Now here is a great little book. The author, MJ Young, is an online friend from the Christian Gamers Guild. He has been Chaplain there as long as I can remember and often presents lengthy well thought out responses to some of the trickier posts that come up. I must confess that this made me a bit hesitant when he announced his new book "What Does God Expect?: A Gospel-based Approach to Christian Conduct", also it is one of those topics I always feel I already know enough about. Yeah, I know but I am being honest here. If MJ had published a book on gaming, well I'd get very excited. But because I have found MJ to be quite encouraging over the years I decided to give it a try. Well I was actually pleasantely surprised with the book.
First off it is a very managable size. Yeah MJ can be verbose on the Guild, but for the most part this book is very tight. It conveys one thing very well and doesn't get sidetracked into unimportant issues. I know I am the king of sidetracks. There is only one chapter that I felt got a bit technical and that was the last chapter on Guidance. It is the front of the chapter, once the ball starts rolling though MJ's insights are really well presented. I think this would be a great book for a small group that wants to understand what is the Christian life. In fact I am thinking of recommending it to a friend for a men's study I am part of, in which case I'll have to write some questions for each chapter, but that wouldn't be hard at all.
So what of the content? You must be curious. With a title like that you probably are afraid this is a book of Christian dos and don'ts. That is exactly what this book is not (there is one place this feels a bit strained but I'll save that for the end). MJ wants you to know that Christianity isn't just a revisinist legalism (he'd never use such a technical term in his book BTW) but it is a relational experience of a profoundly personal nature. It isn't about a homogenous code of ethics, but it is about a morality that flows out of a living relationship with God. Now you will have to trust me that MJ spends 71 pages unpacking this in a very readable and non-technical manner. I am not sure I could have done as well.
Just one real highlight of the book. I should say that there were several really great insights that MJ made throughout the book that either confirmed something I've held deeply or gave me a fresh perspective on an issue, but the one chapter that I think makes this a worthwhile read is the chapter on the Weaker Brother. As someone who has had the weaker brother card played on him (someone trying to manipulate me out of my freedom) it was really nice to take a detailed look at this section of scripture. I will let you read it for yourself.
There were only two things that struck me as odd about this book. First was MJs simplistic understanding of prayer in the Renewing Your Mind chapter. To be fair he does tell us upfront that his focus is on Scripture, but he reduces prayer to talking to God, which makes it more of an exercise than a form of communication. I know this falls out of his attempt to be brief here because later in the book he talks about God's communication to us. I would have loved to see a better treatment of prayer and worship in this section. The second I already promised to mention. That is because of an emphasis on the role of the bible in that same chapter, it almost feels like this is the new Christian do (law). I appreciate MJs comments on incorporating scripture into our devotional lives, and I agree that it is always beneficial. Maybe it was the fact that other aspects of devotional life were neglected, but it felt a bit forced.
There are lots of other great insights this book presents. If you are looking for a great book on Christian Living, and especially if you are sick and tired of all the rehashed legalism out there, then look no further.