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Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms that Summon You from Self to Community

29th April 2013 Christian Books 17 Comments

This is a bold book. It has to do with changing the life of American society, from the inside out, through source action of prayer.

I have written a book for Christians, says Eugene Peterson, who want to do something about what is wrong with America and want to plunge into the center, not tinker at the edge. I have chosen eleven psalms that shaped the politics of Israel and can shape the politics of America, and I have taken them seriously…I have written to encourage Christians to pray them both as children of God with eternal destinies and as American citizens with daily responsibilities in caring for our nation.

Peterson is concerned with the unselfing of our self-preoccupied, self-bound society through the action of praying together with other believers. He offers insightful, thought-provoking reflections on eleven select psalm-prayers that can help us overcome such things as self-centeredness, self-assertiveness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-pity, self-service, and self-love.

Originally published under the title Earth and Altar and now being reprinted for wider distribution, Where Your Treasure Is provides solid fare for any thoughtful, concerned Christian. But the book is especially suitable for group study and discussion: what Peterson writes here will serve to stir small groups of Christians to pointed reflection and prayer-action.

Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms that Summon You from Self to Community

  • 17 responses to "Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms that Summon You from Self to Community"

  • Jasmine Sanchez
    4:41 on April 29th, 2013
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    It never ceases to amaze me how Eugene Peterson so easily exposes the lie of what we in the West have come to call “reality.” His book Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer changed my worldview and revolutionized my prayer life. This book–Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, has done just as much (and more) than Answering God.

    Reversed Thunder has truly awakened my imagination. It has turned how I approach the Word of God on its head (I don’t even feel like I approach it anymore–it approaches me). For the first time in my life, I feel that the Bible is not just some mystic book that speaks from somewhere in the mists of the past–it is living (how many times had I heard that and given mere intellectual assent?) and speaking to me always.

    Each chapter of this book is vital. Eugene Peterson has distilled the lessons of a lifetime in these pages–they are transformative. As an aside, I read Brigitte Hanhart’s children’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Shoemaker Martin while I was reading Reversed Thunder–the messages of these books powerfully reinforce one another (in other words: I strongly recommend reading them together).

    I give Reversed Thunder my highest recommendation.

  • Tamala Mary
    6:33 on April 29th, 2013
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    I have just discovered Eugene Peterson’s works, and have borrowed what I can from pastors and missionary friends here in Taiwan. I am almost finished with “Earth & Altar” (a book he published in ’85), so I was checking Amazon for another title to start on next. I’m glad I read the sample pages, because this is the same book. (There is no mention that this is a reprint except in the publishing details.)

    “Earth & Altar” (now “Where Your Treasure Is”) is an excellent book on two counts: it helps you uncover the meaning of eleven Psalms, and then applies the meaning specifically to the purpose of “unselfing” yourself, shedding the selfish American mindset, and refocusing on God. As I said, I am not quite done with it, but the first eight chapters have deepened my understanding of the Psalms while strengthening my prayer life.

    Peterson speaks of the possibility of great change in America if Christians were to reclaim what they are given in the Psalms — I would love to see it happen. Or rather, I am praying to see it happen. And that’s where it starts.

  • John.fdc
    11:15 on April 29th, 2013
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    Over the past year, Eugene Peterson has become my favorite author (along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Piper). After reading Peterson’s books Run With the Horses (the life of Jeremiah) and Where Your Treasure Is (the Psalms), I was eager to read more by him. I was not disappointed by this book.

    Peterson sets off at the beginning to lay down the truth that the Apocalypse was not written as a treatise on “things that must soon take place,” to be analyzed for chronology and fulfillment. Rather, it was written by a caring pastor guiding his people through the threat of caesar-worship. It is a book solely about the distant future, but a collection of poetic images that serve to evoke hope and order in the present churches of Ephesus. I am so grateful that Peterson emphasizes the fact that all apocalyptic is meant to be practical in the here-and-now. “Eschatology is the most pastoral of all the theological perspectives, showing how the ending impinges on the present in such ways that the truth of the gospel is verified in life ‘in the middle’” (9). “There are predictive elements in some prophecy (and some in the Revelation), but they are always in service to a present message” (21).

    Peterson walks through a chapter or two of the Revelation at a time, keeping in mind the three inseparable roles of John as he writes what is revealed to him: pastor, poet, and theologian. For Peterson, real theology is only seen and understood as it is worked out in our daily living; all theology is imminently practical. Just like the Apostle in his day, Peterson lives to combat the Gnostic duality that embraces the “spiritual” as something belonging to another world or sphere, and not upsetting our finely crafted lives.

