Monthly Archives: March 2013

Your Faith isn’t meant to be Safe

 

Vince Antonucci nailed it Renegade. Recently, I began looking for books by authors I have never heard of, authors who are not widely known. This book has me thankful that I took the chance. I had never heard of Vince Antonucci before reading this book but after reading his book, I can honestly say God used him in a mighty way in my life right now.  With Renegade, I really do not know where to begin. This book came at just the right time in my life and God really used it to challenge and encourage me with where I am at this point in my life.

First, let me tell you a little about Vince. He is married with two kids and lives in Las Vegas where God led him to plant a church on or near the strip. The church is called Verve and it is “a church for people who work on and live around the strip.” (vinceantonucci.com) He calls his story pretty typical but in actuality, it seems anything but ordinary. He was going to attend Law school and had a scholarship to a well-known school but after the first year, God told him to go to seminary and then to eventually plant a church. However, the way God has led him and his wife has caused them to take some steps of faith, and be willing to risk everything, including a job that would have paid him a pretty nice sum of money starting out. Vince and his wife heeded God’s calling and now they live in Vegas and work at a church that ministers to everyone who comes through the doors while also going out to minister at places on the strip that many Christians would never consider visiting. And the amazing thing is, God is blessing their work and using them to make a huge impact on people there in Vegas. When Vince first told some friends that he felt God leading him to Vegas, they told him that he would be fine if he planted a church in the suburbs, away from the strip. The problem was that he felt God was leading him to plant a church right on or near the strip. They thought he was crazy but he strongly felt that is where God was leading and so he obeyed.

Verve is now in its third year of ministry and they are reaching people with the Gospel and it is all because one man, and his wife, took a risk and lived by faith. That is what God calls US to as well and that is what Renegade is all about. So what is a renegade? “A renegade is a person who rejects conventional behavior, who refuses to do what others are doing, and who realizes there’s a different beat they can dance to – and it’s better” (p. 15). A renegade also realizes that “normal is not working for anyone else nor is it working for them” (p. 15). As Vince read through the Bible, and specifically about Jesus, he noticed that there seemed to be a difference between how Jesus lived and called his disciples to live and how the people who call themselves Christians were actually living. It did not seem to match up. Faith is something that is always dangerous and faith always feels like risk (p. 15). Thus, Vince decided to write this book.

Renegade is a very easy book to understand and Vince calls his readers to something more. If our lives are too easy as Christians, something might be wrong and he challenges his readers to look at their lives and investigate how they are living. The subtitle of the book is “Your Faith isn’t Meant to be safe.” It appears today though that many Christians have found a way to justify living a “safe” life which in essence, tames their faith. Just like muscles grow and get stronger when stretched, so our faith grows best when it is stretched. The more we step out in faith, or as Vince says, risk, the more God will reveal Himself to us and the more useful we become to God and the bigger impact for Him we can have. Renegade is a book that will be hard to put down and that will challenge you with each page. To help encourage his readers even more, there are “assignments” at the end of some of the chapters and sections that will challenge the reader with actual plans to stretch yourself towards a more renegade lifestyle. While I did not do them the first time through the book, I am looking forward to eventually going back through the book and making the effort to complete the assignments.

With that said, I want to include a few quotes for you to ponder:

“You realize that if your intimacy with God doesn’t connect you to other people and connect those other people to God, then really it’s just an isolated and narcissistic act. But when you have a true passion for God, it automatically translates into a compassion for people.”

“Faith is risk. That’s what faith is. It’s what faith feels like…The idea: you cannot play it safe and please God.”

“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

“God has a calling for each of our lives, but there’s a problem. God typically calls us to an uncomfortable mission. We prefer our calling to be comfortable.”

“God’s plan for our lives is amazing, but it typically appears to be something we don’t want to do.”

I could write out so many other quotes that spoke to me as I have underlined and dog-eared much of this book. It truly is a challenging and inspiring book that will lead you to begin making changes to bring you out of a comfortable life into one of faith…and risk. If you would consider yourself to be already living a renegade life, then this book will encourage you to maintain the course and to fight the fight each and every day because there is a devil out there trying to distract us and keep us from living all out for God. The best way to combat the devil is by living on the offensive and living by faith as a renegade.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review and I highly encourage you to give Renegade a chance. I truly believe if you read it with an open heart, it can help change your life and lead you to make some lasting changes that will take you to the life God has for you which can be described in any way besides boring. It is the life truly lived and the life that will make a difference in your community. Go get a copy and read it.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.


