BOOK REVIEW: The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Case for Grace” by Lee Strobel.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

caseforgrace

The first time I read anything by Lee Strobel, it was his book The Case for Christ.  I loved this book because it was practical and pragmatic.  His goal was to determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.  Thankfully, the truth revealed to Lee Strobel would draw Him to Christ, forming a personal relationship, that would impact not only Lee’s life, but the lives of those He would touch through his writings.  In fact, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are both books I have recommended to people when they are in a marriage where only one of them is a believer.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to get my hands on The Case for Grace, I was eager to begin.  Grace has been an issue my heart has been camped out in for quite a while.  I was very excited to get an chance to get Lee’s take on it.  His books, for me, are like sitting down with a wise friend and getting to the heart of an issue.   His writing is comfortable, familiar, and he is able to see things from both sides of the coin. He doesn’t dismiss abruptly those whose opinions differ from his.

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his investigative journalist skills to explore the evidence of grace in the live of real people.  Each chapter encompasses a look into the story of a person who was transformed by grace.  Stories that will take us across the globe, into the hearts from those who suffered abuse or addiction, lives transformed as children and adults.   Lee Stroble intermingles those stores with his own quest for understanding grace in his life.

What really stood out to me, from these various stories, was that in each… despite how different from my own… there were elements that I could understand.  They might be a shared feeling of despair, the understanding of hope they found, and sometimes it was just an insight I had not considered for myself.  Very different stories, but they showed that the gift of grace knows no bounds.  It is available for the abandoned orphan turned street kid, the addict curled on the floor, the refugee…. you…. me.  God’s grace is a gift he freely gives to those whom He adopts into his family.

A Father’s love to the fatherless…. in body or spirit.

The book also includes supplemental materials:  discussion questions, scriptures to reference, and books for continued reading.

The Case for Grace makes for a great weekend read, curled up with your coffee… or a group discussion for small groups or book clubs.

#FCBlogger

 

Advertisements

How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

beforeamen2

Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.

IS YOUR SOAP BOX TOO BIG?

MBA

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”    Acts 15:19

Recently, I was reading a blog series called “The Homemaking Pharisee” and a portion jumped off the screen at me. The author had a subject matter she was overtly passionate about, it was purely her opinion… but she had allowed it to become gospel to her. It had become an idol. Because of this, people were unwilling to talk to her or include her in discussions about the topic. Finally someone brought this to her attention. Her response: “I do not want to be that person who no one can talk to about that subject because my soap box is just too big.”.

Some well meaning Christians can trip into being just like the Pharisees! We can get wrapped up in things we are passionate about or where God has called us & try to make everyone else apply that in their lives. A strong Christian can easily chuck those things right off their shoulders. We know what The Word says. But for a new believer, we can create unrealistic expectations. We can make ourselves seem so “holy” that they will fear even speaking to us!  And, when people start fearing talking to us… they can quickly disappear from our lives, our studies and our church.

Lord, I pray that you will reveal to me the areas where I have allowed my pride to get before my witness. Help me to soften my heart and my attitude to those around me. Let me speak your truth, not my own. Amen.

 

*Written for the TC3 Women’s Ministry Devotion Blog