Saturday, February 20, 2010
Right Side Up - Pt 4
I'm so glad Paul returned to the fairground story! The more I think about it the more I love the premise of this book: Christianity isn't just a tweaking of your life habits, it's a complete change of orientation! People need to face this from the start. Jesus asked us to leave everything to follow him but we sometimes speak like we're not so sure that it's really required these days, and we certainly don't want to tell new believers that since they might just change their minds. Yet, as chapter five shows, while it may at first seem upside down and all a little too hard, what the Bible teaches about Christian living also confirms our deepest suspicions about life's meaning and purpose. For example, the feeling that we're made for life, which makes grief so gut-wrenching. What a quote on page 67: 'Even though we know it must happen, death leaves us angry and afraid.' Paul has such a talent for summing things up, this book has you nodding your head as you read along, I hadn't thought about how positive the word life is, and how the world recognises this. Too true! As Norm used to say 'Life be in it!'
Here's another great explanation of the Old Testament as Paul gives us a succinct summary of Joshua to Malachi(!) and shows how it's all fulfilled when Jesus sends us his Spirit. Wow! How does Paul manage to teach key doctrines in such a non-programmatic way? And without jargon! Faith is taught as a consideration of what it means to trust Jesus like we actively trust a good friend, and we're shown we can do this because the Holy Spirit is at work to change us. And Paul threads everything together, pointing out that we're no better than Israel in the trust stakes, and that we need God to be at work in us or we'll never do any better. Bang! Predestination covered before we've realised it and in a way that makes total sense. I've always struggled to make the work of the Spirit tangible for a new believer, after reading these pages on how he gets us trusting and keeps us trusting I think I've made a break-through! The section on our spiritual battle (the real one that often gets overlooked among more exciting, and rather imaginative, writings about inter-generational Mason related experiences) explains a lot too. Paul guards against early discouragement as he keeps giving the new Christian accurate expectations for how the Christian life will be. It's the premise of this book that 'We're right side up people living in a world that's upside down' (pg 81) that explains so much of our everyday experiences.
Chapter six begins in a similar way to how Paul began his book, with a story that has you pondering how it links with the subject matter at hand. Surely not an intentional device to keep us reading, but that's certainly the result! Now we're thinking about morality, and how the world's attempts at ethics are unworkable, and only God's wisdom and authority can forge a good system. This is spelled out with concrete examples. I must get narky at this point and say I'm a bit sick of the same old 'leaving sex 'til last' joke. I suspect that it's more of a male thing to find that the most interesting topic on offer, for many girls you could leave shopping (especially for shoes!) until last, which ironically is the first topic! What a concrete application for prosperous Australia — we need a hip pocket conversion more than most.
Paul certainly presents us with a radical benchmark on page 98 with his friend's challenge to work out what we can give away and to live on the leftovers. That might personally take some working on but it makes total sense, using money to serve others just as we're called to put others first in every area of our lives! Paul points out for us in a number of ways the Christian challenge to discard our natural tendency towards selfishness (even selfish love — page 101!). I really want to read that book about Ernest Gordon! There are so many incredible stories to discover out there. I fear it's probably out of print, isn't that always the way? ... And now for the 'long-awaited' sex bit: of course he has many helpful insights, for example the bit about the pain of unfaithfulness shows how sex was meant to include commitment the same way that his earlier comments on grief showed how life was meant for living, not dying. Paul writes with such sensitivity, writing not for the sake of writing but for the people reading, considering their pain. Chapter six ends with a helpful summary of the 'story so far' not only of the chapter but of the book. So much ground covered! Where do we go next?