Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review: Cast of Characters by Max Lucado


Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God by Max Lucado. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2008

Max Lucado is a pastor and has written over 75 books. I find his books easy to understand and I always find plenty of nuggets of wisdom to ponder. He is very good at taking a familiar verse or story and showing it to me in a new way. This book is no different.

Each of the 23 chapters examines someone in the Bible that would have been considered "common" by the people who knew them. These people were not perfect. Some were rich and some were poor. They all put themselves in the hands of an uncommon God.

The chapter that most resonated with me was Chapter 6: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The chapter's subtitle is Your Place in God's Band. He compares people in the church with marching band musicians and uses Mary, Martha and Lazarus to illustrate the point.

Some people like Martha play the drums. Martha served. She was the beat that kept everything moving. Like Mary, some play the flute. Mary worshiped. She was gifted with praise. And like Lazarus, some are the trumpets. Lazarus had a story to tell and he told it often.

I can highly recommend this book. I think that everyone who reads this book will find someone they can identify with. I found that I identified with Martha. By reading how God used her, I can see how God can use me.

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Book Review: Sunset by Karen Kingsbury

It is time to bid a fond goodbye to the Baxter family. Sunset is the final book of the Baxter Family Drama. We are introduced to the Baxter family in Redemption. There are 14 books in the series.

Instead of being focused on just one or two of the Baxter family members, this story covers all of them. It takes all the previous stories and ties up all the loose ends. If there is a primary focus, I think that it would be John (the father). His selling of the house and upcoming wedding and how each event effects his kids is one of the focal points of Sunset.

My favorite part was Kari's story. I think I liked it best because she was the focus of the first book. She is asked to deal with a part of her past and she really shows us how forgiveness should look.

My least favorite part was Luke's story. The part where Luke and Reagan are trying to work things out seemed stiff and not as believable.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think that it was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession is a memoir of author Anne Rice’s conversion from atheism to Catholicism. Anne Rice is probably most known for her novels about vampires. Her first book, Interview with the Vampire, was made into a major motion picture starring Tom Cruise. Many of her books have featured vampires.

In 2005, she departed from her previous themes and wrote Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel. She revealed that she was no longer an atheist. In 2008, her novel Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana (Christ the Lord) was published.

When I first heard that Anne Rice had written a book about Jesus, I was skeptical. I wondered why she would go from unholy vampires to the holy Son of God. So I did not read either of her books about Jesus. When I saw this memoir, I was intrigued. I wanted to find out what happened.

Called Out of Darkness begins with her Catholic upbringing. She goes into great detail describing the Catholic churches and schools that shaped her early life. She describes how much the icons and sacraments of the Church meant to her as a child.

She describes how her faith started to fade away when she went to college. She wanted to explore knowledge. She wanted to escape the sense of sin. Because she wanted away from the Church, she quit believing in God. She lived that way for 38 years.

The last third of the book describes her journey back to God. She describes herself as being “Christ haunted.” Creation spoke to her of God. Music and art spoke to her of God. She could not get away from the question of who Jesus was and why people were obsessed with Him.

In December of 1998, she came back to God. In her words, “…what I recall most vividly is surrender – a determination to give in to something deeply believed and deeply felt. I loved God. I loved Him with my whole heart. I loved Him in the Person of Jesus Christ, and I wanted to go back to Him.” So she did. She went back to church and to God.

Her story does not end there. Between 1998 and 2002, she went to church and grew in her faith. But she did not really change her writing. In 2002, she had a sort of awakening. She knew that she needed to write for God. So she wrote about Jesus’ early life.

I found the book very interesting. It seems to me that she got burnt out by all the rules and completely rebelled against God and the Church. She came back when she re-discovered the love of Jesus.

The only thing that I did not care for was the lack of continuity. She would be describing an event and then jump forward or backward in time. This happened many times. I was a little frustrated trying to figure out what order the events happened.

As I read this book, I was reminded of something that I heard in church recently. We need to pray for famous people. We need to pray for our favorite authors, actors and musicians who are not Christians. We may not have the opportunity to personally talk to them about Christ but God can use our prayers to bring other Christians into their lives.

Overall, I would recommend this book. I am also planning on reading her novels about Jesus.

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Review: Sinner by Ted Dekker

Sinner: A Paradise Novel (The Books of History Chronicles) by Ted Dekker is the third novel of The Paradise Novels. It isn't necessary to read any of the previous stories before reading Sinner but it does build on what has happened in Showdown and Saint.

Sinner starts 13 years after the events of Showdown. The story focuses on Billy, Darcy and Johnny. Billy and Darcy have tried to put the events of Project Showdown behind them. But they discover that they have some very unique gifts. Their gifts get them noticed by important people in Washington who need their help.

They use their talents to amend the Constitution so that any speech that is not tolerant of another's belief is a hate crime. Johnny (Saint) goes back to the town of Paradise to take a stand against this new law. He gathers 3000 believers of the Way. The government sends Billy and Darcy to Paradise to convince their old friend that he is wrong. Johnny uses his unique talent to show them the Light.

Ted Dekker uses his stories to teach as well as entertain. In this novel, he shows us what the world would be like if we could be jailed for telling others about Jesus. He crafts the story in such a way as to make it very believable. It could happen in the very near future.

The story itself was a good read. I wasn't sure at the end what was going to be the result. I always hope for a happy ending but you never know with Dekker. It is certainly not a "They lived happily every after" ending.

I love the way he portrays the love of Jesus for those who choose Him. The salvation experience is so vivid, it nearly makes me cry every time. I usually have to stop reading and praise God for His love before going back to reading.

There are a few loose ends that don't get tied up at the end, but maybe he is saving those for his next book in the series, Green, which releases September 1, 2009.

If you would like to learn more about the themes in Sinner, visit http://www.teddekker.com/site.php?content=news_news.

4.5 out of 5 Stars