Book discussion: What Was I Thinking? by Steve Brown, part 1
Today we begin a new book discussion series, based on Steve Brown’s What Was I Thinking?
This series was also posted at From the Ashes.
Steve Brown is a former pastor, and currently the featured speaker on the Key Life radio program and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Brown is also a popular author and speaker; What Was I Thinking? was released in 2006 and his latest book, the revision of Approaching God, will be released this month.
Instead of repeating what is in the book, I’ll try each week to take a chapter from the book, hit the main points, and offer some commentary and/or things to look for in that chapter.
You can view a few preview pages from Google Books, but I will encourage you to buy a copy for yourself. You should be able to get one from your local Christian bookstore or mainstream bookstore (like Borders or Barnes & Noble). You can also buy a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, christianbook.com and Key Life.
Now ON to the discussion…
We’ll start with the introduction to the book, in which Brown makes two quotes I think are worth noting:
“There was a time when I thought that knowing the truth was enough. I defended it (still do), taught it (still do), and believed if you got the truth right, everything else would be right. I’m a lot older now, and some wiser. I was wrong. I got the words right, but I missed the tune.” (p. 1, emphasis mine)
“This is a book written by an old guy who started out with the right words but has spent most of his life learning the tune. Along the way I’ve discovered that the Christian faith is far more radical and far less cerebral than I thought it was.” (p. 3)
How many times have we missed the tune?
We read the chapters in our Bibles, we serve, we spend all our time at the church, we don’t curse, we don’t lust, we appear “Christian” in every way to the world, but yet while we get the words right, we miss the tune.
Let’s move on to the first chapter: God Is a Lot Bigger Than I Thought He Was.
Brown starts out by further discussing the point he made in the second quote I highlighted from the introduction: once he knew all he needed to know, every question he had would be answered.
It didn’t work out that way, and Brown found his theological questions and knowledge of God weren’t settled at all.
That led him to perceive that God is a big God – and that He is absolutely sovereign over all things, and we have no control over Him whatsoever.
God also didn’t fit into Brown’s preconceived notions of who He is. As Brown has grown older, and gotten to know the Lord, he has discovered God is not what he – and other people – thought He was, and has come closer to knowing the real God (we see examples of some people’s notions on page 9, such as God-as-Santa-Claus and God-as-angry-deity).
One way Brown’s notions changed was in seeing God as a scary God instead of a nice and safe God.
A God who escaped the halls of academia where He could be easily examined, and shows Himself in His dealings with Job.
“Little gods do little things. They speak silly words, and while they might be less threatening, little gods don’t give us meaning, demand anything of us, or inspire us.” (pg. 11)
Brown also realized God is a God in control, Who refuses to be controlled.
Especially by any of us.
“When the real God comes to us, he is like the surgeon. He is going to do what he is going to do, and I’m helpless to change or fix anything…God is a good surgeon. He won’t stop until he accomplishes whatever he has determined to accomplish.” (p. 13)
And God, Brown has found, can be a confusing God: we think we hear Him, or speak what we’re sure He would say, or are confident God told us something – and we end up wrong about it all. After all his years on earth, Brown has realized he still hasn’t figured out God, and that he never will.
Perhaps one of those confusing traits of the Almighty to Brown has been His choice of friends.
Brown sometimes claims himself to be very ‘religious’. He says it in chapter 1 to point out that he’s noticed that God has picked people “less religious” than Brown or “aren’t religious” at all to be His friends – and Brown admits that it bothers him. He also makes another point he’s made many times before – that God loves people, all kinds of people, and that includes many folks that most religious people would tag under Hell instead of Heaven.
Brown discovered that God is a loving God:
“I used to think God’s love could be logically explained and measured. I now know that God’s love runs far deeper than we can fathom.” (p. 19)
Brown says the church often starts out telling of the doctrine of hell instead of what God’s character is; he concludes that God’s character is love:
“…God isn’t just loving, and he doesn’t just act in loving ways, but he is love (p. 20)”
And that He loves us.
Or, He loves you.
Brown lists the different ways he’s seen this for himself, from his grandchildrens’ laughter to other believers who “have stopped playing games” to the bedsides of people dying of cancer (p. 20-21).
At chapter’s end, he makes this point:
“And always God’s tears mingle with ours. I now because I know him in his tears and love. God is love. I used to think that understanding him was the main thing. It isn’t. The main thing is being loved by him. And that I know.” (p. 22)
What do you think? Is God’s love His most important characteristic, and the most important thing we need to know about Him?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself, and my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”