Thinking Out Loud

May 11, 2015

Seeing Your Life From God’s Perspective

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 am

Orion's belt

About a week ago before falling asleep, I reached into the review stack, and discovered a 2013 book, The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan. Clearly, this was a book for women, but it was late so rather than pull out another title, I decided to read just one chapter.

Beauty of Broken - Elisa MorganSeveral days later, I am two-thirds of the way through my first foray into this Christian “women’s interest” book. Maybe I’ll start reading “mommy bloggers” next. (Okay, maybe not.)

Elisa Morgan’s life has been marked by a number of circumstances that would have to be described as tragic. I’m not purporting to review the book here, so I won’t get into details. But it was the one page where her husband Evan shared something — I believe it’s the only spot in the book where he speaks — that I wanted to share as an excerpt today. This is the entirety of the quotation, but remember you’re jumping into the middle of much larger story.

Finally I just sat down in the bay window of our breakfast room and looked up at the sky. Honestly, I’d had it. But I felt compelled to look at the stars.  I’d always been intrigued by the galaxies. And in that moment, one of my favorite Psalms filtered through my thoughts, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?'”  (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV).

It was like God was drawing my gaze upward – to consider his heavens.  I couldn’t not look. Yet I couldn’t figure out what was going on, what I was supposed to see or understand.

“Yeah. Yeah. I know, you’re all-powerful and all,”  I said sarcastically through the glass of the window up to the sky. I couldn’t believe I was acting this way towards God and I half expected him to zap me in the moment. But I was just so sick of it all.  In this weary night watch I relented, “I see it all, God. You made all this. You’re infinite. Whatever!”

Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off the night sky. And then Orion’s Belt came into focus. My eyes were nailed to it. I couldn’t pull them away.  Astronomy wasn’t even a hobby for me, but everything I’d ever known about that constellation whirled through my mind. Orion’s Belt: three stars, seemingly perfectly aligned and yet most likely hundreds of millions of miles apart from each other. For some reason I imagined myself in an airplane – no, a space ship circling in the cosmos, and then around a single star in the formation. I realized that from that vantage point – going around just one of the three stars, I couldn’t really see or even know about the other stars, much less how they aligned together to make a unique constellation.

And then I heard God speak to me – as in no other moment in my life. I’ll never forget it.  Evan, from where I sit, it all lines up.  Suddenly, I was sitting with God, next to him in his celestial seat, viewing eternity past and future, without limitations. God laid his hand on my shoulder, and pointed out the stars to me: a picture of his providence and sovereignty in our lives. From no other place could I have comprehended… from where he sits, it all lines up.

May 1, 2015

Connecting People and Resources

I’ve written before about the common thread in all the different ministry ventures I’ve worked with. With radio, I got to introduce people to new songs and new artists. With worship leading, I got to connect people to vehicles that could be part of their personal expression of praise to God. As a book and music reviewer, the motivation was more obvious. As a blogger, I get to share information about other voices online. As a link list curator for Leadership Journal, I was able, by the news and opinion pieces I noted, to be influential in the lives of Christian leaders.

radio-towerI guess I like facilitating a whole load of networking.

But let’s return to radio for a minute. If I were to return to it — and I did look into various avenues — I would no longer get to choose the songs being played unless I brokered the airtime and picked the playlist myself. Radio stations either use consultants or have their own formula for choosing what goes into the rotation. Even the morning show guys, when they’re done with their banter, simply play the next song on the list.

You could solve this, I suppose by being the consultant or music director, but there are only so many openings, and even in small-to-medium markets, it’s often just one guy who controls a number of regional stations.

With worship leading, similar formulas apply. There’s often a tacit understanding that if a new song was introduced by last week’s team, you’re expected to continue with that song over the next three weeks. In demographically wide churches, you draw from different sources representing different ages and tastes to create an eclectic music set.

Music reviews largely don’t exist. Unless you write for Relevant Magazine, you’re about 500 times more likely to receive books in the mail to review than a CD. (We’ve reviewed several here, but it’s the exception, not the rule.) Bloggers tend not to be excited about specific books as they were five years ago; as Christian publishing faces challenges there are fewer and fewer new writers stepping onto the scene; and there appears not to be the push by publishers to utilize social media.

