Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God by Discovering the Truth About Yourself

Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God by Discovering the Truth About Yourself

by Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel

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Overview

Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel provide a path to abiding with God.

We were formed from the dust, but we were made for life with God. We often accept less. We make promises and set goals to try and grow, but holiness seems impossible. But the Christian life is not about looking or feeling like a Christian. It’s about abiding in God.

If communion with God is your goal, self-help strategies and personal resolutions will fail you. But Jesus Christ will not.

Drawing deeply from Scripture and narrating their own experiences, Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel wrote this book to be a companion for your journey with Jesus in the truth of yourself – as his beloved dust. This is not weighing tasks and rewards, but is a process of patience, prayer, and openheartedness.

Prayerfully read this book. Prepare your heart for the gifts God has for you. Beloved Dust invites readers to discover the fundamental simplicity and radical transformation of being with God.

"Beloved Dust is an intelligent vision for life with God through prayer, and many of its rich images have stayed with me long after I put down the pages." - Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine

“In BELOVED DUST, Kyle and Jamin tell us the truth about who we are and why we're here in a way that will draw you closer to God. Here is great wisdom on spiritual growth and friendship with God; written by two people whose friendship for each is evident—and who will become your friends before the end of the book.” - John Ortberg, author of Soul Keeping

"This is a important look at the most important aspect of life—what a genuine relationship with God really looks like. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel address our expectations and frustrations about spiritual growth in a hopeful, empowering way. Beloved Dust strikes the rare balance of being rich and deep while remaining practical and engaging. This book delivers on what it means, and doesn’t mean, to grow in a relationship with God.” - Jud Wilhite, author of Pursued, sr. pastor of Central Christian Church

In a culture of pop Christianity that serves a fast food gospel for consumers wanting drive-by spirituality, Goggin and Strobel defy expectations. Their book leads the reader on a slow, inward journey to discover the deeper hunger in their souls—a hunger for God himself. It is a beautiful and gracious exploration of prayer that everyone seeking a truer, deeper, and more authentic life with Christ should read. This book will draw you into a richer communion with God as it did for me, and that is the highest compliment I can possibly offer. -Skye Jethani, author of WITH and FUTUREVILLE.

"This book in your hands will remind you to stop, to revel in God’s fatherly presence, and to just be. That God is God and you are you, and that you are his, and that our dustiness is a beautiful thing. I am thankful for Jamin and Kyle’s gift to us within these pages." -Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780529110206
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/14/2014
Pages: 207
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Jamin Goggin serves as a pastor at Mission Hills Church. He has been in pastoral ministry for eleven years, including several years as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church. Jamin speaks and writes in the areas of spiritual formation, ministry and theology. He holds two Masters degrees and is currently earning a PhD in systematic theology. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Kristin, and their three children.


Kyle Strobel is a professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University and is an emerging voice among evangelicals on spiritual formation, discipleship, and theology. Kyle speaks regularly and has written for Pastors.com, Relevant magazine (and Relevant Magazine.com), ChurchLeader.com, and DeeperStory.com. Kyle lives in Southern California with his wife, Kelli, and their two children.

Read an Excerpt

Beloved Dust

Drawing Close to God by Discovering the Truth About Yourself


By Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-529-11021-3



CHAPTER 1

CREATED TO BE WITH GOD //


I (JAMIN) WAS doing all the right things. I was reading my Bible regularly. I was enrolled in several Bible classes. I was living a life of service. In fact, I was leading a ministry caring for the homeless in the city. Yet something was amiss. I had lived this way for several years, and all the feedback I received was positive. This must be what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ. This is what the Christian life is all about. Yet something about it didn't feel right. In truth, I was f lat out bored. I didn't feel inclined to rebel or fall away from the faith; I simply felt a dissonance in my walk with God. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I was tired of the to-dos, but I wasn't sure why. My faith felt hollow and tedious. What was going on?

During that season of spiritual malaise, I was invited on a retreat where I was forced to spend extended time in prayer. Not prayer for others. Not prayer with others. Silent, solitary, unscripted, deprogrammed prayer. I felt like a kid forced to play a sport he knew nothing about. I was fumbling in the dark, trying to remember the rules, all the while forgetting to play and have fun. It felt awkward, shallow, and forced. I felt lost. After about an hour of silence, alone in the mountains, God and me, I realized that the dissonance I felt was a surface marker of a deeper reality. I discovered within my heart a profound disconnect in my relationship with God. As I prayed, I realized I wasn't really sure who God was, and for that matter I wasn't sure who I was. I tried to lean in to all the theological truths I knew, but they offered no help in the deafening silence of lonely prayer. In that moment of naked honesty, God provided a turning point.

