Many consider the sermon on the mount as Jesus most counter cultural teachings on how to live. Thousands of years later, his teachings still continue to turn the world upside down. Are you poor in spirit? Well the kingdom of Heaven is yours. Are you mourning? Comfort will be yours. Who will inherit the earth? The meek will. How do we make sense of all this? Well Kyle Idlemans fourth book, The End of Me shares how blessings and fulfilment begin at the end of ourselves.
Idleman explains how Jesus loves to fill us when we are empty. Too often we are full of what the world offers. Jesus is unable to fill what is already full. When he invites us to a feast at his banquet table, we are too busy to allow any room in our timetables. Until we empty our timetables and materials, we will never find a seat at Jesus' table. If we end what the world wants to consume us with, we can then begin to allow Jesus to consume us with a true fullness of life.
This book has a bold red colour which makes it stand out. The title uses a gothic sans font all lowercase. There is a clever hidden message in which the name 'Jesus' is printed with a clear transparent gloss. From far away, you would not see it, but it can be seen up close in a reflection.
The End of Me has a similar message to Louie Giglio's The Comeback released about three weeks afterwards. That similarity being the opportunity for a new start to your life and that it is never too late. These are still two books with two different messages. The End of Me speaks on identifying our brokenness. The Comeback speaks on having a spiritual turnaround. The timing of these releases are almost perfect as they compliment each other. I like that The End of Me was released first as it allows the reader to start with Idleman's book and transition to Giglio's book.
Idleman adds the most humour in this book compared to his previous entries. He uses several footnotes loaded with sarcasm to add context to some of his personal stories. I would even say he also shares some of his most outlandish stories ever. From a disastrous four hour riverboat ride, to using a helicopter to speak at two different venues on the same day. Those who have read Idlemans writings will feel well accustomed to his style. This is a leisure read that will not keep readers stuck trying to understand him. I also appreciated the discussion questions for each chapter found within the last few pages. This makes the book approachable for a small group discussion.
My favourite story unfortunately did not belong to Idleman. He borrowed it from Corrie Ten Boom. In her book Tramp for the Lord, she meets a woman in Russia during the cold war when Christians were being persecuted. Multiple sclerosis crippled this woman to the point the only functioning part of her body was her one index finger. She used that one finger typing letter by letter translating not only an entire Bible in the Russian language, but other Christian books. Because of her illness, Russian officials and the secret police never bothered to watch over her.
As Jesus hung on the cross, a thief was a few feet away, also dying. There's no way to be more helpless than when there are nails through your wrists and ankles, your breathing is being cut off, and your life is ebbing away as people all around watch and shout curses at you. Jesus and a criminal, leaving this world together. Against all odds, the thief asked Jesus for help because somehow he understood it wasn't too late. It's not too late, and it never has been. And there's never been a better time, a more perfect time, than the present moment. That's always the one in which he wants to meet you.The life you have is not the life you must accept. You need only to ask for help. The more helpless you are, the betterthe more open you will be to the help that only he can offer. He meets you right there at the end of yourself. - page 153/154
The End of Me is not without a few problems, inaccuracies, and deficiencies. For example, in page 49, Idleman states, "Without suffering, we simply can't know his (God's) comfort." He mentions the example of Job's suffering to support his statement. While I agree with most of that premise, I would have replaced the word 'know' with 'understand'. Job was very well aware of knowing God's comfort before he suffered. But it was the suffering that allowed Job to understand God's comfort. We can know God's comfort without the process of suffering, but we cannot understand God's comfort without suffering.
Another statement I took issue with was on page 114 where he states, "There is nothing wrong with a good job, a loving marriage, and a busy agenda." but then ten pages later speaks on how "busyness does not allow us to empty ourselves to be filled by Jesus." I am aware Idleman was referring to a busy agenda as in getting necessary tasks or errands completed. He should have clarified what he meant by saying there is 'nothing wrong with a busy agenda'. Especially when he talks about how problematic busyness is in our lives ten pages later.
There was also a missed opportunity that could have strengthened his message. I noticed there was eight chapters thinking Idleman would explain all eight beatitudes. Instead, he chooses to speak on four specific beatitudes in the first section of the book. The second section is how in our brokenness we are in the best position to be used by God in significant ways. He explains this structure in his introduction which I am not against. Yet I cant help but think he could have included all eight beatitudes. He could have started each chapter on a beatitude while ending it with how God uses us in our brokenness. Omitting half the beatitudes does not allow his message to be at its strongest.
There was a missed detail in Idleman's story mentioned earlier. The story where he uses a helicopter in hopes that he would be able to be speak at two different venues on the same day. Idleman fails to mention if he made it back to his church to speak on time. I admit, this is a minor complaint. It may be safe to suggest he did in fact make it back on time. But it would have been helpful to not leave readers in the dark on such an entertaining story.
The End of Me is not a heavy theological book by any sense. But Idleman does a decent job providing context while expanding the readers knowledge of what Jesus was trying to teach. Readers will still draw strength and inspiration from Idleman's easy to follow writing style. With the exclusion of the other four beatitudes substituted by how God uses our brokenness, there seems to be two separate messages. While these two messages relate to each other, it falls short on providing a full unified cohesive message. The pace of this book did not feel rushed, but it could have benefited from an extra 50 pages to fill some of its missed details and opportunities.
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