With my role at PARSE now ended, I look for new ways to share the passion of sharing. The one role that never ends is my two days a week at the Christian bookstore. There, I still have some influence, though there is always the suspicion on the part of some that I’m wearing my shopkeeper hat, and not my role as friend, counselor, or helper. Where ministry and retail converge, it’s not always an ideal fit.

My observation there is always the same: The greatest connector for people and products is the local church pastor, but for that to work, the pastors first need to know about the book in question, and most don’t have the interest, the time, or both.

But trust me, from YouTube to the Christian blogosphere to the world of Christian music and publishing, there are a ton of resources out there.

Finding and utilize them will enrich your life, and the lives of family members, extended family, neighbors, co-workers and others in your circle.

April 23, 2015

The Lacey Sturm Story, In Her Own Words

As I wrote back in October, I became aware of Lacey Sturm while live streaming one of the Franklin Graham ‘Rock the Lakes’ events. Many weeks later, a copy of her book The Reason: Revelations of a Rock Princess turned up in a review package from Baker Books’ Canadian distributor, and this week I finally got to it.

The Reason - Lacey SturmI am not the target audience for this book, so I needed to review it with that in mind. Lacey’s story is that of a young girl on a definite trajectory toward suicide, and how a dramatic encounter with a man at the back door of a church she was fleeing redefined that trajectory. She went on to become the lead singer of the Christian — but not always overtly Christian — band Flyleaf.

This book would totally resonate with that young girl in your sphere of influence who dresses in black, or has purple hair, or holes up in her room for hours listening to music you consider dark, especially the one whose writing or poetry seems saturated with sadness.

Lacey describes her early years as one addicted to sadness; addicted to pain. In the book, her ‘Before and After’ story is very clear; her life change very dramatic.

Years later, she has another encounter with someone who again speaks what can only described as a supernatural word of knowledge into her life about the ministry gift and burden God gave her, and the role of her husband Josh in leading and guiding the application of that gift so that it doesn’t burn her out. He tells them, “This is a very heavy, heavy calling. God has poured his love for this generation into your heart, and allowed you to sing with a heart of passion, so they will know God loves them.” (p.164)

Again, this book isn’t for everyone; but it’s a resource that everyone should know exists because you never know when you’ll encounter someone in a similar situation. It’s also a good read for anyone in, or considering entering the music business.

 

April 19, 2015

Daring to Dream Again

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

Dream Center Los Angeles

For three nights this past week, just before turning out the lights, I read God’s Dream for You: Finding Lasting Change in Jesus, a short book by Matthew Barnett, pastor of Angelus Temple and the Dream Center in Los Angeles, California; the first of 150 Dream Centers launched around the world.

God's Dream for You - Matthew BarnettReleased in the Fall of 2013, I’m not exactly sure how this ended up in my current review stack, but the story of Dream Center, an urban ministry very similar to one which my wife co-founded a few years ago (albeit on a much smaller scale) really resonated. Matthew Barnett was probably expecting to fall in his father’s footsteps and be another megachurch pastor, but God had other plans.

Fifteen years ago, in another book, The Church That Never Sleeps, Barnett told the story of how, “a small group of believers stepped out in faith-against all odds-and claimed the Queen of Angels Hospital in downtown Los Angeles for the cause of Christ. Now 200 different ministries in the Los Angeles International Church reach out to thousands of residents. Innovative programs minister to AIDS victims, the homeless, battered women, drug and alcohol addicts, and abused children-offering hope and a chance for a better life.”

God’s Dream… is a more recent look at what staff and residents call “The D.C.” with stories of changed lives that will remind some of the testimonies in books by Jim Cymbala about what God is doing on the opposite coast of the U.S.; with a number of hope-filled scripture references and teaching included.

At 188 pages in a smaller, digest page size, God’s Dream… is published in hardcover and fits what is often called the “Gift Book” genre of motivational and inspirational titles that I’ve never tried to review before. The main message of the book is that when people hit bottom, it’s easy just to focus on subsistence, but Barnett reminds the people he serves to go after their dreams. This book would be a great encouragement to someone who finds themselves mired in tough circumstances; but also the Christian leader who feels ill-equipped to minister in an urban setting.

To learn more about The Dream Center, go to DreamCenter.org

April 13, 2015

Book Review: Did God Kill Jesus?

Did God Kill JesusThere was something almost eerie about reading this book over the Easter season. I took a rather slow, almost plodding pace in order to absorb the material and then have a day to digest it before moving on, some of the events described paralleling narratives being brought to mind at Holy Week.

In Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution, author Tony Jones looks at the central element of the Christian faith — the death and resurrection of Jesus — though his focus is clearly on the crucifixion and all of its ramifications for doctrine and theology. Over the years, writers and teachers have processed a handful of dominant models of what all is taking place — what we call atonement — as Christ yields his life to the religious and political powers of Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers; and Jones considers these as well as a few of the lesser-known theories.

At the very core of his analysis is Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?” He veers strongly toward the view that at that moment Jesus sees the Father as absent and dares to suggest that right then, right there, Jesus experiences something akin to atheism; life in a world without God. This is presented alongside the notion that while positionally God’s omniscience is a given, there are things that could only be known incarnationally.

This is a book for people willing to risk actually doing some thinking. Many of us have grown up in environments where we were taught that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins;” but would be lacking clarity in explaining exactly how the violent, death of this One accomplished this. He notes that if a sacrifice were all that was required, a child sacrifice at the Bethlehem manger would have sufficed. He also forces the reader to consider why a violent death was necessary.

I had been aware of Tony Jones through his blogging activity at Theoblogy, and knew that because of his co-authorship of The Emergent Manifesto, some readers here might question his orthodoxy. My thoughts ran somewhat the other way; reading through I asked myself if the book could not have appeared under HarperCollins’ more Evangelical imprints such as Zondervan, instead of HarperOne. (There were a couple of language issues early on, which are, in balance, unfortunate.) Jones is simply a nice guy, charitable to people whose views on Calvary are different because they are Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Progressive or even Pentecostal. By this I mean, the book accounts for all tastes.

Perhaps it is my own perspective, but my takeaway — and I mean this as high praise — is that I found myself thinking about Jesus and what would be going through his mind throughout all aspects of his final words to his disciples, his betrayal, his beating, his trial before Pilate and the agony of the crucifixion itself. Could there be any higher benefit to the reader of a Christian book?

Click here to read sample pages of Did God Kill Jesus?.

March 27, 2015

Currently Reading: Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

I’ve written before that I like to alternate the books I am given to review — and book reviews here are very much down in quantity from a year ago — with older books or even classic Christian titles by authors now deceased.

I’m currently reading Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby. The book I’m reading was first published in 1994; the edition now sold is a revised and expanded edition from 2008.

Although I’ve recommended the book here before, I had never actually sat down and read it page-by-page. The reason is I could recommend it is that the book is a kind of “Snakes on a Plane” title inasmuch as once you’ve seen the chart listing the book’s “Seven Realities,” you’ve grabbed the essence of the whole.

Experiencing God Seven Realities

Perhaps that’s not enough to go on.  The seven realities are:

1. God is always working around you (Exodus 2:23-25)

2. God pursues a continuing personal love relationship with you that is real and personal (Exodus 3:1)

3. God invites you to be come involved with Him in His work (Exodus 3:8, 10)

4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways (Exodus 3:2-8)

 5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13)

6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing (Exodus 4:19-20)

7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you (Exodus 6:1-8)

Still it’s not enough to just speed-read through those, it’s more helpful to read the book — which doesn’t take long — and also to explore the ongoing parallels to the life of Moses, which is why the scripture references are all from Exodus. (The first time I saw the book, not knowing its basis in the Old Testament, I honestly thought the picture of Moses on what was then the back cover was Henry Blackaby.)

I also mentioned this book yesterday because I believe it to be one of a select handful of foundational titles every new and veteran Christian should read. As I said, I’ve been recommending it for years — because of the chart above which condenses the teaching points — but it’s another thing to actually go through chapter by chapter.

There’s also a large format workbook that can be purchased separately if someone wants to dig deeper. It’s published by LifeWay which doesn’t give bookstores much of a discount on it because it’s considered curriculum, albeit undated. It was one of their first successes with workbooks (now called Member Books) in a time before Beth Moore had achieved her present fame. I haven’t checked one out recently, but it’s packed with details and would make a great personal Bible study for someone not connected to a small group or just preferring to work on their own.

Finally, if you’re at a crisis point of wondering what God has for you, the book subtitle is, after all, about finding and doing God’s will.

Experiencing God is, in my opinion, destined to remain in print for a long time yet. It is truly a modern classic Christian book that should be on everyone’s reading list.

