Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clutter Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress


Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (March 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400070929
ISBN-13: 978-1400070923

Summary:

It’s time to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of what it means to please God. In this liberating look at the core principles of faith, Dr. Robert Jeffress reveals the truth about what God really wants from you–and what He wants to do for you.

He describes six fundamental areas where we need to have a change in heart in order to become more Christlike: We need to learn to (1) forgive, (2) obey, (3) trust, (4) be content, (5) serve others and (6) pray. This process is a lifelong journey toward transformation.

My Review:
I am still reading. It is slow going not because of the writing but because I am being convicted by the Holy Spirit. I have that new song by Matthew West going through my head.

Motions by Matthew West

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me wholeI think I'm finally feeling something
Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (cause I don't wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I'm finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go)
Take me all the way (through the motions)
Take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions


Author Bio:
Dr. Robert Jeffress is the senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, one of the most historic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. The author of sixteen books, he is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, live broadcasts of Dr. Jeffress’ weekly messages reach millions of listeners and viewers each week, while his daily sermon series airs on 1,100 television stations and cable systems nationwide. Dr. Jeffress and his wife, Amy, are the parents of two adult daughters.

Apologetics for a New Generation by Sean McDowell

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Apologetics for a New Generation

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sean McDowellis a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is the author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World and the co–author of Understanding Intelligent Design and Evidence for the Resurrection.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925201
ISBN-13: 978-0736925204

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction:

Apologetics for a New Generation

by Sean McDowell

The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar, but the question took me by complete surprise. “You teach your students to defend their faith, right?” asked John, a close friend of mine. “Tell me, how do you know Christianity is true?” John and I have had a special relationship for more than a decade, but this was the first time he had shown any real interest in spiritual matters. And he not only wanted to talk about God, he wanted an apologetic for the faith—he wanted proof, reason, and evidence before he would consider believing. John later told me his interest in God was piqued when his younger brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 16 years old. His younger brother has since had surgery and experienced complete recovery. In John’s own words, this experience “woke him up to his own mortality.”

A few weeks after our phone conversation, John was heading back to school in northern California, so we decided to meet for a chat over coffee. As we sat down at the Starbucks across from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission, John jumped right in. “I’m scientific minded, so I need some evidence for the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible. What can you show me?” For the next hour and a half we discussed some of the standard arguments for the existence of God, the historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the basis for the reliability of the Bible. I did my best to answer his questions, trying to show that Christianity is rationally compelling and provides the most satisfying solution to the deepest longings of the heart. John didn’t become a Christian at this point, but he confessed that he was very close and just needed more time to weigh the cost of his decision.

When I reflected on this discussion, comments I have heard over the past decade by young leaders came rushing to my mind:

“We live in a postmodern era, so apologetics is not important anymore.”

“Young people no longer care about reasons for the existence of the Christian God. What matters is telling your narrative and being authentic.”

“New generations today no longer need ‘evidence that demands a verdict’ or a ‘case for Christ.’”

“Conversion is about the heart, not the intellect.”

Of course, these statements are oversimplifications. Still, we must ask, is scientific proof an important part of faith? Do we live in an era in which people still have questions that demand a truth-related response? Is John the exception, the norm, or somewhere in between? If we are going to be effective in reaching a new generation of young people, few questions, it would seem, are more pressing and important than these.

Postmodernism

In the early 1990s, interest in postmodernism exploded in the church. Bestselling books and popular conferences featured seminars about doing ministry in a postmodern world. People disagreed about exactly what is meant by “postmodernism”—and they still do!—but many agreed that the world was leaving the modern era behind and wading into the unknown waters of the postmodern matrix.

According to many, postmodernism marks the most important cultural shift of the past 500 years, upending our theology, philosophy, epistemology (how we know things), and church practice. Some compare postmodernism to an earthquake that has overturned all the foundations of Western culture. Thus, to be relevant in ministry today, we must shed our modern tendencies and embrace the postmodern shift. According to many postmoderns, this shift includes replacing a propositional approach to the gospel with a primarily relational methodology.

To be honest, for the past 15 years I have wrestled profoundly with this so-called postmodern shift, reading books about postmodernism, attending conferences, and engaging in endless conversations with both Christians and non-Christians about the state of culture today. As much as the next guy, I want my life and ministry to be biblically grounded and culturally relevant. If the world is really undergoing a profound shift, I want to embrace it!

The world is certainly changing fast. Advancements in technology, transportation, and communication are taking place at an unprecedented rate. But what does this really mean for ministry today? Certainly, as postmoderns like to emphasize, story, image, and community are critical components. But does it follow that we downplay reason, evidence, and apologetics? Absolutely not! In fact, as the contributors to this book all agree, apologetics is more important than ever before.

Postmodern ideas do influence the worldview of youth today, but their thinking is most deeply influenced by our predominantly modern, secular culture. This can be seen most clearly by comparing the way they think about religion and ethics with the way they think about science. Youth are significantly relativistic when it comes to ethics, values, and religion, but they are not relativistic about science, mathematics, and technology. This is because they have grown up in a secular culture that deems science as the superior means of attaining knowledge about the world. In Kingdom Triangle, philosopher J.P. Moreland writes, “Scientific knowledge is taken to be so vastly superior that its claims always trump the claims made by other disciplines.” Religion and morals, on the other hand, are considered matters of personal preference and taste over which the individual is autonomous. This is why, if you’ve had a discussion with a younger person, you’ve probably heard her say, “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me,” “Who are you to judge?” or “If that’s what they choose, whatever.” This is not because of their postmodern sentiments, but because their thinking has been profoundly shaped by their modernist and secular culture.

Popular writers such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins have written bestselling books attacking the scientific, historic, and philosophical credibility of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their writings have wreaked havoc on many unprepared Christians. This has taken place while many inside the church have neglected the need to be able to defend the faith intellectually. Christians today are regularly being challenged to set forth the reasons for their hope. And with the ubiquity of the Internet, difficult questions seem to be arising now more than ever before. As professor David Berlinski writes in The Devil’s Delusion: “The question that all religious believers now face: Show me the evidence.”

I am convinced that C.S. Lewis was right: The question is not really if we will defend the Christian faith, but if we will defend it well. Whether we like it or not, we are all apologists of a sort.

The Apologetics Renaissance

During research for The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel was told by a well-known and respected theologian that no one would read his book. Lee was informed, “People don’t care about historical evidence for Jesus anymore. They’re more persuaded by experience and community than facts and reason.” Disappointed and frustrated, Lee returned home and told his wife that his efforts were seemingly in vain. Yet according to Lee, the largest group of readers who became Christians through his book has been 16- to 24-year-olds!

Philosopher William Lane Craig’s 2008 cover story for Christianity Today, “God Is Not Dead Yet: How Current Philosophers Argue for His Existence,” is a sign of things to come. Craig ties the awakening of apologetics to the renaissance in Christian philosophy that has taken place over the past 40 years. Science is more open to the existence of a Designer than at any time in recent memory (thanks to the intelligent design movement), and biblical criticism has embarked on a renewed quest for the historical Jesus consonant with the portrait of Jesus found in the Gospels.

The apologetics awakening can also be seen in the number of apologetics conferences that have sprouted up in churches all over the country. Tens of thousands of people are trained at apologetics events through efforts of various church denominations and organizations, such as Biola University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Focus on the Family, and more. Resources on apologetics have also exploded in the past few years. This is good news because America and the church continue to become more and more secular. Those who describe themselves as “religious nonaffiliated” have increased from 5 to 7 percent in the 1970s to 17 percent in 2006.

Why Apologetics Matters

To say that apologetics is critical for ministry today is not to say that we just continue business as usual. That would be foolish. Our world is changing, and it is changing rapidly. More change has happened since 1900 than in all prior recorded history. And more change will occur in the next 20 years than the entire last century. But God does not change (Malachi 3), and neither does human nature. We are thoughtful and rational beings who respond to evidence. People have questions, and we are responsible to provide helpful answers. Of course, we certainly don’t have all the answers, and when we do provide solid answers, many choose not to follow the evidence for personal or moral reasons. But that hardly changes the fact that we are rational, personal beings who bear the image of God.

