“The Purpose Driven Life: Expanded Edition”
by Rick Warren
Have you ever wondered why you are here, why God created you the way He did, in the place you are at, among the people that surround you? Have you ever felt like you were made for something, but couldn’t put a handle on what, why, or how? Have you ever struggled with depression, doubt and self-worth? We all have and Pastor Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” has helped millions of people find answers to those questions with Christ-focused precision, wisdom, sensitivity, and Biblical conviction.
“The Purpose Driven Life” is the best selling non-fiction hardback of all time. It has sold 32 million copies, been translated into 50 languages and people from 162 different countries have studied it. It was number one on all four major US booksellers lists in 2002 (and then made history by doing it again in March 2005 after hostage Ashley Smith persuaded a captor to release her by reading portions of it) and won the 2003 and 2004 ECPA Christian Book of the Year. (Stats taken from the news release by A. Larry Ross Communications which accompanied the copy of the book I received)
As soon as I saw this book come up on the list of options for me to review I jumped at it. Partially because I wanted to see the updated version, but mostly because it is a perfect excuse to once again recommend and sing the praises of a book that has touched my life so deeply.
I have appreciated Rick Warren’s ministry for a long time, ever since I was first introduced to him through this book 10 years ago. Though we have never met, he has blessed me personally, developed me spiritually, and equipped my ministry many times over. So yes, I’m a fan, and I couldn’t wait to get this book. It is the only book in my library of which I have extra copies to give away. I’ve read it cover to cover multiple times, taught it in small groups, and continuously pull it off the shelf to read portions of again. I can’t think of another book, outside of the Bible, that God has used to shape me more.
Why Another Version?
When it came up in the review list my first thought was “It’s been 10 years already? Wow, I’m old.” My next thought was, “I wonder why they are releasing this again? Hasn’t everyone read it by now? Isn’t it still in every book store in the world?” My questions were answered by Pastor Rick on page 15 of the book where he says,
“Recently a 22-year-old named Mark connected with me through social media and asked ‘How do I know what my purpose in life is?’ As we chatted, I learned that his parents had read this book, but he had not read it, since he was only 12 years old when it was published. Every new generation must rediscover God’s purposes for themselves.”
“Aha!”, I thought, “That makes so much sense!” I remember how much this book impacted me when I was 24, and I’m glad that I have a new version of this book to pass along.
The first impression I had of the new “The Purpose Driven Life: Expanded Edition” was how beautifully crafted, designed, printed and organized it is. It is a very beautiful book, just to look at. It is not only gorgeous, but savvy — this is how books should be written in the 21st century. Each day has a special QR code (specially designed pictures which a smart-phone can use to access a website) which link to short introductory videos, audio sermons (a full hour sermon for every day!), special notes and an online support community. Check this link to Day 1 out.
Originally this book had 40 days, but this new version has 42. Pastor Rick has added two days [the Envy Trap (“I must be like you to be happy”) and the People-Pleaser Trap (“I must be liked by you to be happy”)] which are meant to combat what he calls “two giant problems or traps that keep most people from living the life God planned for them to live.” (quoted from the day 41 video introduction). These two chapters alone are worth the price of the book.
This is still a great book, and the new additions make it even better.
The one word I would use to describe this book is — “potent“. Each day is full of wisdom, biblical insight, pastoral love, practical help and critical information that will help you move closer to Jesus and bring more joy into your life. There are literally paragraphs within this book that will change your life. There are phrases within this book that you will carry with you forever. If you let it, God can use this book to help you live out His purpose for you.
If you haven’t read this book, get it and read it. If you’ve already read it, it’s time to read it again.
Gossip is… uh…
Last night at small group study we had a surprising discovery. Everyone around the table was absolutely agreed that gossip is a bad thing, and that we should confront it, but when I asked the group to define gossip, we couldn’t do it.
We danced around a lot of ideas like “malicious talk”, “things that are none of our business”, or “things we wouldn’t say to their face”, but none of it seemed to give us a succinct and satisfactory definition that we could use to easily define gossip. This was both illuminating and frustrating – and a little embarrassing since I’ve been preaching against gossip for the last bunch of weeks and I couldn’t define it either!
I know it’s a bad thing to speak gossip and listen to gossip. Paul, in Romans 1:29-32 lists gossip alongside some pretty heinous sins!
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
But what is gossip?