 

That's Moses, not Henry Blackaby on the workbook's cover

That’s Moses, not Henry Blackaby on the workbook’s cover

March 26, 2015

Big Box Book Stores’ Christian Shelves Lack Essentials

img 032615

Saturday night around 6:30 PM we dropped into a Chapters store. The Chapters and Indigo stores are the Canadian equivalent to Barnes and Noble, and whether I’m in Canada or checking out B&N on holidays, I love to hang out in the Religion section and see what conversations I can initiate.

This time it was a couple whose son was being baptized the very next day in the church where I was baptized many years earlier. They were looking at a couple of Joel Osteen books and when I tried to steer them away from those, they didn’t actually need much convincing. They immediately commented on the somewhat random assortment listed under ‘Christianity.’

“Why is Deepak Chopra here?” they asked.

“You could always move them around the corner;” I offered. I like to keep my options in these stores open, so re-shelving books isn’t in my repertoire.

Anyway, instead of just scanning the shelves out of personal interest, I tried to see it from their perspective and said to myself, “Okay, if we were standing in a Christian bookstore right now, what would I suggest to them?”

And then I hit the wall.

First, so much of the inventory on these shelves was new releases. There wasn’t much in the way of recurrent, perennial Christian books. The strength of the Christian book market has largely rested in the strength of what is called its ‘back-list’ titles. By this I don’t mean the classic writers who are now deceased, but rather simply the best books of the last 25 years. Some earlier Yancey titles. Experiencing God by Blackaby. The Lucado series on the crucifixion and resurrection. Even more recent stuff like Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield and the first two Case for… books by Lee Strobel were missing. (Having the classic writings of Andrew Murray, A. W. Tozer, Spurgeon, etc. isn’t a bad idea, either. The Lumen Classics series would be a good fit at low price points.)

Second, there are so many books which simply did not belong in that section at all. I saw title after title that was completely foreign to me. To sort this out you need two things. One would be an awareness of the publisher imprints on each book and a knowledge of who’s who. The other would be a combination of discernment and plenty of time to study each book carefully. Obviously trusting the publisher imprints is faster, but if it’s a truly special occasion — say a Baptism gift — you do really want to take the time to get the best book.

Given their son’s age, I decided to go for younger authors. I’d just watched the live stream release party for Judah Smith’s newest, Life Is _____; and then they had Jefferson Bethke, the guy whose launch was tied to a YouTube video, “Why I Hate Religion.” But then, a book that seemed almost out of context: Radical by David Platt. I told them a bit about the book, and Platt and the Secret Church movement, and even though I don’t usually align with Calvinists, I said I thought this was the best choice overall. I left before they made their final decision.

…The reason this family was in the store at all was because the nearby Christian bookstore had just closed permanently. A friend of a friend was supposed to do a book signing and release party that day and had arrived to find the doors padlocked. These (for lack of a better word) “secular” bookstores are all that many communities have now, but finding the book you need is a major challenge.

The publisher reps who visit these stores are no doubt aware of strong back-list titles that would work, but the bookstore chains’ buyers are under orders to buy only the newest titles. To get their foot in the door, publishers need to be constantly re-issuing the older titles in new formats, but it’s hard when their orientation is to what’s new and forthcoming.

March 15, 2015

Luke: The Gospel of Amazement

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series - IVPI just finished reading what is for me, the second book in a series I hope to complete over the rest of the year. Luke: The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card is part of the Biblical Imagination series. Since I’ve already devoted some space to it after I read and reviewed Mark: The Gospel of Passionclick here to read — I won’t go into great detail, since the format of all four books in the series is the same.

In this volume, Card points out certain recurring themes in Luke that aren’t present (or as noticeable) in the other gospels including the attention to detail and the observations on the role of women in the narrative, and we also come to understand how it is that Luke got the information that is unique to his story.

I wasn’t really taking notes on this one, but one takeaway — which applies to the whole series — is that the speculative, imagination-based things Card points out are not things being extrapolated without other Biblical support, but rather, the text bids us or begs us to make certain connections.

Honestly, completing the book only makes me want to read more Luke commentaries. There is so much going on in these gospels that we miss completely.


To my friends at InterVarsity / IVP Books in Illinois: I had to buy this one. Next one is your turn, okay?

