Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dr. Richard on Inside Out




Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabb was required reading for a course on Spiritual Life with Dr. Ramesh Richard at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It's not an easy read in that it challenges us to confront areas of personal weakness. But on the other end of this book, there can be leap-step spiritual growth.

Dr. Richard graciously agreed to step beyond the classroom and dialogue with me recently on this book and to share with us what's going on as he travels the globe to win hearts and souls for Christ.

Sarah:

Let me guess... you're responding to these questions from the airport... on the way to... ________________?

Dr. Richard:

I'm actually at the Frankfurt Airport, on the way to Chennai, India, and under jet lag. It's 3 a.m. Dallas time, when I am usually asleep!

Sarah:

How many trips do you take in a given year?


Dr. Richard:

I usually take six overseas trips, every other month, and several trips domestically, depending on what, where or why I'm needed.

Sarah:

Ballpark number of people you've reached for Christ?

Dr. Richard:

I have no idea how many people reached for Christ—but I know my destination should God provide life, health and resources—one billion individuals. Through our annual telecast, we may have already surpassed it.

Sarah:

One billion? That is an extraordinary goal. What an incredible ministry you have. You must have some awesome "travel" stories. Do you have a favorite place to go? If so, where and why?

Dr. Richard:

Home! It's the only place I don’t have to be what others imagine me to be! This is the gift of my wife to me. Otherwise...

  • Best situated city--CapeTown, South Africa
  • Best architecture--Prague, Czech Republic
  • Best human initiative--Singapore
  • Best overall country--Costa Rica
  • Best meat--Buenos Aires
  • Best seafood--Trishna's in Mumbai, India!

Sarah:

Why is Inside Out required reading in your Spiritual Life course?

Dr. Richard:

To unearth internal tensions in the spiritual life; and to remove false concepts of God.

Sarah:

Did the book impact your own thinking/feeling? If so, how?

Dr. Richard:

I think Dr. Crabb talks about how we all appear much better than we really are to others. I would add—except to God who can’t be fooled that way and yet accepts as we really are. He thinks the best thoughts about us, and is willing to risk His salvation and ministry for us foible servants. I often wonder if God would still trust His people and ministry to me if He really knew me like I knew myself… and He assures me that He does know me... and better than I know myself... and His entrustment is not a risk, because He’s got all this all calculated well in advance!

Sarah:

The book offers up some stark reality... that apart from God we will be unfilfilled, unhappy and ultimately let down by all others (hopefully I have characterized this correctly). I was profoundly bothered by this initially. It struck me as depressing and pessimistic. Upon reflection, however, its message rings true and is deeply liberating. It encourages us to loosen the needy grip we have on others, freeing them to be who they are versus who we want them to be, and puts our dependence where it belongs: on God. This was the most significant "take away" for me. From my perspective, it was positive if not life-changing.

Dr. Richard:

This is a powerful insight, but from early in the Christian faith. For example, Augustine and Ambrose had already said that unless we come close to God we can’t even come close to ourselves! Mix this with the old hymn writer words (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation) when he writes, “Hast thou not seen, how thy desires ere have been, granted in what He ordaineth.”


Sarah:

Switching gears... best book you've read lately?


Dr. Richard:

Actually, the Book of Luke…which I am working through in Greek (with a little bit of cheating from the NET interlinear) and Tamil (my mother-tongue) devotionally. I said somewhere recently, that English is like B&W television, while Tamil gives me color, and then there is Greek in HDTV.

I also read Executive Book Summaries of dozens of contemporary books for insights on my audiences worldwide and for organizational leadership input. But several of these books are anecdotal principles, often contradicting each other—another strong reason to stay regularly in Scripture!


Sarah:

Yes, in the Bible we have infallible truth... something even the best of our uninspired literature can't imitate. Thanks for joining us here, Dr. Richard! Safe travels and may God keep you pressing on with great energy and enthusiam!


OK... has anybody out there read Inside Out? Hit "comments" and tell us what you thought about it!




Dr. Richard is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also the founder and president of RREACH (Ramesh Richard Evangelism And Church Health). A global proclamation ministry, the vision of RREACH is to change the way one billion individuals think and hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Richard holds a ThD (in systematic theology) from Dallas Theological Seminary and the PhD (in philosophy) from the University of Delhi.

More about Dr. Richard's ministry here: http://www.rameshrichard.homestead.com/




8 comments:

Guy said...