People often confuse apologetics with apologizing for the faith, but the Greek word apologia refers to a legal defense. Thus, apologetics involves giving a defense for the Christian faith. First Peter 3:15 says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” Jude encouraged his hearers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). The biblical evidence is clear: All Christians are to be trained in apologetics, which is an integral part of discipleship. This involves learning how to respond to common objections raised against the Christian faith and also how to positively commend the gospel to a particular audience.

We have certainly made mistakes in the way we have defended our beliefs in the past (as chapters in this book will illustrate), but this hardly means we should abandon apologetics altogether. Rather, we ought to learn from the past and adjust accordingly. Beyond the biblical mandate, apologetics is vitally important today for two reasons.

Strengthening Believers

Apologetics training can offer significant benefits in the personal life of Christians. For one thing, knowing why you believe what you believe and experiencing it in your life and relationships will give you renewed confidence in sharing your faith. I have the privilege of speaking to thousands of young people every year. Inevitably, whenever I speak on topics such as moral relativism, the case for intelligent design, or evidences for the resurrection, I get e-mails and comments on my Facebook page from students who were strengthened in their faith. One recently wrote, “I was at the [youth event] this past weekend and absolutely loved it! All the information was so helpful, but I connected the most with yours. All the scientific proof of Christianity and a Creator just absolutely amazes me!”

Training in apologetics also provides an anchor during trials and difficulties. Emotions only take us so far, and then we need something more solid. Presently, most teens who enter adulthood claiming to be Christians will walk away from the church and put their emotional commitment to Christ on the shelf within ten years. A young person may walk away from God for many reasons, but one significant reason is intellectual doubt. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, the most common answer nonreligious teens offered for why they left their faith was intellectual skepticism. This is why David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, writes in his book unChristian, “We are learning that one of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they are not being taught to think.”

The church is failing young people today. From the moment Christian students first arrive on campus, their faith is assaulted on all sides by fellow students and teachers alike. According to a ground-breaking 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than 50 percent of college professors believe the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.” Students are routinely taught that Darwinian evolution is the substitute creator, that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was like any other religious figure, and that any Christian who thinks differently is at best old-fashioned and at worst intolerant, bigoted, and hateful. These ideas are perpetrated in the classroom through reason, logic, and evidence. The church must teach students to counter these trends.

This was exactly the experience of Alison Thomas, a recent seminary grad who is now a speaker for Ravi Zacharias Ministries (and the author of the chapter “Apologetics and Race”). As a college freshman, her faith was immediately attacked from every direction. Combine the intellectual challenges with the lack of nutrition, sleep, and Christian mentors, and according to Alison, it was a recipe for disaster: “I almost abandoned my faith in college because I was not sure if the difficult questions people asked me about Christianity had satisfying answers.” Alison is absolutely convinced that had she been prepared for the attack on her faith, she could have been spared much doubt, sin, and heartache. Her story could be multiplied thousands of times, but unfortunately, too often with different results.

Reaching the Lost

The apostles of Christ ministered in a pluralistic culture. They regularly reasoned with both Jews and pagans, trying to persuade them of the truth of Christianity. They appealed to fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, evidence for creation, and proofs for the resurrection. Acts 17:2-3 says, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ ” Some were persuaded as a result of Paul’s efforts.

According to pastor Tim Keller, this is similar to the method we should adopt today. Keller is the avant-garde pastor of Redeemed Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and the author of The Reason for God, an apologetics book which has soared atop the New York Times bestselling nonfiction list. In an interview for Christianity Today, Keller responded to the claim that rationality is unimportant for evangelism: “Christians are saying that the rational isn’t part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions. Don’t get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there’s too much emphasis on just the personal now.” Tim is right: Evangelism today must be both relational and rational.

Greg Stier agrees: “Any claims concerning the death of apologetics have been greatly exaggerated…Those who believe apologetics aren’t important for evangelizing postmoderns have misdiagnosed this generation as purely relational; these young people are rational, too.” According to Greg, this generation of young people is more open to spiritual truth than any generation in recent history. (See my brief interview with him on page 124.)

Does this mean young people are walking around with deep spiritual questions at the forefront of their minds? Not necessarily. But it does mean that many young people are open to spiritual truth when motivated in the right way. The problem is not with apologetics but with our failure to motivate people. Much ministry today is focused on meeting a felt need, but the real difficulty is to take a genuine need and make it felt. If done in the context of a relationship, apologetics can be one effective means of accomplishing this. For thoughts on how to motivate young people in this regard see the chapter “Making Apologetics Come Alive in Youth Ministry” by Alex McFarland.

In my experience, people who criticize apologetics have often had one or two unsuccessful attempts and written off the entire enterprise. Rather, we need to put apologetics into perspective. Considering that a minority of people who hear the gospel choose to become followers of Christ in the first place, we shouldn’t be surprised that many people are unmoved by reason and evidence. It’s unrealistic to expect most people to respond positively to apologetics, just as it is unrealistic to expect most people to respond to a presentation of the gospel. The road is narrow in both cases (Matthew 7:14).

If only a few people will respond, why bother? For one thing, those who respond to apologetics often become people of significant influence who are deeply committed to the faith. This has certainly been the case in the life of my father, Josh McDowell. He became a believer as a pre-law student while trying to refute the evidence for Christ. I’m deeply humbled by the number of doctors, professors, politicians, lawyers, and other influential professionals who have come to Christ through his speaking and writing. He has spoken to more young people than anyone in history, and his books have been printed in millions of copies and translated all over the world. Honestly, I can hardly speak anywhere without someone from the audience sharing how instrumental he was in his or her coming to Christ. I’m proud to be his son.


Apologetics for a New Generation

Apologetics is advancing like never before, and a few characteristics mark effective apologetics for a new generation.

The New Apologetics Is Missional

There is a lot of talk right now about being missional, that is, getting out of our safe Christian enclaves and reaching people on their turf. This mind-set must characterize apologetics for a new generation. Each spring Brett Kunkle and I take a group of high school students to the University of California at Berkeley to interact with leading atheists from northern California. We invite various speakers to challenge our students and then to participate in a lively period of questions and answers. The guests always comment that our students treat them kindly, ask good questions, and are different from stereotypical Christians. This is because, in our preparatory training, we emphasize the importance of defending our beliefs with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonishes (1 Peter 3:15).

In Western culture today, Christians are often criticized for being exclusive, closed-minded, and intolerant. Missional apologetics is one way to help shatter this myth firsthand. Interestingly, one of the atheistic presenters from Berkeley spent 45 minutes arguing that the skeptical way of life is the most open-minded and the least dogmatic. I kindly pointed out that it was us—Christians!—who were willing to come up to their turf and give them a platform to present their ideas.

This is not the only perception of Christians that can be softened by missional apologetics. In his book unChristian, David Kinnaman paints a sobering view of how Christians are viewed by those outside the faith. For example, nearly half of young non-Christians have a negative view of evangelicals. Six common perceptions characterize how young outsiders view Christians: hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. To help overcome these perceptions, says Kinnaman, Christians must build meaningful, genuine relationships with non-Christians and live out their faith consistently. It is in the context of a loving relationship, says Dan Kimball in his chapter, “A New Kind of Apologist,” that we most effectively reach the lost today.

The New Apologetics Influences How We Live

Though I do not agree with his philosophy of pragmatism, one insight of William James has practical importance for apologetics training today. James said that when considering any idea, we should always ask, what difference does it make? If it makes no existential difference to the way we live whether it is true or false, then according to James, we should not bother with it. When training in apologetics, we must regularly ask, so what? How does belief in the historical resurrection of Jesus affect my relationship to myself, to others, and to God? How does belief in creation influence my view of the environment? How does the Incarnation affect my self-image?