February 26, 2015

Destiny Image Publishing Cancels Book by Progressive Christian Writer

I thought it was strange that the first I heard that blogger Brandan Robertson had become the Christian publishing news-maker of the week, it was a story at the online page of TIME Magazine, not my usual Christian information channels. The book in question was Nomad: Not-So-Religious Thoughts on Faith, Doubt, and the Journey In Between, scheduled for release October 20, 2015 by Charismatic publisher Destiny Image.

Brandan RobertsonThe article begins,

A prominent Christian publisher canceled a book project this week after the author refused to say that he did “not condone, encourage or accept the homosexual lifestyle,” the author told TIME.

Okay, so it was the gay thing again. End of story, right?

For its part, Destiny Image was dodging the issue:

When TIME asked [Don] Nori why Destiny pulled the book, Nori did not address the role that Robertson’s position on sexuality played in their decision: “There is nothing significant to report,” Nori says. “We did not reject or refuse. As with all books, a publisher decides what is financially viable. We released the book back to the author with our sincere prayers for his success. This occurrence happens every season.”

The implication is that here, in the first quarter of 2015, the sales force had already determined that there wasn’t enough interest in a book scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015. Seems a bit far off, doesn’t it?

Furthermore, there was one report that the word gay only occurred one time in the final manuscript which the publisher had received only hours before.

The more I thought about this, the more weird it seemed that Destiny Image had tapped Robertson for a book at all. Destiny Image is a publisher of Charismatic books. Their top titles at Spring Arbor Distributors and Send the Light Distribution include The Maker’s Diet, When Heaven Invades Earth, The Lady in Waiting, Hosting the Presence, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty, The 40-Day Soul Fast, and God’s Armor Bearer and they have been home to authors such as Myles Munroe, Bill Johnson and T. D. Jakes.  Knowing that, I reached out to Brandan on Twitter:

Brandan, As a longtime veteran of the Christian bookstore business, I don’t know how the heck you ended up with Destiny Image in the first place.

But then two days ago Brandan wrote a blog post which got picked up by Huffington Post yesterday which sets the scene a little clearer:

…My former publisher, Destiny Image, signed me in March 2014 to be one of the first in their new “progressive” line of books along with books by my friend Benjamin L. Corey (who blogs at Patheos Progressive). As a then 21 year old senior in college, I was excited at the opportunity to turn so many of the thoughts that I had been sharing through my blog Revangelical into a book, a dream that I have had since I was a child. My book was to be a collection of memoir-essays that outlined some of the most important lessons that I have learned over the course of my spiritual journey thus far. I would be raw and honest, but also seek to write from an evangelical perspective to evangelicals. In order to do that, I intentionally kept out a chapter on sexuality, hoping to not detract from the broader message I was trying to communicate…

Okay, so it’s the progressive publishing imprint thing again. End of story, right?

Don’t they ever learn?

This is so reminiscent of the situation with Waterbrook. If you’ve forgotten, they published a book — God and the Gay Christian — which also caught some flak because of sexuality issues. But then, they argued that the book was issued under the Convergent imprint, not Waterbrook per se. That didn’t fly with anyone, since the other imprint shared the same acquisitions and editorial staff. So the company severed the two divisions, as they should have from the outset.

Destiny Image had not announced a different imprint. The book was listed at two industry sites as being issued under the parent label.

Like Rob Bell, Robertson’s book was not afraid to ask questions. The author is quoted on the book’s page at Ingram Book Company of which Spring Arbor Distributors is the Christian distribution arm:

Nomad - Brandan RobertsonToo often in Christianity we equate wandering with negative categories like eternal damnation, deception, and going “astray.” We have often stigmatized those who wander from our group as weak and easily deceived. But what if we’ve been wrong? What if ones tendency to go wander off is truly a gift? What if the driving force beneath the curiosity that leads a person to wander off the beaten path is not immaturity, but the wild, untamable Spirit of God, drawing them into the foliage to be refined, to discover fresh insights, and pioneer a new way forward for a new group of people?

That’s how I have come to understand my life and my calling. I have come to appreciate and not fear getting myself lost. In my disorientation, I am forced to attune myself to the gentle breeze of God’s Spirit and allow myself to be moved into new, unexplored territories. Sure, it’s scary sometimes. Uncomfortable most of the time. But it’s always rewarding.

So here’s my advice to Christian publishers: You want to attract an edgier type of reader? Fine. But if you’re playing with fire, be prepared to get burned. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have controversy without… controversy. Make up your mind to just go for it, and then be all in, or find a different avenue that will help you make your sales targets.

