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Book Review:

An Alphabet for Change

Observations on a Life Transformed – By Steve Hallblade.

The premise and structure of this book is simple – one letter at a time, it walks through the alphabet, spending a chapter defining for each letter an attribute or practice seen in lives transformed by Christ.

So for example, in the first three chapters he describes and points out how the Bible prescribes A – Authenticity, B – Benevolence, C – Compassion. And right there, even with those first three, you can see the value – I feel like it’s a worthy use of our time, to consider how God is calling us to live out these traits.

It’s a good idea for a book.

As I began reading it, however, I had three questions:

  1. Since this book is about human traits and behaviors, does it only focus on the works of human action on its own and neglect the subject of God’s will, grace and providence in human lives? Or said another way, is this a legalistic or works-oriented book?
  2. Does this book, as all Christian books should, spend time encouraging the reader to think about the Gospel and how it affects and directs a Christian’s behavior?
  3. What does he do for the letter X?

As for the third question, I’ll let you find out for yourself – it was a new one for me. Happily, however, the answers to questions one and two are No and Yes!

So for example, in the chapter for H – Humility, he says this:

Christ’s example in humility is hard to humanly comprehend. Here is the creator of the universe (equal status with God) willing to become human. And why? He did this so he could live out a selfless, obedient life, die, and become a ransom for many. And while we will never come close to matching this type of humility, we are called to follow his example as best we can.

And then he continues with Paul’s words in Philippians 2 to describe ways in which we can strive to do that.

And later, in the chapter about L – Love, he says:

Jesus ups the game on the earlier command to love one another as you love yourself. The new command calls for our love toward others to be the same as Christ’s love toward us. But how can we do this? It’s definitely a very high standard, but with God’s help, we can love as we are called to love.

And right now, I’m resisting the temptation to give spoilers as to why he thinks we should have a Zeal for God. But there is a lot of good Gospel and God’s Grace in this book. And Scripture in every chapter.

For each of these traits, the author ends the chapter with a “Stepping Towards Transformation” section that offers a helpful basic step or goal for moving towards that practice in our lives – such as “Consider getting into a small group!”, or “Read the book of Job.” These sections extend the book from thoughtful and provocative to directed and practical.

Perhaps a fourth question I should have asked from the outset is “Will this book make me feel guilty?” Again, happily, the answer is no. This is a refreshing, conversational, personal book and every chapter – every letter – was a helpful reminder as to the types of behaviors God wants us to exemplify as Christians. Over and over, I found myself thinking, “Yeah, that’s something I should be thinking about. That’s a description I should be working towards.” But the author doesn’t hit you over the head with these concepts and he never claims to have them totally figured out in his own life.

I encourage you to get this book and read it, and I pray that God will use it to draw you closer to him as you remember more of how you are called to live as a response to what God has done for you.

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