Review: 3:16. The Numbers of Hope

coverMax Lucado writes as only he can, with insight and brevity, packaged in powerful imagery. His latest book, 3:16, is packed with delivious observations and challenges, and he does it by focusing on 27 simple words.

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Max then proceeds to add personal stories and humor, supporting and explantory scripture, and writes an entire book on just those few words. An entire chapter on “the world,” another on “He gave,” still another on “one and only son,” and so one. I enjoyed the chapter on “gave;” salvation from Christ is truly a gift, and not one that we have to earn. The good deeds we do gains us no entry into heaven; Christ did it all on our behalf.

The chapter on “perish” is a description of hell that should not be glossed over. For some reason, we don’t like to talk about hell, and when we do, we minimize it to lessen its impact. When we says, “that was a hell of a steak,” somehow we’re complimenting food with a description of eternal torment. We don’t do it with lesser punishments; “my golf game has gone to prison” doesn’t invoke the same image. Hell is described in the bible as a real and eternal place, and Max Lucado finds scripture to support the image of hell full of people choosing not to spend time with God. I found it interesting that Max Lucado doesn’t describe it as full of people wishing they had chose God; the scripture that mentions the rich mand and Lazarus says the rich man wanted Lazarus to visit him in hell. Why didn’t the rich man want to visit heaven instead? Perhaps people in hell are so hardened by their refusal of Christ that they are eternally without God and alone with their selfish thoughts, lying tongues, thieving hearts.

Max Lucado’s 3:16 ends with a 40 day devotional that describes Jesus, both man and God, and what his daily life was like. Who were his friends, and what did they do? Have you ever pondered a man that was liked enough to be invited to a wedding? Jesus was likeable. A man who absorbed the weight of the worlds sins and left Him anguished and crying blood while He waited for God’s judgment to fall on him for sins He didn’t commit but willingly accepted? And after Jesus’ death, and after Peter had disowned Him, Jesus appears while the disciples were fishing, and fixes Peter breakfast. No hint of scorn, no hint of His friend’s betrayal, Jesus simply offers grace. Always.

This book is worth reading over and over and over. Follow the scripture references and read about the greatest gift ever offered to us, and how God so loved us so much that He would die for us so that we can join Him in an eternal, sinless, and reconciled life.

Review: Wonderlust I’m coveting. There, I said it. I want what Vicky Kuyper has.

Not the travels – I get to do that for business. Not the lifestyle, either. I want her eyes, the way she can look at the world and see how God is working in her, around her, through her.

Wonderlust is Vicky’s diary of her travels throughout the world. Machu Pichu, the Amazon, Thailand, Burma, China. Riding elephants, fishing for piranhas, seeing the aurora borealis. And every place she goes, she see God and shares her vision of Him with us. God teaching patience, perspective, comfort, wonder. Her ability to see God’s lessons and footsteps is amazing.

I’ve traveled a bit, and I’ve stopped to wonder what God was doing sometimes. In Wonderlust, though, Vicky sees what God is doing, and then she supports it with scripture, compares her current journey to the journey of God’s people, and then asks if you can see what she sees.

Yes, I want her eyes. I look at a mountain and I see … a mountain. My thoughts usually ramble along the lines of, “Wow, God made a beautiful mountain.” In Wonderlust, Vicky explores God’s strength, God’s steadfastness, our fickleness and fear.

I enjoyed this journey a lot – I’ve seen many places of the world through the eyes of a devout Christian wanderer. And aren’t we all on the same journey? What do you see on your travels?

Review: The Case for the Real Jesus

Medium ImageChristian apologetics books can be pretty dry, but Lee Stroble makes it warm and personable. Instead of lecturing the reader on such topics as “Did the church alter early gospels to suit a political purpose?” and “Was Jesus married to Mary Magdelene,” the author instead takes you on a journey to visit world renowned archaeologists and historians. These sources are not necessarily Christian; Strobel is looking for sources that believers and non-believers can respect.

Then Strobel narrates his visits with these experts, asking tough questions while describing the chair he’s sitting in and the hospitality of his experts and how refreshing the hot tea they serve.

One thing is clear from his research – most of the questions raised in major madia and fiction such as Dan Brown’s work are easily debunked. Historical inaccuracies and a misunderstanding of Jewish culture abound in the “alternative” gospels; in most cases, it is possible to trace these other books to gnostics, Syrians, and other groups trying to push an agenda.

That still goes on today, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to read an excerpt, Zondervan has made one available at The Case for the Real Jesus. Whet your appetite; I think you’ll find it’s an excellent addition to an apolgetic’s library.

