Book Review /// Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd

About Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

Does God's Wrath Define Christianity? Or Does God's Love? 
In his famous sermon - Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - Puritan revivalist Jonathan Edwards shaped predominating American theology with a vision of God as angry, violent, and retributive. Three centuries later, Brian Zahnd was both mesmerized and terrified by Edwards's wrathful God. Haunted by fear that crippled his relationship with God, Zahnd spent years praying for a divine experience of hell. 

What Zahnd experienced instead was the Father's love--revealed perfectly through Jesus Christ--for all prodigal sons and daughters. 

In Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd asks important questions like Is seeing God primarily as wrathful towards sinners true or biblical? Is fearing God a normal, expected behavior? And where might the natural implications of this theological framework lead us? 

Thoughtfully wrestling with subjects like Old Testament genocide, the crucifixion of Jesus, eternal punishment in hell, and the final judgment in Revelation, Zahnd maintains that the summit of divine revelation for sinners is not God is wrath, but God is love.

My Thoughts On Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

I really put this book through a thorough beating with all my highlighting passages and dog-earing so very many pages. This book will be one I keep in my permanent home library, and a read I'll gladly recommend to all of my blog followers + friends + family.

It did take me quite some time to finish reading this book, I'll admit. But it only took a few months because I felt like I had to stop every few pages to sift through the immense glorious weight of the words to be met with a deepening of both heart and wisdom in each chapter. This book really is scandalous, in that it contradicts and tests our previous perceptions of who God is, where heaven will be, and what true love and justice should look like (if you grew up in the same church denominations, with the same or similar biblical teachings that I did, that is, this will be utterly eye-opening for you, too, I imagine.) 

SITHOALG asks us questions such as: Is God really just an angry man in the clouds condemning sinners to hell, or is there more to Him? For some time now I have thought there was much more to God than all of these "anger man - old school uber fundy teachings," even before I read Zahnd's book, but I believe in The God of Gracious Love made perfectly known through Jesus Christ even more so now. God is compassion and grace and love and heaven itself with outstretched hands seeking to comfort and save, not to punish or damn away his children just because. We are not Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God as Puritan Revivalist Jonathan Edwards once taught, NO, instead we are Sinners in the Hands of a LOVING GOD revealed to us through The Son of Man who is Love. 

I could go on and on about this freeing/challenging book, and someday I just might, but for now I'm gonna shut up about the revelatory amazingness that was Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God and just ask you to go pick up a copy and meditate on these words. 

My Favorite Exceedingly-Eye-Opening Lines + Passages from Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

"We must constantly resist the temptation to cast ourselves in the role of those who deserve mercy while casting those outside our circle in the role of those who deserve vengeance. Jesus will have no part of that ugly tribalism and triumphalism. Clinging to our lust for vengeance, we lose Jesus. But if we can say amen to Jesus closing the book on vengeance, then Jesus will remain with us to teach us the more excellent way of love." [page 45]

"It's not biblical justice that we pursue but Christlike justice. Biblical justice may call for the punitive measures of stoning sinners and executing idolaters, but Christ clearly calls us to a higher ethic of mercy." [page 59]

"If we claim that it was God who required the crucifixion of Jesus, we seek to clothe with false dignity the very structures of sin that Jesus deliberately stripped bare and put to open shame in his death!" [page 107]

"Revelation isn't about the violent end of the world; it's about the end of the evil of violence. The book of Revelation doesn't anticipate the end of God's good creation; it anticipates the end of death-wielding empire." [page 155]

"The big story the Bible tells doesn't end with people going off to heaven but with heaven coming to earth. The coming of New Jerusalem is celebrated as a great wedding. Just as Jesus began his earthly ministry at the wedding in Cana, now the ascended Christ presides over the marriage of heaven and earth." [pages 186-187]

"God saves the world not through the impatience of violence but through the infinite patience of divine love." [page 206]

Stars In The Vast Sea of Books!? FIVE STAR WONDER! ****

About the Author

Brian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. As the lead pastor, he is the primary preacher during our weekend services, and he oversees the direction of the church. Pastor Brian is a passionate reader of theology and philosophy, an avid hiker and mountain climber, and authority on all things Bob Dylan.

He and his wife, Peri, have three adult sons and five grandchildren. He is the author of several books, including Unconditional?, Beauty Will Save the World, A Farewell To Mars, and Water To Wine.

Twitter: @BrianZahnd
Instagram: @brianzahnd

Big shout out to Blogging for Books, as I received this book from them for this review.

Book Review /// Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen

About Nothing To Prove

No More Pretending. No More Performing. No More Fighting to Prove Yourself. Are you trying your best to measure up—yet you still feel as if you’re losing ground? You are not alone. Jennie Allen understands the daily struggle so many of us face with the fear that we are not enough. And she invites us into a different…

My Thoughts On Nothing To Prove

I enjoyed savoring this easy, yet perfectionist-person-challenging, read, which basically meant this book was written for people exactly like myself. Ha. Because I'm one of those try-too-hard types, too, and this book was exactly the real-grace-talk I needed. It felt like an equal helping of an oh-so-needed-girls-talk-sesh, a bible study, and Jennie's own personal life-story wrapped into a pretty gold studded blue book. And it all worked. This is a book I'll be passing around to my girlfriends, for sure! 