I went online looking for a satisfying definition that will help guide Christians to know when they are gossiping or hearing gossip, so they can obey Jesus and repent — I couldn’t find one. So I read through a lot of scripture and articles (which I will site at the bottom) and came up with a definition that I hope helps.
Gossip is using verbal, print or electronic communications to share unconfirmed information or your own opinion of a person who is absent from the conversation, without their knowledge or consent, with the purpose of increasing your social status or altering other’s opinion of the person.
Let’s break it down:
- Gossip can be spread by speaking, writing, or through social media.
- Gossip never gives the whole story – that would require the individual being gossiped about to be present.
- Gossip includes the gossiper’s personal opinion of the person’s life and choices, either explicitly (by stating it, e.g. “Susie is selfish.”) or implicitly (through posture and tone of voice). One website gives this example. “The sentence ‘Clara got a puppy’ sounds pretty neutral. But if Clara lives in a college dorm that doesn’t allow pets and the person speaking sounds scandalized, the sentence becomes gossip.”
- Gossip is done without the knowledge of the person being talked about. “I never say anything that I wouldn’t say to their face” isn’t good enough. It should be “I never say anything I haven’t already shared with that person first and gotten their permission to share with others.”
- Gossip has ill motives. This is the most difficult part of the definition as many people can fool themselves into believing that their sharing isn’t gossip, but is well-intended and even helpful. However, when they look deeper they will see that they are falling into one of these two categories:
- Gossiping to positively increase their social status through sharing information (or misinformation) that makes the gossiper look smarter, more informed, more connected, more spiritual, or somehow superior in the eyes of others.
- Gossiping to negatively effect the reputations of others. Instead of making the gossiper look superior, it makes the person being gossiped about seem inferior.
I really hope this helps, and I would love some feedback on this!
Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus
A Holy Land Devotional*
by Charles H. Dyer
Charles H. Dyer invites us to take a guided tour of the life, ministry and homeland of Jesus Christ. His passion for making scripture come alive by contextualizing the events in the life of Christ gives the reader a new-found appreciation for the gospel writers and a strengthened faith as their faith in Jesus is strengthened and they learn over and over that every word of the Bible can be trusted.
I’ve never been to Israel, but this book is so beautiful, alive, and meaningful, that I almost feel as though I have. Dyer is an excellent author who’s style is personal, captivating and exciting. He writes as a tour-guide would speak, pointing out details that many would overlook to show the historical, geographical and personal significance that each location holds. He helps us to see the accuracy and trustworthiness of scripture, and encourages us to put our lives into the hands of the Jesus we read about in the Bible.
In the introduction to the book Dyer encourages the reader to read the book “slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully” and I’m very glad I took his advice because it would be impossible to process the weight and meaning of all that he presents in one sitting. It’s not that the amount of information is overwhelming, or it is told in a dry way, but that there are so many “wow!” moments along the way. There were days that brought such powerful new insights to familiar scriptures that I ended up setting the book onto my lap and pondering the significance of what I just learned. Dyer brings to the reader knowledge which only a master student of the scriptures with first hand knowledge of the Israel would be able to give. I know and love Jesus more as a result of reading this little book.
That said, it took me until day eight to fully appreciate this book, for two reasons. First, there were some days that the photograph seemed disconnected from the content of the chapter. For example, on day 4 Dyer spends paragraphs describing the geography of Nazareth and then shows a picture of a tree. Yes, he mentions a tree on the next page, but it’s not photo I was hoping to see – also, why isn’t the picture on the next page?
My second issue was that I couldn’t figure out who the intended audience of this book should be. The devotional portion of each day seemed light compared to the heavy content I just learned in the chapter. I have the feeling that a new Christian will appreciate the simple devotional portions but won’t have a full appreciation of the content, while a more mature Christian will eat up the geographical insights but be disappointed by the devotional applications.
Despite the disconnected content, I do recommend this book as a valuable resource and plan to pass it around to those who want to know more about trusting the Bible and the life of Jesus.
* I received a free copy of this book through the Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program
I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but it wasn’t always hot and sunny while Jesus walked the earth. Maybe I’ve seen too many pictures of Jesus standing in a sunbeam or walking along a desert road, but it never really crossed my mind that Jesus would have been cold. I tried to find a picture online of Jesus walking in the rain, but couldn’t. Even during the “great storm on the sea” where Jesus is walking on water, He doesn’t even get wet!!! I saw Jesus making rain, and Christians in the rain, but not one where Jesus stands with chattering teeth, soaked to the bone, rubbing his arms to keep warm, about to sneeze, while trying to deliver a message with a stuffed up nose. [I wish I knew how to draw so I could create such a picture — anyone out there got the mad skilz to help me?]
