“It is our deepest need, as human beings, to learn to live intimately with God.”
John Eldredge has been writing about walking with God for over ten years, since the publication of The Sacred Romance in 1997. His latest book, Walking with God, is his most deeply personal & may become his most controversial as well.
Walking with God is not structured as a typical book at all: instead, it is a written retelling and explanation of his own walk with God over the course of a year. It has no specific goal or direction; it is simply his life day by day, and how he saw God guiding and teaching him.
Interspersed with these personal experiences are explanations of his own worldview and approach to walking with God. Two core issues he spends a lot of time with are spiritual warfare and conversational intimacy with God.
Eldredge’s view of spiritual warfare is that demonic attacks, both in the form of physical ailments and mental and spiritual clouding, are very real and very common, almost an everyday occurrence, and that it takes concentrated, specific prayer to overcome them. Eldredge’s view of “conversational intimacy” is that God really can speak to us, to enlighten and guide us, and that we can learn to listen to His voice.
These paradigms are very foreign and even antithetical to most evangelical Christians. Eldredge fully realizes this, but does not try to build an elaborate structured case for his theology. After all, Eldredge is not a theologian at heart, but a storyteller. Consequently, I think he realized that he could be most effective in teaching his way of walking with God by telling stories, and not by trying to write a theological tome.
I actually am both theologian and storyteller. The theologian in me has always bristled at some aspects of Eldredge’s theology, and yet the storyteller in me sees much truth and much goodness in it as well. Did I agree with all the theology in this book? No, I did not. Did I take page after page of detailed notes, being struck again and again by his honesty and insight? Yes I did.
Walking with God is a profoundly challenging book, one that I will re-read, meditate and pray over. I believe John wanted to create a book that would make people take a hard look at their definition of what it means to truly walk with God, and then show them a path to a richer and fuller life.
More information about the book from Amazon.com is available here.
Orieus: Numbers do not win a battle
Peter: No…but I bet they help.
I thought of that quote, from the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia, when I read a little quiz last week. The website made a very bold quote:
Most ministers in the church today would not even be able to apply for membership in the times of the Puritans; their lives and knowledge would be dubious in their eyes. The level of giftedness from Christ and ministerial commitment needed to function biblically in the office of Elder is all but lost in our day. Bible knowledge seems to have been placed at the wayside. Very few men are really qualified to minister to God’s chosen people, and care for the flock of Christ.
That statement is such a marked contrast to the current view of many Christians in and out of the pastorate who see little importance of extensive Biblical knowledge and theology or even disparaging it.
I certainly agree that there are ministers that know the correct theology, but by reason of lack of maturity or lack of genuine fervent love for Christ and His church are ill-suited to pastor. But how many more with good intentions are going out to a fierce conflict, with people dying all around amidst the subtle and blatant attacks of a cunning enemy (and such is the pastorate), with few weapons, little training on how to use them, and little knowledge of the battle plan? In contrast, how many are truly living their lives in agreement with what John Eldredge said in his book Waking the Dead, “I need to study the Word of God with all the intensity of the men who studied the maps of the Normandy coastline before they hit the beaches on D-Day.”?
That’s why I am so excited about the Together for the Gospel conference starting tomorrow in Louisville, where 3000 men will hear both the truth of God’s word and the vital importance of it. Yes, having correct theology & knowledge of the Bible alone does not win the battle of ministry… but I bet they help.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)
How do we decide what to do? This is a question that scores of writers have devoted books to answering.
Of course, we all like to say that we try to follow God’s will for our lives (and there’s scores of books on that subject too!).
How often, though, we often make decisions based on our feelings, experiences, desires, basically our own will, and then assume our will is God’s will because we are Christians or because we are seeking God’s will or because the thing in question is a “good thing” to do or because or because we are sure God would bless it or… well, you get the idea. We are all looking to follow a “trail of candy” that we are sure that God has laid out for us.
Unfortunately, contemporary Christian thought is just full of this philosophy. Although I like John Eldredge and he writes some good stuff, take a gander at this quote from Wild at Heart:
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Follow the trail of candy, follow what makes you “come alive.” Now, in fairness, there is some wisdom in this quote. It’s true that a lot of people get into trouble because they plunge into something just because they decide it’s a need. And it’s true there are a lot of people walking around “dead”— not plunging themselves into any kind of risk for the glory of God. And it’s true that as you do God’s will, God sometimes is gracious and gives you a feedback loop of joy and fulfillment. I think that Eldredge is sincerely trying to lead people in the right direction, and I don’t think that he is personally looking only for self-fulfillment in his life.
BUT— using “what makes you come alive” or any such measure of personal desire or will or fulfillment as a guide to making decisions has several major problems:
- It assumes our personal wills are in perfect tune with God’s will, or at least in the same general direction. Well, duh, if Jesus had to pray “not as I will” we certainly can’t trust our much more falliable feelings.
- Sometimes God’s will is not personally fulfilling or even attractive to us. As the old Don Francisco song goes, “Jesus didn’t die for you because it was fun.”
- Finally, as I alluded to above, choosing what to do because of its personal fulfillment is putting the cart before the horse. God never intended for us to use the hope of immediate personal fulfillment as the guide for our wills. There will be rewards and God does love to give us gifts, but he doesn’t lay out a trail of candy for us to follow step by step through this life.
