Around this time of the year I find myself looking backward and forward. It’s always exhilarating to see what the Lord has done in my life during the past year but also to envision some goals for the coming year. Part of my reflections of this past year is reviewing the books I read (above and beyond those I read for study purposes) and recalling how they impacted me. As I have been doing so recently I decided to share with you reflections on three of those books. Perhaps they will whet your thirst and lead you to read them – and have an impact upon you as well.
Up first is a book of fiction. I don’t read enough fiction but I ventured into one of Randy Alcorn’s novels. Randy is perhaps better known for his books on stewardship and heaven, but I discovered he is a talented author of exciting fiction. I read “Deadline.” I found the book extremely difficult to put down. Not only is the story line terrific and the plot exciting and full of suspenseful mystery, but there is a powerful underlying message about life and death that gripped my soul. And the bonus is that several chapters deal with life in heaven. Of course, we don’t know what heaven is like – and Randy hasn’t been there and come back! He’s had no near death experiences. But He has thoroughly researched the Biblical references to heaven and uses them to build some solid scenes of what it might be like. I found them riveting. One chapter, in fact, portrays a man – a traffic accident fatality – in his final moments between earth and heaven. It sent chills up and down my spine. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 12!
I also read an autobiography entitled “Beyond Belief (Finding the Strength to Come Back).” It’s a very detailed and graphic account of Josh Hamilton – who just this past year was the MVP of baseball’s American League. Great life, right? Perhaps – but for Josh not without a great price. Josh is a man with immense, almost super human talent – but talent did him absolutely no good when he got caught up in and eventually addicted to drugs and alcohol. The journey down into and up from despair, the ongoing damage to his body, and the story of a team – the Texas Rangers – who have gone the extra mile, and then some – makes for great reading and inspiration. The book deals forthrightly with his past struggle for faith, his current relationship with Christ, and the role his wife and family play in his new life. While the book ends with hope, it also balances that hope with the reality that life will never be easy for Josh because of where’s he’s been. And all this just makes the ongoing story of his life – such as this past season – a story of miracle and a testimony grace.
The third book I bring to our attention I will soon be re-reading – once barb finishes it! It’s titled “Sun Stand Still – What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.” Let’s just say it spawned my Epiphany (post-Christmas, pre-Lent) series “Extreme Faith.” Masterfully weaving together his life story, ministry experience, and Joshua’s bold prayer for God to make the sun stand still author Steven Furtick does a wonderful job of examining all the elements of what a bold faith means – and doesn’t mean. I was concerned when I ordered it that it might be another charismatic “Just believe and it will be’ recipe – but it is far from that. Furtick writes simply and clearly without a condescending attitude of “I know what it’s all about – what’s wrong with you.” It is an easy, enjoyable, challenging, inspiring read that may well make you want to read it again – when your spouse has finished it! In the meantime, you’ll hear some of Furtick’s themes and thoughts through our upcoming “Extreme Faith” series.
Enjoy your reading in 2011.