Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Summer Reading Part Duece

It’s late Sept but still feels like Summer in Phoenix… Books I’ve been through lately…

The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren, W Publishing Group
McLaren unpacks the phrase, “kingdom of heaven” noting that the preoccupation with heaven, hell and the afterlife has resulted in an unfortunate de-emphasis of pursuing God's righteousness here on earth. There were a few chapters that I think are really important. There are a few that I don’t kind of get or maybe don’t agree with not the least of which is that early on, the church ‘twisted’ what Jesus taught into a gospel of “justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ ” (p. 91). That is not the full story according to McLaren, who describes the gospel being “the kingdom of God is at hand” (p. 92). It doesn’t make sense to me to try and make it an either/or argument. It’s both/and. There should be a balance. Oh, and I still think the title sends the wrong message. There were things about Jesus that were certainly multi-layered and subliminal but it would be misleading to characterize him as being secretive. Having said all that, I’m really glad I read the book. It is thought-provoking.

Shoo Fly Pie, Tim Downs, Howard Publishing
An apparent suicide turns out to be something more when Nick Polchak, a forensic entomologist, (bug-man) investigates. Yeah, it’s not scripture or anything but it’s pretty interesting and for this genre of writing it comes in relatively clean which I’m sure won’t make some people happy. I mean how can you write a murder/mystery without overt cursing and sexual content?

Out of the Question and in the Mystery, Leonard Sweet, Water Brook
Out of the Question… is a re-read for me. It’s good and I wanted to remind myself of it. Sweet’s take is that faith isn’t just a decision or a commitment but a life that we practice in the context of relationships.

The Last Word and the Word after That, Brian McLaren, Jossey Bass Publishing
This book is a fictional work detailing a pastor who is going through a personal and church-wide theological crisis regarding, among other things, heaven and hell. Yeah, sounds like great reading doesn’t it? Actually it is interesting and I think appropriate subject matter for our day and age. It has some very similar themes as The Secret Message of Jesus with respect to ‘kingdom of heaven’ being more about what’s going on here on earth rather than what happens in eternity. I appreciate McLaren’s willingness to be inclusive rather than exclusive but this is probably the least favorite of his books that I’ve read. It reads long and the ending is just a bit happy or sappy for me.

The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis If you are open-minded and can use your imagination this short book will fascinate you. (If you already have it all figured out, don't bother) Lewis, probably the most important Christian writer of the 20th century, writes fictionally of a journey through hell and then heaven. You can't read this book without taking inventory of how you are living your life.

The Bible
It’s good. Difficult to read at times. But it’s very good.

Read On,


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