radical response (chapter 4)

I can physically feel the heaviness of one very simple fact: I don’t have the words to convey what’s going on inside my heart.

Over the past few months, it’s been pricked, poked, clenched, squeezed, stretched, enlarged, beaten, bruised, slapped, massaged, cradled, ruined, and held.

Can’t. Take. Much. More.

Except I can, because when I let Christ have my heart to do what he wants with, it can somehow withstand all of this and keep right on ticking.

Chapter 4, shall we?

Did anyone else want to take a baseball bat to that pastor who’d rather just annihilate all the lost people and send them to hell? And then did you feel the ugh of complete conviction when you realized that that’s essentially what we’re doing when we don’t tell them about Jesus?

I’m going to be gut-honest here. I can talk all I want about Cambodia and the ends of the earth and helping with a multi-ethnic church plant in my city. HOWEVER, that doesn’t change the fact that I can hardly return a Redbox DVD at the Walgreens on the corner of Cleveland and Morse without feeling a little jittery. “God, are you suuuuuure these are the people you want me to reach out to? But I’m so… white. And scared.”

I’m trusting God to shine his brightest where I’m most inept and uncomfortable.

I love, love, love the part on page 65 where he breaks it down into 2 simple parts. We’re here to 1.) enjoy his grace and 2.) extend his glory. “And to disconnect God’s blessing from God’s global purpose is to spiral downward into an unbiblical, self-saturated Christianity that misses the point of God’s grace” (71).

I love how he says that “God loves me” is an incomplete synopsis of Christianity. “God loves me so that I might make him–his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness–known among the nations” (70-71) I AM NOT THE CENTER OF THE GOSPEL. GOD IS.

And I’m so thankful that he addressed the question, “Why do we need to be involved in other nations when there are so many needs in our nation?” And I’m so glad that he exposed the question for what it is: a smoke screen. Because you know what? The people who actually ARE INVOLVED in meeting the needs in their own community, city, whatever? They aren’t the ones asking that question. The ones asking that question, generally speaking, don’t really care about the needs of people overseas OR in their own backyard.

I desperately want to be a person who cares about both. And does something about it.

My heart breaks when I read stories like this one. And when I linked to it last night on Twitter and Facebook, my heart swelled with the encouragement of knowing I have so many friends and family members whose hearts are breaking for the things that break God’s. I need to focus on those rays of hope when I’m tempted to be completely discouraged by Christians who (at least from what I can tell) couldn’t care less about the poor and needy, the orphaned and oppressed.

Sigh.

In the words of my friend Rich, “I want to die empty.” From this moment forward, I don’t want to hold anything back, save anything for a rainy day, hoard anything for “just in case.” Like the apostle Paul, I want to be poured out like a drink offering, down to the last drop.

I want to be spent, wasted, bankrupt.

And I’m clinging to Jesus, because I know it’s not going to be easy. Nothing worth anything ever is. But oh my joy, after getting just a taste of what a sold-out-to-Christ life might be like, I can’t settle for nothin’ less.

So tell me: What did this chapter do to YOUR heart?

30 thoughts on “radical response (chapter 4)

  1. Rachelle

    I’m just back today to rant about something that in the past I would have ignored. I got tagged in a fb note called, “Take, Take and Take More, by so-and-so ministry”. I think it shows the exact thinking that we are countering in this book. Here is an excerpt:

    “As a child of the Most High God, God wants you to know the things that have been freely given to you. He wants you to receive them freely although it cost Him His Son. He paid the price, but He wants you to receive the blessings freely. That is His love toward you.

    Perhaps you are asking God, “How is it that I don’t have this blessing? And why do I have so little of that?”… ”

    and it goes on to talk about properity, health, etc…
    not that these things are bad, mind you, but my word where in the world is the glory of God being mentioned?

    here is my reply (and the reason I will likely soon be un-friended):
    ‎”We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. Our hearts resonate with the idea of enjoying God’s grace. We bask in sermons, conference, and books that exalt a grace center…ing on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose [glorifying God], the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.” (Radical, page 69)
    The great commission is not to take, rather it is to give.
    Matthew 28:19

    I hope to be hated for the sake of Christ when God says I’m through. Okay that’s all 🙂

  2. sandee

    I must add a comment, although I did my post linky yesterday. Each week I don’t let myself read ahead in the book until AFTER we do the Tuesday post. SO, last night I read CHapter 5! and all I can say is WOW WOW WOW> I can hardly sit a week and wait to write my post. Just WOW! so, Marla..I appreciate your comment about the pain and struggle. but for ME, getting to Chapter 5 was all worth it!

  3. Keri

    You are much kinder in wanting to use a baseball bat than I was in my thought process about stuff that would be much more…..ummmm……well, violent.

