When I reviewed Jefferson Bethkes Jesus > Religion, I made a prediction that this was not going to be his only book. His viral Youtube video was the beginning of a career in speaking. His similar titled book was also the beginning of a promising career in writing. Sure enough, two years later, Bethke has published a follow up to his debut offering titled, Its Not What You Think. This second publication has a release date almost exact to the date of his first one. I am not sure if this was planned, but it is only off by one day.
Two years has created a lot of change in Bethkes life. With his wife Alyssa, they have started a family. They are parents of their one year old daughter Kinsley. They also moved from Tacoma, Washington to settle on the island of Maui. Jeff and Alyssa are both content creators. They share their lives on Youtube, their personal blogs, and their own podcast. Their content speaks on many topics of the Christian faith. Out of all their topics, the main emphasis is on helping to guide and grow marriages.
When I took a brief first glance at the cover, I did not notice this was in fact another book by Bethke. With its design, colour scheme, and font style, it looks completely different from his first book. I like the cover art, but not the placement of the text. I never liked seeing an authors name above the title of their book. It is a nitpicky personal preference of mine. I am aware several other authors have done this, so I am not singling out Bethke. But I wish he would have kept his name below the title and near the bottom like he did with his first book. But enough of that. Lets focus on what matters most which is the actual content and message.
Its Not What You Think is a book that helps readers discover a far more engaging narrative of the Bible than what people are often told. From common to not so common misconceptions about Christianity, Bethke shares how there is a better way to share the gospel. He believes that Christians too often tell facts rather than stories. He claims that stories are the language and currency of our world today. There is a lot of truth in that claim, but it has always been that way. It was Jesus himself who modeled the greatest teachings through stories and parables. So stories have always been the currency. Which it is all the more important that Christians tell the whole story. People identify with Jesus far more through a story than what facts could ever do. There is an excitement knowing we can be a part of Gods greater story.
In each chapter, Bethke constructs a solid contextual case of major biblical themes. Some of those themes are 'The Temple', 'The Sabbath', 'The Kingdom', and 'The Table'. He shows a clear connection between Biblical times and how it correlates to modern times. He transports the reader in a humourous way by inviting us to step into the Back to the Future DeLorean.
Life isn't about going to heaven when you die, it's about making heaven true on earth in every facet and level of our relationship with God, others, and self. The Christian life is asking, how can I make what's true of Jesus and his gospel true in whatever aspect of my life? For something to be a kingdom, there must be a king, kingdom citizens, and a governing structure or way of life. A lot of us have the first two, not realizing the last one comes with it. We take Jesus as our savior, we become citizens of his kingdom, but we fail to realize that for that to be true, our lives now have to come under his reign. - page 141
Jesus could have easily crushed the opposition. He could have easily called down an army of angels to absolutely slaughter everyone who oppressed and hurt Israel. Instead he knew the way to change the world was through sacrificing his own lifeand he calls us to do the same. That's a strong task and a strong call, but if we are Jesus followers, that's the path carved for us. Sacrificial love, giving one's life on behalf of another, is the way of our Lord and must be our way too. it's one of the most defining marks of a Jesus-kingdom citizen. - page 152
I think thanksgiving is the secret to a healthy Christian life. When we feel as if we earned something, we become entitled and smug. But if we understand even the oxygen in our lungs is a gift from an amazing and beautiful Creator, then gratitude and thankfulness start to explode in our lives. When we can be thankful, we get joy. - page 156
I do not agree with Bethkes question wondering if people have been getting the story wrong. People are not getting it wrong in terms of accuracy; but they are not receiving the whole story. The old testament is rarely mentioned. This is where I agree with Bethke in that Christians do not often share the gospel from the beginning. We buy a false dichotomy of the old testament being irrelevant and to settle for a transaction Jesus made with us in the new testament. But the gospel is so much more deeper. Jesus is relevant right at the very beginning of the old testament, and he is relevant in that very same story with us right now.
Too often Christianity is explained away in a few sentences by what God has done. Of course what God has done is true and incredible. Yet we do not explain all the things God did before. We also do not explain how we get to be a part of Gods great plan to restore the world. Bethke brings a compelling view of a far bigger story. His writing is easy to follow along. Most of his analogies are creative and accurate. A few of them I found to be a bit of a stretch. Whether you like or agree with the analogies, they drive not only the core strength of this book, but the beautiful message of the gospel.
There has definitely been a lot of spiritual growth in Bethkes writing. I see an immense improvement of his theology between both his books. With Jesus > Religion, he writes on one misconception with several chapters. With Its Not What You Think, he writes on several misconceptions with one chapter each. If there is one encouragement I gained from this book, is that Bethke proves the story of the Bible is not dry or boring. It is not an outdated book for old people. It is immersive, and people are not too young to study it. Christianity is not out of touch. Bethke is living proof that young people can experience the thrill of following Jesus in a culture more confused than ever on how to live. Jesus shares how the kingdom of God is a great banquet feast. As Bethke puts it simply, He invited us a long time ago. Its about time we take a seat.
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