Undone

Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life (Zondervan, 2015)

Michele Cushatt is one of the best writers I’ve read in a long time. And her newest book, Undone, gives more than good writing. It’s a great subject.

The book hooked me early on. I read. And read. And read. Refreshing, real, raw. She had me laughing and crying often on the same page.

The message of the book is wonderful. The fairytale we want out of life isn’t real. It never was. If you’ve ever struggled with shattered hopes, a fearful diagnosis, a wayward child, a dysfunctional church, or the silence of God, Undone will walk beside you as a companion.

Here’s why I liked it–and why I’m sure you will.

The Day I Met Jesus

The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels (Baker Books, 2015)

It’s rare I pick up a book of historical fiction that satisfies a reader’s demand for accuracy as well as interest. Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola have created a nice hybrid between the stories of the gospels and the possibilities that lay in the gaps of the stories.

The Day I Met Jesus beautifully weaves together the truth of Scripture with imaginative storytelling to tell the stories of five women:

  • The woman caught in adultery
  • The immoral woman who washed Jesus’ feet
  • The Samaritan woman
  • The woman with the issue of blood
  • Mary of Bethany

Told from a first-person perspective, some of the details of these women’s lives aren’t pretty, and the fiction does its job—with tactful and skillful writing—to bring these details to life.

The Bible's Answers to 100 of Life's Biggest Questions

The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions (Baker Books, 2015)

Good questions deserve good answers—especially when the questions are honest.

Too often questions about the Bible intend only to put up a smokescreen in which the critic uses as an excuse to hide from his or her accountability to God.

Christians need to know the Bible’s answers to the skeptic’s questions. In fact, a good answer can blow away the smoke and leave the critic exposed to the reality that his or her sin leaves them accountable to God. But thankfully, the Bible also it shows how God’s love has made provision for that sin through Jesus Christ.

Norm Geisler and Jason Jimenez have written an excellent reference book, The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions, which answers questions that would leave most of us standing with our mouths in the shape of a question mark. We would expect an apologetics book to offer good answers to the typical questions, like: How can a good God allow evil? And what about the person who’s never heard of Jesus? And it does well at these.

But this new volume answers question that seem slipperier. 

Insanely Simple

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success (Portfolio; Reprint edition, 2013)

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success has some super ideas and inspiring principles on working hard to keep products, communication and innovation simple. The summary section at the end is worth the book. It’s even worth wading through all the apologetics about Steve Jobs’ genius superseding his impatience with people.

Of course, the value of the bottom line should never overshadow the value of people—not just the value of customers but also employees and affiliates.

All glorification of Steve Jobs aside, Insanely Simple had some great leadership and marketing principles.

You can see good quotes I highlighted in the book here.

scary close

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Don Miller’s new book, Scary Close, follows his journey from singlehood to marriage—but really, from isolation to growing intimacy.

He describes the book’s purpose this way:

There’s truth in the idea we’re never going to be perfect in love but we can get close. And the closer we get, the healthier we will be. Love is not a game any of us can win, it’s just a story we can live and enjoy. (Page 255)

The chapter on “Five Kinds of Manipulators” was wonderful. It made me want to read Safe People by Cloud and Townsend. The best chapter is “You will not complete me.” So good to see affirmed that even a great spouse makes a lousy God. Only God completes us. Well said.

Here are a couple of quotes I loved:

Get Wise

Get Wise: Make Great Decisions Every Day (Baker Books, 2014)

Dealing with such practical decisions as money, parenting, marriage, purity, revenge, foolishness, friendship, work, and education, Get Wise: Make Great Decisions Every Day does a fine job of applying the wisdom of God’s Word to reality. In writing this book, Bob Merritt says:

I sifted through every verse contained in the book of Proverbs, isolated the dominant themes, and applied them to the top twelve decisions every person has to make in life.

Get Wise certainly contains nuggets of wisdom for living a moral life, and the proverbs Merritt selects match well with the themes. As a read, though, the book seemed at times a bit “surfacy”—with deeper issues often getting punted to the advice of a professional counselor. The stories usually recalled Merritt’s own mistakes or wise counsel to others, and after a while I felt as if the true audience of this volume was Pastor Merrit’s congregation—like the book reflected a sermon series repurposed for print. The leaders’ note in the back—as well as the discussion questions—seem to affirm that the book’s primary audience is Pastor Bob’s church. And that’s fine.

Vanishing Grace

Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (Zondervan, 2014)

Reading Yancey’s book, Vanishing Grace, took me back 20 years when I read his excellent volume, What’s So Amazing about Grace? At the time, the book held its place in my life as one of the best books I’d ever read.

As I read this new volume, it struck me as tackling a similar thrust: we live in a world thirsty for God’s grace and Christians often throw salt on the wound rather than live as dispensers of grace.

Bible Reader's Joke Book

The Bible Reader’s Joke Book (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition, 2014)

What’s so funny about the Ten Commandments? Wonder no longer. Need a good one-liner for your upcoming Bible lesson on relationships, or your sermon on giving, or your youth talk on purity? You’re all set.

A few years ago, my friend Dr. Stephen Bramer told me he was writing a joke book for the Bible. I laughed. I thought he was joking.

Turns out, he was! (And the book totals more than 2000 jokes.) The subtitle says it all: A collection of over 2,000 jokes, puns, humorous stories, and funny sayings related to the Bible: arranged from Genesis to Revelation.

  • Arranged in biblical-chronological order, this thick volume is jammed with jokes, puns, one-liners, and funny (dare I say, “corny”?) stories sure to cause every reaction from a chuckle to an eye-roll.
  • You can look up a joke by Bible verse or by topic.

The funniest part of the book to me? The copyright page.

Seriously. Check it out here.

Question: Know any good Bible jokes? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Maxwell Leadership Bible

Maxwell Leadership Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014)

When I first began reading through this Bible, I thought the content would show itself as simple rehash from Maxwell’s other books. Well, if it is, it’s amazingly relevant.

Seeing these truths in the context of Scripture gives them a better framework for application than they might find in any other book.

Maxwell explains:

My goal in creating this Leadership Bible is to enable you to raise the “lid” on your own effectiveness. I want you to reach your potential in Christ! To become more Christlike you need to think and act more like a leader. You must become a person of influence.

Scattered throughout are lessons of leadership, which are often only lessons of character that every Christian should aspire to.