Has the passion gone out of your relationship with God? Don’t let the fire fizzle, but Awaken to all God has for you (cue the infomercial).
Stovall Weems, the Lead Pastor at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida has written Awakening in hopes of igniting in you a passion for God. Along the way he offers helpful advice on starting your day by focusing on God’s greatness, goodness and glory. He advocates the practice of giving to charity, prayer and fasting as means of ‘making space for God’ in your life. And then he uses the rest of the book to unpack this, particularly in regard to fasting. Along the way, each chapter is punctuated by ‘awakening stories’ of those who have a fresh experience of God, because of their fast. The last section of this book, is Weems’s 21 day fast plan, daily devotionals and practical advice on fasting.
I admire and share Weems’s enthusiasm for getting people excited about God. Certainly I want my pastor to be so passionately motivated. Having read his book, I likely will refer back to it the next time I fast. However I am not sure that I would recommend it. Below I would like to signal two notes of caution and two criticisms of Weems book:
The first area that gives me pause, is this book seems to be tainted by a prosperity gospel. Weems is generally focused on our relationship with God and stoking the flames there. However sometimes, Weems does act like the evidence of that is ‘financial miracles’ and healing. Certainly God does provide and care for his children, but miracles and prosperity are not the only way God draws near to his people. I am not sure that Weems ever says that it is, but the general feel of some passages, and the little testimonials kind of leave this impression.
The second area of caution is related. I am kind of bothered by a relationship with God being reduced to a formula. The idea that intimacy with God is achieved by a three-week-fast is to apply a technique to gain relational intimacy. Techniques, disciplines and practices are important. Yet I think intimacy with God is not something you get in a few easy steps. It is much more dynamic and exciting than that. Now that is it for caution, let the firestorm of criticism begin.
While reading this book, I kept wondering where the footnotes were. The fact that there were none is problematic. I say this not because I love more academic books (okay, not just that), but there is almost no evidence of any dialogue with anyone else. At all. As part of his fasting guide, he does reference Wayne Cordeiro’s devotional reading plan(SOAP: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer). But he doesn’t reference anyone else despite dispensing a lot of spiritual insights. Where this seems the most suspect for me, is when Weems describes the health benefits of fasting. He admits that he is not a doctor and shares anecdotally about how fasting cleanses his system and helps him lose weight. huh? Claims for health benefits of fasting are controversial at best and spurious at worst. I at least want to know that Weems talked to someone before spotting off medical advice (why is this chapter even here if fasting is about your relationship with God?).
Furthermore, the lack of dialogue with the Christian tradition of fasting, does mean that what is presented here is somewhat shallow. Christians have practiced and mis-practiced fasting for centuries, would like to know if Stovall is aware of any of it.
Which leads me to my last point of critique. What exactly is Weems theological understanding of fasting? Some fasting is dualistic, hating the body and exalting the spirit. This is not Christian fasting. Weems seems to hold some dualistic notions. He is also dismissive of the example of fasting in the Old Testament as pre-christian and unrelated to our current practice. For Weems, you fast to recieve, rather than as a response. I find all this as theologically problematic and would direct people to Scot McKnight’s accessible treatment on the theme.
This book was given to me by Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging For Books Program in exchange for my honest review.