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Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now Paperback – May 1 2010
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“Greg has landed on a topic as ancient as time and as timely as this moment. To live in both ways is to find life itself!” -- John Ortberg
“Greg Boyd has a marvelous knack for sensing what is essential for the times in which we live. If faith involves coming to attention, then Present Perfect sounds like a needed clarion call in our profoundly distracted culture. Drawing deeply from the great guides in Scripture and history, Greg helps us to see God everywhere and to engage him more fully anytime. Get into it.” -- Alan Hirsch
'A dazzling reminder that the Christian life is not just about going up when we die, but about bringing God's kingdom down. Brother Greg offers a fiery and thoughtful invitation to see that eternity begins now, and that Jesus did not simply come to prepare us to die, but to teach us to live. Read it, and hear the invitation to join God's little infection of grace and goodness that is spreading across the globe.' -- Shane Claiborne
'Greg Boyd has already proven himself to be a voice of conscience in the evangelical church. Now, with Present Perfect, he will become a voice of sound spiritual wisdom. By (re)introducing the idea of constant awareness of God, Boyd challenges each of us to develop a Christ-consciousness. This book should be on the shelf of anyone who wants to have a deeper prayer life.' -- Tony Jones
From the Back Cover
A 'Holy Habit' That Will Change Your Life! Experience true spiritual transformation: invite God's presence into your life! Popular author, theologian, and pastor Gregory Boyd shows you how---simply, practically, and effectively---in this thoughtful and accessible book. Discover: * How to pray continually * What it means to 'take every thought captive' * How to wake up to God's ever-present love God is closer to you than the air you breathe. He is present in every given moment. Wake up to his presence! Turn off the mental chatter that keeps you from seeing his glory. Embrace the holy habit of inviting God's presence into your life, and be transformed! Wake Up to God's Presence! We long to be transformed. Yet our minds are filled with endless trivia and self-centered chatter. To-do lists. Worries about the past. Speculation about the future. We forget to live in the present moment ... and to invite God to be with us there. After reading classic contemplative authors Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and Frank Laubach, theologian and pastor Gregory Boyd longed to experience the presence of God for himself. For two decades, he's attempted to implement the 'practice of the presence of God' in his own life ... sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. What he's learned as a fellow pilgrim on his spiritual journey can help you find true spiritual transformation as you begin to practice the discipline of inviting God into every moment. 'I've become absolutely convinced that remaining aware of God's presence moment-by-moment is the single most important task in the life of every follower of Jesus, ' Boyd writes. 'I'm convinced this challenge is implied in our commitment to surrender our life to Christ, for the only real life we have to surrender to him is the one we live moment-by-moment.' Join Boyd on this transformational journey of a lifetime!See all Product Description
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This is not a book for speed readers. It is to be taken slowly. Very slowly. Practice it. Find those times when you can digest a chapter, then put it into practice. This is not about method. It is about being aware. Do not compartmentalize your life. ("Oh, I've had my devotions, now I will run off to work and forget what I just read.") This is a challenge to be aware of the very presence of God at any given moment in your day.
This is a refreshing read. Books on spiritual formation are like water on parched ground for me. I soak them up. I get tired of the mental gymnastics of a lot of theological books. (I love them, but my brain isn't geared to run that way all the time.) We need a holisitic approach to our lives again. Don't "do" devotions. Don't "exegete" a text. It's not just about someone examining the text. It is allowing the text to examine them. What is your hurry?
Boyd's call is to celebrate the moment. This moment. Sense God here. Now. What's your hurry. Are you awake? God is there. Do you see it?
(In the spirit of full disclosure, this book was sent to my wife so SHE could write a review, but I snagged it from her first. This book was free, and I think Zondervan sent it to us. I am under no obligation to write a good review, though.)
If you are looking for Boyd's tough apologetic style, it's there... in the appendix. He defends this book against claims of being like Eckhart Tolle. It's good reading, too.
But, really. Take a break from your intellectual idolatry. Rest. Find God here. Now. Breathe.
Here is the description of `Present Perfect' from the back cover:
We long to be transformed, yet our minds are filled with endless trivia and self-centered chatter. To-do lists. Worries about the past. Speculation about the future. We forget to live in the present moment, and to invite God to be with us there.
After reading classic contemplative authors Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and Frank Laubach, theologian and pastor Gregory Boyd longed to experience the presence of God for himself. For two decades, he's attempted to implement the "practice of the presence of God" in his own life... sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. What's he's learned as a pilgrim on a spiritual journey can help you find true spiritual transformation as you begin to practice the discipline of inviting God into every moment.
