Thinking Out Loud

April 26, 2013

Theology Lite: Max Lucado on Pretzels

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

So there I was driving home and listening to one of six Christian radio stations I can now get in my car, when Max Lucado’s Upwords radio minute came on.  This is essentially a sponsorship opportunity for radio stations; a vehicle for them to sell additional advertising.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all the books Max has written and the contribution he’s made to Christian literature, in fact I’ve given a few favorable reviews here.  Furthermore, I especially like Max on video. I think the warmth and tenor of his personality comes through the camera better than through the printed page, though, I must confess, I now read his material hearing his voice in my head.

But as I listened to Upwords, I thought, “As fluffy content goes, this is more fluffy than usual.”  So I looked to see if the text was available online to share here, and it was:

Max Lucado UpWordsYears ago I was traveling with my daughter, Jenna.  When I realized she and I weren’t seated together,  I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me.  Surely he’ll understand, I thought.  He didn’t.  I was left separated from my 12 year old on a long transatlantic flight.

I began plotting how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What?  My daughter was fraternizing with the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.

I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!

That’s the full text.

Now my goal here is not to take this apart letter-by-letter, punctuation-mark by punctuation-mark. (We’ll leave that to discernment ministry bloggers.) I did make note — especially if I’m ever near him on an airplane — that Max was considering tripping this stranger, and that even in the final paragraph, he still ranks as a “questionable character.”  Of course this is the same man who recently, in his book Grace, confessed to a week of drinking beer out of a paper bag in a convenience store parking lot, and an attempt to bribe an airline official.  Truly, I’m not making that up.

No, I was just concerned that the whole broadcast was a tad light, as in lite. No Biblical text, though I suppose that’s not the goal of Upwords. No deep theology. Not even a teaser for an upcoming book.  (This story is in fact from an older book, The Great House of God.)

I guess I have no major complaint other than perhaps I’d like my sixty-seconds back.  I do think the radio airtime could be better used. I think that Max himself could use it better. Especially in view of the program’s mandate as outlined on his website:

In 1991, Max Lucado was presented the idea of developing a radio broadcast that focused solely on Jesus Christ.

Perhaps there’s a philosophy to this radio vignette; possibly Max builds a listener following and then hits the spiritual home run on Fridays, or at the end of the month.

I just think people are tuning in for something more substantive than pretzels.

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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.

July 14, 2011

Zondervan Reissues The Story in NIV 2011 Edition

Although it wasn’t part of the standard list of books available for reviewers, I begged Zondervan for a copy of The Story, NIV: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People .   I have a weakness for anything that tries to make the Biblical narrative more flowing, anything which harmonizes the gospels and the Old Testament history books, and anything that does all this in somewhat modern language.

If you have a friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker, etc., who you’ve thought about giving a Bible to, but hesitated, this could be the type of product you’re looking for.  You need to visit an actual Christian bookstore and browse through a copy before deciding.  A concluding page ask the reader, ‘How are you going to respond…?’

This is not exactly a new title, but a reissue of something that already existed in a TNIV edition.  There were 32 chapters there, but only 31 in this new edition, plus they’ve added a children’s edition, The Story for Kids: Discover the Bible from Beginning to End, a teen edition, a number of DVD curriculum-related products, and… well, let’s just list them, it’s easier:

  • The Story adult edition
  • The Story DVD curriculum
  • The Story Church Campaign Kit
  • The Story DVD participant’s guide
  • Exploring The Story – reference companion
  • The Story adult edition in duotone leather
  • The Story for Kids
  • The Story for Kids elementary curriculum DVD-ROM
  • The Story for Kids preschool curriculum DVD-ROM
  • The Story Teen Edition
  • The Story Teen curriculum DVD
  • The Story Spanish edition
  • The Story for Children
  • The Story for Children Storybook edition
  • The Story – Going Deeper

…I think you get the idea.  Everything is a brand these days. 

So is The Story a book or a Bible?  It’s definitely a hybrid.  I would say probably it is more of book in the sense of similar things Walter Wangerin has done, but more of a Bible in the sense that the majority of the content is indeed Bible text.  But not a “take to church or study group” Bible.

The transitional sections in italics are an interesting mix of narrative and commentary.  They have been retained exactly as they were in the TNIV edition, but are in many respects, a most helpful way of bringing the story to life.  Where they appear, they tend to energize the narrative.