Empty No More by Jud Wilhite

 

Jud Wilhite is a pastor in Las Vegas. That statement right there should make this book stand out to you. Many Christians today would not step foot in “Sin City” on vacation, let alone actually move their whole family. A number of Christians would run from that city as if they were Jonah running from Nineveh. They would say the people in Las Vegas do not deserve God’s forgiveness; they deserve the same fate Sodom and Gomorrah received. However, Las Vegas is right where God has lead Jud and his wife and family to minister and make a huge impact for the kingdom of God. And make an impact is what they have done with God’s help. The cover makes the claim that the church where Jud pastors, Central Christian Church, has 20,000 members. You do not get to 20,000 members in sin city without having God working in an amazing way, especially in Las Vegas. However, even with all those acclaims, in Empty No More, Jud never comes across in a prideful manner or with the thought that he has arrived at a blessed sanctification but is very mindful of his own weaknesses and struggles as a pastor. This should also make you want to pick up anything he has written. If a pastor is able to start a church and grow it to 20,000 people in the shadows of one of the world’s most known cities, one that is known for its sin and debauchery, and remain humble at the same time, then he will probably have some encouragement for you and be able to challenge you in your walk with the Lord.

With that said, I do not want to puff up Jud Wilhite in that everything he has done so far has been by the grace of God. Jud does a great job in this book of putting forth Biblical truth in easy to understand and relate to terms. What is this book all about? It is all about the love that Jesus has for everyone, from the biggest, most popular preacher in the world to the lowest of homeless people. God loves everyone the exact same and has extended that love to everyone, shown through the sacrifice of His only Son to redeem humanity. Within every human is the desire and longing to be loved by someone or something. This indwelling desire was created in us by the God who is defined as love and no matter what else we try to fill that hole with, it will remain empty until God Himself is able to fill it with Himself. Jud many stories of people in the Bible and in Las Vegas who tried to find love in other places only to be left down and out. These stories will grip your heart and emotions all the while pointing you towards the only One who can be everything we need. Love is something that many times can be difficult to define but easy to spot when seen in action. Along those lines, when someone encounters true love, they are changed. No one can encounter true love and not be affected by it.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians today who remain completely unchanged by the love God has for them. They go through motions, sing empty songs, pray heartless prayers and live lives that are far from what God called us to. We long to experience love but do not want to face the sacrifice required to love. When love is truly present, so is humility, forgiveness, grace, truth as well as justice. There can be no love where there is no sacrifice and that is where many people stop in their pursuit of love. They do not want to sacrifice any of their own comforts or pleasures for the sake of others. Jud shares how his church went through a transition where they really had to consider who they wanted to minister to and how they could reach out to them. One thing he mentioned to make this part stand out was how some people who attend their services come straight from their place of employment, that in many instances, are establishments many Christians would not even go near. However, how could a church that taught of a God of love and grace not be willing to reach out to anyone and everyone? Is that not the very example that Jesus Himself put forth through His life?

Empty No More is a great book for men and women who have been Christians for years as well as new believers. In fact, this book would be a great book for anyone who is entertaining questions about what God is like. Many times we forget that to truly love, it means getting messy and dirty because people are messy and dirty and yet Jesus never ran from loving those people so why do we? I greatly enjoyed this book and finished it challenged but also encouraged to rest in God’s love for me. After reading this book, you will walk away renewed and refreshed.

Let me share a couple quotes that stood out to me:

“He doesn’t simply want to change your mind; He wants to radically change your heart.”

“The Cross declares that God values people so much He was willing to pay the price of His very Son for them. You and I will not lock eyes with anyone this week who does not matter deeply to God.”

“We may experience love in our lives and see glimpses of it, but the cross is the only act of pure love performed without the slightest hint of false motives in world history.”

“Don’t wait for the light to turn green before you do something; assume the light is green unless God stops you with a red one.”

“If you aren’t getting criticized for something it may be because you aren’t doing anything.”

“When you help people who don’t deserve a second chance with a third, fourth, and fifth chance, people will say you’re crazy – I call it being a Christian.”

There is so much more in this book I would like to share but I encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is worth your time. Towards the end of the book, Jud shares how God’s love, when we allow it to work in our lives, should push us to live lives that truly portray the love that God has for us. This will cause us to look at our lives introspectively and maybe even make some changes in how we live so that we can ensure God’s has full control of our lives and we are not holding on to anything and trying to only allow God to work in the ways that we want Him to. Living as a Christian and living out the love God has for us is a call to live completely against the norm, a call to live radically, freely, but most importantly, fully. Pick up a copy of Empty no More, you will be glad you did.

 

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.