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As someone who regularly writes books reviews, I thought I would share and recommend three new Adventist books that take three different approaches to the central theme and story of the Bible: Jesus, the salvation offered through His sacrifice, and how we are invited to respond to this.
Pursued by a Relentless God by Shawn Brace
Among the big words used to describe God—omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all-here)—Pursued by a Relentless God introduced me to a new descriptor of God: “omni-relational.” Pastor Shawn Brace urges the importance of understanding, appreciating and being the recipients of God’s all-pervading grace and love.
Pursued by a Relentless God begins with an exploration of the well-loved Psalm 23. Re-reading verse 6 as “Surely your goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life” (verse 6), Brace launches into an insightful retracing of God’s relentless pursuit of His people wherever and whenever they might be.
While exploring the well-traversed but always under-appreciated topic of God’s grace, Brace’s survey doesn’t stick with the expected, adding depth and breadth to this vital theme with insightful and fresh Bible study, giving significant attention to the Old Testament and seasoning his arguments with real-life stories.
Every so often—and probably more often than we do—we need to be reminded that the real meaning of being a Christian, a follower of God, is firstly to recognise and receive His astounding and abounding love for us. Pursued by a Relentless God points this out to us again and, doing it well, is important, encouraging and worthwhile reading.
The Green Cord Dream by Alex Bryan
In the continuing quest to rediscover, redefine and renew the Adventist identity, many voices and thinkers go back to stories from key periods of Adventist history. The Green Cord Dream follows in this endeavour, albeit from a sometimes-overlooked part of Adventist history. The dream of the book’s title was an experience of Ellen White as a 15 year old in 1842, a vision of Jesus prior to the Adventist disappointment of 1844.
The Green Cord Dream begins with that disappointment as the expected return of Jesus failed to happen but is quick to refocus on Jesus Himself. And, argues Alex Bryan, this Jesus-centrism continues to be the key to authentic Adventist identity and mission today. “We need green-cord dreams,” Bryan urges. “We need the One. We need Jesus.”
Bryan is senior pastor of the Walla Walla University Church and co-chair of The One Project (see <www.the1project.org>). Both these roles inform his passionate reflections in The Green Cord Dream. His final chapter suggests that Adventists have significant choices to make in their quest for identity—not something we inherit as much as we choose. In Bryan’s readable and provocative survey, our first choice must always be Jesus.
James: The Brother of Jesus by Trudy Morgan Cole
One of the key challenges surrounding the “old, old story” of Jesus is to keep it ever new, fresh and engaging. Although admitting her hesitation at attempting to re-tell a story of Jesus, author Trudy Morgan Cole has done this through the eyes of her title character, James—in her telling, the older step-brother of Jesus, eventual leader in the early church and author of the New Testament’s Book of James.
James portrays vividly the questions, fears, doubts and discoveries that the first followers of Jesus—including his human family—wrestled with as Jesus’ ministry grew. Those of us familiar with these stories can forget the challenges Jesus and His teaching offered, and that those experiencing this story firsthand did not yet know how it would end.
Immediately after reading James, I picked up Simply Jesus by theologian N T Wright and was struck by similarities in the two books’ descriptions of the social, political and religious landscape in which Jesus lived and died, demonstrating how a well-told biblical narrative can introduce its readers to ideas and insights based on good research. While Wright’s book is not difficult reading, James is likely to attract different readers to some of the same ways of discovery and appreciating anew the story of Jesus.
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