Sunday, June 19, 2011

‘Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Script’ by Frank Viola – Book Review

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It’s my observation that it is human nature to stick to the tried and true, to the familiar. This theory is backed up by Frank Viola in his new book, ‘Revise Us Again: Living From A Renewed Christian Script.’ His opinion is that we need to allow the Lord to recalibrate our thinking and to rewrite our life script.

Here is the synopsis of this insightful book:

Rescript Your Spiritual Life. Every person follows a script for living, a life guide that directs our behavior and shapes our choices. As believers, we find the original script for living woven throughout the Bible. Yet while the Christian message is simple, it can become complicated by our environment, our culture, and our religious ideas and traditions. For this reason, we are all in constant need of revising the scripts by which we live.
Author Frank Viola believes we need to revisit and revise what it means to live the Christian life. Drawing from his rich background in ministry, Viola examines ten key areas that impact every believer and explores fresh ways to revise them.
Conversational, insightful, and practical, Revise Us Again encourages us to examine those religious habits that we unconsciously pick up from others and rescript them with new habits that line up with our new nature in Christ.

Here is the biography of this author:

Frank Viola is a frequent conference speaker and author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and radical church restoration. His books include the best-selling From Eternity to Here along with Pagan Christianity (coauthored with George Barna), Reimagining Church, Finding Organic Church, Jesus Manifesto (coauthored with Len Sweet), and The Untold Story of the New Testament Church. Frank’s website contains many free resources, including audio messages, an interactive blog, a quarterly eNewsletter, articles, and more. Frank and his family live in Gainesville, Florida.

Here is the book trailer:

In the Introduction, Mr. Viola shares what he hopes will happen after people read this book:

My hope is that the Holy Spirit of God, who writes not on tablets of stone but on tablets of our hearts, will use this book to help edit those religious habits that do not map to His heart, and in turn, begin rescripting us into the glorious image of Christ. (p. 11)

Mr. Viola focuses on ten areas in which our life script could use some possible 
revisions from the Lord:

1.    Revising the Lord’s Voice
2.    Revising Christianeze
3.    Revising Christian Code Language
4.    Revising Our Semantics
5.    Revising Our Message
6.    Revising Our Awareness of the Divine
7.    Revising Our Attitudes
8.    Revising Our Spiritual Expectations
9.    Revising the Holy Spirit’s Ministry
10. Revising Our Chief Pursuit

I was intrigued by a point Mr. Viola made in the chapter looking at Christian Code Language – specifically as it refers to a phrase used often by Christians, “Let me pray about it:”

I’m certainly not suggesting that we give up the practice of bringing things to the Lord’s attention and seeking His mind on them, especially those matters that are complex and where our response will affect the lives of others. But “let me pray about it” has become the universal answer that Christians give to undesired requests.
Forgive the personal illustration, but I think it may help some readers. When I have been faced with a crisis and I need the Lord’s precise guidance, I have set myself apart for three days to seek His face on the matter.
In every case, God has been faithful to give me clarity at some point during the three- day period. So I’m not against bringing vital matters before the Lord to discern His mind.
Such cases, however, are the exceptions. As Christians, we possess a mind (1 Cor. 2:16; Phil 2:5 NKJV). We possess a frame of reference where we know by instinct or wisdom what our responses should be in most situations. (p. 41)

I used that exact phrase with a friend who suggested I take on a responsibility. Now I am wondering what my motive was in relying on that thought process! I do see how that expression can be abused.

I found the most interesting chapter to be the one focusing on revising our attitudes:

Numerous things about the Christian life amaze me. One of them has to do with a phenomenon that has repeated itself throughout church history. I call it “being captured by the same spirit you oppose.” (p. 85)

He elaborates:

Those who are captured by the same spirit they oppose tend to impute the motives of their own hearts onto those who threaten them. Christian leaders who have inflated egos or deep insecurities are easily threatened by others. As a result, they will unwittingly read their own heart motives into the hearts of others.
Psychologists call this “projection.” I can’t face my own shortcomings and defects so I unconsciously project them onto other people. I accuse others of the very same dark things that are lurking deep within my own heart. (p. 89)

The Holy Spirit really convicted me when I read that section of the book…

Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Mr. Viola made an interesting point about placing too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit instead of on Christ:

To my mind, the Holy Spirit has but one job: to reveal, to make known, to magnify, to glorify, and to make central and supreme the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 123)

In the chapter looking at revising our spiritual expectations, Mr. Viola makes an enlightening (pardon the pun!) point about night and day, and darkness and light:

So God’s beginnings start with evening. What we call the end of the day, God calls the beginning. In fact, every life-form begins in darkness. There are nine months of darkness for a human, and then the human sees light. At night when we are asleep, our bodies are resting and restoring, but we are unaware of it until morning. To put it another way, God’s beginnings are our nights. And what we call the end, He calls the beginning. (p. 103)

Mr. Viola goes on to share this principle: God takes away to establish, and what He establishes is always better than what He takes away (p. 101). 
Examples from the Bible include the lives of Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron, and David. This principle culminates in the life of Jesus:

God took away the first man, Adam, and put him out of his misery. He then established the second man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5-6; 1 Cor. 15:20-49).
Our first birth was a birth into Adam. We inherited his nature and incurred his judgment. So God rejects our first birth. It is our second birth – our new birth into Christ – our birth from above that God accepts. (p. 114)

He goes on to share this encouraging thought:

….[W]hen you are going through the dark night, remember: it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning. As high as God is going to elevate you is as deep as He digs to lay the foundation.
There is a spiritual principle that the Lord never gives anything, but that He first allows it to be lost. Jesus said that until you lose something, you can’t really have it (Matt. 16:25; Luke 6:38). God gives something first, then allows it to be taken away, that it may be given again. This is the principle of death and resurrection, and it is repeated all throughout Scripture. Ever notice all of those re-terms in the Bible: restoration, regeneration, restitution, recreation, rebirth, renewal, resurrection, revive, etc? (pp. 114-115)

He wraps up ‘Revise Us Again’ by reminding us of our freedom in Christ:

Thus the Christian life is rooted in liberty – the liberty that is in Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:1). This is a liberty that sets us free from trying to be good. It is also a liberty that sets us free from practicing evil. It is a liberty that brings us into a living knowledge of the One who indwells us – the One who happens to be the greatest Liberator in the universe as well as the Savior and Lord of the world.
So the next time you hear someone preach or teach, ask yourself, “What gospel am I hearing? Am I being exhorted to feel comfortable in my sin and justify it (libertinism)? Am I being exhorted to try harder to be a better Christian (legalism)? Or am I being presented with my beautiful Savoir, the Lord Jesus Christ, and reminded of my high standing in Him as a son or daughter of God (the gospel)? (p. 154)

Those are some great questions to ask! And blessed hope that we have been set free!  

I am really grateful to read books that challenge my thinking; ‘Revise Us Again’ certainly did that. It has been a while since I have read a book in the Christian Life category. I have been reading a lot of fiction lately; it is nice to get back to the real world with this book! Mr. Viola clearly writes with a heart for the Lord. He has sifted through all of the man-made additives to the Gospel, and has brought us back to the heart of it – Jesus Christ as Lord. I know that, personally, I need that reminder, with all of the distractions in this world, that He is all we need. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Viola wrote this book. It has redirected me back to the importance of Jesus, and away from all of the extraneous issues that take our focus away from Him. If you want to be challenged to revise your life script, read ‘Revise Us Again.’

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by The B & B Media Group for review purposes.

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