Eddy Ekmekji has written a terrific eBook for spiritual growth, Because God is Great: an Effective Model for Christian Living and Maturity. The book follows the movements found in the story of Psalm 48—pondering, witnessing, and proclaiming—which Eddy argues are the movements disciples of Jesus Christ are to make as they grow in their faith. Because God is Great is a wonderful gift to the body of Christ in that it gives us a rich exploration of a psalm as well as twenty-five practical exercises that will stretch readers and foster their spiritual growth.
I should admit Eddy is a very good friend of mine and one of my favorite people in the world. We have been friends for over fifteen years. I admit I am biased. I do not believe my bias, however, is unfounded. I know first hand how deeply Eddy takes his commitment to serving God and others. He truly wants to see people grow in Jesus Christ, especially the college students he ministers to as an InterVarsity staff worker. Because God is Great comes from Eddy’s firm belief that a life spent with and devoted to God is the fullest expression of what it means to be human.
Now for the nuts and bolts of the review. Because God is Great is broken into five main chapters. The first is a brief overview of Psalm 48—the book includes a more thorough commentary as an appendix. This overview grounds the reader in the psalm. I admire Eddy’s creativity in picking a psalm that is not well known. Because God is Great displays how God speaks through any piece of Scripture, and not just the greatest hits like Psalm 23 or John 3.16. Choosing a lesser-known psalm is also a shrewd choice because readers will not likely have heard many sermons or have done many Bible studies on it. It comes to us as a fresh piece of Scripture, with little baggage.
For the next three chapters Eddy follows the movements of the psalm. In the first movement the psalmist ponders God’s steadfast love and the majesty of the Temple in Jerusalem. Readers are called to reflect and ponder their experience of God’s love and greatness.
The next movement is to witness. Eddy tells us that witnessing is both passive and active. We watch something happen or someone else work, but to pay attention requires effort on our part. So often we go through life unaware. The psalmist calls us to open our eyes and pay attention. This is the work of the explorer who walks around the city of Jerusalem and sees firsthand the walls, towers, and Temple.
The final movement is to proclaim. After pondering God’s love, after witnessing God’s purposes, we are to tell others about God’s character and works. Through proclaiming to others, faith is passed on and strengthened. We are not only to proclaim to others, but to ourselves as well. Reminding ourselves of God’s greatness is a fascinating idea and absolutely necessary in a world where many voices tell us that God is not real, and following Jesus is foolish, if not dangerous to humanity.
In the last chapter of the book Eddy provides a thoughtful discussion of what a life looks like following all three movements as well as what a life would look like if it only follows one or two of the movements. Without all three, we do not truly grow into the people God wants us to be. I am most comfortable with pondering—sitting and just thinking about life and God comes pretty easily to me, hence this blog. Witnessing is a bit more challenging because it is easier for me to read a book about God’s faithfulness than to look for signs of that faithfulness in my life. The most difficult challenging movement for me, however, is to proclaim. The exercises Eddy suggests here, such as actually going out and telling people about God’s greatness got my pulse racing. This may sound odd for someone who has served as a pastor and who has a public blog, I know, but the kind of evangelism Eddy advocates requires a conversation. I get to control where a sermon or a blog post goes. Conversations are altogether different.
Eddy includes exercises at the end of each chapter. These twenty-five disciplines are extremely helpful. I used Because God is Great as a devotional guide over a season, but I made the mistake of trying to do all the exercises at the end of a chapter at once. There is a great variety of exercises that will fit or stretch different personalities. I would encourage people to go through the book and pick one or two exercises at the end of each chapter that most easily resonates with them. Then, at a later time, return to the book and choose an exercise that is the most challenging. One of the great strengths of Because God is Great is it encourages doing the exercises in community, for the purposes of encouragement and accountability. I am glad it includes the Ignatian prayer of examen in the exercises as this one practice requires pondering, witnessing, and proclamation, especially if done with others.
The appendices include a more complete commentary on Psalm 48, a guide to help readers write their own psalm of praise, and a group Bible study. This book is a terrific personal guide, but it would be especially rewarding to explore the psalm and do the exercises in community with others.