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Searching for God Knows What (2004)

by Donald Miller

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2,413235,460 (3.89)62
In Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller's provocative and funny new book, he shows listeners that the greatest desire of every person is the desire for redemption. Every person is constantly seeking redemption (or at least the feeling of it) in his or her life, believing countless gospels that promise to fix the brokenness. Typically their pursuits include the desire for fulfilling relationships, successful careers, satisfying religious systems, status, and escape. Miller reveals how the inability to find redemption leads to chaotic relationships, self-hatred, the accumulation of meaningless material possessions, and a lack of inner peace. Listeners will learn to identify in themselves and within others the universal desire for redemption. They will discover that the gospel of Jesus is the only way to find meaning in life and true redemption. Mature believers as well as seekers and new Christians will find themselves identifying with the narrative journey unfolded in the book, which is simply the pursuit of redemption.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Blue Like Jazz: Phenomenal. I can't put into words what reading this has meant to me. I am moved. ( )
  katscribefever | Oct 10, 2019 |
A good book overall, but not quite as good as Miller's other big seller, Blue Like Jazz. Still, an excellent read. ( )
  highlander6022 | Mar 16, 2016 |
I found this book riveting. Donald Miller has a clear, chatty and almost simplistic style of writing that gets right to the heart of what many people are probably thinking. This book is partly biographical - although not as much as 'Blue like Jazz' - and partly theological and philsophical.

He uses examples such as Santa Claus, bearded ladies, spends a great deal of time thinking about Adam and Eve being naked, and also pulls to pieces the analogy of people in lifeboats deciding who is the most important.

These and other metaphors are used through the book, until he reaches the heart of what he's trying to say: that comparisons are pointless, and the world is shallow. That Christianity is not a religion of bullet points or formulae, but a living, loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

