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Monday, March 29, 2004

Here's a review of "Not Even a Hint" from a participant in our "free book for a blog review" program. You can check out the author's blog at http://www.karagraphy.com. I'm posting her review here because it's well written and because I'm thrilled by the main adjectives she chose to define the book...

:::::o:::::o:::::o::::: REVIEW OF "NOT EVEN A HINT" by Joy :::::o:::::o:::::o:::::

I won’t pretend to evaluate this book objectively. None of us come to anything with blank slates and clear spectacles. We all politely push our presuppositions onto the table, and we humbly and hypocritically hide behind our personal baggage after slamming it down with deafening clarity.

Well, I won’t say “we” and speak for others. I’ll say “I.”
(But I’ll mean “we.”)

I mean “we” because my friend says he’s reached the point now where he’d honestly choose homosexuality over heaven. And my friend caught her mom in an adulterous relationship. And my friend walked out on his wife and four children after being involved with another woman over the Internet. And because I myself am neither spotless nor immune.

So, yeah. No vacuum here. I come to this book with a lot of nominal reasons to dump or to minimize, and a lot of undisclosed reasons to hope or to criticize.

Josh Harris doesn’t know that he and I go way back. My respect for him is tempered but intact. To aging ministers who have spent 30-year careers struggling to establish fences at the top of moral cliffs and ambulance and nets at the foot of moral cliffs, Harris may seem like a mere upstart who quoted Elisabeth Elliot and John Piper a few times and got himself a lucky break into the Christian publishing world. Appearances deceive. And our words ought to be sweet and tender since we may someday have to eat them.

One reason I’ve enjoyed all three of Harris’ books is that I come away from them with an increased longing for an increasingly intimate and authentic relationship with the Lover of my soul. A good Christian author will create in you a thirst to go read the Word of the Author and Finisher of our faith. As a 27-year-old with no long-term romantic relationship experience and no immediate plans for such, I feel at least somewhat qualified to say that if a “mere upstart’s” book can help me to meditate on exceedingly-greater future plans and present sanctification rather than the doubts and temptations that barrage and threaten to undo me daily…I confess I don’t care how wet his earbacks may be.

Josh Harris made bigtime automatic points with me when he quoted my all-time favorite song in the world — Before the Throne of God Above. A book that cites this song cannot go wrong. He also quotes from greats like Baxter, Lewis, Ryle, Mohler, Stott, Owen, Piper and Bridges. Again — it’s hard to go wrong.

I took 4 pages of single-spaced notes from this book. It’s a short read, but I had a lot at stake (in addition to my apparently-increasing ADHD-like intolerance for sitting still long enough to read any book these days). And I could say a lot, but I don’t want to rehash a book I’d rather you read for yourself. So I’ll do my best to boil this review down to a couple of adjectives.

:::::o:::::o:::::o::::: GOD-CENTERED :::::o:::::o:::::o:::::

Harris makes no bones about the fact that the glory of God is central and that victory is merely “a byproduct of obedience.” A constant theme throughout is that this book cannot deliver an immediate, comprehensive cure for our propensities and addictions. I appreciate that Harris acknowledges the supremacy of God’s agenda (including His will that we be sanctified) and the sufficiency of the Word (i.e., His primary means of grace). I appreciate the distinction he makes that, while God calls us through sacrifice, He does not call us to it as an end in itself (172). Perhaps it’s worded most directly in this excerpt:

I don’t think we should make overcoming lust our primary preoccupation — we need to make the gospel and God’s glory our focus. We need to give our selves to knowing Him, worshiping Him, and meeting with Him every day. The result will be the weakening of lust and a growing passion for godliness (170-71).

I think Harris shows great insight when he points out that lust’s ultimate goal is not sex but the forbidden (93). Dissatisfaction with God is the kind of sin that leads to more sin (158). Harris rightly echoes the prophecy of Jeremiah that when we turn our back on God to do our own way and seek our own pleasure, we forsake the fountain of life to hew out for ourselves broken cisterns that hold no water. Those of us who have been caught up in our lusts (“such were some of you — BUT GOD”) understand that it comes down to God or self. Lust has everything to do two alternatives: either giving up on God and living for the pleasures of the moment – or else flinging all on God and living in the light of eternity.

