A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

When you read a Eugene Peterson book you are reading more than his thoughts and ideas, you're getting a deep sense of his heart. You see his heart as a pastor, a theologian, and as a disciple of Jesus.

This book is not a new book, and yet its content remains remarkably relevant and insightful despite being well over thirty years old. In many ways this book is more relevant than ever as it looks at discipleship in a culture that is focussed on instant gratification. When first written, the internet, not to mention cell phones were barely a consideration. Now we have the desire and ability to access information immediately and gain instant gratification. Peterson's book challenges us to examine our understanding of discipleship in such a culture. 
One of my favourite parts of the Psalms are the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) that were sung by people on their way to worship in Jerusalem. This book examines these Psalms and gleans from them reflections that challenges us to disciples to grow in our faith in all areas of our life. 

This books relevant, it's insightful and it's challenging to those who wish and desire to grow in their faith and as disciples. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to grow in their faith.
Was this review helpful?
This is one of the classics of the late Eugene Peterson. The book title has become one of the most popular in Christian circles promoting unity and commonality. The phrase originated from the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil." Peterson uses this to contrast the challenges of discipleship with the culture of instant gratification in our society. Twenty years later, when attempting to revise the book, he realizes that much of the content are still relevant. So changes were limited to things like the Bible translation used at the beginning of each chapter, and the addition of an epilogue to reinforce the essentials of prayer and Scripture in the field of spiritual direction. Readers will also learn that the use of Peterson's paraphrase of Ps 120-134 inspired the eventual translation of the MESSAGE translation. Convicted that people need to pray the psalms, he translates the Scriptures with the focus on vigorous engagement with the Word. His son, Leif summarizes Peterson's consistent message in his works: "good news always plays out best in relationships." This book is about centering our relationship with God and to relate better to people in Christ.

Fifteen chapters span the book, with each chapter led by a reflection on the Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134). There are many beautiful metaphors used to show how Scripture engages the world at large. We are urged to be pilgrims and avoid the tourist lifestyle. The latter wants things quick but the former takes the path that is long and slow. Such spiritual travel advisory is crucial for the modern Christian living in an instant society. We learn about the need to connect our Sundays with the rest of the days to make our faith an everyday religion and not limit it only to one holy day each week. For pastors, Peterson shows us that we ought not to be discouraged nor distracted by people offering reasons NOT to go to Church. Instead, a "long obedience" is about praying and waiting that one day, the person of concern would find a reason to go instead of inventing other reasons not to go. These songs of ascent highlight a whole potpourri of Christian disciplines from discipleship to worship; service and work; providence and security; help and happiness; repentance and obedience; and several more. As a master wordsmith, Peterson crafts out Christian living concepts after helping us amalgamate prayer and scripture into one. This is one book which could be read quickly for information. However, if one is keen on spiritual formation, take time to pause, make notes, re-read, or simply reflected on. Peterson's gentle and persuasive style is inviting. He does not force his words into us. We can choose how to respond. More often than not, there would be "aha" moments written on each chapter. I wouldn't be surprised if readers would find more "wows" especially upon re-reading.

My Thoughts
This book is anchored on Scripture and baked in prayer. Peterson's knowledge of the Word shines through as he boldly lets his imagination runs free. Along the way, readers are invited into the journey of a "long obedience." As I read the book, I feel like a little child in the school of spiritual direction. Slow reading will make us more sensitive to the spiritual nudges within the covers of the book. The songs of ascent are popularly used by worship leaders in calls to worship as well as devotional literature. The way Peterson has been able to do is to use it toward spiritual formation toward the various Christian disciplines of discipleship. The author is spot on when he writes about the dangers of living and acquiescing to the demands of an instant society. In order to better appreciate this book, I would recommend the slow reading of each chapter. Better still, alternate between the reading of the psalm and the chapter. Pray. Apply it accordingly. Compare and contrast our Bible translation with Peterson's THE MESSAGE. The goal is not to get the message into us, but to let the Word open us up so that our souls would ascend toward God according to the leading of the Spirit.

