"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 truebut 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, www.apprenticeofjesus.com. This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived byto know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimedand to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God.
James Bryan Smith (MDiv, Yale University Divinity School, DMin, Fuller Seminary) is a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a writer and speaker in the area of Christian spiritual formation. He also serves as the director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University. A founding member of Richard J. Foster's spiritual renewal ministry, Renovaré, Smith is an ordained United Methodist Church minister and has served in various capacities in local churches. Smith is also the editor of (with Richard Foster), and .
James Bryan Smith. InterVarsity Press, $22 (232p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3531-7
Not every book on developing spiritual intimacy with God includes chapters on getting enough sleep and learning to slow down. But Smith (Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven), a professor at Friends University, seems very conscious that he is writing for a hectic, driven age and has tailored his recommendations for soul-training accordingly. The number one spiritual sickness of our day is hurry sickness, writes the author. Smith challenges those who seek to follow God to examine the stories they already know about God, engage in new spiritual practices and enter in dialogue with others under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Using sources as diverse as Anglican poet George Herbert and contemporary author Malcolm Gladwell, Smith analyzes false narratives (we can work our way to God) and asks the reader to replace them with new ones (God works His way to us). Although created for small groups and classes, the many exercises and questions that pepper the book reflect the influence of Smiths mentor Richard Foster, a leading thinker on spiritual formation. These can guide individuals who seek to deepen their knowledge of God. (July) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"I have observed that every individual, whether a new beliver or seasoned veteran, has given testimony of a new joy in their journey as a result of this book. The content is sound, inspiring and enlightening."
"This first book in The Apprentice Series, The Good and Beautiful God, is a treasure. Dr. Smith has thought long and hard about the process of human transformation into the likeness of Jesus. I urge you to buy this book immediately! Read it and apply it. Then live it out in the context of a loving community. You will not regret doing so."
Other authors have written extensively on spiritual disciplines and the spiritual life, but few have created a curriculum that is as accessible to the common believer seeking spiritual growth. I exuberantly recommend this book to anyone interested in a practical model of spiritual growth.
"I predict this book, and the two more in the series, will become deeply influential books in evangelical churches that want to deepen spiritual formation."
"If you're looking for books to help patrons rekindle or enhance their relationships with God, buy this one. Highly recommended for small groups interested in deepening their relationships with God."
"Make spiritual mentors, group leaders, youth pastors, Christian educators, and Willard/Foster fans aware of this material."
"Smith challenges those who seek to follow God to examine the stories they already know. . . . [Includes] exercises and questions . . . to deepen their knowledge of God."
"I know from our long relationship that Jim Smith is a fine and trustworthy man, who authentically knows 'the good and beautiful God.' I can think of no higher compliment than this: I would happily trust the care of my soul to Jim and the good and beautiful God he commends to us."
"The Apprentice Series is the best practice I have seen in Christian spiritual formation."