Just the Facts: by Stephen Altrogge. 144 p. Published April 2011 by Crossway Books. Advanced review copy received in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.
Who Cares? Adult Christian Non-Fiction (Spiritual Growth)
Short Bio: Stephen Altrogge delves into our society’s most commonly found malady: discontentment. How could residents of the richest nation in the world, of whom most are in the world’s top 1% wealthiest, be so discontent? Altrogge examines what this discontentment looks like in our lives, what’s at the root of it, and how we combat it.
Eyewitness Account: Moment of truth: I expected this book to bore me. It had “yeah, yeah, I know all that” written all over the blurb. If you looked at the five-star rating above, you can imagine just how surprised I was to find these short 144 pages a down-and-dirty, “in the trenches” look at the battle for contentment. Altrogge examines the nature of discontentment (which is ultimately a form of idolatry – finding or believing that true satisfaction is in something God created rather than in God himself), the lies we believe when we’re not content (“God owes me”, “God is holding out on me”, “If I could just get this one thing then I’d be truly happy”, and finally, “I know what’s best for me”), what we truly deserve from God (punishment for being the rebellious idolaters that we are), what we actually get from God (not only forgiveness for our death-causing sins, but also a place in God’s family as his children and inheritors of his kingdom), and the root of what we are truly longing for – the Heaven we were created to enjoy.
When I read books on my Kindle, I like highlighting good quotes so that I can peruse them later when I write my book reviews or when I want to share good parts with my friends. I went back into my highlighted quotes for this review and found FIFTY-THREE PASSAGES that I had marked (my average for a really good book is about 20)! With just the right mix of personal anecdotes, too-true illustrations, and scriptural backing for each of his chapters, I found this book enjoyable, humorous, well-paced, deeply thought-provoking, and extremely practical to apply. Two thumbs up and a big gold star sticker for Stephen Altrogge!
Notable Quotes: (remember, I had FIFTY-THREE quotes to pick from!)
“He displays his glory in some people by allowing them to suffer and then gives them incredible amounts of grace in the midst of that suffering. He shows his glory in others by abundantly blessing them and then giving them a heart that overflows with generosity. To some he gives a large family, so that they might raise their children to the glory of God. To others he gives the gift of singleness, so that they might pour all their energies into serving Jesus. God is God, and he will display his glory in us as he chooses.”
“Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him.”
“The world is full of good things, wonderful things, all made by a generous and good God. Deep friendships are wonderful. A day to ourselves is refreshing. Good health is a blessing. But God has designed these gifts to be windows through which we see him. The gifts are meant to point us to the Giver, not to be an end in and of themselves. And so God has made us in such a way that we can’t be satisfied in anything other than himself.”
“Marriage isn’t the ultimate. Deep friendships aren’t the source of eternal joy. Being in heaven in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the ultimate. Being face-to-face with and talking with, feasting with, and serving Jesus is the end-all. Throw away your ideas of a boring heaven with nothing to do. We’re going to be with our Creator, the one who invented gladness and created fun. Heaven is going to be ringing with joy and laughter and excitement.”
Other Books Read by This Author: None.
★★★★☆ Writing Style
★★★★★ Original Idea
★★★★★ Page Turner
Just the Facts: by Trevin Wax. 240 p. Published April 2011 by Moody Publishers. Advance review copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.
Who Cares? Adult Christian Theology
Not-so-Short Bio (from NetGalley): What if the biggest danger to the church of Jesus Christ is not blatant heresy, the moral failures of church leaders, persecution, the rise of Islam or the loss of our rights? What if the biggest threat is counterfeit gospels within the church, ways of thinking and speaking about the good news that lead to a gradual drift from the truth of Scripture?
The gospel is like a three-legged stool. There’s the Gospel Story – the grand narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration). Within that overarching framework, we make the Gospel Announcement about Jesus Christ (His perfect life, substitutionary death, resurrection, exaltation). The gospel announcement then births the Gospel Community: God’s church – the embodiment of the gospel, the manifestation of God’s kingdom. A counterfeit gospel is like a colony of termites, eating away at one of the legs of this stool until the whole thing topples over. This book exposes six common counterfeits (Therapeutic, Judgmentless, Moralist, Quietist, Activist, and Churchless) that would get us off track.
The goal of Counterfeit Gospels is to so deepen our love for the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ that we would easily see through the many counterfeits that leave us impoverished. So come, love the gospel, recognize and overcome the counterfeits, and be empowered for ministry!
Eyewitness Account: The title of this book intrigued me – and I was not disappointed! Wax and Chandler break out their definition of “the gospel” (mainly the three pieces mentioned above, Story – Announcement – Community) and how many of the “gospels” being taught/preached in churches today change one of those pieces. I was impressed not only with the content of this book, but also with how the authors organized it; after each “counterfeit” is defined and explained with examples, the authors describe why we fall for it (what elements of truth are still in it) and what dangers result from holding to that counterfeit. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what the core beliefs of Christianity are and how Christians and the Church can most accurately reflect those beliefs. Counterfeit Gospels is a very thoughtful and well-written response to the increasing number of Christian churches who have succumbed to off-target or incorrect doctrine.
“But in most cases, counterfeit gospels represent either a dilution of the truth or a truth that is out of proportion. There may still be enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but the watered-down version never satisfies our longings. Nor will it empower us for service, or embolden our witness before a watching world.”
“. . . true happiness does not line up with the world’s definition. True joy is much deeper and richer than that offered by the various versions of the therapeutic gospel, because true joy is found in God Himself, not just in His gifts. The god of the therapeutic gospel is too small. We think that because God is love, we will be delivered from trials and discomfort. But God loves us too much to only give us comfort and prosperity. God is not interested in our self-actualization; he’s interested in our Spirit-actualization. He is forming us into the image of Hs Son. And if we are to look more like Jesus, the Suffering Servant, surely we will pass through times of suffering.”
Other Books Read by This Author: None.
★★★★☆ Writing Style
★★★★☆ Original Idea
★★★★☆ Page Turner