    If Peterson sees any unifying theme or purpose behind the images of the Revelation, it is undeniably WORSHIP. Worship–the fitting participation of God’s people in response to his actions–is for God’s people a taste of heaven even now. Worship matters: it orients our lives to God and keeps us hopeful. Failed worship–focusing on what people are doing rather than God–leads to chaos. “Worship is the essential and central act of the Christian. . . . Worship is the act of giving committed attention to the being and action of God. The Christian life is posited on the faith that God is in action” (140-41).

    The book, though, is not without its flaws. Taking perhaps a bit too much poetic license in interpreting the visions, I believe Peterson often sees things in Scripture that, while they may ultimately be correct, are simply not evident from the text itself. For example, in reference to the “sea of glass”, he writes of how this is clearly a reference to the baptismal font (63). All in all, though, this is an illuminating, stirring, and utterly pastoral reading of the New Testament’s final book. With discernment–and do understand, this is NOT a commentary–this book will make an excellent aid to anyone wanting to learn more about the Revelation.

  • Tod Grupp
    14:29 on April 29th, 2013
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    This is fabulous book about the Book of Revelation.Rather than continue to be consumed by fanatical views of Revelation become enlightened.This book expanded my views and understanding like no other book I have read about this book in the Bible.Rather than stand on the sidelines waiting for signs of the end times,read this book and experience and understand the Revelation as we live it day by day.This is a very thought provoking book.

  • Stephen Abdo
    17:19 on April 29th, 2013
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    If you’re expecting line by line interpretation of the last book of the New Testament, do not buy this book. If you have read the Revelation of John and are wondering how to move from details to the ‘big picture’ this is the perfect book.
    Peterson brings to high relief the major themes of the Scriptures. The chapter titles preview this: “The Last Word on Christ”; “The Last Word on the Church” and so on… Poetic, encouraging and challenging all at once. The chapters I enjoyed most were on scripture and on Christ: I reread them before I continued the book. This is a book worth keeping and rereading. Peterson’s writing is much like CS Lewis’, don’t read this book if you have “God in a Box” brand of Christian theology. Read it if you dare.

  • spikespencer
    22:26 on April 29th, 2013
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    This book is incredible. Eugene Peterson takes his readers to depths unreached by other authors on Biblical books. And he makes it practical — nothing he writes is beyond our daily lives. Eugene Peterson isn’t your “typical” Christian author either — this is a big plus. He doesn’t write in Christian jargon. He writes superbly, beautifully. Peterson has become my favorite author — right next to C.S.Lewis.

  • Sarah Dieter
    1:22 on April 30th, 2013
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    Peterson reduces the complicated and poetic eschatology of the Revelation to a simple thesis: God is in control of history. And since the beginning and end are good, we who are “in the middle” must prayerfully trust the Author in spite of our trials, as we turn the next page.

  • Ian I.
    9:42 on April 30th, 2013
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    Eugene Peterson presents an inspired, contemporary reading of the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Peterson offers an important counter to the followers of John Darby (1800-82) who introduced an entirely new, literal, predictive reading of Revelation.

  • Spayman
    12:38 on April 30th, 2013
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    Have you become immersed in interpretations of the varied and even gross symbolisms in the Book of Revelation? Have you missed the introductory statement that it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ”? He gave His revelation, His last words, through the listening ears and the seeing eyes of His devoted friend, St. John, theologian, poet and pastor. The author of Reversed Thunder has caught the sweep and practicalities of Revelation through his insights into Jesus’ last words, His ultimate words, on such subjects as the church, prayer, evil, politics, heaven. Jesus’ call for us in the here and now is to worship God and to this theme we can respond, “Amen.” This book invited repeated reading, always with an open Bible, time for meditation, prayerful worship. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

  • Alvin Gastelum
    13:28 on April 30th, 2013
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    recommend this book because it addess the number one problem in USA Christians – head knowledge over heart knowledge – the Bible is the writen Word made Flesh and still lives among us – that we can have a personal relationship with Jesus – I have not finished the book BUT what I read has me moved to live a life to Him – if you are looking for a book on time tables about the end – this is not for you

  • Chief
    17:29 on April 30th, 2013
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    Look no further; read no more. Settle in and digest this book slowly. Peterson weaves the threads of biblical themes into an understandable symphonic and pastoral commentary of Revelation

