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Good And Beautiful God [Hardcover]

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Item Description...
Helps the reader discover the narratives that Jesus lived by and practice spiritual exercises that will help one grow in the knowledge of God, in a book that is geared toward laypeople and includes a section on how to start up apprentice groups in one's own church.

Publishers Description
"God wants me to try harder." "God blesses me when I'm good and punishes me when I'm bad." "God is angry with me." We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true--but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here. Turning to the Gospels, Smith invites you to put your ideas to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God. Once you've discovered the truth in Scripture, Smith leads you through a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. At the end of each chapter you'll find an opportunity for soul training, engaging in spiritual practices that reinforce the biblical messages on your mind and heart. Because the best way to make a complete and lasting change is to go through the material in community, small group discussion questions also accompany each chapter. Those who are leading apprentice groups will also find additional help and opportunities to interact with other leaders at the Apprentice website, This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived by--to know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimed--and to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   229
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.75" Height: 1"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jul 5, 2009
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830835318  
EAN  9780830835317  

Availability  71 units.
Availability accurate as of Mar 21, 2018 08:55.
Usually ships within one to two business days from New Kensington, PA.
Orders shipping to an address other than a confirmed Credit Card / Paypal Billing address may incur and additional processing delay.

Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Relationships   [0  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Very good!  Feb 17, 2010
Love the layout and the honesty that James brings to the table... I am actively calling your men and women to apprenticeship to Christ and this book has been a huge blessing in making that happen! I am a big fan of DW and James seems to be able to put things into simple terms for me to understand! Very good book and recourse!
simplistic, yet maybe necessary  Feb 16, 2010
This book could easily be a twenty page word document. Each chapter makes a single good point, that should require very little explanation. However, each point is then couched with four to six pages of shoddy research, or quotes from other authors.

A good example is the first chapter, which ruminates on the importance of sleep: "According to numerous studies, the average person needs approximately eight hours of sleep in order to maintain health. This tells me that God has designed humanity to spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping." What exactly are the studies? How does the author decide that these studies somehow prove the will of God?

As further evidence, the author gives the following example: "A physician friend told me that the most frequent prescriptions she writers for her patients are for sleeping problems." A physician friend??? What sort of doctor?

The point that we need to sleep more is worth stating, and maybe worth paying to read. However, these explanations provide very little more because they lack authority.

On a positive note, this book provides clear instruction in the form of "soul training exercises" (a cheesy title) and makes for really good group discussion.

This is not a very good book, but it is the best book I have seen for groups of Christians to use to explore necessary topics together. Until I find a better one, I will recommend this book to small groups.
God is good but...  Feb 6, 2010
I would not read this book. It is confusing as to how God is good and yet somehow He is blamed for the bad. There is no mention of the enemy and what I did read of it was grievous in my spirit.
How True Narratives about God Aid Spiritual Formation  Feb 5, 2010
With The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith inaugurates a three-volume "curriculum for Christlikeness. Volume 2, The Good and Beautiful Life, will focus on "inward character, dealing specifically with the vices that cause ruin." Volume 3, The Good and Beautiful Community, will focus on learning "how to live as apprentices of Jesus in our ordinary, everyday lives." Volume 1, reviewed here, focuses on "the character of God and how we move into a life of intimacy with God."

The nexus between who God is, how we live, and to whom we relate lies at the heart of what Smith believes is "a reliable method for changing our hearts." All of us--whether Christians or not--desire to become better people. But we rely on willpower to do this, when the real problem lies in our hearts. If change is to happen, our hearts must change, but we cannot do this directly. Rather, as Bryan puts it, "we change by indirection." Or, put another way: "We do what we can in order to enable us to do what we can't do directly."

But even this way of stating the matter places too much emphasis on what "we can do." In reality, as Bryan points out, is the Holy Spirit who is at work in us, directing our changed narratives, practices and relationships. "Everything that happens to us in our Christian lives," he writes, "is the work of the Holy Spirit." The fruit of the Spirit in our lives is becoming what God created us to be and what Jesus re-created us to be.

The Good and Beautiful God examines the stories we tell about God, contrasting them with the stories Jesus told about him. It turns out that our narratives about God lie at the root of our soul-sickness and inability to change.