All in all, I thought it excellent and thought-provoking and will probably read it again in a few years. Highly recommended. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Enjoyed this look at faith. Some of my favorites quotes:
“Evangelism, then, looks like setting somebody up on a blind date: God does the work, we just tell them about Him and where they can find Him.”
“Theology can become an idol, but it is more useful as guardrails on a road to the true God. Theology is very important, but it is not God, and knowing facts about God is not the same as knowing God.”
“Would you do me a favor as you read this book? Would you be willing to grow and expand your understanding of God and how He works? If your understanding of Christianity is relatively conservative, it may surprise you that our theology is remarkably similar. It’s just that I am going to continue to pull power and beauty away from facts about God and give them to God himself. To the degree your right theology is your false God, this is going to disturb you. You are going to revolt, inside, because the thing you have been placing your security in (namely your ability to come up with and defend right ideas) is going to be threatened. But make no mistake, I am not attacking right theology, I am simply making theology a window rather than a wall.”
“I remember watching that television show I Dream of Jeannie when I was young, and I wondered how great it would be to have a Jeannie of my own, complete with the sexy outfit, who could blink a grilled-cheese sandwich out of thin air, all the while cleaning my room and doing my homework. I realize, of course, that is very silly and there is no such thing as a genie that lives in a lamp, but it makes me wonder if secretly we don’t wish God were a genie who could deliver a few wishes here and there. And that makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God. It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship.”
“And then I started thinking about my own life, how I need people to love me and like me and how, if they don't, I feel miserable and sad and how I am tempted to believe what they are saying about me is true. It is as though the voice God used to have has been taken up by less credible voices. And when I think about this I know that Genesis 3 is true; I know without a doubt I am a person who is wired so that something outside myself tells me who I am.”
“I get this feeling sometimes that after the world ends, when God destroys all our buildings and our flags, we will wish we had seen everybody as equal, that we had eaten dinner with prostitutes, held them in our arms, opened up spare rooms for them and loved them and learned from them.”
“I have a friend who gets so terribly upset when somebody pulls in front of him when he is driving that he will nearly turn red, and beat his steering wheel, yelling at the guy who pulled in front of him. That is pretty crazy because somebody cutting in front of you on the road is only going to cost you a second but it feels like something more; it feels like there is a penalty for not being respected by other people, it feels like you are going to die unless you get some kind of respect and appreciation.”…
“God wired us so that He told us who we were, and outside that relationship, the relationship that said we were loved and valuable and beautiful, we didn't have any worth at all."…
“Even Jesus says His glory comes from the Father, which I take to mean that even Christ, a perfect Being, was valuable because God loved Him. And i realize that this sounds weak and codependent, but what if a person isn't supposed to be alone, isn't supposed to have glory on his own, but rather get glory from the God who loves him? What if, in the same way the sun feeds plants, God's glory gives us life? What if our value exists because God takes pleasure in us?"
"What we really need is somebody who loves us so much we don’t worry about death, about our hair thinning, about other drivers pulling in front of us on the road, about whether people are poor or rich, good-looking or ugly, about whether we feel lonely, or about whether or not we are wearing clothes. We need this; we need this so we can love other people purely and not for selfish gain, we need this so we can see everybody as equals, we need this so our relationships can be sincere, we need this so we can stop kicking ourselves around, we need this so we can lose all self-awareness and find ourselves for the first time, not by realizing some dream, but by being told who we are by the only Being who has the authority to know, by that I mean the Creator."
“It makes you feel that as a parent the most important thing you can do is love your kids, hold them and tell them you love them, because, until we get to heaven, all we can do is hold our palms over the wounds. I mean, if a kid doesn’t feel he is loved, he is going to go looking for it in all kinds of ways. He is going to want to feel powerful or important or tough, and she is going to want to feel beautiful and wanted and needed. Give a kid the feeling of being loved early, and they will be better at negotiating that other stuff when they get older. They won’t fall for anything stupid, and they won’t feel a kind of desperation all the time in their souls. It is no coincidence that Jesus talks endlessly about love. Free love. Unconditional love.”
“I was asking myself while I was reading whether or not Jesus had many of the personality traits we have here on earth. And the truth is, He didn't. He had hunger and thirst and He slept and rested, but He had no regard for the lifeboat politics you and I live within every day. He believed a great deal of absurd ideas, such as we should turn the other cheek if somebody hits us, we should give somebody our coat even if they just ask for our shirt, we should be willing to give up all our money and follow Him, we should try out hardest to make peace, we should treat poor people the same as we treat the rich, we should lay down our lives for our friends, and so on and so on. It seemed He believed we should take every opportunity to fail in the lifeboat game, not for the sake of failing, but because there wasn't anything to win in the first place. It was as if He didn't believe the economy we live within had validity. No part of Him was deceived by its power.”
“The more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus. People like these found Jesus appealing; a Samaritan social outcast, a military officer of the tyrant Herod, a quisling tax collector, a recent hostess to seven demons.
“In contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly, a rich young ruler walked away shaking his head, and even the open-minded Nicodemus sought a meeting under the cover of darkness.”
“I remarked to the class how strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian church now attracts respectable types who closely resemble the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus' day? Why don't sinners like being around us?" Phillip Yancey
“At the same time, however, we are at a disadvantage because the Jesus that exists in our minds is hardly the real Jesus. The Jesus on CNN, the Jesus in our books and in our movies, the Jesus that is a collection of evangelical personalities, is often a Jesus of the suburbs, a Jesus who wants you to be a better yuppie, a Jesus who is extremely political and supports a specific party, a Jesus who declared a kind of culture war in the name of our children, a Jesus who worked through the founding fathers to begin America, a Jesus who dresses very well, speaks perfect English, has three points that fulfill any number of promises and wants you and me to be, above all, comfortable. Is this the real Jesus?”
“Becoming a Christian might look more like falling in love than baking cookies. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that in order for a person to know Jesus they must get a kind of crush on Him. But what I am suggesting is that, not unlike any other relationship, a person might need to understand that Jesus is alive, that He exists, that He is God, that He is in authority, that we need to submit to Him, that He has the power to save, and so on and so on, all of which are ideas, but ideas entangled in a kind of relational dynamic. This seems more logical to me because if God made us, wants to know us, then this would require a more mysterious interaction than what would be required by following a kind of recipe…
” It makes you wonder if we have fashioned a gospel around our culture and technology and social economy rather than around the person of Christ…
“In fact, I have to tell you, I believe the Bible is screaming this idea and is completely silent on any other, including our formulas and bullet points. It seems, rather, that Christ’s parables, Christ’s words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, were designed to bypass the memorization of ideas and cause us to wrestle with a certain need to cling to Him. In other words, a poetic presentation of the gospel of Jesus is more accurate than a set of steps.”
“Contrasting this idea, I recently heard a man, while explaining how a person could convert to Christianity, say the experience was not unlike deciding to sit in a chair. He said that while a person can have faith that a chair will hold him, it is not until he sits in the chair that he has acted on his faith.
“I wondered as I heard this if the chair was a kind of symbol for Jesus, and how irritated Jesus might be if a lot of people kept trying to sit on Him.
“And then I wondered at how Jesus could say He was a Shepherd and we were sheep, and that the Father in heaven was our Father and we were His children, and that He Himself was a Bridegroom and we were His bride, and that He was a King and we were His subjects, and yet we somehow missed His meaning and thought becoming a Christian was like sitting in a chair.”
“Imagine a pamphlet explaining the gospel of Jesus that said something like this:

