In a world full of injustice, poverty, oppression, and malaise, it is easy to become hardened, cynical, and disengaged. The believer in Christ, however, is called to something greater-- to reflect Jesus to all men, especially those who are in distress.
This is the theme of Max Lucado's newest book, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference. Among my fellow members of churches of Christ, the name "Max Lucado" often evokes images of "apostate" and "change agent." Once part of the churches of Christ, Lucado has certainly accommodated his own views, along with those of his congregation, to be acceptable to Evangelicalism as a greater whole. This is truly lamentable considering Lucado's great skill at communicating to others.
Outlive Your Life uses the events of Acts 1-12 as a paradigm for discussing what God expects from believers today. Each chapter begins with a Scripture and ends with a Scripture and a suggested prayer. Chapters feature matters like the ordinary nature of God's servants, the need to get out of our shells, to put the greater (spiritual) good ahead of lesser (physical) ones, to work with fellow Christians, to be hospitable, to assist others in need, to stand up in the face of persecution, to do good, to be a source of strength for the dispossessed, to remain humble before God, to remove prejudices in life, to resist arrogance, to pray continually, and, based on Matthew 25, remember that when you help people in distress you help Jesus. The book ends with a discussion and action guide designed to promote further discussion and action.
Lucado is a very vivid author. He seamlessly takes you from the first century to the twenty-first century with his illustrations and examples (although I wished that he would keep the first century as the first century and the twenty-first as the twenty-first and not blend the images as he does occasionally!). He writes in a familiar and understandable way.
On the whole, the book is theologically sound and has a message that must be proclaimed. It is good to see that some elements of concern for the dispossessed and the need to practice authentic Christianity is being proclaimed by more voices within greater Christendom; the sooner Christendom sheds the sanctimonious, interested-only-in-sexual-mores "Moral Majority" image, the better. Nevertheless, there are a few challenges: Lucado's embrace of ecumenism, occasional looseness in handling the Biblical narrative, and the dizzying leapfrogging from Bible translation to Bible translation.
Yet this should not diminish from the overall excellence of Outlive Your Life. It is a necessary call in the midst of a time and place more devoted to materialism and consumerism than authentic New Testament Christianity and its emphasis on clearing prejudice, assisting the downtrodden and dispossessed, and reliance on God and not self. May many come to a better understanding of these truths!
*-- book received as part of an early review program.