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Monday, January 20, 2014

"Invitations of Jesus" (Trevor Hudson)

TITLE: Invitations of Jesus
AUTHOR: Trevor Hudson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2014, (96 pages).

This little devotional is written by a Methodist minister based in South Africa. He begins with a reflection on a wedding invitation that he had overlooked. It was something very special for the couple, but he had embarrassingly forgotten all about it in the midst of his work and busyness. Once over, "our loss is forever" so says Trevor Hudson. As he looks at the relationship between Christ and us, so many of our relationship with God is on the basis of our own needs instead of on the basis of faith and love. For Hudson, it is important not to be straitjacketed in a BSH relationship that believes in Jesus, Saved from sins, and straight to heaven after death. Christianity is not about a project to escape hell and enter heaven. It is a response to the invitation of Jesus to open and receive Jesus' gift; to explore and to know God; and to respond to God affirmatively. The key is to learn to be fully alive to God, and in turn be fully alive to one another, and to the world that God so loved and gave his only Son.

The six weeks of "invitations" is a journey from spiritual wakefulness to hopefulness in God. Week One sets the tone of the trip. It encourages readers to open the invitation and to respond with eager hearts. Week Two looks at "transforming intimacy" where Hudson reminds us about the importance of passion for God. Love is not a burden. It is a passion. When we look at our faith from the lens of passion, obeying the commandments of God will be most natural and beautiful. He connects this intimacy of God and relates it also to intimacy with people. True spiritual intimacy is never isolated from intimacy with people. Week Three talks about "transforming discipleship," Hudson poses a challenge to us:

"What is your life's greatest opportunity?"

He urges readers to consider growing in God as that opportunity.  We learn to be accepted by God. We learn to accept ourselves. We learn to connect our individual small stories with the Big Story of God.

Week Four moves to "transforming solitude" which is an invitation to dwell in the gospels, to walk with Jesus in solitude. Underneath Jesus' busy agenda, he frequently takes time to be alone, to pray, and to spend time with God. We learn about rest, refreshment, and renewal. The intriguing thing about solitude is that true solitude is never lonely. It is an awareness that God is right there with us.

Week Five reminds us that the Christian life is never inward looking. It has a "transforming mission" focus. As our relationship with God deepens, we feel a greater urge to share of this intimacy with others. Those who have personally tasted the sweetness of the fruit of spiriual life, will be most happy to share the experience. Without any such experience in the first place, how then can one share about anything? Transforming mission is also about sharing, especially in the suffering of people in the community.

Week Six is an invitation to a "transforming mystery." Sometimes, we in the modern scientific and technological world can arrogantly think we can solve all things. Even our saying of certain things that are impossible comes across more as lip service. The key is not in terms of our knowing or unknowing. It is in God revealing Truth to us, according to his own time and purpose. Just like we do not know when we will die, our losses can be a mystery in itself.

So What?

Do not be deceived by the brevity or the simplicity of this devotional. There are many stories and illustrations to drive home the message of Jesus inviting us to walk with him more closely and more intimately. Far too many Christian books and resources have tried to give us tools to get things done or to make things happen. As a result, many people become more activists instead of reflective respondents. We become more fixated on the visible stuff of life and ignore the invisible things. We fall into the habit of trying to do things in our own strength instead of depending on God's strength. This book of invitation is open-ended enough for us to be creative in our practice of it. It is closed-ended enough to limit our scope to six weeks of transformative exercises. Do these with much prayer. Be patient. Be open. Be intentional. Most importantly, learn to remember that Jesus has already given us an invite. We need to RSVP our response.

Rating:4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Upper Room Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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