Sarah,

I could have guessed at your reaction to Inside Out. The book’s premise “that apart from God we will be unfulfilled, unhappy and ultimately let down by all others” occurred to me as self-evident given our (read my) propensity toward sin in this rather sad, fallen state. It comes as no surprise that as one so much further along the path to glorification, you would be “profoundly bothered” by such sentiment.

Having read Dr. Crabb’s book, The Marriage Map, I was somewhat prepared for what I expected might be an introspective look at the process of the spiritual life. Thus, his observation that “beneath the surface of everyone’s life, especially the more mature, is an ache, [a groaning for a better world] that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged by a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear” sounded a familiar theme that was similarly reflected in The Marriage Map. Familiar as it may be, it is certainly reflective of my life. It seems that no matter what station in life I might presently occupy, I find myself wholly unfulfilled without Him. But what struck me most about Inside Out was the charge that by modern Christianity offering to relieve the pain of living in a fallen world now, it has become, rather than salt and light, “a theologically diverse community of powerless Pharisees, penetrating very little of society because [it] refuses to grapple honestly with the experience of life.” That as they say, is not happiness to see me. But it too sadly is reflective of my experience in the local body.

I did find helpful Dr. Crabb’s classification of the longings of our souls into three categories: casual, critical and crucial; and it was in his analysis of these categories that I found the most spiritual benefit. As I looked inside and surveyed aspects of my not-so-glorious past, there came a realization that much of my present is greatly impacted by a deep desire for respect. If I were to consider those instances in which my reactions reflected most poorly on Him, be they in response to some action or word from my wife, children or the world at large, it can be traced back to feeling that I had not been granted “my due.”

But in all honesty, Inside Out left me feeling rather ill-equipped to address this revelation. Dr. Crabb makes the point that deep repentance should follow such revelation which in turn, is followed by the Spirit’s power of spiritual healing and growth. But perhaps because I am so programmed to think I need to “do” something, I remained somewhat expectant. Thankfully, Dr Richard provided greater clarity on this aspect of the spiritual life.

Those are my thoughts on the book.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

yes, that was piercing commentary about the "powerless Pharisees, penetrating very little of society, because if refuses to grapple honestly..." but i think there's a growing recognition of this (even w/in seminary) and a growing body of people within the faith who are willing to be vulnerable and real. people are increasingly willing to talk frankly to others about their own areas of sin so that others can be spared whatever path and its consequences. i just did a four-part sermon series on pornography and when i learned how many otherwise nice people are addicted in this area, it struck me as an area that remains "under-discussed" in an honest, frank and real way within the church. and how can you fix something if you're so busy trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

I found the classification system helpful, too. Also picked up a book in the library the other day by Florence Littauer called "Getting Along with Anybody"... she took some familiar classifications of personality types and seems to try and help us figure out how we navigate life with those who are our personality opposites. It's not a "heavy" book like Inside Out... but looked to be, perhaps, an interesting follow up.

Other thing that has really stuck with me... and would appreciate your thoughts on this... is Crabb's assertion that self-protection is a sin. I think about this conceptually all the time. But I think to some degree we are "wired" to protect... and I'm not sure I'm convinced that all protection of one's self is wrong (if, in fact, that's what he's advocating). Any thougths?

Della said...

Sarah,

I've spent a good deal of time contemplating and praying about the issue of "self protection" since reading Inside Out. I am somewhat comforted by your question ... to know that another might look into my world and understand my desire to protect myself from hurt. I have these conversations with God where I ask Him, "What does forgiveness really look like?" One of the DTS facilitators, Terry Hebert, reminded us often to pray, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on _________, a sinner." And while I know I don't pray these words with the same sincerity Jesus prayed them, I pray in obedience, hoping my heart will become tender once again.

For me, yes, I have to say self protection is a sin -- and a prison. Self protection pushes me to hide, to retreat, to keep myself safe from being hurt. It affects my view of people -- self protection makes me guarded and suspicious. And there's the rub. As long as I am protecting myself, I can't fulfill the commandment to love God and to love my neighbor. Self protection asks, "Who is my neighbor?"

I personally found Inside Out to be soothing, reassuring, revealing, frustrating, and encouraging. It is good for me to be reminded that we are fallen people living in a fallen world. But it gives me great hope to remember every day that this is not heaven, but that one day, we will go home and home will be good, just as God is good.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

I do think there are sometimes boundary issues (and there's a book called "Boundaries" that makes this point) that are a threat to us and even our marriages. Christian counselors will advocate putting up a defense against harmful intrustions. This is somewhat out of context, but Greg Wells recently said we need to have "hedges" that protect our marriages. So is it a sin, do you think, to "self protect" in the face of boundary types of threats?

