Book Review: Bringing the Gospel Home, by Randy Newman

Recommended. A book on household evangelism that will leave you not only equipped, but encouraged.

By God’s grace, Randy Newman has written a book on evangelism for real, everyday people. He recognizes the hurdles that trip up those of us who aren’t gifted at evangelism, while also acknowledging that, as Christians, we still have the incredible, full-of-potential-joy responsibility of sharing the gospel with those around us who don’t believe. What are some of those hurdles? How about the flow of bottomless guilt we struggle with when we remember witnessing opportunities to our families we’ve missed or botched? How about the heart-breaking fruitlessness or strife that has come from some of our attempts to share the gospel with family? How about the individualistic culture that tells us at every turn: “Your faith, your business–keep it to yourself!” In a voice that assuages the fears that accompany the thought of sharing the gospel with family, Newman naturally addresses these fears and more.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is its thematic organization. Newman initially thought of doing it by relationships–witnessing to parents, to children, to cousins, etc–but the problem here, he jokes, would be that readers could simply flip through, find the passage they needed, and then not buy the book. But he then puts joking aside, explaining that the real problem with relationship-based organization would be that issues of bringing the Gospel to our family members are not so cut and dried. God gave Newman great wisdom here, and, thankfully, the book is far from the recipe/technique/how-to book genre that it might have been had it been organized differently. Instead, Newman wrote a book that, as he puts it, “is far more about God and the gospel than it is about you and your family.” Wow–that’s pretty bold introductory material for a book on household evangelism!

So how is the book organized? Newman examines factors involved in all evangelism: grace, truth, love, humility, time, eternity, and hope. And the last chapter encapsulates the purpose of the book: to offer hope to those of us with family members who seem so very far from the gospel. In each chapter, Newman engages in theological reflection (looking at the Scriptures for treatments of each theme), but then he gets very practical by looking at the real, messy stories of real, flesh-and-blood people. Each chapter ends with a handful of steps to take.

This is a book that I’d recommend to every Christian I know, whether they have family members who aren’t believers or not. It will encourage and amaze believers as it reveals the power of God to save sinners like us. It will remind us of why we call it a gospel–because what God came and saved us from is big, good, life-giving news. If you have even one family member who is far from God, you’ll find the book incredibly helpful. Do be encouraged. I pray that God will use Newman’s book to help many of us get over the hurdles that trip us up when it comes to sharing Christ with family members.


Book Review: Unbroken — A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Recommended. An epic tale of God’s redemptive pursuit of a forgotten legend.

I’ve never read Seabiscuit, but a mere five pages into Unbroken I found myself hungering for more of Laura Hillenbrand’s writing. I’ve never been one to read historical narratives, but Hillenbrand made me immediately crave more of the 1920s and 30s and 40s that she so vividly brings to life. I can’t stress enough how wonderful of a writer Hillenbrand is, nor can I give enough respect to the meticulous research that went into so carefully reconstructing the world of Louie Zamperini.

If you’re like me, you probably haven’t ever heard of Louie Zamperini–but folks who were alive and aware during the 30s and 40s would probably have been very familiar with him. On pace to be the first man to break the four-minute mile, Zamperini was an American running sensation with high hopes for gold at the 1940 Olympics. When the onset of World War II dashed Louie’s dreams, he resignedly joined the Air Force. Several years later, Louie again made the news: the bomber he had been flying in had been lost in the Pacific Ocean; Louie was MIA. What follows is the epic tale of Louie’s record-breaking stint on a life raft, his trials in notoriously cruel Japanese POW camps, and his life after the war.

What I didn’t expect when I began to read this book was how clear the hand of God would be throughout the tale. I can’t recommend this book heartily enough — you won’t be able to put it down, and, at it’s end, you will be thankful for the God who can turn the worst of trials into diamonds.

Premarital sex of any kind

How the Gospel Addresses Premarital Sex of Any Kind

The worst thing about premarital sex — and I’m talking about any kind of premarital sexual intimacy whatsoever, all you line-drawers — is not what it does to us, but what it does to God.

1. Some self-centered reasons not to do it: exposure to STDs, possibility of pregnancy, develops awkwardness, splits our hearts, confuses our decisions, makes us want more, adds credentials to our tickets to hell (not that we need any), uses people, etc.

2. The impotence of these reasons: My thoughts on sex have been taken captive, as so many of my fellows, in part by American sex education and in part by misunderstandings from church. My top three reasons for not having premarital sex were: afraid of dying (STDs), afraid of ruining my life (unplanned pregnancy), afraid of going to hell (“some sins are worse than others”). These are the self-centered reasons (flawed, indeed) I had for not engaging in premarital sex. They were not powerful enough to overcome my desires. Ultimately, I became a slave to sexual desires, and repeatedly fulfilled them in mind or deed, for over ten years.

3. The real reason not to do it: Having sexual intimacy and experiences outside of marriage dishonor and displease the God that made us and loves us. They go against the commitment of romance and the romance of commitment that He designed. They make relationships me-centered rather than God-centered first and other-centered second.

4. The gospel as the solution: God offers absolute forgiveness and an intimate relationship with Him. This relationship alone will quench unholy desires for premarital sex. Being religious (as I was) won’t cut it. We cannot fake a relationship with Christ, fitting Him in like a poodle, and expect His voice. This relationship is accessible to us, with all our flaws, only because of Jesus’ perfect life being sacrificed in place of our starkly imperfect lives.