Reading, like anything else worth doing, requires intentionality. It’s a discipline. People who view reading as a leisure time activity are not, in my estimation, actually readers at all. For only someone who doesn’t read could so readily overlook the commitment of time, mental acuity, and emotional investment that reading requires of the reader.

It may be passive in the sense that one is typically not up and moving around while reading. But there is much activity occurring underneath the cranium. To look at a reader is akin (in a sense) to look at someone suffering from a chronic illness: just because one doesn’t see something going does not mean that nothing indeed is going on.

Think of all the time people these days put into binge watching Netflix, for instance, and multiply that 100x for a reader engaged with a beloved book. There is an investment there. It takes discipline to tune out: the T.V., music, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It takes commitment to continue. The characters become in a very real sense friends–we live, laugh, love, suffer, and die with them.

They become family.

Which is why this Lenten season I’m committed to reading as many books as possible which confront in my comforts, skewer my denials, challenge my assumptions; in short, bring me up short, showing me my abject poverty, mortality, and my utter need for Christ.

Who’s with me?

My ecclesiasial experience began in my youth by attending services with my maternal grandmother. This only happened in her company, and then only in summer. The rest of the year, my family was so very protestant we didn’t darken the doors of any church with our presence. Not at Christmas, nor even at Easter.

God was simply a paradigm with nob practical relevance for me. Yet interestingly, most of my reading consisted of works within the genres of horror and fantasy. Even then, there was a hunger in me for something more, something numinous, supernatural. In a way, those books became my church, a way of joining a world greater, darker, lighter, more mysterious than the one in which I lived.

Like Emeth, in Lewis’s The Last Battle, my allegiance may have been to Tash, but heart (perhaps even unbeknownst to me) was seeking. Seeking something more, something other: a new, a different, life.

That search was to have its fruition when I met a girl, right around Easter time, 1988. The girl, of course, invited me to church. And in May of that year, like Lewis before me, I admitted that God was God, and that it was He Whom I had been seeking. Casting off the books, I embraced my Savior.

To honor that journey, this Lenten season, I am returning to some of those books I loved as a child, the ones which first awakened in me that desire for a different life. In looking back I am taking stock of whence I’ve come to more clearly see the signposts of where God was at work when I didn’t know Him. My hope is that in so doing is to thereby kindle the fires of faith for the road ahead.

What are you doing for Lent?

I suppose the word I’ve been dancing around is disappointment. We know that Jesus came not to make our lives better, but rather to give us better lives. Lives with purpose, meaning, depth, fulfillment. Yet we so often find ourselves frustrated, and dare I say disappointed. Because somewhere along the way we’ve heard that “God loves us, and has a wonderful plan for our lives.” While this is, in a certain sense, true, it also comes far short of the reality of walking with a God Who didn’t spare His own Son.

I mean we’re not stupid, right? We don’t like pain. And the message of the church, by and large, has been come to Christ, and He’ll solve all of your problems. As if. He came to solve the problem of sin, but this being a fallen world sin however is still very much with us.

Because we don’t embrace suffering as a path to enlightenment, because we buy into the lie that we can have it, we can have it now, there’s a great disconnect between our expectations and our experience. We should be farther along with the Lord, we shouldn’t still be struggling with _______.

Thus it is that we become discouraged, feeling like that Jesus hasn’t kept up His end. “I came that they might have life, and that more abundantly.” Where? Where is this abundant life He promised?

Could it be this is it? I sure hope the hell not. Where everyday is a struggle just to arise from bed, where there’s never enough rest, nor enough hours in the day to accomplish the things we want, and need, to do.

Why is everything a struggle?

Our best life now? Um, excuse me, but screw you Joel Osteen. Right in your lying mouth (metaphorically speaking). If your answer is that we don’t have faith, what of David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus? Who were maltreated, abused, suffered, and died? And yet were most definitely approved of God.

What of the hall of faith in Hebrews 11? “Of whom the world was not worthy” is what is says there.

It seems to me that we’ve got it backwards. Jesus never lied, never pulled any punches, never truckled. If we’re disappointed in Him, we’re projecting, having believed lies.

We should be disappointed in ourselves for falling for it. Again.

For His is the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. We don’t like to hear that, but it’s indisputably, undeniably true.

What lies have you believed? What agreements–consciously, or otherwise–have you made with the other team?

What walls need to fall down in your life today?


Chad Jones
gandalf239@gmail.com
http://randomlychad.com
http://www.facebook.com/randomlychad
@randomlychad on Twitter

We all know that, since the beginning, sin is a pernicious condition endemic to our race. No one can escape its effects, there isn’t a single soul who hasn’t sinned; evidence of it is everywhere. Into this sin-darkened world a light came, proclaiming a new way.

A way to be free.

But as stated above, sin is pernicious, and doesn’t want to let us go. We don’t always choose that freedom. And the Bible itself says “there’s pleasure in sin for a season.” It feels good–so we don’t want to let it go. Or in letting it go, we don’t replace it with something else, and fall again into same old same old (wondering how we got oursleves here).

Jesus said (I’m paraphrasing), of demonic harassment, that having found the house [soul] swept and in order, it returns with seven spirits worse than itself. Now the context may be possession, but the application is further reaching. You it isn’t enough to just repent, and cut a sin out of our lives–that activitity must needs be replaced by something positve.

Something God-honoring.

If you know you need to stop doing x, pray, confess, and put y in its place. For instance, if you’re struggling with pornography, make sure you have the accountability of a trusted same-gendered believer. Moreover, don’t put yourself in the situation where you’re going to be tempted. Don’t have a computer in your house where you can be alone with it, but rather out in the open. Moreover, don’t take your tablet/smartphone/what have you into the bathroom.

Beyond this, when temptation arises,  call your accountability partner and let them know what’s going on. Have them pray with you. Flee that sexual temptation by:

Going for a walk

Going to the gym

Going for a drive.

Writing, journaling, painting…

In short, some creative (rather than destructive) endeavor.

Whatever it takes to replace that sin in your life with something good.

The same goes for any sin. If it’s overspending, over eating, whatever. Do your best to avoid the situation, and fill that void with another healthy, God-honoring activitity. It may take time, but don’t beat yourself up for your stumbles.

Just keep moving forwards.

How about you? What do you do to combat sin?

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you would have seen a recurring motif: that coming to Christ doesn’t necessarily make our lives better. Or that he even came to make this life better.

There is a prevailing wind of teaching–call it TBNinanity, BestLifeNowianity,  blab-it-grab-it-name-it-claim-it the 1st Church of the Bank of Heaven God’s blank checkianity–which has mass consumer appeal (especially) here in the United States. Point is, people like it when they’re told what they want to hear.

Or that they can tell God what they want, and He has to do it.

I don’t know about you, but my faith walk has never quite worked that way. I make my requests, but Father knows best. Plus a careful reading of scripture seems to bear out the notion that God’s favorites (if we may term them such) were the ones who suffered the most. Nobody likes pain, right? I don’t. Thus it is that a Christianity promising wealth and a life of health has great mass appeal.

The problem is that it’s just not true. I mean if God didn’t spare his own son, what should we reasonably expect? Look at Abraham: being called out, burying his father, burying Sarah, receiving a promise–but not its fulfillment. The Bible is replete with such stories. What I want is your story: how the world, the flesh, the devil, the prevailing wind of doctrine sold you a bill of goods–promised you a better life… When in reality God instead gave you a new life. How he didn’t in fact come make your life better, but rather to give you a better life. I want the honest account of how the rubber of your expecations met the road of life.

Please send your story to:

Chad Jones

My purpsoe here is to counteract the myth that coming to Christ makes everyhting better.