Having successfully helped readers develop a solid prayer life with the best-selling release of A Praying Life, author Paul Miller applies his expertise to tackle an even more important issue—love. After all, love is what holds all things together, it’s what we’re looking for, it’s what we all need, and it’s what we must learn how to give. But loving people is hard. Our neighbors, friends, kids, spouses, and even our enemies require a relentless, self-giving demonstration of love that only God can produce within us. Taking his cues from the perseverance and faithfulness portrayed in the book of Ruth, Miller sheds light on a biblical portrait of love that is sure to give us hope and transform our souls. Here is the help we need to embrace relationship, endure rejection, cultivate community, and reach out to even the most unlovable as we discover the power to live a loving life.
- Raw and insightful
It’s obvious that contemporary culture and the Bible disagree on many concepts. But is there one they disagree on more sharply than that of “true love?” Often reduced to an emotional response, a physical attraction, or even a chemical reaction, love is a convoluted concept for sure. Add to love the descriptor of “lifelong love” or “committed love” and the chasm between culture and the Word of God only gets wider.
In A Loving Life, author Paul Miller focuses on the Old Testament book of Ruth, drawing out the deep lessons on love illustrated by the narrative. His central concept is that of hesed; the rough Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agape. Often translated as “steadfast,” hesed love is undying, sacrificial, faithful love. The characters of the book of Ruth demonstrate a love that is foreign to our culture, our families, and even many of our churches. I found myself caught up in the story and captivated by how the rich love of God redeems and resurrects a broken life.
Miller strikes an amazing balance. On the one hand, he unpacks the cultural, symbolic, and literary context of the book of Ruth with a deftness that makes it come alive with meaning. I particularly loved his focus on the significance of people and place names. While I believe, as does Miller, that the book of Ruth is historical fact, there is so much richness in even in its narrative structure. I was reminded that scripture is, among other things, simply great literature.
On the other hand, Miller relates the raw brokenness of Naomi, the steadfastness of Ruth, and the redeeming love of Boaz to modern equivalents. A broken marriage, a man committed to his wife who is suffering from mental illness, an employee staying committed to a manager who mistreats him, and other stories serve as poignant illustrations. These stories are emotional on a deep level, and Miller ties them seamlessly to the episodes of the book of Ruth.
And so Miller strikes a superb balance between sure-handed exegesis and gut-level, real-life application. Not an easy balance.
Arthur Morey handles the narration of the audiobook version well, capturing nuances of tone and emotion.
I highly recommend this book for those who want to study the book of Ruth, and for those who are struggling to love with a real, steadfast love. May this book help you awaken to the beauty of God’s Word and the awe-inspiring nature of His undying love.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audiobooks at christianaudio.com.
- Poignant, powerful, and deeply personal: a counsellor unpacks Ruth's story of love
Like he did with "A Praying Life," Paul Miller once again has given us a book that doesn’t fit the mold. This is not just any old book on Christian love. This book turns love inside out and gives hope and help to readers at all stages of their Christian life. "A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships" describes the perils and pitfalls, as well as the promise and pleasure of love.
Miller begins with a personal story from a man he has counseled. The man was a former elder at a conservative evangelical church who walked away from his wife and dove headlong into immorality. Stories like this, and the counseling insights Miller shares illuminate this book. Miller’s insights into love and the human heart, stem from Scripture and ring true. His application is always poignant and helpful. ANd the stories of real one-on-one ministry flesh out the theory of his approach with real tangible spiritual fruit in the here and now.
But Miller’s book is not about his own experiences. He anchors it all on a careful exegetical look at the book of Ruth. Ruth’s story, of course, may very well be the greatest love story ever told. And it has much to teach us about what it means to love unconditionally, and to live in Christian hope. Miller’s account is shaped and ruled by the gospel, and he brings us back over and over again to the importance of gospel-centered living.
Having been incredibly blessed by Miller’s previous book, "A Praying Life," the format of "A Loving Life" took me by some surprise. But as the book developed, I found myself enjoying the account of Ruth more and more, and seeing how it truly dovetailed with Miller’s thoughts on love and his counsel for dealing with broken relationships and living out our faith in this broken world. This book may be a slower and harder read than the earlier volume, but it repays any effort spent to mine its riches. Miller’s wisdom and insight into the struggles of human suffering shine through its pages. His personal experience of ministry (including to his own autistic daughter) give a depth to his thoughts. You feel like you are sitting down over a cup of coffee with an incredibly open and helpful friend as you read this book. And this friend repeatedly points you to a greater walk with Christ and a deeper understanding of yourself and the glory of the gospel.
