The Radical Question/A Radical Idea by David Platt

radicalcover The Radical Question–A Radical Idea by David Platt is a small book, what I might describe as a gift book, that basically highlights the key messages from his full length books: Radical, and Radical Together. Reading this book(-let) was quick and easy yet full of deep meaning. I found myself highlighting nearly every line. In short, I loved this book and am inspired to go purchase the other full length books to gain a greater insight into David Platt’s message.

The radical question David poses? “What is Jesus worth to you?” Is He worth denying self and sacrificing the comforts of the American dream to reach the world with His message of life? Just what kind of radical devotion do we really have? Or is our  Christian life more about adding a little bit of Jesus into our personal agendas of health, wealth, and happiness?

And David’s radical idea? What would it look like if churches stopped spending millions of dollars on bigger better buildings and started redirecting those funds to meet the needs of countless millions in poverty around the world? Of course, his reasons and explanations go much deeper than that, but overall it is a question too important to ignore.

One pointed example he brings to light: the front of a Christian magazine proclaims in large letters how a church spends 23 million dollars on a new building. Then in smaller letters on the front page, that same church is praised for sending five thousand dollars to a third world country. I mean, wow. Five thousand dollars versus 23 million? Where is the church’s focus?

More than just preaching a message, David Platt and his congregation practice their words with tangible action. For instance, they cut 83% of their worship budget to use those resources overseas–spreading the gospel and meeting the needs of the poor, sick, and helpless. They realized that having the newest best technology, most talented singers/performers, or fancy productions was not nearly as important as meeting the needs of the world. What a radical idea!

I can say that fortunately I am a part of a church much like this: extremely outward focused. But many churches could use a prod in that direction, and these books by David Platt are a great place to start. Bravo, Mr. Platt, for speaking up and challenging the church to think about what the world would look like if we did unite in radical devotion to Jesus.

(I received this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah for review purposes only and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions here were strictly my own.)

Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo

Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo could be aptly described as the Red Letter Revolution Movement’s manifesto of sorts. The text is written out as a dialogue between Tony and Shane, explaining their views/beliefs regarding a wide assortment of topics from racism, abortion, church history, liturgy, and much more. All of these tied in to what they call the “Red Letter Movement”–a group of self-described radicals who believe the keys to living are found solely within the red letters of Christ found in the Gospels.

I was initially interested in the book based solely on the title. What Christian doesn’t want to live out the “red letters” of Jesus? An unbelieving world would likely view a sold-out Christian as being radical, so that term alone didn’t resonate negatively with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get far into the text before disappointment set in. While I didn’t mind the dialogue-type format, I did mind the modern slant and somewhat “new-age” overtones sprinkled throughout the text. I was also quite disappointed in the lack of Scriptural evidence used to back up any of the author’s opinions. Perhaps I was to simply trust their words as truth.

Not wanting to make a rash judgment, though, I stuck with the book as long as possible, but in the end I could not finish it. Certainly my opinion is not a reflection of the authors’ character, as I believe their faith to be wholly genuine and heartfelt. I have no doubt they mean what they say, and live what they believe in an active way.

Most Christians would agree that no one is a judge of the heart except God. It is very possible that there are genuine believers amongst all faiths. What I don’t ascribe to, however, is the need to adopt the practices of various faiths which differ from my own. In the chapter “Dialogue on Liturgy”, Shane talks extensively about reciting certain prayers along with the benefits of using prayer beads. His suggestions, though well-intentioned, set off alarm bells for me. His argument is mostly based on the “works” of many catholic saints and nuns—their works being an outward display of a genuine love for Christ. I have nothing against Catholics, Mormons, Methodists, or anyone else. But I cannot agree with being good (as in doing good deeds) as a sole evidence of genuine faith. A lot of people do great things in the world, but they do not really know Christ. I believe that type of thinking is dangerously erroneous. Tony goes on to say,

“Spiritual disciplines, which include liturgical practices, are requirements for those who are committed to living out the red letters of the Bible. Such disciplines keep us focused on Christ and facilitate our surrendering to an infilling of Christ’s spirit.” (pg.40)

The last thing I need is more practices and procedures to prove to the world I am who I say I am (Christian). Should I cross myself before I pray as well? Will that give me more of the Holy Spirit? I’m sorry, but I do not need beads, books, or regulatory prayers to ensure I am communicating appropriately with Jesus. This is not a judgment against those who do use these things—it’s just not for me. Furthermore, I have no knowledge of such disciplines being a requirement for the filling of the Holy Spirit, and don’t appreciate the implication that I cannot be a “red letter” Christian or filled with the Spirit unless I adopt such practices.

Overall the tone of this book comes across (to me) as very worldly, new aged, and mystical. I would not recommend this book to anyone, unfortunately. My suggestion for someone wanting to live out the life and words of Jesus is to study the Bible—all of it. Not just the red letters, but the black letters of the Old and New Testaments. Surrendering to Christ is the real beginning to reflecting His character. If one wants to study beyond the Bible, I would encourage that person to seek doctrinally sound material and to weigh any books/study guides against the authority and accuracy of Scripture.

Red Letter Revolution is published by Thomas Nelson and available for purchase on Tuesday, October 9, 2012.

**I received Red Letter Revolution from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive opinion–and all of the sentiments written here are strictly my own.**

One Click Prayer-Stop

There is one particularly disturbing trend I’m seeing more and more of. The messages on Facebook that say “click ‘like’ to pray”. I heard somewhere that social networks would be the end of society, and while that may be extreme, there could be some truth to it.

What’s even more disturbing is the number of Christians who click “like” to pray. Is this what our prayers have been reduced to? If we click “like” does that somehow count as a prayer now? As if the temptation to play games for hours on end, read statuses, stories, and cartoons isn’t bad enough, now we can “send up a prayer” by clicking a button?

I wonder if this isn’t part of the reason revival is waning in the hearts of Christians. They’re too busy looking for a button to click.

There is a button, but it can only be activated on our knees. We need to stop finding things to click on and start talking to God. He’s here waiting for us to finish our puzzles and pinterest and spend time with the Him-the only one who can effect change.

You’re tired of tragedy, dissention, arguments, and injustices? There is a simple solution that doesn’t involve clicking buttons but does involve a radical heart transformation (revival):

“If my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14