“You are the bride to the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. You must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood to know Him, and your union with Him will make you one, and your oneness with Him will allow you to be identified with Him, His purity allowing God to interact with you, and because of this you will be with Him in eternity, sitting at His side and enjoying His companionship, which will be more fulfilling than an earthly husband or an earthly bride. All you must do to engage God is be willing to leave everything behind, be willing to walk away from your identity, and embrace joyfully the trials and tribulations, the torture and perhaps martyrdom that will come upon you for being a child of God in a broken world working out its own redemption in empty pursuits.
“Though it sounds absurd, this is a much more accurate summation of the gospel of Jesus than the bullet points we like to consider when we think about Christ’s message to humanity.”
"Imagine how much a man's life would be changed if he trusted that he was loved by God? He could interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really."
“The hijacking of the concept of morality began, of course, when we reduced Scripture to formula and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules. It is a very different thing to break a rule than it is to cheat on a lover. A person's mind can do all sorts of things his heart would never let him do. If we think of God's grace as a technicality, a theological precept, we can disobey without the slightest feeling of guilt, but it we think of God's grace as a relational invitation, an outreach of love, we are pretty much jerks for belittling the gesture.
”In this way, it isn’t only the moralist looking for a feeling of superiority who commits crimes against God, it is also those of us who react by doing what we want, claiming God’s grace. Neither view of morality connects behavior to a relational exchange with Jesus. When I run a stop sign, for example, I am breaking a law against a system of rules, but if I cheat on my wife, I have broken a law against a person. The first is impersonal; the latter is intensely personal.
”There are a great many other motives for morality, but in my mind they are less than noble. Morality for love's sake, for the sake of God and the sake of others, seems more beautiful to me than morality for morality's sake, morality to build a better nation here on earth, morality to protect our schools, morality as an identity for one of the parties in the culture, one of the identities in the lifeboat…
” In fact, morality as a battle cry against a depraved culture is simply not a New Testament idea. Morality as a ramification of our spiritual union and relationship with Christ, however, is.”
“Here is my position: As a Christian I believe Jesus wants to reach out to people who are lost and yes, immoral--immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger and giving them the feeling that their country, their families, and their lifestyles are being threatened is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do. This isn't rocket science. If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff them or kill them. That's the only way to win. But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, if you want them to live eternally in heaven with Jesus, then you have to love them. The choice is yours and my suspicion is you will be held responsible by God, a Judge who will know your motives. So go ahead and declare war in the name of the conservative agenda, but don't do it in the name of God. That's what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don't want that here."
“I can’t say this clearly enough: If we are preaching morality without Christ, and using war rhetoric to communicate a battle mentality, we are fighting on Satan’s side. This battle we are in is a battle against the principalities of darkness, not against people who are different from us. In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage.”
“I know it's tempting to believe if we will walk through ten steps or listen to only a certain kind of music or pray in a certain way and for a certain number of days then we will find favor with God, but we won't. The formulas, I understand, were created by their authors to help us, but they do more hindering than helping. If we trust in a formula, if we trust in steps, we are not trusting in God. Formulas, while helping us to organize our faith, also tempt us to trust in them rather than in God. In my own faith journey, I have disregarded formulas entirely.
“There are many religions, and many religious sects within the faith of Christianity. Do I believe some are more scripturally faithful than others? Yes. But none of them matter in the slightest if formulas replace a personal relationship with Jesus. He is the authority we need. He is the God we must cling to for salvation. And He is a Person, not a list of ideas, not a theology.”
The Five Principles Of The Genesis Theory
1. Humans look to something outside themselves to define and affirm their identity.
2. God gave humans the freedom to walk away.
3. There is a consequence to being outside of relationship with God.
4. In the absence of God, humans look to other relationships to define and affirm their intrinsic value.
5. Nobody but God has the agency to affirm the identity of humankind
“These five truths define why we do what we do, why we want what we want, speak the way we speak, daydream about what we daydream about, and fight over what we fight over. In other words, these five ideas, which I argue must be true in order for humans to feel shame when naked, give us a bedrock or an origin of who we are , a personality theory as comprehensive as any given by the founding fathers of psychology.”
( )
1 vote dannywahlquist | May 14, 2013 |
Reading Blue Like Jazz, earlier this year was something of a watershed for me. For a long, long time, I’d been feeling like a misfit in the church. It’s not that I stopped feeling out of place, it’s that I found Donald Miller was there with me; I felt I knew why I was actually a misfit and that it was perfectly okay. Searching isn’t nearly as good as Blue, but it continued the narrative in a very helpful direction.

