We've all had "aha!" moments in our lives, times when a sudden revelation surprises us with insight. According to pastor and bestselling author Kyle Idleman, we can experience this same kind of "aha!" in our spiritual lives. With everyday examples and trademark testimonies, Idleman draws on Scripture to reveal how three key elements can draw us closer to God and change our lives for good.
Awakening to the reality of our true spiritual condition, we see ourselves and our need for a Savior with renewed honesty. This realization leads to action, obeying God's commands and following the example set by Christ. As we see in the transformation of the prodigal son, the result is a life-changing, destiny-altering collision—an AHA moment that leads us home to our loving Father.
|Publisher:||David C Cook|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fourth-largest church in America. Author of Praying for Your Prodigal and the award-winning and bestselling book Not a Fan, he regularly speaks at conferences and events around the world. He and his wife DesiRae have four children.
Read an Excerpt
By KYLE IDLEMAN
David C. CookCopyright © 2014 Kyle Idleman
All rights reserved.
THE DISTANT COUNTRY
Quick tip: don't ask the bookstore clerk for directions to the self-help section.
Ironically, you're better off helping yourself find the self-help section. I recently made the mistake of walking into a bookstore and asking where the self-help section was located. The store clerk, initially disinterested and dazed, perked up and stared at me. I think he was trying to ascertain exactly what parts of my self needed help. I started to feel insecure, because I know there are plenty of ways my self needs help.
Finally, he pointed me toward a section in the back of the store that was actually like an entire region. In fact, I would say they had dedicated one-fourth of the store to all manner of self-help guides.
I perused the aisles, discovering new things about myself that needed help. There were titles like How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, Becoming a Better You, and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It was overwhelming. I fled the self-help section, doubts about my mental and physical health nipping at my heels.
Most of these books promised a new and improved version of my life in a few easy steps. It's hard not to be cynical, because logically speaking, if one of the books worked, the rest of them wouldn't be necessary. But the truth is, self-help books that promise life transformation are everywhere.
An article in New York magazine reported that the self-help movement has mushroomed into an "$11 billion industry dedicated to telling us how to improve our lives." The article reported there are at least 45,000 self-help books in print.
Despite these thousands of fix-it guides, most of us would readily admit we still need help. Survey the shelves of our bookstores. The most popular topics: diet and exercise, improving your marriage, getting control of your finances, stress management, and overcoming your addictions. And these books, despite their different topics and titles, have such similar taglines and formulas that when I walked around the self-help shelves, I felt like all the authors had been at the same Mad Libs party:
Follow our (PICK A NUMBER BETWEEN 1–8) easy steps, and we guarantee you will (INSERT FINANCIAL GAIN, WEIGHT LOSS GOAL, OR RELATIONAL STATUS) in only a matter of (PICK A NUMBER BETWEEN 1–5) (INSERT A MEASUREMENT OF TIME).
But because we are all too aware that our selves need help, we are often quick to jump on this misery merry-go-round of trying six steps to better our lives and expecting better results.
We know something is wrong.
We even know what we want to change.
Our diagnosis is spot-on, but no medication seems to do the trick.
If you picked up this book because you are trying to help yourself make significant changes, I want to tell you up front that this isn't the book for you. If self could help, then we would all have been fixed a long time ago.
So let me be clear: AHA is not a self-help process. It's the antithesis of a self-help book. What Bizarro is to Superman, this book is to the self-help genre. This journey begins with a rejection of your self's offer to help.
The Story of AHA
Instead of self-help, we are asking for God's help, because AHA is a spiritual experience that brings about supernatural change. More specifically, let's define the word aha this way: "a sudden recognition that leads to an honest moment that brings lasting change."
I love witnessing AHA. I see it almost every weekend at the church where I serve. I listen to people as they tell about the spiritual awakening they have experienced. In that moment there was a beautiful collision. At just the right time, a person's life collides with God's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, and everything changes.
When Jesus taught about this spiritual transformation, He would most often tell stories. AHA can't be fully explained. There is a sense in which it has to be experienced to be understood. So it's through stories that AHA is best captured.
One woman told me about how she turned to impulsive eating to cope with life. For her, there was nothing a day could throw at her that she couldn't eat away. A stressful week of work would lead to a weekend of third and fourth helpings. Facing anxiety due to an upcoming project, she would bring home two or three desserts and eat them in one evening. Despite trying every self-help diet and exercise fad, she reached 325 pounds. This seemingly unstoppable weight gain put her at a point of dark depression, which only worsened her eating.
After months and months in the vicious cycle of binging and depression, she realized something: food was never going to fill the emptiness in her heart. She had been trying to satisfy her soul by feeding her stomach.
