[BOOK REVIEW] Pamela Evans, Driven Beyond the Call of God: Discovering the Rhythms of Grace, 1999

driven-beyond-the-call-of-god‘Religion can damage your health’, so the first chapter of this book is entitled (p11)!

In attempting to serve the church and our neighbour with all our hearts and minds and strength, we can find ourselves sucked into a lifestyle which undermines our very purpose and makes nonsense of our message.

It’s all easy to work the treadmill called ‘church’ until we’re worn out, and alienated from our families. To them we may have become the tired and irritable strangers who are never home to take their own incessant phone calls. This is particularly the case if we belong to a fellowship in which all the important people, upon whom others model their style of discipleship, are perennially exhausted. Some give the impression that they see time off as a cop-out for spiritual failures of evidence of a lack of commitment. Even going out to work can be seen as a ‘necessary evil’, interrupting as it does the ‘real work’ which God has ordained!

Much that passes for Christian fervour is workaholism with a religious gloss.

Many of us have a perception in our head that e.g. “God is a perfectionist slave-driver who takes delight in setting impossible tasks.” What kind of message is this to give to others?

Part of the title of this book is taken from The Message translation of the Bible (p10)

Matthew 11:28-30: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on relgion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it . Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Using books such as these, and trying to actively take their message on board (rather than enthusiastically thinking I have it all sorted) and use some of the strategies that they offer to make a difference. I was challenged once as to why I was so proud of the fact that “I’m not afraid of hard work” – still not sure – it’s the way it’s always been in my family with a strong dose of the Protestant work ethic, I guess. I have good friends who encourage (sometimes force) me to sit still (although this still often involves reading a book) and congratulate me when I manage it. A question I have to debate is raised on p.20; “What is so painful that she can’t afford to have an idle moment lest it break through into her consciousness?”

Prepared for use as as an Oak Hall leader. 


[BOOK REVIEW] Tim Chester, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness, 2006

busy-christianI picked this up whilst working as a caretaker/cleaner on an Oak Hall ski holiday in 2007. I was to give my testimony for the first time and was thinking around the tissues that were/are relevant at this time. Having taken redundancy, I was looking forward to some idle time, alongside some de-cluttering to really think things through. By April I wasn’t sure I was getting anywhere fast, the to-do list was as long (if not longer) than ever, my emails were still un-dealt with for anything up to 3 years, I’m still doing things I think I shouldn’t be doing, guilt is piling up, and I feel that life is on a fast-forward.

The back-cover of this book drew me in – offering practical help but also noting that we can’t just slow down/simplify our lives – we need to deal radically with the things that drive us. Do you:

  • Need to prove yourself?
  • Feel ‘otherwise things get out of control’
  • Think ‘I need the money’

Chester describes this as re-submitting ourselves to slavery when God/Christ has set us free.

In Matthew 11:28 God promised rest to all who are weary and burdened, and it’s up to use to accept it (and we need to not take responsibility for other’s busyness either!).

An extract (p94-5). Psalm 119: 120 I stand in awe of your laws

So if you are busy because of other people’s expectations, or you can’t say ‘no’ to people then you need to learn the fear of the LORD [Not terror-fear, but respect-fear]. For the fear of God can be taught and learnt [through meditation on God’s glory.]

And this fear is liberating. It is liberating because it sets us free from every other fear. Proverbs 19:23: The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. The fear of God leads to ‘rest’. Fearing God sets us free from the frantic busyness that is driven by the desire to please others… We are no longer controlled by other people’s expectations. We are controlled instead by God’s expectations.

We still serve other people. That’s why we’ve been set free (Galatians 5:13). We take other people’s expectations seriously because we want to love them as God commanded. But we’re not enslaved by them. We don’t serve them for what they can give us in return – approval, affection, security or whatever. We serve them for Christ’s sake. By submitting to his lordship, we’re free to serve others in love. When people are disappointed in us we need to be able to say to God: ‘I’m sorry they’re disappointed, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve done what you expected of me.’

Prepared for use as as an Oak Hall leader.