Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Sweet’
Book Review – Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There by Leonard Sweet
Published by – David C. Cook ||| ISBN: 9781434764744
This is another one of those books for me (mentioned in an earlier post). “Those books” are books that I cannot read breezily through. This is (or means) good, in the highest order. The author, Leonard Sweet, proclaims the premise of Nudge is about evangelism …he’s the author; I can’t disagree with his premise. I think at a higher level, the book is about so much more than evangelization. I think it is about “rethinking” our entire perspective about how we recognize our relationship (heart, soul, mind, strength, and all our senses as well…according to Len Sweet) with the Living God. Naturally, when we reexamine and respond differently to this Living God according to previously unrecognized “signs” our methodology for evangelism is subject to (and likely to) change. So, yeah…while the book is about rethinking evangelism, I believe it has the potential to awaken us all to levels previously unrecognized.
If you’re not familiar with Len Sweet’s writing style, it may take some getting used to. Personally, I happen to love his writing style. He employs extensive use of metaphor and includes hundreds of quotes to reemphasize and support his metaphors, parables, and word pictures. I really enjoy this manner of writing and speaking, it helps me to understand the concept; true enough, but even more importantly…it helps me to take ownership of the teaching allowing it to really shape me for the better. This is not to say that I necessarily agree or disagree with every concept, but coming to a fuller understanding of the thought is important to being able to understand why I might agree or disagree. The conversation is important and when the reader does not have the luxury of physical dialogue with the author, many word pictures and metaphor help the conversation to develop in the mind of the reader sans author.
The first part of the book is about the multitude of “signs” where God is working. Sweet calls this semiotics; the art and science of paying attention. These, he writes, are God’s “nudges” showing us and calling our attention to the work that he has been and is doing in the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of man. Extremely thought-provoking, intriguing, and inspiring stuff he writes in this portion of the book.
The second part of the book goes into sensory details of the tools we have to practice semiotic awareness of God’s redemptive work. These sensory tools are the receptor-transmitters for all evangelistic nudges being received in us and broadcast from us. Again, I found this incredibly inspiring. The chapter on hearing, Pause: Use Your Ears, still has me reeling. Sweet, the maestro of metaphor, goes on to write in bountiful detail the wonders of God’s presence made anew to all our senses in Presence: Taste, Picture: Eyes, Ponder: Touch, and Promise: Nose. So impressed was (am) I with these word pictures, I do not think a better job could have been presented in illustrating the ideas. The privilege to me is that each metaphor provides new thoughts and reflection and this is why I cannot “breeze” through this sweet writing style.
I was really taken with the last book release (see my full review here), So Divine, by Leonard Sweet. I thought it would be near impossible to improve on the work done in that piece. Nudge proves itself to be a most worthy companion to So Divine. In my opinion, they should be must reading for every Christian. I think each would provide fantastic discussion points for small groups.
My grade: 5-stars. I’ll be reading it and pondering it for a long time. My hope is that you’ll give it a try too.
Pathfinders & Pathlosers: Another Meditation from Galatians
“You are following a different way that pretends to be the good news but is not the good news at all…” Galatians 1:6-7 [NLT]
The Galatians had been introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ receiving salvation and reconciliation to God through the atoning work of Jesus as taught to them by the Apostle Paul. The Letter to Galatians finds them deserting the path of Jesus (and/or adding to it), and following the Law of Moses and the traditions of man. The tone of the apostle’s letter reveals this new direction of the Galatians is terribly wrong. Jesus had rebuked the scribes, Pharisees, and the teachers of the law while He walked among them for following a path that was not unto God. Paul himself had been converted from a path of false righteousness, and the writer of the Letter to Hebrews spends a large portion of his treatise arguing his case that only Christ’s way is the true path of salvation; a salvation promised from the beginning of time, and superior to any other way…this including the Law of Moses… Yet, the Galatians had been duped…, fooled…., deceived.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you, and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7 [NRSV]
Sister Joan Chittister writes in her book, The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages, the following:
“The seduction of embarking on a spiritual life is that people can be fooled into believing that wanting it is doing it. They begin to believe that by traveling they have arrived. Worse, perhaps, they begin to allow others to think that by traveling they have arrived. They mistake the idea for the thing and perpetuate the idea.”
The Galatians were choosing to follow another way. Although our circumstance and/or situation may be different from theirs in some capacity, how often are we also persuaded to follow an “idea” that is really not THE WAY? My experience has been a sad one. Many of the circles of “believers” I have been a part of have not been students (disciples) of Jesus. Many have professed to receive His grace, but do not follow His teaching… Many do not know His teaching well enough to know how to follow it. What does it take to know the teaching of Jesus? How can we guard against being deceived or persuaded to follow another (wrong) path?