Much of the criticism today is not with apologetics per se but with our failure to connect apologetics to the way we live. Some of this criticism is deserved. If we don’t apply the truth to our relationship with God and others, what’s the point? Brian McLaren, a leading voice in the Emergent church, is right: Having right answers that don’t lead us to better love God and our neighbors are more or less worthless.

A remarkable number of outspoken critics of Christianity have backgrounds of personal disappointment with Christians and the church. Pastor Tim Keller explains how our personal experience influences our evaluation of the evidence for Christianity:

We all bring to issues intellectual predispositions based on our experiences. If you have known many wise, loving, kind, and insightful Christians over the years, and if you have seen churches that are devout in belief yet civic-minded and generous, you will find the intellectual case for Christianity more plausible. If, on the other hand, the preponderance of your experience is with nominal Christians (who bear the name but don’t practice) or with self-righteous fanatics, then the arguments for Christianity will have to be extremely strong for you to concede that they have any cogency at all.

The great philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once commented that Christians have no joy. No wonder he found the evidence for God unconvincing. The sad part about his observation is that Christians, of all people, have the best reason to be joyful. If Christ has not risen, says Paul, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). But if Christ has risen—and the evidence for this is compelling—then even though we go through pain and difficulty in this life, we will share eternity with Him. Christians joyfully living out their faith in the power of the Holy Spirit provide one of the most powerful apologetics at our disposal.

The New Apologetics Is Humble

I failed miserably to act humbly a few years ago when getting my hair cut in Breckenridge, Colorado. The hairdresser noticed I was carrying a copy of The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin. So she asked, “Are you a Christian? If so, how can you explain all the evil in the world?” I proceeded to give her a ten-minute lecture about the origin of evil, the nature of free will, and the Christian solution. My reasons were solid, but I lacked humility and sensitivity in my demeanor. I had a slick answer to her every question, but I missed the fact that her needs went beyond the intellect to her heart. Eventually she started crying—not because she became a Christian but because she was so offended by my callousness. To be honest, it was a bit unsettling having a hairdresser, who held sharp scissors in her hand, crying and lecturing me while cutting my hair. But the point was well taken.

In retrospect, I should have first asked her some questions to try and understand why evil was such a pressing issue in her life. What pain had she experienced that caused her to question the goodness of God? Sometimes questions are primarily intellectual, but more often than not they stem from a deeper longing of the heart.

From the beginning, Christian apologists have exemplified the importance of humility in presenting our defense of the faith. There is a reason why 1 Peter 3:15 begins with “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” and ends with “gentleness and respect.” Before presenting a case for the Christian faith, one must first submit to the lordship of Christ. The heart of the apologist is the basis of all apologetic training. People still don’t care how much you know if they don’t know you care. The only way we can truly demonstrate the love of Christ to people is by first having our hearts humbled by God. When our hearts are not right, we can do more harm than good.

As you will see throughout this book, these are not the only factors characterizing the emerging apologetics awakening. The rest of the chapters in this book will spur you to think creatively about how apologetics fits into the many critical components of effective ministry today. Authors will tackle issues such as race, gender, media, homosexuality, Jesus, brain research, culture, youth, spiritual formation, and more—all with an eye on how we can effectively minister to new generations today.

Conclusion

In the fall of 2007, Christianity Today International and Zondervan partnered to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of American Christians. Leadership Journal discussed the findings with leading pastors and religious experts to ascertain implications for ministry today. Three critical issues emerged:

The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.
Churches must develop relational and community-oriented outreach.
Lay people have to be better equipped to be God’s ambassadors [apologists].
The third point on this list took me by surprise, not because I disagree with it, but because it’s refreshing to hear leaders emphasize the renewed need for apologetics. In the article, Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church in Longwood, Florida, said, “We need to preach with apologetics in mind, with a rational explanation and defense of the Christian faith in mind.” One of the best ways to counter biblical illiteracy, claims Hunter, is to equip active Christians as teachers, ambassadors, and apologists. Yes! Ministry today certainly includes much more than presenting a case for our hope, but this is one critical piece we must not neglect. The time has never been greater for a renewed focus on apologetics.

You may be wondering what happened to John, my friend I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. He has not become a Christian yet, but he is still inching along. We continue to have good discussions about God and the meaning of life. I trust and pray that someday he will choose to follow Jesus. Had my youth pastor, parents, and teachers not trained me in apologetics, I couldn’t have helped him at all. You and I can’t be ambassadors without having answers to tough questions. So I’ve assembled this team of (mostly) young apologists to help you develop a biblical and culturally relevant approach for reaching this new generation. Let’s go!


Chapter One:

A Different Kind of Apologist

by Dan Kimball

Apologetics is desperately needed more than ever in our emerging culture. But I believe that a different kind of apologist may be needed.

I realize that some may disagree with me. I hear fairly often from some church leaders that emerging generations are not interested in apologetics: “In our postmodern world there isn’t interest in rational explanations regarding spiritual issues.” “We don’t need logically presented defenses or offenses of the faith.” These kinds of statements always confuse me. The reason is simple: In my dialogue and relationships with non-Christian and Christian young people for more than 18 years, I am not finding less interest in apologetics, but actually more interest. The more we are living in an increasingly post-Christian and pluralistic culture, the more we need apologetics because people are asking more and more questions. We desperately need to be ready to answer the tough questions of today’s emerging generations.

This increased interest and need for apologetics in our emerging culture fits very nicely with one of the classical and well-known Bible passages on apologetics:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16 niv).

Over the past couple of years I have heard apologists emphasize “gentleness and respect,” which is an absolutely wonderful shift. Some Christians who are drawn to apologetics can have temperaments which may not always come out with gentleness and respect as they engage non-Christians. But this passage includes something else that, oddly, we don’t hear much about. Yet it is critical for our discussion of apologetics for new generations.

People Can’t Ask If They Don’t Know Us

The passage in 1 Peter 3 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Let me ask you, have you ever been standing on the street or in line at the supermarket and had a stranger walk up to you and say, “Excuse me. Can you tell me the reason for the hope that you have?”

That doesn’t happen, because strangers do not generally walk up to people they don’t know and ask questions like this. Strangers also don’t know the other person, so they wouldn’t be able to know if someone has hope or not. So how does someone know and trust Christians well enough to see the hope that they have and trust and respect them enough to ask them about it?

This is the biggest missing component in many of our approaches to apologetics today. It is one of the biggest shifts we are seeing with emerging generations. Apologetics is still needed today, but the apologist isn’t necessarily trusted in our culture today. In the 1960s and 1970s, many younger people left the church because they (rightly) felt the church was often irrelevant. The critical questions that younger generations had at that time were not being answered. The music and various approaches to preaching and worship were becoming outdated and not speaking to new generations at that time. So when churches revamped their approaches to worship and preaching and developed clear answers for some of the questions people had, many people (even if they weren’t Christian) became interested.

The culture still had a general respect for Christianity. So it was easier to communicate and also have a voice that folks would listen to. For those who grew up in a church but walked away, answers to their critical questions were extremely valuable. But today, Christians and the church aren’t trusted like they were. Before, we were hoping to see people return to the church. Today, many have never been part of a church in the first place.

Times have changed. But the Spirit of God is still alive and active. People will always be created with questions about life, meaning, purpose, and God. Apologetics are still important today for new generations, but our approach must change.

Hanging Out with the Wrong People

In my early days as a Christian, I constantly read books on apologetics so I could share with my non-Christian friends about my newfound hope. My friends were concerned that I was following a religion and reading a book (the Bible) that they felt was written by primitive, ancient, and uneducated people. So this challenge kept me studying to respond to their concerns. The more I read and studied, the more my confidence in Christianity grew.

