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A Guidebook to Waking the DeadEmbracing the Life God has for You
By John Eldredge Craig McConnell
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERSCopyright © 2007 John Eldredge and Craig McConnell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneArm Yourselves
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -Jesus of Nazareth (John 10:10)
Take an inventory before you begin. How are you doing? Where are you right now? What are you feeling ... thinking ... wanting? What's your mood?
What's been nagging at you today? Any discouragement ... distraction? Are you even aware of what's been nipping at your heels?
And are you hopeful, expectant about God using this new material in your life?
What circumstances, pressures, or relational issues could distract you from embracing all God may have for you in this chapter? What would be good to lay down right now in prayer?
Finally, a simple prayer:
Jesus, I ask you now for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. By your Spirit, guide me through my work here, so that I may know you, really know you, and find the life you offer me. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want all that you have for me here. I want, and ask for, my whole heart back.
A First Reaction
Before we dig in, jot down your first thoughts, emotions, impressions. What did the chapter stir in you? What struck you? Did anything stir a "yes!" or an "aha!"?
* The Big Ideas As we said, Waking the Dead, if taken seriously, is ... revolutionary. So as we move along, what we're going to do is help you focus on the Big Ideas, the central truths of each chapter. There are three big ideas in chapter 1: First, most of us live in a fog, most of the time. Twenty clear days a year. I think I see what's really going on about that often. Wouldn't a little bit of clarity go a long way right now? Second, the offer of Christ is life and that life starts now. The glory of God is man fully alive. Now. Third, there is something set against us. We are at war. How we've missed this for so long is a mystery. Maybe we've overlooked it; maybe we've chosen not to see. We are at war. Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days we will not understand life.
Big Idea 1: We Need Clarity
Twenty clear days a year-that sounds about like my life. I think I see what's really going on about that often. The rest of the time, it feels like fog, like the bathroom mirror after a hot shower. You know what I mean. What exactly are you perfectly clear on these days? How about your life-why have things gone the way they have? Where was God in all that? And do you know what you ought to do next, with a deep, settled confidence that it will work out? Neither do I. Oh, I'd love to wake each morning knowing exactly who I am and where God is taking me. Zeroed in on all my relationships, undaunted in my calling. But for most of us, life seems more like driving along with a dirty windshield, and then turning into the sun. I can sort of make out the shapes ahead, and I think the light is green. (p. 5)
Can you relate to that sense of being in a fog? When it comes to your life, what exactly are you perfectly clear on these days?
Why have things gone the way they have, and where was God in all that? And do you know what you ought to do next, with a deep, settled confidence that it will work out?
Do you wake each morning knowing exactly who you are and where God is taking you? How about this morning?
Are you zeroed in right now in your relationships? What is going on right now in your key relationships-and what will that require of you next?
Let's start with why life is so dang hard. You try to lose a little weight, but it never seems to happen. You think of making a shift in your career, maybe even serving God, but you never actually get to it. Perhaps a few of you do make the jump, but it rarely pans out the way you thought. You try to recover something in your marriage, and your spouse looks at you with a glance that says, "Nice try" or "Isn't it a little late for that?" and the thing actually blows up into an argument in front of the kids. Yes, we have our faith. But even there-maybe especially there-it all seems to fall rather short of the promise. There's talk of freedom, and abundant life, of peace like a river and joy unspeakable, but we see precious little of it, to be honest. (p. 5)
Life is hard. Sometimes really hard. Why? I mean, prior to reading the chapter, how have you explained that to yourself?
Up until I really came to see the Battle, I just thought life was hard because of sin-you know, "It's a fallen world," and all that. We blew it, and now this is the world we get. Make the best of it. Be more grateful. In fact, it was almost a sin to admit it wasn't all that great. Anyhow, that was my theology. But I think down in my heart I thought life was hard because I just hadn't found the key yet to making it work. Maybe if I try harder, or maybe when I'm more spiritual, or more mature, then things will work out. So, I guess I had my theological explanation, and I had my gut-level understanding. Theology: It's a fallen world. Gut Level: I just can't make it work. (John)
Why is it that, as Tillich said, it's only "here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves" we see any evidence of a new creation? Here and there, now and then. In other words ... not much. When you stand them side by side, the description of the Christian life practically shouted in the New Testament compared with the actual life of most Christians, it's ... embarrassing. Paul sounds like a madman, and we look a little foolish, like children who've been held back a grade. How come nearly every good thing, from taking the annual family vacation to planning a wedding to cultivating a relationship, takes so much work? (pp. 5-6)
In a few honest moments, how would you describe your life if you were to stand it beside the description of the Christian life presented in the New Testament? Would you feel embarrassed? Ashamed? Disappointed? And is your experience of the Christian life unfolding in a beautifully hopeful way-or do you feel stuck?
I'm laughing to myself right now because I'm realizing that for years, I thought that the Bible was about "those folks" who lived a long time ago and far, far away and got to have some unique experience with God ... but now I live here and things are different and I don't really get to have what they had. It's pretty revealing. I didn't think that life was even available. (John)
And right after they made it to Paris, it all fell apart. Craig came down with walking pneumonia; Lori wanted to leave the third day. All sorts of issues in their marriage surfaced, but, since they were with friends, the issues mostly played themselves out in their own thoughts-which tended toward divorce. It wasn't romantic; it was hard. Afterward, as we talked on the phone about the whole thing, Lori said, "Life never seems to turn out they way you think it will, about 90 percent of the time." No kidding. Haven't we all got a story that goes with that little bumper sticker? (p. 6)
The story about Craig and Lori's ruined anniversary isn't that uncommon. What plan hasn't worked out in the past year that you were really hoping would-and how did that make you feel?