Join Boyd on this journey of a lifetime!
Here is the biography for the author:
Gregory A. Boyd ([...]) is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church ([...]) in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries. He was a professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, MN) for sixteen years, where he continues to serve as an adjunct professor. Greg is a graduate of the University of Minnesota (BA), Yale Divinity School (M.Div), and Princeton Theological Seminary (PhD), a national and international speaker at churches, colleges, conferences, and retreats, and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows. He also has authored and coauthored eighteen books prior to Present Perfect, including The Myth of a Christian Religion, The Myth of a Christian Nation, The Jesus Legend (with Paul Eddy), Seeing is Believing, Repenting of Religion, and his international bestseller Letters from a Skeptic.
Those are some intriguing titles! I have read `Letters from a Skeptic,' which was very useful to me when it came into my life.
I love what he wrote in the introduction:
If God is present in all places at all times, which is what the Bible teaches, then God is part of our surroundings each and every moment - or as the apostle Paul says, "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28) . The question is, Are you aware of God surrounding you? Are you aware or asleep to God's presence?
This book was written to help you stay awake to God's presence and discover for yourself why this is the most important discipline you could ever practice.
Don't try to feel his presence. In fact, don't try to do anything at all. Simply be mindful of the fact that you are, in this present moment, submerged in the ocean of God's perfect love.
Right now, stop reading for a second and just breathe in God's presence as you take your next couple breaths. Then as you continue to read, see how often you can remind yourself of that fact. How awake can you remain? (pp. 10-11)
I don't know about you, but that is easier said than done for me. I have a hard time just resting in Him...
Dr. Boyd focuses on the three authors - Brother Lawrence, Jean-Claude de Caussade, and Frank Laubach - and makes the point that they had a common belief:
While the three authors differ widely in both their theology and their emphasis, they all emphatically agree that remaining awake to God's presence in the present moment is the single most important task of the Christian life and that no spiritual discipline is more foundational or transforming than this one. (p. 18)
Although they all agreed that remaining awake to God's presence is important, they also agree on this:
Lawrence, de Caussade, and Laubach all proclaim that no spiritual discipline is easier or more accessible to everyone than this one, for waking up to God's presence requires nothing more than remembering God's presence each moment. Right now, as you read this sentence, remind yourself that you are submerged in God's love. That is the practice of the presence of God. Could anything be easier?
At the same time, no spiritual discipline could be more challenging. The challenge is not in doing the discipline: it's in remembering the discipline. (p. 19)
There are so many distractions in our world. It is easier to be dragged along by the culture and the busyness of life than it is to step away and spend time be awake to God's presence, which is always there.
The three men who devoted so much of their lives to be aware made this interesting observation about what this new perspective will do for us:
Lawrence, de Caussade, and Laubach each testify that whatever task occupies you at any given moment, you'll tend to do it better if it includes God. Remaining aware of God's presence doesn't compete with our attention to other things; it augments it. (p. 22)
Dr. Boyd opines that modern Western culture by been brainwashed by "the secular worldview;" he think that mindset explains a lot:
If you're looking for an explanation why so few contemporary believers experience why so few contemporary believers experience the fullness of love, joy, peace, and the transforming power that the New Testament promises, I think you've just found it. The secular worldview causes us to compartmentalize our life, isolating the "spiritual" from the rest of our experience. Our relationship with God is boxed into special prayer and devotion times along with weekend church services, all of which have little impact on us. But in the process of segregating God from our "normal" life, we block the love, joy, peace, and transforming power of God. (p. 29)
That makes a great deal of sense to me.
Dr. Boyd provides exercises throughout the book - exercises that will help us better practice God's presence. One of them is Frank Laubach's "Game with Minutes." Dr. Boyd explains it this way:
This game challenges us to bring Christ to mind at least one second of each and every minute within a designated hour. He called it a "game" both because he wanted it to be "lighthearted" and because he found it to be a "delightful experience and an exhilarating spiritual exercise." (p. 38)
It seems like, especially in the USA, we are oriented to make our own way in this world. Dr. Boyd points out that it will always come up short, unless we reorient our homing device - being satisfied by Jesus and nothing or no one else:
As we are freed from the grand illusion that we can meet our own needs, our built-in homing device begins to work correctly. We're on our way home. And we don't have to strive to find it. On the contrary, the instant we relinquish the world of idols and turn to God, he is there. He has always been there. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He never leaves us or forsakes us, whether we are aware of him or not (Matthew 28:20). There is nowhere we can run and hide from his presence (Psalm 139:8)....