Before that point I had certainly prayed. I prayed for friends in need. I prayed God would take away my sin and guard me from future temptation. I prayed God would give me the desires of my heart. All these prayers were conducted, unfortunately, with little relational attachment, and functioned more as a phone transaction with a somewhat friendly but unknown customer service representative. What I realized on that retreat was that, in a very real sense, I had rarely truly prayed.

As Eugene Peterson stated, "We discover early on that we can pretend to pray, use the words of prayer, practice the forms of prayer, assume postures of prayer, acquire a reputation for prayer, and never pray. Our 'prayers,' so-called, are a camouflage to cover up a life of non-prayer." I had been living a Christian life of "non-prayer," and now I knew it. Prayer had become another thing to do. It was another bullet point on the list of "shoulds" and "oughts" for good Christian behavior. At its best, it had been dressed up as a spiritual discipline: as one practice on the list of many that mature believers are supposed to engage in. As a result, prayer became a place to be good.

Prayer became a place to perform.

Prayer became a place to get things done.

If I was honest, even those "non-prayer prayers" were few and far between compared to reading my Bible or engaging in other Christian activities. That was for one simple reason: prayer did not offer an obvious return on investment. I didn't feel smarter as a result of prayer. I didn't feel better about myself as I prayed. I didn't feel like I was getting much done. So I turned to things like service and church attendance to gain a sense of accomplishment.

All this betrayed a deeper and more insidious reality in my life. My desire for a felt experience of self-fulfillment was the driving force of my spiritual activity. The Christian life had become more about looking and feeling like a Christian than abiding in relationship with God. I was operating in the realm of seeming, not being. However, if the Christian life is most fundamentally about being with God, then prayer cannot be merely another activity on the list of good Christian behavior. Prayer must be a way of life. But this is not what I had signed up for. I thought I believed Christianity was about having a relationship with God, but in that moment, alone before Him, I came to realize that deep down I didn't truly desire God's presence.

Claiming that Christianity is about a relationship with God taps in to the provocative truth that God gives himself. The solution to the pain, suffering, evil, and vice that plagues our world is nothing other than the presence of the Creator. God's presence brings healing. This is such a big idea, and its implications are so far reaching, that we often accept something less instead. Rather than embracing the wildly provocative truth that God has given himself to us, we come to believe he functions primarily to give us other gifts.

That was my issue. I had clearly focused more on the other gifts than the gift of God himself. Rather than his presence, I wanted a felt experience, a sense of personal growth. I made the mistake of sin, which always seeks to turn God's presence into a mechanism or resource to make my life better. Rather than worshipping God, I worshipped myself. I wanted life on my terms, so I did what I thought God would want, thus cleverly obliging him to make life work for me.

Perhaps nothing is as subtle and deceptive as the ease with which our forms of worshipping God (reading the Bible, singing, partaking in the Lord's Supper, serving the poor, etc.) can be used for our own self-worship. This is so subtle and deceptive that we don't even know it is there. We can become aware of this self-worship when we pay attention to our desires. Our desires hint at subconscious beliefs we hold about life, God, and ourselves. These beliefs often surface when we enter God's presence. In His presence we come to realize how often we relate to him as a tool or resource in our quest for happiness, fulfillment, and meaning, rather than as the Lord who calls us to worship.

To be with the God who is always with you, you must pay attention to how you respond to unwelcome feelings concerning your life with God. For instance, when you see sin in your heart, do you beat yourself up before God in penance, as if your self-inflicted wounds will ensure God looks upon you favorably? Maybe you find yourself bored in church, disinterested with Scripture, or joyless in your giving, and you respond by acting as if you are content and happy. If we can't have the real thing, maybe pretending will work?

This is the fork in the road of our lives with God. To the left is a choice to use God to achieve the kind of life you want. It feels faithful because of how much cultural Christianity is sprinkled in, how much we can accomplish, and how important we are perceived to be in our church. To the right is a choice to receive the truth of yourself. This fork leads to the foot of the cross, where the only proper response is to bow a knee to God.