For example, with heartbreaking honesty, Smith tells the story of Madeline, his first child, who was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that eventually took her life at age two. During that time, Christian friends "said some outrageously ignorant and tactless things to us [Smith and his wife]." Some of them revolved around the notion that Madeline's disorder must have been caused by some sin in the life of Bryan or his wife.

This narrative of "the angry God"--"God is an angry judge. If you do well, you will be blessed; if you sin, you will be punished"--is prevalent among Christians. But it is directly contradicted by the narrative Jesus tells about God, namely, that he is good (Matthew 19:17), and that sickness is not the result of sin (John 9:2-3). The false narrative "allows us to live in the illusion that we can control our world, which is very appealing in our chaotic existence." Jesus' narrative requires us to trust in God, even though the world is not always good, although sometimes--of course--it is. Smith concludes, "My own experiences of disappointment with God say more about me and my expectations than they do about God." And, "I have grown much more through my trials than I have through my successes." Only faith in God's essential goodness can sustain that hopefulness in the face of tragedy over a lifetime.

In addition to God's goodness, Smith talks about God being trustworthy, generous, loving, holy, self-sacrificing, and transformative. Each chapter exposes a false narrative about God that distorts some aspect of his character, and offers a "soul-training exercise to help imbed the narrative of Jesus more deeply into our minds, bodies and souls."

I read The Good and Beautiful God in solitude, but it is designed to be read in community. In addition to the soul-training exercises, the book includes a discussion guide. The book is ideal for use in Sunday school classes, small groups, and book clubs. Because it contrasts false and true narratives about God, I think it would even be useful in small groups that have an evangelistic purpose.

In conclusion, I have described the book, but let me briefly describe its effect on me. Like many other Christians, I have mental narratives about God that don't jibe with the God and Father of Jesus Christ. This book patiently, biblically, theologically, and spiritually showed me once again that God is good and beautiful. It left me wanting to know that God better and to live more for him.
Corrects wrong ideas about God, suggests a few wrong ideas himself  Jan 20, 2010
In the The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith addresses many of the "false narratives" that Christians believe about themselves and God. These narratives (such as "I change by my own willpower", "God is angry with me" or "God blesses me when I'm good and punishes me when I'm bad") shape the way believers live their Christian life and can quickly lead to failure and disillusionment. Speaking of Jesus' teachings and parables, Smith suggests "If we adopt Jesus' narratives about God, we will know God properly and right actions will follow". In other words, orthodoxy in the believer will lead to orthopraxy.

I liked the premise of the book and more than a few of his corrective narratives (I hope you can tolerate that word, by the way, he uses it a lot). I think he pinpointed many of the imbalanced views that many Christians have of God and made some good arguments from a counter-narrative.

However, I was disappointed at a couple of points with the seeming lack of balance in his counter arguments. While the false narratives he addresses are caricatures of God (exaggerations that are popular because they are at least somewhat true) it seems his corrective narratives could also be caricatures on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are turning the magnifying glass on the bad theology (and thus bad orthopraxy) of some Christians, you better be ready to have the magnifying glass turned on your theology as well.

I noticed this particularly in the area of mankind's sin. As I hear more about the idea of "therapeutic moralistic deism", I see more of it's influence in the way people talk about their sin. For instance: "God does not want us to sin, and God does want us to do well. But that is only because sin harms us, and acts of goodness are healing both to us and to the recipients of our goodness" or "God hates sin because it hurts his children". I would suggest that God hates sin and doesn't want his children to sin primarily because of who He is (holy, righteous, and the One whose image we bear) and not because of what it does to us.

I also had a couple red flags go up in the chapter entitled "God Is Holy". While he had some very interesting things to say about God's wrath as being pathos and not passion, he also said that God's wrath is a temporary and just verdict on sin and evil. Smith also says, "Hell is simply isolation from God. A person--even a person others think of as decent and upright--who rejects God is experiencing hell on earth". Neither of those sound like the narrative I read from Jesus.

While I do have a couple concerns about the ideas of sin and hell that Smith suggests as a correction to "false narratives", he overall has given us a worthwhile read on spiritual formation. In the end, he does have a lot of good (and beautiful) things to say about our God. I know . . . that was terrible.

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

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