I listened to the Christianaudio.com version of this title, and found it a blessing to tune into Ruth’s exciting story on my drive each day to work and back. The reader of the audiobook was easy to understand and hear, and his voice was warm and encouraging. I didn’t miss endnotes (if there were any) and it was easy to follow along even though the book was broken up into smaller pieces than it may have been if reading the book in another format.
If you haven’t read anything by Paul Miller before, I encourage you to give this title a try. His approach is similar in spirit to what you may get from Timothy Keller or some of the authors connected with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). This is biblical counseling at its gospel-centered best. I highly recommend it.
This book was provided by christianaudio.com. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
- Insight Into Ruth and Naomi
A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller is a book focusing on the story of Ruth and examining how her love changed her situation and saved her mother-in-law as well. It examines the great love that Ruth had for her mother-in-law, that even though she had nothing in Israel and would be an outsider as well as a widow, she was willing to commit to Naomi, a true act of selfless love.
One of the more interesting chapters was on lamenting and its place in the grieving process in Biblical times. It seems to contrast very differently to today's culture where any sadness or grieving is quickly stopped by drugs or therapy.
I found this book quite insightful into the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, especially in terms of the historical and cultural aspects. The principles about starting a loving life where quite good but probably not as well developed as I was expecting.
The narrator was quite good as the speed was quite easy to follow along with and the tone matched the loving content of the book.
This book is good for someone interested in becoming more loving but it is also great for someone studying the book of Ruth as it is the focus of this book and the principles that come out of it.
This audio book was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audio books at christianaudio.com.
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- Boaz was ruthless before he got married.
After listening to "A Loving Life" I will see Ruth, the person, in a new way. As many times as I have read the book and heard the most well known verses quoted I learned so much more from this book and the story of a Moabite widow who left everything behind.
The author rightly makes a big deal about the names in the book. Most of us in the West don't think about names as much as we should but they were a big deal in the East. So we see that Naomi feels her name no longer fits and wants to be called Mara (bitter).
I did wonder as I listened to the book what would have happened if Naomi had lived in the USA. She could have gone to a Doctor and been given medication. There would have been no book and no David. But I will save the rest of my comments about this for a blog or something.
I appreciate Paul Miller's urging to let God work through the circumstances of our life. He uses the concept of the J Curve to remind us that things don't always immediately work out as we planned.
One point of concern I had with the author was his advice to a church staff person to stay with it in the context of a dysfunctional leader. There are other options for people on a church staff than putting up with abusive leaders.
Maybe I misunderstood the writer but it seemed he was condoning bad behavior by advising the staff person to hang in there. That really is my only negative comment about the book.
I needed the reminder that "God works at the edge of the picture in the shadows". God was working in the background through in the story of Ruth and Naomi. The word "Behold" took on a whole new meaning for me as it reminds me of the presence of God.
The author was able to tell his own story too in talking about Ruth and his story was much appreciated.
Arthur Morey reading of the story was well done with one exception. I still prefer the possessive form of Jesus to be pronounced Jesus as opposed to Jesus -es. I know both are acceptable but I find Jesus-es to be grating.
I received this audiobook courtesy of Christian Audio for the purpose of writing a review.
Narrator Thoughts - While he had a wonderful and passionate subject to talk about, he didn't put as much passion into his voice. I felt at times he came across as flat and just saying the words. He did well on reading at, just not as much passion as I would like.
Book Thoughts - I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't anything that I hadn't learned before, but the reminders and the way he presented the information were encouraging.
He explains how eastern people would have thought about this story and then meaning of the Hebrew names. It adds a whole new dimension to the story.
In an age of disposable relationships and the talk of love as a feeling, it's refreshing to hear love talked about as a covenant. True love gives itself away without any strings attached. Love continues no matter the season. Inside of committed love, we thrive.
