Book Review: Ordinary



Are you guilty of always looking for the Next Big Thing?  Are you more focused on the next big adventure rather than the day to day activities of life?  How much am I missing right in front of me when I’m looking past this or that to focus on something tomorrow or the next week?  Ordinary by Michael Horton is a great read and an excellent reminder not to miss what God has right in front of us each day.  Horton reminds the reader to be found faithful in the little things as God works through so many of the ordinary things in life.  As we study Scripture, we see things as simple as God providing water for the plants and food for the sparrow.  The Bible holds some pretty spectacular miracles for sure…but the majority of the Bible focuses on faithfulness in the journey throughout many generations.

One thing I realized in reading this book is that a lot of my unsatisfaction or unsettledness with the ordinary is really fueled by social media.  Looking at all the places these people are going or things that they are doing cause me to miss out on the awesomeness right in front of me….or even the ordinary-ness right in front of me that’s beautiful and amazing in and of itself.  Ever since reading this book last week, I’ve done some major cleaning out of my social media channels and put in place some intentional strategies to bring that back under control.  I’m grateful to my friend and colleague Ty Faulk for suggesting this great read!

I highlighted several things while reading and posted my notes below…

  • But I am convinced that we have drifted from the true focus of God’s activity in this world.  It is not to be found in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary, the everyday.
  • We need to recover not only sound doctrine, but sounder practices that serve to deepen us—and succeeding generations—in the new creation that God has called into being.  We need to question not only false teaching, but false values, expectations, and habits that we have absorbed, taken for granted, and even adopted with a veneer of piety.
  • Ordinary does not mean mediocre.
  • The call to excellence is useless by itself.  We can no more stir up a passion for excellence than we can will a passion for love.  It is only by discovering a worthy object of desire that we find ourselves interested in pursuing it.
  • “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31
  • Excellence cannot be cultivated by lone rangers.
  • Precisely because we cling to Christ alone for our peace with God, we are liberated to love and serve others without trying to score points.
  • “Because of Christ alone, embraced through faith alone, for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors alone, on the basis of God’s Word alone”—and nothing more.  This is the slogan of the ordinary Christian (Luke 10:27).
  • Satan works tirelessly to create gaps between generations in the church—gaps that the fathers and mothers cannot reach across to pass the baton.
  • Younger generations will say that they long for community, but the habits that they’ve acquired—and which are now deeply woven into the fabric of their personality—make it difficult for them to belong to any particular group with any serious and long-term investment.
  • In addition to the problem of constantly looking for significance, anxiously hoping that our lives will have a lasting impact, is our addiction to instantaneous results.
  • Reaching non-Christians with “the faith…once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) requires zeal and knowledge.
  • The key to maturity is time and community.
  • “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NASB).
  • Driven to and fro with every wind of doctrine and often no doctrine at all, those reared in evangelicalism become accustomed to hype and cataclysmic events of intense spiritual experience that nevertheless wear off.  When they do wear off, there is often little to keep them from trying a different form of spiritual therapy or dropping out of the religious rat race all together.
  • The most important thing to keep our eye on is not religious experience itself, but the faithful ministry of God’s means of grace.
  • We are passive recipients of Christ with all of his benefits, but this makes us active in everyday ways as we live with and love others.
  • Our life is a gift from God, not our own achievement.  And our own ingratitude is the clearest expression that we have idolized ourselves.
  • “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake…But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:5, 7).  It’s the message, not the messenger.
  • “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
  • Ministers are not kings but servants.
  • In the zeal created by the gospel itself, we can leave the gospel behind as we gravitate toward various calls to “something more.”
  • In most cases, impatience with the ordinary is at the root of our restlessness and rootlessness.  We’re looking for something more to charge our lives with interest, meaning, and purpose.  Instead of growing like a tree, we want to grow like a forest first.
  • We are his not because of a victory we have achieved, but because of “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
  • Miracles surprise us.  But have we lost our joy in God’s providential care, working through normal processes and layers of mediation that he himself has created and maintains by his Word and Spirit?
  • Whatever gifts may spill over into other activities and venues, it is by sharing in the ordinary service of Christ to his people each week that we become heirs of eternal life and draw others into his everlasting kingdom.  Christ is the host and the chef.  It is his event.  His ministers are simply waiters delivering to his guests some savory morsels of the Lamb’s everlasting wedding feast.
  • The call to radical transformation of society can easily distract faith’s gaze from Christ and focus it on ourselves.
  • Radical views of cultural transformation actually harm our callings in the world.
  • Despite its affirmation of our callings in the world, the call to change the world undervalues ordinary vocations that actually keep God’s gifts circulating.
  • The call to radical transformation of society can feed a spiritualized version of upward mobility.
  • The culture-transforming mission can backfire in the other direction, against those who are in fact called to be novelists, painters, physicists, senators, and academics.
  • Our biblical convictions shape our approach to all questions of life.
  • “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standard, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, in order to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” I Corinthians 1:26-29
  • We must be aware of missing the value of the ordinary by seeing it as just one more means to greatness.
  • We do not need to be Michaelangelo to take delight in helping build the scaffold that he used to paint the Sistine Chapel. Not only in the ministry, but in all vocations, some plant, some water, but the Lord gives the increase.
  • “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  When we do that, we shrink a little bit, but God and his world grow much larger.  And whenever that happens, we are ready to make the most of the ordinary.
  • What did you do for the kingdom today?  How did you impact the world for Christ?

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