  • Farden
    19:57 on April 30th, 2013
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    I am a big fan of Eugene Peterson’s writings, so I admit being a little prejudiced I guess–but here is another 5 star pick from him I would highly recommend. In looking at 11 different Psalms the author calls believers to abandon the shallowness that passes for much of American Christianity for a deeper walk in “unselfing” ourselves to impact us personally, families, churches, society and our world in general…moving from self-centeredness to community. Excellent and cannot recommend highly enough. Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

  • vomitface
    20:21 on April 30th, 2013
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    Simply the best book I have read on Revelation. Peterson’s book is about about God, the person. The focus on revelation is about the revelation of Jesus Christ. So many people get interested in everything except God, loosing themselves in symbol hunting, last day prophecies, intrigue with numbers, speculating with frenzied imaginations on times and seasons, despite Jesus’ severe stricture against it. (Acts 1:7) Our salvation, our focus, is on Christ. Our timing is the looking at our present, the silence within us, God’s very presence living within ourselves. The timing and sense of urgency of God is not the same as living with the sense of hurry, as it is urgent for us to look inside ourselves, use our imagination with God’s Spirit and discern the revelation of Jesus Christ in others through Him and in Him in ourselves.

  • reyes
    6:26 on May 1st, 2013
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    “Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination” is the most significant treatment of the book of Revelation that I have read (or indirectly experienced through such books as the “Left Behind” series). Eugene Peterson, himself a pastor, always works from the understanding that John was also a pastor, separated from his small, beleaguered churches as he endured exile on the isle of Patmos. John was writing to communities gathered around Word and Sacrament; communities that gathered to pray and ponder the Word of God; communities that struggled to live faithfully in the midst of a society that was dangerous, decadent, despotic, and demonic.

    Peterson examines the book of Revelation as a series of “last words” upon various themes in Scripture: Christ, sin, power, the Church, worship, etc. They are poetic, imaginative, pastoral, and sometimes cryptic reflections and summations of what has already been treated elsewhere in Scripture. Thus Revelation does not merely quote Daniel and Ezekiel directly, but alludes to their images (often almost literally) while setting them in the context of the Church; the person, work, and lordship of Christ; and the final triumph of God over all that would seek to oppose him and destroy his people.

    Peterson downplays the “future foretelling” that is so prevalent in many works by some interpreters and popularizers of Revelation. He believes that an overly literal “timetable” reading of the book distorts its message, flattens its poetry, and ignores its deep pastoral heart. On the other hand, Peterson never simply “explains away” or dismisses some of the difficult, often bizarre imagery of the book. Rather he strives to show how John, a faithful theologian, pastor and poet of the Church, used those images to grip the imagination and strengthen the nerve and the faith of his hearers.

    Peterson’s writing is both “meaty” enough for most pastors, and accessible enough for most interested laypersons. It is the one treatment of Revelation that I have unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended to both categories of readers; AND it is one of the few books that I’ve underlined lengthy passages and dog-eared just about every other page. Not only that – it’s one I return to for the sheer pleasure of reading it.

  • Paul DeGroot
    8:00 on May 1st, 2013
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    Anyone familiar with Eugene Peterson knows the man is the consumate wordsmith. Each paragraph is a tapestry and each chapter is an experience that doesn’t leave one with new information, as such, but always with something new to think about.

    The focus is on experiencing Revelation – reading the book out loud and not just hearing the words or even hearing the thoughts, but striving to actually experience John’s vision. Peterson believes that apocalyptic visions are to be experienced, not so much studied, and this experience should result in a life change meeting the need of the moment.

    I’ve read several books on Revelation but none strive to bring one into the experience and into the desired life change that this book seeks. The four stars are given mainly because this is my first review and I want some “breathing room” for future reviews. Also, if you are seeking to learn what Peterson believes about what the various images actually mean, you’ll find it lacking there. It’s not about the particulars – it’s about the whole for Peterson.

  • franklin
    12:37 on May 1st, 2013
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    Book came promptly and was in good condition with some underlining as described.
    I’m not terribly enthralled with the book, but everyone in my Revelation study class seems to like it a lot. I find it hard to read…my mind wanders…but everyone else loves the style in which he writes and thinks it meaningful. I have not been a frequent student of the Bible, perhaps that’s the problem. I was hoping for something a little more straight-forward.

  • Glenda Mcadams
    14:06 on May 1st, 2013
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    I’m not sure I would have said that you could read and understand Revelation as a “devotional” book, but with Peterson’s insights I can now say it. Revelation is a wonderful study and adventure as you take along this book as your guide. You will find that it will inspire you to prayer, worship, devotion, repentance, and hope as you read through Reversed Thunder.

    Everyone needs to have this in their library not for the didactics but for the amazing devotional that it is. I highly recommend this read.

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