The book has been released back to the author, and after the publicity that has been generated, Brandan should have no problem getting it published, and may not have to wait until October if the new publisher decides to fast-track it to take advantage of the newly-generated interest.

Finally, if you think this is just desserts for an author that was probably too young to have this publishing opportunity bestowed on him in the first place, you might want to hold back that thought; his resumé is impressive. The information Destiny Image supplied to Ingram notes:

Brandan Robertson is a writer, speaker, activist, and the dreamer behind the Revangelical Movement. Brandan has a B.A. in Pastoral Studies and Bible from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (as of May 2014) and is pursuing his M.Div. Degree from Wesley Theological Seminary (August 2014). Brandan writes for Revangelical, Red Letter Christians, Sojourners, and IMPACT Magazine and has been a featured contributor to a number of well-read blogs and news outlets. Brandan is also the host of the Revangelical Podcast and the director of an action-oriented social justice initiative called “Revangelicals for a Better Tomorrow.” He is also a sought after consultant to churches, denominations, and faith-based organizations on issues of the faith of the millennial generation and issues surrounding building bridges across religious, cultural, and political divides.

In other words, while I’m sure the offer was flattering at the time, he doesn’t need Destiny Image to get his message out.

February 17, 2015

Book Review: The Happy Christian

In November of 2013, I reviewed a book by David Murray, Jesus on Every Page. When I was contacted about reviewing a new book by David, I immediately replied in the affirmative, only to receive an email that The Happy Christian was on its way. Wait, what? All I could think of was all my online friends who would cringe at the idea of reviewing something like “10 Ways to be a Happy Christian;” and then the book arrived and I was horrified to see that there were indeed ten sections, and the book’s cover art certainly alluded to a smiley face. Surely, I must find a way, to ditch this review obligation, right?

Happy ChristianI decided to read a few pages and before long, David Murray won me over. If anyone picks up this title looking for something trite or pithy, they are going to be ambushed.

If anything, I would call this book “An Encyclopedia of Fulfillment.” It looks at the things people crave and were made for and how society at large tries to find that satisfaction, but then shows how acknowledging Biblical principles where were there all along is the only way to find that satisfaction in life.

Each of the chapters also uses a cute mathematical formula, but the book is anything but formulaic. There’s also a healthy dose of reality in each chapter which eliminates any chance of this being characterized as a tome on positive thinking.

I hope I don’t offend the author or editorial team by saying this, but The Happy Christian is a book that pretends to be shallow but isn’t! In other words, it’s constructed along the lines of one of those “ten things” listicles but turns out to be much deeper.  There is an examination in each chapter to the writings of a secular psychologist (or similar) but they are used as a motif for deeper consideration. The book is highly footnoted — 381 end-notes, I counted them — and many of these are scripture references.

A few days ago I ran an overview of the second chapter, which looks at our media diet and how that shapes us. You can read that short excerpt by clicking here.

The type of happiness David Murray is describing here isn’t a passive thing that happens to you, but rather more of an activist happiness, a state of satisfaction and fulfillment in life that comes from entering into the life Christ offers, rather than sitting back waiting for happiness to arrive like a check in the mail. 

There are also a number of unexpected issues that the author raises which might challenge the reader, such as the idea that if the situation allows for it, Christians should select retailers or tradespeople from among fellow Christians. In the chapter on grace, he writes:

God blesses the world for the benefit of the church and every Christian in it.  His multiple varied blessings of industry, business, government, science, friendship, art, food, music, water, seasons, talents and gifts, conscience, courts, medication, air conditioning, and more are ultimately working together for the good of those who love Him.

That’s why we shouldn’t be ashamed to use non-Christians for goods and services.  Sometimes Christians and churches may decide to buy a certain good or service from a company simply because it is a Christian company.  The product or service may not be the best, but it has a Christian owner.  That’s faulty thinking, thinking that results from failing to understand God’s everywhere grace.  If God has enabled a non-Christian to make the best product or provide the most efficient service, we should gladly buy from him or her and regard it as God’s grace to that person and to us.  (p.112-3)

My only criticism is that perhaps in an effort to shape the book into a “top ten” format, the teaching on generosity and forgiveness were combined; I think each really deserved its own chapter.

The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World releases February 24th in paperback from Thomas Nelson. Look for the somewhat smiling cover where you buy quality books.

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