Read an Excerpt
Through the years I've heard many people use expressions like, 'He lives a Christian life' or 'She was a good Christian woman.' But what does it mean to live as a Christian?
This question is really at the heart of what The Ultimate Christian Living is about. As I read through the wonderful essays and testimonies in this book, I discovered that the Christian life is far more wonderful, varied, and beautifully articulated than any single person can express. Living for Christ is, indeed, an adventure that takes people to some amazing places and offers immense blessings.
These experiences and lessons lived with Christ, however, are not always easy or immediate. Sometimes these blessings come only through sacrifice, or pain, or hardship.
Being a pastor for the past twenty-five years, I've heard my share of clichés about the Christian life—and there are plenty to go around. But this book has none of the trite formulas or slick platitudes often associated with Christian living. Rather, in these pages you will discover many testimonies that integrate personal faith with daily life experience. Others offer up wonderful, even painfully beautiful, expressions of Christian faith as experienced through difficulty or illness. And, yes, there is enough humor and joy in these pages to communicate God's love with a smile or a chuckle.
In short, this truly is an ultimate glimpse of how God touches and embraces human lives and changes our world with the love of Christ. I know I gained perspective—and certainly grew in my faith—by reading every single one of these personal stories. Written by young and old alike, each one of these stories offered me a glimpse of how another has experienced God's love and grace.
These stories also offer up wisdom from diverse vantage points—be it city or country, large church or small church, tranquility or turmoil—as a testimony to the vastness of God's kingdom and the myriad ways that God works in our own personal circumstances and situations. You will discover new voices and surprising insights about a few of the best-known personalities in the church today, as well as stories about some of the largest churches in America.
But the ultimate blessing of this book is to be found in the witness it provides—a witness to the life-changing grace of God, who makes all things new and heals the broken world. Every page offers encouragement and hope, and anyone who is seeking to live the Christian life will certainly discover a deeper faith through these personal stories.
Reading this book is like listening to a conversation. And from conversation, faith is often discovered.
I know that I have grown in faith in this way.
Years ago, as a young seminary student preparing for pastoral ministry, I was blessed to have an older pastor in my life who served as a mentor and friend. His name was Jeff Davis, and Jeff deeply influenced my faith through his kind words, his wisdom, and his insights. Sometimes, when I was engaged in a lively conversation with Jeff, it was like having a discussion with God—and receiving the benefits of Jeff's experience was a double-blessing.
One afternoon while we were riding in the car after a hospital visitation, Jeff offered up his personal blend of 'expert tips' that, he said, would provide me with the energy and stamina needed to make ministry a lifetime work. 'You know,' he said, 'there's nothing too fancy about living for the Lord when you get right down to it. Don't ever get too high on yourself—you have to remember that God makes all things possible, not you! And don't ever get too down on yourself either—because God is your strength and hope and salvation. There's nothing too difficult for God. And finally—get up early, and take an afternoon nap every day to recharge your batteries. See . . . I'm a living testimony!'
Indeed, Jeff had been living for the Lord and taking his naps for nearly fifty years. And he had more energy than I did.
Although Jeff is with the Lord now, I have not forgotten his wisdom (and yes, I do sometimes take an afternoon nap). Nor will I soon forget the wisdom I've found in The Ultimate Christian Living—insights about prayer, dealing with difficulties, or living the golden rule, in addition to the many expert tips offered up by some of the brightest minds in the church today.
Personally, I'm still trying to figure out what it means to live a Christian life. Some days I think I succeed rather admirably—and at other times, I struggle. I have days when everything falls into place and all is right with the world. And I have other days when it seems the fabric of life is ripping apart. As a pastor, I know this is how every Christian experiences life. Nothing can be taken for granted, and there is enough mystery in our lives to keep us wondering and learning into the twilight of life. We need to listen to each other if we are to grow into the likeness of Jesus—and we often receive His love and grace through the hands, feet, and kind actions of others.
But in the end, I suppose that is why ultimately it is faith that is required to live as a Christian. It is not just our personal experiences that reflect faith in Christ, but also the experiences of others who see God's grace in their achievements and through the struggles they face. And when we learn to listen to each other—and truly hear the faith story that another has to tell—that is when true Christian living spills over into service, generosity, encouragement, and hope.
And I hope you will be blessed by all of the personal stories and the expert tips in The Ultimate Christian Living.
©2010. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Ultimate Christian Living by Todd Outcalt. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.