Review: The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge
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Release Date: April 30th, 2011 (Available now for Kindle)
(by: Nick Rynerson)
Recently, Crossway was gracious enough to send me (and 99 other bloggers like me) a copy of one of their new books, The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge. I had never heard of Altrogge, but I trusted Crossway, they haven’t let me down yet. A few days ago, the small cardboard box with ‘Crossway’ packing tape was sitting in my mailbox, so I started reading, not knowing what to expect.
What I got was a feast for my soul (more on that later). Altrogge writes of a worldwide conspiracy that is keeping the world (and Christians in particular) in bondage. He calls this “The Greener Grass Conspiracy”, essentially a plot between ourselves, Satan and the fallen world we live in to keep us from finding contentment in Jesus. Altrogge starts off and convincingly lays out the conspiracy and the players:
“The world makes big, fat promises of immediate pleasure. It flashes its artificially whitened teeth and tells me to enjoy myself. The world lies to me.…Satan Joins the world… Satan invites me to find satisfaction in something other than God. It doesn’t matter if it’s pornography or community service, as long as it’s not God. Satan is happy as long as I’m not happy in God. Satan slanders God’s character and his goodness. Satan Lies to me. ….My heart doesn’t want to be left out of the conspiracy, and so it plays right along with the world and Satan. It tells me that I need to have certain things and I need to have them NOW.” (p.12-13)
Altrogge writes with urgency and zeal to uncover and unravel this conspiracy. Stephen is well aware of the Spiritual War we are caught up in, that is “an all-out, no-holds-barred war taking place within us” (p.50). He writes as equal, a fellow brother struggling with the same three enemies aiming to take away his joy as well as ours. His book is practical, honest and pointed, Altrogge says “The Greener Grass Conspiracy” is “more like sweaty, bloody, hastily scribbled notes from a battlefield” than “the memoir of a contented man”(P.14). As you read, you easily connect with Stephen, his honest real life stories, and his imperfect yet mature walk with Jesus. Oh, and did mention, he is absolutely hilarious! I was getting some odd looks reading this book in public because I would laugh out loud somewhat frequently. This promotional video from Crossway and Altrogge does the book some justice, it’s certainly worth a watch.
Like I said before, this book was a feast for my soul. In the footsteps of giants on the subject of contentment like The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, this book holds a mirror up to our fig-leaves and idols then gently, yet usually painfully points you back to the One who removes our fig-leaves and killed our idols on the Cross, Jesus. Sometimes when I was reading, I wanted to hang my head and weep, as I saw how ugly my sin was (in the midst of his very sarcastic, Jared Wilson-esque sense of humor). Especially in the fourth chapter, “I worship my television”, which can be adequately summed up by Altrogge’s final words of the chapter:
“But the sweet fruit of contentment can only blossom after you’ve ripped out the weeds” (P.44)
Altrogge points out both how we get wrapped up in the Conspiracy in both our religion and irreligion, and takes a hard, Gospel-centered line towards both. He urges and pleads with us to find our joy in Jesus, as he fights to do the same. This book is rich in scripture and quotes from dead guys, but it never comes off intimidating or academic but very, very practical. And it’s overflowing with proclamations of the gospel, you cannot read this book without being forcefully shoved back to the Gospel of Jesus. It all at the same time wrecks and builds up the soul, purging sin for revelation of the Gospel. Altrogge brings it:
“The Father heaped the idolatry of millions upon Jesus and then punished Jesus as if he was the idol worshiper. It was as if Jesus was the pornography worshiper, job worshiper and vacation worshiper. Ever seen something so disturbing and revolting that you couldn’t bear to watch? On the cross, Jesus was worse.”(P.61)
The shocking honesty, undeniable wit (including a brief encounter with the King Solomon at Starbucks), amazing readability and Gospelicious nature of “The Greener Grass Conspiracy” have made it one of my new favorite books. I do not say this lightly, as I am pretty critical on books. And by all means, the book wasn’t perfect, in fact, I wish it was a bit longer and I wish it dealt more with contentment within the context of Community (it does a bit, but that is a subject I am very interested in). But regardless, it is a Gospel tour-de-force.
One of the best features of “The Greener Grass Conspiracy” was the “Stop-Think-Do” questions at the end of each chapter. These are 5 questions at the end of each chapter that relate back to the content of the chapter, these questions are sometimes hard to answer and don’t always let you off the hook with just pondering for a minute and moving on. Altrogge asks the reader to make painful lists, draw graphs and write down gospel-blessings, it’s pretty sweet, but your pride will HATE it….”The Greener Grass Conspiracy” is not only good for personal devotions, but as curriculum as well (especially because of its easy readability and study questions provided in the form of the Stop-Think-Do). I am already thinking about ordering several more copies and using them in a small group study for some newer believers.
But at the end of a day, a book of Jesus is not good unless it stirs my affection for Jesus. This book certainly did, it encouraged me and turned my affections toward Jesus like books before it, such as Lloyd-Jones’s “Spiritual Depression and Piper’s Desiring God have done for me. This is a book for the trenches of Christian living, a book that grips you, pleads with you and asks you to look to the Gospel and say “Courage, dear heart”(P.127). For Christian’s, I can not recommend this enough, and for non-Christians, if you are interested in Christianity, this is a great book to pick up to learn what the Christian life is all about: Jesus Christ.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10