Reflecting on the Gospel in Community

Reflection for Review of "The Greener Grass Conspiracy"

### GIVEAWAY UPDATE :: The drawing took place today. Congratulations to Jeff, our winner, who has been contacted via email. Thank you to all who participated. ----- "The Greener Grass Conspiracy" by Stephen Altrogge is a book that I feel like I've read before. Funny thing is, by the time I got to the last chapter, I realized that I had. This means that it is easy to review, but difficult to assign a number of stars to. If you've read a lot on the issues that surround contentment you don't really need this book. But if you've found yourself struggling with contentment but feeling like you don't have the understanding to do anything about it then this book will truly open up greener pastures for you. - *For those who have already read a good bit* :: **Three Stars** as a good summary on the topic of contentment - *For those who are just getting started* :: **Five Stars** as a faithful and thorough launching pad Read the review to see how you can win a free copy of [*The Greener Grass Conspiracy*][greenergrass] ### Interstate Highway Speed Cruise Through the Argument :: Altrogge's Thesis :: > *It’s a conspiracy between the world, my heart, and Satan to steal my happiness.* These three are plotting and scheming together to make me perpetually discontent. They’re stubbornly determined to poison the joy I have in God and to deceive me into believing that I can find happiness somewhere other than God. They want me to dishonor God by gorging on the unsatisfying pleasures of the world instead of finding true joy and satisfaction in Christ. (emphasis added) He restates the thesis at the end of the introduction :: > This grand conspiracy of the *world, Satan, and my heart* is called the Greener Grass Conspiracy. Their objective? To have me always believing that the grass is greener somewhere else, always wishing that things were different, always dreaming of a brighter tomorrow without ever enjoying where God has me today. (emphasis added) After Altrogge has introduced the conspiracy he launches into the root issue of idolatry. The fact is that we think that the world is built around us and therefore our own pleasure, but it is actually built by, for, and to God and His glory. So where does that put us in the equation if everything is by, for, and to God? > Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that will may be. We can only get back the happiness robbed by the *greener grass conspiracy* when we join God in His purpose to glorify Himself. That's what we were made to do. Until we leave the idols and start fulfilling our design we just can't make sense of ourselves. > Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe. We get easily distracted and start thinking the the problem isn't idolatry but our circumstances. Here Altrogge gives a great list of "You Might Be an Idolator if ...". King Solomon is the greatest example in history of a man who walked through every patch of "greener grass" and left us with a book of Proverbs and a pretty depressing diary (Ecclesiastes) to show for it. Altrogge walks us through some of these conspiracy pitfalls in what I've come to call "four lies fools believe". After all this telling us what will not bring contentment I think we're in for some good news. Altrogge does this by telling the story of a bloody path to greener pastures. This is just good old salvation theology presented Puritan style. And that, of course, means it is going to lead to a good old theology of suffering. And yes, the Puritans help out in this respect as well. > If God dams up our outward comfort, it is so that the stream of our love may run faster in another way. (Thomas Watson) Altrogge also follows the Apostle Paul's journey of contentment here. Probably one of the most profound thing Altrogge points to is from Paul's repeated prayer regarding the thorn in his side. > Paul asked for relief, and instead he received power ... > *My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.* > (2 Corinthians 12:9) And yet we still complain. Here Altrogge gets into some nitty gritty application of what he has presented so far. Our complaining puts God's goodness on trial. What is the opposite of complaining? Counting blessings. > Contentment happens when I realize that I have so much more than I deserve. Altrogge ends his argument with in the only appropriate resting place of discontented souls: Jesus and heaven. That's right, the ironic thing about the *greener grass conspiracy* is that there really is a greener grass, but it is the last place our idolatrous hearts ever look for it. ### Where'd Altrogge Get All This Stuff? :: Like I said earlier, the whole time I was reading this I felt like I'd already read it before. Then I noticed that the content of every chapter was filled with three things. 1. Scripture 2. Puritans 3. Contemporary Pastors and Authors The pattern of each chapter goes something like this. - Begin with a provocative illustration that captured my attention. - While avoiding proof-texting, appropriately quote some scripture to frame the argument. - Remember some dead pastors' reflections on the scripture or some contemporary conference speakers' most recent book on the topic. - Rinse and repeat. The thing is, I've read almost all of these books and been to most of these conferences. But that is not the case with most of the people that *really need to read this book*! - When Altrogge addresses idolatry he relies heavily on Tim Keller. - When he addresses the secret of contentment he goes to some biblical examples and the Puritans. - And when he turns to suffering and our final hope, Randy Alcorn is on almost every page. Altrogge isn't the first person to address the *Greener Grass Conspiracy*. But I think he and I have been reading and listening to some of the same stuff in recent years and he does a great job of pulling it all together. ### Two Strengths and a Weakness :: If you find yourself struck for the first time with what you find here I recommend two things :: 1) Highlight every scripture you can find in the book and start reading through the context of each one. Altrogge does a *great* job of hitting the major scriptures dealing with contentment. 2) Go to the Notes page at the end of the book and get ahold of some of the books Altrogge cited. These Puritan pastors and contemporary authors have written some great books and spoken at some excellent conferences that will be of help to you. The only place that I found Altrogge a little weak was in dealing with how we count our blessings. Altrogge encourages us to think of the categories of life, health, food, shelter and possessions. Each time he brings up people groups that probably have far less than you and I do. I wrote in my margin :: > Why does counting my blessings have to be motivated by guilt? Why not motivated by joy? Can the woman dying in the street with polio also count her blessings? My blessings are not those things that I have as opposed to others. My blessings are simply everything that I have in Him, even my suffering. The blessings that I count are the things that show me God in all things. When we count our blessings only as compared to others it leaves us with the serious problem of wondering, "Why has God been more merciful to me than to others? Is that really blessing?" I'm afraid that this kind of counting may lead beyond contentedness to complacency. "I'm more blessed than other people so I'm thankful. Boy, God has been merciful to me. And that's that." You can't read the rest of the book and get the impression that this is what Altrogge wants us to believe. But he does hit it pretty hard and repeatedly in his chapter on counting our blessings. ----- ### Win a Copy of [*The Greener Grass Conspiracy*][greenergrass] :: Please do each of the following :: 1. Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the review 2. If you're on twitter, follow [@jeremiahfyffe][jeremiahfyffe] and [@bibletogether][bibletogether] (if not, don't worry about it) 3. Send me an email ( with the subject :: Enter Me To Win The Greener Grass Conspiracy I will randomly draw a winner on May 15, 2011. ----- **Disclaimer** :: *I was provided a free copy of [*The Greener Grass Conspiracy*][greenergrass] from Crossway with the condition that I write a review. I was under no obligation to review the book positively.* [greenergrass]: [jeremiahfyffe]: [bibletogether]:

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