Monday, October 22, 2012
Book Review: The Grand Weaver
Zacharias introduces The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives (Paperback, Kindle, Audio CD) by preparing an analogy. He takes the reader on a descriptive journey to a place in India where saris are made. These large masterpieces are woven thread-by-thread, line-by-line in a pain-staking process. These can take weeks and even months to complete. The entire time, the weaver has a single design in his mind that he wishes to create. Every weave that he does, though individually they may seem insignificant, contribute to the whole. Over time, the design takes shape and becomes more evident. As the title of the book indicates, Zacharias wishes to use the weaving of a magnificent sari to illustrate God's design and purposes for what He has chosen to and allows to take place in our lives.
Chapter 1: Your DNA Matters
In the first chapter, Zacharias focuses on the physical attributes that God has chosen for each person. He explains how our DNA allows for each person to be physically unique. He explains that even certain outcomes that we believe to be crippling (physically or mentally) are not flaws in the design, but are set for a reason- all part of God's design for the individual's life. As an example he points to a young man who is a weaver yet seems to have mental challenges. Not everyone's purpose is the same, so God is not going to give every person the same tools. We shouldn't complain about what God has given us, but use what He has given us.
Chapter 2: Your Disappointments Matter
The second chapter focuses on the events in our lives that are less than ideal and even devastating. Zacharias recognizes that in troublesome and agonizing situations, God can seem extremely distant- as if He's not listening to our cries, doesn't care, or isn't really there at all. He explains that this real experience has a three-fold purpose: to build trust (faith), to strengthen the mind, and guide us to see all of life through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ. Zacharias shows how trust can only be built when something is unknown and the person must still press on. He shows how building trust requires the mind to be strengthen. Finally he explains that it is imperative that we properly understand the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. It helps to put our suffering into perspective and to understand our lives are His to weave a beautiful pattern which will become evident as our minds are renewed and faith is built.
Chapter 3: Your Calling Matters
In chapter 3 Zacharias discusses the calling that God has placed on each of our lives. He shows how the struggles we go through help us to identify our calling and are part of our calling. He explains three imperatives regarding our calling. The first is that we must always be in prayer. The more we are close to God, the more we will know His call on our lives and be able to follow it. The second is that we must approach our call with humility. We must never wish to be the focus. We must always point towards Christ. Third, we must surround ourselves with Godly people. We are still sinners and have motivations that are not always in line with God's will. Having other Godly people around us will help us to keep those motivations in check and be able to stay put or move along when God is calling us to do so. As part of surrounding ourselves with Godly people, we must also recognize that there are many members of the Body of Christ- each with their own unique calling. We must work humbly together as the Body to accomplish God's purpose for every member of the Body.
Chapter 4: Your Morality Matters
In the fourth chapter Zacharias turns to ethics. He begins by comparing the role of morality in Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. He points out that Christianity stands alone as the worldview in which morality is not a means of attaining something. He explains the importance of boundaries and the purpose of the moral rules given in the Law was not to make it possible for man to be saved, but to demonstrate to him that without God's help, it is impossible to be saved (man's boundary). Through this, he shows that it is not morality that leads to salvation, but salvation that leads to morality- being moral for morality's sake overlooks the intentions of the heart. A true desire for God is what creates a compulsion to do what is right, not the other way around. One of the most difficult struggles of our lives is understanding and accepting what our hearts truly are- sinful. The experiences that we have- the threads that God is weaving- in our lives lead to this understanding. If we want to experience true joy in our lives, we must surrender to God's way and design, not our own.
Chapter 5: Your Spirituality Matters
The fifth chapter covers what many people try to use to replace God: spirituality. Zacharias describes aspects of traditionalism, legalism, and superstition and how each try to hang on to the "spiritual" but fail. He also looks at the more modern meaning of "spiritual"- more of an eastern/mystical idea. He explains how rationalism, empiricism, existentialism, and postmodernism have all used their views of how we can know about reality to extinguish the others. He explains that in Christianity truth is what matters and Christianity offers the ultimate spirituality- one that takes into account all the valid sources of knowledge about reality.
Chapter 6: Your Will Matters
In Chapter 6 Zacharias looks at the will of man in his life. He makes it clear that his intention is not to speak about man's will in salvation, but in his life's submission (or not) to God's will. The point being driven in this chapter is that when we submit our will to God's, He changes our desires to match His. Zacharias really "drives home" the need for the person surrendered to God to be constantly in tune with God and His word. He explains that when we are in God's word, we will discover God's general purposes for our lives, and through being in God's general will, we will discover His specific will for us. But we must be careful. This is a life-long commitment, not something that we do for a little while and can relax. Our past success with following God's will does not guaranty that we will always follow God's will. We must constantly exercise our own will to follow God's because we can still falter. Zacharias makes this point by putting forth a four-part model of the human life that is submitted to God. He finishes the chapter by quoting G.K. Chesterton, comparing the many ways we can fail to the single way to succeed.
Chapter 7: Your Worship Matters
The seventh chapter covers what Zacharias describes as the most vital of the threads of one's life: worship. He begins by explaining that inherent in worship is mystery but not in the "eastern mystic" sense. It is a sense that something is real but not necessarily fully understood by us. The primary example that he gives is the Trinity. He explains that if everything were understood, then anything we did in "worship" would become ritualistic and meaningless. Zacharias shows how worship is tied to every aspect of our lives, and if it is misplaced, our lives lose their proper focus. He describes five different aspects of worship and why each is important and necessary for worship: the Lord's Supper, teaching, prayer, praise, and giving. He explains their meanings, where the Church has gone wrong with them, and how to get back on track. He concludes the chapter by pointing out proper worship is what gives even our questions and concerns about life validity- without proper worship, our questions and concerns are meaningless.
Chapter 8: Your Destiny Matters
In the final chapter Zacharias discusses the culmination of all the events in our lives. He brings all the threads in the other chapters together to show that through all the pain, suffering, joy, and excitement God is preparing those who choose to follow Him for eternal fellowship with Him. He tells the reader that though some events may not seem to make sense in the immediate, we can find their purpose by examining who God has made us, who God has made those effected by us, and ultimately who we will become as He calls us home.
The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives is a fantastic and uplifting book. It has much value for the apologist as it addresses the emotional problem of evil head-on. Zacharias does not just address the issue from a disconnected distance, he brings the reader into his own life and demonstrates his points from his own experiences. The book is not written at an academic level that is beyond what the lay person can understand, but it does challenge them as it brings them comfort. The book flows very smoothly and is easy to read, yet difficult to put down.
The apologist should have several copies of this book in their library- one for their own consumption (in their personal life and in their defense of Christianity) and the others to give to those who are struggling with painful events in life- whether believer or not. For the believer, Zacharias provides a biblical perspective that may not be immediately clear to those experiencing pain. For the skeptic, Zacharias explains how Christianity brings meaning and life to their pain and suffering.
Finally, this book is highly recommended for pastors. Pastors, in their roles as teachers and counselors (especially), are depended upon to help people struggle through and overcome difficulties in their lives- people are not just searching for solutions to the painful events but purpose for those painful events. In The Grand Weaver, Zacharias brings to light much that scripture has to say about God's sovereignty and purpose for what happens in our lives- both good and bad. Not only can this help a person triumph through the crisis, but also stand against doubts about the goodness or existence of God from personal life experiences.
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Thanks to Brian Auten at Apologtics 315 for originally publishing this review on his site. This review is only one of many in a project by Auten to build a solid collection of reviews of books of interest to Christian apologists. His collection grows on a weekly basis; check it out here.