Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: Radical Together by David Platt

Radically Pursuing the Redemption of the World

An inherent danger lurks within the culture of the American church. The danger is for churches to become comfortable, sitting back, and resting in the grace that has been given to us through Christ’s death and resurrection. While God’s grace and our redemption are life-changing, the desire of God’s heart is for more than our comfort and isolation in a community of faith. Many churches in America gather in extravagant buildings with all the trappings of comfort every Sunday morning, while the world around them is falling apart and without hope. The thought of it might produce guilt, but that’s not the point. Comfort isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Christ we’ve been given incredible freedom. But the danger lurks when our comfort and freedom cause us to become complacent about the desire of God’s heart for the redemption of people all over the world.

In answer to this danger David Platt presents his new book “Radical Together.” Like “Radical” before it, it is a challenge to our preconceptions about what being a follower of Jesus should be like, especially in America. In the midst of my comfort, I found the message of Platt’s book to cause a deep discomfort about my life and a discontent with how I have pursued the desire of God’s heart—making disciples of all nations.

Platt challenges the good things in our lives that keep us from the best things. We often assume that Christ rescued us here and now so that we could experience an easier life here and now, but the easier, painless life awaits after we’ve done all that God has rescued us to do here. God’s heart is for people to come to know him, to be satisfied in him, to find a radically loving Father in him. And God, in what seems to be the riskiest move in history, put flawed human beings in charge of making his dream a reality. To us he said “go and make disciples of all nations.” Of course, it’s God who does the rescuing, but he’s chosen to work through us. That is both a humbling and exhilarating task. In the heart of every human being burns a desire to make a difference in the world. In Christ we get that opportunity.

Platt challenges us to reevaluate our priorities and to abandon ourselves to the gospel-centered mission of God in the world. He calls us to trust in God who does the work through the Bible and to follow God’s leading wherever it may take us, even if it’s in another context on the other side of the world where our lives may be threatened. But even if we lose our lives, the beauty of our God will be made known and people will be redeemed.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Review: The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker

Can one man taking the law into his own hands to rid the world of the vilest offenders truly make a difference in the world? If we who try to live good moral lives judge those who don’t, will the world be a better place? Those are the questions Ted Dekker tackles in his latest novel “The Priest’s Graveyard.”

The story centers around a priest whose conscience is stricken whenever he sees anyone causing the horrible suffering of someone else and not having to pay for it. Danny Hansen is the priest, and he believes that the most moral thing he can do is to end the lives of those who live to cause pain and avoid justice. He’s been doing this a long time, and he does it well. Hardly anyone would question that Danny’s victims would deserve to die if justly tried by a court of law. But where the law fails, Danny steps in to save the day, believing the world is a better place because of it.

Danny’s world is complicated, however, when a young woman named Renee Gilmore becomes obsessed with taking the life of the man who killed her husband. Their paths cross, and Renee convinces Danny to train her to become an expert vigilante just like him. As their lives become interwoven by the desire to see the guilty punished, the line that separates them from the “bad guys” becomes blurred.

Dekker has crafted a story that explores the depths of human depravity. The question switches from “who is guilty?’ to “who is innocent?” While Danny and Renee see what’s wrong with the world outside of them, the beauty of the story comes when they begin to look on the inside, which ultimately leads to the desperate need for someone on the outside who knows no sin and can rescue the guilty from the real enemy that lies inside of themselves.

Dekker creates fascinating characters that are easy to identify with. We share their struggles and understand their need for something beyond themselves to give them hope in the midst of impossible circumstances. Dekker’s story, though gritty, is a story of hope in the midst of darkness. Who is innocent? None of us are.