7.22.2011

Book Review: True North

I stumbled across a tweet somewhere on the tangled nest that is Twitter a few months ago where I learned that Kregel, a publishing company, had a program where they gave books away to those who agreed to post a review of the book on their blog. I opted in, chose a book, and here I am writing this review.

The book I chose to receive and review was True North, by Gary and Lisa Heim. Gary and Lisa are Christian counselors who have been in practice many years and the book definitely reflects this. I had never heard of the authors before nor was I even very familiar with Kregel, but their book's subject was most appealing to me out of the choices I had, so I chose True North. It turned out to be a very good decision, and not just because I have a somewhat inordinate affection for books.

If you asked me, "What did this book teach you?" I would tell you this: 

Through life, we experience groaning; we experience the longing of desire. When we are confronted with one of life's many frustrations, we groan. We can go in two directions with our groaning: north or south. We can go south, begin to grumble in discontent, believe the lie that God is not enough for us, and seek the fulfillment of our desire in idols or we can go north, identify the lie that says we need something other than God to be satisfied, reject that lie, find satisfaction in God, and then spread our joy in God with others in generous, sacrificial giving. Experience groaning again and repeat.

The authors summarized their book well with this diagram:


Their stated purpose of the book is, "to stir and stoke the fire of your heart's affections for Jesus Christ" (p.24). I have found that this book accomplishes its purpose well. While it focuses largely on instruction on how we can face our groaning and the frustrations of life, the instruction Gary and Lisa give, heeded well, will certainly lead the reader to become a greater lover of Jesus and their fellow man. Here's a few poignant excerpts from the book that stirred my affections:
"Whether the daily problems I'm facing are big or small, I'm learning to stop and prayerfully ask myself questions like these: Do I believe God is sovereign and in control in this painful moment? Do I believe he is good right now, that his love is enough to sustain me no matter what happens? Do I believe God has a good purpose for allowing that car to go slow in front of me, for allowing Lisa to get up from the table and leave? Will I remember God, surrender and submit to him right now, and stop grumbling? Will I stop going south into anger and unbelief and pray for help to go north to Jesus so I can love God and love people from my heart?" (p. 35)
"Frustration and locked doors are gifts from God. They are God's agents of change. Disappointments, annoying people, and difficult circumstances are all used by God to surface the lies we believe." (p. 127)
"Godly grief is sorrow mixed with faith. Grumbling, on the other hand, feels the pain of broken dreams and raises a fist at God. It's sorrow mixed with unbelief." (p. 132)
"You never really see your own folly until you see it in writing." (p. 167)
"[Truth] transforms us when we trust in God's love enough to take the risk of being fully honest and emotionally naked with him; letting him see all our brokenness, sin, and failure. We must linger with him in prayer and confession, allowing him to look deep into our eyes. We must not pull back in shame or try harder to shape up in order to earn his love. In those vulnerable and intimate moments, we have the opportunity to receive and experience God's love." (p. 172)
"We can't become wholehearted followers of Jesus while hiding secrets and cowering in fear or shame." (p. 200)
"We long for safe friends who are not demanding. We long for friendships where we share deep belly laughs around good food at our favorite restaurant. We yearn for good people with whom we can be ourselves, having no need to pretend. But it's easy to have friends who are just fun, convenient, and comfortable. That poses a problem. There's no risk and little chance of growth. People who are hungry for God long for something more than safety and good times." (p. 232)
Gary and Lisa quote a number of helpful people throughout the book, such as John Piper (the authors reiterate Piper's thesis of christian hedonism in their own words at one point), C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, A.W. Tozer, John Ortberg, and Larry Crabb (who wrote the foreword). If you are wondering about the author's commitment to orthodox, biblical Christianity, then fear not. They are solid. I particularly liked their thoughts on how God's word changes us (starts at p. 217). The only thing that made me scratch my head and feel a little disconnect was their usage of the phrase "still, small voice." I can't find the passage where they used such language (sorry), but my point is that I think more clear language could be used instead of that cliche term which carries some strange baggage with it (a.k.a. the "God told me so syndrome").

One interesting thing was that this book heavily uses the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible and to a lesser extent The Message by Eugene Peterson. I had not been a huge fan of these two biblical sources before but I have come to appreciate them more through this book, especially the NLT. I might pick a copy up.

To conclude, I recommend True North for your reading pleasure and edification. It presents a biblical, God-honoring framework that can help you address frustrations and direct you to worship God in how you live life. This is very much a whole life book - you can apply something from this book to every day of your life. Oh, and it has wonderful end-of-chapter discussion/reflection questions!

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