B4B: Never Settle For Normal by Jonathan Parnell

“Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. There is no man who does not desire this, and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact, desires other things, desires them for this end alone.”

– St. Augustine

No one wants a normal life. Normal is almost a four letter word, a bad word. It’s something to be avoided. If we can do anything so that our lives are not a series of the same, we will do it. This aversion to normal comes from a deep seeded feeling, one that is found in all of us: we were made for more.

Where does that compulsion come from? How do we fulfil it? What more were we made for? How do we live a life that is far from normal?

Jonathan Parnell wants to help us with that. With a “proven path to significance and happiness“, this lead pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis wants to see that we are not stuck in a boring, mundane life. Examining the powerful biblical truths and sharing his insights, Parnell will show us how in Jesus life will be anything but normal.

Never again will we need to be unhappy. Never again will we feel unimportant. Never again will we be stuck in a boring life. We can now Never Settle For Normal.

“The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.”

– Dorthy Sayers

There is a lot that will bother readers about this book; that it isn’t about not settling for normal, that it is a salvation message in a book, that Parnell seems to think that joy and happiness are biblical synonyms. But for the astute reader, there will be things that will be so disturbing that they may not pick the book back up again.

Parnell is right that a life grounded in God should be far from normal, but he quickly deviates from that and seems to throw a wrench into any traditional understanding of God and Trinity.

When Parnell talks about the Trinity, it is either in the language supporting a heirachy, where the Father is loving the Son by way of fellowship of the Spirit (but not anything from Son to Father, or Spirit to anyone), or in ways that reduce the Spirit to an energy between Father and Son. That understanding makes the Spirit a byproduct of Father and Son and not a person in the Trinity.

While I will give it to Parnell (and any other pastor and theologians that try) that putting language to someone as complex as the Triune God, so much more clarity is needed. And if not more clarity, at least a rebuttal to say how you are limited by language or something.

If you are writing a book about how to live a life that is not normal and rooted in God, it is critical that you get the idea of God nailed down somehow. A tall order, I realize, but a faulty, or easily misunderstood portrayal of God is going to lead to a confusing book. Especially when discussing living or moving in the Spirit.

I wish there was more I could say that would uplift Never Settle For Normal. While I applaud his efforts, they seem to fall short. Even his grasp of happiness and joy, not synonyms in a biblical sense, seems to be slapped together from here and there to make his argument work. That isn’t good scholarship. That isn’t proper exegesis. That isn’t the gospel.

A final thought: any time a spiritual leader starts making definitive statements how to get you, or earn you things from God, run the other way. While Parnell may have discovered and charted the spiritual path to significance and happiness for him, it is not a guarantee for everyone. Such exact and precise statements do not have a place when we are talking about the mystery of God, the salvation he offers, or the life that we are called to in Christ Jesus. Life with God is not a science that can be replicated and repeated. A proven path can be a rut if you are not careful.

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ….The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

– C. S. Lewis

I agree with Jonathan Parnell that we shouldn’t settle for normal, that a life with Christ is an exciting, dynamic journey. But there is so much more going on in Never Settle For Normal that I cannot agree with. The poor language and misunderstanding of the Trinity and role of the Holy Spirit compels me to give this book a 2 out of 5-star rating.

 

We Need To Stop Demonizing Judas Iscariot

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The Capture of Christ//Flikr

“While [Jesus and the Twelve disciples] were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”” – Mark 14:18-21 NASB

Of all the things that Jesus could say about you, this might be the worst. “It would be better if you were never born” cuts pretty deep. Especially if it is said from Teacher to student, from Master to servant, from friend to friend.

But it was said to Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus. So, he probably deserved it. Right? He may have, but don’t think that he is alone. The truth is we all deserve to be said about us because we are all just as bad as Judas. Continue reading “We Need To Stop Demonizing Judas Iscariot”

If You Are A “Change the Oil and Clean the Car” Type of Husband, You Are Doing Marriage Wrong

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“All I do is change the oil in her car, and clean it when it’s dirty. You know what that’s like?”

I was confused by the customer’s question. While I realize that he owned two vehicles, myself owning only one, I had no idea what he was talking about. So I responded, “Nope.”

The answer shocked him and left him uneasy. Not because I answered but because of what my answer implied. No, I’m not just the “change oil and clean the car” type of husband. And no Christian husband should be either. Continue reading “If You Are A “Change the Oil and Clean the Car” Type of Husband, You Are Doing Marriage Wrong”

MyBookLook: The Red Letter Words Of Jesus by Jack Countryman

Of all the words written in Scripture, none hold the same power or authority as those written in red. Those red letter words would be the words of Jesus Christ.

