Monday, December 28, 2015

(Un)qualified, by Steven Furtick

I don't know Steven Furtick, but I guess John MacArthur does.  During an interview, when asked for a word association with Furtick's name, MacArthur simply replied "unqualified."  He did not elaborate.  Furtick, like MacArthur, has an M.Div. from a historic, respected seminary.  MacArthur does not have any higher earned degrees.  MacArthur is about 40 years older than Furtick, so clearly has quite a bit more experience as an author and teacher.  So why unqualified?  Unqualified for what?  I don't know much about the two pastors or their relationship, but MacArthur's comment seemed ungracious and unnecessarily unkind.

The cool thing is, MacArthur's comment seems to have bothered me more than it bothered Furtick.  In fact, Furtick took MacArthur's assessment as inspiration for his new book, (Un)qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things.  Furtick writes that we define ourselves with statements of "I am ______."  It's that third word that makes the difference.  Jesus changed Simon, the fisherman, to Peter, the rock.  Unqualified to qualified.  In the same way, God wants to take our doubts about who we are and give us a new identity.  A new third word.

We might tend to focus on our sins and shortcomings, our unworthiness.  In Christ, we are made new, accepted by God.  We focus on our own sin, and fail to share the love and grace of God with the needy world around us.  Furtick writes, "It might be time to figure out who you really are and to value the real you as much as God does."

Furtick spends a lot of time talking about Jacob, who required a great deal of re-identification.  After deceiving his brother, marrying Rachel and Leah, and heading back toward his homeland, he meets a mysterious stranger with whom he wrestles all night.  It was, of course, God, perhaps a pre-incarnate Jesus.  At that time, he told Jacob he was going to change his name from Jacob, which means deceiver, to Israel, "triumphant with God."

Just like Jacob/Israel, once we accept God's unconditional love and forgiveness, we are free to love and serve.  "We don't need to spend one more day trying to prove ourselves, because we already have God's approval through Jesus's gift of righteousness."  Furtick has put in faith in God, in God's work in him, not in the word of an elder pastor, no matter how well-known and well-respected.

Furtick's writing is engaging, personal, and encouraging.  Pick up (Un)qualified and be encouraged.  Let God fill in the third word.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for the complimentary review copy!

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