Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

Mere ChristianityMere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished listening to this book early this morning, a little before seven. I could not sleep, and as I lay in the darkness in need of some comfort and company, I thought that I should go ahead and finish it.  I am glad I did. 

I am perhaps a bit biased. I have always liked Lewis, ever since I read The Chronicles of Narnia in high school.  My liking deepened for him when I saw the movie Shadowlands.  Something about his life called to me.  I have since done research on him and his journey from atheism to fervent Christian belief.  I cannot deny how inspiring I find his life.

I started this book years ago, and put it down, not out of disinterest, but because of other priorities at the time. As far as I got, which was not far, I appreciated his methodical, clear approach.  I always intended to finish it.  I actually own two copies, one on my Kindle, and one paperback copy.  When I saw this at the library on audiobook, I decided to listen to it.  That was a good decision.

Mere Christianity is a book on the fundamentals of Christian belief. Its audience is not just Christians, but also non-believers, folks who would like to investigate the faith of Christianity, what it entails, and what it doesn’t.  Although the Bible is the foundation of our beliefs, I think this book does an exceptional job of condensing, or explaining, if you will what Christians espouse. 

I respect Mr. Lewis that he does not pretend to have all the answers.  That he does not deny that there are some things he had not figured out.  Nor does he deny that he struggled with some aspects of being a Christian at times. That is a strong testament to the life of a Christian. We admit that we are flawed folks in need of saving. We admit that we strive to know God and to have God work in us to make us more like him.  That takes a fundamental humility, one that is rewarded time and time again. By breaking down and admitting our brokenness, we become whole by our acceptance of him who made all things. 

There were parts of this book that spoke so intimately to my spirit, that I lifted my hand to praise God. For Mr. Lewis had indeed through the power of the Holy Spirit, put on paper that feeling that I believe all people who are born again in Christ feel and experience.  For that alone, I could easily give this book five stars. However, it has yet more to offer.

I appreciate just as much, how logical Mr. Lewis is in his discussion of Christianity. While many feel that Christians are fools who believe in fairy tales, he shows just how much sense Christianity makes to those who choose to follow it.  While atheism might have appeal for some, there is more appeal to those who choose to follow Christ than deciding to reject God in any form.  He takes it a bit further to explain why some point in between atheism and Christianity  (including other belief systems) won’t work for those who choose to follow Christ. We freely admit we have nothing to lose, looking at the facts, and yes, there are inescapable facts about Jesus Christ, not just found in the Bible, in human history recorded by those who have absolutely no stake in affirming or confirming that miracle of God begotten man who came and died and rose again for the sins of humanity.  He also speaks into the facts about the nature of humanity and what makes us uniquely created to love and to interact with a Creator who became man so that we could have an intimate and real relationship with him.   If we are fools to seek Christ, then why do the laws of human morality and that essential need inside ourselves point to the need for a savior, for fellowship with God?

I won’t say I didn’t struggle with some aspects.  And Lewis does not in any way excuse the fact that he is saying things that are hard to face.  I like that brutal honesty.  Brutal honesty is as much a part of the Christian faith as the comfort is in knowing that while the walk in following Christ is a tough road, we do it not alone, but through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us and empowers us to follow him.

This book comes highly recommended by this reader.  It’s not overly long, certainly not bogged down in theological doctrines that won’t make any sense to a person who does not belong to a specific Christian denomination or who isn’t even a Christian. In fact, Mr. Lewis works very hard to use concrete examples that illustrate his points.  His analytical approach makes this profound spiritual message that much more powerful, because he does not seek to play on the reader’s emotional heartstrings or sentimentalities.  As a lover of Christ, he does not seek to turn his message into another one of manipulation (as many view Christianity and the followers of this faith), for it’s far too important for that.  I know that I will read this book again, probably more than once. I would like to come back to it and explore some of the thoughts here. They speak to me, and perhaps will speak to others, regardless of how they currently feel about Christianity.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery.  The ideas are very imaginative.  I loved Karou. She's strong and vulnerable. She's old for her years, but full of youthful energy.  Akiva has an appealing brokenness and dangerous allure. And of course, I love angels.  However, I didn't feel satisfied when I finished this book. I felt rather empty, to be honest.  I felt a twisty knot of anguish inside.  Maybe that's a sign that it was a very good book. That I felt deeply for both Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Madrigal.  I couldn't take sides easily.  That's real though, isn't it?  War always has losers and rarely has winners. Even the winning side counts the cost, with the innumerable loss of lives, as much as their way of life in no small part.

Now this is embarrassing for a huge romance fan to admit.  I found the romantic descriptions a bit much for my tastes.  A little too saccharine for me.  It could be because I listened to the audiobook version, and honestly I tend to avoid romance on audiobooks (with some notable exceptions).  I think I liked this better as fantasy than as a romance.  Certainly the end was a hard slap in the face.  Very melancholy!

I can see why this book is so well-loved and highly reviewed. It has a lot to offer a fantasy reader. The storyline is very creative, with the author's building of unique myths just for this novel, and the writing is lush and beautiful.  As an audiobook, it's a feast to the ears, and the narrator does a great job.  However, since I am an unrepentant emotional reader, I couldn't give this five stars, because I wasn't fully satisfied in some intangible way.  Having said that, I am looking forward to the upcoming sequel.

Would I recommend this? Yes.  It's a book you don't want to miss.  Whether you'll feel the same way I did, I can't say.  It's important for you to make up your own mind.

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Living Words of Jesus

Living Words Of JesusLiving Words Of Jesus by Mark R. Norton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good devotional for a Christian to read in that it is a collection of what Jesus taught and said during his three year ministry on earth, found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In the style of the Touchpoints series of books, the writing is divided into sections based on content. The scripture is provided in New Living Translation, and commentary on the scripture is included under the Bible verses.

To know Jesus is to believe what he said and what he expects of his followers.  That knowledge is right there in the Word of God, the Bible.  As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, and the Bible as our reference on God.  With those sources of inspiration we can live our lives through the power God gives us.  This devotional in my hands helped me to focus on his sayings and teachings and put them into the perspective of addressing life's specific conditions and what my calling is as a believer in Jesus.  This book doesn't take the place of reading the Bible, by any means. Instead, it's a good adjunct for those who are desirous to hide the words of the Lord in their heart, and to apply what he said and what it means to your life in particular.

Although this is pretty basic, it serves its purpose. The four star rating is because it's a good condensation of what is spread throughout the Gospel that Jesus said and taught, and I like the ability to reference the Lord's sayings based on subject matter. I picked my copy up at the used bookstore and it more than paid for itself. 

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