A Book, A Review and a Giveaway

20140727-184136-67296903.jpgRead on for a chance to have Matt’s book shipped to you FREE!

Matt Knisely asks to be “the voice that cuts through the noise in your head” and invites us to lie down in peaceful scapes and hear the gentle whispers of God to our road-weary souls. Sound inviting? Thought it might.

Matt sent me (and dozens of bloggers) an advance copy of his book “Framing Faith” that I might blog about it and offer a review here on my website. The back jacket sold me on the book before I even cracked it open. The author is an Emmy-award-winning photojournalist, has numerous honors, including Edward R. Murrow (2), for his unique photography and is recognized nationally for his compelling visual storytelling. Fittingly, Matt serves as the creative director for Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Which all makes the book even that more appealing.

Aside from the eminent accolades and accomplishments, the book stands auspiciously on its own. In truth, I sat down and read it through in a single sitting, which I almost never do. I’m an ADD reader, losing focus after a few pages, plagued by sensory overload and needing to “step” away and process. Not this one. One of my favorite bookstore baristas even commented the day I (nearly) read it entirely through (save the final ten pages) that she would have greeted me but saw I was fully engrossed. Good for Matt for holding my attention.

He’s a very deep, scholarly thinker without being snooty or boring. Definitely not that. I told a buddy that I would’ve given the book five stars on Amazon simply for the ingenious quotes he deftly includes at the opening of each chapter. Not the same, overused, tired quotes you find in many popular Christian books, either. Ones you’ve never seen before. Matt, did you make them up?

My favorite was an Einstein quote which, for me, saddles the gist of the book’s purpose. Purportedly, the eminent genius was quoth to say,

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

Einstein said that? The dude with unruly hair and caterpillar eyebrows? A romantic? Imagine that.

Knisely very craftily handles the lyric by reminding us that this world, with its entrapments of social media, calendar demands, tyranny of urgency and even trappings of religion all serve to deflect us from the Beauty that is with us and all around us. The magnificence of Christ and His creation.

Framing Faith is a call to authentically live out the faith instilled in our DNA, to tell our stories with care and contemplation and to take the time to listen for the heart story in others, disregarding our culturally-imposed 140-character or quick-status-on-the-fly limitations.

Photography, Matt reasons, is a medium that tells an authentic story, subject to interpretation, yes, but demands an interpretation nonetheless. Framing Faith encourages us to each find our unique story and give it voice, craft, color or composition. It reinforces the truism that we each matter. Matt’s thoughtful prose bequeaths us not to purloin the art of our organic selves from the gallery of God, hung in the full eye view of humanity.

I loved this book. It spoke in soothing rhyme to my at-times discordant tendencies and aided me to imagine for myself a frameworthy faith. Thank you, Matt, for being a seer and helping your readers to see more fully.

Nicely done.

My apologies. Couldn’t resist. 😎

______________________________

Matt has graciously offered some giveaways of Framing Faith and the first five readers to email me your address at scott@revonwheels.com will receive a free copy.

Finding Grace In A Van Down By The River

20140612-171912-62352437.jpg

I can’t be held responsible for what I’ve posted today. I just hope it’s because I’m under the influence of grace.

______________________

Romans 14:17 (Message)
God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness ‘sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with

joy

I like to get goofy sometimes. I love to laugh and kid and poke fun. I even love good-natured ribbing from friends whose hearts I trust and with whom I am safe.

I laugh at Ron Burgundy and Austin Powers and the Dumb and Dumber duo. Tommy Boy gets me every time. The night I learned of my son’s tragic death six months ago, I honored his memory by pulling up Tommy Boy on my Netflix because it’s a movie my boy and I watched dozens of times together.

I love Jesus. I cry at the drop of a hat. I can be dead serious about holiness, the mars and scars of the Church and the souls of the very men and women I laugh with and at on the big screen.

I know some believers who are all business. They exude starchiness and stiff collars. People choke on the religious dust they kick up behind them. If they sing, they prefer the minor key. Should a gathering of saints start getting away from a down and dusty Bible study and rollicking laughter and silly hi-jinx ensued, you’d see them withdraw and button down. They might even clear their throat as a warning.

I once made the mistake of laughing during a student revival. No, not holy laughter. Just plain ol’ Jesus-hugging giggling. One of my peers stared my friend and me down, obviously un-happy with our unrighteous behavior.

