FOLLOW THE CLOUD: Hearing God’s Voice One Next Step at a Time by John Stickl (Multnomah/Waterbrook Press; 2017)

FOLLOW THE CLOUD by pastor and first-time author John Stickl takes a relatively brief, yet fulfilling and encouraging look at the desire that God has to lead His children on a continual basis, and that this type of intimate and relational expression of life with God is available to all Christians now. Using the Old Testament example of how the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land through a cloud by day (and fire by night) to lead the people exactly where they needed to go when they needed to go. Stickl challenges readers to “follow the cloud —- courageously taking next steps when we see God move. The author breaks his explanation of following God more closely into four sections. Section 1 — Awaken to Life — makes the case that believers today have more access to God than the Israelites did in the Old Testament, and that the Lord means for us to follow Him in a dependent and trusting daily walk. Section 2 — Receive His Grace — builds a foundation for this intimate walk by demonstrating the love and grace of God, and believers’ identity as sons and daughters rather than servants or sinners. Section 3 — Experience His Presence — goes into detail to describe what “following the cloud” entails, and all the various ways that God communicates with us. Finally, Section 4 — Release His Kingdom — lays out a vision of what a willingness to trust and obey God can mean in the individual believers’ lives, as well as in the lives of their family, friends, coworkers, church members, communities and society at large. Stickl writes in an honest, self-effacing manner as someone who has only recently learned more about the love of God and His desire to lead him and all believers in all things; so that striving and despair can cease, and Christians can live in the joy and freedom that Christ desires and delivered to us through His sacrifice and obedience to the Father. This aspect of Stickl’s writing reminds me in a good way of other authors like Craig Groeschel who write not as “super Christians” who have had very extraordinary experiences and blessings with God that would make readers feel guilty and self-conscious; but rather as a follow struggler who has had to learn some difficult lessons, but now wants to share his joyful discoveries with others. This book is extremely encouraging and uplifting, and as a believer who has had many ongoing struggles in learning to trust God and totally depend on Him, this book was like a breath of fresh air to me. I would highly recommend this book for all believers.

Advertisements

Blessed are the Introverts, for they shall keep the Earth operating

My title for this post may be a little pretentious, but I think it makes the point I hope to expound on in this brief article.

By now, most people have probably seen the numerous Christian and secular books published in the last few years on the general topic of introverts, as well as the sub-genre of books written for introverts to encourage them, and also to possibly help the extroverts out there realize that all of us introverts are not snobs, creeps, weirdos --- and in Christian circles, unspiritual.  I am and always will be an introvert, and have seen first-hand the challenges we introverts face in churches, as well as dealing with our own senses of guilt and frustration; that we are not "really sold out to Jesus" like our extroverted counterparts.  Much could be written about how Western society is basically set up to promote and lionize extroverts.  But what is probably most hurtful to me and other Christians like me are the spoken and unspoken messages from pulpits, books, websites and blogs that if one is not living "radically" for God (see Platt, Chan, Claiborne, McManus, et al), then you don't really love/trust God and are more interested in yourself than others.  But have you noticed that probably about 90 percent + of Christian leaders are themselves extroverts (even if they say they don't think so)?  All of us true introverts know that we would never do or think about 99.999% of the stuff we hear and read from celebrity Christians.

But numerous secular (as well as a few done by Christian groups) show over and over again that the people who really get things done in this world --- but with little to no fanfare --- is us introverts.  That is because we tend to be less distracted, more highly responsible, diligent, willing to stay out of the spotlight, to get things accomplished.  As a man (but I could very easily say the same things about women), fighting traffic, nonstop semi-pornographic images, coarse language and even coarser attitudes, working at a job that might feel pretty close to Hell, cleaning the dog poop, clearing and washing the dishes at home, and other mundane things ad infinitum are the REAL "radical" Christians.  And oh yes, who is it that works the soul-sucking jobs to help pay for the needs of missionaries, pastors, relief organizations and struggling Christian outreaches to the margins of society?  Us introverts, that's who!

I will probably have much more to say along these lines in future posts, but would love to hear from other true introverts so we can commiserate a little; but better yet, to encourage and spur each other on to hang in there and keep showing up day after day.  God knows,and He sees!