Friday, March 2, 2012

Review of Note to Self by Joe Thorn

I remember watching Saturday Night Live in the late 90’s when Norm MacDonald anchored Weekend Update.  One of his running gags was to deliver a piece of news and then pull out a tape recorder and give a “note to self”.  Joe Thorn is redeeming this practice by taking various themes of the Scriptures and preaching the gospel to himself.   

If only for entrepreneurial reasons alone Joe Thorn is a genius.  What a wonderful idea to take what is almost a diary and sell it for 10 bucks.  Of course you have to actually have something good to say in these “notes to self” otherwise they’d be more aptly titled “Ramblings of an Idiot.”  But Thorn is no idiot.  He masterfully takes passages of Scripture and brings home solid gospel points.  He encourages, he exhorts, and he edifies.  Thorn models what preaching the gospel to yourself looks like.

In case you are not aware of the trend (though it’s not a new practice) of preaching the gospel to yourself the foreword and especially introduction defends the necessity of the practice.  Thorn defines it as, “the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.” 

This book simply models what it looks like to preach the gospel to yourself.  Apart from the introduction the book is comprised of 48 devotionals that are no more than 3 pages long.  It is divided into three sections: The Gospel and God, The Gospel and Others, and The Gospel and You.  Within these sections Thorn tackles such topics as Humility, Waiting for Jesus, Sowing Grace, Listening to Others, Killing Sin, Worship, and Work.  It is a vast array of topics all serving as responses to a specific passage of Scripture. 

To give you a feel for what the book reads like consider Thorn’s response to Hebrews 3:12-13 (an exhortation to exhort one another):

Dear Self,

God has put certain people in your life and will lead others across your path to encourage and correct you.  The problem is that much of the time you just are not listening.  You like to think of yourself as a listener because you so desperately want God to speak into your life and provide wisdom.  You think of yourself as open and willing to heed God’s wisdom.  You think you are ready to move once God provides direction, but you expect God to make this known to you privately—perhaps while you’re reading Scripture or praying—without the involvement of others. 

What you fail to realize is that one of the primary ways in which God will answer your prayer for wisdom is by speaking to you through other people…(83)

Such wisdom and hard-hitting prose is what flows throughout the book.  Of course Thorn not only beats “himself” up he is always quick to apply the finished work of Christ to each chapter.  Again, herein lies the beauty of this book.  The author can really speak/preach “hard” because it is all under the guise (though probably not really a guise) of him talking to himself.  When we listen in on Thorn’s conversations with himself it disarms us a tad and we more readily identify with his struggle and are given hope as we see Thorn apply the gospel to his own brokenness and rebellion. 

Should You Buy It?

For under ten dollars it is one of the best “devotionals” that you will buy.  Even if each chapter was only meant to give you information on these topics it would be worth the price of the book.  But this books greatest benefit lies in the subtle teaching that Thorn is engaging in as you read through each chapter.  He is not only teaching us about the topics he is showing us how to apply the discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself—and that will be an invaluable tool for your Christian walk. 

Yes, I would buy this book.  Buy it for yourself.  Buy it for your wife.  Buy it for your pastor.  Buy it for your congregation.  We all need the gospel and we all can benefit from honing our “preaching” skills. 

You can buy it here for $8.57 bucks or for $7.99 on your Kindle.

I should also mention that when you purchase Joe Thorn’s book you will not only benefit yourself but also a bearded warrior.  If you click the links above you’ll be benefiting two bearded men with one click of the mouse. 

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