I couldn’t now say what made us laugh while some students were on their knees and faces in the guys’ dorm at camp late one night. I do know this: it wasn’t inappropriate. I know this because my friend and I had been praying for our school chums throughout the school year. We were deadly serious about the spiritual malaise of the guys and we wanted more than anything for our buddies to have a righteous encounter with God. We were in the minority of young men in our Christian school who fasted, prayed and cried out for a move of God in our school.

But we laughed and played too.

So when Sammy glared at us and lashed out with, “what’re you laughing about? Can’t you see God is working?” I just drew up, shriveled and felt condemned.

Satan loved it.

Turns out, my buddies just experienced a typical unsustained “camp high” spiritually because a week later, it was back to business as usual. Spiritual zealots one week, dullards the next.

Whatever the reason, I know my friend and I were not to blame for our holy laughter. And I know there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep. There’s a time to fast and a time to feast. There’s a time to dance and a time to put on sackcloth and ashes.

I know these things, trust me.

These days I’m drawn to three kinds of people: people of joy, people of humility and those who are painfully honest about themselves. Well, I suppose that’s the same as the second, so I’ll also include an honorary mention: I’m enjoying being with people of grace, who dispense it freely, don’t presume upon it and who readily admit they are lost and hopeless without it because it’s the only thing that will fix everything broken about themselves and brings joyful surrender to their souls.

Dang. I guess that’s the same as the other three. In short, these days I’m gravitating to grace largely because of my son’s obituary and redemption story.

I like the Laughing Jesus that’s hanging in our home’s foyer, a gift from a friend long ago. It reminds me that the Kingdom’s not a eulogy, it’s a doxology. It captures a Jesus who redeems lost causes, not the straight and square. When we start feeling good about ourselves with regard to our morals, performance and theology, we’ve already fallen from grace.

We like to use that text on those who laugh and play too much, but isn’t it directed contextually more to the proud and religious?

It’ll be Father’s Day this weekend, my first without my only child. I wish I could thank him for the best Father’s Day gift he ever gave me.

Graham’s leaving this earth has helped me process the fuller revelation of the gospel of the kingdom, that it is full of grace and truth – yes, grace AND truth (to those who’ll be quick to rightfully remind me)…but grace comes first and always in that equation.

I can’t think of a better way to thank my boy than to kick back and watch some more Chris Farley in a van down by the river.

I’ll keep your chair warm.

In full view of my Laughing Jesus.

IT’S STILL WORTH IT

20140608-174356-63836468.jpg

My wife and I are bereaved parents of a 24-year old son we buried nearly six months ago. In the wake of our beautiful ache, we both maintain the indicatives of this and my prior post. God remains good even in this, and it’s still worth any trial we must go through if we can but know Jesus more fully and intimately. Selah.

_____________________________________________

My previous post (hopefully) encouraged the saints that in whatever circumstance of suffering or degree of disappointment, hardship, brokenness and despair you may find yourself in, IT’S STILL TRUE:

God is eternally Good to His own,

and is fiercely jealous of His own,

and eternally protective of His own.

That is unassailable Truth.

20140607-203447-74087566.jpg

Now I’d like to take it to the next level (as if there could be a higher level!) and leave you with this pinnacled truth: whatever bad business you’ve endured or are enduring, whatever mischief of hell cast against you, because of His promises, IT’S STILL WORTH IT!

(1) Because of His nature to love and guard His own, IT’S STILL TRUE: He is good.

(2) Because of the promises He folds into His new creation, IT’S STILL WORTH IT: I can go on. I won’t give up.

I can be strong in my trial because there is One who fights for me, wins my battles and makes me a (constant) overcomer in this life. I can endure because He will make my suffering worthwhile in an eternity bedecked with glories everlasting.

_______________________________________________

IF GOD BE FOR US, WHO OR WHAT CAN BE AGAINST US?

____________________________________________________________

Steven Curtis Chapman sang a bold anthem, “Bring It On” and a year later, his son backed their car over their newly adopted little girl.

Bring it on
Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall
Let it make me strong
Bring it on

Now, maybe you’re thinkin’ I’m crazy
And maybe I need to explain some things
‘Cause I know I’ve got an enemy waiting
Who wants to bring me pain

But what he never seems to remember
What he means for evil, God works for good
So I will not retreat or surrender

Bring it on
Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll
Let the storm winds blow!

Now…I’m not advocating our throwing down the gauntlet and taunting the adversary but there is a blessed promise that we can boastfully claim. Nothing – absolutely NOTHING – the enemy brings against us will overcome and destroy us.

What does the intrinsic force of verse 31 do for you???

