Review of ‘Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul’ by Bill Hybels


Simplify Bill Hybels, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2014). Hardcover / Kindle

This past summer was exhausting. Between work, chauffeuring our son to three sports on four different days, shuttling our oldest foster daughter to daycare and speech care, waking up several times a night to bottle feed our youngest foster daughter, and church and other activities, my wife and I felt tapped out. And so, when Bill Hybels mentioned the words “exhausted, overwhelmed, overscheduled, anxious, isolated, dissatisfied” on page 1 of his new book, he immediately grabbed my attention.

“Simplified living is about more than doing less,” Hybels writes. “It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order” (pp. 2–3). He goes on to write, “Simplified life requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawers. It requires uncluttering your soul” (p. 3, emphasis in original).

Hybels shares Bible-based, experience-tested advice about how to do this in the book’s ten chapters. He shows you how to move from

  • exhausted to energized by replenishing your energy,
  • overscheduled to organized by prioritizing your calendar,
  • overwhelmed to in control by mastering your finances,
  • restless to fulfilled by refining your career choices,
  • wounded to whole by practicing forgiveness,
  • anxious to peaceful by confronting your fears,
  • isolated to connected by deepening your friendships,
  • drifting to focused by choosing and then living out your life verse,
  • stuck to moving on by welcoming new seasons in your life,
  • and from meaningless to satisfied by choosing to live now in the light of eternity.

Different readers will be attracted to different sections of this book. At this season in my life—feeling busy and tired all the time—I was especially interested in the first two chapters dealing with energy and calendar. As I read the book, however, I found myself reading the chapter on friendships with closer attention. Could it be that my life has too few deep relationships with non-family members? Whatever your interests or needs, my guess is that several of these chapters will address felt needs in your life.

So, what’s the best way to make use of this book? First, it’s tailor-made for individual use. Each chapter ends with an action step for readers to journal about. Page 311 gives a URL and promo code for online resources that readers can access for 90 days. Second, there is a DVD-based small group curriculum that can be used alongside the book. And third, I can imagine enterprising pastors using the book and DVD curriculum as elements of a multiweek sermon series campaign.

Now that I’ve read the book, I intend to read it again with my wife, working through those chapters that address issues we are experiencing in our current season of life. “We get one shot at this life,” Hybels writes in conclusion. “Choose a purposeful, God-first life, and you will reap rewards for today and for eternity” (p. 282).

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Guilt and Shame (1 John 2:28)


ashamed-dogHave you ever felt ashamed of yourself for something you have done?

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me the picture of a Beagle puppy that looks like he’s been caught in the act of wetting the rug. If there’s a picture next to the word shame in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure it’s of this puppy’s face. His head is bowed and his ears are lowered, but his eyes look up with a plea for understanding and forgiveness.

I’m sure that all of us have been caught in the act at some point in our lives—whatever “the act” might be. Perhaps your mom caught you with your hand in the cookie jar. Perhaps your retail store employer caught you attempting to get a five-finger discount on an expensive tech toy. Perhaps your spouse caught you cheating. Our first response in such situations is usually anger combined with rationalization. How dare someone accuse us doing something wrong! We have good reasons!

But sooner or later, we realize that rationalizations are “rational lies,” and we succumb to the twin feelings of guilt and shame. A lot of people confuse these feelings, but they are different. The dictionary defines guilt as “an awareness of having done wrong or committed a crime, accompanied by feelings of shame and regret.” It defines shame as “a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.” Guilt has to do with rules, shame with relationships.

Guilt and shame may be negative emotions, but they are also morally useful ones. They help keep us in line. After all, no one starts his day by saying, “Today I want to feel guilty and ashamed.” Instead, we usually do our best to avoid feeling either. We try to get through our day with our integrity and confidence intact.

No matter how hard we try, however, at some point, we break the rules and hurt our relationships. When that happens, what should we do? Obviously, if we’re talking about relationships with family, friends, and coworkers, an apology and restitution help. But what about when we break God’s rules and hurt our relationship with him? Then what do we do?

According to 1 John, we turn to Jesus. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (2:2). He “appeared so that he might take away our sins” (3:5). God demonstrated true love for us by sending “his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:10). And therefore, “anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God [that is, Jesus] keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him” (5:18).

