I received a free copy of this book from B&H/Lifeway in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve decided that I am going to add book reviews to my blog. I love to read (which is good for my writing) and writing the reviews will also give me practice writing in small chunks without having to come up with a unique plot first. And hopefully this will give me inspiration!
The first book I am reviewing is actually a Bible study called “Living In Truth” by Mary Jo Sharp. I was drawn to this book because living as a Christian in the current culture is not easy. Talking to people about our faith in this culture is not easy. And some Christians go about it the wrong way.
I can remember listening to a radio show with a “Christian” man who was taking calls from people concerning controversial issues in the news. While I agreed with many of his views, his way to express them to people was rude and uncalled for. We seem to forget sometimes that our main goal, the main goal that God gave to us, is try and bring people to Him. And we do that because we love these people and we want them to know God for that reason and we want them to escape an eternity without Him. It’s not simply because it’s wrong and we want to force people to believe the same things we do; it’s because we care. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This book shows how to have an actual discussion with someone about controversial issues and not an argument.
The study is split into six week long sessions with five days in each week. Each day has a different conversational goal. The first week’s conversational goals are centered on seeing the need. Not only why we want to tell people about Jesus, but why we need to learn a new way to go about it.
Week one also discusses truth. In just the first week, it already really gets you thinking. She doesn’t just want you to know what you believe. She makes you really think about why you believe those things.
This leads into week two where you really get into what you believe. She talks about how you cannot just believe whatever you want without consequences. Beliefs have consequences, either bad or good. She also discusses how we need to be able recognize the “trash” in our society and not to accept what is worldly just because it is what is popular now. We must always see it for what it is.
Mary Jo uses lots of great visuals that really helped me to understand the concepts she was talking about. For example, when talking about the above, she referenced Star Wars (and who doesn’t love Star Wars?! Well, the old ones). She said Christians in the world are like when the main characters get stuck in that trash compactor. If they hadn’t realized they were surrounded by trash and needed to keep their eye on the goal of getting out of it, they would have died in there (she words it much better than me).
She also discusses how some people say that everyone can have the own truth and how they can all be equally true. This does not make logical sense. What about two beliefs that contradict each other? Logically, they cannot both be true. Either only one is or they are both wrong.
Week three is a very important topic: listening! We can’t just throw our opinions in their faces. We need to have an actual discussion and that involves listening, even if you completely disagree with what they’re saying. One of the important aspects of listening that she discusses is to determine whether a statement they make is subjective or objective, as they might not even realize that they are viewing a subjective belief as objective.
This leads into the last few weeks of the study where she discusses how to share our beliefs, how to question what they say in a polite and thoughtful way, and how to answer questions they have about our beliefs.
I like how she constantly encourages the reader to listen and be respectful. When we are rude delivering our views we just push people even further away from God. Is that what He wants? No. He wants us to show people the truth and point them toward Him. But He also doesn’t want to want us to go so far in the other direction that we are telling people that it is okay to sin. We need to speak the truth in love. Truth and love. “In conversations about belief in God, we need to show respect for the other person in practical and meaningful ways. One of these ways is to actually listen for the other person’s point of view and/or argument” (Mary Jo Sharp).
One of the ways she encourages us to converse with others is to ask questions. When they make a comment about a hot topic issue that makes you just want to scream, ask them a question like “why do think that?” or “what do you mean by that?” instead of just diving in and refuting their claim. This allows you to better see where they’re coming from and also to get them to really think about it too and to see any errors that might be in that thinking. Plus, it helps them to open up when they see that you are not there for a fight, but a genuine, respectful conversation.
I don’t know that I would use a lot of her suggested responses, however, as I think the way they are worded sound a little…jerky. I think they would be taken the wrong way and make the person angry. I agree with the concept, but I think they need to be worded a little differently.
I would love to go through this study again but in a group and really delve into the questions because they really make you think. Not just on how to discuss with other people, but also getting your own beliefs in line with the Bible. Overall I really enjoyed this study and believe that it has done me good. I have actually begun having a conversation with a very liberal person on Facebook and we have been able to have an actual discussion with no anger or anything mean being written. I didn’t attack, I just asked a question like she recommends and it really did open the door to a legitimate discussion.