    I loved the message on Pg. 70 about the message of Christianity being so often about “Me” and how we go about our Christianity with that exact attitude. It’s all about me. Wow.

    Also Pg. 73…..”assigning the obligation of Christianity to a few while keeping the privilege of Christianity for us all”. I sat and chewed on that for a long time. And then started to realize that I saw more of myself in that statement than I ever wanted to admit to.

    I am starting to feel like I have only scratched the surface of my relationship with Christ. There is just so much more. I owe Him so much more.

    I really just want Him to be proud of me.

    1. Liz Puffer

      Keri I feel the same way, “I am starting to feel like I have only scratched the surface of my relationship with Christ. There is just so much more. I owe Him so much more. I really want Him to be proud of me.”
      I agree, the more I know Him the more I know I have so much to learn. I am so gratful He is patient and wants me to grow and learn and become more like Him. Thanks for your post.

  4. Sharon Meekins

    Hi Marla,

    I wanted to check in and let you know that I am still reading. Of course, I’ve wanted to put it down many times. Please pray that I continue on. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that Blog about the family in Haiti…

  5. O Mom

    Marla you make me cry and think. always.
    Why have I never said to myself, “I hope I die empty” ?
    I have so far to go. Thanks for pointing the way….

    And I somehow missed a week, as I just linked up for week 3………..

  6. Joel McLaughlin

    I almost forgot about that part of the chapter until you had your post Marla! I too felt the same way, but the rest of it grabbed me.

    I definitely think we can make a difference over there. I feel blessed to be here and I DO share my blessings as much as I can with the world. However, I just don’t feel God saying(to me): go to Cambodia or Uganda or other places. Oh I will support those missions and do but I just think God wants me here. I don’t think that’s selfish either. Am I wrong??

    My most favorite couple in the world lives right across the street from me and has ever since we have lived in the south end of Columbus. I never knew what they did for God until just a few years ago. They have traveled to Asqualenties, Mexico(sure the spelling is off here) and to Durbin, South Africa and make at least 1-2 short term mission trips a year.

    They also have 5 children. Can you believe that? Seeing their kids play and visiting there house you would just not know that they have 5 kids, home schools and go on mission trips.

    1. Joel McLaughlin

      Hit enter too quick….what I wanted to say here was I’ve bought stuff of of them when they were raising money for their recent trip to South Africa and supported them that way. I’d do anything for them.

      Plus there’s also my friends Rob and Leah at my Church. They just went to Belize and I am pretty sure that they had support of several churches in our area.

      We all don’t have to go there, but we should be sharing God’s glory both with financial support of these missions as well as our local missions.

      1. Marla Taviano

        I agree, Joel. And in many cases, the nationals do a lot better job of ministry in their own countries than we would. But I reeeeeally feel strongly that we should be giving to them financially. And based on my personal experience, I think everyone should go to an impoverished country on a missions trip at least once. It will change how you view life forever.

    2. Rachelle

      after this chapter I think we are all asking ourselves what this means for us today. And if we don’t go, is that selfish? I think the answer is a resounding “no”. Because if we all left for another country who would provide the means for going?
      Remember in WWII (not that I actually “remember”) how the majority of able men were away fighting for our nation. The women remained home; many had to go to work in ammunitions and weapon building, they rationed everything (my MIL remembers rationing diapers for babies), they cared for the children, home and communities. What if they didn’t do all of that? We likely would have lost the war and if any came home, well there would have been no home.

      The point to my rambling is: there is a mission to do. It involves all of us in one way or another. How this looks in your life or mine, I don’t know. I just know that God wants us to give everything, because we are all called to share the Gospel.

      1. Joel McLaughlin

        YEAAA! That’s what I wanted to say!

        We all can do more, that is for sure. Whether it is giving or going we need to do something. If you are giving to your church, that is good! If you are giving more, great! If your are going to another country to share his word, that’s good too!

        The thing that just made me feel a little weird is this guilty feeling a lot of us had. Should we feel guilty for being blessed? I say no as long as we are doing our part to share the blessing the Lord has put upon us. Just think….what kind of stuff could your church do both here and across the world if every person that walked through the door tithed like they should. If that happened, we’d have the building paid off in a short year or two and would have sent many teams overseas to share his word plus fed many local families. Unfortunately, many don’t. I think back to Mark 12:41-45(NIV):

        41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,[a]worth only a fraction of a penny.[b]
        43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

        Would we do this? I’d like to think we would but I am afraid the truth is depressing. That is why I strive to always give GOD’S tithe (it’s not MY tithe) and more if I can.

