The Chosen

Cover of "The Chosen"

Cover of The Chosen

Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is one of my favorite books. The story is about two teenagers growing up in WWII era New York City. The story is about two boys and their fathers who are from two different Jewish sects. The boys were taught to fear and demonize the other, until they meet on a softball field and one hurts the other in a way that brings them together and changes their lives forever.

Reading: Forbidden

Just finished new book by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee.

From Publishers Weekly

Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. Center Street/Hachette Book Group, $24.99 Hardcover (384p) ISBN 978-1-59995-354-0

A new trilogy and a new partnership begins with Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee in the first of The Books of Mortals series. Set in the distant future, the dystopian world is ruled by The Order that controls humanity by genetically removing all emotions but fear. Fear is needed for survival, but without all the other emotions, humanity is lifeless. When young Rom Elias receives a cryptic message written on animal skin and vial of blood from a man who seems to know a lot about his father’s death, he risks everything to escape the Order and find out what the vellum and vial mean. He must convince a cast of friends and family to drink a portion of the vial in order to feel all human emotion again. This sets off a chain of events that will pit love and self-sacrifice against the dark emotions of hatred and greed. Once again Dekker and a writing ally break forbidden ground in Christian fantasy yet it’s still true blue Dekker with mammoth twists and head-pounding turns that will have readers and book clubs debating the mega role of human emotion and logic that drives our existence. (Sep.)

Day of War

Day of War. Cliff Graham. Zondervan, $14.99 softcover (368p) ISBN 9780310331834

Army veteran and chaplain draws from deep research and experience in war to write one of the most fascinating yet under-documented stories in the Bible. Based on the exploits of the renegade band of “Mighty Men” of King David, this war novel has additional dimensions that make it unique for Christian fiction.

Descriptive of life in ancient near east and provides the history buff a biblically-based story that is not preachy but is actually quite gruesome: the exploits of a rag-tag band of men from different countries serving a soon-to-be-king.

Readers patient enough to plow through lengthy and repeated descriptions of setting and weather can find dozens of characters that help to paint a rare picture of life three millennia ago. Most of the story is from the perspective of Beniah, one of David’s Mighty Men, who fend off King Saul and helped David take his rightful throne. About Saul, who is losing his throne: “There was a breeze, a footstep, and the fire flickered again. And Saul knew he was alone . . . They found their king lying on his face, weeping.”

Otherwise provocative transitions are awkward. “Then it all changed earlier that evening.” Gets into the minds of people from nations surrounding Israel. An Egyptian muses, “Why would a man choose to follow only one god when there were so many other areas of life where he required their services?”

For what it lacks in a compelling tension and discernible quest of individual characters, it more than makes up for in developing characters longing for their homeland and seeking power in the textured ancient world setting. –Reviewed by Greg Taylor

God Can’t Sleep

God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight on Life’s Dark Nights. Palmer Chinchen. David C. Cook, $12.99 paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4347-0057-5

Former missionary kid in Liberia, pastor in Arizona and author of True Religion writes an all-in book about life lived full-on. But getting there is not with chirpy preacher stories but deeply moving international stories from Haiti to Liberia.

To illustrate how God uses our wounds to change the lives of others he tells the story of Sam Weah, a pastor in Côte d’Ivoire who was stripped and beaten at a border crossing and robbed but then returned to the same soldiers station the next week for a Bible study where many of the men committed their lives to Christ.

Most moving section on heaven I’ve read to date, interweaving the little Scripture has to say about heaven with God’s “snapshots” of heaven on earth. Really good writing is backed up with life experience. Brutally honest, sometimes strident, and perhaps short of confessional, this is a fresh voice that is as good as Rob Bell’s or Donald Miller’s but a cut above theologically and has more authentic global stories to boot.

When a reader finishes, she may have a hard time understanding what the book was really about, but neither does the reader of Anne Lamott–but that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t fabulous and quickly recommended to a friend. I would say this is the next Blue Like Jazz, but this book is better. –Reviewed by Greg Taylor

Clouds of Witnesses: Part 2

Photo of Dora Yu

Yu Cidu, known in the West as Dora Yu

This is part 2 of a 2-part review of Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia. Mark A. Noll, Carolyn Nystrom. IVP Books, $25.00 hardcover (300p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3834-9

Profiles of influential Christian voices and activists range from Archbishop Janani Luwum, martyr in Uganda who was murdered by Idi Amin’s regime in 1977 to Dora Yu, a woman considered by many as the foremost Chinese evangelist during the early 1900s whose preaching inspired young Watchman Nee to enter his room to pray and become a great evangelist of the new generation in China–at a time when women were rejected as leaders in the mid-1900s. [199]

The authors mine vast numbers of biographies and autobiographies to “unearth” what we ought to already know of Christian history, but many–like me–have sadly been taught in seminary a very Western Christian History and Missiology. What about African Christian History, Chinese Christian History?