Andalsoplustoo, my favorite chapter was No Longer Passive. It was one of those chapters that stays with you long after you read it--it is most defintely one that the church should be focusing on right now.

My Favorite Lines + Passages from Nothing To Prove

"The old cheap wine of measuring up and stale religion is gone. But the new wine answers our deepest craving--and it never runs out. The nearness of Jesus is enough to infuse joy in the midst of everyday experiences." [pg. 90-91]

"It was the beauty and the creativity and the glorious nature of uniquely crafted individuals, learning to appreciate and love what is different instead of fearing it. I had built a world that looked jut like me. In moving outside the box I had erected, I saw more of God. I saw how diverse and good His Kingdom is." [pg. 152-153]

"We tend to make most of our decisions based on our fears rather than on our faith." [pg. 155]

Stars In The Vast Sea of Books!? FOUR STAR WONDER! ****

About the Author
Jennie Allen is a recovering achiever who is passionate about Jesus. She is the best-selling author of Anything and Restless, as well as the founder and visionary for the million-strong IF:Gathering, which exists to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation to live out their purpose. 
Jennie speaks frequently at conferences such as Catalyst and Q. She holds a master’s degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Zac, and their four children. 
Twitter: @JennieAllen
Instagram: @JennieSAllen

Big shout out to Blogging for Books, as I received this book from them for this review.

Book Review /// A Call To Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve by Mother Teresa

About A Call To Mercy

Published to coincide with Pope Francis's Year of Mercy and the Vatican's canonization of Mother Teresa, this new book of unpublished material by a humble yet remarkable woman of faith whose influence is felt as deeply today as it was when she was alive, offers Mother Teresa’s profound yet accessible wisdom on how we can show mercy and compassion in our day-to-day lives.
For millions of people from all walks of life, Mother Teresa's canonization is providentially taking place during Pope Francis's Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This is entirely fitting since she is seen both inside and outside of the Church as an icon of God's mercy to those in need. 
Compiled and edited by Brian Kolodiejckuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood, A Call to Mercy presents deep yet accessible wisdom on how we can show compassion in our everyday lives. In her own words, Mother Teresa discusses such topics 
        the need for us to visit the sick and the imprisoned
        the importance of honoring the dead and informing the ignorant
        the necessity to bear our burdens patiently and forgive willingly
        the purpose to feed the poor and pray for all
        the greatness of creating a “civilization of love” through personal service to others
Featuring never before published testimonials by people close to Mother Teresa as well as prayers and suggestions for putting these ideas into practice, A Call to Mercy is not only a lovely keepsake, but a living testament to the teachings of a saint whose ideas are important, relevant and very necessary in the 21st century.

My Thoughts On A Call To Mercy

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit how long it has taken me to read through A Call To Mercy (ahem, let's just say a couple months and leave it at that, 'kay!?), as I've been going through a few incredibly rough life challenges + changes that required compassion and mercy, yes, even for myself. That said, this book was just what I needed to pick up and read off and on for the last few months -- there is hope and love and compassion and mercy to be found in these pages; stories full of hope and humanity and suffering and redemption and grief and horror and sacrificial love and what it looks like to show compassion in everyday life. It was an amazing read about an amazing woman and an amazing God. And, yeah, it was a hard read, especially for those like myself who are empaths (super-feelers), but it was such an amazing, moving -- life and faith altering, truly -- and challenging read, nonetheless. This is a book I will be keeping on my bookshelf, and pulling out for when I need to intimately become reacquainted with hope and suffering and faith and mercy towards others, and myself, again and again and again.

My Favorite Lines from A Call To Mercy (so far...)

"The pain of hunger is terrible and that is where you and I must come and give until it hurts. I want you to give until it hurts. And this giving is love of God in action. Hunger is not only for bread, hunger is for love." [pg. 4]

"Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world but let us radiate the peace of God and extinguish all hatred and love of power in the world and in the hearts of men." [pg.14]

"Give whatever you can, and if you have nothing, do not worry; give your hands to serve and hearts to love. By helping others, you will be rewarded with peace and joy." [pg. 22]

Stars In The Vast Sea of Books!? FIVE WHOLE STARS! *****

  About the Author

MOTHER TERESA was born in Skopje (present-day Macedonia) in 1910, and joined the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin in 1928.  She left the Loreto order in 1948 to begin the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.  Her service to the poorest of the poor became her life’s work.  She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003. 

FATHER BRIAN KOLODIEJCHUK, M.C. the editor of the New York Times bestseller, Come Be My Light met Mother Teresa in 1977 and was associated with her until her death in 1997.  He is postulator of the cause of the beatification and canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Director of the Mother Teresa Center.

Big shout out to Blogging for Books, as I received this book from them for this review.