What do you do when God reaches out and touches you in such a way that your whole world shifts on its axis? If you were Tony Merida, you would follow that nudge, change directions, and move full steam ahead. In his case, Tony planted a church where the mission and practices reflected this shift in paradigms. He and his wife also embraced a new emphasis in their family and adopted five orphaned and needy children, an action that reflected their new world view. Then he was urged to write a book about this experience. And it all began with a Bible study about the poor. Pastor Merida can’t remember if the study bore much fruit among the student campers he taught. But it blew him out of the water. It literally wrecked him! [Thank you, Jeff Goins, writer, for that colorful and aptly descriptive phrase.]
What does that have to do with this book? It is best summarized in this short paragraph. “Ordinary is a call to, like Job, wear justice. It’s a call to live with a social conscience at all times. It’s a call to care for the vulnerable, not merely on mission trips, but in the ordinariness of our days. It’s a call to conduct our everyday affairs with honesty and integrity. It’s a call to work the character of God deeply into our hearts so that we will care about what God cares about. But it’s not a call to be radical; it’s a call to be ordinary. It’s a call to a new normal.” One sentence in particular grabbed me. How many of us care about what God cares about? Apparently Job did. The author takes a few minutes in the Introduction of the book to allow us a peek into a conversation Job had with some of his friends. Up until the calamity that struck Job down, he was a man of integrity whom people of all ages respected. His conversation in chapter 29 reveals activities he considered normal. His passion for the fatherless, the blind, the lame, the needy, the sojourner, the widow, and the victims of injustice reflected God’s passion for the same. “I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth” (29:12-17). Job chapter 31 bears the essential contents of this book: neighbor love, hospitality, fatherless ministry, and advocacy.
In the introduction of the book, the author explains what changed within him. He was already a Christian, a pastor, and a professor. “I was never opposed to orphan care or being generous to the poor, I was just very indifferent.” He explains why and how this changed suddenly for him. He points out what hinders others from grasping these concepts that, if we would only look, we would discover fill up both the Old and New Testaments. The five chapters he wrote subsequently are meant to aid us in overcoming our resistance to taking action. So with the groundwork laid down in the first fifteen pages, the rest of the book is imminently practical. Using Micah 6:8 as his template, the five remaining chapters provide us guidelines how “to do justice, to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly with God.”
I love reading books where I can glimpse the spark of the enthusiasm with which the concept was caught, developed, and born into earthly fruit. This is such a book. There are enough practical ideas that no matter who reads it, there will be a seed idea you can germinate and cultivate that will fit you comfortably, because the emphasis of this book is that we are called to do the ordinary, something we can all grasp and attain.
Another thought mentioned by the author impressed me. Jesus had no problems encorporating his message of justice, mercy and redemption with his daily ministry of healing, comfort, acts of kindness, and compassion. So why do we Christians (especially we evangelicals) struggle to choose either the path of evangelism or public service? One of my favorite quotes in the book says, “I don’t think Jesus woke up and asked, ‘Should I do ministry of the word, or ministry of deeds today?’.” Doesn’t the same motivation, love, drive us to do both? Thought provoking, isn’t it?
In Chapter 5, the author uses the life of William Wilberforce as an example of God-centered humility (see Micah 6:8 again). The sub-title says it all: “How an ordinary Christian walked with his extraordinary God.” Guinness called him the most successful social reformer in the history of the world. Wilberforce fought against the slave trade and slavery itself for 46 years. Why did he take on this thankless task? At the age of 25, God grabbed him and shook up his life, changing him from the inside out. He saw the world from God’s point of view and he was in the right place at the right time to do something about it. That’s all that God asks of us.
Along with many seed ideas to implement, this short book is filled with pithy paragraphs. My copy of the book is all marked up so that my favorite ones jump out at me the moment I turn the pages. I think this book will be a blessing for many. I highly recommend it to anyone who is ordinary.
A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) on behalf of B&H Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”