_________________________________________________


Paul said it minimizes his trials. What they work FOR HIM is great and glorious, but what they do TO HIM is minimal compared to the greater work. Rom 8:18.

_______________________________________________________

― C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, illuminated this truth in an imaginative way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

But please take note:

It is not suffering itself, but my voluntary acceptance, submission and praise of it. To come under it, be trained by it (see Heb 12:11) that produces greater glory within.

Rom 8:17 gives further light. Not just any suffering, but suffering “with Him.”

“But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.” CEB

To VOLUNTARY ENDURE suffering is proof that we belong to the Age to Come…it is the hostility of THIS age that works against us (and is the doorway into future glory!).

But, look – LOOK! – saints, at the glorious promises that make our renovations, remodels, additions and painful constructions worth it!

(1) Our REVEAL as eternal sons and daughters (v19)

Creation – sun, stars, mountains, oceans, beasts of the field, fish of the sea, birds of the air, trees and flowers in the fields, the sunrise and sunset – even angels! – all wait with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God. For our wedding day to the Son, for God Himself to make His Home in His people.

Creation was not designed to frustrate man, but to serve him and reflect his glory. Gardens were to produce fruits not weeds, the animal kingdom was not fearsome to man, but friendly; his body was free from disease and sickness, the night was not terror-filled and the climate was calm and favorable.

In the curse, creation was subjected to decay and corruption and not friendly dispositioned to man but rebellious. But this is not the DNA of nature and creation. It knows it’s under bondage and will remain so until the saints are glorified.

If you’ve wondered at the aggression of climate and nature you only have to know these point to the increasing of birth pangs as creation’s convulsions are getting closer together in anticipation of the revealing of the sons.

(2) Renewed PURPOSE (v20)

“Futility” translates ματαιοτησ,
‘nothingness’, ‘pointless’ and ‘worthless because so twisted and faulty’

Man was made in God’s image but through the Fall and Death, perpetuated Adam’s image (Gen 5:3). Through new birth, we are again bearers of the image of God! No longer pointless, worthless, vessels of destruction, but with glorious new purpose and destiny!
__________________________

I am moved by the words of Sara Groves in her song “Why It Matters”. The lyrics were inspired by Vedran Smajlović, a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet.

During the Siege of Sarajevo, he played his cello in the bombed out buildings and on the streets where mortars had killed his neighbors and friends. He called this “a protest of the darkness” and spoke of his cello as a weapon.

Like the statue in the park
Of this war-torn town
And it’s protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty,
how it matters,

How it matters.

________________________________

The redemptive work of our own suffering is a “protest” against darkness, letting in light to those around who are lost and blind and shielded from Truth. I posit there’s no greater evangelical “tool” than for the unsaved to encounter a saintly broken vessel that lets the Light of Christ shine into the darkness!

(3) Infectious HOPE for the earth’s redemption (vv20b-22)

The Greek for corruption is the opposite of ζωη αιωνιοσ (eternal life). So we should relish the pains of our redemption – the “gospel of weakness” – because they are the merits that point to a glorious rebirth for the earth!

(4) the REMOVAL of every last curse of the Fall against us, taking us into eternal life – THE life, unended, that we were created for way back in Genesis 1 and 2 (see Rom 8:23)

Revelation alert:

Have you seen that Romans 8 is taking us back to our intended purpose: no condemnation, adopted sons, glory, a submitted creation, reigning in Life with the Father, uninterrupted fellowship, conquering and ruling?

What we have access to, what Adam and Eve could not partake in, is the Tree of Life. They had innocence conditionally – so long as they didn’t eat off the wrong tree of self-rule, but we have His Life permanently within.

Their judgment shut them away from the Tree of Life.

Our salvation has His Tree-Life growing in us!

So, to wrap up:

It’s worth it because:

(1) I’m assured of Finished Glory – that my future state will be as the Glory of the sun, moon and stars in Glory

(2) I have a purpose that is eternal – a unique role I’m called to perform throughout eternity, that only I can do, and that will add Glory to the Godhead

(3) A glorious environment is being prepared for me.

(In Genesis, the environment was first prepared, but in the New Creation, God prepares His Man and Woman, then prepares a place worthy of the Glory they’ll share with the Son!)

(4) The Joy and Glory of Eternity is endless and exponential – that the afflictions of this lifetime will determine the affluence of my eternity and the pains I endure here will reciprocate to pleasures compounded daily for eternity

Say it with me:

It’s worth it.

I can go on.

I will go on.

By grace.

Through faith.

In victory.

And a song.

For His glory.

Amen and amen.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 971 other followers