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Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

As Real and Raw As It Gets: Review By Dr. David P. Craig

At the outset, there is no doubt about it; this book is going to be controversial. However, before I spend the rest of this review focused on the controversy that will ensue, I think that there is a ton of good advice, encouragement, and — take it from a pastor that’s been married for twenty years with five kids myself (ironically like Mark) – they make marriage as real as it gets, the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies, and the thrills of victory with the help of Jesus at the center of it all.

We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sexual images, discussions, and details that sometimes feel like a barrage from which we can never get away from – and I don’t think we will encounter less, but an increasingly greater exposure to all things related to sex. Many pastors and theologians will attack this book in particular for the issues the Driscoll’s discuss. They are very open and honestly discuss and tackle a lot of the questions that never get asked “in church.” However, in my experience as a pastor and life coach I am grateful that the Driscoll’s address the reality of the times in which we are living. No sexual rock is left unturned – but dealt with thoughtfully, theologically, and forthrightly.

I think one of the reasons for so much open talk about sex is the fact that the Driscoll’s minister to literally thousands of men and women in their early twenties – and it happens to be a very hot topic in their context.

Perhaps the best contribution of this book is how the Driscoll’s turned a marriage on the rocks into a marriage on the Rock – built on the solid foundation that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. Too many partners have the “grass is greener on the other side” mentality. The Driscoll’s demonstrate that all things are possible with God’s guidance and wisdom and especially with Christ at the center of a marriage. Mark states this very important truth, “There are no loving marriages apart from repentance and forgiveness. Marriage either gets bitter or better.” They show how a difficult and broken marriage can be repaired, restored, resurrected, renewed, and rejuvenated by the amazing grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is that it’s never to late to repent and change with God’s help.

I would hesitate to recommend this book to just anyone. Mark and Grace’s style may be too open, vulnerable, and transparent for some people. Also, some of their advise is definitely in the extra/non-biblical category. You will encounter the “reality” of marriage from “real” people who are seeking to do things God’s way for the long haul. If you are “old school” and squeamish about frank talk on sex – I would encourage you to just skip chapter 10. I am grateful that they are willing to be authentic and transparent in addressing issues in such a sexualized culture as ours – especially in a church (Mars Hill) with so many young people asking the questions they are addressing. Whether you agree with what they say in chapter 10 or not – it’s important that you read this in context of the whole book.

If you are a pastor, counselor, or life coach and reading this review I would ask that you read the book first and prayerfully decide whether you would recommend it or not. I will use some its contents in my own marriage and in helping others – again there is a lot of good stuff in this book – a lot of practical applications. There are some things that I agree wholeheartedly with, and others that I do not. I would encourage you also to read Tim Challies’ review on his blog, and Albert Mohler’s review on his blog to see some specific warnings and examples of why this book needs to be taken with a grain of salt – as they say.

There are simply too many other good books on marriage that I can recommend without a single caveat or reservation that are out there: Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage,” R.C. Sproul’s “The Intimate Marriage”, “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerichs, and also “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Tripp, “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, “Marriage Matters” by Winston T. Smith, and “When Sinners Say ‘I Do'” by Dave Harvey would all be books that I would recommend wholeheartedly as books that are biblically and theologically right on – without all the controversy.

However, don’t let some of the “chaff” of this book (and the negative reviews that are sure to come) keep you from enjoying and benefiting from the multitude of wheat (that which is beneficial and practical) contained in the pages of this book. I think chapter 11 with its plethora of ideas, questions, and principles for discussion are more than worth the price of the book. I am grateful for Mark and Grace’s ministry in their home, for the sake of Christ’s Church, and their commitment to tackle all things related to the gospel through the lenses of Scripture, their own experiences, and with a passion for Jesus Christ.

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Book Review: Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald

Go Deeper and Out of the Shallows

 I am a fan of Gordon MacDonald’s books because he has a unique style of writing where he synergistically integrates principles, personal experiences, and biblical insights in such a way that he makes one think and desire to put into practice what he is writing about.

