Saturday, August 13, 2011

Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance with Intimacy with God

Recently, I was searching for some new books to download to my Kindle.  On this particular occasion, I was looking to see if there were any good prices on any of Brennan Manning's books.  I have been a fan of his since I discovered The Ragamuffin Gospel after Rich Mullin's had released his album "A Life, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band."

While there were plenty of Brennan Manning works available for the Kindle, none were at a discounted price.  Since I already had physical copies of all the books available, I decided not to download any on my Kindle at this time.  However, there was one book that caught my attention in my search for Brennan Manning's work.  It was Fil Anderson's "Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God."  It showed up because Manning had written the forward for the book.  Just so you don't think that price was the only issue in my decision making process, I did pay the full Kindle price of $9.99 for this book.

The opening line of the product description that I found on was what really piqued my interest in this book:
After years of living with a set of religious demands that he could never live up to, Fil Anderson found himself spiritually bankrupt and emotionally drained. Following a crash-and-burn in professional ministry, he experienced relief in learning to be with God rather than doing for God. Instead of desperation, he found healing, and a rich new life with God.
This opening description really spoke to me.  In the past, I have been very actively involved in church activities, though I confess it has been several years.  While I had never been in "professional" ministry, I often threw myself into the activities of the church.  I found myself participating in every activity, particularly the music ministries of the church.  It was not just going to Sunday service.  It was Sunday School, morning service, choir practice before evening service, evening service, Wednesday evening prayers service, and choir practice after that.

It was quite a busy lifestyle.  Frequently, I felt frustrated and tired.  I tried to live up to the expectations of those in the church.  However, I knew who my real self was.  I looked at others who always seemed to have it all together and wondered if they were real.  There were times when I felt that I was struggling, but when I would share  my feelings with those who were supposed to be my friends, I was sometimes greeted with an expression of severe disappointment.  Eventually, this would lead to my leaving the church.

"Breaking the Rules" deals with these very issues and feelings.  Anderson writes a very transparent account of his own struggles with playing the church game of always doing and saying the right thing in public, but struggling with his own inner demons.  On the surface, he was leading the ideal Christian life, but inside, he couldn't help but think that something was missing.  By following the rules, he did not feel that he was truly having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Anderson relates through scripture, how Jesus frequently condemned the religiosity of the spiritual leaders of his day.  The teachings of Christ were meant to be a liberating force in the lives of his followers, not substituting one set of binding rules and regulations with another.  By taking a fresh approach to reading scripture, without the preconceptions of his religious upbringing, he was able to establish a new and fresh relationship with Jesus.

This book is very similar to the works of Brennan Manning.  It is a transparent view into the personal struggles of a man trying to be what he has been taught by the church to be.  However, by realizing that he could never be the man the church taught him to be, it was hindering his relationship with Christ.  By realizing that Jesus loved his true self and not the image he was portraying, Anderson was able to rekindle and renew his walk with Christ.

There used to be a Scott Wesley Brown song that I liked when I was listening to a lot of Christian Contemporary Music.  It had a line in the chorus that went, "I'm not religious, I just love the Lord."  This is the message that Anderson is trying to put forth in "Breaking the Rules."  It is a goal that all Christians should strive for.
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