I eventually joined a large, wonderful church and made some friendships with others who also liked apologetics. We spent hours talking about theology, reasons why we could trust the Bible, and ways to respond to common objections such as the problem of evil. I bought almost every apologetics book available and attended many apologetics conferences. I loved having Christian friends whom I could talk to about apologetics, but something slowly dawned on me: I wasn’t really talking to any non-Christians anymore about apologetics. I realized that I was hanging out all the time with Christians who loved discussing apologetics and the tough questions about the faith. But I wasn’t spending time with the non-Christians who were asking these tough questions.

As I began exploring this further, I discovered that many people who like apologetics primarily socialize with other like-minded people. Certain temperaments and personalities cause some Christians to become more interested in apologetics than others, and they connect with each other. Having community with other Christians who share common interests such as apologetics is a wonderful thing. But I realized that my Christian friends and I weren’t using apologetics to engage non-Christians. We were only talking with each other.

I discuss this in They Like Jesus but Not the Church, where I included this diagram, which lays out a typical pattern: The longer we are Christians, the less we socialize with non-Christians. We may work with non-Christians or have neighbors who are non-Christians. But the types of conversations we have and the trust that we build changes dramatically when we actually befriend and socialize with those outside the faith.

The danger is that we don’t do this on purpose. It happens unintentionally. But because we have limited time and we enjoy hanging out with others who think like us, we can remove ourselves from the very ones we are sent by Jesus to be salt and light to (Matthew 5). As the Spirit molds us to be more like Jesus, the majority of people who benefit from our growth are already Christians. We are salt and light to each other, not to the world. The more skilled in apologetics we get, the fewer people we know who actually need it.

You may resist hearing this, and I hope I am wrong about you. But let me ask you a question or three:

Think about discussions you have had about apologetics with people in the past six months. How many have been with Christians, and how many have been with those who aren’t Christians yet?
Let me make this more direct and personal:

Who are your non-Christian friends?
When was the last time you went out to a movie or dinner or simply hung out with a non-Christian? If people are to trust us in order to ask us for the hope we have, we must spend time with them and build relationships. The typical answers I get from Christians quite honestly scare me. Again, I hope I am wrong about you. Do you intentionally place yourself in situations or groups where you will be likely to meet new people? For me, music often provides an open door. So whether I’m with the manager of a coffee house I frequent or the members of local bands, I try to have the mind-set of a missionary and meet new people. This sounds so elementary and I almost feel silly having to type this out. But this leads to a deeper question:

Who are you praying for regularly that is not a Christian?
Our prayers represent our hearts. What we pray for shows us what we are thinking about and valuing. When the unsaved become more than faces in the crowd, when they include people we know and care for, we can’t help but pray for them. And we must remember: We can be prepared with apologetic arguments, but the Spirit does the persuading. Are you regularly praying for some non-Christian friends?

Again, I feel almost embarrassed asking this. But when I started realizing that I had fallen into this trap, I wondered if I was alone. As I began asking other Christians about this, many seemed to be like me. I even asked an author of apologetics books to tell me about his recent conversations with non-Christians that included apologetics. But he couldn’t remember any recent examples. He was talking only to Christians! This isn’t bad, but it raises an important question: How do we know the questions emerging generations outside the church are asking if we are only talking with Christians?

I recently talked with a person who teaches apologetics to young people. As we talked, he shared how interested youth are in apologetics (and I fully agree). I asked about the types of questions he is hearing, and I was surprised that his experience seemed quite different from mine. I was working with non-Christian youth at that time, but he was speaking primarily with Christian youth at Christian schools and youth groups. Nothing is wrong with teaching Christian youth how to have confidence in their faith through apologetics. This is an important task we need to be doing today in our churches. But if we are focusing our energy and time listening mainly to Christians, how do we know what the questions non-Christian youth or young adults have? This brings me to my next point.

Providing Answers Before Listening to Questions

The effective apologist to emerging generations will be a good listener. Most of us have been good talkers. We Christians often do the talking and expect others to listen. But in our emerging culture, effective communication involves dialogue. Being quiet and asking questions may not be easy for some folks, but those are critical skills we need to develop in order to reach new generations.

A 20-year-old Hindu became friends with someone in our church. Eventually she began coming to our worship gatherings. I got to meet with her at a coffee house, and because I was sincerely curious, I politely asked her some questions. How did she become a Hindu? What is Hinduism to her? What does she find most beneficial in her life about it? She eagerly told me stories that helped me understand her journey and her specific beliefs. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t interrupt her or jump in to correct her when I felt she was saying things that may have been inconsistent. I didn’t interrupt and tell her that there cannot be hundreds of gods, that there is only one true God. I simply asked questions and listened carefully.

Eventually, she asked me about the differences between Christianity and Hinduism. I gently and respectfully tried to compare her story and what she said with the story of Jesus and the narrative of the Bible. But I didn’t try to discredit her beliefs or show why what I believed was true. She asked me about the origins of Christianity, and I was able to draw a timeline on a napkin that included creation, the Garden of Eden, and the fall. I explained that people eventually began worshipping other gods or goddesses, not the original one God. I then walked her through a basic world religions timeline I had memorized and explained where Hinduism fit in that timeline. It truly was a dialogue, as I would stop and see if she had any input or comments.

I didn’t show her why I felt Hinduism was wrong; rather, I let our discussion speak for itself. The differences between Christianity and Hinduism became obvious. A few weeks later, she told me in a worship gathering that she had left Hinduism and chosen to follow Jesus. My talk with her was not the turning point. She had many conversations with other Christian friends in our church. They knew her beliefs, loved her, invited her into community, and lived out the hope they have. She could see it and experience it, and eventually she wanted to know the reason for the hope in her friends. I definitely needed to be ready with apologetics when I met with her. But the reason she even met with me was that we built trust first. Trust was built with some of her Christian friends. Trust was built during conversations I had with her when she came to our worship gatherings. Eventually, this trust led to her being open to dialogue specifically about her Hindu faith and to ask questions. First she was valued as a person and listened to, and then came the questions about the hope we have. Let me ask you a few questions about this:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself as a listener in conversations about faith?
What are some of the questions you have been asked as a result of building trust and listening? Would anyone have asked those questions if you didn’t build trust and listen first?
Stockpiling Ammunition or Building Trust

I recently heard of someone who was taking church groups on the street to walk up to total strangers and strike up conversations and then use apologetics with them. I respect the passion to reach lost people, but I was saddened by the methodology. The leader chose this area because it was highly populated with homosexuals. From my perspective, this is almost the opposite of the methodology that is effective with new generations. We may have our apologetics gun loaded, but we haven’t built trust. We haven’t gained a voice in their lives, so they don’t trust us enough to listen to us. Walking up to total strangers and asking them questions about very personal things immediately puts them on the defense. The discussion begins in a semi-confrontational way. This reinforces some of the stereotypes of Christians we need to break. Non-Christians are often open to discussing personal beliefs about religion and worldviews, but this normally occurs in the context of trust and friendship.

I recently met a guy in his twenties who was working at a coffee house. I did my usual thing: I selected one place to frequent and eventually got to know those who work there. We eventually started talking about all kinds of things, mainly music at first. Eventually I told him I was a pastor at a church and began asking his opinion on things. I asked about his impressions of church and Christianity. I shared that I knew about Christians’ bad reputation and that I wanted to know how he felt about that. This wasn’t the first thing we talked about, and we had begun to build a friendship, so he was happy to talk to me about this. One of his main issues was that the Christians he met knew nothing about other religions, but they would tell him he should be a Christian. His concern was that Christians were naive about anything but what they believed, and he didn’t respect that.

As I listened, I didn’t try to butt in and comment when he would say something I disagreed with. Instead, I listened, asked clarifying questions, took notes, and thanked him for each opinion. I asked him what he believed and why he believed what he did. And then the inevitable happened—he asked me what I believed.