Added to the new edition is an introduction by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee.  And that’s all it is, a 3-paragraph introduction that it apparently took two men to write.  Worse, they didn’t bother paraphrasing it for the children’s edition.  Kinda sad to see these authors names exploited in this way.

However, having gotten that observation out of the way, the paperback children’s edition is a refreshingly original product in a market where chronological Bible story books in hardcover — which is available — tend to be the norm.    If there’s a young reader in the family, this paperback chapter book format, mostly devoid of pictures, might be ideal, and at its 9.99 US price, I can see kids ministry leaders purchasing this in bulk. 

As I stated at the outset, I like this sort of product.  Chapter and verse numbers, as well as trying to parallel things in Samuel to things in Chronicles can be confusing to people not already Bible literate, and our goal should be to try to make things easier, not more difficult for people who want to more about what we believe, and more about the Christ story.  But despite the number of variants of this item out there, the challenge continues to be making a greater number of people aware it exists.


TheStory.com website link

September 10, 2010

Lucado: Your Legacy Will Outlast You

Venturing into new territory — the theme of social concern and social justice — Max Lucado shows how through generosity and compassion we ensure that we “live on” well past the normal limits of life.    Along the way he also makes a strong case for micro-financing, supported by personal contact with people in the third world.

In so many respects, Outlive Your Life seems a thousand miles away from his previous release, Fearless. Anxiety, worry and fear is the result of thoughts turned inward.   Loving and caring for the needs of those less fortunate — both near and far — is the byproduct of thoughts turned outward.   The two titles together bookend the spectrum of the things that can preoccupy our priorities.

Lucado is an easy-to-read and easy-going writer who is at his best in the middle of a story.   Whether he made the story up himself, or is retelling a story from the book of Acts, he knows how to assemble a narrative.   His version of Ananias and Sapphira brings new life to a familiar story and makes me wish he’d stop releasing annotated study Bibles and just do his own New Testament.

Outlive Your Life is a commentary on the first half of the book of Acts.   Yes, a commentary.   Perhaps not in the academic sense, but with every bit as much right to use the term.    As I read it I kept thinking about the difference between the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible.   Both earn the term “study,” yet the latter is much more devotional and connected to everyday life.     This is a book-of-the-Bible commentary that may be used by small groups — there’s a ton of support material available for that — but may also be used for personal study.

With Christmas not too far off, many people looking for a gift will simply default to, “Give me the latest Max Lucado title.”   The quality of this book shows why that reputation exists, and why they ought to pick up a copy for themselves as well.

Booksellers:  For a complete list of related products available check out this trade review.

This review was published in Canada where to this point, additional disclaimers are not legally required; but thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!

May 24, 2010

Your Pastor’s Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

If you’re like most of us, you attended church somewhere yesterday, heard a good sermon, and probably picture your pastor today with his feet up, reading the paper while sipping fruit juice;  relaxing on Monday.   But a pastor’s life isn’t like that; not for a minute.  If physical stress doesn’t weigh heavy, often emotional stress does.

I was going to save this post by Pete Wilson of Nashville’s Crosspoint Church for Wednesday’s link list, but I really want to make sure y’all read it in full.   (Yes, I’m writing from Canada, and I just said “y’all.”  Go figure.)  Besides, it’s a holiday Monday nationally here, and my creative department is shut down for the day!   The picture — which he posted the next day — is Pete Wilson on the golf course with Max Lucado.   I had to retouch it a bit to make sure it wasn’t just a generic guy in a hat!


‘Whiplash’ is a word I’ve used more than once when describing the emotions I often go through as a pastor.

Yesterday was a difficult day.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I need to write this now more than you need to read it, so please bear with me. Let me give you a little back story to help you understand.

Over the course of the past two years Brandi and I have had two sets of friends who have experienced the loss of a baby. Todd and Angie Smith who lost their baby after two hours of life and Mike and Holly Phelps who lost their baby late in their first pregnancy.

I can’t even begin to imagine the heavy heartache and deep loss they went through. And while getting pregnant again doesn’t take a way that pain, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that both couples were once again pregnant.

While each couple faced their own unique challenges, they were both on track to have healthy babies. I couldn’t help but think of what a bitter sweet experience it would be for both of them. A glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness they’ve been walking through.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, in hospitals just two blocks away from each other, both couples had an pre-term delivery.

