Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Great Unfinished Book Week

So, it's time to create another holiday, or week long celebration. If the Hallmark folks can do it, why can't bloggers?

This week is "Great Unfinished Books" week at PureChurch. It's a week of short book reviews and plugs... great books that I've worked through at some length, but not finished. The fact that I've not finished reading them is no reflection on the author or the book... just my tendency to read a few books at once with not enough reading hours in the day. So, these are great books that deserve a plug and shouldn't have to wait for that mention until I've finished my reading list.

Also, I want to give some attention to books that have perhaps received some early press that are worthy of some continuing coverage. If you're like me as a book buyer/reader, you probably have a mental list of books that you've noted for purchase and read but sometimes some good ones fall off the radar.

First up, I want to commend to you Dave Harvey's book, When Sinners Say 'I Do': Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage.

Now, first a confession. I'm not a regular reader of relationship books. Honestly, most of them are a bit too syrupy for my liking. And I think this is the case for a lot of men (not to be too stereotypical).

So, it's with great delight that I picked up and began reading When Sinners Say "I Do." Harvey's writing is engaging, insightful and flat out funny. The book reads like a really good sermon, one with biblical insight and constant engagement with the audience. As an author, Harvey comes off as "one of the guys," not as a "relationship expert" with sure-fire, copyrighted strategies. It's refreshing.

But the books best feature is its focus on the gospel and gospel application to marriage. Many relationship books linger on roles, communication, and the like--all good stuff. But generally, those books assume an audience of marriage novices, people on the front end of marriage or even pre-marriage. So, they take on primer like qualities. Harvey's book assumes people may have some years under their belts, may have some scars or disillusion, and are in need of a fresh appropriation of the Good News. In other words, it's a book that battle-tested veterans can read and say, "Yeah... it's like that. Oh, that's helpful."

In When Sinners Say "I Do," the gospel meets the real life of marriage. Chapter 1 makes the case for why sound theology matters in marriage and why theology is inescapable in marriage. In Harvey's words, "marriage is street-level theology." Chapter 2, "Waking Up with the Worst of Sinners," is a good look at how our sin nature affects our relationships. Chapter 3 continues the look at sin and the battle we must fight against it (love the Civil War foil). Chapter 4 begins to apply some of the good theological basis Harvey lays in the first three chapters. Four points:

1. In humility, suspect yourself first.
2. In integrity, inspect yourself.
3. Admit that circumstances only reveal existing sin.
4. Focus on underserved grace, not unmet need.

I do my share of marriage counseling. Reflecting on my own marriage and those I have the privilege of helping, these are sound guidelines for working through conflict and living a joyful marriage.

Chapter 5, "Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment: How to Sweeten the Days and Years," asks this excellent question. "Have you ever thought that passing along God's mercy might be one of the main reasons why you're married?" Harvey writes, "deep, profound differences are the reality of every marriage. It's not the presence of differences but the absence of mercy that makes them irreconcilable." Yep. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

And I'm not just saying that because this is as far as I've gotten :-). The fact is, this is as far as I've gotten because I've read and re-read this chapter on mercy. I'm going to include it in the readings I use in marital and pre-marital counseling.

If you only read half the book, you will have doubled your money on this one. I intend to finish this great unfinished book.
What other people say:
Tim Challies (review)
Faithful Reader (review)
"Nourishment for Ladies" (brief review)
Armchair Interviews (review)
Interviews with Dave Harvey (HT: PastorBookshelf)
Challies at Discerning Reader (interview)
Westminster Bookstore (interview)

1 comment:

samurai said...

An excellent book... one that couples can use no matter if they are engaged, or married for 30+ years.