Book review -Silent God: Finding Him When You Can’t Hear His Voice

In “Silent God” Joesph Bentz takes on an issue that is oft explored in the Psalms – why it is that God sometimes seems distant and silent? He begins his exploration by looking, not to God, but to us – pointing out that we are seldom good listeners, but instead have lives full of noise, both physical and inner. His observations about cellphones, email, and other technological “noise” hit home for me.

From there, we move to discussions about the possible reasons for God’s silence; that he has a purpose in all he does (or, in this case, doesn’t do). We come away from the book with an appreciation of the power of silence and a realization that God’s silence actually speaks to us and advances us in our journey to Christ-likeness.

I recommend this book as one that will help the seeking reader to go deeper in their relationship with the Lord.

Book review: Faith Intersections, edited by Matt Zimmer

“Faith Intersections” is a book about listening to people who have different belief systems than our own. In each chapter a Christian interviewer listens as an individual talks about what they believe and why. We hear from them what they consider to be the purpose of life and their view of the afterlife. In some cases, we listen as they talk about us.

Some chapters are almost painful to read. Right off I find myself listening as a former Christian dismantles modern Christianity. This man knows us well and many of his observations are, I fear, painfully accurate. The conversation with the Mormon leaves me feeling frustrated as I hear the “party line” stated with such conviction. The chapter on Scientology leaves me deeply saddened. It’s the only chapter without an interview. The reason? The knowledgeable writer has years of experience trying to dialogue with adherents and knows it can’t be done in the spirit of this book.

Let me add that there’s some positive material in this book, some encouraging and some instructive. The whole idea is to model for the reader how to listen, valuing the speaker’s point of view without having to debate them. In fact, in some instances, the genuine friendships have had wonderful results. It’s encouraging to hear people who aren’t Christians speak positively of Jesus even if some are rather critical of his followers. Sometimes I’m critical of our crowd myself. The “atheist” chapter has a great story in it that will bless your heart.

I appreciate the opportunity to do an early read of this thought provoking book.

Here’s a link to the book at NPH

Ted Dekker’s Black, Red, White, Green Circle series

I’ve just finished re-reading the first three books of Dekker’s “Circle” series. In the story a young man, Thomas Hunter, finds himself living in two worlds. Each time he sleeps and dreams he wakes up in the other world.

One world, is ours. And here, great evil is at work which could easily result in the death of most of earth’s population.

The other world, is, in the beginning, a place where good and evil are divided and in which one can see with their eyes what is good and what is evil. The good side of the world is beautiful and the inhabitants enjoy close communion with their Creator. Their religion is called the Great Romance.

At first, it seems that Thomas is the only common link between the two worlds, but it becomes apparent that what happens in one is directly related to what happens in the other…with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance.

The series is Dekker’s approach to the alligorical stories such as we see in the Chronicles of Narnia and the story of the Lord of the Ring.

The fourth book, Green, was written a few years after the series was published. I haven’t read it yet, but it both fills in some blanks and advances the story somewhat.

I give the series a thumbs up – a good summer read!

Book review: “Common Ground” by Keith Drury

I’ve just finished Keith Drury’s “Common Ground – What All Christians Believe and Why it Matters.”

The book consists of 10 page essays on the elements of the Apostle’s Creed. Since the earliest days of Christianity the Apostle’s Creed has stated the faith of the followers of Jesus. Drury takes each phrase of this ancient creed and helps us understand why it is included in this crucial statement of faith.

The book isn’t long and is easy to read. At times the prose is absolutely beautiful and reads like poetry. The chapter on “Jesus Christ” is very good. Also, the chapter on “Forgiveness of sins” blessed my heart.

Drury includes considerable church history in his essays, helping us understand how the Church arrived at each particular statement in the creed.

Even a life time “low churcher” like me comes away with a fresh appreciation for this ancient creed which has been a part of Christianity from it’s first baby steps.

Review of “The Shack” by William P. Young

I started reading “The Shack” by William P. Young and couldn’t get through the first few chapters. I didn’t think I wanted to wade through all the nightmare stuff.

So, I stopped reading after the first chapter or so. Then a couple of months later I heard people talking about it and decided to give it another try. Instead of reading it, I just scanned through the first 4 chapters enough to know what happened and then joined the story from chapter 5 on.

I find the story of the weekend to be quite compelling and love the emphasis on the Trinity and the relationship within the Godhead.

I am helped by several of the teaching aspects of the book — especially the constant message of God’s desire to have a relationship with people. I doubt I will ever forget that the Lord is especially fond of each of us. I also love the description of the “wastefulness of grace.”

I like the way Jesus is described. His manhood, humanness is very easy to connect to.

I like the good natured response of the Trinity to mistakes and misunderstandings and the powerful emphasis on grace.

Two things that make me somewhat uncomfortable:

1. The seeming universalism in the theology. I wish that at some point there is an acknowledgment that humans can ultimately and finally reject the love and grace of God. The presence of Mac’s father with no background on how that came to be seems to underscore the universalism message.

2. The encounter with Misty coupled with the funeral scene makes no mention of a bodily resurrection. We have Jesus, very human and much is made of that. Then we have Misty and the “night of lights” as though that is all there is to it. Even the funeral service contains no mention of resurrection.

So, I think I’ll subtract one point for the background story being unnecessarily disturbing and intense. I’ll take away another point and a half for the two theological issues I mentioned.

For me, that should give the book a score of 7.5 — however, my gut is that it has terrific potential to speak to people in compelling ways on the issues of human suffering, the nature of God, and the good will of God toward all human beings. The final rank, then, to me is more like a 9 or a 9.5. In other words: if you haven’t done so yet, you ought to read this book!

Book Review: Lamb Among the Stars Series by Chris Walley

The Lamb Among the Stars is a three book Christian sci-fi series that takes place in the distant future.

For ten thousand years the human race has expanded and lived in peace. It started with a great revival that ushered in a golden age of Christianity, and the symbolic millennium has proven to be at least 10 times longer than a mere thousand years.

On the most distant human planet Farholme, though, subtle changes are taking place. Even though it is known from history how evil influences people, they are ill prepared for a spiritual shadow that has fallen over them.

Book 1, Shadow and Night tells this story.

In Book 2, The Dark Foundations the storm clouds gather as both physical and spiritual enemies prepare an attack on the isolated Farholme. Not only are there physical battles to be fought, there are spiritual conflicts as well. The unseen is revealed as battles rage.

The final book of the series is The Infinite Day. The battle of the ages is drawing near and there is failure from unexpected sources. Humanity hangs in the balance.

Lamb among the Stars series

Edit to add: As Chris Walley pointed out to me, I neglected to include one important thing: my recommendation! I give this series two thumbs up.