Knowing his beliefs, I was able to construct an apologetic that catered to his story and specific points of connection. As with so many people, the issue of pluralism and world religions was a major point of tension that he felt Christians are blind about. Eventually our conversation moved to the resurrection of Jesus, which he saw as a myth. I used the classical Josh McDowell resurrection apologetics, explaining various theories of the stolen body and why they fell apart upon scrutiny. I shared about the guards at the tomb and how they would defend the sealed tomb. I was ready (thanks to Josh McDowell), and my friend was absolutely fascinated by that. I could tell he had never heard this before, and as we ended our time together, he thanked me. I didn’t press him for a response.

The following week I went back to the coffee house, and he told me that he now believed in the resurrection. He had been totally unaware that there are actually good reasons to believe it is true. Over the weekend he got a copy of the Bible to read the resurrection story and had no idea it was repeated in each of the Gospels. This is why I am convinced that regardless of how postmodern emerging generations may be, they receive apologetic arguments when trust is built. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in someone’s heart—not clever arguments. But God still uses apologetics in our emerging culture.

Consider these questions:

When you are studying apologetics, does your heart break in compassion for the people you are preparing to talk to? Or are you stockpiling ammunition to show people they are wrong?
When you have used apologetics with those who aren’t Christians yet, do you find your tone being humble, broken, and compassionate, or is your tone argumentative and perhaps even arrogant (although you would not like to admit that)?
Critical Apologetics Issues

I know that most apologists are not arrogant, ammunition firing, non-listening people who don’t have any non-Christian friends and only talk to other Christians. But at the same time, a little hyperbole may raise up some ugly truth we perhaps need to admit. As I shared, I know I have been guilty of these very things. We must all examine ourselves and be brutally honest about it. Too much is at stake not to.

As statistics are showing, we are not doing a very good job of reaching new generations. Our reputation is suffering. But at the same time, I have so much optimism and hope. Apologetics is a critical factor in the evangelism of new generations. That is why I was thrilled to be part of this book.

If you are a leader in a church, I hope you are creating a natural culture in your church of teaching apologetics and training people how to respond to others when asked for the hope that they have. But again, how we train them to respond is just as important as the answers themselves. The attitudes and tone of voice we use as we teach reveal what we truly feel about those who aren’t Christians and their beliefs. Our hearts should be broken thinking of people who have developed false worldviews or religious beliefs and don’t know Jesus yet. How we teach people in our church to be “listeners” and build friendships is critical. Here are some of the key things we must be ready to answer today:

The inspiration and trustworthiness of the Bible. Everything comes back to why we trust the Bible and what it says about human sexuality, world religions…everything. Why the Bible is more credible than other world religious writings is critical.
Who is Jesus? Emerging generations are open to talking about Jesus but for the most part, they have an impression that He is more like Gandhi than a divine Savior. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to share why Jesus is unique and to provide an apologetic for His resurrection.
Human sexuality. We need to be well-versed in why we believe what we do about the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, about human sexuality, and about sexual ethics in general.
World religions. We must have an adequate understanding of the development and teachings of world religions. I don’t meet many younger people who are hard-core Buddhists, but many are empathetic to Buddhist teachings. Many pick and choose from different faiths. They are often surprised to see that many religions are mutually exclusive.
The Most Important Apologetic

As I close this chapter, I want to remind us that the ultimate apologetic is really Jesus in us. Are our lives demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), such as gentleness, kindness, patience, and love? Are we being salt and light with our attitudes and actions toward people? Are our conversations filled with grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6)? Do our lives show that we are paying attention to the things Jesus would, including the marginalized, the oppressed, and the poor? People watch and listen. If they trust the messenger, perhaps they will be more open to listen.

We can have all the answers ready to give people who ask, but are they asking us? If not, perhaps we have not yet built the trust and relationship and respect that lead them to ask us for the hope we have. Maybe that’s where we need to start—with our hearts and lives. If we will, I can almost guarantee that others will ask us for the hope we have.

May God use us together on the mission of Jesus as we are wise as serpents but as innocent as doves. May God use our minds and hearts to bring the reason for the hope we have to others. And may God put others in our lives who will ask for the hope as they watch us live it out.


Dan Kimball is the author of several books, including They Like Jesus but Not the Church, and a member of the staff of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus, M.D.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Salty Like Blood

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Harry Kraus, M.D., is a board-certified surgeon whose contemporary fiction, including Stainless Steel Hearts, is flavored with medical realism. A bestselling author, he has also written two works of nonfiction. He currently lives with his family in Kenya, where he is serving as a full-time medical missionary.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416577890
ISBN-13: 978-1416577898

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Rachel and I tumbled into the tall grass at the bottom of the hill, having survived yet another Daddy-just-one-more sled ride from the edge of our front porch. I collapsed on my back, trying to find oxygen between gasps of laughter and looked up at the summer sky. My daughter, with limbs sprawled in a wide “X” and her head against my foot, shouted her delight toward the house. “We did it! We made it!”

Seconds before, airborne and soaring toward record distance, Rachel reached for an octave above the normal human voice range, squealing a note that rang on in my head and I suspected invited half the neighborhood’s canine population to play. I laughed and put my fingers in my ears, rolling them in an exaggerated twist as if she’d deafened me.

She moved to lay her head upon my chest and quieted herself there, listening to my racing heart.

I stroked her hair, inhaled the scent of mown grass, and nestled my head back into the tickle of green.

“Is it okay?” she asked.

“It’s okay.”

“It’s too fast,” she said, raising up and pushing a bony elbow into my gut.

“Oh so now you’re the doctor.”

She smiled. “Someday,” she said. “For now, you’re the doctor.”

“Don’t worry. I’m okay.” I scowled at my first-grader. “Really.”

We rested together, staring at the sky full of clouds of hippopotamus, horses, rockets—whatever Rachel imagined. Mostly I gasped and oohed. In a moment, I found myself blinking away tears, overwhelmed with the enormity of it all.

It was so ordinary. A summer Saturday morning without an agenda. It’s hard for me to describe beyond the sense I had of emerging, as if I’d been submerged for so long, and now, just to play and laugh and roll in the grass seemed a joy that would burst my heart. I smiled, taking it in, gulping in ordinary life as if I’d never have a chance again.

As Rachel chatted on with her running commentary of sky castles, fiery dragons and fairies, other images drifted through my mind, pictures of painful chapters that set my current joy into sharp contrast. Traveling with Joanne through the dark tunnel of post-partum depression. My mother’s battle with cancer. Memories of an intensive care unit visit while I was the too-young patient, watching my own heart monitor and wondering if life would be cut short.

Joanne’s voice swept me into the here and now. “What’s going on?”

I looked up to see her standing on the covered porch, eyeing a bottle of vegetable oil sitting on the white railing.

Rachel lifted her head. Her blond hair dotted with grass seed. “We’re sledding, Mommy.”

Joanne’s hands rested firmly on her hips. “It’s July, David.” She picked up the bottle. “And I’ve been looking for this.” She was serious, but her eyes betrayed her attempt at scolding me. Her happiness at my delight in our little Rachel couldn't be spoiled by my summer antics.

I exchanged a mischievous glance with Rachel. She betrayed me in a heartbeat. “It was Daddy’s idea.”

“Women!” I said, grabbing my daughter by the waist and swinging her around in a circle. “You always stick together!”

As I trudged up the hill with Rachel folded around my back, I grunted exaggerated puffs. “You’re getting so big.”

I set her on the top step and kissed her forehead. She started pulling away. “Wait.” I picked at the seeds in her hair.“You’ll need to brush this out.”

She opted for the shake-it-out method. “I’m a rock star.”

I smiled. My star. For Joanne and I, Rachel had been the glue that helped us stick together through a valley of misery.

Joanne reappeared carrying lemonade in tall, sweaty glasses. She handed me one and kissed me. She had thin lips to go with sharp, elegant features, dark eyes alight with mystery, and hair the color of caramel. She could have been a model before big lips became the rage.

