Saturday, March 7, 2009

Holy Available

Dear friends,

A while back I wrote a review of a book by Gary Thomas titled The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God. I was on his web site yesterday and noticed that the name of the book is being changed to Holy Available: What If Holiness Is about More Than What We Don't Do? I love the new title; it really does capture the essence of the book. I also like the redesign of his web site
which includes several video clips of Gary speaking, as well as lots of articles.

Anyway, here is the review I wrote in November 2007 for my Hope Chest Home School e-magazine.


You probably all know by now what an avid reader I am, as well as how much I appreciate books by Gary Thomas. They have been such vital manna to a very hungry soul this past year or so. That’s why I was so excited when he told me that his newest book,
The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life, would be released this month. I’ve been reading an advance copy for the past several weeks, and I have certainly not been disappointed. What an insightful book!

The Beautiful Fight is based on the premise that Jesus ascended into heaven with his body, and that the church here on earth still carries out his work as his body. We are his eyes, mouth, ears, minds, hands, feet, and heart to each other and to the rest of the world! How we live in that truth makes all the difference! How can we be content to just “go through the motions” when we can instead be transformed into his likeness and do the things that need to be done to extend his Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven?

Let’s take this right to where we live. Can you imagine how your home schooling experience could be affected if, instead of mere academics, you taught your children how to be the “body of Christ” in your home and beyond? What if they learned how to see people how Jesus sees them? What if they spoke the words that Jesus would have them say as his ambassador? What if they filled their minds with thoughts from the very mind of God? What if they trained their hands and feet to serve others just as Jesus set us the divine example? And what if we did it, too? Gary makes it clear that this is not something we can ever do with our own strength. We need to be God-empowered. We need to be transformed into his likeness, day by day.

This book makes a difference in how I approach academics, especially as I teach the middle school English class at our home school co-op. I try to share with the kids how they need to be aware, to really notice with their ears and eyes what is going on around them and to pay close attention what they read and hear. Their hearts and minds will then be equipped to think it through with depth and excellence so they can actively respond with compassionate hands, feet, and mouths. As we read great literature, I don’t want them to merely fill in the blanks on Mrs. Knowles’s study guides, but to fill their whole lives with beauty and truth. With that in mind, we did an extended literature unit on the Old Testament: first Joseph, then Esther and Daniel. How can we live with their kind of courage and integrity? After that, they each chose an Old Testament character for a research report. Right now we are reading The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, a novel which is set during the Roman oppression of Israel at the time of Jesus and addresses the question: Do we live for vengeance or for the way of love? How can we best be the body of Christ on earth?

But I digress from this review… Right now I would like to share with you some quotes from the book that I jotted in my journal. When I am absorbing new information, I like to “Read, Reflect and Respond.” Journaling helps me do that because I have to read carefully enough to really think about the words, and then respond not only with my own words but with ideas for practical application. I highly encourage this approach to learning and living, not only for adults but for children. To help us with “reflecting” on the book, Gary has included a study guide in the back of it! But I digress again… On to the quotes, lots of lovely quotes, I promise! (I have included the page number in parentheses after each quote.)
“Incarnational spirituality – the living, reigning and ascended Jesus living through us and transforming us into different people – does not exist to uphold a few rules, but rather speaks of a process that creates an entirely new person who sees with new eyes, feels with a new heart, hears with renewed ears, and lives with a new passion. It is, I believe, the only life worth living.” (19)

“While I applaud the God-given desire to engage our culture, how much better it would be if we were first transformed. Then we could demonstrate to the world true, God-breathed creativity instead of cleverness, and familiarity with the Trinity instead of an obsession with proving how well we can read the latest cultural trend. We cannot compensate for being strangers to God by becoming friends with the culture.” (26)

“My most common prayer is this: ‘May the risen and ascended Christ manifest himself in me as I submit myself to be his servant today.'” (39)

“Let us discard the pride, the preening, the bloated arrogance of our opinions. Let us shun small lives of desperate people who try to make themselves large through frenetic activity and modern gimmicks. Let us quiet our hearts long enough to experience the restful, amazingly powerful, and compellingly pure passion of Jesus, changing what we see, tuning us to what must be really heard, and helping us to feel what God himself feels.” (44)

“People will regularly disappoint us. If our hearts aren’t ready for this, we’ll speak only with angry exasperation, our negative words tearing down people for their humanness, instead of using our tongues to cultivate redemptive transformation.” (82)

“For me, hearing God’s voice is one of the most precious parts of being a disciple. I crave God’s insight into my actions and motives. I desire with all my heart to know his particular will for me – not some general direction based on certain principles, but his particular application for my particular need.” (99)

“Another condition for hearing from God is a holy life. Sin may not block our salvation, but it does tend to stop up our ears. It leads us down a path of deception and hinders further understanding and direct hearing… If you haven’t dealt with your pride, your own voice and ambition will being sounding suspiciously like God’s. And if you haven’t gained mastery over your emotions, you’ll mistake your own moods for the Holy Spirit’s confirmation.” (101)

“Some Christians act as if they are helpless victims of their own thinking, as if they can’t stop certain fantasies, infatuations, negative thinking, rumination on fears, or hateful prejudices. This simply doesn’t square with a biblical worldview that tells us to “pivot” toward pure thought. We are to stop thinking about evil and start thinking about what is pure and admirable and excellent.” (118)

“When we talk about Christ making a real difference with our hands and feet, we must come to grips with the fact that, by God’s decision, we are forceful beings. We shape this world. We impact it. We mold it. In fact, it is impossible to walk on this earth and not make a difference of some kind.” (122)

“The qualities of a saint come at a premium price. We cannot wake up one day and suddenly see a saint looking back at us in the mirror. The tapestry of Christlikeness is laid down stitch by single stitch, as God weaves events, attitudes, relationships and personal affliction through our daily experience.” (203)

“Transformation is never about winning his favor but rather about revealing his presence.” (233)
Also in response to this book, I wrote my annual Advent poem: Corpus Christi.

If you click on Holy Available you can browse through the book on-line and download a free PDF chapter. The newly titled book is not available from Zondervan until May, but you can still order it at a discount from CBD under the old title: The Beautiful Fight.


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