Jesus is the divine antidote to guilt and shame. “And now, dear children,” as 1 John 2:28 puts it, “continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” Look up to Jesus, and you’ll find forgiveness.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Thursday, May 12, 2011


What is the gospel? Dallas Willard’s answer: “How to get into heaven before you die.”

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A Leap of Truth explores the relationship between Christian theology and evolutionary theory.

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Allen C. Guelzo asks, “Whither the Evangelical Colleges?” Hunter Baker replies with a thither.

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“Presbyterian Church to ordain gays as ministers.” The Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister, considers this a “moral awakening.”Mark Chaves, a sociologist of religion at Duke University, comments: “They’re making this change amid a larger cultural change. General public opinion on gay rights is trending pretty dramatically in the liberal direction.” On a (cor)related (but not necessarily caused) note, mainline church attendance is tanking. Perhaps this illustrates the truth of W. R. Inge’s comment that those who marry the spirit of the age will find themselves a widower in the next.

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“Catholic Church should reverse opposition to in vitro fertilization.” What’s interesting about this story is that the author, Sean Savage, and his wife, Carolyn, used IVF. Due to a lab mistake, she was implanted with the wrong embryo. Incredibly, she not only gave birth to the child but also gave the boy back to his biological parents. Sean and Carolyn tell their story in Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift.

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Robert H. Gundry on “The Hopelessness of the Unevangelized.”

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Just what we need: Yet another English translation of the Bible. And does anyone else find it odd that a graduate school—my alma mater—prefers a translation “written at the seventh or eighth grade reading level”?

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“Scientology in Illinois’ public schools?” Only in Springfield would L. Ron Hubbard and Bart Simpson make common cause.

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“Adolescents, Identity and Spirituality.” Something for parents to keep in mind:

While adolescents may question or review their spirituality, it remains a critical aspect of adolescent stability. While research on spirituality and adolescence is limited, studies of religiosity have found a positive correlation with an adolescent sense of well-being, positive life attitudes, altruism, resiliency, school success, health and positive identity, as well as a negative correlation with alcohol and drug use, delinquency, depression, excessive risk-taking and early sexual activity.

In short, as adolescents develop, they will need to confront their own spirituality and incorporate it into their sense of identity. Continuing the dialog while respecting that process and acknowledging the quest may be difficult. Yet it really remains the only option.

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Is Buddhist pacifism a Western myth?

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Over at Patheos.com, J. E. Dyer pens these words in “Social Conservatism and the Quality of Mercy”:

The moral horizon of our society has been narrowing for some time to a closed equation featuring selfish vindication and death, and it is this process that only God and His concept of mercy can reverse. If Christians are “salt and light” in the earth, as Jesus said we would be, then we cannot do better, in the project of propagating God’s mercy, than to start by absorbing its meaning ourselves.

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“Black Preacher: Why I forgave George Wallace”: Because George Wallace needed forgiveness? According to the Rev. Kelvin Croom, “If a lot of us would forgive people, we could find healing. We could find peace.” Another path to peace would be if a lot of us would repent of our sins against others.

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A little bit of philosophical theology in closing: How do we reconcile the social ought with the personal good? Thaddeus J. Kozinski answers:

The phenomenological dialectic of right and good could be resolved if we could understand what is at the heart of human moral experience; but to understand this heart, we require more than what, unaided, human moral experience and purely philosophical speculation on this experience can provide. My argument for this conclusion is thus: What the duty aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of justice, which is inherently relational and thus irreducible to any interpretation of morality as mere personal fulfillment. What the happiness aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of desire-for-the-good, which is inherently personal and thus irreducible to an interpretation of morality as mere social or divine obligation. So, any explanation of the moral ought must include both others-related justice and self-related desire, and this is precisely what is provided by a theological ethics of creation and gift: If we are creatures, then we are inherently relational, with any actions related, above all, to our creator; and if creation is a gift, then we are supposed to enjoy creation as a good. And if God Himself, in essence, is a relation of three persons eternally bestowing upon each other and enjoying each other’s perfect divine goodness—God giving and receiving Himself—and if humans are made in the image and likeness of this Trinitarian gift-friendship, then we have the definitive—though still inexhaustibly mysterious—archetype in which the paradoxical human experience of simultaneous goodness and oughtness can ultimately be resolved.

You might also want to check out Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality by David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls.