In a father-son game of "I love you more," Dave Barlow thought he had his 6-year-old son, Sam, beat.
"I love you infinity," the father would say.
A short time later, Sam came home from school and stumped his father with "Dad, I love you 206!"
Seeing the confused look on his father's face, Sam explained he had just learned that the human body consisted of 206 bones.
"Dad, that's every bone in my body!" the boy exclaimed.
Years later, based on that loving exchange, Sam and his brothers organized a service squad they call Team 206. Those who join commit to perform 206 hours of service or donate $206 to a worthy cause. The Barlows, who live in Bountiful, Utah, have given to the local Shriners Hospital.
It's one of many uplifting examples of Christianity that author Brad Wilcox describes in his new book, "The 7-Day Christian: How Living Your Beliefs Every Day Can Change the World" (Ensign Peak, $17.99).
"It's an example of someone who is reaching out and doing something good in the world," Wilcox said in an interview with the Deseret News.
In "The 7-Day Christian," a book written and designed for a broad religious audience, Wilcox uses humor, personal experience and heartfelt examples to inspire courage and hope for living a more devout Christian life.
Among many ideas discussed in the book, Wilcox shares one central point: To reach the core of Christianity, one must do more than good deeds and have family values.
"It goes beyond good deeds and family values because many people in many religions have those," Wilcox said before reading this passage from the 154-page book. "He (Christ) doesn't just want people to come to him. He wants them to become like him — a process that takes place seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, and throughout all the years of our lives."
While early Christians were persecuted and thrown to the lions, many of the faith today might feel as if they are on the wrong side of a "politically correct conversation," Wilcox said, specifically citing examples such as legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriage or modesty.
"The early Christians changed the world by living their beliefs so consistently that they drew people to them," said Wilcox, who earned a doctorate at the University of Wyoming. "Instead of fighting fire with fire, we need to be genuine Christians who have the courage to be Christlike and fight with our own devotion. If we want admiration and respect, we must counter by living so sincerely and consistently every day of the week."
Wilcox said while many strive to live a disciple's life, society may not see a difference because other Christians are failing to live basic religious beliefs, including the Ten Commandments. Wilcox told of one young man who got a tattoo because he wanted to be different.
"By following a fad, he didn't realize he's not standing out, he's blending in," Wilcox said. "Our task is not to let the world leave its mark on us, but instead to leave our mark on the world by living consistently these values that make us stand out. Instead of marching on Capital Hill, demanding our rights, how about we just live our religion? I think that will attract enough attention."
Throughout the book, Wilcox draws on personal experiences and humor to illustrate various faith-promoting principles and lessons. In a section titled "Capacity to love," Wilcox writes about one first-grader who expressed deep concern about a friend to the school principal.
"Mrs. Eggleston, Pablo is in love. He has fallen way, way down in love and we need to help him!"
In another section highlighting the importance of self worth, Wilcox tells about a child who approached his wife, a nurse, and asked if she remembered him? She did not, which dismayed the child.
"I'm sorry. Where would I know you from?" she asked.
"The child pointed to the hospital and announced, 'I was born here!' "
Wilcox hopes the humor will help the book feel more enjoyable and inviting. He hopes it will portray Christians as having a positive tone and outlook on life, he said.
"If you can laugh at it, you can learn to live with it," Wilcox said. "I think that humor helps us keep perspective. It lets us not make mountains out of mole hills. Humor also helps us build relationships with others. It brings down the wall between people and helps us cope with trials and problems."
Other parts of the book convey a more reverent tone. In one chapter, Wilcox writes, "the farther we progress along the path of Christian discipleship, the steeper it becomes," alluding to lessons gained through adversity. Many people see God or religion as a vending machine where you insert coins and receive a blessing or are saved from trials, Wilcox said, which is not the case.
"Too many times we raise a clinched fist and say, 'Why me, why now, why this, when I put all the money in the machine and no soda came out?' We get mad at the very time we should be extending an open hand to receive the grace that heaven is so willing to offer," Wilcox said. "If we recognize that God is not a vending machine or a servant who comes when we summon him, we can learn that he is a teacher, and his goal is not always to make our lives easier, but to make us better. Sometimes the hardest teachers are the ones that teach us the most. While the path gets steeper, the blessing is found in knowing we are not making that climb alone."
Writing the book forced Wilcox to examine and honestly reflect on his own life, he said.
"Can people see Christ's light through me? It forced me to think, and that's what I hope it will do for others," said Wilcox, who also emphasized this passage in the book: "The question for 7-day Christians to consider may not simply be, 'What would Jesus do?' But rather, 'What would Jesus have me do?' Those who have the courage to find and act on such answers will surely experience the Savior's transforming power."
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