I am on a tremendous book hot streak. So far in 2011, I have read four fairly recent books that were all excellent. Here are my brief reviews, for those who are interested:
What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey. This guy is my favorite author, but he hasn't been exceptionally productive lately. His high point was in the 90s, when he wrote The Jesus I Never Knew and What's So Amazing About Grace, two utterly life-changing books, back-to-back. But this is a strong effort. As usual, Yancey refuses to avoid the hard questions or settle for easy answers. His premise in this latest book is that for many American Christians, it seems like God is no longer active in the world. Where are the miracles? Why are dramatic conversions so rare? Has God stopped caring about this world? Or were the old stories of His amazing works just legends from a more religious, less sophisticated time? Yancey answers our doubts with amazing, inspiring stories of what God is doing in our world today, from house churches in China to persecuted believers in the Middle East; from recovering addicts to a ministry to women trying to escape lives of prostitution. Yancey has been invited to all of these places to speak, and he gives a record of his visit to each--which gives the book a bit of a travelogue feel--and includes the message he delivered at each location.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brilliant German theologian and Lutheran pastor who courageously opposed the Nazis, and paid for it with his life. This is a very large and exhaustive, but highly readable and exciting look at Bonhoeffer's life.
The Hole In Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Stearns was the CEO of the Lenox dinnerware company and a devout Christian. Then God called him to be the president of World Vision. This book starts with the story of how he made the remarkable transition from selling expensive dishes (and getting very rich doing so) to caring for the poorest children in the world. But that's just the start of the book. Stearns then takes us all to task for ignoring the full gospel, in which Jesus called us to care for the least of His children. Stearns writes as one of us, since he has lived "the good life," but he is not afraid to challenge our luxurious, self-centered lifestyles. The book is challenging, but also inspiring. Stearns offers hope and strategies for people like you and I to make a real difference in the world today. In short, this book will change the way you look at the world.
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, by David Platt. This is one of the "hot-button" books in the Christian world today. Google the title, and you'll see what I mean. Yeah, about that title: It's provocative, and so is this book. Platt is a young pastor of a large church in Birgmingham, but he writes more like Elijah than your typical megachurch preacher. Simply put, this book is one of the most challenging things I've ever read. But as with Stearns' book, it's not about simply heaping on the guilt. There is a very real and attainable strategy in this book. The reader can't help wondering, "What would happen if American Christians really started living this way?" I get chills just thinking about it.