Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Developing Intimacy With God by Alex Aronis

As I have been attempting to write more reviews of books, one thing has come into crystalline focus. I have failed to review many of the books that have had the most profound effect on my life and personal views on a variety of subjects. One of those books is DevelopingIntimacy With God by Alex Aronis. I have mentioned this book in multiple posts, but have not shared much detail on the book itself.

It was initially recommended to me during the late spring of 2008 by my good friend JR Woodward. JR has been a long time friend and mentor of sorts for me, and in that frame, I was talking with him about a potential change of career I was considering. Two of my good friends had invited me to consider leaving vocational ministry to pursue a path toward fighting what I had come to believe is the greatest humanitarian crisis/challenge of our generation, global extreme poverty. It was against this backdrop that my friend JR recommended Aronis’ book as a devotional guide that could help me as I wrestled through this decision. The book helped me to make my decision, but it has done so much more.

Aronis’ book is the best book I have found for cultivating a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. It is my belief that for as much as Christians talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” this relationship seems more transactional than one of intimacy and depth. It’s not that people lack in intentionality (although that is sometimes the case), it is more that people don’t have good direction for cultivating this relationship beyond practices of a ‘quiet time’ or some form of prayer. And often this prayer time consists of little more than petitions and intercessions rather than dynamic conversation. It isn’t that petition and intercession are bad things, it is more that if any other relationship consists of only making requests and reading about an individual, we wouldn’t consider that a very healthy relationship.

In the book, Aronis observes that many people read scriptures looking for what they can ‘do’ for God without taking the time to be with Him and to become like him as precursors to this activity. He contrasts this with actual experience of the disciples. They spent roughly three years with Jesus, so that they could become more like Jesus in their character, and so that they could live for Jesus. In the introduction to the book, he mentions the late Bill Bright and Billy Graham as two examples of individuals who have realized amid their productivity, that if they had an opportunity to start over, they would have spent more time cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.

Beyond this observation, Aronis offers eight weeks of devotional exercises based on The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius as a means for individuals to grow in their ability to spend time with Christ without rushing ahead to do things for Christ (although he gets there too!).  This book was incredibly helpful for me as I was working to discern the best path forward in a variety of areas in my life. I have gone back to it as a near annual tradition since my friend JR introduced me to it, and I have recommended it to any and every person I have met who is looking to deepen their own relationship with Jesus and who is willing to take the time to walk through the book. Currently, I am walking through the book with a group of friends in the US as part of my Lenten commitment, and I just recently heard from a friend in the Netherlands who told me that the book was extremely formative for her and her friends, and that her fiancĂ© is so impressed with it that he has written the publisher to see if it might be published in Dutch in the future.

I could write at length about the book (and perhaps that is why I haven’t written a review before now), but I will end this post simply by stating that if you are a Christian and you are looking for a book that can help you by offering a “how to” in terms of growing in your intimacy with Christ, than I highly recommend this book. Unfortunately, I have never seen a copy in any bookstore (even in Christian specialty stores), but I have been able to grab copies from Amazon. If you read it, I would love to hear the outcome of your eight week journey. 

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