Review: The Grand Weaver

coverI enjoyed “The Grand Weaver” immensely. Written by Ravi Zacharias, he describes our almighty God has the weaver who holds all the threads of our lives and weaves them into a grand purpose. From our perspective, we only see the individual threads, and sometimes the colors or textures we see don’t make sense. Trusting in God for His perfect will, though, doesn’t require us to see the finished product.

The best illustration comes from the title of the book; the master weaver in India sits on a ledge with multiple threads of fabric, weaving them with expert care to his son down below. His son, his apprentice, has the job of pushing the shuttlecock to and from. When he reaches the end of the row, he looks up at his father. When his father nods, the son reverses the shuttlecock and pushes it to the other side.

What does the son see? A variety of threads in a multitude of color that individually make little sense. What does the son control? Nothing; the father is in control. If the son doesn’t wait on the father, he will weave a tangled mess. The father is the grand weaver – but the son has an important role to play. It make look easy, but it requires looking to his father for timing for the father’s will to be done.

What a wonderful illustration of waiting on God and doing God’s will. The threads of our lives can be so very confusing. Where does this one go? What’s it for? Why is it this color? But if we trust in God and wait on Him, God will be able to use us in creative ways.

Will you trust in God to use you this way?

The Organic God

The Organic GodOh my goodness what a fabulous book that was. It’s not a deeply theological book, it doesn’t get into controversial issues, it simply describes the joy of loving God.

The author, Margaret Feinberg, doesn’t delve into religious issues that can separate Christians today. Instead, she challenges us to strip away our pre-conceived notions of who God is and what the world tells us abot God. Who does God say He is? The answer is in the bible – pages and pages and pages of God’s Word, unpolluted. Untarnished. Organic.

Margaret’s joy in exploring God is contagious. God is ever so righteous and holy and pure that it’s incedible that he would desire a relationship with us, fallen, sinful people. But He does! And God extends his beckoning in a myriad a way. Margaret doesn’t try to tell us who God is – I suppose she’d risk herself becoming part of the pollution – but she tells us where to look and the joy in finding him. I read this book in a single sitting and then read through the thought-provoking questions in the back. Why so quickly? My wife noticed the excitement at such a wonderful, joyful book and wanted to read it when I was done. When I was done, she claimed the book, but I told her when she was done, I wanted to read it again. 🙂

I am freshly challenged and encouraged to seek God anew. Who is God? What does He want from me? What does He want for me? I have the answers – an indwelling holy Spirit and His Word to study and absorb. I have creation around me that God created to express His beauty. And I have a fresh perspective on finding all God would have me know about Him.

In case you can’t tell, I heartily recommend this book. In the back, Margaret Feingold mentions her website. It took but a moment to find The Organic God on her website – and even better, Chapter 1, An Organic Appetite, available in PDF form. Read it and see if you’re energized, too.

Review: Unbroken

Unbroken Tracy Elliott
Unbroken by Tracy Elliott

When I first started reading this book, I was expecting a testimony from somebody who had given their life to Christ and how Christ had helped them turn their life around. Christ is powerful and changes the lives of believers.

Travy Elliott’s story is a little different. She gave her life to Christ at a young age, and from there went through years of abuse, neglect, squallor, drug and alcohol addiciton, and working at strip clubs. Tracy’s story is different because Jesus was with her along along and took a lifetime to work his changes in her life and is now able to use Tracy in powerful ways.

For those with weak constitutions, this book does not start off easy to read. Tracy gives her life story bluntly and only holds back a little. If descriptions of verbal and drunken abuse of Tracy as a child will make you squeamish, perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

But hang in there – Jesus was always there for Tracy, and you’ll see how when Tracy returned to faith in her Lord, how Jesus brought her through marriage, children, rehab, and finally sharing her testimony of the life changing love of Jesus.

Review: On the Move

On the Move

Bono, the lead singer of U2, was asked to give an address at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006. Bono discussed his personal faith, the faith of nations, and the plight of the poor in Africa that are dying from AIDS. Based on this speech, “On the Move” was produced with images of the faces of those affected.

Bono’s speech was challenging, calling AIDS the “leprosy of our age;” at first criticizing churches for the initial reaction to this disease, then praising churches for taking the lead in this fight. Bono quotes liberally from Old and New Testaments (and once from the Koran); how poverty is mentioned 2100 times in the bible, and how all the charity in the world has hardly made a dent in the problem, but that if we truly believe these people are equals in the eyes of our God who made them, then justice cries out why that continent suffers so much more.

Instead of asking God to bless what we are doing in our relatively mundane lives, get involved in what God’s already doing. God has already blessed that.

Bono’s advocacy group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) is a member of One, the Campaign to Make Poverty History. All royalties from this book go to the One campaign.

“The one thing, on which we can all agree, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums and in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. 6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.” —Bono

ON THE MOVE by Bono (W Publishing Group; Hardcover; April 3rd)
Thanks to for the evaluation copy of this book.