Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith -- Book Review

Do you love Jesus and want to be all He called you to be?  Do you look down on people who don’t share the same passion? Do wimpy Christians annoy you? Do you get upset with people who call themselves a Christian but don’t act like one?  If so, you might be a ‘Pharisee’.

Spiritual passion is truly a gift, but it also puts us at risk of pride and exclusivity.  In Larry Osborne’s book Accidental Pharisees, he shows that the problem isn’t spiritual zeal, because we are called to be zealous. The problem comes when we mix out spiritual passion with a hyper-individualized spirituality, which yields toxic results.

We immediately think of being a Pharisee as being a bad thing.  It means being self-righteous and hypocritical, doesn’t it?  True, but Osborne reminds us that Pharisees were highly committed to God. They meticulously obeyed Scripture – and they weren’t searching for loopholes. Their rules came from rigorous study of Scripture and hours of debate.  They didn’t take reverence for God or Scripture lightly.  However, their passion made it easy to fall into a harsh trap of legalism.

Osborne shows us how this can happen to us.  In the desire for a pure church, we may still welcome the worst of sinners into our midst, but we snub the weak believers.  We don’t have room for people who are secret disciples, weak in faith, or are ladder climbers.  Jesus didn’t do that.  Osborne explains how and why.

There will never be a shortage of unhealthy Christians. So don’t get disgusted.  Don’t help Jesus yank out the weeds in the wheat.  It’s not our job. Besides, if we try, we might be pulling out wheat instead of weeds.

We scoffed at previous generations who were trapped in legalistic rules that ‘real’ Christians don’t drink, smoke, dance, go to movies, or play cards. But today, we are considered hip if we do those things, being in tune with the culture so that we can be ‘relevant’.  We might think that an authentic Christian works out and takes care of his body, doesn’t live in luxury and indulgence, lives in a modest home so he can be generous with his money, goes on mission trips instead of vacations to the beach, and uses buzz words like ‘radical’, ‘missional’, ‘gospel-centered’, and ‘organic’.  These are just a few examples.  Welcome to the new legalism.

I found much freedom throughout Osborne’s ideas in this book! We don’t have to feel guilty if our gifts and calling don’t fit with the flavor of the day.  God made us to be or do what he gifted us to do. If He wanted me to be an overseas missionary or world-wide evangelist, he would have given me an outgoing people-personality with the drive to take risks.  We so easily by-pass the verses that tell us to live a quiet life or work with our hands because it doesn’t fit with what is popular Christianity right now. 

This book is phenomenal!  It opened my eyes to blind spots that I never guessed even existed in my life.  It helped me recognize that I have been carrying a load of free-floating guilt of never doing enough.  God used this book to release me from feeling like I have to keep being better and keep doing more to be all He created me to be, and instead, just follow His leading and live a life of love.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan publishing in exchange for my honest review.

A Prayer of Praise When Things Don't Make Sense

I praise You for Your Sovereignty over the broad events of my life and over the details. 

With You, nothing is accidental, nothing is incidental, and no experience is wasted.  

You hold in Your own power my breath of life and all my destiny. 

And every trial that You allow to happen is a platform on which You reveal Yourself, showing Your love and power, both to me and to others looking on.  

Thank You that I can move into the future non-defensively, with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead, for you hold the future and You will always be with me, even to my old age...and through eternity.

(quoted from 31 Days of Praise, by Ruth Meyers, page 50-51)

Love No Matter What - Book Review

Any parent who thinks she has her kid’s life under control is delusional. So is any parent who thinks A+B=C, or Christian Principles + Good Parenting = Perfect Kids.  It can be shocking and unsettling to personally experience the shattering of these delusions when your child makes life-impacting decisions that are disappointing. 

You may feel guilty, like you messed up your kid, analyzing your parenting flaws and taking it personally. You may be thinking things would have been different if you’d been a better parent.  Brenda Garrison, author/ speaker and mother, reminds that it is your child who makes the decisions. Even if you feel like you contributed to the fray, you are not the cause.  In her book Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, she provides encouragement and shows how your response can either drive your child away or draw her closer.  

 Brenda Garrison divides those disappointing decisions into categories: 1) your preferences, 2) foolish decisions, and 3) immoral or illegal decisions.  Regardless of the category, we can control how we respond.  She shares common mistakes that parents make that put a distance between them and their children.  She candidly shares her own reaction errors and allows space for her young adult daughter to interject her thoughts and her side of the story so that maybe you can wrap your head around what your child may be thinking.  A study guide at the back of the book also provokes further evaluation of the material with your own struggles.

Most important, Brenda Garrison is practical, showing you how to move forward building bridges instead of brick walls and exercising healthy boundaries.  This book is full of illustrations and is a quick and easy read.  Insightful and encouraging, this book is specifically geared toward parents of college-age/young adult children.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.