Max Lucado, one of the most renowned Christian writers of contemporary times, wrote The Applause of Heaven which illustrates how the Beatitudes are applicable for a life of joy and peace despite the ugliness of modern times. The joy and peace come from knowing, really knowing, God and His delight for each of us. It is not found in the everyday moments of this world but rather in the everyday moments of a relationship with our Father, Friend, and most devoted Fan. I love the writing style of Max Lucado and I am thankful that I added this book to my library.
Max has written numerous books about how to live a more abundant life by developing a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ and God. This book was written in the classic easy to read style of Lucado’s. Each chapter is a breakdown of a line from Matthew 5:1-10. It uses modern stories to aid in understanding the Beatitudes. I think one of the best lines in the whole book, at least for me, was the very last paragraph of the book when he describes the moment we get to heaven and hear the applause of the One who did not want to live without us and so died on the cross to enable us to be with Him.
Africa. The continent that is home to deserts, savannas, and rain forests. It is also the largest “zoo” hosting a whole plethora of animals such as elephant, zebra, buffalo, camel, lion, and crocodile. Africa also has made the news for civil unrest and human trafficking. It is hard to imagine the violence of the civil wars and trafficking with the beauty of the nation and its animal life. In Blood Ransom, Lisa Harris tells the tale of human trafficking from the standpoint of two civilian aid workers and a young African boy who witnessed the kidnapping of his family.
The story is beautifully told showing the beauty of the country, the tribal boundaries and culture, and the violence and corruption that is rampant. Within the story of the trafficking, the reader is taken on a journey with Natalie Sinclair, Dr. Chad Talcott, and Joseph who travel from the scene of the violence to the Embassy. They are followed, shot at, and eventually one is taken hostage. The story unfolds showing the truth of the corruption and leaves the reader sitting on the edge of the seat. This book was hard to put down and had me cheering for the trio as well as the budding romance between Natalie and Chad.
One theme of this book that is interwoven is the journey of faith that all three of the characters are following during all of the violence, corruption, and fear. Each is at a different place in their journey of faith but all three learn that God does not forsake us. His protection and love is always there if we but turn to Him. This story is not a sweet fairy tale, but it is a sweet tale of God’s calling of His children and how He equips each of us, even when we may not fully understand, for our journey.
In your life, you will encounter few books that will stir your soul the way that Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time does. Greg Mortenson, the child of missionary parents, draws you into his lifetime of mission work through the telling of his story as first a climber and then the founder and Executive Director of Central Asia Institute. Greg loved climbing mountains that were impossible to many people. However, after reading his story I am left in awe at the heights that he climbed to reach the unreachable.
As a Christian, I have been taught to love all people but there are times when that is the most difficult task that I can attain. On the other hand, I have a natural curiosity about other cultures and religions so I tend to gravitate toward those who speak differently than me or worship differently. I believe that is what intrigued me when I read the back cover of this book. When I read the back cover I noticed that Greg had been climbing in Pakistan and ended up building schools there.
Another aspect of my personality that felt the pull of interest in this book was my education as a teacher. Greg took a personal interest in not only the villagers who had befriended him when he had become lost on K2, one of the highest mountains in Pakistan, but he became a friend to all of Pakistan and into Afghanistan. He did not violate their customs or beliefs but rather he was respectful of those customs and beliefs.
As I stated before it can be hard to love everyone as Jesus commands but reading this book has informed me about much of the Muslim faith and beliefs. After 9/11, it has been hard to separate the terrorists that attacked our lands with the picture that mainstream Muslims have painted. However, just as there are extremists in the Muslim faith, there are also extremists in the Christian faith. I have learned much from reading this book and would encourage everyone to read it as well.
I chose this book from the reading list of the United Methodist Women. You can read an excerpt of this book at http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm?book_number=1758.
Adam Hamilton, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and author, was introduced to me through a Sunday School study of the lessons found in the resurrection. We used the book 24 Hours That Changed the World and the accompanying DVD study. An additional option that I also read was the devotional of the same name. As a class we spent six weeks watching video clips showing the places that Jesus visited during His last 24 hours of life. We also poured over the study guide discussing the chapters entitled “The Last Supper,” “The Garden of Gethsemane,” “Condemned By the Righteous,” “Jesus, Barabbas, and Pilate,” “The Torture and Humiliation of the King,” and “The Crucifixion.”
Hamilton uses the video to show you the places and objects from Jesus last hours and then the study guide guides the group through questions such as these two from Chapter 2 of the study guide: “How does the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus’ anguish in the garden of Gethsemane inform or affect your understanding of who Jesus is?” and “What significance do you see in the fact that two of the Bible’s most profound temptation stories take place in a garden?” The author also asked you to imagine that you were the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Barabbas and discuss if you would react the same way. This book was very powerful! It also inspired me to want to read more of Adam Hamilton.