Over the centuries, Christians have read and marvelled at the wonderful words of Jesus. The peace they bring, the authority they bestow, the reality and paradigm shift that they demand have never been duplicated. No other wise or holy person’s words have had such an effect on the world as Jesus have. Even though these words were spoken over 2000 years ago, they still speak with great power.

The Red Letter Words Of Jesus are worth reflecting on regularly. And that is just what Jack Countryman’s latest book is here to help you do.

Having handpicked over 100 different passages from the Gospels, Countryman invites us to reflect on what Jesus said, and what it means for followers of Christ. And not just once, but every day. While Jesus may not be on the earth right now, His Word still remains, and it is still sharper than any two-edged sword. Let Christ speak through his words, and Jack Countryman’s own reflections in The Red Letter Words of Jesus.

First, I have to say that this book is beautiful. The great red leather binding takes the whole book to a new level. With ornamental, pressed binding, it feels like The Red Letter Words Of Jesus should be a book that is left on the shelf and admired from a far. It looks that good. But obviously, what Countryman written and what Jesus has said should not be left on the shelf. This book needs to be read.

Jack Countryman’s reflections on the words of Jesus are great but elementary. There isn’t room on a single page to dive deep into the powerful truths of Jesus’ red letter words. There is little exegesis or deep digging into why Jesus said these things. But that isn’t what this book is for. While I might lean towards a heavier book right now, the truth is that we all need a simple reminder at times. “Jesus is the Bread of Life” doesn’t need to be dissected anymore than “He is what we need to live, and live well.” Even that simple truth has the power to change your life, whether you are more eager for exegesis type books or not.

The simple but powerful truth that Jack Countryman shares regarding The Red Letter Words Of Jesus is the kind of devotional that we need more of: looking to our Savior, the words He spoke, and how they affect us on the simplest of levels.

The Red Letter Words Of Jesus is a beautiful book. Bound in a striking red leather, artistic renderings of Christ’s words, and Countryman’s quick reminders: this is wonderful devotional on some of the most powerful words in Scripture. If you are looking for a simple but powerful reminder of what Jesus has said, Countryman’s Red Letter Words is just right for you.

I give The Red Letter Words Of Jesus a 4 out of 5-star rating.


I review for BookLook BloggersDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A 4th Potential Response To Angels?

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A couple days ago, I published an article about three potential responses that Christians could have to angels. Based on what I saw in Scripture, I laid out a simple argument against two of them, and for the remaining third option.

But I completely neglected this fourth option.

I missed it because I didn’t see any basis for it in the Bible, but is still a potential response. But the lack of it being there also says something interesting.

Continue reading “A 4th Potential Response To Angels?”

3 Potential Responses To Angels Every Christian Should Be Aware Of

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Angels are weird. They aren’t absent from the Bible, just look at the first few chapters of Matthew and you will see them popping up all over the place. But they aren’t a focus by any means. They appear in numerous Bible stories, but just as mysteriously as they appear, they vanish.

To say that these celestial beings live only in the pages of the Scriptures would be to deny the experience of many Christians. I’d wager that if you went into any church in North America, even the world, someone in the congregation would have a story of how they encountered an angel. It may have been a stranger that blessed them and disappear in the blink of an eye. It could have been a winged, white robed messenger with divine words to share. And if you don’t have your own angel story (like me), chances are good that you know a Christian that has one.

But what are we supposed to do with stories of angels?

I can’t recall ever hearing a sermon about angels, only that they get a passing mention in many Old Testament stories and a few New Testament passages. But if something is mentioned in the Bible, we need to examine it, thinking about it, and then take some action.

After all, the writer of Hebrews said,

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

So, what should our response to angels be?Here are 3 potential responses to seeing or hearing from an angel.
Continue reading “3 Potential Responses To Angels Every Christian Should Be Aware Of”

Christians Need Melting Hearts

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“Before the spies lay down for the night, [Rahab] went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.”” – Joshua 2:8-9

“[The spies] said to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”” – Joshua 2:24

“Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted…” – Joshua 5:1

When Scripture repeats itself, that is when you need to pay attention. It’s the Bible waving at you, yelling, “LOOK HERE! SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS HAPPENING!” And within the first few chapters of Joshua, the idea of melting with fear, either the heart or the whole person, is mentioned three times.

I know that something repeated three times is nothing compared to the 365 times “do not fear/fear not”, but it still struck me as interesting. And then convicted me of my sin.
Continue reading “Christians Need Melting Hearts”