Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Book Talk

  • Nancy Guthrie CCM Magazine
  • 2004 18 May
Book Talk

My husband often says, “So when was it that books stopped being written by authors?” You know what he’s talking about – sometimes it seems like anybody with even a little bit of celebrity writes a book. But then, we always know when we read something crafted by a real writer, don’t we? A gifted writer creates a masterpiece painted with words. And that’s what I’ve discovered in several books this month. Michael Card, Charlie Peacock and Max Lucado are three creative personalities, gifted at infusing spiritual and Scriptural insight with beauty.

Singer/songwriter/author Michael Card gave the devotions at a publishing conference I attended last week, speaking from his book, "A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life Of Simon Peter" (InterVarsity). I sat spellbound. Now I’ve also been deeply moved as I’ve read his book over the days since the conference. The introduction points out that Peter is central in so many of the most significant moments recorded in the New Testament – when Jesus walked on the water, at the Transfiguration, when Peter slept in the Garden of Gethsemane and then cut off the soldier’s ear, when he denied Christ three times, among others. Card works his way through Peter’s life as revealed in Scripture, seeking to focus on Peter’s friendship with Jesus and then calling his readers to learn from viewing Jesus through the eyes and experiences of Peter. This is a beautiful and insightful book I will go back to many times.

Honestly, it took some effort on my part to dig into Charlie Peacock's "New Way to Be Human: A Provocative Look at What it Means to Follow Jesus" (Shaw Books/WaterBrook). But little that is worthwhile comes easily, right? Once I was in, I was hooked. Peacock’s mind-altering, life-changing, perspective-adjusting answers to the question, “What does it mean to be a student-follower of Jesus?” challenge all of our Christian culture modus operandi. He invites us into the passionate adventure of bending the shape and purpose of our lives into something far more significant than we have settled for. What he has to say has an impact on our love lives and work agendas, and the message is radical. “One of the strange upside-down things about the life of following Jesus is that you really want it to cost your life,” Peacock writes. “If it doesn’t, you’ve yet to step into the Story with intentionality.” I suggest you intentionally read this book for a deeper “purpose-driven life.” (Switchfoot fans will be pleased to discover that the book’s forward is written by front man Jon Foreman.)

Remember the old adage “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”? That is the image I thought of as I read "It’s Not About Me: Rescue from the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy" (Integrity) The medicine? Theology. The sugar? Max’s simple, authentic style. This book is feeding foundational theology about the nature of God – His holiness and immutability, His goodness and love. But the purpose is not information, it’s transformation. As Lucado draws back the curtain on God’s nature, we can’t help seeing our self-promotion, self-preservation and self-centeredness for what it is in light of God’s overriding purpose – to reveal His glory. “God’s staff meetings, if He had them, would revolve around one question,” Lucado suggests, “‘How can we reveal My glory today?’ God’s to-do-list consists of one item: ‘Reveal My glory.’” And Lucado assures us this agenda of God’s does not reflect an ego problem. “He does not reveal his glory for his good. We need to witness it for ourselves.” Like so many Lucado books, this one is short and easy-to-read and yet profoundly powerful.

You can hear Lucado speak from "It’s Not About Me" at your local Regal Cinema on Tuesday, April 13 at the premiere of a digitized, surround-sound, full-length MercyMe concert from “The Imagine Tour.” Every Regal Cinema around the country with high-definition digital technology will participate in the premiere. Following the cinema debut, “MercyMe Live Featuring Max Lucado” will be available the rest of April via national pay-per-view television outlets such as Direct TV and IN-DEMAND.

What singer do you think has sung live in front of more people than any other performer? Elton John? Elvis Presley? No. George Beverly Shea. It’s true. Shea, through his life-long association with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has sung in front of more people than any other singer. (After all, Billy Graham has presented the gospel in person in front of more people than anyone in history.) In his new book, "How Sweet the Sound: Amazing Stories and Grace-Filled Reflections on Beloved Hymns and Gospel Songs" (Tyndale), Shea tells the history of how such treasured songs were written or introduced, offers moving accounts of songs touching tender hearts and shares remembrances of people and places from his long ministry through music. Talking about Shea’s trademark song, “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” worship leader/recording artist Jeff Deyo said, “These words are still the heartbeat of a generation of young people who have been saturated with technology – the microwave generation. The cry of their hearts is still: ‘I’d rather have Jesus than anything’ – more than fame, money, success or power!”

Music from the Soul Survivor movement via Matt Redmond and Tim Hughes seems to have crossed the Atlantic long ago, and now we are seeing its influence in the form of books from the UK youth movement. In "SOUL Sister: The Ultimate Guide to Being a Girl of God" (Regal), Beth Redman (married to Matt) deals with loneliness, self-image, relationships, purity and the ways to find help for all of life’s issue through prayer and study of Scripture.

Also out this month from the leader and founder of the movement (and mentor to Redman and Hughes), Mike Pilavachi, is "Soul Survivor: Finding Passion and Purpose in the Dry Places" (Regal). In short chapters, Pilavachi invites his readers into the desert – dry places where we meet God in new and significant ways that change the way we live. “The desert is a place where you have to come to terms with your humanity, with your weakness and fallibility,” he writes. “The desert is a lonely place; there are not usually many people there. Above all, the desert is God’s place; it is the place where He takes us in order to heal us.”

© 2004 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.  Click here to subscribe.