The 1960 Nobel Peace Prize winning Albert Luthuli was a lesser known force in the struggle against apartheid. He was arrested for peaceful protest against racial discrimination in South Africa, and his attorney was Nelson Mandela, who took up the mantle of racial equality. Luthuli said, “Should we get rid of the whites? The aim should be to get him to repent of his wrongdoings rather than to work for his forceful removal out of the country.”

Told in narrative style form her birth, the story of India’s Pandita Ramabai is simply amazing. Born in 1858, a Hindu by culture and Christian convert, Ramabai knew Sanskrit and amazed people across India because few girls knew this “language of the gods.” She became known as Pandita, wise one.

Yes, we’ve heard of Mahatma Ghandi, but perhaps as influential to a generation seeking Christ and political independence, Nystrom and Noll say, is V.S. Azariah, 1874-1945, who rejected the caste system in favor of loving and serving the poor and established many YMCAs across India. [145] For Azariah, the Eucharist was a counter-force to the remaining taboos of eating with people of other castes. Azariah began the day with two hours of Bible reading and prayer and ended the day in much the same way. During the day he traveled diocese to diocese and house to house sharing the gospel and encouraging Christ followers.

These narratives from 19th and 20th centuries stand on their own rather than filling the pages with assessment and evaluation, because “it is important first simply to know before trying to judge.” [275]

Clouds of Witnesses: Part 1

Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia.
Mark A. Noll, Carolyn Nystrom. IVP Books, $25.00 hardcover (300p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3834-9

In a dramatic century of reversal, the majority of Christians has shifted from western countries in the 1900s to places like India, Africa, China, and Korea today.

Some books do the accounting, others feature missionaries to those lands. But what about the stories of men and women who helped spread the gospel to their own countries? A new book by historian Mark A. Noll and prolific writer Carolyn Nystrom tells a number of these stories. The Holy Spirit, the Word, and the voice of God has been powerful and active for centuries, moving people in countries all over the world.

The authors say they wrote the book because many remain unaware of the way Christianity has spread in other countries in the past and today through the influence of men and women in Africa, China, Korea, and India.

Yet there are, the authors say, few activities that rekindle the foundational realities of faith than to see them at work in regions where Christ is being confessed anew.

Some, however, think that Christianity has become diverse in the twenty-first century, but Noll and Nystrom show that a great diversity has already existed for centuries.

One value of this book is the window it opens to a diverse world and rather than remaining oblivious, the authors say these stories show indelibly that the Holy Spirit has been active across the world and across time.

“One of the great benefits to arise from trying to learn from Christ-followers from other places is to make us more self-conscious about our own cultural assumptions. The end product of this process need not be cultural relativism but rather greater clarity about the profusion of God’s work in creating so many cultures and his power in illuminating the entire rainbow of human diversity by the grace of Christ.” [277]

A story from the late 1800s of a British missionary kissing an African baby is an illustration of the reversal of how cultures might think of each other. For Africans not accustomed to kissing, the missionary appeared to be savoring food. Well aware that whites engaged in capture and slavery, those witnessing this kiss concluded that whites are cannibals. Ironically, Westerners have feared the same thing about Africans.

The book has “the rest of the story” quality to it, with seventeen profiles of amazing people you’ve never heard of but must know about.

More tomorrow.

Reading: The Second Messiah by Glenn Meade

The Second Messiah. Glenn Meade. Howard Books, $22.50 hardcover (464p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1184-7
With this the Irish-born author of Snow Wolf will teeter on the edge of genius and for some, sacrilege–though the subject of this thriller has been known since the time of Christ.
When archaeologist Jack Cane discovers Qumran documents that point to the existence of another Messiah, he quickly finds out that both Jewish and Catholic authorities have reason to possess or suppress such documents. Racked with the pain of a personal loss, he meets up with an old friend, Lela, who is part of a Jewish police force investigating multiple crimes committed, including a cold case involving the possible murder of Cane’s parents–also archaeologists–twenty years before.
Some who have avoided Christian fiction or only dipped their toes in the waters, will find this departure from the mold refreshing as some Christian fiction readers may find revolting, both in terms of faith and in terms of innuendo. Fans of Davis Bunn or Dan Brown won’t bat an eye at Meade’s unblinking look at the interior of the Vatican and the landscape of all religious secrecy and guardianship that breeds such novels. With a plot that screams, a controversial edge, and characters with attitude and something to prove, The Second Messiah has all the makings to be the next Da Vinci Code.