In his newest offering – continuing in the context of what he wrote about in a previous book, “Who Stole My Church” – MacDonald sets out to explore and develop the statement, “The future of the Christian faith will not be determined by the number of people who fill the pews but by the spiritual depth of those people…We seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings. We even seem to know how to draw them across the line into a declaration of personal faith in Jesus. But what we do not seem to know is how to cultivate spiritually deep people. Tomorrow’s church could be headed for trouble.” This book is a fictional exploration in answering these observations based on the experiences of the fictional pastor – GMAC – and his large congregation set in New England in the modern era. Macdonald sets out to “offer a detailed plan of helping churches cultivate people of depth–spiritually mature Christians that truly desire to make a difference for Christ with their lives, that will help grow the church.”

I personally enjoyed the book because as a pastor myself I can relate to almost every story, person, thought, and implication in the book. Like MacDonald I am a pastor that has had many ups and downs with people in seeking to be a “deep Christian” and what that means in the context of seeking to grow a disciple making church. I think pastors will enjoy this book more than most people – because they will be able to identify more with the story than non-pastors will. I would recommend this book either be read while on vacation, or a chapter a day – for Type A people – you will get frustrated because the story line will move too slow for you. As for the more reflective and melancholy types – you will enjoy the story more because it will appeal to you emotionally and you will be more patient with the developing story.

I am very concerned about the shallowness and lack of depth of most churches today, and I am all for “going deep” and think that MacDonald’s book will be used to help steer many church leaders, and thus churches in a positive direction. I hope that this type of book will spur church leaders toward deeper thinking, and result in developing disciples that are deeper and less shallow than what our previous leaders have done with their churches.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for over forty years. For many years he pastored Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massacusetts and continues to serve as Pastor Emertius. He has also provided leadership to influential ministries such as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which he served as President for three years, and World Relief, which he currently serves as Chairman. Gordon’s best-selling books include Ordering Your Private WorldMid-Course Correction and, most recently, A Resilient Life. He also writes and serves as Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal. When not writing, leading or speaking at conferences, Gordon and his wife Gail can be found hiking the trails of New England.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Book Reviews, Leadership

 

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Book Review: Rising To The Call by Os Guinness

Heed The Call To Live For An Audience of One

This short book of approximately 100 pages is a condensed version of Guinness’ larger work “The Call.” In this book the author helps to define our calling in life by showing what  it is not, and helping the reader to decipher what it means to live out one’s calling. His thesis is simply that one cannot truly live out their calling in life (being and doing) without living for their Creator God through following Jesus Christ in every avenue of life – that what you do is based on who you are in Christ.

The whole book is an articulation of this thesis, “For answering the call of Jesus is the greatest adventure, the deepest romance, and the most fascinating journey f our lives. In embracing the call as your master theme, you will be free. In following it, you will be a leader. In giving up everything for this one way, you will find yourself fulfilled in every way—until one day when the ‘last call’ will sound and you will see he Caller face to face and find yourself at home and free.”

I think the most helpful contribution that Guinness makes in this short book is how he demonstrates the extremes of bifurcating our vocation as secular or sacred – and makes a great case for the fact that everyone is “called” in everything and in every way to live for God.

Though small in size the book is full of fantastic quotes, excellent illustrations, and cogent argumentation to augment his thesis. It is not an easy read; sometimes you need to read a sentence or a paragraph more than once (after all – Guinness is an Oxford, England graduate). However, you will benefit from reading this book.

For modern Americans it will not give you the step by step applications you are used to – but it will reward you in the process of thinking how all that you are, and desire to do, can be done to please God – you were made to know and to live for an Audience of One – Jesus Christ. It is essentially a big picture book on discovering your purpose in life, not a step-by-step book. If you are looking for a bunch of steps to finding God’s will for your life you will be disappointed – If you are looking for how God is the center of all of life you will be helped.

 

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