Friday, September 24, 2010

The Gospel According to Jesus by Chris Seay

Chris Seay in The Gospel According to Jesus explores the meaning of righteousness among American churchgoers and attempts to provide a proper perspective on the theology of righteousness. Seay commissioned a Barna research study that finds that most churchgoers have definitional issues around the word righteousness and focus on behavior and actions viewing righteousness as acting moral. Seay attempts to knock down this preconception and turns to Jesus for an example of what righteousness truly is. He paints a picture of righteousness based on relationships with our Savior and with other people and as a quality that brings justice to a broken world. Each chapter is followed by a prayer and interviews with other thinkers such as Mark Batterson and Rick McKinley for review.

The Gospel According to Jesus is a challenging book. And honestly that’s a good thing. Seay pushes his reader to move beyond acting right, putting up an impression of goodness and behaving as expected by our fellowships. Seay urges us to be honest, care for those in need and model Jesus in interactions with others. He sees the righteousness of the saved leading to actions that bring restorative justice to the world. That is a challenge not every reader will be open to! Quoted scripture is taken from The Voice translation, a translation that Seay is deeply involved in but some readers will find alien. This could be uncomfortable to readers unfamiliar with the style and language used by The Voice team, for example the use of the phrase The Eternal for God may simply seem too” new age” and lead to a decreased comfort level for readers. On a personal note, Seay an Astros fan makes jabs at the Chicago Cubs that lead me to reject any credibility Seay has as an author. Sadly, the Cubs refusal to actually beat the Astros this year may prove his points and return to him his authoritative voice. Though seriously, Seay’s personal illustrations successfully aid his arguments by showing how he and others have attempted to live out righteousness as he describes it.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Friday, September 10, 2010

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference by Max Lucado

Max Lucado in Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference provides advice on leaving a lasting impression on this world with the resources God has given you. Lucado walks through key verses in the Book of Acts, using stories to bring the point of the verses out to his readers. He describes how the Book of Acts shows a small group of devoted believers, with limited education, influence and resources impacted the world from their own time to this day. Lucado notes that the work of the Book of Acts continues to this day, providing a story that has not ended. Key principles the author shares in leaving a permanent mark on the world includes the primacy of prayer, relationships with other believers and non-believers and modeling Jesus’ concern for the poor. Each chapter if followed by a complimentary Biblical verse for reflection and a prayer to focus the reader on the chapter’s content. A discussion guide for small groups is also provided.

Outlive Your Life is a typical Lucado book with a key strength in engaging writing that expertly uses stories to highlight and teach Lucado’s points. Lucado’s clear and entertaining writing allows readers to briskly read the text. Additionally, I think the text is helpful in reminding the reader that Jesus cared for the poor and was sympathetic to those shunned by society. He calls for us to remove our headphones and look around to the brothers we can partner with and the non-brothers who needs our help, help we must give as a result of our salvation. Personally, the most challenging section for me was on prayer, where Lucado reminds us that Jesus did not call his house one of study, sermons or etc but a house of prayer. Being a studious person, it served as a stark reminder that prayer is essential. Lucado puts his actions where his mouth is, donating his royalties from the book to World Vision. Outlive Your Life is a challenging but readable book that challenges Christians to make lasting impacts in the name of Christ.

Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews
Andy Andrews provides a version of his new book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters in The Boy Who Changed the World. Andrews tells the story of the development of special corn seeds by Norman, a boy who dreamed of feeding the poor, as the boy who changed the world. But Andrews goes on to ask if it was Norman that saved the world or three other boys, Henry, George or Moses whose actions helped lead to the success of Norman’s seeds in saving billions. In the end, the actions of all four boys contributed to the development of the seeds in a series of events that shows that everyone’s actions matter.

I read the book with my daughter. She enjoyed the book and the pictures. She took up the challenge of being a girl who changed the world, and spent the next several moments sharing her plan to help “lost children.” She did at times get confused as the story jumped between boys. And she tried to pick only one of the boys as the one who saved the world. But overall it was a book that succeeded in calling a child to action. There is one error in the portion about George Washington Carver, a mistake only a Cyclone fan would likely pick up on. Andrews states that Carver attended Iowa State University (ISU), the university’s current name. Carver attended ISU under the name of Iowa State Agricultural College. Overall The Boy Who Changed the World is a good book which may inspire a child to think about doing great things.

Review Copy provided by Thomas Nelson

The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters by Andy Andrews

Andy Andrews in The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters asks the question, “Do I really matter?” Andrews answers the question by telling two stories. The first tale details the heroic efforts of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. Chamberlain, a man who refused to do nothing, ordered a historic charge that allowed Union forces to win the battle, when a Confederate victory could have decisively changed the history of the United States and the 20th Century. The second story Andrews presents is the chain of effects that led to the development of hybridized high yield, disease resistant corn by Norman Borlaug, a historical figure likely not to be familiar to most readers. Borlaug’s creation has saved billions from famine. But Andrews asks was it Borlaug’s efforts that led to the saving of more than two billion or was it the small efforts of others that lead to Borlaug’s work. Andrews shows that as the Butterfly Effect argues, all of our smallest actions have impacts, and Andrews inspiringly shows that those little things have long term impacts.

This is a gift book, so it’s short. To be honest I have thought about this book for more time than it took for me to read it. The book is visually pleasing starting at the cover, with a shiny butterfly graphic. As the great philosopher Jeff Foxworthy once argued, men are attracted to shiny things. The pages are more graphical than textual. I’m not a huge fan of gift books, but I found myself satisfied with The Butterfly Effect and am glad I took the time to read and reflect on it.

Review Copy provided by Thomas Nelson