Thinking Out Loud

October 7, 2012

Max Lucado on Grace

“No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. Muhammad does not indwell Muslims. Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists. Hugh Hefner does not inhabit the pleasure-seeking hedonist. Influence? Instruct? Entice? Yes. But occupy? No.”

Max Lucado is certainly one of the best loved and most prolific Evangelical authors and storytellers. He moves freely from children’s fiction to adult non-fiction; and from the pages of a book to behind the microphone for his daily 5-minute radio program. Like a perfect photograph with not a hair out of place, he leaves not a word out of place, providing just the right amount of emphasis so you cannot possibly miss the point.

His new book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson) will cover territory familiar to more seasoned Christ-followers, but with Christmas rapidly approaching, it also makes the perfect gift for that member of your extended family, that guy at your workplace, or that neighbor who has been so helpful throughout the year.

This is not a treatise on the doctrine of grace, nor does it probe as deeply as Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace.  Rather, Lucado’s Grace is a celebration of the grace we’ve received; all that Jesus Christ has done for us. It also implicitly challenges us to be agents of grace, to be agents of generosity.  There are no Greek words, no textual criticism, no instances of doctrinal tension, and no complicated charts or diagrams. This is a simple, straight forward panorama of the Christian life which always paint Jesus Christ right into the center of the landscape.

All that said, this is a book that is very light on actual content. Each chapter begins with a full-page title page, followed by a blank page, followed by a page containing three or four short quotations, followed by another page that is mostly blank except for a one paragraph excerpt of the chapter. On top of that, once you reach just past the tw0-thirds mark, you discover that the book has ended, and the balance is a group discussion guide penned by a different author. I’m not a speed-reader, but I finished this book in record time.

One surprise however was Lucado’s transparency in a couple of places. He confesses a love of drinking beer that ended at age 21, only to resurface years later; but because of his rather high profile, he found himself enjoying a nightly cold one in a convenience store parking lot for about a week. So it was the hypocrisy, not the drinking itself, to which he quickly called a halt. In a later chapter though, he admits to attempting to bribe an airline clerk so he can get on to a sold out flight. Sorry if he was your idol; I guess we’re all human, and that’s why we need grace. You can decide if such transparency is an asset or a liability.

So the book is a bit of a conundrum.

Read an excerpt here at Christianity 201.

A copy of  Grace was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin. Available at your local Christian bookstore from Thomas Nelson.

Advertisements

May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: An “A” Quality Examination of Life’s Plan B Experiences

I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.

I had a bit of an advantage here.   After years of being aware of Nashville pastor Pete Wilson through his blog, and listening to several of his sermons and video posts, I was able to hear his voice in my head as I read each page.   I’ve been impressed over the years with Pete’s complete honesty and transparency as someone walking the journey of life as we all do, albeit in the set-apart position of vocational ministry.

So I really, really wanted to be included among the 500+ people who are posting reviews of this book today as part of a blitz by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.    The book is Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? Knowing this was his first time in print having to compete for the attention of North American Christians in a crowded publishing market, I was a little unsure how Pete would fare.

Here’s my review:

This is a landmark book.

Using a large number of examples from the lives of people Pete has pastored in Kentucky and Tennessee; combining in the Biblical examples of David, Joseph, Job, Ruth, and even Jesus; and finally mixing in quotations from some of today’s most popular contemporary Christian authors; Pete delivers a treatment of his subject that would be thorough enough to meet the most rigid academic requirements, but is delivered in a totally grassroots, down-to-earth, unpretentious style.

However…

This is not an easy book to digest.   Life is hard.   This is not a feel-good book with rhyming couplet sayings.   There are chapters that seem to ask more questions than provide answers.   In the end — spoiler alert! — there is no pastoral closing scene with a golden sunset or a rainbow against a blue sky.

If anything, I got the impression that as someone who has been pastoring for just a little over a decade, Pete has had more than his share of being with people at the deepest moments of personal crisis and tragedy.

When I was pastoring in Kentucky, I would often ride with law-enforcement officials after someone had been murdered or killed in a car accident.  The officers liked having me along when they went to inform the next of kin.   I still remember the sick feeling I would get when we pulled into a driveway to do that sad job.  I would think, Inside that house is a family just living their lives, going through the normal routine.  They have no idea how my next few words are going to turn their very life upside down forever.

Not a book for people — including myself at times — who would like to bury their heads and deny that life often presents us with seemingly impossible challenges.  But a book that finds there is hope to be found at the foot of the cross.

I found the overall pacing and writing of the book very similar to another title (from the same publisher) Fearless by Max Luacdo.   I think that fans of Lucado’s writing would find this a very comfortable fit for their library, if they’re open to trying a new author.   I won’t labor the similarities, but they are many.

But I also think there’s another application here:  I think that pastors and counselors should buy this book, read it, and then have an extra copy handy to give to people who suddenly find themselves in the valley.    This is an author who understands, who gets it.

Finally, I think there’s yet another direction for Plan B, which is hinted at in an eleven-page set of study questions at the back:  This would be an excellent group study.   We all experience unique trials and we all process these difficulties differently.   What better healing process than to get people sharing some of the darkest times in their lives with others who have had, are having, or will have similar times where God seems conspicuously absent?   Combining the first two chapters also yields a viable 13-week adult study curriculum.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed Pete’s blog, Without Wax, or listened to sermons at Cross Point already knew what Pete Wilson was all about.   I believe with this single book, Pete steps into the circle of people we consider significant Christian voices in North America and beyond.

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson, 244 pages paperback, May, 2010)

Blog at WordPress.com.