Ruth shows us how when we lose our lives, it's then that we really start to live. By following her example, we too can grow and thrive inside of true love.
- Expositional Preaching on Ruth
My faith has increasingly focused on the centrality of love in the Gospel. My professional perspective is oriented toward love in relationships (not always framed in those terms, but with that concept). So Paul Miller's book, A Loving Life In a World of Broken Relationships, sounded intriguing. It was better than a pop-theology/pop-psychology book in that Miller grounds most of his assertions in the Bible. But in reality, it was essentially a series of expositional preaching lessons on the Book of Ruth.
While the topic of expositional preaching can be controversial in itself (some say it's the only way to preach, others think it's horrid and unhelpful), I think it can be useful, but if done right. While I found it interesting doing a sort of in-depth study on Ruth, the re-connection Miller attempted to make to the contemporary world was not terribly smooth. Some of the major problems were with his misrepresentations of psychological processes and groups of people with whom he disagrees.
For instance, a central punching bag in the book is what Miller terms a "feeling culture." This refers to putting feelings as primary and paying attention to them as an element of authenticity. Miller claims some parts of prioritizing feelings that are just simply not true. He asserts that people from this perspective believe that in order to be authentic, you have to do what you feel. Not true. As a psychologist, I definitely put a priority on both feelings and authenticity, but feelings are only one part of who we are. Ignoring them is as inauthentic as letting them bulldoze over our rationality and other priorities. He also claims that the Christian value is to just not let our feelings affect us. This is a major myth in conservative Christianity, and it's just not possible. The reality is that emotions (what he really means by feelings) are always occurring within us and always affecting us. That's part of being human. But that does not necessarily mean that we choose to behave based on what our emotions are moving us toward.
He also makes big claims about other groups/movements/perspectives, like mysticism and meditation. Having studied both academically, I can say that Miller clearly does not understand these concepts, instead going for oversimplistic stereotypes created by people who have had little to no exposure to what these ideas are really about. Unfortunately, Miller uses these various constructs to differentiate his claim of what love is. If he truly understood these other cultures, he would know that they are not necessarily as different from his approach as he thinks they are. They're definitely not as threatening.
Arthur Morey narrated the audiobook, and I've listened to many of his books. He has a great voice, but this book just fell flat. It sounded almost monotone. I'm not sure it was Morey's fault, but perhaps the unengaging content that felt like a dry sermon. I had trouble listening to the whole book and regularly found myself having to rewind because I tuned out. It's really unfortunate because there was potential for a lot of good in Miller's text. It just needs a major revision for accuracy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I didn't enjoy this audiobook much and in fact I haven't finished it. I was looking forward to it as I'd really enjoyed the author's previous book, The Praying Life, but have been disappointed in this one. I very much enjoyed hearing about his family life after getting to know them in the previous book, so it felt like catching up with an old friend. I also found the part about lamenting very interesting and helpful, something I've thought about before. Arthur Morey's narration was absolutely perfect and as he had narrated A Praying Life really brought this book to life too. What I didn't like was the over all theme that love is hard and a chore, making this quite a depressing book and not easy to follow. Maybe it would be better in the print version as it would be easier to bookmark and come back to later. I'm not sure if I would recommend it to friends, but maybe only to someone studying the Book of Ruth.
- Using the book of Ruth to explore relationships as a Christian.
When I was offered this book to review, I was excited. I have read Miller's previous book, A Praying Life, twice and highly recommend it as a practical guide on prayer.
But as much as it grieves me I had to really force myself to finish the book. Others might not be as irritated as I was, but it seemed to hit all of my major issues with Christian Living books. First, it attempts to use historical research and language study to try and establish authority and background on the book of Ruth. I am not opposed to this, strongly support this. But Miller seems to spend more time reading modern culture back onto the book of Ruth than using historical research to illuminate us modern readers. And his lack of academic skills shows through. This is reminiscent of a pastor that has a read a lot of commentaries and taken a few hebrew words and cultural concepts and pulled far more out of them than what is really warranted.
Second, Miller repeatedly over simplifies problems, which then leads to overly simplified answers. One good example: "Our modern age creates categories...and then traps people in them. For instance if we label 2 year olds with 'Terrible twos' then they are no longer responsible. So when they lose their tempers they are just exhibiting the 'terrible twos' instead of sin in need of discipline. Labeling returns us to the rigid world of paganism which freezes everyone into a category, ethnic group, occupation or social status."
