For the past two weeks I have enjoyed time with family and friends on an extended vacation. Lots of food. Lots of golf. I did do some reading but not as much as I might have expected. Much of my time was spent setting up my new iPhone. I am excited to have a phone that can capture video. I hope to capture some of the special moments I enjoy as a pastor so I can post them on the blog for your encouragement.
Still, I have read a few books I’d like to recommend to you. My top recommendation I will save for last. I am a long time Jerry Bridges fan. His latest book is “Respectable Sins.” The book addresses the sins that we easily overlook because they are common, subtle, and socially acceptable. His list of respectable sins include: ungodliness, anxiety and frustration, discontentment, unthankfulness, pride, selfishness, lack of self-control, impatience and irritability, anger, judgmentalism, envy, sins of the tongue, and worldliness. A highlight quote for me was “To the extent that I grasp, in the depth of my being, this great truth of God’s forgiveness of my sin through Christ, I will be freed up to honestly and humbly face the particular manifestations of sin in my life” (p. 35).
The second book was a joy to read. It is Mike Mason’s “Practicing the Presence of People.” Mason threads the old theme from Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of Christ” through the fabric of the people we experience every day. I really like Mason’s book on marriage so I was excited to read this one. He did not disappoint. His primary theme is that every person we come across in life is an image-bearing soul. Our call and longing is to love, what he calls “practice their presence.” This relational aspect of our being explains both our pain and our pleasure. “The only real problem in the world is alienation and the only cure is love” (p. 42). He goes on to say this helpful truth, “When I speak of the practice of the presence of people, I too mean… emptying myself and contemplating people… I turn my inner eyes upon people. Abandoning the noise in my own head, I let the person before me fill my thoughts and field of vision. I say to my ego, ‘Excuse me, sir, but you’ll have to stand aside right now. There’s a human being who needs my full attention.’… there’s a great danger of not connecting with people. So I let the people I am with be larger and more mysterious than myself. I let them be wonderful. I make a point of enjoying each one, knowing that only by enjoying others will I enjoy myself” (p. 171-172). Isn’t that great? It is so easy to mentally disconnect with people; to be there in body but not in spirit. But when we “practice their presence” we are seeking to enjoy them, and by proxy, enjoy their presence within our own hearts.
My third book gets my highest rating, especially if you have any experience in forms of Christianity that look their noses down on anyone else. Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God” is one of the best books I have ever read. I was deeply convicted and gloriously uplifted, all in the pages of this small book. Keller is quickly becoming a favorite author for lots of people, me included. His thesis is that the Parable of the Prodigal Son describes two ways people relate to God, both wrong and deadly. The younger son wants what Dad has and manipulates him by asking for his inheritance now so he can live how he wants, away from Dad. The elder son does the same but in a different and potentially more unsavory way. His response to Dad’s party for son #2’s return is that he NEVER had a party in spite of his “slaving away” for Dad. Keller insightfully plows the heart of the elder son and all of us that too often resemble him. The elder brother describes the Pharisee and the attitude of superiority which masks deep insecurity, both spiritual and relational. I was convicted often by his words. The good news is that there is hope for elder brother types. The Dad in the story expresses grace to the eldest son displaying the love and desire our heavenly Father has to get us over ourselves and on to the task of loving God for being God, NOT for what He has or can do for us. I highly recommend this book to you.
I am a few days from beginning a journey to north Georgia to speak at The Woodlands Camp (www.woodlandscamp.org). Along the way, I am going to see friends, spend a day of personal reflection at a retreat, and generally seek to ground my life, self, thoughts, and affections in God. I appreciate all your prayers.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction.