Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess by Vicki Courtney

Vicki Courtney’s book is not about being “true to yourself”. It’s about being true to God and His purpose in creating you. (p. 14) When I read that line, I knew I wanted to keep reading this book. There are enough books out there spouting false wisdom about following your own heart.

I particularly appreciated lines like these:

Christ is not the prosecuting attorney – He’s our Defender.

Joy is not linked to the circumstances. Joy comes because there is a purpose, meaning, and a finished work.

When we fail to reflect back on the power of the cross in our own lives, we cease to be effective when it comes to pointing others to the cross.

So far, so encouraging.

Unfortunately I felt like the middle sections of the book dealing with legalism and “Christian snobbery” are weaker than the beginning. Courtney laments that enforcing personal convictions is rarely an effective strategy to win converts (p. 102).  She describes the goal of legalism as toeing the line spiritually…for the sake of feeling spiritual, but it seems evident that her reasons given for not “toeing the line” are simply for the sake of feeling gracious or accepting, not any reason based on scripture.

She admits that she has “a terrible habit of thinking my personal convictions should also be your personal convictions” (p. 111), but she forgets to include here her own convictions about how legalistic other believers should or should not be. The fault in logic (don’t judge, but I’ll willingly judge people who judge and write a book about them) is annoying, to say the least. This is the problem with basing anything on feelings. Feelings change, for good or ill. They do not make a firm theological foundation.

If I had to write the review based on the middle of the book, I’m afraid it would be mostly negative. But after these problematic middle chapters, she returns again to pointing out that

God’s love has pursued us, wooed us, and saved us.

If a Christian truly believes that amazing truth, it would change how and why we emphasizing being good, and how and why we attempt to apply outwardly acceptable strategies for Christ.

Vicki Courtney points out her own weakness on page 123: “My fleshly desire for approval often hijacks my spiritual zeal.” I wish she could have applied this insight to earlier chapters.

On page 132 she reminds her readers that “[Jesus] lost followers at a quicker rate than He gained them, so it’s safe to say building His platform was not at the top of His list.” I find it hard to reconcile these later chapters with the middle of the book that seems to suggest we must give up our standards and convictions in order to make the world believe Christians are just as “cool” or “accepting” or whatever the buzzword may be.

Her reminder in the closing chapters to set our sight on the finish line and to pay more attention to our own faults than the faults and sins of others, is well taken counsel.

So, I didn’t think this one was a home run. The errors in logic and the uneven tone distracted me from the overall message. But the book is definitely thought-provoking and may just be the recipe for challenging some of us out of our comfort zones, whether those zones are accepting too much sin or judging others too harshly. The call to authenticity with our fellow believers is an important one. Pretending we have everything together or do not need help or encouragement from other Christians is just another way of denying God’s great grace in our own lives.

One other thing I appreciated: I like the format of this book, with discussion questions printed right at the end of each chapter, instead of at the end of the book as so many books seem to do. (A personal pet-peeve of mine.)

So, yes: I recommend this one, with those few caveats. If it is read with discernment, it could be a valuable tool for growth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review. Opinions are my own.

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