Also, I do believe there are harmful relationships. I believe that it is, frankly, unwise to not "self protect" in the face of those who would do us harm. So it's something of a gray area in my mind... what is sinful self-protection and what is sadly necessary.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

p.s. good point about praying for our foes... someone once told me a cute story... she was on the outs with a couple ladies at work who were downright mean... she began praying for them... and over a period of time, her heart softened. one day, she told her husband: "i think i've been praying too hard... i'm actually starting to like them."

:)

Della said...

Yes, Sarah, you are so right about the importance of boundaries. Unfortunately, self protection can often turn boundaries into fortified walls -- causing us to avoid even loving and healthy relationships.

I have read Boundaries and I agree that hedges of protection are good things for our marriages and our families. How I thank God for creating boundaries for me when I didn't have the sense to do so.

Boundaries seem to be the result of prudence, wise thinking, and a desire to please God. Boundaries are good for me, but are also good for those around me. On the other hand, self protection is driven by fear (and/or pride) and doesn't really help anyone -- including me.

Good thoughts.

guy said...

It has been a couple of weeks since I lasted posted (didn’t want to monopolize Sarah’s disk space) but in reading through the exchange I thought I might add the following:

Sarah, as to you question to my initial post, I think Della (good to hear from you dear Sister) answered as well as any, “As long as I am protecting myself, I can't fulfill the commandment to love God and to love my neighbor.” But I also seem to make a distinction between “protecting myself” and having “hedges” that protect our marriages as advocated in the book “Boundaries.” To “protect myself” connotes a sense of pretense, that my pride will turn to hypocrisy as I pretend nothing affects me, “all this bad worldly activity is securely bound up and ultimately to His Glory. Right? Right? Pay no attention to that sinful man cowering behind the curtain.”

But to build a “hedge” seems more grounded in the realization that I am a wretched, wretched thing to behold (cast not your eye on me, Father), easily turned from the path by either the flesh or the Devil. Thus, we must guard, or build a “hedge” against those things that so easily distract us. For example, I was preparing to teach John 21 one Sunday. It’s the passage that details the exchange between Jesus and Peter that early morning on the shore where He ask Peter three times “Do you love me?” That question seemed to stab at my mind and heart as I prepared. That night, while flipping through the TV channels, I came to the E Entertainment Channel with Hugh Hefner and his three “girls friends.” As chance would have it, they were in the middle of a photo shoot with only very small parts of the TV screen blurred in strategic areas of a pile of writhing nude women. My mind raced with the thought “I can not look at this” but as I reached for the remote, my thumb seemed hesitant, still not convinced it was so bad. And in that very moment I found myself on that familiar shore looking into the face of the Master as He asked, “Do you love me?” It was both a terrible and glorious moment. Since that experience, I have built a “hedge” by permanently blocking the channel. I cannot get to the E Entertainment Channel even if I tried but not because I desire to “protect myself” but because I desire to guard against my nature, and thus suffer in my relationship to Him and my wife.

That’s a long winded way of saying, it’s a matter of motive.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Guy... you are never a drain on my disk space (plenty to spare, friend!)... and you always have something thoroughly thought-provoking to say... so keep sharing with us, please. My goal all along for this blog is to have an interactive forum of sharing. There are more than three of us who read this book, but some reluctance to hit "comments"... i sometimes post elsewhere and have this "what have i just said?" moment... so i get being shy... but i'm grateful for people like you and others who are willing to share!

as i read your post last night, i was thinking of the PSP's we just bought for the boys... they're like Gameboys with advanced capabilities... and they have these built in speakers... but you can pop them in this other device with external speakers as well if you want to watch a movie. what you have described for us is an inescapable threat of sin... it's not only external and all around us... but internal as well. we battle on a daily (hourly?)basis, the dark forces of the world, seen and unseen, and we battle our carnal nature within.

You have a very acute grasp of your own perceived shortcomings versus God's standard of holiness. I admire that about you. I also wonder how many people would similarly have hestitated before changing that channel (the vast, vast majority?)... and how many people would have learned from that moment and set in motion a plan to prevent a future problem (the vast, vast minority?)

(I'm not encouraging you to compare yourself with others... just speculating on how this might play out more generally.)