Whichever direction we take at the fork in the road is identified with a posture before God. The path on the left is a posture of control. There, we are the center, and our life dreams are sovereign. To the right, God is central, and we find ourselves called into his presence to know the freedom of being beloved. We take a knee before our Lord and trust that he receives us in the whole messy truth of ourselves because we rest on his self-giving.

Our posture in relationship to God unveils the deep realities of who we are and how we see God. We all know that physical posture communicates a lot about the nature of a relationship. Our body language toward others can send clear messages of affection or rejection, resistance or openness. When a friend turns to his phone to text message someone else while you are sharing your heart with him, it communicates something. When your child scuffs her knee, but physically refuses your attempts to comfort and care for her, it communicates something. These are broken postures. They are postures of rejection and pride rather than love and humility. In the same way, our hearts always take a certain posture toward God. We know what an open, honest, and willing posture before someone looks like. We can sense this in conversations with friends, children, or a spouse. We also know what it looks like to have someone shut down. We know when someone is handling us rather than relating to us, dealing with us rather than seeking to know us. When we seek ways to "get life right" on our own, that is identical with a posture of rejection. We are telling God that we do not need him, or even want him, but just want a better life.

Sin in our lives causes us to shy away from God's presence. Just as light chases away the dark, so God's light reveals more of ourselves than we are comfortable with—the light of God can leave us scrambling for the shadows. Often, our solution is to try to make God revolve around us, rather than finding ourselves in the gravitational field of his life. We pride-fully invite God into our stories rather than humbly receiving the invitation to share in his.

God is relentlessly personal. In giving himself, God requires that we give ourselves. In giving himself, God opens the door for us to come clean about who we are. God wants more than pretending. Therefore, we are called to vulnerability before him, to be open to him in everything. Openness is always relational. It is an awareness that everything in life is done in the presence of God. We live in the presence of a God who took on our nature in Jesus Christ and broke open his own life for us in the sending of his Spirit.


It Was Very Good

At the outset of the biblical drama, we are confronted with a beginning where no beginning had been before. God, the eternal one, created all things from nothing. He did not create out of compulsion or coercion, but freely out of his abounding and gratuitous love. He spoke, and it was. He gazed upon creation, and it was good. Creation was good because he, the good One, was creating it. He created everything: light and dark, land and sea, plants and animals, and finally, man and woman.

Something different happened there at the end of the creation story. The rhythm of the poem was jolted just a bit. Man and woman were created in the very image of God himself and were given special authority over all he had created. From the beginning, man and woman were given a unique identity. We read in Genesis 1:26 that humanity was not simply declared like the rest of creation, but also discussed by the triune God: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" The conclusion of the act of creation sounded slightly different as well: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31, emphasis added).

Scripture already confronts us with a question of human identity, and we are not even beyond the first chapter. Who are Adam and Eve? Creatures, created in the image of God, created "very good." These identity markers probably generate more questions than answers. What does it mean to be a creature? What is it to be an image-bearer? What does it mean to be "very good"?

In Genesis 1, we sit in the theater watching the drama unfold, but in Genesis 2 we are taken backstage. We are inside the action, and as a result we get a slightly different angle of the story. In parallel with the first scene, Genesis 2 offers new details about the creation of these image-bearers. We read, "then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature" (Gen. 2:7). Narrated with untamable tension, the text reveals two key concepts that shape human identity. First, "the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground." We are dust—earthy and humble, finite and temporal. Second, he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." We live on borrowed breath. We are alive in the most profound sense of the word—filled with the very breath that spoke creation into being. Within this tension is a status that is regal but lowly, significant but insignificant, unique but ordinary. God looks upon humanity's frame of dust and says, "I formed you, I love you, and I delight in you." We are beloved dust.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's pause for a minute; there is something else in the story we should note. God culminated his activity on the sixth day of creation, and humanity was the final piece of the project. However, if we are not careful we will miss the crown jewel of the creation story as a whole. The culmination of creation was not the sixth day, but the seventh. "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation" (Gen. 2:3). God's sabbath rest was truly the capstone of the project. It was this day of rest that God sanctified. This might strike us as a little odd. Why did God rest? Was he tired? Was he worn out? Did he need a break? No, God did not burn up all his energy. He didn't need a vacation.

