Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book Review - Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life by Sheridan Vosey

Two years ago I met a couple of Australian pilgrims on their way to Durham Cathedral to see the Lindisfarne Gospels. It was a very modern meeting, arranged via Twitter after I had stumbled across their project, and led me to spend a Saturday evening & Sunday morning in the very enjoyable company of DJ Konz & Sheridan Vosey, including visiting both St. Andrew’s and (their original destination) St. Peter’s as part of their epic journey. Fast forward 6 months & I find myself in a hospital watching my youngest child recovering from open heart surgery aged just 8 weeks. Beside me is a book which I am reading to try & keep  sane during this hardest of times – Resurrection Year by the aforementioned Sheridan Vosey, who along with DJ and many others around the world have been bathing my daughter in prayer. So when the opportunity to review Sheridan’s new book arose, I couldn’t turn it down – especially given its subject matter.

You see, I couldn’t think of a better individual to explore what it means to live a resilient, Christ-centred life. Having endured (with his wife Merryn) the heartache of seeing their dreams of parenthood shattered, the couple moved from their native Australia to Oxfordshire to start their lives again. During this tumultuous time Sheridan decided to experiment with reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5-7, on a daily basis. Not just the comforting parts, but the whole thing. The result, says Sheridan, was dramatic:

"My reading of the Sermon each day began to shape me…my heart was slowly being recalibrated to the heart of Jesus, who lived out everything he preached. Without my realizing it, this was all helping me to start again."
Straight away it’s worth noting this is not a Christian “self-help” book. Speaking from the experience of his own wounds Sheridan doesn’t pretend that trials and troubles won’t come, that the storms of life will rage. What his writing offers, however, is an insight into how Jesus’ famous words can be applied to our daily lives, can permeate our souls and help the Holy Spirit bring us healing, purpose & a desire to seek out the life we were created to live.
Dividing the message of the Sermon into six sections, Sheridan explores:
"Your Invitation” – Jesus request for us to ‘come’;
“Your Calling” – what Jesus has called us to be and do;
“Your Relationships” – Jesus sanctification of each part of human relations, seeking to make each thing ‘Holy’;
“Your Practices” – Jesus guidance on the Way to live out His purpose for our lives;
“Your Choices” – Jesus guidance, instruction and warnings across the decisions we make, big and small, in our daily lives;
“Your Resilient Life” – guidance for moving Jesus message from our head to our hearts and living out a life shaped by Him no matter what is thrown at us.
Along the way there are questions to ponder, allowing the reader to focus their thoughts on what has been said. Each section concludes with a strong summary which directs us back to Jesus’ desire to help us build the resilience that will see us through the trials of being His disciples, His friends, His people.
Throughout the book Sheridan’s writing is smooth and at times poetic, giving memorable quotes and images, all adding to the impression of exploring the text in the company of a warm, learned friend. He draws on stories, anecdotes and a rich variety of Biblical images to draw us deeper into the Sermon – not only on a personal level, but as a means of showing how Jesus words run like a life-giving stream throughout eternity, consistent with the heart God displays for His people across all of Scripture.
For me this is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the book. Sheridan has carefully avoided the whole thing becoming a long exercise in Jesus-speak naval gazing. Underpinning the whole narrative is a sense that through aligning ourselves to Jesus will for our lives we can have a hugely positive impact on those around us, both friends and strangers alike. Our God is a missional God – He did not send Jesus simply to save the people of Israel, but to give His life for the whole world. Time and again Sheridan encourages us to explore how reimagining our goals, ambitions and values in the light of the Sermon on the Mount can help us show Jesus’ love to those around us.
Overall this is a great resource for Christian people looking to deepen their relationship with Jesus and would work well in small group setting (with an accompanying study guide available soon), as a personal resource, or as a way to help Jesus begin bringing encouragement and healing to people facing times of sorrow or hardship. Highly recommended.                          
You can find out more about Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life
by Sheridan Vosey  on the official website. The book is available from most good retailers, including: 
Discovery House UK: http://buff.ly/1M3ZID2
Barnes & Noble: http://buff.ly/1RlppNf
Discovery House US: http://buff.ly/1klPi5j
ChristianBook: http://buff.ly/1klPjGs