Jesus Got Cold?
Why was this such a big revelation to me? Probably because, like many Christians, I forget that Jesus was fully human, living in a real world. Because of my love, respect, and awe of Him, it’s easy to think of Him curing the blind man, calming a storm, walking on water, ascending into the clouds… but Jesus with a cold… that’s somehow harder.
This happened today as I was reading a book I’m reviewing for Moody Press called “Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus” by Charles H. Dyer [full review coming soon]. He pointed me to John 10:22-42 which begins like this, “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe.'”
Dyer points out,
“Jerusalem is a beautiful city, but late December is not always the best time to visit. December through February are the coldest–and rainiest–months of the year…. The days can be dark, damp and dreary. And if there’s a cold, biting wind pushing in from the Mediterranean, you can quickly become chilled to the bone… And that’s why, in John 10, we find Jesus…’walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.'”
An Excuse to be Grumpy
What Dyer had probably meant as background to the narrative he was telling about Jesus, I took as a powerful point. I know that Jesus suffered, “was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3), and “has been tempted as we are” (Heb 4:15), but I forget sometimes that those temptations included regular days when he had every excuse to be grumpy, selfish and whiny — like I am sometimes.
Of course we don’t know for sure, but it seems logical that in John 10 Jesus is cold, wet (after walking there), and surrounded by people who are being grouchy and pushy. How many times has he already told them that He is the Christ? Dyer points out that He had told Nicodemus (a Pharisee) he was the Son of God (John 3:16), told the woman at the well He was the Messiah (John 4:25-26), publicly told the religious leaders He was the one predicted by Moses (John 5:45-47) and had told a whole crowed that they should believe in Him and that He had existed before Abraham had (John 8:56-58)! It’s not like He kept it a secret!
I don’t know what His tone was when He said “I told you…”, but I know what tone I would have had!
I TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES! *ZAP WITH LIGHTNING* I’M COLD! I’M SICK! I’M GOING HOME!
I was amazed by Jesus again this morning. Amazed at His love, grace, and how much He can identify with me. I’m also amazed at how much I’ve been forgiven for, and how much more sanctification I need!
I bought some dark coffee — Starbucks Christmas Blend (super yummy!) and Muskoka Roastery’s Black Bear (which is so dark it’s like drinking ink… delicious, delicious, ink. It even seems to argue with the milk saying, “No, we won’t be turning mocha-coloured today. We’re shooting for a dark-grey.”)
I went through a dark mood — I occasionally battle depression. It’s not as bad or as long as it used to be, but it happens and I know how to deal with it.
And, I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but I went dark online — no Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linked-In, WordPress…
The last one was the biggest challenge. I’m so active online these days that it was really hard to unplug. I almost think in “status updates” now! When I’m having fun I think, “I should post this…”. When my kids do something cute I think, “I should post this…”. When I have a funny or deep thought I think, “I should post this…”.
Al, It’s Time To Go Dark
About 10 days ago I felt God tell me that I had a problem, so I went dark. Now that I’m back I want to pass along to you what He said and what I learned. Perhaps you’ve been listening to God and He’s been saying something similar.
(No, this isn’t word-for-word what He said (it doesn’t work like that — at least not for me), but it is certainly the impression He gave me.)
“It’s becoming about you again, Al. You want attention, accolades, ‘likes’, hits, comments, praise and glory. You should know better by now, but you keep setting yourself up for this temptation and therefore you keep falling for it! Remember, I didn’t give you a voice so you could squander your words on trivial, mundane, uninspired tripe. I gave you your voice to bring Me glory. I didn’t allow this technology to be created so you can feed your pride-monster, but so that you can teach, learn from, support, encourage, and point people toward me. I’m fine with you using these things if you use them to grow closer to me and serve my people, but if they get in the way, I will have to remove them from you for your own good. Be careful not to replace My voice with someone else’s or seek affirmation from worldly sources — it will lead you into trouble. I want you to shut them down for a while. Don’t post a status saying you will be stopping — that focuses the attention on you — just stop. I’ll let you know when you can go back on.”
