- Series: The Apprentice Series
- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: IVP Books; 32121st edition (January 11, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0830835326
- ISBN-13: 978-0830835324
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 150 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ (The Apprentice Series) Hardcover – January 11, 2010
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"Jim Smith is the most articulate, accurate and helpful writer of spiritual formation of my generation. I give this series my highest recommendation." (Todd D. Hunter, author of Giving Church Another Chance)
"The Apprentice Series the the best practice I have seen in Christian spiritual formation." (Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy)
"The Apprentice Series is a treasure. Dr. Smith has thought long and hard about the process of human transformation into the likeness of Jesus. I urge you to buy these books immediately! Read them and apply them. Then live them out in the context of a loving community. You will not regret doing so." (Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and coauthor of Longing for God)
About the Author
James Bryan Smith (MDiv, Yale University Divinity School, DMin, Fuller Seminary) is a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and a writer and speaker in the area of Christian spiritual formation. He also serves as the director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University. A founding member of Richard J. Foster's spiritual renewal ministry, Renovaré, Smith is an ordained United Methodist Church minister and has served in various capacities in local churches. Smith is also the editor of A Spiritual Formation Workbook, Devotional Classics (with Richard Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven and Room of Marvels.
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The Apprentice Series has three parts to the series. The first book in the series is about God, and our beliefs and ideas about who he is and what kind of relationship he wants with us. The second book in the series which we are reviewing here, in the Good and Beautiful Life. The final book in the series is The Good and Beautiful Community. These books, although I did not read it anywhere, loosely correspond to Reuben Job's three simple questions, which I believe stem from Wesley: "Who am I? Who is God? Who are we together?"
This book, following the model of books such as Cost of Discipleship and the Divine Conspiracy, uses the Sermon on the Mount as a blueprint for the life of discipleship. Each chapter in The Good and Beautiful Life teaches on a different part of the Sermon on the Mount. At the end of each chapter their is a "soul training" section designed to allow the readers of the book to be able to try on a practice of spiritual discipline for a short period of time to reinforce the living of the truth they have just come to understand.
Particularly meaningful for me was the chapter on living the day devotionally, the chapter on anger, and the chapter on living without judgment. I thought it was profoundly insightful that the author paired the goal of living without anger with the practice of the Sabbath. Sometimes just slowing down can make us a lot less angry. Also, I liked how the author paired judgment with practicing a day without gossip. The soul practice of living the day devotionally borrowed from Madame Guyon, which I thought was just wonderful in both its presentation and its explanation.
The book has a study guide. This is good because it is best if one uses this book in community, with either the resources provided by the Aprentis Institute or the study questions in the book. I can't wait to find a group in my church willing to go through this process.
explained some passages of the bible that I thought I understood - brought more light to their meaning (as opposed to the
way those topics were presented to me in a more legalistic upbringing). I also loved the activities.
There were the couple of odd chapters in each book where I disagreed or didn't get anything out of the lesson, but for the most part, and excellent study!
Throughout this series of books Smith cogently argues that "we live at the mercy of our ideas and our narratives," and it is through this lens the content of our spiritual lives is examined and then challenged. Each chapter within this installment presents a common narrative that many people hold that leads to anger, lust, lying, vindictive competitiveness, vainglory, avarice, worry, or judgmentalism, and then challenges that narrative through the life and teachings of Jesus. Smith relies on Jesus's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount as paramount for instilling the virtues that oppose these vices, reinforcing the Jesus narratives with an accompanying spiritual practice. In this book, those practices are writing a letter to God, play, hospitality, keeping the Sabbath, a media fast, silence, praying for the success of competitors, secret service, deaccumulation, prayer, a day without gossip, and living one day devotionally. The practices are simple, yet powerful, and the instructions Smith provides are very easy to follow.
I found this book to be an excellent follow up to the first volume in The Apprentice Series, building well upon the ideas presented in The Good and Beautiful God. As is the case with each of these books, the teachings contained therein are best read and lived within a community, and thus this could be an excellent resource for a book club, a small group, a Sunday school class, or even as a touchstone for a church-wide initiative. As is obvious, I strongly recommend it, believing that this book and the accompanying volumes are invaluable sources of wisdom for the building up of the church today.