I finished two books last week--"Who is My Enemy?" by Rich Nathan, a pastor in Columbus was a decent book, written by a conservative pastor encouraging a more neighborly approach to those we think of as enemies of the church. It would be a good practical read to give someone who is having a hard time believing that God calls us to love people in close proximity, building relationships with them, whether they are postmoderns, homosexuals, or new-age believers (the categories Nathan) discusses.
A better book was Ted Dekker's nonfiction work, "The Slumber of Christianity." His main point is that we have missed the best that this life has to offer precisely because we have focused too much on ONLY this life. We have lost our sense of heaven. If we truly have a living hope for the next life, the pleasures of this one become that much more real, that much more satisfying, because we're not looking to them for ULTIMATE satisfaction. They bring pleasure in their proper context, in the way that God intended for them to.
He describes catching a glimpse of heaven as being like in a dark room where you can't see anything. You have to fumble around and find food and drink, but since you can't see it, some of it is good and some of it is bad. Then one day a brick falls from the ceiling and a shaft of light penetrates the darkness, and you realize that your dark room is not all that exists in life. There is something outside, something beyond the walls. Unfortunately, you get used to this shaft of light, and it too becomes just something to help you see better inside the room, instead of pointing to what will come when the walls fall completely down.
Dekker also talks a lot about the role of imagination in our relationship with God, something that is spot-on. He recommends 3 disciplines: meditation on the hope God offers, reading on the hope of heaven, and the corporate discipline of encouraging the hope of eternal life, especially through singing.
All in all, I like Dekker's book. In my opinion he comes close to throwing the baby out with the bath water with his focus on eternal life after we die, because eternal life begins now and here, in this world. But he's right in this sense: the evil that is real in this current existence makes us only see darkly the truest pleasures of etneral life in the kingdom. There is something to the idea that after death--or maybe better to say after resurrection--the walls fall down and we're living in the light, instead of in the darkness.
Here's his four point summary of the book:
1. We should intentionally set our minds on heaven.
2. We should enjoy pleasure as it was intended because it draws us to heaven.
3. We should allow the pain that comes our way to push us into our Creator's arms.
4. Because our hope is made real by a fully fleshed vision of a reality that awaits beyond this one, we shoudl fan that vision to life through songs and reading and meditation.