I'm very glad that I had the pleasure of reading Stephen Altrogge's new book The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. The content of this book is absolutely fantastic and I believe very relevant to our time. I also found it very relevant to my life. Altrogge begins the book with this statement, "I've never believed in conspiracies." He then goes on to say, "Then I discovered that I was part of a conspiracy...it's a conspiracy between the world, my heart, and Satan to steal my happiness. These three are plotting and scheming together to make me perpetually discontent." There is so much vying for our attention that we continually play the "if only" game. He says at the very beginning that he's not writing it as someone that is content but as someone that is still battling in this area. He wants us to fight with him, and I for one want to join in that fight. As I continued to read page after page, I saw so much of me and what I struggle with. This book has made me stop and think about where I need to go to find the contentment that I long for. Altrogge continues to point us to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is where we need to go. He writes this,
"The Gospel of Christ is the fountainhead of contentment. In the gospel we have access to infinite blessings. But if we don't drink often we will always be thirsty."
If we lose sight of the fact that contentment comes only from God we're always going to be searching for it in something or someone else, and that will never quench that thirst. Until Jesus Christ comes again and takes us home to heaven, we're always going to struggle with this. We can continue to find contentment in Christ, but there is always going to be a struggle and a pull for us to be discontent and search for contentment in all the wrong places. Altrogge leaves us with hope though. We have hope in the Gospel of Christ now, but we also have the hope of heaven for when Christ comes back or we go to heaven to be with Him forever. He concludes his book by pointing us to heaven, "When we're in heaven, the battle will be over. Contentment will not be a struggle. Peace, pleasure, and joy will take the day. This is my hope. I haven't yet learned to be content in all circumstances, but I'm fighting. I'm fighting because I know this isn't my home. I was made for Jesus, and I was made for heaven. And so were you. But until that day we need to fight."
As I was reading "The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side Of The Fence," by Stephen Altrogge my first thought was that this is a book that the devil does not want you to read. Satan is the father of lies and he has created a conspiracy based on the lie that God is not good and that someone else has a better life then you. Stephen Altrogge's aim in this book is to equip the reader with gospel truths to be on guard against Satan's lies. Altrogge does not write as someone who has it all together or as someone who has vanquished the sin of discontentment in his life. The attitude of Altrogge is that of a seasoned soldier who has been to war with discontentment and has the battle scars to prove it, as well as strategies from battle that have kept him alive.
The truths that Altrogge presents the reader with to help them fight for contentment are not psychological, self-help, therapeutic answers to tickle your ears. The key to contentment is found in worship and understanding how the great the God is that we are called to worship and how little we are. "Content is created in the shadow of the majesty of God. I become content when I see and treasure and embrace the glory of God. I find contentment when I grasp the fact that life is not primarily about me and my comfort and my happiness. My soul is satisfied when I stop trying to elbow my way to the center of the universe and instead rejoice in and worship the God who really is at the center of all things (P.23)"
Altrogge goes on in the book to flesh out what contentment is and what contentment is not. Using the example of King Solomon, the man who had every reason to be content Altrogge presents a character study of how all in this life is vanity and can provide no true satisfaction. Later on Altrogge presents another character study using the apostle Paul and how he learned contentment. Learning contentment isn't easy, but it is a requirement for all who have Heaven as their home and desire to be transformed to be like Christ.
For those unfamiliar with Altrogge, definitely pause from reading this to get familiar with him through his blog, twitter and facebook. Blog: www.theblazingcenter.com/ twitter: twitter.com/stephenaltrogge facebook: www.facebook.com/StephenMAltrogge One of the first things you notice as you become familiar with him is his amazing use of wit and humor. Sometimes he may appear over the top, but if you like Brian Regan and Jon Acuff then you will definitely appreciate his musings.
This book is written in an accessible fashion for anyone to be able to grasp and benefit from. Each chapter ends with application questions that make it great for a group study or to read in your own personal devotional times. A chapter that is worth its weight in gold is the one on the sin of complaining. Complaining is a fruit of discontentment and does not get enough discussion in most Christian circles. That chapter is worth the price of the book alone.
Here are a couple more prize quotes from this book to whet your appetite:
"True contentment is found in a Person. It's not found in getting what we want or in having difficulty removed from our lives. Contentment isn't the result of the absence of pain or the presence of material blessing. It's found in Jesus Christ. Period. Without Christ we can never be truly content, regardless of the blessing that surround us. And with Christ we can be content in the midst of every circumstance. (P. 87) "
"Every event that occurs in our lives has been ordained by God for our good. God is moving all things - singleness, sickness, riches, poverty, children, and infertility - toward one destination: our good and his glory. God is using your constant headaches for good. He's weaving together your recent job promotion, sick daughter, and inability to fix your flooding basement into something glorious and good. There is nothing us to us that God won't use for our good. In fact, the very things that tempt us to be discontent are being used by God for our good (P. 92)."