When she came to church, she heard a message from John 6 in which Jesus described Himself as the "Bread of Life." She suddenly realized that she had been trying to make food do for her what only Jesus can do.
That was four years and 170 pounds ago. But the outward change was really just a by- product of the inner transformation she experienced when her life collided with the gospel, and she started looking to Jesus to fill the emptiness of her heart.
I was talking to a man whose life had been an ongoing struggle with alcoholism. He tried to make changes many times. He went through numerous self-help programs and had been through the twelve steps. They helped for a season, but he was never really on the wagon long enough to fall off.
Over the years, he realized how much his drinking cost him, but even when he thought he'd finally hit rock bottom, things managed to fall even farther. One day he was listening to a sermon, and the pastor was preaching from the passage where Paul says, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). Immediately, this truth from God's Word opened his eyes: he had been looking to alcohol to do for him what the Holy Spirit was meant to do.
When he was down and depressed, he would drink for comfort and peace, but the Holy Spirit wanted to comfort him. When he was feeling insecure, he would drink and feel a sense of security and boldness, but the Holy Spirit wanted to fill him with courage and strength. When he was uncertain about the future and what he should do next, he would drink to help him cope, but the Holy Spirit wanted to guide and direct him in a new way.
Though I have heard hundreds of AHA stories over the years, my favorite is the one Jesus tells in Luke 15. It's commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son. Charles Dickens famously called this parable "the greatest short story ever told." But while it's a parable and not a real-life story, it doesn't mean it isn't a story full of real life. It's almost impossible to read this story without finding yourself in it.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, give me my share of the estate." So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants." So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. "Your brother has come," he replied, "and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound."
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"
"My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
After studying this story in depth, I discovered that within this parable, there are three ingredients that are present in every AHA experience. So as we study this story together and travel with the Prodigal Son on his journey, we will identify the three ingredients of AHA in his life and pray for them in our own.
The Recipe for AHA
My wife has this cookbook at home, a gift from our wedding. It's called The Three Ingredient Cookbook. She would want me to tell you that she doesn't really use it. When she cooks, there's typically more than three ingredients involved. The truth is I'm the one who uses The Three Ingredient Cookbook.
On the rare occasions I'm allowed in the kitchen, this cookbook is my go-to cooking companion, because honestly, three ingredients is about my culinary capacity. One of the things I've learned the hard way is that when using The Three Ingredient Cookbook, all the ingredients are necessary—no, absolutely vital.
This is the downside to The Three Ingredient Cookbook. You can't cheat. If you use only two ingredients, it doesn't work very well.
The same is true for AHA.
I've listened to the AHA experiences of hundreds—if not thousands—of people over the years. I've studied numerous transformation experiences of key figures in the Bible. With striking consistency, AHA always has three ingredients. If any one of these ingredients is missing, it short-circuits the transformation process:
1. A Sudden Awakening
2. Brutal Honesty
3. Immediate Action
If there is an awakening and honesty, but no action, then AHA doesn't happen.
If there is awakening and action, but honesty is overlooked, AHA will be short-lived.
But when God's Word and the Holy Spirit bring these three things together in your life, you will experience AHA—a God-given moment that changes everything.
When I met Justin, he was desperate for AHA. He grew up in a Christian home and attended a Christian school. His parents kept his hair short and his curfew early. He became convinced that his sheltered life had caused him to miss out. One year, Justin sat at home watching MTV Spring Break, thinking about all the fun he should be having. So after he graduated from high school, he packed his bags and headed for a Distant Country.
A distant country is the generic description of where the Prodigal Son traveled after demanding his inheritance and leaving his father. The Jewish audience that listened to this parable understood that the "distant country" meant more than just a faraway place. Any distant land would be considered Gentile land. The implication was clear: the son wasn't just turning his back on his father; he was turning his back on his faith entirely. More than just walking away from his earthly father, we find that the Prodigal Son was walking away from his heavenly Father.
You Are Here
Have you ever been a little lost in a mall or maybe at an amusement park? You may have known where you were trying to go, but unless you knew where you were starting from, it was impossible to figure out how to get there. When you walked up to the giant map, the first thing you tried to figure out was not your future destination but your current location. Your eyes scanned the map looking for that familiar "YOU ARE HERE" symbol.
AHA begins with recognizing our current location. In one area or another, all of us are in the Distant Country. The Distant Country can be defined as any area of our lives where we have walked away from God. It may be that every part of you is living in the Distant Country, or it may just be a specific area of your life where you've left God out. No Trespassing signs line the perimeter and make it clear that God is not welcome.
