A recreation of the logo for the first American Survivor season, Survivor: Borneo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Reality shows display reality in unrealistic situations. How many people in history have been stranded on an island with a group of people whose “survival” depends on not being voted off by the rest of the group? Not too many people find themselves flung into captive living arrangements with people they’ve never met (other than prison). And, how many times have a couple dozen women vying for a single man’s heart decided to live together as he rejected all but his future wife?
The contestants on Survivor do have it hard, but they know that they will be getting off the island. Even people traveling around the world in the Amazing Race know that if they would become stranded, CBS wouldn’t leave them there forever.
“Disciples tithe to God. Consumers pay for services.”
That’s just one of the compelling observations by Alan and Debra Hirsch in their book Untamed. Alan is known for his significant contributions to the missional movement. As it turns out, his wife, Debra, is as intentional about her sentness as her hubby is.
I actually finished this book a couple of months ago. Keeping up to date with my Goodreads thingy on the right of this blog page hasn’t been one of my strong suits. I’ll try to do better before that becomes a New Year’s resolution for 2013. (Now I just have to remember my password to update it).
I managed to get a free book based on my willingness to write a review on my blog – no strings attached. In other words, I can say whatever I want about the book and there will be no repercussions. Great idea. So, I will be brutally honest about A Travelers’ Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian life by James Emery White (InterVarsity Press).
I thought I’d give Francis Chan a few pointers on his writing. Okay, maybe not. Take a closer look. This picture has fooled more than a few people. But, I will tell you what I think about his book Erasing Hell (David C. Cook, publishers).
Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle give an in-depth and challenging view at the existence of hell in this small book. Chan starts the book by admitting that most of the research was done by Sprinkle and is from his point of view. That is obvious for fans of Chan’s writing, at least through the first few chapters. It is like someone other than the author of Crazy Love does the lion’s share with a little bit of Chan sprinkled in (ba-dum-dum). However, that’s not a bad thing. Sprinkle does a great job of addressing the complexity of the theme of hell in Scripture in bite sizes for consumption by those of us who aren’t inclined to gorge ourselves on theological rhetoric.
A consistent theme that is certainly Chanian (I may have just coined that word) is the danger of this quest. The question am I willing to believe in a God who sends people to hell permeates the writing. The authors don’t take pleasure in convincingly refuting Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins, who went to great lengths to show an eternal hell isn’t biblical and is even less logical. Chan and Preston admit that there are things about hell – and things even about God – that they don’t want to believe, but that doesn’t make them any less true. They end the book, and this is where I believe Chan takes the reins, by challenging Christians to be more concerned with things like unity in the church, helping the poor and keeping people from hell than they are with condemning Rob Bell to it.
Though I disagree with the common stance they take on Romans 9 being about predestination (I think it’s about how we have no right to question the equity with which God shows mercy however he sees fit to bring about his plan for salvation, but that’s another blog), the main idea comes through: I must be okay with God doing what he does. He drives it home with the potter vs. clay analogy. No matter how much the idea of an eternal hell repulses us, we are the creation and have no right to tell God how to be God. It’s as absurd as Christians in Rome suggesting to God that there’s a better way to do things.
This is one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. It is short and to the point, and a great point it is. If I have to accept that Hell is real, I need to pay attention to Jesus’ warnings about it: “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matt. 5:22). So, Christians who know the truth about hell, it’s time to let Rob Bell off the hook and let God do the judging. It’s better time management to be sure that when Jesus returns he won’t say “I never knew you” because I didn’t help the poor or tell people about him.
This is a first for me. I’ve never read a book before seeing the movie.
Reading fiction is something that I don’t do easily. Vanda, my wife, is a librarian and has made progress in introducing me to this new world. The volume of encouragement from Vanda and our book-worm daughter, Emma, to read this book bordered on embarrassing so I gave it a go, and I wasn’t let down. Suzanne Collins has struck a perfect balance of adventure (some call it “violence”) and romance – enough of each to satisfy those drawn to them without even the slightest hint of repulsing readers who are not of those particular literary persuasions.
One of my difficulties with reading fiction is that there are so many names that I have to put faces to. I’ve begun a ritual of writing down the names and a brief description as characters are introduced, but that wasn’t necessary this time. I don’t know if there are less characters to remember than the average novel, but the way each is so masterfully developed helps me recall them easily even near the end of the story. Now I can join in with my wife and daughter when they look at the movie trailers and give kudos to whomever was responsible for casting. The book was written so well that all of us have the same pictures in our minds of what each character looks like.
So, here’s what puzzles me about the only book of about 300 pages that I’ve finished in less than a week. At the risk of sounding sexist I’ll put it this way: How can so many women love this book when the main premise is the death of children? What is so compelling about this story that caused Vanda and Kimmy (our extreme book-reading friend), gentle women of God, to abhor the killing but continue to read the book with the anticipation of children at Christmas? The description of the children and the clarity with which their deaths are portrayed should make it even more disturbing. But they’ve already read the next two books of the series! This is the same woman (Vanda) who has never made it through an entire showing of a Lord of the Rings movie. She even helped host a program based on The Hunger Games at the library in Poland, OH, last night where she had as much fun at as the kids did.
After reading a little of the author’s bio, I’m able to venture a guess. Suzanne Collins writes to comment on the savagery of war. Having watched a chick flick or two with my wife I’ve learned that there’s one thing in common with all of them: there’s always something to cry about (Even in a comedy there’s always some crying to be done). So maybe it’s not so much that women overlook the carnage of The Hunger Games. It could be because it brings the horrors of war to the surface and tells of how innocence fights to overcome it.
Anyway, two thumbs up from this non-fiction reader. Why two thumbs up even with my refernce to the violence? Because that’s all the thumbs I have.
It took a few days, but I finally got over my wife teasing me about reading a book called Girl Meets God (Algonquin Books). What made it particularly cruel was that Vanda had recommended the book to me in the first place. But, the book was worth it, and Vanda has since encouraged me to read Mudhouse Sabbath, another Winner book.
Lauren Winner is an intellectual who realizes that she doesn’t know it all. As a result, I am inclined to learn along with her. She is a professor at Duke Divinity School, so she has the capacity to string together complex thoughts. But she does it in relation to real life – her real life. Hot theological and religious topics are doused with humor and openness about her insecurities while she deals with things like struggling with family and friends because of her life choices. They affect not only her decision to become a Christian despite her Jewish upbringing, but to continue to learn about God after being baptized.
With regard to my book, I was very interested to read that the deciding factor in her decision to become a Christian was a strong attraction Jesus. Anybody who honestly searches for the truth about God will be drawn to Jesus Christ. Lauren’s pursuit was honest, and Jesus drew her to himself.
So, I’m not ashamed to be known as the reader who met the girl who met God. You won’t be either.