I’d been to hell and back with Joanne, but the last six months, I’d sensed a real change in her. She seemed settled somehow. Content. More romantic toward me—like she had been back in my medical school days. Our relationship, once teetering on the precipice of divorce, was now solidly a safe distance from the edge. I’d seen significant pieces of my life’s puzzle fall together in the last few years. When the marriage one finally clicked into place, everything else brightened with it. It was as if I’d been living my life in black-and-white and someone just invented color.

I kissed her back, trying to discern her mood. There seemed a surface calm, but I sensed a deeper stirring. I’d become a champion at reading her. I knew the quiet of her bitterness, the bubbly way she prattled on when she felt guilty, and the aloofness that dared me to pursue her into bed. For a moment, our eyes met. It was only a flash, but in that instant, I felt the a foreboding that threatened my wonderful ordinary-life euphoria.

I took her hand. “What’s up?” She lowered her voice, but even at that volume, sharp irritation cut at the edges of her words, clipping them into little fragments.

“Your father.”

I raised my eyebrows in question.

“His neighbor called.”

I waited for more, but it seemed the silence only uncapped her annoyance. In a moment, she was on the verge of tears.

“He always does this. Every time we have plans, he has a crisis.”

Plans. The practice was dining at the country club tonight.

I started to protest, but she interrupted, pushing her finger against my lips. “You know they’re going to announce that you’ve made partner.”

I smiled. Partner. A year early. Just reward for the practice’s highest revenue-producer nine months in a row. Another puzzle piece in my wonderful life about to connect.

“Which neighbor?”

“That Somali family,” she said, flipping her hand in the air. “A woman. She has an accent. She said his place is a wreck. He’s ill.” She seemed to hesitate before adding. “He’s asking for you.”

It was my father’s way. The crab-fisherman wouldn’t pick up the phone and let me know he needed me. He sent word around the block and expected me to show. “Define ‘ill.’ ”

Joanne imitated the neighbor’s accent. “Mister Gus isn’t eating. He toilets in the bedroom.”

I groaned. Whatever the neighbor meant, I knew it couldn’t be good. I walked into the house to my study and picked up the phone. I was listening to the endless ringing on the other end when Joanne entered. “Not a good sign,” I said. “He doesn’t pick up.”

“What are we going to do?”

I looked at my wife. Petite. Strong. And so able to read my thoughts.

She threw up her hands. “We’re going to the shore,” she said. “Just like that.”

I nodded. I was predictable. Family first. We had to go.

She glared at me. I read the silence, loud and clear. That’s why I love you . . . and hate you.

“I’ll call Jim. The practice will understand.”

Joanne shook her head. “This is your night, David. The moment you’ve been waiting for. And you throw it away because of family.”

I couldn’t say anything. She had me pegged.

“I’ll see if Kristine will take Rachel for the weekend.”

“Let’s take her with us.”

Joanne’s face hardened. “With us? That place is so . . . “ She paused, apparently mulling over adjective options. “ . . . crusty.”

It was the gentlest description of several other options that came to mind.

“We’ll take care of the crisis and stay at that seaside bed and breakfast. It will be fun. A chance for her to see her grandfather.” I let a hopeful smile tease at the corners of my lips. “Even if he is crusty he does adore her.”

Joanne sighed in resignation. “Yes he does.” She tipped her glass against mine. “As long as we don’t have to sleep there,” she said, shivering as if that thought was horrifying. She gave me a don’t-even-try-to-cross-me look. “You’re driving.”

I walked out onto the porch and into the humidity we Virginians call “summer.” As I called for Rachel, I followed the border of the house, my prize lawn soft beneath my bare feet. From her perch on the back deck, my daughter ambushed me with open arms.

“Can we sled some more?”

I looked at the blue sky and my Southern Living home, and I pushed aside a fleeting presence. A ripple beneath the calm.

I’d been through too many hard times to trust the peace. Nothing this great can last forever.

“We’re going to Grandpa Conners’,” I said, trying my best to sound excited.

Rachel wrinkled her nose. To her, the shore meant stinky crabs and everything smelling fishy.

I poked her nose with a finger. “You’re too much like your mother.”

She poked me back. “You’re too much like your father.”

A sudden breeze lifted Rachel’s hair against my face. I stopped, looking east. In the distance, a small thundercloud hung over the horizon. Not today. I don’t want to travel the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in the rain.

My daughter squeezed my neck, bringing a smile to my face and pushing my anxieties aside. I nestled my face into her hair, trying to find an earlobe. She giggled and everything seemed right again.

Book Summary:

David Conners, M.D., is on the fast track to creating a perfect life when his seven-year-old daughter disappears. David's all-consuming quest to find her — dead or alive — threatens to destroy everything he has left: his medical practice, his marriage, his integrity, and even his soul.
If Rachel is dead: Can a parent forgive someone who has done the unthinkable?
Can David forgive himself?
If she's alive: Can David find her in time to save her?

My Review:

David and Joanne Connors seem to have it all but theirs is a troubled marriage almost from the beginning. After their daughter Rachel is kidnapped things fall apart even more. Jo is ready to move on and accepts that she drowned since they were at a house on the water at the time visiting David's sick father. David is not ready to accept that and is pretty sure she was abducted.He loses his job as a Doctor at a major practice. The whole situation causes major conflict between them and drives them apart. Jo was already fragile mentally anyway and grew up with an overbearing mother while her father is a senator. David keeps searching and lives at his father's house by the water while Jo goes back to work as a nurse and lives at their house in the city. Blake an old flame of Jo's and friend of David's shows back up. While on the island David becomes friends with a Somali woman who lives next door to his father. Does anything happen?

This is my first Harry Kraus M.D. book but it won't be my last. Salty Like Blood is a riveting book. It held my attention from the beginning to end. It kept me guessing on a few situations too. The ending has twist you might not see coming. The main theme in the book is forgiveness with God and others. The characters and scenery are vivid. The plot is interesting and not completely predictable.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Herding Cats II: Attack of the Hairballs Reading Challenge

I know I need another reading challenge like I need another book but this looked wonderful! lol And we have cats and one of them likes to read with me. Note my blog profile picture. :)

Here are the guidelines to Herding Cats II:


It starts April 1 - December 31 2009


1. Make a list of five books you love.


Five. I'm as serious as a beached whale.
All titles must be books you've read in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
Please don't list a series; just the first book. If you really want to list a book in the middle of a series, you can, but it has to be that specific book.
Feel free to share why you're putting the book on your list, because I am nosy.


2. Post your list:
in your own journal, in the comments here, whatever is fine. Share the link to the list here.
Lists should be public (no locked entries, no logging in to view).


3. Browse the new book list. Stay a while. Read a few (eta: if you want; not even reading is required this time around if you don't have time to commit to a new challenge but still want to share your favorites).


