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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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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.
I am disciplining a group of PhD intellectuals. So the challenge is how to move truth from their heads to their hearts/souls for real lasting change.This book has action steps homework to move the truth from our heads (study) to our hearts (prayer, techniques to meet God.)This book affirms first our love relationship with Jesus, the Father & Spirit. And then address the most common sins with which we all struggle. The author explains how to change our thinking and living to match the good life God desires to give us. I like the emphasis on calling on God to help us change our thinking to match God's truths. And to use our small group for support.
I like the active homework after each chapter so it is about doing, not just another intellectual study.
This second book is basically a section by section teaching and application of The Sermon on the Mount. This same kind of approach was taken by Smith's mentor Dallas Willard in his award winning book The Divine Conspiracy. Willard's book is the magnum opus of his writings with much more depth, whereas Smith's book makes the material more accessible - the cookies are on a lower shelf. That is not a criticism of Willard, just trying to point out the differences between the two books.
I have read them both and each have their merits and recommend BOTH of them if you are interested in understanding and applying the sermon on the mount.