Book Review: Journey to the Heart of God: Spiritual Practices That Will Transform Your Life
Journey to the Heart of God: Spiritual Practices That Will Transform Your Life by S. Joseph Kidder. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2019. Total pages: 192.
The very title of this book makes provocative assumptions that Christians might blissfully bypass as automatic givens. First of all, God is accessible. Secondly, we can reach God’s heart—a very human and intimate desire. And thirdly, expect it to be a journey rather than a destination.
Those who know the author, Joe Kidder, would expect enthusiasm and personal illustrations. He comes through with both.
The book begins by inviting the reader to consider a relationship with God. Throughout the Bible, the most frequent promise is that God will be with us. God's promise to be with us however, is predicated on our invitation and acceptance of His presence. Once we extend that invitation, we begin a life of living in the awareness that God is present. With God by our side, we can face every situation in life with this assurance. Sometimes we need to go through a "dark valley" to reach out and allow God to get close to us. Living in God's presence gives purpose and direction to our lives, enabling us to live fearlessly.
The “journey” of the book includes the following nine segments: 1) Seeking and experiencing his presence; 2) Worship; 3) Prayer; 4) Feeding on his word; 5) Outrageous forgiveness; 6) Christian fellowship; 7) Fasting; 8) Giving; and 9) Serving. Each segment has two or three chapters explaining that portion of the journey.
The topic of worship included chapters on personal, corporate, and family worship. Drawing on the Isaiah six experience of standing before the throne of God, Kidder invites the reader to experience the overwhelming grandeur of God on a personal level. Of course, not every quiet time with God results in a heavenly vision. But the practice of coming to God as a spiritual discipline places one before the Almighty.
In addition to the author’s own experiences, he freely quotes from others. The second chapter of the worship segment includes this Kierkegaard description of corporate worship: God is the audience, the members are the actors, and the worship leaders are the prompters. Casting this vision in our churches can transform our members to worship God rather than gather as spectators in a consumer-oriented world. Because worship is much more than only content, how we worship can make or break our worship experience. Joy, enthusiasm, and thankfulness comprise key ingredients in our worship experience. Like the psalmist, our motivation to worship stems from our recognition that He is God (not us). And God is good—his love endures forever.
The next layer of worship is that of the family unit. The busy pace most families practice has made this one of the more neglected types of worship in our age. The purpose of family worship is to learn more about God and His ways for our life. How practical! By lifting up God’s Word, all in the family can learn from it. This prompts the faith development of the individuals in the family as well as the family unit itself. Praying as a family can unify and bond the family and energize it for service. Praying to God for personal battles, for others, and for certain petitions models trust in God's sovereign ways and submitting to them. I particularly appreciated the practical examples provided in the book for worship ideas, including suggestions for single people, for couples, and for families with children.
Put simply, the author posits prayer as establishing a love relationship with God. In addition to praying through the various activities of the day, in order to grow closer to God, one must have dedicated times for prayer. This transitions the person praying from merely surviving to an experience of intimacy with God. Prayer implies that we accept the "much better" that God has in store for us, as opposed to the little blessings we can see, like the "one rupee blessing" the author illustrated. God wants us to have bold and honest prayers. I liked the statement: "If our prayers aren't impossible, they are insulting to God." As we pray, we develop a closer intimacy with God, and we can discover God in a personal way.
Another key element in growing closer to God is by feeding on His Word. As we study His Word, we must learn to apply it to ourselves, remember to share it with others, and hide it in our hearts. By doing this, God's precepts and guidance will infuse our thoughts and actions and ground us against the allurements of this world.
Fellowship, fasting, giving to others, and touching other people's lives are other ways to pursue God. Because of this book, I've learned and re-learned valuable applications for my journey, and I’ve gathered numerous tips to inspire others to pursue an intimate relationship with their Friend and Savior.
Tim Nagy, MDiv, is the pastor of the Chilliwack Adventist Church in British Columbia.