James Bars and Blake Bars. God, Please Rewire My MADFATS: How to Change Your Life. Hope of Love Publications, 2012. See here to buy the book.
“MADFATS” is an acronym for Motives, Affections, Desires, Feelings, Actions, and Thoughts. In this book, Christian counselor and Life Coach James Bars and his son Blake talk about how people, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can rewire their MADFATS to become more joyful, God-centered, and other-centered, while reducing their self-centered fear and negativity. James Bars received his training in Biblical Counseling from the Association of Biblical Counselors, and his training as a Life Coach from the Christian Coach Institute. I have not done a research project to evaluate the quality or professional or academic legitimacy of these institutions, but James does refer to actual doctors in his discussions. The book also contains a disclaimer, as well as recommends that people with clinical depression consider medication.
My guess is that James Bars is a Seventh-Day Adventist, albeit not a legalistic or perfectionist one. He questions the doctrine of eternal torment in hell, but he does not appear to be a universalist, so he may be an annihilationist. He quotes Ellen White on one occasion. He refers to the great controversy between God and Satan over God’s character, a theme that appears in Ellen White’s works. He seems to regard the Ten Commandments as authoritative. At the same time, he emphasizes God saving people by grace through faith. He promotes finding assurance in God’s love and grace rather than spiritual insecurity. I should also note that he hardly ever mentions the Sabbath, which would probably be unusual for a Seventh-Day Adventist. Bars never explicitly identifies himself as a Seventh-Day Adventist in this book, so this is my guess about his religious standpoint. I am for evaluating the merits of what people are saying, apart from considering their standpoint; at the same time, I do find that knowing people’s standpoint demystifies them a bit for me and makes me a little more comfortable reading them.
The book had positives and negatives, in my opinion. Let’s start with the positives. The science that Bars presented about the brain was interesting, assuming it is accurate. The book is correct, in my experience, in saying that we usually fall back on the same repertoire of thoughts each day, that several of those thoughts are negative, and that much of what we think has been shaped by past pleasant or painful experiences. Bars listed different approaches that people have towards loving God. Bars seemed to be open-minded in interacting with different sources, including one that supported meditation. James Bars told a story about how he and a friend went camping in the woods and encountered an angel who saved their lives. This was one of the few stories in the book, and I liked it because of its themes of camping, finding a purpose in life, and friends drifting apart due to different interests yet having a profound experience in common. The book offered a decent perspective on forgiving others and cutting others some slack in this rough journey called life. It offered practical nutritional tips, while referring to professional nutritionists. The last half of the book contained places where readers could write affirmations each day of the week and reflect. I joked to someone that this reminded me of Brian Griffin’s Wish It, Want It, Do It (think Family Guy), but Bars does make a case that writing things out can internalize them.
In terms of negatives, the book was repetitive. It could have been more specific on how to love others. I do not find language of self-sacrifice to be overly helpful, since I do not think that people can forget about themselves; the goal should be to get them to care more about others. Bars would probably agree with this, but he should have been more explicit about that in the book. Bars does refer to Gary Chapman’s book on the Five Love Languages, and I may consult that for advice on how to show love to others, as well as books on social anxiety and social skills. Bars’ book also could have used more anecdotes or stories about people’s successes and failures.
Overall, this is a good book on having a good attitude.
The publisher sent me a complimentary review copy of this book through Bookcrash, in exchange for an honest review.