Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Crux of the Cross

BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing furbished a complimentary copy of The Lamb's Agenda: Why Jesus is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice by Samuel Rodriguez in exchange for an honest review.
     Some believers are focused solely upon looking up at God while forgetting to extend their own arms outward to fellow man. Others, pursue justice while leaving God out of their aim. Reverend Rodriguez poses that righteousness and justice need each other as we fulfill our calling to live out God's love in The Lamb's Agenda. Jesus relied upon the Father as he walked a righteous path, simultaneously he opened up his heart and arms for others to bring equality and freedom to society.
The author joins the reverence and righteousness of Billy Graham to the justice and fight of Martin Luther King, Jr.
     Believers are not to live in a bubble and hoard the love they have received. Actions outward are a mirror of the love flowing in and through us. Rodriguez analyzes the state of the American church in an eye-opening, soul-awakening manner. He doesn't only paint a portrait of roses, but highlights the thistles, brier and hopeful solutions. Diversity needs to be embraced by the church. In order for the church to survive in America other people need to see the love of Christ in action, proactively defending causes near and dear to us and Jesus. What good is our faith if we live in a bubble?
     Samuel Rodriguez is a voice that transcends the mere black and white of the page. His charisma and passion jump off the page into the reader's heart. Sometimes I found his vision a little too rose-colored, but realized that is exactly what we need and can feed off of. I suppose many today and others in the time of Christ probably thought His vision was a little too utopic for their reality. Yet, the hope of Christ prevails after two millennia. The Lamb's Agenda is an extension of or a reminder of the vision of Jesus, the calling of God. We are to be His hands and feet as we move in communion with Him.
      This book may put you on edge. Not every topic is going to be agreeable for all, marriage and homosexuality, politics and bipartisanship. Yet, that is why I love to read to gain insight from other people's viewpoints. I hope I never agree with a book entirely, unless I have written it myself. We must cultivate an attitude that enables us to value the opinions of others and be willing to learn from them. The Lamb's Agenda certainly carved out a niche in my heart and I pray it will do the same for yours. May our vision gaze upward as our arms extend out.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Clearly Spoken

Multnomah Books provided a complimentary copy of Trevin Wax's book, Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After, in exchange for an honest review.

     Author Trevin Wax does something rather extraordinary; he combines a fictional work with sound Christian doctrine in a seamless manner. Chris Walker, the protagonist of Clear Winter Nights, enters into "the dark night of the soul," at a pivotal life moment. He is about to enter into ministry and marry the love of his life. Sometimes when things seem to be full steam ahead, we screech to a halt, afraid to take even one more step. Chris gets away from the city and drives off for a weekend to take care of his ailing grandfather. Fortunately, Pastor Gil is sensitive to the delicate nature of Chris' questions.
     As Chris tends to Gil, he begins to wrestle with the doubts he is having. Can what he grew up believing really be a sham? When things in life don't fit neatly into the box we want, can we allow God to show us another way, His way? Gil gently leads his grandson back to Christ. Gil allows Chris to vent his pent up frustrations without persecution, nor with disgust. He accepts the questions and convenes a dialogue with Chris.
     I appreciated that Wax used dialogue between the characters that seemed genuine, as if I was really listening in on the conversation. Chris was written to be cynical without being mean. Gil propounded his Christian beliefs without preaching. It showed care and compassion for those seeking out faith. There is a stigma that followers of Christ possess a blind faith, not questioning what they are taught. Maybe that is the case for some, but fortunately there is a growing movement to know your faith. Why do you believe what you do? That is far from blind faith. It is an acknowledgement of Truth and better yet, a deep, divine understanding. In fact, this book validates what believers and seekers alike may face.
     Clear Winter Nights is a rather short read. Yet, Wax makes each laconic point with simple wording that most can easily grasp, or at the very least, grapple with. It covers a broad range of tenets of faith in under 150 pages, many that are particularly on point for today's culture. This will be a great work to begin a conversation with someone conflicted with our faith, doubting believers and questioning seekers.

Check out Trevin Wax's website here.