Yesterday morning I walked into two different hospital rooms. Both scenes could not have been more similar and yet more different.

Both rooms had moms who were laying in hospital beds. Both rooms had dads who were right by the bed holding and rocking a tiny infant.

However, the similarities end there as one baby was breathing and the other was not.

Todd and Angie’s room was full of prayers, crying and pure joy.  There was life.

Mike and Holly’s room was full of prayers and crying, but no joy.  No life.

The whole way to the Phelp’s room I cried. I knew the situation I was walking into. I cried out to God…

How could this happen to them again?

Why God, would you allow this family to endure this pain yet again?

Haven’t they been through enough?

Why God?

I’ve been criticized in certain circles for writing a book called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?, which is about God, crisis and pain.  A book that clearly states I don’t think there are answers to all of life’s questions and complexities.

I dare any one of those critics to stand in the room with this young couple and even try to answer all of the questions they had yesterday as they sit there holding their lifeless child.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this as a pastor, but I’m going to anyway… Isn’t it amazing how in a moment like that you so desperately want God near, but at the same time you also feel secretly mad at Him?

  • Reality for Christians often means we have more questions than we do answers.
  • Reality is sometimes lacking the faith that will give us a sustained hope.
  • Reality is even though we know God is with us sometimes we feel completely alone.
  • Reality is even though we believe, we also doubt.

There’s a big difference between trust and understanding. They say trust is what we need when we don’t have understanding. So today I’m praying for trust. A big, huge, helping of trust.

It’s funny but the final paragraph of Plan B says,

I’m asking you to trust that one day faith will win over doubt, that light will win over darkness, love will win over hate, and all things will one day be redeemed. I’m asking you, right in the middle of your Plan B pain, to trust this process that is going on in your life.

I never knew when I wrote those words how much I would need them on a day like today.

~Pete Wilson, pastor and blog-author of Without Wax.

September 16, 2009

The Links and Depth of the Situation

Deep links.   Links with depth of writing and feeling.   Prepare to be challenged and changed this time around.  Don’t miss these.

  • We start with Jim Upchurch and a story from his past titled I Am Third“This is the motto of the servant. This is the motto of one who places others before himself. This is the motto of those who follow Jesus Christ.”
  • Philip Yancey writes about spending a week visiting his brother in hospital.   “Sadly, some patients had no visitors. Different rules govern wealth and status in a hospital: the currency is not cash, but visitors and love.” The post is entitled Intensive Care Week.
  • Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church tells of visiting his father in hospital.  “…this experience reminds me of the fact that life and the world we live in aren’t what they’re supposed to be. This isn’t the perfect world God created before we filled it with sin…” He quotes a hymn lyric which was new to me but is known to many others, It Is Not Death To Die.
  • Kaybee writes: “The winds of pressure rise and I’m tossed this way and that, until it seems my very being will break under the strain.  The downpour strikes at my heart with icy spears of apprehension and dismay.” What about you?  Dealing with heavy circumstances.  A frequent commenter on this blog, she writes about going through The Storm.
  • Maybe your storms are part of your past, but the thunder still echoes in your mind.  “…one in four young girls and one in six young boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18!… If those numbers of kids got cancer or some other disease that ate away at the body the way sexual abuse eats away at the soul, there would be public outcry like you would not believe.” Read more at Rick Apperson’s Just a Thought Blog as he continues his “Five Questions” series with NFL fullback Heath Evans.
  • Life circumstances can fill us with fear.  A few days ago I reviewed the book Fearless by Max Lucado.  “Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” This is a 60-second commercial the publisher produced and posted on YouTube.
  • Imagine fear replaced by hope.  Hope is the subject of a new book forthcoming from Rick Warren.   Normally that wouldn’t excite people outside the book industry, however, “Published in 2002, Purpose Driven Life became the No. 1 all-time best-selling hardcover nonfiction book in publishing history.” Warren himself adds, “My motivation as an author has always been the message, not the market, and I have been waiting for the right time, until I had something to say that would speak to the personal and societal problems we all face…” Read more here.
  • Maybe we should end with something lighter.   After all,  those are some fairly heavy blog posts.   Brant Hansen is back blogging at Letters to Kamp Krusty.   He tells of being asked to speak at a church in July. “I spoke about some powerful things.  I spoke about some things that really hit home.  I made people laugh, and then cry, laugh again, and then suddenly — quite suddenly — stop and consider their lives.” Read the whole story here.