This book is still a classic after all these years. Few authors could write like Peterson. Don't just take my words for it. Read the book and decide for yourself.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade
This book has been provided courtesy of InterVarsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
Was this review helpful?
In the English language, we have been blessed with an abundance of translations and therefore an abundance of discussion on different English translations. One of the more radically disputed translations is The Message written by Eugene Peterson. This commemorative edition of one of his first books “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society” is well worth reading even if his translation is troubling to you. It is immediately clear that this book is the work of a pastor not a theologian (in tone not content), as Eugene writes wonderfully and clearly. Whilst it does use his translation in discussing the psalms of ascent and how they inform the various realms of discipleship, it is not necessary to understanding the meaning of his work. Notably the book is broken down into good chapter and section breaks that leads itself well to reading with disciples, and introduces the chapter with the psalm as well as a contemporary quote. The epilogue written years after the main body notably poses necessary advice for the disciples in wrestling with an ancient book in our culture. Each chapter in the book lines up with a psalm of ascent, but this is introduced so the day old disciple as well as the elder are able to pick up this book without prior knowledge. This book begs further reading and so I look forward to rereading this in future both myself and with others. Whilst the chapters don’t include discussion questions or the like, the individual reader doesn’t miss them and in community the popular and warm tone would lead to discussion easily.
Was this review helpful?
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society Commemorative Edition
#AlongObedienceInTheSameDirection #NetGalley @ivpress

Eugene Peterson is best known for The Message, his paraphrase of the Bible into modern language. That work had not been completed when A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society was first published close to forty years ago. 

Peterson used scripture from The Message in the 20th Anniversary Edition of A Long Obedience, but he found little else to change beyond a few references to current events. This Commemorative Edition of A Long Obedience in the Same Direction includes a touching poem by Leif Peterson about his father. Eugene Peterson died this past October after 85 years of obedience.

This book has stood the test of time; it has inherently proven itself. 

Peterson set the track for the journey by focusing on the 15 Psalms of Ascents, Psalms 120-134.  The Psalms were likely sung during the thrice yearly pilgrimage (distinctly not a tour) on the way up to Jerusalem to the worship festivals. As they ascended to the highest city geographically, the worshipers also, “acted out a life lived upward toward God,” as Peterson put it.

This idea dovetails nicely with the title of the book which Peterson derived from a passage by Friedrich Nietzsche:

"The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."

Peterson got a chuckle from the irony of using the words of Nietzsche, an atheist who pronounced the death of God and predicted the quick demise of Christianity. We can join in Peterson’s mirth with the newly printed Commemorative Edition rolling off the press some 40 years later and Christianity now being the world’s largest religious group with 2.3 billion followers. 

Peterson’s insights on scripture are paired with the 15 Psalms of Ascents. To familiar readers, portions of his prose are like the well-worn knob atop the stair rail post: enduring, endearing, and true.

There are many passages where you might linger, and return again; it’s hard to choose just one such snippet to share, but let this passage paired with Psalm 127 suffice:

"By joining Jesus and the psalm we learn a way of work that does not acquire things or amass possessions but responds to God and develops relationships. People are at the center of Christian work. In the way of pilgrimage we do not drive cumbersome Conestoga wagons loaded down with baggage over endless prairies. We travel light. The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships: “Children are GOD’s best gift.”We invest our energy in people."

Peterson believed the gospel should be lived out, and our scripture reading should become our prayers. To that end he recommended we read scripture slowly, imaginatively, prayerfully, and obediently.

I hope the latest release of this classic Christian work will help a new group of disciples chart a course of A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Was this review helpful?
In this commemorative edition of Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Peterson leads the reader through the pilgrimage taken by the Hebrews as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship each year. He does this by highlighting the enduring and lasting walk through the Psalms of Ascent, which include Pss 120–134. 

He argues, "There are no better 'songs for the road' for those who travel the way of faith in Christ, a way that has so many continuities with the way of Israel. Since many (not all) essential items in Christian discipleship are incorporated in these songs, the provide a way to remember who we are and where we are going. I have not sought to produce scholarly expositions of these psalms but to offer practical meditations that use these tunes for stimulus, encouragement and guidance. If we learn to sing them well, they can be a kind of 'vade mecum' for a Christian's daily walk." 

Although the first publication of this collection of psalm discussions was in 1980, the truths regarding our endurance in a society that is exceptionally more "instant" remain true, and all the more applicable to our lives. 

This edition is prefaced by the eulogy from the celebration of the life of Eugene Peterson as proclaimed by Leif Peterson, which is a memorial worth the purchase of the book alone. 

