I think a three-book series entitled “The Intentional Life Trilogy” is an overlooked set of Christian non-fiction books that should be more widely known and read among Christians. The titles reveal the subject matter:
Soul Mission: Establishing Your Life’s Strategic Priorities
Soul Vision: Ensuring Your Life’s Future Impact
Author Ramesh Richard, Moody Publishers.
Actually, I have only read books 1 and 3 and must get number 2! While the books would ideally be read together and in order, it is not necessary. But if you read one, it will likely make you want to get the others and read them too. The books are compelling. Book 3 refers to content from the other books, so you can get the general idea and not be “lost” if you only had it available to read.
The fact that these books are a trilogy is both a strength and a weakness. When talking about such important matters as your life’s purpose, priorities, and impact – we should be willing to read 3 books! But so many today are not readers, and a one book condensation may have brought a wider reading audience.
I think these are a much better alternative to The Purpose Driven Life book by Rick Warren. I know it was a huge seller, and certainly had some value, but I was not a fan and Warren’s book is not one I kept on my shelf. I did not feel any need or desire to re-read or review it’s content. Not so with these books! I’ve highlighted content, and find myself taking them off the shelf to re-consider sections.
You might think these books are only applicable to young people considering the trajectory of their life, but that is not the case. Anyone at any stage of life will find value. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose focus. These books will re-focus you and remind you of the priorities of life for the Christian.
Ramesh Richard is a seminary professor in Texas, with a worldwide ministry of teaching, sharing the gospel, and equipping believers. He is Indian, and also has an advanced degree in philosophy, enabling him to be respected and have opportunities to speak in venues where others would not. But don’t let this make you uneasy about the books; they are for lay people, and easy to read. The point is that he has broad experience and is qualified to write them.
An easy to read style does not mean superficial content. The books have depth. Christian truth is communicated clearly. They are Scripture based and Christ centered, not a self-focused approach as is unfortunately common today.
There is expositional and practical content. You are both encouraged and challenged/convicted in your life of faith. Some books leave out the later, but we need challenge and conviction. Richard is not afraid to mention sin, something I found glossed over in Rick Warren’s book. (Really there is no comparison between Purpose Driven Life and these books, except they are both about life’s purpose.)
I appreciated the fresh perspective and insight as I read these books, and here are a few excerpts:
“Failure to first consult God in prayer reveals a commitment to myself as the solution to life.” (page 49, book 1)
“When I teach a course on ‘Shepherd Leadership’ with an emphasis on strategic planning in various settings around the world, I notice a striking difference between my audiences. Steeped in business literature, my Western audiences point to ‘making goals’ as the first step in planning. Arising from biblical premises and texts, non-western audiences consistently point to prayer as the first step in planning.” (page 88, book 3)
My brief thought: Yes, we in the West have been so influenced by self-help and self-reliance paradigms, and we fail to see it. (One reason I wrote my own book!)
“Remember the First Thing of your life to be taken care of relates to your salvation. You located Christ as the stratum rock, the rock on which to build your life…Now you have to do the wise thing – to examine and reinforce what has been built by laying the right foundation on the rock…Don’t put up another floor without reinforcing the foundation. Your life will easily disintegrate into randomness, be bantered by monotony, and shriveled by busyness. Not because the foundation rock has proven inadequate, but because you aren’t increasingly applying the counsel of God to give that rock the authority to govern your life.” (Page 124, book 1, interaction with Matthew 7:24-27)
“Willie constantly reminded us that ‘God works without me,’ a saying that grips me often. God works without me. His ways are mysterious. He doesn’t depend on me for the execution of his plans. Yet he includes and accepts me as a co-laborer. These days I add to and share my dead friend’s concept in a twin saying: ‘I work with God, but God works without me.’ I plan the future, but God plans without me. I depend on God for my plans to be established, but God doesn’t depend on me for his plans to be established.” (Page 36-37, book 3)
My brief thought: Again, we have been so influenced by self-reliance and self-importance. We think it is all about us doing great things for God, rather than about God working through us. We become the center, rather than God.
“What is the purpose of your life? Loving God, honoring God, serving God: To make the Lord Jesus Christ your first love, to make Jesus Christ look great, and to make Christ well known.” (page 220, book 3)
“Some Christians recognize a theology of purpose but then live randomly.” (Page 216, book 3)
“Obsessions distract. Instead of being occupied with life in its totality, obsessions get you preoccupied with some aspect of life as though it were all of life…Whatever preoccupies you is your obsession. Is it work? family? sports? nature? hobbies? sex? profit?…You’ve got to decide whether your obsessions are worth the cost and energy put into them. It simply won’t profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul.” (page 44-45, book 1)
“If I were to ask your wife or husband what consumes you, what would he or she say? If your children were asked about your main interests, what would they point to as your first-love attention? God wants you to seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt 6:33). Your family makes the best witnesses to report how loving God first allows you to love them better!” (page 140, book 1)
My brief thought: I once worked with a new believer who struggled to properly understand this idea. In her mind, putting God first would mean neglecting her family. I do believe family was an idol for her, and it takes time for God to reveal these things to us. Even good things can become idols, and push God out of his proper place.
“When Jesus is the 100 percent passion of your life, your other passions in life come alive, get attended to, and are excellently pursued.” (page 185, book 1)
And to end on a convicting note, from a section about sin, some questions:
“How does your love for Jesus exceed your love for sinning? Are you offended by anything at all, especially because it offends Him?…In what areas of your life would you be embarrassed if He were physically present with you?…What sin is easy for you? What sins don’t bother your conscience any longer?” (pages 148-149, book 1)