However, as with just about any book, there is risk that one might miss the point or draw a wrong conclusion. In regard to that risk, I trust that my above observations will prove helpful. In addition, I would like to say that after reading the book several times, I am convinced that the author is not trying to spell out for each reader a specific way that he must sacrifice or a specific lifestyle he must live. Rather, I believe that his intent is to challenge each of us to ask questions that we never have before about how we use the blessings God has given us. I think he wants every Christian to ask what they can sacrifice and how they can give of themselves for the sake of the gospel, and that is certainly a message that I wholeheartedly agree with. Whether or not you ever read the book, I challenge you to evaluate the impact the gospel has had on your lifestyle and consider what you can sacrifice for the sake of Christ.

Reviewing “The Millennials”

I recently finished reading The Millennials by Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer and would highly recommend it to anyone who knows, works with, goes to church with, lives with or cares about someone in the millennial generation – so pretty much everyone. However, not everyone has the time to read almost 300 pages that at times can be a little dry and technical – it is, after all, primarily a commentary on a vast amount of statistical data. Because of this, I offer a brief review that I hope will be helpful.

The Millennials attempts to present the facts objectively, but is unapologetically written from an evangelical Christian worldview. The primary purpose of this book is to identify the core identity and values of this young generation and not to make judgments as to the correctness of these values. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found a great deal of helpful information on nearly every page. That information is the result of extensive research that the authors conducted through LifeWay Research and is basically formatted so as to present the results of that research topically. The opening chapter introduces the millennial generation as well as the study that produced the book. The following chapters each summarize the beliefs, feelings and opinions of the millennials in regard to a specific broad category such as family, money or religion.

In my opinion, the first two chapters provide an excellent overview of the later content and if read on their own would still prove to be very beneficial. Chapter one provides nice, succinct descriptions of the previous generations as well as some technical information describing how demographers choose the birth year range for a given generation, how generational names are determined and how they conducted this particular study. All you really need to know in regard to those areas is that the years vary a little; many names are suggested until one eventually sticks; and the study is totally legit. Chapter two provides insights from the younger author who is himself a Millennial. The later chapters merely delve into greater detail about the basic information provided in these opening chapters. In addition, all of the chapters are clearly titled so one could easily go directly to a topic of interest and discover the general opinion of millennials on that topic. The Millennials ends with a final chapter that addresses how churches must respond to this generation followed by a postscript that again summarizes the author’s conclusions.

In case you don’t read it for yourself, allow me to give you some highlights. To start with, The Millennial Generation the book is focused on is the largest generation in America’s history, consisting of those born from 1980 to 2000. The Millennial generation is diverse, but statistically speaking there are some typical traits. The typical millennial (you can find the statistics in chapter two and throughout the book) is educated, working (but not a workaholic), unmarried (at present, though most plan to have families), green (but not that green – most are environmentally conscious, but not driven by environmentalism), financially confused and not religious.

In addition to this typical profile, the authors discovered some prominent themes that seem to represent the majority of Millennials.
• They are hopeful for the future and that they can make a difference. They desire to be significant and to do something to change the world they live in. This often leaves them restless and dissatisfied with status quo.
• They are relational. Most Millennials desire close relationships with their families, but it even extends beyond the family circle. They are connected and they value relationship and community. They are not less capable, but they do not necessarily desire to be as independent. They desire to be mentored by someone who is experienced and will listen and communicate.
• They are learners. They will eventually become the most educated generation and have already earned the highest number of undergrad degrees and scored highest on aptitude tests. They are driven to pursue education. Even those not pursuing formal education seem more driven to excel and gain expertise in their field.
• They are family oriented. They have many traditional attitudes about family. About 80% believe they will only marry once. Most want children and want their parents and siblings to be involved in their family. Most desire parental involvement.
• They are less religious. Though only a small percentage of this generation is likely to be genuine Christians, about 85% are just not religious at all. They seem to have little interest in formal religion. Only 13% considered any type of spirituality to be important in their lives.

The expansion of these themes and the typical traits make up the substance of this book. Though the authors seemed to try to put the most positive spin possible on each of the traits and themes, it is obvious that there is great need among those in this Millennial Generation. To me, the greatest benefit of this book for believers and church leaders is to use it as a guide of sorts to lead us into more profitable interaction with this generation. Many of our churches at present are deliberately designed to push this group away while at the same time they lament the fact that the “young people” aren’t in church anymore. This book could be a great tool in helping us understand how these Millennials can be reached.

Overall, I think this is a much needed book for churches and individuals right now. Personally, I became filled with hope at the great potential of this generation while reading and upon finishing found myself excited to engage this diverse generation and be used to help them become a mighty force for God’s glory.