Friday, February 5, 2010
A stone massage, homemade chocolate cake, a round of golf, the perfect cup of coffee, your morning run – or your afternoon nap. These are all simple pleasures that God created for us to enjoy – not feel guilty about. Bestselling author Gary Thomas urges Christians to embrace pleasure and carve out time to enjoy life. In Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good? (Nov. 2009). Thomas explores the idea that Christians should view pleasure as a gift from God that points us back to him.
I enjoyed this thought-provoking book. Coming from a religious tradition that tends to be legalistic, and my own workaholic tendencies, this book made me think about how much about God I might be missing out on by not enjoying the good gifts He's given us.
I particularly enjoyed how Thomas fought to counter-balance our human tendency to swing towards extremes, explaining how we seem to want to either eschew pleasure or embrace it to the exclusion of all else. His explanation of how embracing godly pleasure can keep us from falling into the trap of ungodly pleasure was quite insightful and provided a great springboard for a discussion I had with a friend while I was reading this book.
According to Thomas, “God isn’t just our Redeemer… He is our Creator. He made us, and he made this world. So when we participate in this world as he made it, we celebrate him every bit as much as we honor him when we do things that reflect his redeeming work.”
Christians shouldn’t necessarily feel guilty every time they buy a latte or indulge in a seemingly unnecessary expense. There is a line between enjoying the world God created and frivolous excess, but Christians shouldn’t feel pressure to consistently ignore what brings them joy. Thomas helps readers determine which pleasures are healthy and life-giving and which pleasures are destructive and should be avoided.
Thomas offers an impassioned biblical defense of pleasure and explains how God delights in, and shares, the pleasure we experience when we encounter his world with thanksgiving. Everyone finds pleasure in unique ways, and whether readers delight in high thread count sheets, gourmet cooking, the scent of freshly cut flowers or finishing a crossword puzzle, Thomas says incorporating guilt-free pleasure into our lives rejuvenates and refreshes individuals and provides a stronger platform for a lifestyle of worship.
Thomas boldly confronts the contentious issue of the cost of pleasure and how we can balance our need for restorative pleasure with our call to be faithful stewards of God’s resources. Pleasure in moderation is healthy and life-restoring, but overindulgence is harmful and must be avoided. Thomas assists readers in determining their own boundaries. He helps readers come to grips with the true costs of that daily latte or expensive vacation – not necessarily that those things are sinful, but how they affect one’s spiritual life.
“I’m asking you – no, pleading with you – to embrace pleasure with sophistication. Pleasure is a gift from God. It is good. He designed us to receive pleasure in many ways and is, in fact, preparing us for an eternity of pleasure. We must also realize, however, that there is a hierarchy of pleasure – with God at the top – that orders all of our other pleasures. If the hierarchy gets broken or becomes skewed, then lesser pleasures will begin to war against the primary one, which is delight in Christ.”
Gary is launching a downloadable video curriculum for small groups. A discussion guide with questions for each chapter is included at the end of Pure Pleasure. The six-session video curriculum will be available at www.zondervan.com/purepleasure on Oct. 15 and costs $24.99.
About the Author:
Gary Thomas enjoys spending time with his family, is an avid runner and has completed seven marathons including the Boston Marathon. He is a writer and adjunct faculty member at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of several books including Sacred Marriage, Holy Available, Sacred Pathways, Sacred Parenting and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith.
Learn more about Gary at www.GaryThomas.com.
Release: November 2009
Soft cover, 272 pp., $14.99
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