Christine Sine begins to uncover the root of our problem with her insightful reflection on discipleship: “Salvation is free, discipleship is costly. Salvation is paid for through Christ’s death and resurrection. Discipleship is risky; it costs us brothers and sisters, possessions and livelihood. Discipleship means yielding; a call to count the cost to carry our own crosses and follow. Discipleship remakes us; building us afresh, remolding us into the image of God.” As Sister Chittister spoke; “people can be fooled into believing that wanting it is doing it…” Many professing Christians have not made the commitment to actually begin following the Ways of Jesus.
The way we avoid being fooled, duped, and/or misled is to be wholly in tune and completely connected to the Person, Spirit, and Working of God. Brother Lawrence called this “Practicing the Presence of God.” Len Sweet calls this Semiotics in his latest book, NUDGE: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There. He writes that semiotics is the art and science of paying attention… He also writes; “Our quest is to be so filled with the Spirit of God, and to be wearing interpretive Jesus goggles, that we not only notice, but are able to interpret and respond.” (Respond to where God is and already has been and respond to what He is doing and already has done). This is practicing the presence of God. When I consider these things, I remember words and sayings of Jesus when he prefaced his teaching with statements like, “Let him who has ears hear” and “my sheep know my voice and follow me.” Of course he used other words as well that reflected these sentiments, but I think the point is the same; Pay Attention. It is not easy. Once more let me share words from Len Sweet’s book NUDGE:
One of the earliest admonitions in life is this: “Pay attention.” One of the hardest things in the world to do it is this: “Pay attention.” Nobody attends to attention. People teach us how to think, but not how to pay attention. But paying attention changes your brain, your being, your future. According to some scholars, the root lig in the word religion means “to pay attention.” If so, from its very definition, religion helps us learn to pay attention to people and to life. (pp.50-51)
I believe (most) people (including myself), as broken and depraved as we may be…want to do right and good things although, as Joan Chittister writes, “wanting is not doing.” In order that we are not “duped” into following another path, we must be fully immersed and engulfed in the Light and Life of Jesus Christ. I cannot say with complete fact what was the weak point of the Galatians who were being led astray by the Judaizers, but it is clear that something was weakening their understanding. Later in the letter Paul begins writing in more detail about following the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit and thus overcoming the dark desires of our heart. I believe, based on this detail, the Galatians were not wholly connected to the Person of God and not following the Spirit. How this connects and relates to us is as relevant today as it was two-thousand years ago. I don’t think the Galatians or any other Christian would willingly begin to follow a path that leads away from Jesus and toward destruction… no intelligent person would make that choice. The problem with my statement is that it did happen and it continues to happen even today. The truth is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Say again? We don’t know what we don’t know… and this is what gets us into the snares of the enemy.
I wish to share a few Scripture passages that I was reflecting on in conjunction with this passage.
John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:23-24 Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!”
It is in these passages that Jesus is announcing to his hearers and the world that He, the Presence of God (see Exodus 3:14), is in their midst…He is, here to lead them (you and me) in order that we will not be “lost to darkness” or duped into following another way. “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12) — I think what I get from this line of thinking is that we do not have to fear being duped. We do not have to be ever cautious or fearful that we would be led astray… as long as we are connected to the Presence and the Illuminating Guidance of our God in Christ. The Psalmist reports the same conclusion writing the following words of praise:
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11)
The point of this reflection is my attempt to consider how someone (like the Galatians) who had tasted the sweet Presence and Infilling of God in their lives could so quickly desert that sweetness for something that ultimately resulted in bitterness and death. What I think happened (and happens to us) is that it is not a sudden and conscious act. We ever so slightly and subtly become unattached to the Presence and Leading God. We become more sensitive and easily manipulated by the things we are surrounded by and very gradually we are removed from the Light that once led us. Indeed, the Presence of God is still near us, but we are unable to see or respond to it. I would liken it to a trestle that a healthy grape-producing vine is attached to. The trestle has life all around it and sweet fruit surrounds it in all directions, but there is no life or fruit in the trestle at all. The trestle has no conscious awareness of the life that surrounds it because it has no life in it… it is not connected to the vine. Our lives can become very similar to that of the trestle. God’s Presence is everywhere. There is nothing that does not bear His “fingerprint.” Everything that exists was created for Him and by Him (Colossians 1:15-20). Even though this may be true, we can be seduced by the siren song of darkness… following the “dark” path draws our attention to exaltation of “self” or “some other gospel that is no gospel at all.”
Living in the Presence of God is more than a choice and more than a verbal affirmation. As I have written earlier, it is a deliberate and disciplined act that takes constant attention. I do believe that it becomes more of our nature with discipline and experience as God’s Spirit has more reign and influence in our lives, but I think that should never be taken for granted. We must be diligent in the way we pay attention (Luke 8:18 and Hebrews 2:1), so we are not distracted and fooled into following another path. Consider the fates of these “souls” written about by the teacher in Proverbs.
