Monday, September 26, 2011

book review: with

Title: With 
Author: Skye Jethani 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson 
Date: 2011 

In the first part of the book Jethani describes four common postures toward God: 
Life FROM God: People want God's blessings and gifts minus the interest in God himself.
Life OVER God: People seek to discern proven principles and formulas for how God works. These principles and formulas can then be mastered to produce maximum benefit.
Life FOR God: People are concerned with how best to serve God. God is often thought to require heroic acts of self-sacrifice and service in order to achieve significance and approval.
Life UNDER God: People see God in terms of cause and effect. Obedience = blessing; disobedience = punishment. Proper moral behaviour is here thought to be the key to properly understanding and relating to God. 

Jethani argues that in each of these four postures, the desire for God Himself is substituted for some lesser thing: i.e. blessings, princples, mission, or morality. And while none of these "are harmful or destructive in and of themselves" each takes the place of knowing God. Each of the four approaches represents an attempt to figure out how God works, what God wants, and how best to respond. And so Jethani says "fear and control are the basis for all human religion."

The second half of the book is a description of Life WITH God.
"The LIFE WITH GOD posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us. His plan to restore his creation was not to send a list of rules and rituals to follow (LIFE UNDER GOD), nor was it the implementation of useful principles (LIFE OVER GOD). He did not send a genie to grant us our desires (LIFE FROM GOD), nor did he give us a task to accomplish (LIFE FOR GOD). Instead, God himself came to be with us - to walk with us once again as he had done in Eden in the beginning."
Jethani say that LIFE WITH GOD means treasuring God above all else. But that is only part of the picture: we also need to be united with God and experience God. In this second half, Jethani writes about Life With Faith, Life With Hope, and Life With Love. 

There are also two helpful appendices:
Appendix A: Communing With God, which is a look at some spiritual practices.
Appendix B: Discussing With Others, discussion questions for each chapter.

In summary, Jethani argues, living WITH God (as opposed to UNDER, OVER, FROM, or FOR God) is based upon the conviction that the qualities upon which the latter are predicated are temporary and will not endure. In God's new world, human beings will not constantly seek to manage, control, and manipulate relationships (with God or anyone else) in order to deal with the fear, uncertainty, and threat that dominate our current experience. In the new creation, God will be all in all, and love, not fear, will be the ultimate reality with which we have to deal. This is a powerful hope and one that we can anticipate and live into, as we strive to continually reimagine how we relate to God in the present. "Rather than stumbling in the darkness between forms of religion that are each under a variation of fear and control (LIFE UNDER, OVER, FROM, and FOR GOD), through Christ the lights are turned on and our attention is drawn to an entirely different vision - LIFE WITH GOD." 

In short, "WITH" is an easy read, it is not an academic book, but it is an important reminder of what God invites us into, in an environment that often settles for far less than what is offered.

I received the book With free from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program for my review. I was not paid to write this review.

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