Thursday 26 June 2014

Book Review: "Soul Keeping" by John Ortberg

By Ian Acheson

The Blurb

When is the last time you thought about the state of your soul?
The health of your soul isn’t just a matter of saved or unsaved. It’s the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs. It’s the difference between deep, satisfied spirituality and a restless, dispassionate faith.
In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We’ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world—and not without consequence.
Bestselling author John Ortberg presents another classic that will help you discover your soul—the most important connection to God there is—and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity’s most mysterious and neglected topics.

My Review

I believe we reflect less on the soul these days, however, as Ortberg outlines, the Bible talks a lot about it.

This beautifully written book helps the reader to understand the soul's significance and how to care for it. It starts with an important and revealing analogy, one I've heard a few times, The Keeper of the Stream. It is with this backdrop that Ortberg soon jumps to the core of the book: "Your soul is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts, feelings, etc) and your body (your face, body language, and actions) into a single life" and hence, "It's the most important thing about you. It is your life."

The book is split into three sections:

1. What the Soul is
2. What the Soul Needs
3. The Soul Restored

I found greatest benefit in the first two sections and particularly appreciated the sections that dealt with sin and how it wages war against the soul: "Sin fractures and shatters the soul." It is in our fallen natures that our souls are needy, needy for God, but often we seek other alternatives that constitute idolatry.

Ortberg shares his own struggles with keeping his soul set on God and provides some pointers through his own daily experience of how he has developed the habit of walking through his day interacting with God. Dallas Willard has played a pivotal role in Ortberg's life and understanding of how to care for one's soul. Throughout the book we are given the opportunity to share in many of their conversations on the topic, which I enjoyed immensely.

Ortberg has a very readable style, however, this is a book that challenges and provokes the reader to draw closer to the Lord as it is only "with God" that we can find true contentment.

Highly recommended.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, 
Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter


  1. Ian, great review! This sounds like a book I'd like to read, especially because it has the practical application of challenging the reader to draw closer to the Lord. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thanks Narelle, I'm a long time fan of John Ortberg (& Dallas Willard) and so getting both in one book was especially useful for me.

  2. Hi Ian,
    I loved John Ortburg's writing style in 'The Life You Always Wanted.' Now, I think I'll read 'Soul Keeping' too, after reading your positive review. Thanks.

  3. Sounds like a great book, Ian. I've seen many of John Ortberg's teaching videos and they are terrific, so I'm sure this is a very worthwhile read.

    1. Carol & Paula, as you enjoy John's work, I'm sure you will ensure this one. He reflects a lot on Dallas Willard's wisdom which I found to be an added blessing.

  4. I saw a quote from this book elsewhere recently and thought it tied in well with my own book I am currently writing. Then I noticed your review here--so now I'm looking forward to getting my own copy next week. Thanks, Ian!

    1. I love when those sort of things happen, Jo-Anne. I hope you enjoy it.

      I'm also intrigued by the book you're writing - is it fiction or non?


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