book coverI loved this little book: 99 Thoughts on Jesus-centered Living. It’s exactly what the title promises: 99 short thoughts on how to make Jesus the center of your universe, your life. Using examples, stories, analogies, quotes and of course Bible verses, Rick Lawrence (the long time editor of Group Magazine) challenges us to find the real Jesus and follow Him.

The book is divided into 6 parts, which is good because it keeps the book from being too random and chaotic. Each part tackles a different aspect of following Jesus:

  1. Come to Jesus
  2. Remain in Jesus
  3. Reflect Jesus
  4. The holy rejections
  5. The beautiful declarations
  6. The orbital questions

What struck me is how challenging and deep these short thoughts are. The last chapter is for instance comprised of questions to think about and they are really, really good. Let me give just one example:

“Let’s say your phone rings today and it’s Jesus calling – he wants to take you to dinner at your favorite restaurant tonight. Today, what’s the one thing you’d want Jesus to know about you as you sit down to dinner with him? (Read Luke 19:1-5)

Another thing I loved is the theology Lawrence presents here. He encourages to find the ‘real’ Jesus and isn’t afraid to mention the setbacks and suffering that comes with following Jesus. Amen to that in a time where too much theology is focused on feeling good.

I think this is a great book to use as a devotional-type book and read one thought each day. Combined with some extra Bible reading this could really be a great encouragement and stimulant to grow closer to Jesus.

There is one thing I do wonder about. This book is meant for students, but I’m not sure they’ll ‘get’ everything. It’s most certainly not meant for younger students considering the amount of abstract thinking Rick Lawrence uses and requires. That’s also because of the format, the short thoughts don’t allow for a lot of explanation and application, students will have to make do with just a few line and apply these themselves. Here’s an example:

“Do we live our lives looking for shortcuts? I know I often have. If there’s a shorter distance between two points – whether I’m running errands in my car or reading my Bible or helping out a friend – I’m tempted to take it. But when the great poet Robert Frost wrote, “two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less raveled by”, he was describing a way of life that honors the long way over the shortcut. The (false) shortcut to a life of meaning and purpose is a path called ‘Use God to Get What I Want in Life’ – the road les traveled is called ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’.”

Lawrence then closes by quoting Philippians 3:8. It’s a great thought and Lawrence is absolutely right, but can students apply this information to their lives? Wouldn’t they have needed some help in thinking what shortcuts might look like for them and how they can take that road less traveled? Older and smarter high school students and certainly college students may find this enough, but I’m thinking that younger and more ‘hands-on’ oriented students will need more help.

Still, I loved this book and I think many adults will be challenged by it as it’s absolutely not exclusively aimed at students in terms of language or examples. Buy it and apply it I’d say, you won’t regret it.

(Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge by Simply Youth Ministry in exchange for an honest review)