The basic rationale of Searching is that we’re all looking for something and all the energies we expend, all the grand schemes we plan and all our motivations are to find that something. We’re none of us really sure what it is we’re looking for without Christ because it is he in fact which is it. There are very, very few people who can explain the whys of their life with any honesty. Most people don’t even think about it. They just do what their culture tells them to.

And that’s a point that Miller drives home very well in this book in regard to the church. We don’t so much live our life according to the cultural values of Christ but rather do so according to the cultural values of the societies we grow up in. He uses a number of metaphors to illustrate this.

The strongest is that of the lifeboat and I found this very helpful. You are probably familiar with the old debate of a group of people in a lifeboat and one person has to be thrown overboard to save the rest. Who would you choose. Well, immediately, you start to compare each with the rest and to list reasons for/against them being binned. And that’s what living life is like. We’re endlessly comparing ourselves to each other, justifying why we shouldn’t be shunned and why we should be lauded.

It’s a philosophy, Miller argues very convincingly, that should be anathema to Christians. To follow Christ is to forsake lifeboat philosophy and to stop playing that game. And here’s why:

"In the context of the lifeboat (motivated by self-preservation), the characteristics of “other people” become inferior simply because they are not our characteristics. Logic is thrown out the window, or worse, used as a tool to validate our prejudices. Philosophies, ideals, and even religious convictions become weapons for slaughter…the [Jesus sitting in the lifeboat with us, stroking our backs and telling us we are the ones who are right and one day these other infidels are going to pay]… is infinitely more popular [than the Jesus of Scripture] in evangelical culture."

I live in a community that, for better or worse, describes itself as a group of missionaries. I don’t subscribe to that epithet, but nonetheless I am, along with the rest of us, considered wrongly to be somehow ‘up there’ in the Christian hierarchy because I live off donations and work overseas. However, I can tell you that it is this community of Christians needs to hear this message just as much, if not more so than others because it is us who say we are trying to communicate Christ accurately to others. We need writers like Miller who remind us that Christ is not who popular Christian culture tells us he is. He is who he tells us he is himself.

And that’s the whole point of Searching: we’re here for relationship with Christ, not to follow some moral formula. Yet most Christians know the moral code way better than they know Jesus himself. This is sad. I was encouraged to read that Miller says he has done away with any form of formula in his faith. That’s hard to do. I can testify to that because for the last year at least, I have been trying to do the same. The idea that I can keep my faith in God alive by studying the Bible for 30 minutes a day has to be, absolutely has to be, absurd if Jesus is alive and real and living in me. So, I’ve been trying to allow my desires for Christ to motivate me to get to know him more in various ways. It’s working but it’s a struggle not to go back to the old ways and rely on the check list rather than faith.

So, thank you again, Donald, for your candour, honesty and desire to help us do what we’re created to do: know Christ personally. ( )
  arukiyomi | Dec 28, 2011 |
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This book is dedicated to John MacMurray.
First words
Some time ago I attended a seminar for Christian writers.
Meu pastor e amigo, Rick McKinley, contou-me recentemente sobre um encontro que ele teve com um jovem pastor que estava plantando uma igreja numa outra cidade. No vai e vem da conversa, este pastor perguntou ao Rick qual era a hora de tirar da liderança uma pessoa que estivesse com dificuldade de compreender a natureza do ministério. Rick olhou meio confuso para aquele pastor. “Tirar da liderança ?”, perguntou. “Isso.” , o jovem pastor respondeu. “Temos que avançar, né? E se a pessoa não acompanha precisamos tirá-la. ”

Rick respirou e riu “Cara, seu eu fosse tirar todo mundo que não conseguiu acompanhar o início da Imago Dei, não sobraria ninguém, nem eu! Você nunca vai construir uma igreja mandando as pessoas embora. Isso não é uma lanchonete, é o reino de Deus, e bons discípulos demandam tempo. Jesus é paciente até o fim.”
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In Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller's provocative and funny new book, he shows listeners that the greatest desire of every person is the desire for redemption. Every person is constantly seeking redemption (or at least the feeling of it) in his or her life, believing countless gospels that promise to fix the brokenness. Typically their pursuits include the desire for fulfilling relationships, successful careers, satisfying religious systems, status, and escape. Miller reveals how the inability to find redemption leads to chaotic relationships, self-hatred, the accumulation of meaningless material possessions, and a lack of inner peace. Listeners will learn to identify in themselves and within others the universal desire for redemption. They will discover that the gospel of Jesus is the only way to find meaning in life and true redemption. Mature believers as well as seekers and new Christians will find themselves identifying with the narrative journey unfolded in the book, which is simply the pursuit of redemption.

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