The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. Proverbs 4:18-19
We might not lump ourselves in with the “wicked” or want to consider ourselves as in the dark; however, if we are removed from the Light of God’s guiding truth, we are in darkness… and we have no idea what we may stumble over. Even worse, we may even emphatically think and swear we are believing and following truth… We can easily find ourselves in the dark… and have no idea what we are stumbling over. Just like the Galatians.
A little NUDGE…
A little over a year ago I posted a multi-part review of Leonard Sweet’s book “So Beautiful.” This week I started his latest work, “NUDGE.” I will be providing a full (probably another multi-part) review of this book in the coming days/weeks. Anyway, the point of my mentioning So Beautiful in relationship with NUDGE is my first impression following the preface and opening comments of the first chapter. While I thought So Beautiful was the culmination of much of the thinking and study from Len Sweet, it appears at first glance that NUDGE is an extension of the MRI (missional, relational, incarnational) model in practice. I am excited with what I’m reading; very excited. I feel the welling up in my soul exclaiming; “yes, yes, YES!” Let me share a teaser quote from NUDGE and show you what I mean… Sweet writes:
I believe the lifeblood of evangelism is not propositions, but prepositions. For God to do something through us, God must be doing something in us. If we are not always evangelizing ourselves, we have no business evangelizing others. In fact, it is usually as God’s grace courses through us to someone else that we become aware of God’s love in and for us. Evangelism is an invitation for broken people together to meet the Christ who loves broken people. We all are damaged but loved, crushed but cherished, with a divine embrace. When love is the motivation for evangelism, nudging is love in action. And the cracks in our broken vases are where Jesus leaks out first. ~~Leonard Sweet; NUDGE p.28
I love this. I want to live in this constant and continual state of awareness of God’s Presence working in me and working through me…working in others and through others… to perfect and transform the brokenness of a creation He desperately desires to reconcile and restore. It is a divine mystery that is unfolding right in front of us and I don’t want to miss a nanosecond of it. Apparently, it takes a “nudge” every now and then to move us to action.
More to come…
So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church -Day 6
Epilogue and Final Thoughts -continued
I finished up So Beautiful this morning. It stays in the book bag for a reread. I know I missed a lot of what this book is speaking to me, so I’ll continue to spend time with it. I’m sure my heart and mind will be challenged further. Speaking of challenging, the epilogue of So Beautiful is sub-titled “Mirror, Mirror…” and it provides a scorecard of sorts to help us measure our MRI index (the value of how effectively we live out the missional, relational, and incarnational life). I think this is to be (or can be) applied personally (as individuals) and corporately (as a local church body). It’s a tough ending to a challenging book. We don’t like to look at ourselves in the mirror; most of us anyway. I know I’m not “magazine cover” material, and when I look into a mirror I see a rapidly aging, balding, not-so-handsome guy. In light of that awareness, I’m prone to not look in the mirror or change the criteria of assessment so what I see in the mirror appeals more favorably to me. I think we do that for our personal ministry, church, and personal maturity as disciples of Jesus. Touche’
The epilogue doesn’t just present the challenge of evaluation, but it also offers suggestions on how to become a Beautiful Church. I think this is very valuable as it provides solid, and practical, action steps for the person and/or church to start walking in divine design for life.
I am a disciple of Jesus. It is my intent to follow Him in truth and spirit. It is also my desire to serve Him in the role He has destined for me. I am a pastor. I am a leader and teacher of people. My role comes with great responsibility and a high level of accountability. So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church challenges my definition for “disciple” as well as “pastor-leader.” So Beautiful also challenges my (personal) definition of “church” the local entity and “church” the global entity. In my opinion, I think Len Sweet has portrayed a more accurate Biblical representation of the church than what we in the West have created. It is difficult for us to admit our wrongs…most often we want to do so with qualifications for our actions or excuses. Change is tough; we don’t like discomfort or difficulty…we don’t like to deliberately make people upset and change invariably makes some people upset. If we are going to be the “beautiful Bride” that is the Church, change is going to be necessary. The scorecard (as Reggie McNeal and Len Sweet refer) must be changed. Our success cannot be measured in “brick and mortar,” “building funds,” or “VBS attendance.” Our success must be measured by “Sermon on the Mount” style discipleship and fruit for our God…fruit that will last for eternity.
I will be recommending this book for my church leadership (it will be on my recommended reading list for everyone), I will also be challenging our leadership team to use the measurements found in the epilogue as practical exercises to assess our effectiveness as a seed-sowing and fruit-bearing “tree of life” in the local garden that God has planted us. My prayer is that we will become the Beautiful Church that reflects our Beautiful Savior.
Thank you Len Sweet for a great challenge.