Great Book on really where Christians find Purpose
May 30, 2011
The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge was a very enjoyable, convicting, thought-provoking read that led me to seriously re-evaluate my walk with the Lord and see where my satisfaction rests. What is it going to take to satisfy my heart? Where am I going to find contentment in this world? My heart tells me one thing, but it also lies to me; the bible tells me another way. The author explains in a very practical way that nothing outside of God will satisfy our hunger. Maybe this is way Jesus says in John 4 that if we drink of the water he supplies we will never be thirsty again. Altrogge takes the reader through various bible characters like Solomon who did not find contentment in the world's pleasures and at the end of his life declared in Ecclesiastes that all is vanity and chasing after the wind. A point that I found very poignant was how Altrogge showed how the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11 had to learn how to be content. Prior to learning how to be content in whatever circumstance God put him in; he was more than like a complainer, a grumbler, an ungrateful sinner_like someone I know very well; namely myself. God had to put him through all manner of trials so in the end Paul would find his joy and contentment in his relationship with Jesus Christ. God has used this book to help show me where I should be finding my contentment in. In the book Altrogge puts a more contemporary tone on Habakkuk 3:17-18: "Though I lose my job, and my retirement package is shattered and my house destroyed and my health ruined, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." To which I add an enthusiastic Amen!
I received an advanced copy of this book for my review, from Crossway.
Stephen Altrodgge has given us a great short book on the subject of "Contentment" or should I say our American Culture's lack of "Contentment." Even worse, our Western Evangelical Church (Christian) lack of "Contentment." This book reminded me a lot about Richard Foster's work on "Simplicity" and also the "Celebration of Discipline" when he addressed the issue of "materialism."
Altrodgge gives us lots to think about in regards to our attitude towards God and our attitude towards "things." His opening chapter deals with how we all play the "If Only" game. It goes like this, "If only I had the latest smart phone (or insert any other product you desire) I would be happy." How many times have we all played this game? If only I was married, if only I had more money, if only I had a higher IQ. Why is it that we can't be happy with what we have? Because we don't "Trust" God.
He points out to us that scripture defines us well, Mark 7:21-23 states, "for from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Further he quotes John Calvin and says that he nailed us, "Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols." So what idol (or thing) are you worshipping or craving today?
Chapter three deals with our heart issue. On page 28 Altrodgge states, "Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God's will, whatever that may be." In summary, we are not content because we are outside of God's will.
Chapter four deals with the fact that we are idolaters. He quotes Tim Keller, "If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol." This chapter relates this problem to our societies push through commercials that we will only be happy if we drink the right beer, take the right medication, go to the right movies and read our e-books on the right e-book reader (ok, so I own a Kindle, is that so bad? Well it is if I end up worshipping it more than God).
Chapter five deals with the issue of Solomon's riches and his finding that all of it was "vanity." We strive after everything under the sun only to discover it is worthless. So, why do we do this? Because we believe that we deserve the best of all things. But is that true? Do we sinful humans really deserve blessings? The answer is NO, we don't deserve that but God finds joy in giving us blessings.
Chapter eight is "In search of the secret." Well, the answer is easy, the secret is found in Hebrews 13:5-6, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, â€˜I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, â€˜The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
That is a great summation of the entire book. There is more I could write and tell you, but why should I when Stephen Altrogge has done such a good job in this book.
I know you will enjoy it, but you will also be challenged by how you live your life and may walk away a bit angry at Stephen for pointing out to you how fruitless your life journey is in searching for more â€˜things.'
I was thankful to have the opportunity to review this book from Crossway. While it is a quick read, I found myself re-reading sentences, paragraphs and even chapters. It is written well, scripture focused, and gospel saturated. As I read this book, I found myself examining my life and through that process discovering idols in my life that needed to be shattered. It confronts the mindset that too many of us live with, if only (I could get that perfect wife, job, car, body, etc) then I would be (happy, content, satisfied, have purpose, have identity). It is time we break out of the bondage we are under, being bound to a life of discontentment, a life looking at what appears to be the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
Altrogge does a great job of pointing one back to the gospel message and our identity in Christ. There is something liberating when a believer comes to not just know but experience fully their identity in Christ rather than their identity in 'things.' As we pursue 'things' we find after some time that the 'things' look greener, better, more satisfying on the other side.
There is nothing better than knowing my identity is not in what I do, what I have, or how much I have; rather my identity is in Christ! You can take away what i do, what i have and how much i have but you can't take away my identity in Christ!
It is time to expose the conspiracy, repent, and pursue Christ. One will never be content with things. God used Stephen Altrogge and The Greener Grass Conspiracy to bring me back to that stream of living water refreshing my soul. Be prepared not only to have your idols exposed, but to tear them down!