We struggle with this because our culture equates rest with escape. Escape is about detachment, while true rest—as defined by God—is about attachment. It is about being with, moving in. God didn't check out. He did not desert what he had spoken into existence. By resting he ceased creating, but more importantly, his rest was an act itself. God's sabbatical rest was his decision to make the universe his resting place. His creation was his chosen abode. He would be present in the temple he had built. As John Walton stated, "God not only sets up the cosmos so that people will have a place; he also sets up the cosmos to serve as his temple." God's rest was the King sitting down upon his throne: "This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it" (Ps. 132:14).

The God who created everything lives with his creation. He has made his presence known. God's rest was God's decision to be with us. God is proclaiming: "I am here." God moved into his temple. That means God is not floating somewhere along the edge of the atmosphere, faintly present to his beloved dust. In Genesis, God established the garden of Eden as the seat of his rest. In the temple of God's creation, the garden of Eden was the holy of holies. It was there that God walked and invited Adam and Eve to walk with him. Eden was not merely a garden for Adam and Eve, but was first and foremost God's garden (Isa. 51:3, Ezek. 28:13). In Eden, the heart of God's temple, he rested, fully present to his beloved dust.

The very moment we were raised from dust, we were invited to be with God. We were created for relationship with him. We were created for fellowship with the Creator of the universe. We were made within the cosmic temple that God chose as his resting place. He invited us to join him in his eternal rest, in his sacred home. God declared a profoundly loving yes to relationship with us.

What does it mean for us to be image-bearers in his temple? Traditionally, the last thing put into a temple is the image of the god for whom the temple was built. That image serves to represent the god to the world. Likewise, with God's temple, he places humanity within it to image him to the world. To be the image of a relational God of love is to be called into God's life of love. It is no wonder Jesus claimed that the world will know his disciples based on our love (John 13:35). God made us to commune with him, to proclaim his presence based on who we are, which means we were created to relate with God in love.

It does not take long to encounter a crisis in the drama. Humanity rejects God's invitation into relationship. We say no to God's yes. Genesis 3 unfolds humanity's rejection of God and his presence. We all know the story. Adam and Eve rejected God's command not to eat fruit from the tree, because rather than depending on God, they wanted to be god. But something went wrong long before Adam and Eve actually ate the fruit. Something went wrong the moment Eve began to speak with the serpent. The nature of the conversation with the serpent was a profound sign that all was not well. Eve did not invite God into the conversation. The serpent had her on the ropes from the very beginning. She willingly accepted god-talk over God-relationship. As Eve dialogued with the serpent, we notice that the fellowship, communion, and rest in God, for which humans were created, were not on display. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer powerfully reminded us, this is "the first conversation about God." Humanity exchanged being with God for talking about him, as if he was not actually present. We were not created to talk about God, but to be with him. From the moment of our creation, we were intended to live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17:28).

The good news is that, in the face of our no, God continues to say yes in Jesus. In Eden, we see God walking with his beloved dust. God's presence was tangible, allowing his creatures to see and touch the God who spoke into being all that we see and touch. Just as God entered the garden to be with his creatures, Jesus entered into the drama of redemption in the incarnation. Jesus invited us to life with God. Jesus was the image of the invisible God, a physical manifestation of God (Col. 1:15). Even more provocatively, in the incarnation Jesus became beloved dust. In becoming human, Jesus took on a new role. It is as if the writer, director, and producer of this divine drama took over the story from within, rewriting all that came before through the lens of redemption. By entering the drama in our place, and through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus welcomed us back to our resting place with God. He invited us to participate as beloved dust once again. He called us into our roles in this great, living drama of redemption. To be caught up fully into this movement of God, we must learn to embrace a posture of openness to him in all that we do. We are not left alone by a vacant God, but called to live in the presence of the God who reveals himself to us.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel. Copyright © 2014 Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Introduction xv

1 Created to be With God 1

2 Stuck in the Sands of Time 17

3 Unlimited Limitation 33

4 Hiding in the Dust 47

5 I Am Dust: Now Everything Changes 69

6 The Song of the Beloved 93

7 Following the One Who Prayed 119

8 With God in the Temple 137

9 The Silent Embrace 159

Afterword: Carving Out Space to be With God 185

Acknowledgments 197

Notes 199

About the Authors 206

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