Review: All the Places to Go by John Ortberg

I haven’t posted a book review for a long time. Here’s one about a book by a popular author, John Ortberg, exploring doors. Yes, doors!

God’s wisdom never ends. We proclaim this to be true, but I realized it afresh when reading a book by a Christian who has submerged himself in the Bible for decades. I understood again how much I don’t know – and how much I have yet to learn and understand.

Here John Ortberg explores doors. Now I knew that doors appeared in Scripture, such as that which Holman Hunt pictured in his famous painting on Revelation 3:20, “I stand at the door and knock.” Or Jesus being the door for the sheep in John 10:7. But I loved learning the layers of meaning the author uncovers in such a simple symbol – doors that open for us, doors that close, how we approach doors, do we fear that doors will remain slammed shut, do we run from doors.

But Orberg isn’t concerned so much about the particular doors, rather the people we become as we approach them, and our relationship with the Master Door Opener/Closer. He sees life as a series of choices that impact our characters – will we yell at our (grand)kids/spouse/friends or humble ourselves and put their needs first? What happens to our hearts when God opens a door but we follow in Jonah’s footsteps and run a mile? What about when we, like Abraham, venture into the unknown? Do we pretend our husband is our brother, as he did with Sarah? Or do we grow in our character and follow God in obedience with faith, even when the Lord asks us to make our biggest sacrifice ever (as he did with Abraham and Isaac)?

I found All the Places to Go engaging and thought-provoking, and appreciated understanding doors in a new way. It’s a book that sparks ideas – it makes me want to delve into the Bible with new questions. But although John Ortberg’s books can be funny or provocative, his humour can jar people at times, and his style might not be yours. Some of his stories and asides I would have cut with my editor’s red pen – but you might resonate with just those passages and diversions.

Though mentors weren’t a main emphasis of his book, I found their impact in his life to be moving and encouraging (for instance, he learned about the levels of meaning of the door from his Greek professor). As modern people, we can let our goals or dreams of success waylay us from our relationships, but life is about people and friendships and doing the journey together. Whether the door is open or shut.

All the Places to Go … How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door. What Will You Do? John Ortberg (Tyndale, ISBN 978-1414379005)

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