This review first appeared at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web blog.
Joe Thorn. Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 144 pp. $10.99.
“No book written by man has so warmed my heart during the last decade as has this one,” is what I said in reference to the last book I read by Joe Thorn, Note to Self. A few years have passed, and I stand by that word.
You see, Note to Self played a seminal role in me seeking Pastor Joe Thorn as a mentor and coach. I’m proud to call him my pastor and friend, and am thankful for the time he has poured into my life.
When Joe shared with me that he was working on a second book, Experiencing the Trinity, I eagerly prayed for him as he wrote and looked earnestly towards the day that I might read this new work.
Experiencing the Trinity is a devotional and experiential meditation on the many attributes of the triune God. Thorn looks at each person of the Trinity in turn: fifteen devotions on the Father, twenty on the Son, and fifteen on the Spirit. Each of these sermonettes to the self draw out shortcomings — how we forget, are tempted, self-deceived, or misunderstand these attributes of God. Then, with the same gentleness and conviction, truths are affirmed and reinforced in our lives.
Thorn shares in the introduction how many of Experiencing the Trinity’s devotions were written during and in the aftermath of an extremely anxious time for pastor Joe. It was a time where Joe sought counsel from Pastor and Professor David Murray, who recently wrote The Happy Christian. It was a time where Joe enlisted professional medical help as well — a decision difficult for him because of prior convictions about medication. But ultimately, though many factors played a role in his recovery, this is what Thorn says took preeminent place:
“And central to it all was the Word of God. It was Scripture that drew me back to the hope, peace, and safety I have in Jesus. And this is what this book is really about: how the Word of God draws us to the living God. I knowing him we find peace, joy, strength, and faith.” (17)
So each devotion begins with a Scripture, which is then applied to the heart, moving the reader along in God-exulting worship and praise.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Before readers depart from the introduction, Pastor Joe gives a solemn reminder. He wrote these devotions as a Christian and only a Christian may rightfully appropriate these truths and pray them with confidence. Yet, he couches this qualification with a valuable statement that opens the door to the curious and seeker: “If you have not yet believed in Jesus Christ as the only hope of being reconciled to God, I encourage you to read the following pages as the promises God make to those who believe” (19).
Likewise, if you think that devotionals like this one are only for the truly pious, or books like this sit on a pastors shelf and are not rightly fit for the average person, you would be tragically mistaken. If anything, Thorn communicates the exact opposite. Every person needs the truths from Experiencing the Trinity. We’re all weak, vulnerable to sin, and prone to revert to old ways. Thorn articulates this in various manners throughout Experiencing the Trinity. In his chapter on God the Father’s forgiveness, he gently reminds us:
“It’s good that your sins bother you. They should. They are an offense and affront to God. But your tendency to lose hope in light of them is not of faith, because faith believes and receives the pardon of God. He forgives his people.” (45)
What a comforting reminder to your soul!
Had I mentioned how concise each of these devotions are? Some are two others are three pages in length. Yet, this doesn’t mean that one will spend a mere minute or two on these devotions. I found myself resting in the truths found within and marinading my heart in them for much longer. I recall Thorn’s chapter on the Holy Spirit being grieved. He compares the soul to a garden. He says, “Your soul is designed to be a garden of sorts, one that bears fruit for him who tends it” (136). Thorn exhorts to cultivate godliness, resist the weeds of unrepentant sin, uproot them through confession, and water your soul
I recommend Experiencing the Trinity with the same zeal I once recommended Note to Self. Purchase this book. Read it. Re-read it.
Essential Recommended Helpful Pass It By
Experiencing the Trinity is a grace infused prayer book that reflects on the beauty and wonder of our Triune God.