For the past several days, I've been reading in Gary Thomas' new book The Beautiful Fight. Thomas is the author of several books on spiritual formation that have done well in the past decade or so, particularly Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting. I've read four or five of his other books, starting with his first Seeking the Face of God. They've all been good, but (so far, I'm about 1/3 through) this one is the best yet. This is an engaging book on everyday spiritual transformation, grounded in a theology of the ascension of Christ. Understanding that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven bodily and physically (thus distinguishing Christianity from dualistic thinking that views the body as inherently evil), he then explores how the presence of Christ through the Spirit can transform how we use our bodies every day. The chapter I read this afternoon was called "Eyes that See." Here's just a few of the take-aways:
"When we remember that we deserve hell, with all of its torments, we are able to 'see' God's kindness even in the midst of our present disappointments."
"Through a conscious, meditative turning and a determined effort, we need to consistently reset our eyes to gain God's perspective."
"Sometimes God answers our prayers by changing our perception instead of our circumstances."
"The gospel of transformation calls us to progress from not lusting to having eyes that honor, respect, and generate compassion. God wants to transform our eyes from being selfish possessors and consumers to being his servants of selfless love."
"Christian family life is a journey of maintaining God-sight and cultivating God's heart for our spouses, our kids, and our families."
And there's lots more.
The chapters to come include, "Mouths that Speak", "Ears that Hear", "Minds that Think", and "Hands and Feet Used by God." Thomas is an excellent writer. His books are always full of powerful reflections on personal experiences, striking illustrations, and the best quotations culled from Reformed, Wesleyan, and Contemplative schools of spiritual formation. At times, I have been uncomfortable with Thomas' frequent quotations and allusions to the medieval mystics and author from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. But his evangelical convictions are obvious in this book and his applications solid - grounded in grace and promoting personal transformation and real-life holiness. This is a good book. Might be worth putting in your shopping cart.