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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Empty Promises" (Pete Wilson)

TITLE: Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You're Believing AUTHOR: Pete Wilson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2012, (212 pages).

This book is a solid example of why Pete Wilson is such a sought after speaker and preacher. With clear headed thinking, supported by a wealth of cultural awareness and biblical foundations, and filled with compassion and love from a pastoral heart, Empty Promises seeks to be convicting but compassionate, people aware but God-centered, insightful and pointed.  The main thesis of his book is that many of us have been deceived by the world, by ourselves, and by what he calls, empty promises of idols.

The first ten chapters touch on what these idols are, how they look like, and what exactly they are trying to do. First, they are deceptively good simply because of the flawed and sinful human heart that gravitates toward the imperfect and the idolatrous. Second, he warns us that the pursuit of empty promises will only leave us emptier than before. Third, he points out five traps that deceive us about the promises of achievement, that there is a kind of success that sets us up for eventual failure. Four, the constant seeking after human approval is in itself an addiction. It sets us up for exhaustion, disappointment, and rejection. Five, power corrupts and will eventually trips us up. (Points four and five are particularly important and applicable for those of us in leadership). Six, the biggest truth about money is that it always want to become more than what it is, and we unwittingly buy into it. The antidote is to learn to give, give, and give, and not allow money a foothold on our hearts. Seven, Wilson warns us about the insidious ways of religiosity that seeks to add expectations on ourselves, to the point that we need to do more in order to be more. Eight, Wilson brings about another kind of addiction, or false promise, that beauty helps us to be more. Nine, we are warned about chasing after a fleeting dream, or a false sense of destiny. Ten, if we continue our chasing after empty promises, we end up becoming the idols we worship.

Thankfully, Wilson reserves two chapters to lift us out of the whirlwind of depressing "empty promises." He goes back to the spiritual disciplines of solitude, fasting, God's Word, and prayer, ending with a warning. These too may become idols in themselves. The way forward is to live the spiritual disciplines with open hands and hearts to God's grace and truth. Once we are able to arrest our idolatrous tendencies toward empty promises, we are ready to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to move from:
  • drivenness to dedicated;
  • needy to affirmed;
  • controlling to surrendering;
  • greedy to giving;
  • religiosity to faith;
  • appearance-based to truly beautiful;
  • frustrated with past to trusting for the future.
My Comments

This may very well be Pete Wilson's best book so far. Just like Tim Keller's warnings about counterfeit Gods, or John Calvin's famous declaration about the human heart being an "idol factory," Wilson contributes another needful reminder on our popular culture's addiction to promises that appear promising but ultimately empty in themselves. Through this book, one can be forgiven for comparing Wilson to a modern Ecclesiastes. Wilson's first ten chapters are powerful warnings on the dangerous effects of chasing after these idols, even under the umbrella of good intentions. In every age, every society, and especially in a world constantly seeking after meaning and hope, it is crucial for us to first recognize the empty promises of the world, and to re-orientate ourselves back to the true promises that fulfill. The bulk of the book talks about the dangerous effects and futility of chasing after the world, just like Ecclesiastes's observation of life largely being about chasing after the wind.

After a solid ten chapters, I find the last two chapters a little of an anti-climax. It is like watching a movie, where after grimacing in agony over the exploitations of the villain for the most part, the villain simply disappears into thin air without much fanfare at the final scene. That leads me to suspect that there is a sequel to this book that will fill in needed gaps. Maybe a companion upcoming book to "Empty Promises" will be "Fulfilled Hopes?"

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".

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