The next book of his that I read was Why? Making Sense of God’s Will. In this book, he discusses the fear and anger many feel when prayers go unanswered, the world feels as though it is spinning out of control, and it seems as if evil has taken up residence in our neighborhoods. Many times we have cried out to God for help and answers asking “Why?” We question why there is evil, why do children have to die, why did our loved ones have to suffer, but most of all we want to know why there is any suffering if we are His children. However, Hamilton shows that God never promised us smooth sailing but He did promise that He would be there. Hamilton also illustrates that though there may be crying at night, there is always joy in the morning. For every story of pain and crying in the Bible, there is also a story of joy in the shelter of God’s love and protection. Another great read by Adam Hamilton.
The following is a listing of other books written by Adam Hamilton that is available through Cokesbury at http://www.cokesbury.com.
When Christians Get it Wrong
Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity
Catch: Attracting and Connecting Visitors
Selling Swimsuits in the Arctic: Seven Simple Keys to Growing Churches
Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why
Confronting the Controversies: Biblical Perspectives on Tough Issues
Making Love Last a Lifetime: Biblical Perspectives on Love, Marriage, and Sex
Christianity and World Religions: Wrestling with Questions People Ask
Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics
Variety of Ministry Guides
Exodus 22:22 in The Message says “Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans.” Unfortunately, those in homes and countries where God is not the authoritative voice do not follow this law. In countries such as India, Pakistan, and Africa many women are subject to horrors that we can never fully comprehend. Young girls are sold into brothels. Women become pariah in their villages due to a fixable medical condition known as fistulas (an abnormal opening in the vagina that connects it to another organ such as the bladder or colon). Women are killed or raped in the name of honor.
Inside my home and community, none of these atrocities are commonplace. I have heard about some of it through news reports, but nothing to the extent that I learned while reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have also been asked to help women and children through various charities over the years. I always rationalized that I could not afford to help. I now realize that I cannot afford to turn my head. Even if I can only add my voice to those raised in offense, then my voice shall resound with the others.
The authors wrote this book in a manner similar to a documentary. One chapter explains the “issue” and one highlights a “solution.” The women interviewed leave you both crying for their pain and shouting in exhilaration for the successes that have been described. I cannot imagine anyone who can read this book and not be changed in some way. For me, it has made me more aware of how lucky I am to be an American Christian woman. It has also made me aware of ways that I can help beside charitable giving. As I said before I can add my voice those who are fighting for protection from violence against women. Read this book and join the raised voices!
Slavery. That word usually sends shivers up your spine. We remember the slaves of the 1800s who were brought to this country by slavetraders and we can only imagine the horrors that today’s slaves are introduced in the human trafficking rings. However, there is one type of slavery that is to be celebrated. Being a slave of Christ! Michael Card’s book A Better Freedom left me almost dancing and singing.
I remember in Sunday School that Scripture says “to set the captives free” and I learned what slavery was historically. Never before have I looked at myself as a slave except a slave to sin. Romans 7:19-20 says “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. ” Sin captive! I always asked God to set me free.
Michael Card describes slavery from the perspective of Greco-Roman slavery, African-American slavery, human trafficking of today, a slave to sin, and being God’s slave. I don’t know about you but I would much rather be a slave of God. Jesus came to Earth as a man and a slave to man, but He is also the Redeemer of man – He has set the sinner free.
There are not many books that I would encourage everyone to read. I understand that not everyone enjoys the same genre of books. I also understand that not everyone is inspired by the same topics. However, I would encourage everyone to find a copy of this book – share a copy if you need to – but read this if you want to truly understand your need to be redeemed.
You can preview the book at this link:
You can purchase this book directly from the author at www.michaelcard.com.
I just finished Max Lucado’s book No Wonder They Call Him Savior and I would like to share with you a couple of excerpts from chapter 24 of this book. The whole book made me really ponder the life and death of Jesus. Now part of that is because it is Lent. Part of it is because we are doing a study at my church about the last 24 hours of Jesus life (24 Hours that Changed the World by Adam Hamilton) and I am reading Awakening: 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting by Stovall Weems. Part of it is also that Jesus is speaking to me at this time in my life because of my need to draw closer to Him. I pray that He will speak to you as well.
“Imagine this scene. The soldiers are huddled in a circle, their eyes turned downward. The criminal above them is forgotten. They gamble for some used clothes….I’ve wondered what that scene must have looked like to Jesus. As he looked downward past his bloody feet at the circle of gamblers, what did he think? What emotions did he feel?….It makes me think of us. The religious. Those who claim heritage at the cross. I’m thinking of all of us. Every believer in the land. The stuffy. The loose. The strict. The simple. Upper church. Lower church. ‘Spirit-filled’ Millenialists. Evangelical. Political. Mystical. Literal. Cynical. Robes. Collars. Three-piece suits. Born-againers. Ameners…We, too, play games at the foot of the cross…So close to the timber yet so far from the blood….’Those selfish soldiers,’ we smirk with our thumbs in lapels. ‘They were so close to the cross and yet so far from the Christ.’ And yet, are we so different?…’May they all be one,’ Jesus prayed…One church. One faith. One Lord.”
There is much more but I know for me this was powerful. I know I have been guilty of highlighting the differences between me and someone else rather than highlighting the similarities. For me, I want to stop throwing dice at the foot of the cross and instead raise my eyes to Him. What about you?
I originally posted this in my weekly newsletter but since it is about a book, I also wanted to post it here for everyone to read. I hope that you enjoy reading my blurbs.