Here are reviews of my top 7 books read in 2015. I start off with one true story. Also included are three books on death and dying which I discovered in a very helpful class at church on this subject. All seven of these books were thought provoking, informative, helpful, and/or inspiring. Enjoy!
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken is an incredible, beautifully written, and thoroughly researched book about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic hero and a World War II prisoner of war in Japan. His story is gripping and harrowing. It’s difficult to imagine surviving the starvation, tedium and terrors of being adrift at sea with two others when his airplane went down. Yet his trials had just begun as he also spent much time being abused, starved, and injured as a POW. I had not realized how brutal the Japanese were to the prisoners of war. I recalled more vividly the horror of Hitler and his concentration camps. The Japs were even more sadistic and depraved. How can anyone doubt the depravity of man?
Zamperini survives these many years of degradation and is then besieged by post traumatic stress which he handles by drinking. His marriage is troubled as a result but he is transformed after hearing Billy Graham. This ending is left out of the movie. In addition, I’m sure the book gives much more detail than could be included in a movie. So read the book even if you have seen the movie. You won’t be able to put it down.
Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert On Sexual Identity and
Union with Christ
Openness Unhindered is a sequel to Rosaria Butterfield’s book Confessions of an Unlikely Convert in which she details her conversion to faith in Christ after being deeply into the lesbian, feminist life style as a tenured English professor at a university. This book is different from her first book in that Butterfield goes deeper into the philosophical and theological roots of sexual identity versus the truth about a Christian’s identity in Christ. This is a book that must be read slowly to grasp the deep Biblical truths all Christians need to recognize, learn and digest.
Butterfield has profound chapters on Conversion, Identity and Repentance followed by two equally profound chapters on Sexual Orientation (Freud’s Mistake) and What Does it Mean to be Gay? Essentially she shows that our identity comes from God not from what we do.
This book will inform anyone looking for a biblical, reasoned discussion of the issues of gay sex and the church. It will help those struggling with sexual sin or guilt-ridden about the past. It will enlighten run of the mill Christians about the fact that we are all sinners. We need to repent daily and cling to our identity in Christ. Butterfield writes with warmth, wit and wisdom.
Mark: The Gospel of Passion
By Michael Card
Mark: The Gospel of Passion is an excellent and unusual commentary on the gospel of Mark. Many will recognize the author as a marvelous musician whoe music they have loved. I recall a devotional given by Card at a Gaither Praise gathering some years ago. It revealed his deep faith and knowledge.
Card’s book has
further impressed me. He is a diligent and creative student of
scripture and offers many valuable insights about the gospel of Mark. Reading
An introduction tells us who Mark is followed by a chapter on the themes in the gospel of Mark. The rest of the book presents each chapter of Mark and Card’s commentary. This 200 page book is easy to read and insightful. I learned that Mark received his information from Peter and is simply writing everything he remembers; he doesn’t have an agenda, he just tells the story. Card gives evidence verifying the relationship between Peter and Mark. He also comments on the location of various events. For example he suggests that the Last Supper was held in Mark’s house.
In every chapter Card gives the reader a clear understanding of how Mark arranged the chapter and why. It surprised me to realize that Jesus is quite passionate in Mark’s gospel, hence the subtitle. Card documents the emotional words of Jesus. He notes also that Mark generally does not record the teachings of Jesus but rather his actions.
I like the fact that Card includes the Scripture within the book so the reader can grasp the text before he comments and without stopping to look it up. This is a book that can be read and studied over and over again.
When is it Right to Die? Suicide, Euthanasia, Suffering, Mercy
By Joni Eareckson Tada
When is it Right to Die? This book can be very helpful to parents with a handicapped child. Joni Eareckson Tada, well known author and speaker, suffered a permanent spinal injury in a diving accident when she was in her teens. This book, written more than two decades later, addresses the difficult topics of suicide and euthanasia, suffering and mercy. The book is divided into three sections. Part 1. A Time to Live, Part 2. A Time to Choose, and Part 3. A Time to Die. Joni’s story and experiences run through out the book along with stories about others who are handicapped or dying. She offers practical and specific information and help for those who are depressed, considering suicide; those who want to die.
She speaks from her Christian faith with a strong belief in God and notes that there is “an intelligence behind moral evil.” He’s the devil. He was called the tempter by Jesus. There is no truth in him and his goal is death. Pg.97. The devil tells us all kinds of lies – “No one cares.” “There’s nothing more to expect from life.” “I can’t live with this depression.” And the biggest lie of all, “Nothing awaits me after death.”
This book published in 1992 continues to help people with handicaps, people with depression and those who are nearing death. There is excellent information in here from a Christian perspective. Joni’s life is a testimony in itself to the fact that every life has a God given purpose.
Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Care,and the Patient with a Life Threatening Illness
By Hank Dunn
Hard Choices - a short (75 pages), informative book by Hank Dunn, a healthcare chaplain - presents clear and concise answers to the families of those nearing death. He notes that prior generations did not have feeding tubes, ventilators or CPR – so they were not faced with the choices facing many today as they age. He describes the issues in using these, pro and con, and offers clear steps to choosing the best route in a particular situation. The final chapter The Journey to Letting Be (23 pages) is the most valuable. This can be helpful to families as well as the person who is dying. He notes, “We will die whether we give up, let go or let be.” He hopes dying patients will have “a sense of being upheld by a loving God.”
Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician
By John Dunlop, MD
Finishing Well to the Glory of God is a wonderful, beautiful, outstanding book. Dr. Dunlop offers nine strategies for finishing well beginning with #1 Live Well and #2 Let Go Graciously to #8 Switching Gears from Cure to Comfort Care and #9 Rest in Jesus. Every chapter (strategy) is thought provoking and instructive. Biblical teaching runs throughout helping the reader understand the Christian perspective on each subject. Each chapter ends with a beautiful prayer and meditation. Strategy #7 Make Appropriate Use of Technology details the medical choices we face today. In addition appendix 2 offers Examples of Technology. The biblical teaching on God’s love, suffering, life and death defines the heart and soul of the Christian faith and will deepen the walk of every reader who digests these teachings. This is a valuable book to be studied, thought about, discussed, read and reread. Finishing Well is a unique and excellent guide that will help Christians live well and finish well to the glory of God.
Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People
By Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet
Restoring All Things is an outstanding and audacious book. Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet demonstrate through many true stories that God is actively at work redeeming, reconciling, renewing and restoring the world using the Church and resolute everyday people to do so.
The authors explain that helping must:
- Challenge and equip people to participate actively in permanently solving their own problems.
- Must recognize that poverty is not just a financial problem but also a spiritual problem. Compassion will address the root of the symptom.
- Help must be personal and recognize the dignity of the person. (pg 40 paraphrase)
Using stories of everyday Christians the authors vividly demonstrate that “little is much when God is in it.” The stories are about creating jobs, capitalism for good, valuing life, women’s issues, education, justice, racial reconciliation, homosexuality, disability and euthanasia, suffering, children, and creativity. The chapter on creativity describes artists in various parts of the
who are painting murals in public places depicting
Jesus with scenes from Scripture. In addition there are stories of two men who
are redeeming nihilistic rap music with Christian lyrics. Redemptive stories in
films are also noted. United States
The book challenges Christians to notice needs they can meet right where they are. They urge readers to grapple with four questions:
- What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect and celebrate?
- What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?
- What is evil in our culture that we can stop?
- What is broken in our culture that we can restore? Pg. 25-26 and Pg.197
This is a book that can inspired and motivate many to “go and do likewise.” Happy reading to all in 2016!
“I trust in you, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15