Jesus is ______.

“What is the focal point in our lives? Is it self? Is it our efforts? Is it our good deeds? Or is it Jesus?” ~ Judah Smith, author of Jesus is _____.

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Life can pretty much be defined by our perspective on Jesus. Our opinions & thoughts concerning Jesus play into the way we approach life. In Judah Smith’s book, Jesus is ______., it’s Judah’s intent that the reader fills in the blank for themselves… but in his spastic ADHD sorta-way, Smith offers his own thoughts & observations to help possibly shape the way you see Jesus before jumping to any conclusions. The book was birthed from an evangelistic idea to place billboards in his hometown of Seattle, WA — simply presenting the “Jesus is _____.” madlib & directing folks to a website to fill in the blank.

Most notably known for being Justin Bieber’s pastor & golf buddies with Bubba Watson, Judah has a voice that speaks with relevance. Though he tends to be ‘all over the place’ sometimes, I enjoy pastor Judah & his heart to make much of Christ.

There were a few things, in particular, that stood out to me in his book…

Jesus seeks out sinners & befriends them.

We see in scripture that Jesus wasn’t concerned with His reputation perceived by religious leaders or discouraging critics. Jesus never tried to prop up His image or build some outrageous platform for his ministry. He never condemned sinners, but loved them & accepted them — confident that His saving grace would overcome all condemnation of sin.

Jesus came to reveal a God who defines us not by our actions, but by His love.

Jesus was obsessed with showing mercy & extending grace. He came to provide Hope for the hopeless. Jesus doesn’t care so much about the scandal, as much as He does about the scandalous — loving them without hesitation. And His compassion for us & obedience to the Father compelled Him to display His love as He died upon the cross and rose victorious from the grave.

Religion drives us to behave, then believe, and finally you’ll belong. Judah declares that Jesus would say otherwise.

Smith explains in his book that the essence of the gospel says we belong, then believe, and in turn behave. Essentially, amazing grace is followed by great faith that produces good works. This mindset can radically shift your mindset on how we perceive Christ & proclaim the good news of the gospel to those who desperately need Jesus. When we seek to accept people where they’re at in life, it breeds a love that reflects Jesus. It looks a lot like Christ’s initial encounter with His disciples. We, in turn, exercise our faith that God is the one who will impact the lives of non-believers — bringing forth change in their heart & deeds that proceeds from belief in Jesus. Cleaning up our lives prior to encountering Christ is unnecessary & a foolish stumbling block that we place in the path that leads to genuine salvation and transformation.

Pastor Judah’s book can seem a little unorganized and unorthodox at times, but he continues bringing the focus back to Jesus. If you’re like me and enjoy small portions of random & massive doses of Jesus, you’ll totally dig Jesus is _____.

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I am NOT but I know I AM

Most of us in our culture today are searching for a glimmer of significance. If we want to discover our true identity in life, then it is imperative that we come to the realization of who we AREN’T and recognize who Jesus IS.

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In Louie Giglio’s book I am NOT but I know I AM, Louie gives us a roadmap for finding our place in this world… “we trade the starring role in the miserably small stories of us for supporting roles in the great Story of God.” Jesus came to this earth to usher us into an abundant life that revolves around God. He is the centrality of everything & we’re invited to be a part of His story.

The book, I am NOT but I know I AM, is sobering in the fact that Giglio makes it clear that our endeavors apart from God are microscopic in comparison to the ginormous narrative that God is producing. And it’s encouraging to realize that God has a purpose & a plan for us to participate in as we respond to the good news of the gospel. Our minuscule dreams are redeemed by the powerful work of Jesus & are in turn used to glorify, elevate, amplify, expand, emerge, exalt, and adore Christ as our Lord & Savior.

The point of the book isn’t to highlight how small we are, but to accentuate how BIG God is. The narrative of creation already has a Star — and its not you… but we shouldn’t lose hope just because life doesn’t revolve around us. On the contrary, this message gives us more hope than we can imagine. The buck doesn’t stop with us when the crud of life hits the fan. The weight of the world doesn’t have to remain on your shoulders — Jesus bears our burdens & paves a way for us to connect with our Creator amidst the expansive universe.

As you follow Jesus, you learn that God uses ordinary people to be implemented into His extraordinary story.

It amazes me at times to think about my past experiences in ministry & life, and realize that it’s not over. God has in store something more for each of us. If you’re still breathing, then God’s not done with you.

You can purchase a copy of Giglio’s book here.

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Multnomah “Blogging for Books” book review 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

“As Christians, our goal is not to merely experience behavior modification by changing how we act & react. Our primary goal is getting to know, love, and trust God as our Father.” — Mark Driscoll

In Christ. A saint. Blessed. Appreciated. Saved. Reconciled. Afflicted. Heard. Gifted. New. Forgiven. Adopted. Loved. Rewarded. Victorious.

This is who YOU are when your identity is rooted in Jesus.

Identity is something that we all struggle with as we venture through life. We seek to find ourselves in a myriad of life experiences. We desire to maintain a particular status in society. And sometimes our whole world comes crashing down, and we’re left picking up the pieces questioning things in which we thought defined us. In Mark Driscoll’s book Who Do You Think You Are?, Driscoll guides the reader through the book of Ephesians in hopes that we would discover and/or revisit our true identity found in Christ.

I received this book in the mail a little after Christmas & got halfway thru it within a couple days before various events like my wife’s birthday and winter camp for our student ministry at church captured my attention. As I picked up the book again this past week, it couldn’t have been at a more perfect time. Driscoll makes it clear in his book that what we choose to believe can dramatically affect the trajectory of our lives. As we embrace our identity found in Christ Jesus, our outlook is transformed in a major way that focuses our tendencies to be driven from our foundation that is built upon God’s promises for His children.

From the beginning of the book, the author reaffirms that you are NOT what’s been done to you, but what Jesus has done for us. What you do does NOT determine who you are, but who you are IN CHRIST determines what you do. This mentality radically shifts my perspective, and I think this book is such a treasure for those in search to find themselves in life. Life begins in Christ…

When it’s all boiled down, the catalyst for experiencing life change & discovering ourselves is actually when we discover God and grow to know Him more. This book has been a wonderful resource for me, and I bet it will be for you too.

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***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

PURSUING JUSTICE

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Justice is an essential component within the infrastructure of our society. It’s putting into motion how things SHOULD be as our brokenness is rectified.

First-time author, Ken Wytsma, is the president of Kilns College, founder of the Justice Conference, and pastor of Antioch Church in Bend, OR. He wrote the book Pursuing Justice with the intent that we would consider living & dying for “bigger things”. All of us live & die for things on a daily basis. Whether its a sports team, theological stance, and/or a corporate brand — we uphold our convictions for things that might not truly matter at the end of the day.

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