Some years ago, I read Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life, which had a tremendous impact upon me. When I saw Miller’s latest book J-Curve released last summer, it has been on my “must read” list. With the virus crisis upon us, and our interaction being confined to online communication, we thought it would be good to offer a reading club among the FBCG family (and beyond) to help redeem our time in these days. It is never wrong to give a challenge to read good books, and J-Curve thus far is meeting my expectations.
For the next few weeks, I will offer a brief post providing a summary of the chapters read with questions from the reading material. I am committed to keep the post between 500-800 words because I don’t want you to be reading two books:) I will post on my blog www.jamesblaw.com where you can give comments or questions. My goal is to break up the reading so we finish on Wednesday, April 15th which ends up being a little over one chapter a day from this point forward. So, for the next three weeks the reading schedule will be:
*Chapters 5-13- Wednesday, April 1
*Chapters 14-23- Wednesday, April 8
*Chapters 24-32- Wednesday, April 15
Miller begins with an account of taking his special needs daughter, Kim, on a speaking engagement with him. There were a number of struggles along the way as they navigated the airport, and once they boarded the plane. Miller found himself through this trying time saying what we all have said at one time or another, “This was a mistake, I will never do this again.”
From this experience, Miller brings to daily life how the death and resurrection of Christ impacts the life of the believer in our responses to trials and challenges of life. Miller references the “J-Curve” as an idea that was “frequently articulated by the apostle Paul, that the normal Christian life repeatedly re-enacts the dying and rising of Jesus. I call it the J-Curve because, like the letter J, Jesus’s life first went down into death, then up into resurrection. Just like the earthly life of Jesus the J ends higher than it starts. It’s the pattern not only of Jesus’s life, but of our lives—of our everyday moments.”
This provides a fresh perspective on sanctification as God uses trials in our lives, points of irritation, to conform us into the image of Christ. When we feel everything has gone wrong, the J-Curve is to be the shape of the normal Christian life as our lives are to mirror Jesus’s.
By mirroring Jesus’ life, Miller presents the J-Curve as containing:
1. some kind of suffering in which evil is weakened or killed;
2. weaken the flesh and form us into the image of Jesus;
3. lead to a real-time, present resurrection.
Miller went on in these chapters to mention the following, how did these topics challenge you?
*In recounting the trip he took with his daughter Kim, could your relate to his comment, “I was far too concerned with how I looked, In fact, my desire to hide my ‘seeJesus’ box…showed I was ashamed of him.”
*He mentioned the “rising tide of unbelief and lure of secular liberalism” touching almost every Christian home…. “Fifty years ago, we called the occasional child who walked away from the faith a black sheep. Now almost every Christian home has children walking away from the faith.” Do you think that is too pessimistic? What is should our response be?
*Miller mentioned “feelism” as the mode of operation for many in our culture, and even in the church. By “feelism” he was referring to how decisions are made in life by, “How does it make me feel?” Why is that deadly? As followers of Jesus Christ what should be the foundation for decisions? What should guide our moral grid? How should these Scriptures inform a believer’s worldview: Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 6:46?
*Miller writes, “My goal is to draw you, the reader, into the dying and rising of Jesus—to reset your sense of the normal Christian life, freeing you from cynicism and despair. Inhabiting the J-Curve promises to transform your entire vision of how you engage life, freeing you from the world of resentment, touchiness, and just plain old grumpiness, and inviting you into Jesus’s world, a world rich with joy, hope, and love.” Has chapters 1-4 been moving you in this direction?
*What were you thoughts on the story of “Ed” and the “Dixie Cup”? How does this challenge you to love in the relationships of your life?
Look forward to hearing from you. Will post again next Wednesday.
Pastor Jim Law