Lessons From The Dark
Now, this wasn’t easy. When I went dark:
– I lost that constant stream of worldly affirmation I was getting through hits, retweets, reposts, comments, likes, and the rest.
– I wasn’t getting immediate feedback and had to wait for God to speak rather than seek the voice of others.
– The constant flow of digital information stopped and I felt out of touch. When the only voice inputting new information was the voice of God through scripture, worship music, meditation and prayer, I found that it wasn’t enough, which was quite scary for me to realize.
– I found myself craving media. In fact, there were times that I just wanted to see the glowing light of a screen — I didn’t even care what was on it. There’s something seriously wrong with that.
– I learned that I multitask way too much and don’t focus my activities for any length of time, so not stopping to check e-mail, Twitter and Facebook feeds right in the middle of reading a book was actually difficult.
Now That I’m Back
It took at least 7 days before my mind stopped saying “Hey, post that” or “Go check Twitter”, but after that time, things started to get so much better. I felt closer to God, less stressed, less pressed, more focused. I picked up a book and read page after page, and was able to really get into it and take the journey with the author. Going dark became a joyful and learning experience for me.
I almost didn’t come back. I almost closed all my accounts and stayed dark. The only reason I didn’t was because of God saying that He gave me this voice, and the technology to get it out there, for His glory and He wants me to use it. So, I’m back and hoping to bring you better, more focused, deeper and more helpful content than ever. After all, the mission of this blog is to be “Passionately dedicated to helping you find the tools and inspiration you need to pursue a deeper, consistent and more meaningful relationship with God.”
If there is any way I can do that, please let me know!*
*Yes, I realize that writing this post and ending it by asking for feedback drips with irony.
*Own your “Why?” – A Christian Response to Halloween
** Grafting Dead Branches on a Fruit Salad Tree
* This is my most most read recent article.
** This is my most read article — ever!
The above video spurred me to write this entry. It touched me deeply and reminded me of who God is creating me to be, where I have come from, and why I do what I do the way I do it. It is beautifully shot, and powerfully narrated by John Calvin. I encourage you to dim the lights, turn on the HD feed, and let it touch your heart.
Why Reformed Theology?
Over the last months I have used some intimation the words “I teach Reformed theology” or “I’m a Calvanist” about seventy-billion times. I don’t know why it keeps coming up (maybe it’s because it’s on my mind and I subconsciously steer the conversation — who knows?) but it seems to be ever-present. Perhaps the fact that yesterday was Reformation Day had something to do with it. How committed am I? Check out what I was handing out to the kids who came to the door for
Halloween Reformation Day candy.
Invariably, the next thing people ask me “why?”. Not in a “Please tell me more” kind of way, but with the same reaction one would give to someone who just said, “I blow my nose with saran-wrap”. What? Why? That’s weird. People don’t do that, do they?
Fundamentalists / Calvinists / Reformers don’t have the greatest reputation where I live. They are seen as closed minded, harsh, critical, judgmental, fear-mongering, and unloving (they’re not — at least the ones I know, read, and have met aren’t). So, why on earth would I ever associate myself with that group?
My answer is simply this: “Reformed theology answers my deepest questions in the most satisfying way that emphasizes Jesus and brings the most glory to God.” I take comfort in it and I believe it gives the most credit and praise to the person of Jesus Christ and the works He is doing and has done. It is around Him that my life and theology revolves. It is in Him I find the answers.
Yes, some of the concepts are so huge my mind can’t stretch enough to envelop them, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I’ve learned to distrust folks who can’t live with paradox or seem to have all the answers.
I love the way that John Piper answered this question. He said,
“I am a lover of the Reformed faith….I speak of love for this legacy the way I speak of loving a cherished photo of my wife. I say, “I love that picture.” You won’t surprise me if you point out, “But that’s not your wife, that’s a picture.” Yes. Yes. I know it’s only a picture. I don’t love the picture instead of her, I love the picture because of her. She is precious in herself. The picture is precious not in itself, but because it reveals her. That’s the way theology is precious. God is valuable in himself. The theology is not valuable in itself. It is valuable as a picture. That’s what I mean when I say, “I love reformed theology.” It’s the best composite, Bible-distilled picture of God that I have.” (Link)
That’s where I’m at too. Reformed theology gives me the best picture of God I have seen.