Here I think is a good example of how he should have used the word stereotype instead of category, and not created a straw man argument. I agree that we can lock people into behaviors or statuses that are inappropriate for them. But to use this example, we do not help to bring 2 year olds into a right relationship with God and those around her by expecting them to behave like adults. Instead we properly identify the child as 2 years old and then love them as they need to be loved and discipline them (in a method that is appropriate for 2 year olds) so that they will not always behave like a 2 year old. Properly understanding someone is not ignoring their sin. Or said another way, It is not categories and understanding people that is the problem, it is stereotyping people and then locking them into stereotypes that is a problem. If this is what he had said, I would agree with it. But he seemed to say the opposite.
The third problem is that Miller is given to hyperbole. In talking about Ruth's decision to leave Moab and go with Naomi he say, "There is no more radical decision in all the memories of Israel." And this is after reviewing Abraham's decision to follow God into an unknown land and a few other similar decisions. It is not that I disagree that Ruth has made a radical decision, it is just that I am not sure that the book is helped by hyperbolic statements like that. Because instead of hearing a statement about Ruth, I instantly start questioning the hyperbole. And this is far from the only example.
In the end, while there are good things here I have a hard time recommending the book. Miller really does explore Ruth and the concept of what it means to love others, especially those that are less than lovable. But I am hesitant about giving books like this to people in difficult relationships. Many people in difficult relationships do not need to hear that God will work through their suffering and that they should endure abuse (he is clear to say physical abuse should be stopped, but he does advocate enduring almost every other type of abuse.)
I have a limited agreement with Miller (and to a lesser extend Gary Thomas' book Sacred Marriage.) Life is not perfect. There are many places where we actually can make a difference by suffering in the short term for longer term benefit. But that takes discernment. In one example, Miller talks about an associate pastor that confronted the senior pastor over poor treatment of others. The senior pastor then started mistreating and minimizing that associate pastor to take away power of the associate and punish him for confronting his bad behavior. Miller talks about how in the end that led toward a greater glory. But another option would be to go to wise people in the church privately, explain the situation, seek counsel and have others individually or as a group confront the pastor as well (as the bible instructs.) It is exactly situations like this that are at the root of a number of problems in the Evangelical church where misbehaving leadership are given a free pass to abuse 'for the greater good of ministry.' This is never right.
What Miller is trying to talk about is that God can give us grace to live under less than perfect situations and that we can actually do well there because of God's grace. I support that in theory. But when we ignore or minimize bad behavior under the concept of enduring in grace, we are not protecting others that have not reached that level of grace. We may be actually enabling sin to thrive. I think this type of acceptance of bad behavior, especially among Christian leaders, is what leads to situations where physical, mental and sexual abuse thrives in local churches. I don't want to say this too strongly, because again, I do agree with the kernel of truth that is here. But we need to have a community around us that can help us discern the actual path that needs to be taken. And far too often Miller presents our Loving Life as an individualistic work, not a work done in community.
Many people are brought to repentance through the gentle suffering of those around them (this is basically Paul's instruction about being a good wife and bringing the husband to faith.) But in other cases it is the opposite of grace to allow sin to harm, especially those that are vulnerable, new or not yet Christians. What I did not hear expressed, but I think underlies this book, is that as a mature Christian we should do the hard work of loving because God can empower us and the result will be to bring others to Christ or a deeper faith in Christ. If this were expressed explicitly (and the corollary, that those that are mature, often need correction in order to grow deeper), then I think I would have less problems with the book. Also many of the examples are from marriage, which has a fundamentally different covenant than do neighbors or church members or friends. Instead Miller seems to take what is right in marriage and apply it inappropriately to other relationships.
That being said even without the large problems, there are numerous small problems that I think really are serious. In one example, he complains about a child being diagnosed with a mental illness and Miller completely dismisses mental illness as a 'pop psychology category' that will limit the growth of the child. It is this type of minimizing of real issues that needs to be counters. Not combatively, I still really respect Miller, but lovingly in a way that he can see the unintended harm he is perpetrating by not fully thinking through the words he is writing.