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Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, has just released. If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also receive 25 FREE books from over 15 different authors.
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Recommendations
“In Frank Viola’s hands, the story of Lazarus—like Lazarus himself—once again comes to life. In a world where hope is battered and life can so easily beat down the human spirit, we are reminded once more of the possibility of becoming a host of Life.”
John Ortberg, pastor and author of Who Is This Man?
God’s Favorite Place on Earth realigned my heart toward Jesus and His mysterious, confounding, surprising, beautiful ways. It’s not often I learn something new when reading a book, but Frank Viola’s sharp storytelling and insightful interpretation made me hunger for more of the real Jesus.”
Mary DeMuth, author of Everything: What You Give
“God’s Favorite Place on Earth is the kind of book I’ve discovered I need to periodically find and read. Frank Viola’s pen and voice are consistently both penetrating and trustworthy. Beyond his invitingly beautiful writing skill—which makes reading a joy and a sight-seeing tour that brings God’s Word into 3-D when he relates narrative passages, I’m grateful for the depth of his themes.”
Pastor Jack Hayford, Chancellor of The King’s University, Los Angeles
“This is a masterfully engaging book that distills the vision of the Christian life into one focused quest: To be God’s favorite place on earth today. I recommend this little volume to all Christians and Christian leaders.”
Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker
“Combining masterful storytelling, historical knowledge, biblical insight and practical wisdom, Frank artfully uses the Gospels’ depiction of Lazarus and the small town of Bethany to lay out a beautiful and compelling vision of a God who longs to make every human heart and every church ‘His favorite place.’ This is a beautifully written, timely, prophetic work all would benefit from reading!”
Greg Boyd, pastor and author of Benefit of the Doubt
“A lot of people write books, Frank writes stories and in this one we once again see why he’s such a master. Honored to call him a friend, excited to call him an author I love to read.”
Jon Acuff, bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Stuff Christians Like 
“Frank Viola surpasses himself in his best book yet—a work of serene, soaring magnificence. Part novel, part biography, part theology, part Bible study, Frank’s imaginative touch and command of prose haiku leaves the reader resolved more than ever to be a Bethany—God’s favorite place on earth.”
Leonard Sweet, Drew University, George Fox University, sermons.com
“Reading God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, my soul began to burn from Chapter One. To delve into Lazarus’ heart and thoughts … I received a beautiful glimpse into the life of Christ on earth. Lazarus’ stories make a perfect foundation for God’s truth, God’s intimacy. I can’t wait to share this book!”
Tricia Goyer, USA Today best-selling author of 35 books
“In spite of my Ph.D. in Theology, I had never considered the importance of Bethany in the life of Jesus.”
Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique
“The best thing I can say about Frank Viola is this: When I read his books—and I read them all—I don’t think much about Frank Viola. I think about Jesus. And I learn to love Him more. This book is no different. Read it, and you’ll find yourself thinking, if you’re like me, ‘I knew Jesus was great, but… Wow!’ And that, at least from me, is as good as it gets.”
Brant Hansen, Radio personality and blogger 

A Missional Question

Today I’m participating in a challenge from Frank Viola:

The following exercise is from the synchroblog from Frank Viola’s post Gospel for the Middle

Fielding Melish and his wife Felicia have two children, ages 10 and 6. They live in a very remote part of Maine, USA. They are surrounded by extended family, none of whom are Christians. The nearest churches are one hour away, and by all evangelical standards, none of them are good. These churches are either highly legalistic, highly libertine, or just flat-out flaky.

One of Fielding’s cousins is a practicing Christian. They see each other once a year. Fielding’s cousin has shared Christ with Fielding many times over the years. Whenever they’ve talked about spiritual things, Fielding shows interest.

Felicia grew up in a Christian home. She’s received Christ, but she isn’t evangelistic and is overwhelmed with working long hours and raising two small children. She would love to find a church nearby for the spiritual support and instruction, but none exist.

Fielding has no college education. While he is capable of reading, he is not a reader. He doesn’t use the Web either. He’s a man who works with his hands, both for his career and for recreation. He’s an “outdoorsman.” He hunts, he builds, he does manual labor, etc. In his spare time, he helps his elderly parents with various building projects.

Fielding is not an atheist. Neither is he an agnostic. He believes in God. He believes Jesus is the Savior of the world who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He hasn’t fully surrendered his life to Christ, but he is not sure what that looks like exactly. His children know a little about the Lord, mostly because of what their mother has taught them.

Recently Fielding asked this question:

When I’m with my cousin once a year, I want to learn more about God. But when I come back home, and I’m around everyone else, my mind is off of God, and I am back to working, raising my kids, and helping my parents. Someone needs to come up with a solution for people like me . . . people who are in the middle. (By “in the middle,” Fielding means someone who believes in Jesus, but who isn’t fully absorbed in the faith yet either. They simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them.)

Relocating is not an option for Fielding and his wife. Even if they wanted to relocate, they don’t see a way they could do it financially.

Remember: Fielding and his wife don’t personally know any Christians. None of their extended family or coworkers are believers either. And the nearest churches (which are an hour away) aren’t recommended.

Question: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?

Jason:
 
This is a tricky one. By American standards, we would have trouble reaching Fielding and Felicia. We can’t easily pawn them off on someone else, and we can’t just hand them a book.
 
If I were the cousin I would suggest to Fielding that if he is going to read anything, he spend time in the Bible. He doesn’t have to read a lot at once, but he should read it with Felicia every day. They can talk about what they read and pray about it. I would encourage Fielding to look at God’s glory in creation. I would tell him that we are God’s building, and that He wants to build us together as His temple, not as a physical building, but a house made of people.
 
As the cousin I would need to take a more active role in reaching out in between visits, making sure I prayed for them and helped with questions and discipleship as much as possible.
 
I would explain to Fielding that God speaks to His people, and that every believer has the Holy Spirit. I would explain from John that the Spirit leads us into all truth and reveals the Son, and that they can grow in this way.
 
I recently read The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, and he talks about how the church expanded in the first couple of centuries after Christ, and how the Chinese church grew exponentially after all foreigners were expelled and Christian leaders jailed or killed under Mao. Despite the lack all the things Americans consider essential to church growth, these churches thrived. I think if the cousin takes the time to offer support and helps Fielding and Felicia recognize that they have the basics – the Bible and the Spirit, that they can grow and thrive in their environment.
 
That’s my thoughts on this problem. What would you say in this situation? How would you help Fielding and Felicia in their walk?