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THINGS THAT MATTER

Things That Matter:
A Guide to Christian Faith.
Third Edition.
Edited by Michael R. Weed and Jeffrey Peterson.
2000. 117 pgs.
ISBN: 9780966632637; 096663263X

Ideal for new converts, seekers, or small group studies.

Pricing*
    1-19 copies $3.50 each
  20-59 copies $3.30 each
     60 or more $2.90 each

* prices do not include shipping

To order, please contact Christian Studies Press by phone, (512) 476-2772, or by e-mail at christianstudiespress@austingrad.edu.

Table of Contents

1. The Mystery of Life
2. God the Creator
3. The Story of the Old Testament
4. Jesus the Christ
5. The Importance of the Church
6. Why So Many Churches?
7. The Christian Life
8. Beginning the Journey

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Chapter one

The Mystery of Life

    Life presents us with many problems. Every day we have schedules to meet, difficult people to deal with, our own anxieties to face. Sometimes, in quieter moments, we experience a fleeting sense of emptiness--a longing for something our words cannot fully describe; we face the mystery of life itself. We wonder, "What is the meaning of life? How should I live? What can I hope for?" We can avoid these questions for a while, but we must finally ask about things that matter.
     Christian faith teaches that our life is not an accident. We are made for relationship with our Creator. While the Creator does not force himself upon us, he places intuitions of goodness and truth in our hearts and minds. We are inescapably moral and spiritual beings. As the Bible says, the Creator has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
     We act above instinct and impulse; we have minds to know truth and wills to desire goodness. We build bridges and write poetry. More importantly, we make choices and commitments that define us as persons. Ultimately, we are created to seek and to know the One behind all created truths and goods--the One who is both Goodness and Truth.
     Too often we spend our time and our energies ordering our lives around limited goods and partial truths. Deep within us, however, there remains a longing for what the world cannot provide, a deep need that the world's goods cannot satisfy. As Augustine said, our restless hearts find rest only in God.
     Our lives are defined by how we respond to the Creator's claim on our hearts and minds. Centuries before Christ, Greek thinkers saw that some goods offer immediate satisfaction; others, to be enjoyed, require time and effort. "Easy pleasures" are obviously more inviting and popular, but they are also "lower" or "lesser goods." The choice between giving our lives to "lower pleasures" or pursuing "higher pleasures" shapes our entire lives.
     Pursuing the easy pleasures prevents us from developing the habits of character necessary to enjoy life's higher pleasures. Pursuit of the greater goods and higher truths equips us with virtues like self-control, courage, and justice for living good and noble lives.
     Both playing the piano and watching TV bring enjoyment, but TV-watching involves no particular skill; playing the piano requires hours of practice and a number of skills. A person who learns to play the piano also learns the importance of discipline, hard work, and patience. TV watching, by contrast, may encourage expectations of instant gratification, foster impatience, and dull our critical faculties.
     Tragically, modern culture distracts our attention from life's nobler pursuits. We are constantly offered an ever-changing menu of easy pleasures. Shallow and twisted models of the good life abound. Advertising invites us to acquire more things that meet artificial "needs." The flickering images of movies and TV constantly distort and trivialize life's deeper meanings.
     We live in a world that exchanges living nobly for living well. We are more concerned with air pollution and calories than with moral corruption and character. Dissatisfaction and impatience drive us in endless pursuit of the new and the different. Many are anxious and confused, torn by conflicting desires and impulses.
     Some of us seek relief by finding meaning in a career, or in our families, or in civic activities. Many give their lives for noble causes. Patriotism, for example, draws on our sense of honor and duty in ways that bar-hopping and dog-racing do not. Still, even these greater goods do not satisfy the emptiness and longing in our hearts.
     Some do turn to "religion" or "spirituality," but they do so for the same reasons they join the Little League or PTA: "it's nice to belong to something," "it's good for the children." "Religion" simply fills a small space in otherwise full and busy lives. Here, "religion" is only one among several other goods; it is not a life-defining commitment which shapes and orders all our other commitments. In fact, religion may even be viewed as useful in gaining other goods to which we are really more committed – health, success, or even family.
     All of these efforts only partially mask our longing for something deeper; they do not satisfy that longing. Our various causes, especially the more noble ones, dimly reflect something else. They point to our need for a relationship with our Creator – a need that cannot be satisfied by anything within the creation. Our many truths and our various goods ultimately find their intended meaning only in the One who is their source.
     C.S. Lewis warns us that only if we put first things first may we truly enjoy "second things." To ignore first things, or to pursue second things as if they were first things, is to lose both. We must finally ask, "What really matters?"
     This book is for those who are wondering what really matters. It is for those who are seeking a deeper meaning in their lives, who want new hearts and a new beginning. It is also for those who have found new meaning in Christ and want to deepen their understanding. This book points the reader to the answers to our deepest longings offered by Christian faith; it introduces what Lewis called "mere Christianity."
     More specifically, the book introduces the reader to the creator described in the opening pages of the Bible, to his covenant recounted in the Old and New Testaments, and to the community that lives in covenant with God through Christ today.
    Chapter 2 begins with the Christian conviction that God created the world and the importance of this conviction for understanding the meaning of our lives.
    Chapter 3 traces the story of the Old Testament. Here we learn about God's choice of the nation of Israel as his people and Israel's response to God.
    Chapter 4 goes to the heart of the Christian faith, the story of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus, recorded in the New Testament, is called the "gospel," or "good news." It is in the life of Jesus that the purposes of God for us are fully revealed.
    Chapter 5 tells us about the church that Jesus established through his life, death, and resurrection. It is in Christ's church that the Father of Jesus Christ continues today to reveal His will for us, to restore us to Himself, and to enable us to live according to His purposes.
     Chapter 6 describes the development of the Christian church through the centuries. It further explains why we find so many different kinds of churches today.
     Chapter 7 shows how the biblical faith transforms our moral lives. Living in response to the Creator's revelation in Jesus Christ, Christians can live new, different, and fully human lives.
Biblical faith offers answers to the deep questions of life. Too often these "big" questions are crowded out by the many distractions of our busy age. This book is for those who are aware of life's problems and questions, who find no comfort in the trivial diversions of modern society, who even suffer despair and loneliness.
     Chapter 8 commends the Christian faith as the way to a life that satisfies our minds and hearts.

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