4. If you review your books, you can share the reviews. You know, if you want. No pressure. Definitely not.The home page for this project is at http://www.echthroi.org/getliterate/herdingcats/ (or http://tinyurl.com/cdxk45). If you twitter, feel free to #herdcats over there. ;)
My Favorites:
1. The Guernsey Liteary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008) - I wish the main author would have lived long enough to see how much this book is loved. I really want to reread this one but I loaned it out so I will have to wait. I feel like this book will become a new classic. It turned me on Helene Hanff who wrote 84 Charing Cross Road which I had never heard about before. I just loved this book and highly recommend it. :)
2. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall (2008)- It is the second in a series about the Penderwick family. It is meant for children but I loved it and so did my cousins. The father is a single parent and he says things in Latin sometimes. This series is timeless. I did not even realize it is set present day.
3. A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury (2009) - This book is about a bull rider who rides like death does not exist because he is so angry at his father for leaving the family because of his younger brother being mentally retarded. He meets a girl on the circuit who is mysterious and does not participate in anything but barrell racing and is very good. She has a big secret nobody on the circuit knows about. This is a beautiful poigant story by a queen of Inspirational fiction. I highly recommend this book.
4. The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (2009) - I need to review this book. This is the story of a girl who witnesses a murder and has to go in the witness protection program. Her parents die while in it and she crys wolfe when she wants to be moved. Well one day the son of the guy who she saw murder someone tracks her down. He takes her away and at first she is scared but then she comes to understand him. The ending will surprise you but overall the book was very good.
5. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (2009) - I loved this book even if is heavy on the math references. It is a beautiful story of an ex math professor who was in an accident and has only a 90 min. memory left. The housekeeper who is hired to take care of him and her son both become a part of his life. I do not feel like I have captured this book but needless to say it is going on my favorites list.
The second part of this challenge is to pick five books from the others list and read them:
1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
3. Looking for Alaska by John Green
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (maybe)
5. Who By Fire by Diana Spechler

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Faith'n Fiction Saturday March 28, 2009

The 2009 Christy Award Nominees were recently announced. Today's assignment is to look at the list of nominees and share with us whether or not you have read any of them. If you haven't read that particular novel, have you read anything by that author? Have you read all of the books in any category? What are your favorite books on the list? Are there any books you haven't heard of?

The Christy Nominees:
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren • Tyndale House Publishers
Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney • David C. Cook

CONTEMPORARY SERIES, SEQUELS, AND NOVELLA
SSisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
Summer Snow by Nicole Baart • Tyndale House Publishers
You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman • FaithWords

CONTEMPORARY STANDALONE
Dogwood by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers
Embrace Me by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson
Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas • Moody Publishers

FIRST NOVEL
Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake • David C. Cook
Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers
Safe at Home by Richard Doster • David C. Cook

HISTORICAL
Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley • B&H Publishing Group
Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers
Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser • Bethany House Publishers

HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy • Barbour Publishers
From a Distance by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen • B&H Publishing Group

SUSPENSE
By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer • Tyndale House Publishers
The Rook by Steven James • Revell
Winter Haven by Athol Dickson • Bethany House Publishers

VISIONARY
The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka • Harvest House Publishers
Shade by John B. Olson • B&H Publishing Group
Vanish by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers

YOUNG ADULT
The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina • FaithWords
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke • Moody Publishers
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group


My answer:
For contemporary romance I have read Beyond the Night and Finding Stephanie. They were both really good but I think Beyond the Night should win. For contemporary series I have read all three and they were all good too. I would pick Summer Snow by Nicole Baart to win. I read her other book and cannot wait for the next one to come out. :) For contemporary Stand Alone I have read Dogwood and Embrace Me. It is hard to pick between them but I think Embrace Me has the best chance. For first novel I have only read Rain Song but I really liked it so I hope it wins. For historical I have read Shadows of Colossus by T. L. Higley and Until We Reach Home. I would pick Shadows to win even though they were both good. For historical romance I have read Calico Canyon and From a Distance. I would pick From a Distance. I have the second in the series on my TBR list. For suspense I have only read Winter Haven and it was good. I loaned By Reason of Insanity to a lawyer I know and she loved it. So I would pick By Reason of Insanity to win in that category. For Visionary I have not read any of the books so I cannot pick one out. For Young Adult I have read any of those listed but they are still not ones I would have put in the category. I would have put Jenny B. Jones and Debbie Viguie. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Turning the Paige by Laura Jensen Walker


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Turning The Paige

Zondervan (March 1, 2009)

by

Laura Jensen Walker




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Jensen Walker is an award-winning writer, popular speaker, and breast-cancer survivor who loves to touch readers and audiences with the healing power of laughter.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin (home of Western Printing and Johnson’s Wax—maker of your favorite floor care products) Laura moved to Phoenix, Arizona when she was in high school. But not being a fan of blazing heat and knowing that Uncle Sam was looking for a few good women, she enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly after graduation and spent the next five years flying a typewriter through Europe.

By the time she was 23, Laura had climbed the Eiffel Tower, trod the steps of the Parthenon, skied (okay, snowplowed) in the Alps, rode in a gondola in Venice, and wept at the ovens of Dachau. She’d also learned how to fold her underwear into equal thirds, make a proper cup of English tea, and repel the amorous advances of a blind date by donning combat gear and a gas mask.

Laura is a former newspaper reporter and columnist with a degree in journalism who has written hundreds of articles on many subjects ranging from emu ranching and pigeon racing to goat-roping and cemetery board meetings. However, realizing that livestock and local government weren’t her passion, she switched to writing humor, which she calls a “total God-thing.”

Her lifelong dream of writing fiction came true in Spring 2005 with the release of her first chick lit novel, Dreaming in Black & White which won the Contemporary Fiction Book of the Year from American Christian Fiction Writers. Her sophomore novel, Dreaming in Technicolor was published in Fall 2005.

Laura’s third novel, Reconstructing Natalie, chosen as the Women of Faith Novel of the Year for 2006, is the funny and poignant story of a young, single woman who gets breast cancer and how her life is reconstructed as a result. This book was born out of Laura’s cancer speaking engagements where she started meeting younger and younger women stricken with this disease—some whose husbands had left them, and others who wondered what breast cancer would do to their dating life. She wanted to write a novel that would give voice to those women. Something real. And honest. And funny.

Because although cancer isn’t funny, humor is healing.

A popular speaker and teacher at writing conferences, Laura has also been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV shows around the country including the ABC Weekend News, The 700 Club, and The Jay Thomas Morning Show.

Another book in this series is Daring Chloe

She lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband Michael, and Gracie, their piano playing dog


ABOUT THE BOOK

At 35, Paige Kelley is feeling very "in between." She's still working her temp job after two years, still not dating three years after her divorce, and still melting at every chubby-cheeked toddler she sees while her biological clock ticks ever louder. Paige even moves back home to help her ailing, high-maintenance mother.It's not exactly the life she'd dreamed of!

When her Getaway Girls book club members urge Paige to break free and get on with her life, she's afraid. How will her mother react? How can Paige honor her widowed mother and still pursue her own life? The answers come from a surprising source.
A trip to Scotland and a potential new love interest help launch an exciting new chapter in her life, and lead Paige to discover that God's plan for her promises to be more than she ever imagined.

This latest release in the Getaway Girls collection delivers a smart, funny, and warm account of one woman's challenge to reconcile who she is - a dutiful Christian daughter - with the woman she longs to be.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Turning The Paige, go HERE

My Review:

I loved this book. This is book two in the Getaway Girls Series. I loved the first one too, Daring Chloe. You Know I have read most of her fiction and liked it. lol

In this book the main focus is one club member, Paige. The others do make an appearance though. Some threads from the first book are wrapped up. I love Laura Jensen Walker's writing. Her characters are engaging and interesting as is the plot. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book and the first one. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand? March 24, 2009

The short stack is my to review very soon TBR. The middle top is also review soon. The rest are I want to read but they are not review copies. The third stack is a combination of review and library books. I loaned the School of Essential Ingredients to my Mom so I will read it when it comes back to me and it is a library book.














Monday, March 23, 2009

If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky (And Giveaway)!

***Leave a comment before Monday March 30 at midnight to be entered in a drawing to win a copy.***



Summary:
Childhood sweethearts Kinna and Jimmy Henley had simple dreams—marriage, children, a house by the sea… Everything they needed for happily ever after. What they didn’t plan on was years of infertility, stealing those dreams, crushing their hopes.

Now, all that’s left is the memory of young love, and the desperate need for a child to erase the pain. Until…

When Kinna rescues an elderly woman from the sea, the threads of the past, present, and future weave together to reveal the wonder of one final hope. One final chance to follow not their dreams, but God’s plan.

Can they embrace the redemptive power of love before it’s too late? Or will their love be washed away like the castles they once built upon the sand?

