"The God First Life", by Stovall Weems (book review)
I was requested to read and review a soon-to-be released copy of "The God First Life", by Rev. Stovall Weems. Mark Batterson ("In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" author) wrote the foreword, and I liked his work, so I figured I'd take the opportunity to read this one. Overall, I liked it. It wasn't too deep, but it covered some highly important points for the maturing Christian life.
LAYOUT: The premise of the book is this: "The God-first life entails _____", and those blanks are filled in by the four short parts. Part 1: "New Priority"; Part 2: "New Family"; Part 3: "New Life"; and Part 4: "New Freedom". Essentially, the four parts take the reader from salvation to freedom in Christ. Aside from any strong or weak points in the book, the best point emphasized is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many "Christian growth" or "inspirational" books neglect the gospel; but not this one. I think the readership that will be most helped by this book is the new Christian -- someone still trying to figure out how to navigate life in a new life with Christ.
MOST INFLUENTIAL PART: I found Part 3 (chapters 5-8) to be most helpful. Chapter 7 was probably my favorite -- "You've Got to Feed Yourself". I say this chapter was most influential because I think the issue addressed covers the spectrum from young to mature Christians alike. Many Christians live by the notion that attending worship gatherings every Sunday morning is for the purpose of simply "learning". Additionally, many believe it to be not just the "main course" of feeding for their hectic week, but the ONLY course of "food" intake.
Pastor Weems intelligently connects an infant's craving for a bottle with the believer's life. When the infant doesn't get what he wants -- food -- he wails and throws a tantrum. Many Christians can be like the infant, demanding the pastor feed them, but then throwing tantrums (i.e., complaining or leaving a church body) when they go "hungry". Pastor Weems thoughtfully makes the argument that as Christians mature, we must learn to feed ourselves -- just as the infant grows and learns eventually to feed himself.
Another "like" in Part 3 came in chapter 8 -- "Are You Ready for Greatness" -- where Pastor Weems continues with the theme of "New Life". There, he addresses issues that influence Christian growth and maturity -- prayer and service. He clearly indicates that a believer's life ought not to be reserved for Sundays only, but ought to impact every day of the week. He tells a simple story involving his wife, using it as a way to inspire readers to get involved in simple, day-to-day tasks that take the Kingdom of God to the world.
LEAST INSIGHTFUL: I mentioned earlier that chapter 7 was my favorite. I still think that, even though chapter 7 contained my biggest disagreement in the entire book. Between pages 110 and 113, Pastor Weems suggests believers should read only one Bible chapter a day. While I understand his rationale is that we are better equipped to meditate on a smaller chunk than we are a larger one, I think his recommendation misses the mark. I say this because just a short time later within that page grouping, Pastor Weems asks, "What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture?" (p.112).
I think this suggestion is potentially problematic because it encourages the notion that WE are at the center of the Bible's meaning and interpretation. Many have succumbed to the standard question, "What does it mean for ME?" Sadly, we have abandoned understanding the Bible to be about JESUS, making ourselves the primary subjects. I'm not sure how a new/young believer can possibly understand the fullness of the Cross when she doesn't understand all that lay beneath the surface of that beautiful-horrible event. Reading and meditating on just one chapter per day isn't going to lay a solid foundation that lays the groundwork for understanding the necessity of the Cross.
Reading such small portions prevents believers from interpreting scripture with scripture. After all, reading just a chapter a day -- strictly -- would take 1, 189 days. I forgot what I ate for breakfast last week, let alone what chapter #x was about 2 years ago. Instead, I would recommend to all believers to read large chunks of scripture and meditate on its overarching theme, or even upon a thought or phrase that sticks out. Then, when the Cross comes into view just a few months later it will make much more sense and have a more profound impact for life transformation.
RATING: Overall, I liked the book. I think it would make a good primer for churches or discipleship mentors looking to provide a resource to new believers who need help navigating life in Christ. For the mature believer, I'd bypass the book for a deeper read. However, for the young believer, snag it and take Pastor Weems's suggestions to heart -- and put God first and at the center of your life! That said, I give "The God First Life" 3 1/2 stars.
DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Zondervan Publishers (via Icon Media Group) in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine, and have not been coerced upon me to provide a positive review.
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