:::::o:::::o:::::o::::: HONEST :::::o:::::o:::::o:::::

We are all expert sinners, but that doesn’t mean we’re all real great at dealing with our own or others’ sins. I am only beginning to learn what Piper means when he says he needs to hear other believers praying for grace, or what Barnett means when he talks about how key relationships in the Body are and how we ought to be open with one another in a grace-filled community. While proud looks and haughty spirits are abominations to the Lord (ranking right up there with immorality), we seem to excuse our posturing, cavorting performances of “I’m OK at Church Today.” Rather than take a blow to the ego and join the humble ranks of the sin-prone and grace-dependent, we opt to wage lone-ranger wars, driving on and spiraling down — for years — without seeking help or accountability for devastating sin struggles.

And when someone does hobble forward on his last leg to admit a struggle and ask our help, we promise a ring and robe but instead brand his stuck-out neck and ostracize him. This response most certainly encourages the next prodigal husk-biter to leave his trough and run the long road home. After all, if we burn all his bridges and barricade the path of grace, we’ll get a better idea of whether he really means business.

I appreciate Harris’ humility and honesty. There have been a couple of books published recently that demonstrate a similar level of candor and practicality, and I think Harris is wise to write what his readers need to hear. We have been casting about — I know that I have only recently read some material that I wish had been written when I was a teenager.

As a female blogger, I suppose I should expound here on how I think Harris’ book sizes up in sizing up the woman’s take. Long story short, he’s definitely on the right track. As I mentioned here, I do struggle with lust, have struggled with lust. It’s not a merry-go-round that you simply get onto or off of. No. It’s IN you. And if you say it’s a guy thing, chances are you’re either a guy or a liar.

Looking back from the other side of the reading, I almost think it wasn’t frank and potent enough. But (and I admire him for this as well), Harris’ primary objective was not to shock people, nor to provide “everything we need to make [sexual purity] a reality.” No, he says himself that God is the one who calls us to and can enable us to meet that standard of “not even a hint of sexual impurity” (back cover).

:::::o:::::o:::::o::::: WORD-BASED :::::o:::::o:::::o:::::

My favorite section of this whole book is pages 152-157, where Harris combats the lies of lust with straight Scripture and encourages readers to do the same. And the pattern is consistent throughout the book. He reminds us that Christianity is a fight of faith — a matter of believing God’s Word and carrying out our beliefs with action. Harris continually points his readers to the revealed Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, sufficient to equip us with all we need for life and godliness. I would just reiterate here my belief that the right kind of book will work itself out of a job. In other words, we find that we want to set that book down and immediately pick up a Bible and walk a biblical lifestyle.

Speaking of books, you didn’t come on here to read another one.

Let me close with this:

Writing a book about lust is no easy task. Lust is a common but private sin that manifests itself in unique ways to varying degrees with irreparable, massive, lifelong consequences. I may not agree with Josh Harris on every point of interpretation or application, but I think this book would be an asset to your library (in other words, if you’re not a blogger already exulting in your free copy — go out and buy one).

Good for Josh that he refuses to claim his book is something it can’t be. It is not a cure for your addictions, nor a fix for your insatiable appetites. It’s not a magic pill to rid you of your pet patterns of sexual thoughts and behaviors. But it is a signpost that will point you to the City. And when you’re lost in the woods with no visibility, even a mere signpost is legitimate cause for buku rejoicing. - END

Saturday, March 27, 2004

I just found out that "Not Even a Hint" has been nominated for the Gold Medallion Award in the Christian Living category. The nominees are:

Broadman & Holman Publishers, Out of the Whirlwind, Mark Tabb
Moody Publishers, The Trouble With Jesus, Joseph M. Stowell
Multnomah Publishers, Inc., Not Even A Hint, Joshua Harris
Multnomah Publishers, Inc., The Grace And Truth Paradox, Randy Alcorn
WaterBrook Press, Every Man, God's Man, Stephen Arterburn, Kenny Luck, with Mike Yorkey

Five years ago "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" was nominated but didn't win. We'll see. It's just an honor to be nominated. Especially alongside my good friend Randy Alcorn.

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