    3. Liz Puffer

      Joel I totally agree. I don’t feel God calling me to go to another country, at this time. I have been but it has been a few years. I have a husband with healthy issues and a 15 year old grandson that we are raising as well as full time job. I feel like God has me right where He wants me. I do feel like one day I will go again but this is not the season. I am not able to help financially at this time either. I often wonder when I see a husband leave his family a couple times a year for a mission trip if it is God calling him or him getting away…not judging just wondering. In all that we do if we are going to spend the time and energy to do it we want to be sure it is from God and not from us.

      1. ali

        I secretly wish God would call me to Mission Viejo or wherever you live. For like a one week missionary vacation. Is there such a thing? 🙂

        1. Liz Puffer

          ABSOLUTLY anytime. We would have so much fun. I would love to show you our church and what is happening here. Oneday we will all get together.

  7. Rachelle

    Clyde and I were a little offended at the beginning of the chapter…then I paused reading and he said, “that’s us, huh?” “It’s easy to point the finger at others who verbally say they aren’t into doing God’s work, but when you think about it our complacency is just as bad.” ouch.

    Thank you for your words Marla. I have spent so many years thinking about how to give my children a good life and a future with a tangible inheritance-it’s a shame. What I really want them to have is a legacy of real faith; one where people are more important than things.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Rachelle, I can’t thank you enough for the encouragement you’ve been to me over the past few months–both in tangible and intangible ways. I think your kiddos are pretty blessed to have you as their mama.

  8. Richard

    Marla you are living this chapter for real having been to Cambodia and seen the injustices against human life and eternal life. It’s good to lay hold of those faces and names…to continue in relationship with the friends you made there. I still keep in touch with a pastor friend k made in Kenya. He is planting hi second church there.
    And our lives go on here, right? We live in the tension between living comfortably here while others live uncomfortably (by the standards is many) in mud houses, sheet metal boxes or plainly the streets.
    I can’t get 4.5 Billion people out of my mind. That’s the liberal number of folks on the planet that live without faith in Jesus. There is so much opportunity to share our faith wherever we are: Columbus, east Africa or southeast Asia. I hear God asking me, “Richard, how far will you trust me?”. Across the street? On the other side of town? In a depressed area? With everything in me I want say yes…then the reality of what I’m saying NO to at the same time begins to sink in. Man I fast now with the purpose of pulling away from things that ease my comfort and draw me closer to him, to be strengthened to carry his news.
    In the fight with you,
    Rich

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you, Pastor Rich. Being around you has been both comforting and convicting for us as a family. Ouch Factor aside, we’re awfully thankful that God has brought the Johnsons into our lives. Praying for you.

  9. Elisabeth

    Well Marla, I started Radical about a month ago, and for me, it’s a book to process SLOOOWLY. I’m glad God is patient with me. I felt my world as I know it had been upended, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted it to be set aright again. BUT GOD… don’t you love those words in the Bible??? But God… He’s helping me to make sense of the “bigness” of our commission. He spoke very clearly to me and told me I knew what my “harvest field” was. See, He plants us, and starts us right where we are. If we, as a church, each just took our place where we are planted,doing what He called us to do, then we would touch those around us, who would touch others, who would touch others…. all the way around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disregarding the rest of the world. I’m talking about STARTING, like the Bible said, in “Jerusalem, Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.” I don’t know how to dive into the ends of the earth yet, but I can have a willing, submitted, sold-out life right here where I live. If I’m sold out to God, and making a difference in my community, then God can take me further.
    Anyway, that’s where I am in the process. I know my heart is being changed. And I feel exactly like you… bruised, battered, a little fragile…. but still kickin’!!!
    Thank you, my friend!

    1. Rachelle

      I agree that we have to start somewhere; if we don’t take those first steps we can never go further or be challenged more. I think this exact thing is what paralyzes so many; that they can’t hop on a plane to Africa, or save 500 children or give 500 dollars-so it’s easier to become numb and do nothing.

      baby steps, baby steps!

  10. Jen Hanson

    I’ll be blunt honest with you – I wanted to take a bat to David Platt for a good chunk of the first half of this chapter. As someone who actually DOES feel called to minister here; to challenge the church HERE; to do Christianity Biblically HERE, but who also has a heart over-flowing for those in need overseas, I was feeling really offended by what I THOUGHT Platt was trying to say.

    HOWEVER – by the end of the chapter I was so excited about the things he was actually saying and the challenges he was making and I was like, “Right on, brother!”

    I was also really convicted about a few things too that I’ll blog about tomorrow (when it is Radical Tuesday where I live. It is still just Pondering Monday here right now.)

  11. arminda

    Yes I agree about the baseball bat. 😉 And so.much.more. I sat out the last two weeks. I could lie and say it’s because it was all too much to process. But to be honest I didn’t want to pick the book up or try to process anything for the last two weeks. I have read through chapter 5 twice so far and I get stuck. So here I am. 🙂

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