Thinking Out Loud

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

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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.

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