We've talked a lot on this blog about God's pursuit of our hearts. We raise our hands, singing "He Loves Us (Oh, How He Loves Us)"... And yet many of us, this writer included, struggle with what could be and should be the easiest relationship of our life. Whether it's self-doubt or self-loathing or selfishness, sometimes we just aren't there meeting God even halfway in this love story. And yet He still pursues us. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." How humbling that is to truly think about. With Easter just having passed, I still have this on my mind. But you've heard the sermons, and you've sung the songs. Now I want to introduce you to a movie and book, both released last week, that speak straight to this heart of mine.
[dropcap]Blue Like Jazz[/dropcap]
I wrote about Blue Like Jazz, one of my favorite books written by Donald Miller, and its adaptation to film back in September. The film tells the story of Don Miller (the book was semi-autobiographical), who flees his Texas Baptist upbringing after learning of wrongdoings by his mother and other Christian church leaders he once admired. He's mad. Both at the people he loved, but also at God. He feels like a fool, and he decides to go to Reed College, where Christians are in the minority, anything goes, and the real fools are those who believe in God. He denies his faith, befriends a slew of characters, and then -- through a series of events -- finds his way back. God pursues him. He follows him to the most godless campus in the US.
The film is laugh-out-loud funny and has a lot of heart. If you're a huge fan of the book, be warned that it strays a good bit (Miller was, in fact, older during his time at Reed, and audited classes instead of enrolling as a freshman, as he is portrayed in the movie). But the idea is there. That God is real, He loves us, and that Christians don't fit a mold. As of now, the film is only playing in 150 theaters across the US, and I urge you to find one near you and pass it on to your friends. Here's the trailer:
My pastor, Pete Wilson, published his second book, and I think it will really speak directly to many of you. In Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You're Believing, Pete discusses an undeniable part of our human nature: to chase happiness and fulfillment.
Pete is an excellent writer, and his first book, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You thought He Would? was a bestseller. And again, Pete tackles the human condition and our direct relationship with God. We want, want, want, and he's not talking about material things. We want power, money, security, beauty. We look to all of these things to fill a God-sized void. He calls these things our "hidden idols," and in listening to a sermon he gave last week, I was hit hard by this thought. We are all so familiar with idolatry, and we are all quick to dismiss it from our own lives. I think it's safe to say that most of us are not worshiping golden calves or spending our last dimes on good luck charms to make us rich. But Pete describes idolatry as this: Seeking anything to fulfill a need that only God can meet. (In so many words.) It's a heart thing, he says. God get us us. He made us. And he knows how our hearts work. But do we get it? I know I'm personally in the dark about the things lurking in my heart at times. Do you know what is in yours?
I'm halfway through the book and finding myself incredibly moved and inspired to seek and pursue God more than ever before. I know He's pursuing me.
(Both of Pete's books are available with study guides if you think this may be of interest to your small group.)