Book Review: Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Comeback

I have always loved baseball – and now have a reason to love it even more – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers stand out, and 2010 American League MVP. The book chronicles the rise and downfall of the number one pick of the Major League Baseball draft in 1999. Josh took a turn for the worse in the minor leagues by getting addicted to tattoos, alcohol, and drugs. The best part of this book is the story of grace – God – the hound of Heaven pursuing Josh despite his rebellion and out of control life-style.

The book gave me a new appreciation for the amazing grace of God, the patient love of grandmas, and the power of never giving up on people no matter how down and out they may seem. Josh literally went from rags to riches, to rags to riches again. It is a story that will inspire anyone battling addictions, or those who want to help those with addictions.

I give it 5 stars – especially if you love baseball, God, and apple pie – well, maybe not apple pie – but definitely – a story filled with God’s grace from start to finish.

Book Review of Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God”

Tim Keller (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, N.Y.) is a very gifted thinker and communicator. His book “The Prodigal God” is one I have read 3 times in the last year. The book is based on perhaps the most famous story that Jesus told in the New Testament (Luke 15) – often referred to as the the parable of the “prodigal son.”I have been a Christian for 39 years now (24 of those years in the pastorate), and I have never read a better presentation of the gospel than he presents in this book. Dr. Keller helped me to fall in love with the God of the gospel again. He helped me to realize that the gospel isn’t just about forgiveness for what I’ve done in the past, or for the promise of Christ’s return and the hope of Heaven for the future, but that the gospel is essential for living today. God’s grace through a relationship with Christ is what we need to be reminded of every day in order to basque in the pleasure, peace, and presence of a wonderful God – who loves us despite our tendencies to rebel, or revel in our own righteousness – either way – our sins of thinking we are too bad, or too good keep us at a distance from knowing God the Father through His perfect Son – Our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Out of 5 stars – I would give it a 10. The principles in this book are invaluable and I sum up what I learned from this book here:

1) I am a bigger sinner than I thought I was – I have a tendency to be like the “older brother” in Luke 15 – who sees himself as more righteous than he really is.

2) God is more gracious than I thought He was – He provides forgiveness for both the rebel (the younger brother) and the older brother – who is lost because it is his supposed righteousness that keeps him from having a relationship with his father – he is an idolater becasue he loves his father’s “things” more than the father himself.

3) It has helped me to understand the gospel and explain it better. Religions have a tendency to lead to idolatry – we think we are good – because we follow rules, or do “good works,” but these good works are self serving and make us look down on others.

4) Ultimately, I owe my salvation solely and totally to the goodness, patience, mercy, grace, and provision of God through Christ. He sought me while yet a sinner. He gave me His righteousness in exchange for my sin. He forgave me despite my rebellion and pride, and revealed His love for me in that He sent His one and only sin to die for me on the cross – Romans 5:8.

5) The Prodigal God wants me to go after all people with the good news that He has made provision for their salvation – no matter what separates them from Him. What a mighty and wonderful God we serve!