Finally, I would encourage your reading of this book, so as to perpetuate a "enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue," and the long, persistent, journey towards holiness. 

I was given this to review by IVP Press and Netgalley. #AlongObedienceInTheSameDirection #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
This book wasn't actually what I expected based on the title.  Nor was it the particular style of writing that I have come to associate with Eugene Peterson, though I suspect that comes from the fact that this is a much older work than the ones I have been reading.

I would describe the book as a devotional style reflection on each of the Psalms of ascent. I found that some chapters carried a lot of weight and impact as I read them, while others seemed to ramble about more than a little.

I can recommend the book. It is worth reading. I found that there were particular passages that stayed with me long after I read them. In fact, the title alone has had impact on my life, even long before I cracked the cover. But it won't be added to my list of Peterson favorites. Maybe it will become a favorite of yours?

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
This book helps in understanding the "songs of assent" and is practical in application for today.
I received this book free from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
First of all, it is a book by Eugene Peterson.  That is a must.  Secondly, it is combining the heart of David with Eugene, thus, it is a double must.  I love that Eugene focuses on the reality that the christian life is a journey.  We are moving from the city of destruction to the heavenly city and to have the Scriptures as our companion is a blessed gift.  Not only that, but we are learning about our journey from the heart of God and what He desires of us as we journey toward Him.  So take all these things and mix them together and you have yourself a classic.  So read it.
Was this review helpful?
Many will know Eugene Peterson for The Message version of the Bible. However, he also has written several books. This is the first book I have read of his and I think I will be adding a couple more of his to my book list. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction was written over 20 years ago, however, this recent revision (releases April 2, 2019) offers up a lovely note and poem from his son, along with a few updates to the book such as current events and references, and an epilogue. I find it hard to describe this book, it is a bit poetic and with Biblical truth tied together, which truly made it a wonderful read, it so encouraged me in many areas. Eugene was a very gifted writer and has a way with words, that pulled at me. Very simple, but deep, convicting, but encouraging! He describes our life as a faith journey, which is so similar to my description! Which makes the title of the book A Long Obedience, so true it requires obedience, walking with the Lord, many times though it is a daily struggle to do the right thing, especially when trying to do it on our own, but praise be to God, that He doesn’t leave us alone in our growth. This is a wonderful description of what the book is about: “Tucked away in the Hebrew Psalter, Peterson discovered “an old dog-eared songbook,” the Songs of Ascents that were sung by pilgrims on their way up to worship in Jerusalem. In these songs (Psalms 120-134) Peterson finds encouragement for modern pilgrims as we learn to grow in worship, service, joy, work, happiness, humility, community, and blessing.”

Here are a few favorites from the book:

    There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.
    Too often we think of religion as a far-off, mysteriously run bureaucracy to which we apply for assistance when we feel the need. We go to a local branch office and direct the clerk (sometimes called a pastor) to fill out our order for God. Then we go home and wait for God to be delivered to us according to the specifications that we have set down. But that is not the way it works. And if we thought about it for two consecutive minutes, we would not want it to work that way.
    Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshipped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship.
    Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.
    The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away tears, and, in his resurrection work, create the smile of a new life.
    Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision . . . Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.
    Scripture knows nothing of a solitary Christian. People of faith are always members of a community.
    Relentless, compulsive work habits (“work your worried fingers to the bone”) which our society rewards and admires are seen by the psalmist as a sign of weak faith and assertive pride, as if God could not be trusted to accomplish his will, as if we could rearrange the universe by our own effort.
    In our kind of culture anything, even news about God can be sold if it is packaged freshly, but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap.
    Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.
    The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world. It is a renunciation of the lies we have been told about ourselves and our neighbors and our universe.
    A community of faith flourishes when we view each other with this expectancy, wondering what God will do today in this one, that one.
Was this review helpful?
This title encapsulates an abundant life which requires stamina, endurance, direction and focus. Eugene Peterson provides strong and current encouragement and challenge through the Psalms of Ascent, commentary and insight. 
The commemorative edition with poignant poem from his son at Peterson's funeral is not to be missed and well-worth your time and attention. Included in the update are quoted verses from The Message and preface from Peterson.

I received a complimentary copy of the book without obligation. This review is my opinion.
Was this review helpful?