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Friday, December 8, 2017

"The God Guarantee" (Jack Alexander)

TITLE: The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough
AUTHOR: Jack Alexander
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (226 pages).

Every generation, people would say that their era is tougher than their predecessors. There is not enough time to do all they wanted to do. There is not enough people to do what the community need to do. There is not enough resources for us to give, to live on, or to help others with. There are anxieties of lacking what we need. There are also uncertainties that surround our future. Most damning of them all is the fear that prevents us from exercising our fullest potential and to live out our faith. According to author and motivational speaker, Jack Alexander, all we need to change our paradigm of lack to contentment. There is no need to fear about not having enough. The root of an ungenerous heart is fear. Thus, Alexander helps us to change this perspective and to understand and practice biblical generosity. I like the way Tim Keller explains in the foreword that this is not a "self-help" nor a "stewardship" book, nor a "devotional," but a book that would "send you to your knees." I like that.

Alexander dispels the scarcity mentality that paints us as victims needing more. He writes: "All the money in the world can't uncover a deeply embedded sense of scarcity." That is so true. If our hearts are not at peace, no amount of encouragement or serenity can change us. So, the author shows us that God has created us and provided for us in more ways than we could ever imagine. We doubt because we are too engrossed in independence and self-sufficiency. We doubt because of lack of faith in God. By taking on Jesus's practice of taking the bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it, Alexander gives us a framework to hone our contentment in God and to develop our conviction in generous giving. First in CAPACITY, we discover capacity as we take stock of what we already have. Second in CONSECRATION, as we bless God and be thankful for them, we invite God in to work in us. Third in CHALLENGES, we re-order our lives as we breaks the old set paradigms. Fourth in COMMUNITY, we give and provide for others.

This four-step pattern of provision helps us to be free from our self-driven limitations and to embrace God's promise of freedom from fear. The first chapter in CAPACITY blows me away. Having a thankful heart for what we already have also helps us to imagine the potential of our existing resources. Far too often, we are stuck in the thinking of "more and more" before we can embark upon anything. We forget that when we have less, we could learn to depend on God more. This could be extended to learning to see reality more clearly, instead of simply taking a superficial glance and not appreciating the potential. As we be faithful in using what we already have, watch God give the increase. Instead of lamenting on the limited seeds we have, plant them. If we can move from "if only" to "why not," we are on a positive step toward a transformative experience. I have three thoughts about this book.

First, it helps us to look beyond ourselves. Alexander is spot on when he describes the way we cage ourselves into a mentality of scarcity. As long as we feel we never have enough, we tend to hold on to our possessions tightly. We are fearful about losing what we have. We become selfish and self-centered, unable to look out for the needs of others more than our own needs. We are afraid to risk it, lest we lose out and end up with the shorter end of the stick. When we fail to give, we fail to invest in others. We will also miss the chance to help grow a community or help a neighbour grow to be a better person. We all need reminders about how to be less self-focused and more other-focused.

Second, we can take a big step of faith toward trusting God when we give. The word 'thanksgiving' is packed with meaning. When we give thanks, we grow a big heart. We remind ourselves that we are beneficiaries of many through history, through networks, and through various associations. From young, we benefit from our parents' care and love. When we go to school, we benefit from the experience of teachers, the facilities built by past generations, as well as the improved systems inherited from feedback and mistakes of the past. When Jesus gave thanks, His eyes are focused on the Giver of all good things: God the Father. One of the best ways is Brueggemann's explanation: "a sit-down thanksgiving dinner that matches the needs of the people with the generosity of God." It is a beautiful way of enjoying life with a gratitude to God. When Jesus blesses the bread and the wine, He honours the gifts and shares them. Faith is giving and sharing.

Third, we are reminded that the secret of godliness with contentment. Many people think of more as a way to be happy. Come Christmas time, people want the best deals and the most presents. The commercial world know how to play with this and brandishes their marketing gimmicks to entice consumers to spend more, so that they could sell more. Some people would counter this with a buy-nothing day. The key is to know our need, what we need, and not be distracted from this by external forces. By focusing on the last supper, we are constantly starting from the point of God's gifts of bread and wine. This gives us a chance to contemplate on the aspect of godliness through Jesus' actions. I like the way Alexander describes the four-step pattern of provision. By trusting in God's faithfulness, not only are we free from selfish thoughts, we become agents of blessings for others. That will lead to true contentment.

Jack Alexander is chairman of the Reimagine Group and has rich experience leading a variety of businesses. A previous recipient of an Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year Award, he is a regular speaker, coach, and advisor. He and his wife, Lisa, live in Atlanta. They have three grown sons and five grandchildren.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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