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What first drew me to actor Terry Crews was when he made headlines for boldly speaking out against pornography.  He shared his own struggles with it to his fans (see video below) and it made national news.  The more I looked into his life, the more substance I found.  What I discovered was a courageous person who isn’t afraid to risk their popularity in order to stand for important truths.  I love this.  This led me to read Terry’s autobiography, Manhood.  What I discovered was the refreshing account of a real person, not a Hollywood facade.  What I found was a transparent, relatable guy that I have a lot in common with.  I highly recommend you read Manhood and I bet you’ll find the same thing.

12 Things Terry Crews and I have in Common:

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You can preview and order Beyond the Battle here.

You can leave your own Amazon review here.

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Ken Wytsma’s most recent book The Grand Paradox, addresses many of the tensions believers and non-believers feel toward the Christian faith.

Ken is founder of The Justice Conference coming up June 5-6 in Chicago and is also the author of Pursuing Justice.

Tensions within the Bible and Christianity abound.  Many of these tensions push people away from faith.  Ken argues they should push us toward it.

Ken argues that if doubt is like thirst in the desert, faith is its water.

This sounds catchy for a pastor to say, but how can this be true when people’s doubts deal with such deep topics as personal pain, suffering in the world, brutality in the Old Testament, and so on?  The answer will change your faith and your life. Continue Reading…

I don’t like fiction books because they make me feel stupider and like I’ve crumpled up my time into a ball and tossed into the garbage can.  You made up a story, great.  Does it say anything?  Does it make me think?  Does it move me?

My two favorite fiction book series of all time are C.S. LewisChronicles of Narnia series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.  Entertaining and attention grabbing, but extremely deep.  Extremely symbolic.  Extremely moving.  Once I finished these two series, I honestly have not been able to read another fiction book.  Everything I pick up either bores me or makes me stupider, both reasons to put a book down for good.

I recently read Zachary Bartels’ novel Playing Saint and I loved it.  I don’t want to give away the plot but what I loved about the book is that yes, while it was a gripping page turner that you’d expect in a good novel, it was also filled with witty humor and deep meaning, meaning about who I am as a pastor and a Christian.  “Christian” and “novel” are typically a combo you want to stay away from, another refreshing change-up found in Playing Saint.  Bartels proves you can be excellent at the art of writing while not having to fill your pages with F-bombs and lewd sex scenes, something very refreshing indeed.  And thank heavens “Christian novel” also doesn’t equate to “salvation tract” or “predictable and cheesy” with Bartels, traits that almost always accompany anything Christian nowadays.  Playing Saint is a refreshing mix of ingredients you frankly don’t expect to find anywhere: funny, action-packed, deep, Christian, raw and brutally honest.  This is a pioneer book and piece of art that is well worth your read and something the world and Christianity needs more of.

If you’re looking for a good read or a good gift, grab a copy of Playing Saint and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, it’s likely you’ll end up feeling like Tracy Groot did about it:

 

Playing-Saint-Zachary-Bartels

Playing-Saint-Zachary-Bartels

 

What I like best about The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis is how he makes my mind imagine that the afterlife will actually be something tangible.  While the concepts of heaven and hell are very real to most of us on a theological level, we are typically hard pressed to live with the eternal perspective that we will spend eternity in one of these places.  That life on this earth is temporary.  That we will not live forever.  And thus the things we typically think are most important on this earth are not actually the most important things.

The Great Divorce put landscape and faces to a place we all will spend our eternal days in.  Not an imaginary dream.  Or a creation of our minds.  But an actual tangible, physical country.  This tangible reality is something we can use a wake up call to as we fly from one day to the next like there is no end in sight to making money, paying bills, and trying to be momentarily happy.

A caveat as I describe The Great Divorce… Do not read it like it is a book of doctrine or like Lewis is trying to teach us what heaven, hell, and purgatory (a prominent place in his story) are like.  He is very clear in the introduction to his book that he is writing a fictional story.  We need to read it as such.  I think it’s ironic that in the Further Reading section of Rob Bell’s Love Wins book, he writes (for further reading) “On hell, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.”  As if we can learn actual biblical and doctrinal truth about hell from this book.  That was never Lewis’s intention and thankfully he is very clear about it upfront.  It’s irresponsible for Bell to directs us to read it as such.  More on my thoughts on what the Bible says about hell will come in a later post.  It is a topic I have struggled with and studied deep into the Scriptures on.

The second thing I like about The Great Divorce is how all of the conversations within it really had to do with how we live today.  A newly dead person would be in conversation with a person who’d been in heaven for a long time.  These conversations were much like the type Christians have with non-Christians in trying to persuade them to put their faith in Jesus and accept his forgiveness into their lives.  Except in The Great Divorce, these people are already dead and they are only sniffs away from actually getting to see God face to face!  You would think this set of circumstances would make for obvious conversions, but it does not (much like the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31).  They make me laugh because most of us know people just like the characters.  The stubbornness and selfishness of these characters serve as a sobering reminder to us of how blind we all can be to God’s love and invitation to be in relationship with Him.

Worth Reading:  Yes.