My Review:
If Tomorrow Never Comes is part of a series with unrelated characters called Love Stories With a Twist. The author describes them as Nicolas Sparks meets M. Night Shymalan. I read this book in one afternoon. I read the first one Beyond the Night the same way. Both were excellent! The pace is slower but perfect for the story. It unfolds as you read and I found myself holding my breath in parts. The story is well written and the story at times poignant and painful. I felt like I was in the story and cared about what happened to Kinna and Jimmy and their marriage. And the ending comes with a surprising breathless twist. I can't wait for the next love story with a twist. I highly recommend this book and the first Beyond the Night. :)



Interview with the author:
http://marloschalesky.blogspot.com/2009/03/if-tomorrow-never-comes-interview.html

Buy at Amazon.com:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601420242?ie=UTF8&tag=marloschalesh-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=

Author Bio:
Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University , Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California

It's Monday! What am I reading this week? March 23, 2009

Welcome to It's Monday! What are you reading this week? This is a weekly event to list the books completed last week, the books currently being reading, and the books to be finish this week. It is hosted by J. Kaye at http://j-kaye-book-blog.blogspot.com/

Books Completed Last Week: (Monday March 16-Sunday March 22)
* Boo by Rene Gutteridge
* The Negotiator by Dee Henderson
* Boo Who by Rene Gutteridge
* If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky

Books I am currently reading for review this week:
* A Pure Double Cross by John Knoerle

Books I am currently reading:
*This is Your Brain on Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin
* Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
* Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick
* Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus
* Clutter Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress
* Apologetics for a New Generation by Sean McDowell

Up Next:
* The Masque of the Black Tulip by Laura Willig
* Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne (for Classics challenge at 5 Minutes for Books)
* The Circle of Friends Book II: Sarah by L. Diane Wolfe

The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven Scott (And Giveaway)

**Leave a comment before Monday March 30 at midnight to be entered to win a copy.**


Summary:

In The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, Scott guides readers in a step-by-step application of the life-changing principles, skills, and methods that Jesus used throughout his earthly life. Although believers may spend a lifetime learning from Jesus’ teachings, it’s easy to overlook the powerful lessons demonstrated in His life. But when these incomparable lessons are learned and put to use, they enable ordinary people to achieve extraordinary success and happiness.

From Jesus’ earthly life readers will learn:
How to break through the barriers that prevent them from achieving extraordinary success at work and relational success at home.
How to experience a level of happiness and fulfillment that nothing the world offers can duplicate.
How to use adversity and opposition as a springboard for greater success.
How to love others in a way that increases their love as well.

No matter what a person’s area of expertise and in what setting a person influences others, living by the principles of Jesus’ life on earth produces extraordinary success, unprecedented achievements, personal fulfillment, and blessings for others.


Random House Link:
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385526005&ref=externallink_wbm_thegreatestwordseverspoken_kef_0220_01

Author Bio:
Steven K. Scott is the best-selling author of The Richest Man Who Ever Lived, The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, and Mentored by a Millionaire. After failing in nine jobs, he started reading a chapter of Proverbs every day—and the wisdom of Scripture changed his life. Scott and his business partners have built more than a dozen multimillion-dollar companies from scratch, achieving billions of dollars in sales. He is the co-founder of Max International, Total Gym Fitness, and The American Telecast Corporation. He is a popular international speaker on the subjects of personal and professional achievement and the application of biblical wisdom to every area of life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Salon March 22, 2009

The Sunday Salon.com

* This was an okay reading weekend. I worked part of Saturday and went to a Bridal Shower.

* Today I cleaned some and finished a book. I read another book this afternoon.

* I have two giveaways starting tomorrow. One is for a copy of If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schasley. The other is for a copy of The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven Scott.

* I loved If Tomorrow Never Comes. She is known for her love stories with a twist. Look for my review and giveaway tomorrow!

* I joined the Spring Reading Challenge at Callapidder Days. Here is a link to my post:

http://abookloverforever.blogspot.com/2009/03/spring-reading-thing-2009-intro-post.html

* I have a lot of nonfiction to read this week. So hopefully I can stay on top of it. :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009 Intro Post and My List

It's Time! The Spring Reading Thing 2009 is here. I am so excited to be participate in it again. Katrina at Callapidder Days is our host. She also hosts the Fall Into Reading challenge. She has a great blog at http://callapidderdays.com/ This year our graphic is the best ever. It is so pretty I look forward to looking at it all Spring!
As Always my list will be mostly fiction with some nonfiction thrown in. I will be going on job interviews so not sure how that will affect me yet. I love to read. It is my absolute favorite thing to do and I love sharing about my books with others. So there will be some reviews and some giveaways too. :)
Brittanie's List:
Nonfiction:
- This is Your Brain on Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin
- Gardening Eden by Michael Abbate
- Apologetics for a New Generation by Sean McDowell
- Keys to Living Joyfully by Sheri Kaye Hoff
- Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick
- Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osbourne
- The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Secular Fiction:
- The Lost Hours by Karen White
- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
- And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
- The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
- The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
- The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig
- The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
- The Light, Dark, and Ember Between by J. W. Nicklaus
- Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
- Reunion by Therese Fowler
- The Family He Wanted by Karen Sandler
- A Weaver Wedding by Allison Leigh
- Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
Classics:
- Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett ( reread for Children's Challenge)
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett ( reread for Children's Challenge)
- Jessi's Secret Language by Ann M. Martin
- Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery by Ann M. Martin
- Stacey's Mistake by Ann M. Martin
- Claudia and the Bad Joke by Ann M. Martin
- Kristy and the Walking Disaster by Ann M. Martin
- Mallory and the Trouble with Twins by Ann M. Martin
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Inspirational Fiction:
- Boo Who by Rene Gutteridge
- Boo Hiss by Rene Gutteridge
- Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge
- The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander
- Murder at Eagle Summitt by Virginia Smith
- Healing Waters by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn
- According to Their Deeds by Paul Robertson
- City of the Dead by T. L. Higley
- If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky
- Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus
- Ulterior Motives by Mark Andrew Olson
- The Night Watch Man by Mark Mynheir
- The Reluctant CowGirl by Christine Lynxwiler
- So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones
- A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher
- Nothing but Trouble:PJ Sugar by Susan May Warren
- A Love to Last Forever by Tracie Peterson
- Saving Sailor by Renee Riva (reread)
- Taking Tuscany by Renee Riva
- A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick
- Blood Bayou by Karen Young
- The Moment Between by Nicole Young
- Memory's Gate by Paul McCusker
- Always Watching by Brandilyn and Amberly Sanders
- Miss Match by Sara Mills
- Taking Tuscany by Renee Riva
- Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn
- Beloved Counterfeit by Kathleen Y'Barbo
- Deceptive Promises by Amber Miller
- The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (reread)
- Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt
- A Bride In The Bargain by Deeanna Gist
- For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls by Nancy Mehl
- Texas Ranger Dad by Debra Clopton
- Killer Cargo by Dana Mentink
- Tides of Hope by Irene Hannon
- The Baby Bond by Linda Goodnight
- Flashover by Dana Mentink
- Twice Upon a Time by Lois Richer
- Perfect Target by Stephanie Newton
- Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Coloma
- Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn
- Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman
- Protecting Her Child by Debby Giusti
- A Ring and a Promise by Lois Richer
- Stealing Home by Allison Pittman
- Breathe by Lisa T. Bergren
- Saints in Limbo by River Jordan
- The Note II:Taking a Chance on Love by Angela Hunt
- What Sarah Saw by Margaret Daley
- Framed! by Robin Caroll
- Cold Case Murder by Shirlee McCoy
- A Cloud of Suspicion by Patricia Davids
- Deadly Competition by Roxanne Rustard
- Never the Bride by Rene Gutteridge
- Her Last Chance by Terri Reed
- You Make me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke
- Scent of Murder by Virginia Smith
- A Dream to Call My Own by Tracie Peterson
**This is not a final list. It will evolve as things are added and taken away. For the most part it will stay the same.**
**Bold means I have finished it.**