Thursday, December 2, 2010

Outliving Your Life @MaxLucado @christianaudio @caReviewers

I haven't read one of Max Lucado's books in a long time, but I get his weekly email devotionals. So when I had the opportunity to review his latest book through a complimentary copy of the audiobook from christianaudio, I jumped at the chance.

Outlive Your Life's subtitle is You Were Made to Make a Difference. Honestly, I didn't catch the connection of the title and subtitle with the content of the book until the very end, but then it all made sense. The basic premise is that our contributions to the world and the Kingdom of God can last long beyond our earthly lives based on caring for others.

The premise and message of the book is excellent. I wouldn't say it's anything remarkably profound. It's very consistent with much of the discussions on missional and social justice work. However, Lucado has a great style that makes ideas down-to-earth and understandable and reasonable to anyone. I loved how he began each chapter with a biblical story or a contemporary story related to breaking down barriers and caring for others. The rest of the chapter interprets these tales, again making them seem like something we all could participate in in some fashion. In fact, his website has links to several practical ways to engage in caring for others. One idea with which I was unfamiliar and really like is microfinance. It's a relatively accessible way to make a significant difference in others' lives (his story about this is powerful).

I also appreciate the prayers with which Lucado ended each of his chapters. It was a nice way of remembering that this work is not done for the building of oneself or for secular ideas of social justice, but as a dedication to Christ.

This celebration of Christ through social justice makes the book uniquely evangelical in a good way. Actually, this was more of the impact for me personally than the message of the book. Again, the ideas are things with which I agree and have heard many times. However, hearing the presentation of the concepts from a conservative evangelical like Lucado is very refreshing.

As readers of my blog know, I have struggled with some of the styles and emphases of evangelicalism in creating an "us-them" sort of ethos. Lucado roundly shuts down that idea. In contrast, he emphasizes that Christ broke down boundaries and worked to include people rather than exclude people. Evangelicalism needs more people like Lucado who hold strong convictions without condemnation.

With regard to the actual audiobook, it was well-produced and well-read. The narrator, Dan Butler, did a nice job showing passion and appropriate reflection. However, like I have said many times, I wished Lucado would have read it himself. Having heard him speak live before, it was odd hearing a very different type of voice reading his words. Also, I listened to most of it with my wife during our trip to and from Fresno to visit her family for Thanksgiving. Butler's voice was a bit too soothing, so we had to turn the audiobook off a couple of times to stay awake (not because of the content! :) ). But it was still a great listen and very encouraging and refreshing, giving me more faith in evangelicalism again!

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