Book Notes: Jesus Continued / Nothing to Be Frightened Of / The Giver

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jesus-continued-cover-largeJESUS CONTINUED: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You by J. D. Greear

Take a moment to savor the subtitle of J. D. Greear’s book, noted above. It’s a paraphrase of Jesus’ own words in John 16:7. It is to our advantage that Jesus go away and send the Spirit.

If the subtitle catches your attention, the rest of this book will deepen your love for the Spirit and dependence upon His power. J. D. wants us to want the Spirit – to be filled with His presence and power as we proclaim the glory of the crucified and risen King Jesus.

This is a book that challenged and convicted me – and ultimately led me to repentance for the many times I have overestimated my own ability and vision and underestimated the magnitude of what God can do through us when we yield to the Spirit.

Read this and be refreshed.

41rjDZUJFjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF by Julian Barnes

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.” With that line, Julian Barnes launches a book of reflections on life, religion, and morality as the shadow of death slowly closes in.

Barnes’ book perfectly captures the “cross-pressure” (in Charles Taylor’s words) of being an unbeliever in a secular age. Barnes is haunted by the transcendence he has dismissed, nostalgic for the God he does not believe exists.

The title sums up the heart of the work. In one sense, the atheist has nothing to be frightened of, since death is merely the ceasing of existence. But in another sense, the atheist has nothing to be frightened of. The extinguishing of life forever and joining eternal nothingness is a somewhat frightening prospect, although not enough to scare Barnes into religious fairytales.

Honest about his wrestlings, committed to his naturalism, yet envious of the hope he sees in his believing friends, Barnes reflects on death in a way that is most compelling.

The_Giver_CoverTHE GIVER Lois Lowry

A friend recommended I read The Giver, now that its influence is likely to increase due to the movie version which recently landed in theaters.

I like dystopian literature. The Giver reminds me of Brave New World with its focus on drugs as a means of control. It reminds me of 1984 with its focus on control and the paranoia of stepping out of line. It reminds me of Divergent with its focus on forced and artificial roles and categories, which give way to a dark underside beneath a peaceful society.

But what stands out the most from The Giver is the profoundly pro-life sentiment that sweeps through the narrative, especially when the author and moviemaker probably didn’t intend to make a political statement!

The idea of human life being disposable at beginning and end of life is the central point of horror for the dystopian world Lowry has created. And even scarier for the reader is how well-meaning and “good” the killers are. The reality of death dawns on the protagonist and the reader simultaneously, with eyes opening to the human sacrifices offered to maintain societal stability.

I’m often disappointed at many of the older children’s books that receive awards. Not this time.

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