In the process of writing this blog, I watched a video where Dominic Steele, a minister from Australia, interviews the author of this book, Tim Chester about the book, his church and how he’s able to write so much. The answer to the last question was somehow surprising. I don’t know what I expected to hear, maybe something about being disciplined. You’ll have to watch the video to find out his answer. Tim Chester on screen comes across just like how he comes through the pages, very easy to follow, explaining big concepts in approachable ways, passionate and gentle. And I think that writer’s voice keeps coming through the pages throughout the book and that’s what draws me to this book most.
The First Surprise: the ‘God-ness’ of God
I never thought about it in this way before, the fact that we can’t know or relate to the essence of God.
“Often we talk about ‘God’ in this generic way and we try to relate to ‘God’. I think Christian theology throughout the centuries has said actually we don’t relate to ‘God’. We can’t know the essence of God because the being of God is utterly unknowable to us. However the good news is that we have relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. We have relationship with the persons of God. And they have relationship with each other, and in grace and love they have extended that relationship to us. The very simple important principle is encouraging people to think about how the Father is relating to them and how they can respond; how the Son is relating to them and how they can respond; how the Spirit is relating to them and how they can respond.” Tim Chester explains in the video I mentioned above.
This immediately reminds me of Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him, where she talks about the qualities of God that we definitely don’t have, for example: infinite, incomprehensible, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal etc etc. We’ll have to come back to this at a later date.
The Second Surprise: It Depends on What We Do
‘What?!’ You gave a silent cry. If you believe that your salvation depends on faith in Christ alone and not on your own effort, you’re bound to be alarmed. And I agree with you!
The author makes a clear distinction between our ‘union’ with God and our ‘communion’ with God. The union depends on Christ’s work alone one hundred percent. The communion, and how much we enjoy the communion and the relationship, depend on what we do.
To be honest, I never thought about it in this way either, which set me up nicely for the next surprise…
The Third Surprise: Do You Like God?
“Normally we’re pretty adept at deciding whether we like someone. After a few minutes of meeting someone, we quickly form an impression of whether we like them or not. How is it, then, that some of us have known God for years without ever deciding whether we like him?”
It might sound like an odd question and personally I also thought it a bit irreverent at the beginning. But thinking about the reason that I don’t have a straightforward answer to this question reveals a lot about my understanding of and my relationship with God. Just stop and have a think how would you answer this question.
The Observer’s Book of God
The author is full of the lovely English ways that I had never heard of before I moved to this country: he loves bird watching (the Australian Dominic Steele seems to find that unusual), he has an allotment and he “grew up on the Observer’s Books” – I had to google them.
He said this book is the “Observer’s Book” of God. “It identifies the main ways in which God interacts with us each day.” I really love the personal story he told to illustrate the point and the comment that “We sometimes ask God to be present or to act. But all the time God is around us, behind us and before us. It’s as if we can’t move without bumping into him. What we really need is eyes to see and ears to hear.”
And in the following chapters, the author helps us to do just that: to spot the gifts from God the Father, the son and the Spirit, to recognise the gifts as blessings and to respond with specific actions in our everyday life. As a result, we’ll experience and enjoy our relationship with God more.
A minor but very important point to me. The paper stock is lovely and thick and there’s a watercolour-paper-like texture to it, which means my rich coral red highlighter (which matches the front cover) doesn’t bleed through the page!