- March 10, 2011
“We have embraced a view of our faith that is far too tame,” writes Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision U.S. “We have, in fact, reduced the gospel to a mere transaction involving the right beliefs rather than seeing in it the power to change the world.” That creates a hole in the gospel—a gap between Christians’ focus on faith as “fire insurance” and the grim reality of the world’s here-and-now poverty.
Stearns calls upon Christians to take up Jesus’ cause to create his kingdom “in earth as it is in heaven.” That means not only telling people about Jesus, but also combating violence, poverty, injustice, disease, corruption and suffering. Stearns’ gospel is good news for the whole person—physically as well as spiritually.
That’s what you might expect from the CEO of World Vision, the relief agency that fights AIDS and hunger. But Stearns’ book tracks his own faith journey from the Ivy League, to big business, to mud huts in Africa. It’s a compelling tale.
This book is effective because of its scale. Global AIDS and poverty are mammoth problems. They’re so big, we want to quit. But Stearns shows how incremental, personal action can make a significant difference. And close the hole in the gospel.
Marv Knox, editor
The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith (InterVarsity Press)
Over the years, Baptists have been well known for our pursuit of excellence in evangelism, missions, fellowship, discipleship and worship. One of those areas, discipleship, has grown stale in many congregations, which I believe has led to weakening in each of the other vital areas of life in our Christian walk. The relatively recent renewal in Baptist life in the centuries-old pursuit of spiritual formation has the potential to reignite those in whom the zeal for constant renewal and rebirth into Christ-likeness has been dampened or starved for fuel.
This book, the first in a series of three, is a masterwork for any Christian who really wants to pursue abundance as promised in Scripture. The format is designed for groups to move together through one chapter each week and includes a different and useful “Soul-Training” practice for each chapter. We have recently moved two groups through this book who now are going into the second, The Good and Beautiful Life. A new group, facilitated by one who has just finished, is now starting this first book. The group dynamic adds immensely to the member’s application of the content, but an individual reader would be blessed as well.
Topics in this book include: God is good, God is trustworthy, God is generous, God is love, God is holy and God is self-sacrificing. The writer covers each topic using the words of Jesus himself rather than repeating what we may think we know based on our own life experience and the opinions of others. Smith has determined, and rightly so, that no one knows God better than Jesus, so why should we not hear from the ultimate authority?
I have observed that every individual, whether a new believer or seasoned veteran, has given testimony of a new joy in their journey as a result of this book. The content is sound, inspiring and enlightening. The author includes plenty of real-life examples, so the reader feels engaged and a part of the author’s experiences.
This book and the two that follow will fill a large gap in the life of any believer. This is also a great place to start any new Christian so they will begin their walk by knowing “the God that Jesus knows,” which is the theme of the book. I highly recommend this book without reservation to anyone who desires to pursue the fullness of relationship with our loving God.
Jerry Barker, pastor
Calvary Baptist Church of Oak Cliff