Book Review: People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster

people-of-the-second-chanceWhat does it look like to both seek to experience the power of grace for yourself and then to extend the greatness of grace to others? This is the simple yet life-changing question that Mike Foster seeks to tackle in his book People of the Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World.

People of the Second Chance is part exposition of the Prodigal Son story, part personal memoir, part personal counseling guide, and part challenge.  Foster presents a book that is personal, practical, and life-giving.  For many people who struggle to forgive themselves, love others, and be willing to celebrate the power of the grace of God at work, this book offers an invitation to begin to experience all of these things in an easy to read and helpful way.

Foster’s book will leave you in awe of the power of God’s grace at work in your own heart and life and excited to extend that same grace that you have received to others.  This is an excellent book that will both grow your personal walk on a journey of grace and set a passion within you to lead others to experience their own personal story of grace.

Book Review: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace

Balancing the truths of God’s Word while staying gracious towards others is a constant tension in which the Christian life is lived.  This tension is seen very clearly in the debates and discussions within the church regarding the topic of homosexuality.  How do we as Christians stand with the biblical precedent that homosexuality is a sin while also responding in love and grace towards those struggling with homosexuality?

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others without Sacrificing Conviction is a very helpful resource in helping the church begin to better answer this question.  Caleb Kaltenbach writes with the heart of a son for parents that he loves yet disagrees with while refusing to compromise the Bible’s teachings on the topic of homosexuality.

Written through the lens of Caleb’s life story, Messy Grace is a powerful testimony to the work of God in His life while also clearly showing the areas where Christians have failed to show grace to his parents and to others regarding homosexuality.  The hatred of Caleb’s parents for Christians throughout the majority of the book’s storyline is not without warrant.  Many people failed to represent Jesus well to those who did not know Him.  These chapters also show the amazing grace of God in saving Caleb, drawing him to Himself, and calling him to ministry.  The weaving of the grace of God in the midst of the Kaltenbach family is truly a work of grace.

In the midst of a very heated topic in the church, Messy Grace does a very effective job of shining a light on the humanity of the struggle while calling the church to engage people with the gospel while leading with grace but never denying truth.  This is a challenging read that anyone seeking to engage others should read and consider.

Book Review: Look and Live by Matt Papa

Look and Live

How do we most clearly follow Jesus?  How do we live a life of faith in the midst of a world and a culture that so strongly opposes our faith?  How do we regain a passion for Christ that we feel is waining?  How do we fight sin and idols in our lives?  These are many of the questions and challenges that many Christians face on a daily basis.  The answer is simple and clear: Look and Live.  In this book, Matt Papa writes an honest account of struggling to rest in the amazing glory of Jesus and His gospel as the central goal of the Christian life.  This is a paradigm shift that changes everything and makes this a book that every follower of Jesus should read.

Papa defines every struggle and challenge that we face as a worship problem.  We were wired for worship and made to be only satisfied in worshipping King Jesus, the only one who is truly worthy of our worship.  He then calls readers to see everything through the lens of worship.  When we sin and run after idols, our worship is directed in the wrong direction.

We grow in our Christian lives when we learn to see, behold, and be satisfied in the glory of God.  Papa helpfully and practically illustrates this truth with regard to the topics of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, meditation, Bible memorization), missions, and suffering.  The glory and gospel of God is the truth that radically reframes all of these priorities.

Look and Live is a simple yet profound book that calls readers to fix their eyes on Jesus and to run faithfully after Him until He calls them home.  This book reframes the topic of sanctification in a gospel-saturated and practical way that makes it a great resource for believers striving to be who God is making them to be.

Book Review: Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning by Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt

Walking on Water

Hope is a key to carrying on and is a truth that is ultimately found in the life-changing message of the gospel.  In Walking on Water When You Feel Like You’re Drowning: Finding Hope in Life’s Darkest Moments, Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt call readers to hang on to hope in the midst of the darkness of their struggles.  Nelson and Leavitt seek to address the darkness of depression, anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism and lead readers to find biblical hope and encouragement in their struggles.

Walking on Water is an intensely personal book in which the personal narratives of the authors’ own personal struggles drive the storyline of the book.  As people who have struggled with the darkness, the authors can help lead their readers to hope and freedom.  In addition to sharing personal struggles and failures, the authors also helpfully address the topics of anxiety and depression in a holistic way.  These are struggles that contain mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual elements.  The authors do not shy away from any of these factors and seek to lead readers to personally evaluate how each of these factor into their own personal struggles with darkness.

