Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grace by Max Lucado

Cover of Grace
Grace!  It is a powerful and often misunderstood concept.  And it is foundational to our faith.  Max Lucado in Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine attempts to wrap his readers’ minds around this complicated and important word by showing examples of grace in action in the lives of ordinary people, who often prove themselves extraordinary, and the pages of the Bible.  Lucado notes that we often have a wimpy picture of grace and that he wants readers to understand the transformative power of grace.  The grace that Lucado offers is one that reshapes the recipient giving us a heart transplant in his words.  The chapters of Grace shows how grace changes us to be more giving, more caring, and more receptive to the work of God.  The main text is followed by a study guide. 
So, if you have read and liked a Max Lucado book before, you probably know what you are getting in Grace.  The book is easy to read and Lucado’s strength is his ability to write in a clear and entertaining way.  Most anyone can pick up and understand this book.  The chapters are brief and easy to read through in a devotional style.  So, if you have read and not liked a Max Lucado book before, you probably know what you are getting in Grace.  So for those who dislike Lucado’s style you already are well aware of this and probably should not pick up this book.  Grace is a typical Lucado book sure to please Lucado’s core audience.       

Friday, September 14, 2012

Greater: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller. Ignite God's Vision for Your Life

Greater: Dream Bigger. Start Smaller. Ignite God’s Vision For Your Life by Steven Furtick looks to inspire learners to stop living mediocre lives and step into the life of greatness God has meant for them.  Furtick provides both practical, theological and inspirational advice for believers to escape their a life of waste to one that is greater, greater than labels, greater than earthly success, greater than our own dreams.  To show us how to live this greater life, Furtick relies on two chief illustrations.  The first is the prophet Elisha who went from plowman to Israel’s most distinguished prophet of his day.  The second is stories from Furtick’s own Elevation Church and the people that he does life with.  Furtick directs our attention to Jesus, the ultimate example of one who lived a life using the principles Furtick has discovered to being greater. 
The following is probably more of my thoughts on “Christian” publishing and not Greater persay.  Why as a belief group that speaks living in freedom do we need so many “self-help” books.  Furtick himself acknowledges that he could be seen as just another self-help book.  My question is why does he need to address that issue?  Let’s be honest, self-help books are ones we read, consider, and then forget about as we pick up the next title.  I call it Generic Christian Book and they tend to have the themes of look to Jesus, throw off the bonds and live in freedom, do more for Jesus.  Don’t worry they also tend to all give us the same recipe; have faith, pray, read your Bible, be nice to animals (okay I made that up).  Honesty this is not about our authors but us as consumers.  Publisher and authors are putting these Generic Christian Books out because we are buying and reading them, but as I look around are we living them with the swagger that says the Father loves me and I am free!  Often, I think no.
With that being said, Greater is a text that I would drop into the category of Generic Christian Book.  Yes, I like the use of Elisha.  Yes, the books are well written.  But I think a “mature” believer should have read much of this elsewhere or heard similar concepts from the pulpit.  Greater should be of benefit to a new believer who needs to move past that old mediocre life and does not know how yet, but it is us “mature” believers that seem to need this sort of message again and again and again and again.  Reading with a bad attitude, some of the examples from real life mentioned in the book did not impress me.  And I was frustrated with impression given early in the book that one with deep faith who takes a deep risk will have a windfall soon after, especially when Furtick discusses in depth later in the book the difficulties walking out on faith will experience. 
Honestly, I was probably pre-disposed to not be as open to Greater as others who will pick it up.  I almost feel bad saying it but I see it as a trend within theBbody.  Maybe I am reading too many Generic Christian Books improperly giving me the impression that we are staggering in our belief instead of strutting with confidence.  As someone who reads a lot, I say let’s start listening and living the messages of a book like Greater instead of recycling and re-reading it’s concept that we need to live lives of greatness.     

Review Copy Provided by Blogging for Books

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rudy: My Story by Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger and Mark Dagostino

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger with the help of Mark Dagostino tells us for the first time a story many of us thought we know in Rudy: My Story.  Rudy: My Story retells the familiar story of Rudy Ruettiger’s efforts to play for his beloved Notre Dame football team.  Ruettiger tells the story of his large and loving family in Joliet, Illinois, and their growing love of Notre Dame.  Ruettiger loved sports, but hated school which meant his chances to go to college were non-existent.  In the era of the escalating Vietnam War Ruettiger joined the Navy and received an unintended benefit, access to the G.I. Bill.  Ruettiger used access to education through his military benefits and a community college to build the grades needed for him to be admitted to Notre Dame.  Once admitted he worked to become a walk-on to the football team and served for two years on the scout team.  The highlight of his football career was his one opportunity to suit up and play in one collegiate game.  Ruettiger and Dagostino then detail Ruettiger’s post college career and how he worked to get the blockbuster movie about his life, Rudy, made. 
This is a familiar and yet different story than many of us know for Rudy.  Ruettiger explains how some incidents in his life were changed or ignored to make a story suitable for the theater.  For example his service in the Navy is ignored in the movie, along with his on-campus boxing success.  The book makes it clear that Ruettiger and his desire to suit up for a game were known by many throughout campus.  Additionally, his father was more supportive than depicted in the film.  In many ways the real life story is simply not as exciting as the movie, as we should expect.  Additionally, the information after Notre Dame is very unclear, such as leaving information about his wife almost completely out.  If anything the story of Ruettiger’s missteps in getting the movie made is one that adds to the story of Rudy the movie.
Ruettiger makes it clear that he wishes to further the message of Rudy.  Everyone has Rudy in this in his opinion and his combination of dreaming and doing has inspired many.  Ruettiger succeeds in sharing his life and message.  But in many ways this combination sports biography and self-help books falls a little flat for me, mostly because I constantly compared it to the movie!   
Review Copy Provided by Thomas Nelson