The Pursuit of Hapiness

Days away from finishing John Eldredge’s soon-to-be-released “Walking with God” and I felt pressed to include an excerpt.

He’s writing about how he recognized himself moving from a place of desire to need. So, he was going from an attitude of “I want this…” to an attitude of “I need this…” Eldredge’s thought is that once we move into that place, where we “need” something, that is when we begin to chase things one-by-one in hopes of finding satisfaction. He asserts that those things won’t deliver us true satisfaction.

Now this concept isn’t new. It’s taught often in the church. But as I read, I really resonated with a verse he referenced and the passage that followed.

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:16-21

Eldredge’s writing which follows…

“The warning is not about cows on the hills and cash in the mattress. The dangerous turn of the soul described here is what happens in the fellow’s heart. I’ve arrived. Life is good. But not because he has found life in God. There is no greater disaster for the human heart than this – to believe we have found life apart from God. And this shift I’ve been describing – this coming to believe that what I don’t have but long for I actually need – is the opening stages of the disaster. For whatever reasons, we have come to believe that God is not enough.”

“And so, whatever else might be the reasons for our disappointments, there is no question that God uses them to draw us to himself. To wean our hearts from every other perceived source of life, so that we might come to find our life in him.”

Not Every Gospel Is Equal

I continue to make my way through a pre-release copy of John Eldredge’s “Walking with God.” I have one last chapter and it’s been really refreshing to get through a variety of topics.

One entry in the book is called “Not Every Gospel Is Equal” and after reading a few lines I knew I was going to like it. I will post several lines below but I’ll summarize briefly.

Eldredge asserts that Christians today often will not make distinctions and value judgments between various movements in Christianity, churches or Christians. Citing Matthew 7:1-5 when Jesus said, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.”

He counters this idea with John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.” and Galatians 1:6-9.

Eldredge’s point is that Jesus, along with his disciples in writings to early Christians encourages us to make “right distinctions between the true and the false, the accurate and the not-so accurate.” Not to make ourselves look better or prove a point, but to make “right judgements.” We should feel comfortable holding up each other to the life and teachings of Christ and see if things align. He adds about some faiths, churches, people… “There are just enough Jesus words in there to make them sound like Christianity. But they are not preaching the Gospel Jesus preached.”

On this point I agree. And often times I think we (Christians in general and myself included) often error on the side of “not rocking the boat” or “well I shouldn’t really judge” when life before us, our churches, our relationships, our faith doesn’t align with Christ. We make agreements or we rationalize and remain in something that has “enough Jesus words” to keep us comfortable, our situation manageable.

Eldredge closes this particular entry by talking about a type of Christianity he calls “Christianity and“. He only spends a few paragraphs on it, but I’m sure you could spend chapters. The idea is, Christians get so wrapped up in issues or topics they become entangled in those issues and lose their loyalty to and focus in Christ.

For example, it could be “Christianity and conservatism”. That people could become more concerned about issues of conservative values than they do drawing people into an intimacy with God. I, like Eldredge, don’t have a problem with conservative values, but the focus is what I believe can become twisted. When we couple our faith with the world of politics, social reform, environmentalism, legalism and a variety of issues, those become our faith.

Don’t think however, that these issues aren’t important. Just like I don’t have a problem with conservative values, I fully embrace and engage in political debate, social reform, environmentalism, legalism, etc. But my goal and my desire and my focus should be on how I can introduce people to a deeper intimacy with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Three additional points Eldredge makes…

  1. “The heart is central to the Christian life…”
  2. “…we are invited into a conversational intimacy with God…”
  3. “…spiritual warfare is real…”

In closing, as I said at the top, this entry was refreshing and challenging. Not every gospel is equal. We need to make right distinctions and right judgments between the true and the false, the accurate and the not-so accurate. We can’t settle for “just enough Jesus words.” And our focus or allegiance shouldn’t be with Republicans, Democrats, PETA, Evangelicals, denominations or organizations.

Our loyalty should rest with Jesus Christ and with Him alone.

“Walking With God”

I am in the middle of a pre-release copy of “Walking with God” by John Eldredge. It’s a very personal look at what God taught Eldredge over the course of a year. Broken down by the seasons (summer/fall/winter/spring) and mostly from his own journal, this book has given me some incredibly practical approaches to discovering a whole other realm in my relationship with God.

Now I know, for whatever reason, we as people often gravitate to the “next big thing”. In our Christian culture I see it a lot. “What church is doing this?” “What preacher or writer came up with some program? We are inundated with 7 steps, 5 principals, 6 lessons, 40 days, 30 minutes.

I like that this particular book is not gimmicky. There isn’t any cookie-cutter approach to walking with God. My friend told me tonight, “I wish God just gave me a list of things to do…a bulleted list of how to do life.” But that’s not how God designed it. It takes more than a list and it takes more then 7 steps, 5 principals, 6 lessons, 40 days or 30 minutes.

When I said this book has opened up a whole other realm in my relationship with God, that doesn’t quite articulate it. Try paradigm shift, try 180 degrees, try upside down.

What God began 3-4 months ago, He has continued through this book and at a furious pace. As I have chomped through these pages, my view of God, my communication with God, how He made me, what He has for me, my marriage, my calling, my life…all changing. Some of this change has taken place quickly, other change more slowly. Regardless, it is good.

I’ll get into more specifics in the coming days/weeks. I’ll close with a excerpt about crisis. I think it will help…

…”When it comes to crises or events that really upset us, this I have learned: you can have God or you can have understanding. Sometimes you can have both. But if you insist on understanding it often doesn’t come. And that can create distance between you and God, because you’re upset and demanding an explanation in order to move on, but the explanation isn’t coming , and so you withdraw a bit from God and lose the grace that God is giving. He doesn’t explain everything. But he always offers us himself.”