Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: "In the Footsteps of Paul"

Technically, In the Footsteps of Paul, is a pictorial gift book. Truly, though, it’s a well-designed storybook about the life and journeys of the Apostle Paul—complete with pictures that help the reader see there really was a flesh and blood person who lived the life one reads about in God’s Word.

The book is divided into three sections: Paul’s conversion, his missionary journeys, and his final trip to Jerusalem which led to Rome. Ken Duncan, the author/photographer, correlates Scripture, mostly from the book of Acts, with pictures of the places mentioned in that book. He ties Scripture passages together with his own comments and quotes from well-known authors and preachers to tell the story of Paul and his ministry.

Of course, there are no pictures of Paul in this book, but the photos, comments, and quotes work together to help the reader imagine him in every scene or traveling from one to another. Just as visiting an historical site helps one more fully understand the reality of the recorded event, this book gives us glimpses of Paul, a man who really lived.

Along with beautiful photos, the book also includes maps of Paul’s journeys and pictures of artwork found in the region depicting Paul at work. Educational and inspirational, this book was a thought-provoking read.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Book Review: Rachel's Tears

Rachel’s Tears is a must-read for parents of teenagers and those who work with them—ministers, educators, mentors, and such. Rachel’s father thinks of her life “as an example of the amazing things that can happen when any of us, no matter how ordinary, open our hearts to God’s deep and boundless love” (p. 69). In contrast, Rachel’s killers’ lives show what happens when people open their hearts to sin, bitterness, evil, and hate. The Columbine school shootings were truly “a spiritual event,” as Rachel’s father describes them, showing clearly the two paths that all people must choose between.

This book is not the story of Columbine, but rather a look into the extraordinarily spiritual life of a young girl devoted to Christ. Even before the shooting, Rachel was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in, loving the outcast, facing rejection, serving Christ, and growing in His grace every day. Her life, brief as it was, is an example for us all. I’m thankful that her parents were willing to share her story and excerpts from her journal to help us understand—to show God’s work in her life and what He can do through ours when we surrender ourselves to Him.

I especially appreciated their view on the cause of the Columbine tragedy. Rather than fight for stricter gun control laws or place blame on video games and negative elements of the entertainment industry, they focus on the need for prayer in schools and a return to Truth in our schools about America’s moral and religious roots. On page 162, Rachel’s mother quotes the Duke of Wellington, who once said, “If you divorce religion from education, you produce a race of clever devils.” Rachel’s father uses current teaching on Thanksgiving as an example of how things have changed. Children are being taught that Thanksgiving celebrates the day the pilgrims thanked the Indians for sharing their turkey, rather than that it’s the day we follow their example and thank God for all He provides to help us survive and thrive in our nation.

Rachel’s Tears is a story of hope, encouraging people to serve Christ wholeheartedly by serving one another in love that events like Columbine won’t repeat themselves, that our teens will choose the brighter path and follow only God.