After defining the darkness, Nelson and Leavitt provide practical steps to begin the path to healing.  This path involves allowing yourself to be defined by the truths of God’s Word as opposed to your own performance, getting help from others, setting boundaries, possibly getting medical help, and living for the future.  This path to healing is practical and based on the authors’ personal experiences of finding hope in the midst of darkness.

In a Christian culture that tends to ignore darkness, depression, and anxiety, Nelson and Leavitt engage this important topic by creating a helpful resource for those fighting through the darkness and those who care for and minister to them.  You may feel like you are drowning, but Jesus calls you to experience His hope and to walk with Him on the water through your darkness.

Book Review: Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life by Eric Mason

Beat God to the Punch

In Philippians 2:10-11Open Link in New Window, Paul states that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (ESV).  Beat God to the Punch is Eric Mason’s call to surrender your life fully to Jesus knowing that one day every person will bow and confess the Lordship of Christ.  Mason clearly calls both believers and unbelievers to surrender to the transformational power of the gospel in this helpful and challenging book.

Beat God to the Punch is all about falling in love with Jesus, being captured by His great grace, and living a life that is radically different because of this grace encounter.  Mason states that “when we authentically experience the Lord Jesus, we are contagious.  We are then willing to spread this experience of grace” (p. 37).  Grace is not simply the ticket into the Christian life, but it is the truth that defines the entire experience of the Christian life.  Mason makes this truth come alive in a clear and practical way.

The most encouraging part of the book was when Mason listed all of the names of Jesus found throughout the Bible.  He chose to lead his readers back to these names because

“When I look at the names of Jesus, I see a buffet of grace.  All the food groups of the soul are in His name, so that our souls will never find themselves malnourished.  This grace buffet is for us to see that nothing we have could have been obtained on our own.” (p. 47)

Resting in the promises of who Jesus is, what He has done, and who He has called us to be, Mason challenges us to Beat God to the Punch by surrendering first and foremost to His Lordship and then allowing Jesus to make us into trophies of His great grace as we live lives of discipleship following Him.

Book Review: Dirty God by Johnnie Moore

In Dirty God, Johnnie Moore paints a compelling picture of the power of the gospel to transform the way we minister to the least of these.  Prior to this book, Moore was an unknown author to me, but by journeying through Dirty God, I have a desire to read more books by him.  He is an engaging writer who brings together his personal stories on the mission field with a solid theological understanding of the amazing nature of the incarnation.

Dirty God will make you view Jesus becoming a man, i.e. the incarnation, in a new light.  Moore argues that if we are going to truly be followers of Jesus we need to be willing to get dirty for the cause of the gospel.  He reminds his readers that Jesus forfeited the respect of the religious elite of His day in order to be about bringing His kingdom to the darkest and most broken places on the planet. Moore calls his readers to be willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ by bringing the hope of the kingdom to the dark places.

This book is written as a call to get dirty.  Moore reminds us that as Christians we have a great mission and follow a great Savior.  He was willing to give His all for us so our response of worship should be to give our all for Him for the sake of broken people in our neighborhoods, communities, and world.

Book Review: Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris

In Humble Orthodoxy, Joshua Harris continues the topic that he first introduced in his book, Dug Down Deep.  This is a short and profoundly helpful book that dives deep into the topic of how to approach others who disagree on doctrine.  As Christians, we have a tendency to fight and treat each other in a gospel-less fashion when it comes to people who disagree with our doctrine.  Harris calls his readers to consider a gospel-focused way of approaching those with doctrinal differences.

One of the most profound insights that Harris offers in the book is that one day when we all stand before God the only Person who will be right will be God Himself.  We can think that we have our theological understandings perfectly held together and that we have the true understanding of the intent of the biblical text, but in reality, there are holes in all of our theologies.  This leads us to the position of humility – knowing that in places we are wrong and have missed it yet understanding that one day God will reveal the truth.

Humble Orthodoxy is a book that every believer should read with an open mind and heart.  Harris reminds us that as we attempt to defend the truths of the gospel we must also make sure and reflect the truth of the gospel in our attitudes, actions, and approaches to those with whom we disagree.  This book will challenge readers and call them back to a place of humility knowing that God is the only one who truly has it right.