"Jesus > Religion" by Jefferson Bethke
The one thing that turned me off to the book right from the beginning, (and turns me off from most of this hyper-grace, individual culture stuff), was Bethke seemingly parading his freedom to drink beer and somehow championing that as making him relational, not religious. Later in the book, he does cover making a brother/sister stumble with our freedoms and convictions, but he lost me from the start. I know that probably makes me religious in this culture's eyes. So be it. I'm not big on the shock and awe factor. To me, it creates an atmosphere kin to the little boy crying wolf. If I have to keep shocking you into attention, you'll grow numb to my attempts and probably grow cold. Someone is going to say, "We should never get to a point where we're not in shock and awe of God." Now who's being religious. I'm being too hard on the guy. I know I am. I just get aggravated with this stuff. I'm sure Bethke is an awesome guy that I would probably be friends with if we ever met. He spoke honestly of his struggles as his mother came to him a few years back and stated that she was a lesbian. I empathize with him. I can't imagine. And I admire his courage to love her, but still tell her that she's wrong. Overall, it's a good read. It was on sale for $5 at Lifeway, and it was worth the buy.
"Overrated" by Eugene Cho
"Sinners Creed" by Scott Stapp
Stapp endured years of physical and emotional abuse from a legalistic step-father after Stapp's own father abandoned the family when he was a small child. His step-father would beat Stapp every Monday for his sins, claiming that even if he couldn't recall committing any, he probably thought sinful thoughts and needed the rod of correction. Stapp was beat when he was unable to speak in tongues growing up in church though he got in prayer line after prayer line. His step-father made him write ten and twenty page papers over books of the Bible for punishment and then used what he gave him to teach his Sunday School class. The list of atrocities goes on and on. Stapp was a great athlete and had several offers from major universities, but his step-father got rid of them and forced him to attend Lee. At Lee, Stapp tells of a time with a few of his friends, some higher up in the denomination, where they experimented with drugs. Stapp claims to have admitted what he did and was kicked out of school, while the other two young men got away with it. He talks about the band and what led to their breakup, and what eventually led to his own breakdown. Stapp has wrestled with his faith his whole life considering his upbringing and knowledge of the Word. His story is tragic in so many ways. The book ended on a good note where Stapp had got himself together, was releasing his second Christian album, and was happily married with a great family life. However, after the book's release, Stapp had a relapse with alcohol and painkillers and started having psychotic breakdowns that were well publicized in the news. Stapp was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and went through a treatment program. In his latest interviews and statements, he seems to be doing so much better, and as a fan, I'm hoping for nothing but the best for him and his family. Hopefully we get some new music later on, but the most important thing is that he finds healing and that his family remains strong. The book is an eye-opener, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
"The Faith of George W. Bush" by Stephen Mansfield
"Enemies of the Heart" by Andy Stanley
"The Closer" by Mariano Rivera
That said, read this book. Mariano Rivera is a true man of God and a great example of Jesus Christ. In the book, Rivera talks about his upbringing in Central America and how he was discovered. He talks about his journey to the major leagues and how God blessed him and opened doors for him every step of the way. He says it was God who helped him learn how to throw in the mid to high 90's out of the blue one day while getting ready for a game. He also claims it was God who taught him his signature "cutter" pitch that completely devastated hitters for years on route to Rivera becoming the all-time saves leaders in Major League Baseball history. After retiring, Rivera and his wife purchased an old run down church building about to be bulldozed and reopened it. The two pastor the church in New York and continue doing great things for the kingdom of God. If you're a baseball fan, you'll love the book. If you're a Christian, you'll love the book. If you're a Braves fan like me, you'll still love the book.