As a contrast, let me provide the steps George Mueller used to help him make decisions:
- I seek to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in a given matter. When we are ready to do the Lord’s will—whatever it may be—nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, God’s Word. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Spirit guides us, He will do it according to the Scriptures, never contrary to them.
- Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me.
- Thus, through prayer, the study of the Word and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge. If my mind is thus at peace and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. I have found this method always effective in trivial or important issues.
For this week’s Monday Media Meltdown, we start out with a trivia question: What do all of the above characters have in common?
The answer, which is obvious to Brit sci-fi lovers, is the title of this post—they have all been “traveling with the Doctor.”
For the unintiated, “the Doctor” refers to Doctor Who, the much-beloved BBC sci-fi series. The Doctor is always galavanting about saving the world and picking up various companions in tow, as the above pictures attest.
So, our next question is: How could you tell if someone had been traveling with the Doctor?
This question came to me one evening while I watched the famed “Five Doctors” episode along with “The Unquiet Dead” episode of the 2005 season, giving me six doctors and a whole slew of companions in one evening. As I was in my mini Who marathon, I asked myself: If you would travel with the Doctor, what would characterize your life?
First, it would be a life of adventure. Life is never boring for long around the Doctor. There are always new experiences, new places, and exciting events. In fact, he usually isn’t happy unless something is going on. In “The Unquiet Dead” episode he & Rose are walking down a quiet street when screams & mayhem erupt in the distance. With a smile on his face the Doctor announces, “That’s more like it!”
Second, it would be a life of battling against evil. The Doctor isn’t a vigilante looking to pick a fight, but he will not walk away when people need to be saved. He has laid his life on the line or even given it up to save others in nearly every episode. The people who travel with him both know it, expect it, and join him in it. In “The Unquiet Dead” the Doctor & Rose are facing imminent death at the hands of some evil aliens (as usual!), and she faces him and says, “We’re going out fighting?” He nods his head, she grasps his hand, and asks the single word, “Together?”
Which brings us to the third aspect of traveling with the Doctor, enriching relationship. Yes, his interpersonal skills need some work, but in the end his companions stick around not for the adventure or even the battle, but because of their relationship with him. He makes no apology that to travel with him can be dangerous, but he also revels in its excitement and there is something in him that wants to share the journey. In the same episode, after the Doctor describes the wonders of traveling through space & time, Rose impishly adds, “Better with two!”
These three marks of traveling with the Doctor, adventure, battle, and relationship, are profound and archetypal human needs for all of us (those of you who are John Eldredge fans may recognize them from his writings). They are part of the wide and enduring appeal of the series, and they are always present within the stories.
Which brings us to the third hypothetical question (hypothethical since the Doctor isn’t real): What if someone said, “Yes, I’ve traveled a long time with the Doctor, I know him well, but never had an adventure, never battled against evil, and never really struck up a relationship.”? I would be likely to respond, “If you’ve never experienced any of that, you’ve never really traveled with the Doctor.”
Which brings me to the point of this extended metaphor: If I consider myself a Christian, if I say I am traveling with Christ, then I am not in the company of a time-lord, but with the Lord of Time, not some fanciful fiction but with the ultimate reality, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
If I’m truly a follower of Christ, staying close by Him, shouldn’t my life be marked by adventure every day as I serve and love and teach and minister in His name? Shouldn’t my life be marked by battling against evil, whether social injustice or people bound by sin or sickness? Shouldn’t my life be marked by life-transforming relationship, both with Christ and with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
But how many people who name the name of Christ can truthfully say they are living a life of adventure, of battle, of transforming relationships? Too few, I’m afraid. How about you?
Just got finished listening to a great series of messages by C. J. and Carolyn Mahaney that are available for download here .
I found it interesting that one message directed primarily toward men was on true greatness and how one message directed primarily toward women was on true beauty.
This echoes many other writers, most famously John Eldredge recently, that there is something God-given within the masculine heart that seeks after, knows that it is made for, and is not satisfied without, greatness, and likewise something within the feminine heart that is made for beauty.
In men, the God-given desire for greatness has been corrupted into what Eldredge likes to refer to as striving after “small stories”—greed, power, lust, sports, self-focused achievements. Most clearly through Jesus, we see that true greatness, the greatness that God defines, the greatness that God made men for, is the path of servanthood and humility.
In women, the beauty that the apostle Peter describes in 1 Peter 3:4 as precious to God is that of a gentle and quiet spirit. This has been corrupted into the brash, competitive, and self-focused vanity of external appearances.
Our relationships have been corrupted as well. Every man wants to be thought of as great, respected, by the woman in his life(because of this seed of greatness within his soul), and wants to be able to glory in the beauty of his wife(recognizing the beauty that God has intended for her). Men have corrupted this into domination and abuse of women, and focusing on and abusing their external beauty instead of seeking and cherishing their inner beauty.
Likewise women want their men to be enthralled by their beauty, not abusing it or comparing it to others. And as a literal reading of the Hebrew of Genesis 3:16 points out, women’s desire is now corrupted into wanting to rule over their husband instead of wanting to join as his help-meet in God’s vision of greatness for him.
So, in a nutshell, this is what was intended and where we have went wrong, and also a path back, through Christ a path back for men to seeing that true greatness, the greatness that the regenerated heart truly longs for, is through servanthood and cherishing our wives’ true beauty, and for women to relish and cultivate their true beauty and see and support the greatness in their husbands.