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Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Strange Days" (Mark Sayers)

TITLE: Strange Days: Life in the Spirit in a Time of Upheaval
AUTHOR: Mark Sayers
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (192 pages).

This world is changing faster than anyone could possibly imagine. What makes it more disconcerting is the weird events happening around us that make it challenging to understand. Anyone who hears people saying this world is becoming a better place ought to seek out a second opinion. There are security fears over terrorism. Economic turmoil seems to be the norm. The role of media has changed from factual reporting to public opinions. The more sensational it is, the better. With the improvements in transportation technology and communications advancements come the increased global movement and immigration. The previously despised Hitler regime is slowly rearing its ugly head through radical groups. How do we find our spiritual bearings during such tumultuous times? Mark Sayers, cultural observer and critic helps us with this helpful road map to understanding and engaging the complex culture we live in. In a three part manner, he leads us through the biblical, the historical, and the alternative paths on what we can do in this time of upheaval.

First, he covers the biblical pattern of chaos, stressing that what we are experiencing today is not new. Throughout history, people have a need to create places and spaces for themselves. Since the days of Eden when men were banished from the sacred Garden, they have been trying to build that place for themselves. Refusing to accept their sufficiency and the kingship of God, this rebellion has not gone away. In fact, the reason for the climate of discontent and restlessness is the unfulfilled desires of the heart that prefers worldliness more than anything else. Thankfully, there is hope in Jesus, where Jesus extends His hand of reconciliation to all who would receive Him. Second, he goes into the historical description of how the rebellious nature of mankind led to the globalized culture of disenchantment. The lack of a spiritual center means misguided trust in things of the world. People become disoriented with the status quo and endear themselves to radical ideologies that promise an ideal future at the expense of the present. This striving pattern to try to make this world a better place has backfired. Some get discouraged over the temporal success and subsequent failures. Others retreat back to their cocoons of individualism. One terrorism leads to another retaliation. Politics are increasingly polarized and communities streamlined into isolated enclaves. People's sense of culture becomes more and more diffused. Thankfully, there is a part Three which takes us away from the gloom and doom, and shows us there is hope in a new life. The Church is a central figure. This means recognizing the threats within and without. Learn to see the opportunities beyond mere threats. Learn to belong. Learn to live. Be content with quiet and purposeful living without being anxious about recognition or visibility. Sayers urges us to remain faithful in discipleship; to learn to connect a disenfranchised world with the bigger story of God; being renewed as the Church engages with the surrounding culture without being absorbed; and many more.

I appreciate the way Sayers refers to this world as "strange days." We are in fact strangers to this world because the world does not recognize us as belonging to it. We belong to Christ and are resident aliens in this world. Our true home is in God. We do not need to be trapped in the worldly ideology of despair or unreal idealism. We have the hope in Christ. When we have this assurance of salvation and eschatological hope, we will not be easily embroiled in controversies or lost in political quagmires. Strange it may seem there is nothing new under the sun. There is a way forward because Jesus has shown us the way through Him. Here is a powerful quote:

"As disciples, we cannot choose passivity, nor do it all under our own steam. Instead the disciple lives at a distance from the crowd, as well as a distance from his own flesh. A disciple lives under the lordship of Jesus, guided, counseled, and quickened by the Spirit. In the 'peerarchy' of contemporary culture, where we look to our peers as the ultimate authority and guide of our behaviour and values, entering a hall of mirrors, reflecting to each other a constructed, perfected self on social media, we choose to take a different path. Loving our peers, but not bowing to them. In the opinioncracy, in which we are told that all opinions are valid, and which has descended into a deafening echo chamber of never-ending voices, broadcasting into the wind, we choose to speak the Father's truth." (167)

Indeed. Even as the world are running itself dry, we can be refreshed in God constantly. There is no need to be anxious if the world does not accept us. On the contrary, if the world accepts us, that in turn is truly be something we ought to be concerned. For just as the world has rejected Jesus, so too will the world reject followers of Christ. The word of Jesus remains true and comfort us today: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Mark Sayers is a cultural commentator, writer, speaker with deeply insightful thoughts on faith and contemporary culture. He has written books like The Road Trip that Changed the World, Facing Leviathan, and Disappearing Church. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three children.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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