Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2014

Mark Hall: We Were Made to Thrive – Book Review

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River  in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]


Like the book The Well by Mark Hall which we reviewed here in August, 2011, Thrive is both the title of a book and a compact disc. I’ve been privileged to hear the CD several times and read several sections of the book twice. While some authors may appear to write from a theoretical standpoint, Mark Hall is in the trenches, doing youth ministry first and foremost, and then what he views as a second role, as a musician with the band Casting Crowns.

Thrive - Mark HallThe book’s full title is Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out and the subtitle and the cover telegraph the book’s outline and content. Using examples from his years in student ministry, as well as a few road stories from Casting Crowns, Mark delivers something fresh in each of the book’s 30 chapters. I’m struck by how he is both forthright and yet transparent and vulnerable at the same time.

The primary audience for Thrive will be people who are familiar with the band’s music, but really, this is a contemporary Christian living title that earns a place next to popular writers such as Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, or even Max Lucado. Almost every chapter brings new life to familiar scriptures.

I remember once hearing, “Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see,’ part two of the gospel is ‘go and tell.'” That’s really the focus of this book. It is suitable for both new believers and those who are spiritual veterans. It is equal parts teaching, anecdotal and autobiographical.

I read parts of Thrive out loud this past week at our family devotions. I can only say that this was the right book for us and it arrived at just the right time.

Thrive is published by Zondervan in paperback at $15.99 US. Thanks to Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Toronto for a review copy. With both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson titles, you guys have the best books!

July 2, 2010

Why I Haven’t Been To Israel and Why You Should Go

If I were to meet you in Toronto, I could show you the hospital I was born in, the houses that I lived in, the church I was dedicated in, and the school I attended.    They’re all still standing, though I’m a bit fuzzy on the second house I lived in, because I know it as number 21, but the municipality switched to four-digit house numbers on that street for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.

My kids situation is quite different, despite their obviously younger age.   They were born in different cities; one hospital was completely razed to make room for a new one, while the other was renovated into a seniors’ complex.  The school my oldest attended for kindergarten was torn down last summer and a new school, with a new name, was built at the other end of the property.

Sometimes you can go back, and sometimes you can’t.

There was a time many years back when it seemed like everyone I knew was taking a trip to the Holy Land.   There is no end of ministry organizations willing to take you there — including some whose ministry would seem to have little interest in Biblical history — and if you miss one trip, there’s usually another one leaving a few weeks later.

At the time, I came to the conclusion that it was becoming the Evangelical equivalent of taking a pilgrimage to Mecca; something that you must do before you die.

Don’t get me wrong:  I want to learn the backstory to those Biblical passages.   I’m a huge fan of Ray VanderLaan and his “Faith Lessons” series, and in fact have taken many of his “virtual” trips to Israel via DVD.    I just don’t want to see it “added” to the things that as a Christian you “must” do.

On the other hand, thinking out loud about my kids and their birthplaces, there is a value in these five little words:

“This is the spot where…”

Now I know they may not have it exact.   It may not be the precise piece of geography where Jesus turned water into wine, or preached the Sermon on the Mount.   But it’s the idea; the concept that our scriptures are not just a book of stories, but that all these things actually happened.   You can go back and look and say, “It happened here.”

Maybe you don’t look at the maps in the back of your Bible, and maybe — like me several years ago — you suppress a yawn as people share their Holy Land tour pictures.  Maybe — also like me — history, political science and current events weren’t your longsuit growing up.   Perhaps you still struggle with news stories — or even shut them out — when you hear words like Palestine, Jerusalem, West Bank, or even Middle East. Your frame of reference may be that’s all just heat and sand and men wearing tunics.

But it’s good to know your roots.   It’s good to know you have roots.

As the book of Acts reminds us (26:26), all these things didn’t take place “in a corner,” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far away.”

Compared to eternity, it all happened yesterday. Shalom.

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