Book Review: “Pujols: More Than the Game” by Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb

In a day when heroes seem hard to find in the sports world, in the words of ESPN college football personality Lee Corso, Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb say, “Not so fast my friend” in their biography of three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols, Pujols: More Than the Game.

Beginning with his humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic, the authors chronicle Pujols’s migration to America and to the game of baseball, which, as Ellsworth and Lamb point out, is the real religion of Pujols’s native land. But the book is more than a history of his life and his baseball career, although the baseball fan will not be disappointed by how much of the sport is discussed. Beyond that, however, the authors set out to show that Pujols is more than just the guy we see nightly on SportsCenter from April to October. He is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many athletes appeal to God, but all too often their lives don’t match up with those emotional acclamations of praise to the Creator. Pujols is different. Being led to the Lord by, Deidre, the woman who would become his wife, Pujols approaches the Christian faith like he approaches the game of baseball: all out. From seeking out ways to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with teammates to showing uncustomary concern for injured players (and even fans) to starting a foundation with his wife to express their faith in helping people, particularly those with Down Syndrome and orphans in the DR, Pujols is shown by the authors to be someone who is an authentic Christian.

Much like the Scriptures do not attempt to hide the faults of heroes of the faith like Abraham, Moses, David, or Peter, Ellsworth and Lamb do not attempt to hide the faults of the man nicknamed “The Machine.” Pujols is a sinner saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. At the risk of repeating a cliched bumper sticker, Pujols is not perfect, just forgiven, and that clearly has had ramifications for the way he has lived his life.

Baseball fans rightly lament the fact so many “heroes” of the game have fallen in what has been dubbed “the steroid era.” Pujols has always denied using these drugs and no one has ever brought forth any accusations with any meat on the bones. The authors make a case why we should trust Pujols, with few of their reasons based on the lack of evidence, but most based on how his faith in Jesus Christ is clearly demonstrated in his life.

At the end of the book this reader is thankful that it really seems when Pujols says, “Don’t be afraid to believe in me,” we know that is based on his own personal faith in Christ, and we can believe.

View all my reviews

Book Review: “King’s Cross” by Timothy Keller

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Timothy Keller
Dutton Adult, 2011, 256 pages

* * * * (4/5 stars)

I am preaching through the Gospel of Mark so I was eager to open this one up and read it immediately. After finishing I can say that it will stay open from time to time as a resource for sermon preparation. Tim Keller writes at an easy to understand level, yet provides insights the most seasoned believing student of the Scriptures can appreciate. He is much like John MacArthur in that regard. The book takes you through the Gospel of Mark.

This isn’t a commentary on the whole book, but Keller ends up dealing with a great deal of the book as he highlights major events in the ministry of Christ. He also picks his spots in dissecting a word and bringing out the meaning of the original language (although at one point his theological persuasion comes out in saying that immersion is merely the “older meaning” of the word for baptism). Keller rightly emphasizes Mark’s thesis: Jesus is the Son of God; and he shows the necessity and beauty of how Jesus the King went to the cross.

Chapters are laid out nicely. You can easily read a chapter in a few minutes and pick it up again later. I suggest a pen to underline or make notes on the side (but I always do that). In particular, my favorite chapters were “The Stain” (dealing with Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees over traditional cleansings, “The Approach” (Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman), “The Mountain” (dealing with the Transfiguration), and “The End” (dealing with the cross, in which I especially appreciated Keller’s thoughts about darkness in relation to the darkness between the sixth and ninth hours of Good Friday.

For anyone studying Mark this will prove an invaluable companion volume.

The only reasons I am going with four stars on the rating and not five is a) if you make everything very good five stars then the rating loses its meaning (like how the Baseball Hall of Fame becomes the Hall of Very Good), and b) the book seemed a little overly heavy with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien references (but admittedly, that may just be a personal thing with me). Still, I heartily recommend this one.

Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women

Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with YouTwelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John F. MacArthur Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve long benefited from the ministry of Dr. MacArthur and read several of his books. As a pastor I have found that he can write in such a manner as to edify both the seasoned, mature Christian and the new believer. His “Twelve Ordinary Men” was a valuable resource this past fall as I preached sermons on each of the apostles. When I took up our church’s adult Sunday School class for a while, I thought doing a series on women, using this book, would be beneficial.

And I was right. MacArthur basically is writing profile pieces on twelve women of the Bible. Christianity is often accused of being patriarchal, but MacArthur aptly points out how Christianity, and Judaism before it, has always treated women with more esteem than the culture (today included). Thus, his profiles on these women and their faithfulness ultimately point us to the Savior of men and women, Jesus Christ.

I would highly recommend this book for men and women, but obviously particularly women. It would be great for a women’s study as well. If you want to simply know more about the women of the Bible, this is a great place to start.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Decision Points by George W. Bush

I enthusiastically voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and did so again, happily if not quite as enthusiastically, in 2004. Like many Americans, I was ready for a change by the time 2008 rolled around, although it wasn’t the type of change either the Democratic or Republican Party was offering.

Now the former President has released a much-anticipated autobiography titled Decision Points, an unexhaustive, unchronological look at his life and presidency, presented thematically based on some of the biggest decisions he made. It is a refreshing approach and provides for a very interesting and informative read.

There are fourteen chapters in the book, at least six of which are heavily influenced by what transpired on 9/11 and the war of terror that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nine years have passed since that harrowing day and America at large has gone back to business as usual, or worse, they have willfully forgotten about it. It is clear from this book that President Bush not only never forgot, but it guided every decision he made for the remainder of his presidency. Continue reading “Book Review: Decision Points by George W. Bush”

Book Review: “You Can Change” by Tim Chester

Chester, Tim. You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 192 pp. $15.99.

You can change. You can change. You can change.

It’s a message so simple and promising, bandied about in various forms by psychologists, counselors, TV hosts, politicians, and authors (yes, even those espousing to be followers of Christ). Yet, for all its simplicity, the majority of discussion, advices, and words written on the subject are nothing but emptiness. One can understand, then, why a reader might be skeptical about opening a book with this particular title. Such was the case when I bought and opened You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions by Tim Chester.

That skepticism, as it relates to this book, is completely unfounded.

You Can Change is, I think, the best book I have read in years, and maybe the best book I’ve ever read regarding sanctification (or, as Chester helpfully defines it, tranformation). This short review is intended to let you know what to expect should you, hopefully, pick it up your yourself. Continue reading “Book Review: “You Can Change” by Tim Chester”

Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

Make no mistake about it. This is a book about theology in the guise of fiction, and it is dangerous at that. How any Christian bookstore can justify placing this on its shelves is beyond me. I have read many reviews about how people have had their view of God challenged, transformed, or, to take a word from the After Words of the book, revolutionized. Unfortunately, though, this book goes to great depths to undermine the very revelation of God Himself to the world.

…the Bible somehow left his hand… (115)

Christians believe that the sixty-six books constituting the Old and New Testaments are the sole authoritative and infallible source of God revealing Himself to us. The Bible itself exhorts the disciple of Jesus Christ to study to show himself approved. It is the “word” that is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our paths.

The Shack, however, places communication with God on a face-to-face level that has not existed since man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. While we as human beings might long for something tangible that we can see and hear and touch, the Bible teaches that faith is the evidence of things not seen, the assurance of things hoped for. The author associates searching the Scriptures with Sunday prayers and hymns that “weren’t cutting it anymore… Cloistered spirituality… little religious social clubs” which left the main character, Mack, wanting more (66). These are not so veiled shots at not only the sufficiency of Scripture, but against the church. Young uses pejorative and prejudicial language that takes the worst presuppositions about the church and assumes them as universally true for all who might hold to a high view of the Bible. Continue reading “Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young”