For more book information click here.

TREVIN WAX is managing editor of The Gospel Project, an all-ages small-group curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. A former missionary and pastor, Wax is a popular blogger (Kingdom People) and a contributor to Christianity Today. He is also the author of Counterfeit Gospels and Holy Subversion. He and his wife, Corina, reside in middle Tennessee with their children.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Informative, but Still a Little Confused

Bethany House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of The World of Jesus: Making Sense of the People and Places of Jesus' Day in exchange for an honest review.
     Author, Dr. William H. Marty, endeavors to take a journey  back in time to the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. By the time Jesus was on the scene in the Bible, changes had taken place, since the time Malachi was around. When one understands what occurred during those interim years, one can better grasp the culture that Jesus lived through. The World of Jesus is divided into four epochs: Persian, Greek, Jewish and Roman. It amazed me the volatile, political situation so many populations had to endure.
     Sometimes when I read the Bible or other book pertaining to biblical times I come across a name or group of people I am unfamiliar with. Between Herod Agrippa, the other Herods, Seleucids and Ptolemies to name a few my head is left spinning. Then to realize that these people had a direct or indirect affect on the times of Christ it is no wonder His world seems so far removed from our time and culture. Dr. Marty explains whom these characters were and how far their actions reverberated throughout the lands they reigned, or at least tried to.
     Honestly, I would have to read this book several times over to completely have a handle on all of the groups and men addressed. Marty does a terrific job of discerning the subject, but I am still confused. It is hard to keep track of everyone, even though the book is well written and the headings are clear. I do have a better general working knowledge of those times and can better appreciate the culture Jesus was familiar with.
    The World of Jesus would be a great addition to the Christian's library or the history lover. The book was not one of those reads I flew through, only because I read some paragraphs over and flipped back pages as I attempted to keep characters straight in mind. This book was enjoyed for the most part. However, there were a few pages here and there I was glad to finish. The World of Jesus is valuable for its knowledge and is a welcomed addition to my collection.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: A Timely Book of Grace

Chosen Books provided a complimentary copy of By Grace Alone: Finding Freedom and Purging Legalism From Your Life by Derek Prince in exchange for an honest review.
     There have been many books written on grace. In fact, it seems there are a dime a dozen available on any bookstore's shelves. Yet, I found this one memorable. Author Derek Prince (1915-2003) captivates the reader with an in-depth exploration of grace. By Grace Alone, wisely, begins with what grace is not. The Pharisees are infamous for their outward piety and myriad of laws and minutiae that were to be kept down to the iota. Once, Prince explains why the Law was given to Moses, he subsequently explores the idea of why grace alone saves, it saves us from death, it saves us from ourselves. The Law and grace are two different avenues. You can't go down both. Believers must put of the "old man" and put on the "new." We can stop aiming for perfection, as we will never attain it. However, with faith in Christ, we can live freely in His grace becoming the people we were created to be.
      We live in a competitive world. We learn to want to be first in everything we do. We are conditioned to strive for perfection. It only gets us tired and weary. In His rest we find grace. In His grace we find freedom. By Grace Alone explores the way to find that rest in Christ. In that grace, we  will find the presence of the Almighty. His grace will flow to us in abundance. The shackles of legalism will no longer hold sway over us. We will be free.
     Before I came to Christ, I was in the rat race of life always trying to obtain a perfection that left me wanting more, never measuring up that left me in despair. I am still learning to live in God's grace. Every day I find more freedom as I let Christ's righteousness be mine. I only wish I had this book several years ago. The biblical truth Prince imparts is important and timely for our culture. What will you be left with once you are worn out, after you have run out of yourself? Will you have trophies to dust for all of your religious works? All that will be left is exhaustion and a shell of the person you were meant to be.
     I highly recommend this work for all Christians. It is too easy to become entangled with the Law and aim for self-righteousness. Even if you have been a Christian for years and years, this book is for you. It is a great reminder of the grace we were excited about when we came to Christ. Reignite your passion and first love. In Jesus is grace and By Grace Alone we are saved.