It may help to pause here and identify areas of your own life that could be described as Distant Country. Take a moment and give a specific location for this general description. Write down the areas of your life where God is not welcome:
LIST YOUR DISTANT COUNTRY HERE
How we ended up where we are isn't always clear. There are many reasons why we leave the Father for the Distant Country, but the Bible says that all of us will find ourselves there at some point. Isaiah 59 explains that sin is what separates us from God. And Romans 3 tells us that all of us have sinned. Sin is the vehicle that every one of us has taken to the Distant Country.
Leaving the Father
I've discovered that what drives many travelers to the Distant Country is that they are running away from a god that doesn't exist. For one reason or another, their perception of God doesn't match up with reality. They are rejecting a god they created rather than the true God who created them.
Justin ran away from God and headed to the Distant Country because he was sure God was an Unreasonable Father. Like the son in Luke 15, Justin was convinced that staying with his father was causing him to miss out. In this light, God becomes an unreasonable Father who has a long list of rules that seem designed to take all the fun out of life. I've heard God described as "The Great Cosmic Killjoy." Many people pack their bags and head to the Distant Country because they are convinced that God's way is too restrictive and His path too narrow. They see God's boundaries as a fence that imprisons them rather than as a guardrail that protects them.
Justin grew up in a very religious home. One of the reasons Jesus wasn't a fan of religion is that religion reinforced rules using guilt and shame. And Justin joined the large caravan of travelers leaving the church in which they grew up to head to the Distant Country because they thought of God not just as an unreasonable Father but as an Unpleasable Father. The rationale goes something like this: "Because God's standards are so high, nothing I do will ever be good enough for Him. So why stick around and try?"
Maybe you grew up in a church that perpetuated this belief. Whenever you heard about God in church, He always seemed frustrated with you. Everything you heard about Him made you believe that whenever He looked at you, He shook His head in disappointment. His rules and expectations were unreasonable, and no matter how much effort you made, God never seemed to be pleased.
Maybe you grew up feeling like your best was never good enough for God. You brought home a B on your report card, but it should have been an A. If you scored fifteen points in the basketball game, you should've scored twenty.
If you think of God as an impossible-to-please Father, at some point you will quit trying to please Him altogether. What's the point of making the effort if nothing you do is good enough?
Some leave the Father and head for the Distant Country because they see God as an Unmerciful Father. They see God as an angry Father who is borderline abusive and seems to find pleasure in distributing punishment. He's always watching and waiting for you to slip up, and when He catches you, it won't matter how sorry you are—there will be hell to pay—literally. If you were taught to fear God, then you would naturally respond to Him by running away.
A few years ago, I came home from work to find that my wife and kids had agreed to dog-sit for friends of ours. The dog's name was Pork Chop, and everyone was excited about our new houseguest. But the first time I walked into the room, Pork Chop was not glad to see me. He responded to my presence by peeing on the floor and running into the next room. I tried not to take it too personally, but later that same evening, when I walked into the room where Pork Chop was, he responded the same way. He peed, ran away, and hid.
Excerpted from AHA by KYLE IDLEMAN. Copyright © 2014 Kyle Idleman. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Distant Country 11
Part 1 Sudden Awakening
Chapter 2 Coming to Your Senses 29
Chapter 3 A Desperate Moment 47
Chapter 4 A Startling Realization 65
Part 2 Brutal Honesty
Chapter 5 Talking to Yourself 81
Chapter 6 Denial-If I ignore it, maybe it will go away 97
Chapter 7 Projection-It's not my fault, so it's not my responsibility 113
Chapter 8 Minimize-It's not that big of a deal 125
Part 3 Immediate Action
Chapter 9 Time to Get Up 141
Chapter 10 Passivity-I'm sure everything will work itself out 155
Chapter 11 Procrastination-I'llget to it later 169
Chapter 12 Defeatism-It's too late now 183
Chapter 13 Lost in the Father's House-The Final AHA 197
Study Questions 211
What People are Saying About This
"Kyle ... is committed to helping us move in the right direction. If you need a helping hand in your journey, he'll point you to the right Person." (Max Lucado)
"Kyle will challenge even the most obedient Christians to relook at their relationship with Christ." (Mike Huckabee)
"Like his preaching, Kyle's writings will bring you face-to-face with areas you need to change and the One who has the power to change you." (Dave Stone)
"Fresh, insightful, practicalKyle's writing and teaching are helping countless people. I'm thrilled with how God is using him to challenge and encourage both Christians and those who are checking out the faith. Count me among his many fans!" (Lee Strobel)
"If you're minimizing just how bad things have gotten in your life or are simply ready to change for good, then AHA awaits. This book is a gut punch to passivity. A bombshell to procrastination. Don't hold back now. Embrace the startling realization in these pages, talk straight to with your soul, and take immediate action. Your gracious, loving Father stands ready for you."
"AHA outlines biblical transformation and how it works in a simple yet profound way. Do you want to change, improve, or grow? You must get this book!" (Mark Batterson)