The only thing that matters is that we - right now - cease our striving after false gods and become aware of God's ever-present, perfect love. (pp. 53-54)
Another exercise that Dr. Boyd shares is something he calls `Finding "Home" in Your Own Skin.' Dr. Boyd explains:
For much of my life I've felt a little bit like an alien. I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. To be completely honest, there are still times when I just don't feel completely "at home" in my own skin or in any environment. For most of his life Frank Laubach felt the same way. In fact, he struggled with a profound sense of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
At the age of forty-five, however, he discovered that practicing the presence of God eradicated these feelings. He became continually aware that wherever he went and whatever circumstances he found himself in, he was "bathed around by my own Father's Spirit" so the whole universe came to "seem so homey." As a result, Laubach found that worry, anxiety, alienation, fear and loneliness pretty much left him. (pp. 54-55)
Dr. Boyd addresses an issue that comes up when bringing up the subject of practicing the presence of God - does it lead to inactivity? I was thinking the same thing. He asserts:
Some may fear that if they rest in God's love they will lose their drive to be the best they can be in school, in their careers, or even in their ministry.
But the more we train our minds to remember God moment-by-moment, the more we discover an entirely different kind of motivation for doing things. We no longer engage in activities in a desperate and futile attempt to acquire Life we don't yet have; rather, we engage in them as a means of expressing the fullness of Life we already have - apart from these activities. The irony is that when a person no longer needs to succeed to feel fully worthwhile and significant they will tend to be more successful than if they did need this. When we need to achieve, acquire, and accomplish things to find Life, the pressure often compromises our passion, creativity, and flexibility. (pp. 72-73)
This type of book - its subject being Christian Life/Spiritual Growth - is right up my alley! I really appreciate what I learned from Pastor Boyd in this small, yet insightful book. I have been seeking more information on how to deepen my relationship with the Lord, and I appreciate what Pastor Boyd has imparted in this book.
I have been practicing some of the exercises in `Present Perfect' since I finished reading this book. He also recommended that we use an object of some sort as a reminder to practice God's presence, as well as posting Post-It notes with the reminder, "Are You Awake" in places where that you regularly frequent; I have put both of those ideas into practice. I can say without reservation that these practices have made a difference in my perspective and my outlook; I feel more "at home" and closer to God as a result. I think the ideas in this book will help a lot of people live a more Christ-like life. I am grateful to Dr. Boyd for bringing these ideas to our attention in such an understandable and practical way.
This book was published by Zondervan for review and giveaway purposes and provided by the Blog Tour Spot. I am pleased to be participating in the blog tour with these fellow bloggers ([...]).
Reviewed by Andrea Schultz - Ponderings by Andrea - [...]
The key point to the whole book is made by Boyd on page 15 where he writes that .."remaining aware of God's presence is the single most important task in the life of every follower of Jesus." A bold statement for sure,and I think he's correct.
He also reminds us that the most important question isn't what we believe, but rather what we decide to do, MOMENT BY MOMENT, on the basis of what we believe.
The distinction between belief and surrender is superbly made and one of the best sections of the book.
From Chapter 3, CHASING THE SUN, maybe the best chapter in the book, Boyd talks about fear and anxiety and says that freedom from anxiety is one of the .."surest evidences you are learning how to abide in Christ moment by moment." (70)
One of the things I appreciated most about this book is that throughout, Boyd reminds us that every person has unsurpassable worth, and as Christ followers we need to refrain from judgment and simply love others the way Christ loves us.
A well written and concise book. Inviting us to live in the moment now, with God. Because NOW is the moment that matters.
Boyd writes clearly and when I finished the book I was inspired to dive into this experience. His chapters are filled with motivating quotes, personal examples, and every few pages there is the appearance of a sticky note asking, "Are you awake?" to remind the reader to be fully aware of the present moment. Clever idea.
Every chapter ends with ideas or exercises to try. Examples include waking up to God and strategically placed reminders. One exercise I particularly like is thinking in the terms of "we". Frank Laubach suggests instead of talking to ourselves, talk to Christ. Make all of thoughts a conversation with Him. Instead of thinking "What should I do? " Use the phrase, "What should WE do?"
Interesting to note is his addition of a chapter at the end of the book about practicing the present and the new age movement. Good food for thought and discussion in this chapter.
Gregory A. Boyd is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries. He was a professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, Minn.) for sixteen years where he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor. Greg is a graduate of the University of Minnesota (BA), Yale Divinity School (M.Div), and Princeton Theological Seminary (PhD).
If you are seeking a closer relationship with God, I highly recommend this book. One of the best I have read lately and one I could take nuggets from and apply right away to my spiritual walk.