Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reviewing James MacDonald's When Life is Hard

I received James MacDonald's book, When Life is Hard, a few years ago when Pastor MacDonald was a council member of the Gospel Coalition. Christian books about overcoming adversity appeal to me so I was thankful to receive this book as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, I never found When Life is Hard to be very engaging and only recently finished this 200 pager. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had I read it several years ago when I was at a different stage in life. Perhaps it would have been better for me to read the book with others and to write down my answers to the questions Pastor MacDonald posed. I found nothing in Pastor MacDonald's book that caused me to raise any eyebrows although I would not simply say that God allows painful, difficult things to happen. A few of the positives in his book include having key words and phrases bolded or in italics, the use of Scripture (ESV, NASB, and NKJV translations) throughout the book, and how nicely the book is organized. Some of the ways Pastor MacDonald speaks truth include:

Glimpses of God: At the beginning of every chapter a theme verse is examined, word by word.
From God's Heart to Mine: At the end of each chapter are a couple of verses or a short Scripture passage to memorize.
Mining for Gold: Each chapter includes a set of personal questions designed to help you reflect on and implement what God is showing you about trials in your life.
Come Forth as God: The final chapter looks at the sixteen key lessons covered in the book and summarizes them.

I am sure many people have made better sense of pain and suffering from reading When Life is Hard, and I think more will be blessed in the years to come by Pastor MacDonald's stories of hope. I appreciate hearing messages that don't gloss over the fact that life is hard at times, but there is One who can help you through the hard times.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reviewing Greg Laurie's How To Live Forever

Whenever we listen to sermons as a family, I typically find a recent sermon preached by Greg Laurie. His sermons are biblically based and preached in a manner that can help all of us better understand the Chief Cornerstone. I found Greg Laurie's booklet, How to Live Forever, like his sermons. How to Live Forever presents the gospel message in 27 pages. Below are the titles of the ten short chapters.

1. The Quest
2. Would You Sell Your Soul to End the Frustration?
3. Yet We Are Made in God's Image
4. The "S" Word - Sin
5. Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
6. Why Did He Do It?
7. A Bleak Alternative
8. What Do I Have to Do?
9. How to Know God
10. Now What?

Since this booklet was written in 1999, some of the statistics and pop culture references (e.g., Back to the Future, Gianni Versace) are dated, but this is really of little importance. Scripture is found throughout the booklet in NLT, NKJV, and NIV (1984) translations, and Pastor Laurie handles unpopular topics such as the cross and Hell in a way that can engage people from various backgrounds. There were a couple of times when I read something that I would have worded differently or perhaps stressed something from another standpoint. Despite this, I believe How to Live Forever has definitely been used to feed souls and will continue to do so in the years to come.