"Hi ... it's me." A long silence. "Blaine needs surgery ... right away." Hope vanished. I felt that sick-in-the-gut feeling of an imminent free fall, that feeling you get on top of a ladder that's starting to sway under you. All kinds of thoughts and emotions rushed in. What? Oh, no ... Not after all this ... I ... I thought ... My heart was sinking. Despair, betrayal, abandonment by God. Failure on our part to pray enough or believe enough. I felt moments away from a total loss of heart. It seemed inevitable. These moments aren't a rational, calculated progression of thought; they're more like being tossed out of a raft in a storm. It comes fast and furious, but the pull of the current is always toward a loss of heart. Most of the time we are swept away; we give in, lose heart, and climb out of it sometime later. (pp. 7-8)
The story about my son is far more troubling. I mean, I'm not talking about a vacation-I'm talking about someone I love. What has happened to you, or someone you love, that's caused you to lose heart, be swept away by the storm?
Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as "part of life," suck it up even though it breaks our hearts? (p. 9)
And how did that event with you or someone you loved make you feel? Where did you go with it? Did you feel abandoned? Responsible? Did you just come to accept it?
After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set. I know, I know-we've been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well. I mean, if that's true, then why didn't he______________? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more. (p. 9)
Go ahead and expand on what God hasn't done that he could have done for you. What hasn't he prevented that he could have prevented?
And what do you make of that? How have you understood what you just wrote about? What's the explanation for it?
Either (a) We're blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn't this where you land, with all the things that haven't gone the way you'd hoped and wanted? Isn't it some version of "I'm blowing it"? in that it's your fault, you could have done better, you could have been braver or wiser or more beautiful or something? Or "God is holding out on me," in that you know he could come through, but he hasn't come through-and what are you to make of that? (p. 9)
Take the two events you wrote about-one on the level of a ruined vacation, and the other in response to the deeper crisis involving someone you love. How have you handled those? What have they done to your relationship with God?
So which is your more common reaction to understanding the trials, disappointments, and blows of your life? Is it (a) You are blowing it, (b) God is holding out on you, or (c) some combination of both? What I'm asking for is some honesty here. There are the "right" answers, the ones we might offer in a church service or Bible study, and then there are our real answers, the ones that come from our hearts when we are being absolutely honest.
For me, it's definitely (c) a combination of I'm blowing it and God just isn't coming through. (John)
Big Idea 2: The Offer Is Life
The glory of God is man fully alive. (Saint Irenaeus)
When I first stumbled across this quote, my initial reaction was ... You're kidding me. Really? I mean, is that what you've been told? That the purpose of God-the very thing he's staked his reputation on-is your coming fully alive? (p. 10)
How could the opposite be true? Could it bring glory to God for his precious children to be pinned down with guilt and shame and who knows what, broken, hurting, barely making it through life? What does that do for his reputation?
I turned to the New Testament to have another look, read for myself what it is Jesus said he offers. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Wow. That's different from saying, "I have come to forgive you. Period." Forgiveness is awesome, but Jesus says here he came to give us life. Hmmm. Sounds like ol' Irenaeus might be on to something. "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48). "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38). The more I looked, the more this whole theme of life jumped off the pages. I mean, it's everywhere.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Prov. 4:23)
You have made known to me the path of life. (Ps. 16:11)
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)
Come to me to have life. (John 5:40)
Tell the people the full message of this new life. (Acts 5:20)
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13) (pp. 10-11)
So, what do you make of these passages? What did Jesus mean when he promised us life?
To Clarify Okay ... I know this whole question of "what has God promised us in this life?" is fraught with problems. It's a question that's got heresy on both sides. So, let me make a few things clear: I am not advocating a "name it and claim it" theology, whereby we can have anything and everything we want if we just claim it in Jesus' name. After all, Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Nor am I advocating a "prosperity" doctrine that claims God wants everyone to be rich and healthy. "The poor you will always have with you" (Matt. 26:11). What I am saying is that Christ does not put his offer of Life to us totally in the future. That's the other mistake. "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life'" (Luke 18:29-30, emphasis added). Jesus doesn't locate his offer to us only in some distant future, after we've slogged our way through our days here on earth. He talks about a life available to us in this age. So does Paul: "Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:8, emphasis added). There is a Life available to us now. Let's find it.
Big Idea 3: We Are at War
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? (pp. 12-13)
Did you? Now that you do know, what do you make of it?
We are at war. How we've missed this for so long is a mystery to me. Maybe we've overlooked it; maybe we've chosen not to see. We are at war. I don't like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner you come to terms with it the better hope you have of making it through to the life you do want. This is not Eden. You probably figured that out. This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld's world; this is not Survivor. The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death. I am sorry if I'm the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth. Where did you think all this opposition was coming from? (p. 13)
Well ... where did you think all the opposition and assault in your life was coming from?
I think over the course of my life I have cycled through most of the options. I've blamed it on political systems and policies. I've blamed it on people. I've even blamed it on God. But for the majority of my twenty-five years as a Christian, in all the churches I've gone to, in all the books I've read, in all the people I've known, very few have ever taken the Enemy or the Battle seriously. Even though we might say we know Satan is out there, very, very few Christians ever ascribe their struggles to a direct attack by spiritual forces of darkness. The idea of a thief trying to steal my life wasn't even on my radar. (John)
Excerpted from A Guidebook to Waking the Dead by John Eldredge Craig McConnell Copyright © 2007 by John Eldredge and Craig McConnell. Excerpted by permission.
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