Whatever the Cost

Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Okay, I’ll be honest. I thought Whatever the Cost would be a quick, entertaining read. No big deal. Instead, I found two more heroes to add to my life.

I loved reading about the Christian home David and Jason Benham came from—how their father poured into them the mindset to “make our theology our biography.” In other words, live what you believe.

These brothers do that.

I found myself laughing out loud several times as I’d read one brother poke fun at the other one. All in good nature, but hilarious.

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.

My Readers’ Top Books to Read

Figuring out good books to read is a lifelong pursuit. Very few of the books I read are those I would recommend. It takes a lot of reading to find gems. If you’re looking for great books, this post will help.

My Readers Top 8 Books to Read

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

Last week I asked you to share with me what books have helped you most (other than the Bible). I got some wonderful responses, and I’ll summarize these into a “Best Of” list.

I also mentioned that I’d share the top 5 books to read that have most impacted me.

So, here are both lists.

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. 

5 Ways You Can Read More Books Next Year

Last year I tried something I had never done before. I tried to read 50 books by the end of the year (and amazingly, I did). But I wondered if my strategy would work again this year.

5 Ways You Can Read More Books Next Year

(Photo by Photodune)

I thought perhaps last year was a fluke, so I tried it again this year. Guess what? It still works.

Because your life, like mine, is busy, I’d like to share with you 5 ways I’ve found that you can read more books—and 5 ways you can even find some free ones.

(If you’re curious, I’ll also share the 50 books I read—and tell you my favorite.)

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.

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong [Book Review] (FaithWords, 2014)

In Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong, Brad Gray walks us through the life of the strong man who lived a life of weakness and failure. But it’s more than a cautionary tale.

The book employs a surprising blend of history, geography, archaeology, linguistics, and culture—what most folks might consider dull and dry—and explains how Samson’s struggles often mirror our own.

  • Learning from the pride and lust and unforgiveness (and faith) of this weak judge allows us to get right what Samson got wrong.
  • I enjoyed learning about how the author of the book of Judges used the theme of Samson eyes as an example of what “everyone in those days” did—what was right in their own eyes.

Brad Gray combines many personal illustrations along with his explanation of Samson’s life to produce a potentially life changing resource for all of us who have failed (that’s all of us). Samson’s presence in Hebrews 11 reveals that God can still use us—even when we fail Him.

God doesn’t want our failures to remain failures. He wants our failures to become investments in learning to get things right. He want us to learn from our mistakes and to keep moving forward. —Brad Gray

Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong has pulled Samson from the Sunday School flannel graphs and revealed him as the flesh-and-blood Hebrew he was. Human, frail, desperate, alone, failing—and yet, believing.

Just like us.

You’ll enjoy the book. You can grab it here.

God Is Just Not Fair

God is Just Not Fair [Book Review] (Zondervan, 2014)

When I began the book, I didn’t realize the author is blind. As I read and understood, my eyes were opened to how much her blindness has allowed Jennifer to see clearly.

With a shift in emphasis, book’s title, God is Just Not Fair, gives away the answer to the problem it poses. God is JUST—Not Fair, that is, His actions are based on justice as God defines it and have nothing to do with what we deem as fair. “Perhaps the real question you and I should ask,” Jennifer Rothschild writes, “is not ‘Is the master fair?’ but ‘Is the master just?’ In other words, Did the master do as he said he would?”

Total paradigm shift. We tend view God as a slightly better version of us. Instead, He is completely wise, sovereign, and just. If He were fair, we’d all be condemned—because we all fall short of His holiness.

Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, ‘Thus far it shall go and no farther.’ If it have allowance for one step it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel—if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding.

John Owen
The Mortification of Sin (Banner of Truth; abridged edition, 2004), 55