Monday, May 17, 2010

Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide? by Karen Spears Zacharias--my review

A few months ago, I was given a free copy of "Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?", by the author, Karen Spears Zacharias, for participation in a Haiti relief effort. I mention this for two reasons: first, a new law says that bloggers who review a complimentary book must disclose that they didn't pay for it; in this case, it's worth adding that Ms. Zacharias didn't ask me to review the book.

Reason #2 why I mention that the book was a free gift is that, frankly, I most likely wouldn't have read it otherwise. After all, it's about the damage done by the teaching known as the Prosperity Gospel. These days, it seems that we are bombarded with people telling us they are against things. Everyone from Beck to Maher to Limbaugh to Olbermann tells us constantly why they are against something. So this book's main point is that there is one more thing to be against? No, thanks. I'm good.

But when it comes to this book, throw all of that kind of reasoning out. "Double Wide" is wonderful, and is nothing like I imagined it. If I would have skipped it, it would have been my loss.

Rather than lay out an extended theological manifesto, Zacharias simply tells stories of individuals, one per chapter. Real people, living out their lives while influenced, in varying degrees from one end of the spectrum to the other, by the Prosperity/Word of Faith/name-it-claim-it teaching.

Because Luke 6:44 says we are to judge a teaching by its fruit, we are compelled to see how this teaching plays out, and Double Wide offers us a chance to do exactly that.

In one chapter, we see a godly woman's body get ravaged by cancer, an apparent conflict with the word of faith belief that good health is ours if we stay true to God. In another chapter, we see a woman who starts a business, only to see the business blossom; she becomes a millionaire, then proceeds to use her wealth to help orphans in the Ukraine. The former story is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, while the latter episode demonstrates what I believe to be more theologically correct: God does in fact bless some people with more wealth than they need, but with the purpose of blessing those who have less. The term I like for this is "The Gospel of Generosity".

If this were a sermon rather than a book review, I could lay out the Gospel of Generosity theology very nicely, with several supporting verses. Zacharias could do the same, but she wisely chooses to tell stories. As many post-2000 authors from John Eldredge (Epic) to Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) have pointed out, God lays out His truth to us in story form. It's a much more readable, graspable, and ultimately more powerful way to deliver a truth to a reader. And Zacharias does it masterfully.

More than anything I have read this year, I highly recommend this book.  You'll be glad you read it. 

On the outside chance that the author see this: Thanks for the book, Karen.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Book Review: Plan B, by Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson's "Plan B: What do you do when God doesn't show up the way you thought He would?" has a title that is perfectly descriptive, yet had me convinced it wouldn't be terribly interesting. As someone who's been a Christian for many years and heard a lot of sermons, I thought going in that I had this book pegged. And in one way, it does repeat the concepts that have been preached countless times, only because those concepts are based on truths found throughout Scripture. And in fact, the first few chapters lived down to my expectations. Not that the message isn't a valid one, but I simply had no interest in hearing something that is not news to me.

But to my pleasant surprise, the message grew on me, and offered this veteran believer some fresh things to ponder. The message, at its core, is a simple one: in life, stuff happens. Nobody's immune to failure, disappointment, even death or divorce. Things happen in the course of a person's life which take them by surprise, slap them in the face, or knock them down. And as much as the Prosperity Gospel crowd doesn't like to admit it: these things happen to Christians, too.

I'm going to quote a long passage here from page 96, because I think it's very well said:

I'm wondering how different life would be for each one of us if we chose to view our circumstances and our relationships as the gifts they are. What if we viewed our hardships and challenges as opportunities to be the men and women God has created us to be? ...
God is God, and He doesn't owe any of us anything. But He gives us everything including Himself. ...
He does it His own time...with the big picture in mind, with little regard to the way we think it should go. And so often, ...instead of taking away our pain and frustration and confusion in our Plan Bs, He offers us the promise of His presence. But this is not a consolation prize."

For some who are confused about why things are not going as planned, this is a must-read. For those for whom things are going well at the moment, this is worth reading. You never know when the truth contained therein will come in handy. Just knowing He is up to great things can be helpful when life is tough.

Disclaimer: The publisher of this book, Thomas Nelson, provided me with a free copy of Plan B for review. There was no obligation to give a favorable review. I liked this book and I recommend it.