Feel free to send me URLs for blogs you think have content that may be worth linking to in the future.

September 8, 2009

Max Lucado on the Fear Factor

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:35 am

As a person well acquainted with the paralysis of anxiety, even the mere idea of reading a book on fear might be enough to increase my blood pressure.   But I thought some confrontation on this front couldn’t hurt, and finished the book in just over 24 hours.

Lucado - FearlessFearless by Max Lucado was far from a fearful experience.   Lucado’s calm and reassurance throughout this book has a disarming effect on any apprehension one might have facing this book, or the fears which dominate much of modern life.    He is lighthearted about this topic, but not trite.

At one point he references those annoying television commercials promoting new wonder drugs, where nearly three-quarters of the advertisement is spent warning of the possible side effects.    But then he says that perhaps all of life’s events — using the example of having a baby — should come with such warnings, and then proposes a script for how the advert might sound.

fearfactor_240For the record, some of the topics covered here include

  • fear of not mattering
  • fear of overwhelming challenges
  • fear of not protecting my children
  • fear that God is not real
  • fear of life’s final moments
  • fear of violence
  • fear of worst-case scenarios

The strength of the book is that it is rooted deeply in scripture.   Though there’s a mixture of old testament and new testament examples of faith and courage in the middle of trying times, it’s his examples of Jesus with his 12 disciples that stand out.   Christ, over and over again, demonstrates his lordship over all creation, on which the disciples can trust and depend.

I wondered how Max Lucado might stack up in a world of new, next-generation authors. Especially here in the blogosphere, where names like Francis Chan or Erwin McManus or Shane Claiborne appear more frequently than Chuck Colson or Charles Swindoll or Max Lucado. This is only the second time I’ve ever actually read one of Lucado’s books cover-to-cover.   The other was The Great House of God which pairs each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer to entry into the rooms of a grand mansion. I had consigned Max to the realms of simplistic devotional writers and figured it was just a matter of months before someone else dominates the Christian non-fiction market.

I was wrong.   Lucado still has an edge to his writing, and it becomes obvious in the first couple of chapters that he did not achieve his reputation as an author by accident.   The prose is carefully crafted, but the man is personable and relatable and the resultant style is engaging.    I could rate this four stars out of five, but on what basis would I be holding back the final star?   I can’t really think of one.

There’s also a discussion guide in the back of the book for each chapter.   I went through a few of the final ones after reading later chapters and I can see how this would make for a good small group resource.   It would certainly encourage open and honest conversation, and a DVD study guide is due out any day now.

Does Max Lucado have worries and fears?   I think he does simply because he’s human.   But he’s got faith in a God who is simply too big to allow his fears to take over.    A lot of that confidence will be caught by those who will read this book.

Additional resources:  The Fearless Times – a companion website to the book

Also releasing September 8th:  A companion DVD curriculum; also Imagine Your Life Without Fear, a 48-page giveaway collection of excerpts from the larger book, $2.99 US.

September 1, 2009

Currently Reading: Fearless – Max Lucado

Filed under: books, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:02 pm

Lucado - Fearless

“As a person well acquainted with the paralysis of anxiety, even the mere idea of reading a book on fear might be enough to increase my blood pressure.   But I thought some confrontation on this front couldn’t hurt, and finished the book in just over 24 hours.

“Fearless by Max Lucado was far from a fearful experience.   Lucado’s calm and reassurance throughout this book has a disarming effect on any apprehension one might have facing this book, or the fears which dominate much of modern life…”

Watch for the complete review here on SEPTEMBER 8th.


November 19, 2008

Currently Not Reading Because I’ve Read It Before — Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 pm

cast-of-charactersJust when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see in Christian publishing, comes Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God; a great compendium on some key Bible personalities, but also, the closest the book industry gets to a “Greatest Hits” album. Everything in this has been previously published, which is going to really irk the people who always buy the new Lucado titles either for themselves or as Christmas gifts. Can book buyers anticipate this sort of thing the way music buyers do?  It’s 226 previously released pages.

Mind you, in the record industry, a “Greatest Hits” album is usually released when an artist has jumped ship to join another label. But that wouldn’t be happening here. Would it?

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