Category Archives: Religion

Everybody, Always by Goff

I’d heard so much good stuff about Goff’s Love Does (2012) with 3000+ reviews on Amazon with a 5 star rating! I was excited to get my hands on his follow-up book, Everybody, Always (2018), which also has a 5 star rating with over 1200 reviews on Amazon. With so many people loving these books, I was bummed to find that I had mixed feelings.

Everybody, Always
by Bob Goff
Thomas Nelson
April 2018

Before I get into the things I wasn’t enthusiastic about, let me first say that I listened to this audiobook read by Goff himself and it was excellent. Goff is clearly a true believer and his enthusiasm and story telling are outstanding. There is almost nothing in this book that I wouldn’t want people to emulate or attempt to do in their own life. But there are some thing I think Goff responds to by going from one extreme to the opposite extreme. From legalism to hyper grace, from in-your-face proselytizing to vague loving acts. I think at root here, Goff has too much faith in humanity’s ability and desire to be good and do good works. Let me give some examples.

Goff seems to believe that humans are inherently good. At one point he says that the difference between the sheep and the goats (Matt 25) was those who “just didn’t know what to do so they did nothing.” That is absolutely not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is calling out a callousness of heart. Goff is making excuses for the goats. Which is it? The total depravity of mankind means that we are inherently selfish and sinful. We don’t always premeditatedly sin, but to say we sin only on accident is equally incorrect. We choose to give and love because He first loved us. Without this regeneration, we could do good things sometimes but we wouldn’t actually be good. So unregenerate people aren’t frozen by a lack of understanding how to take care of those in need. They don’t want to. Those are the goats Jesus is talking about.

He also focuses on good works without providing the reason why we are doing them (the hope that lies within). When I heard Goff say, over and over, that you don’t need to tell people about Jesus, but just love people like he did I recoiled. There are so many stories, like, how he sometimes buys 20 In-N-Out burgers and drives around giving them out to people who are hungry. This is a great story and I agree that it is definitely a loving and kind thing to do – something we are commanded to do by God. But the reason for why we should do this is where I’m confused and I think Goff is missing the whole picture. Why do we love people? Because Christ first loved us. Do we love only because of Christ? Do we love only when it’s a selling point for Christianity? Of course not. But why one or the other? Why not both? I wondered about the motive here. Is our motive to make the world less sucky? Or is it to point a dying world to the life-giver?

Goff says things that lead me to believe that the whole purpose of Christianity is to love our neighbors with good works “patience, kindness and understanding.” But nothing at all about making disciples. In case you think I’m splitting hairs, it’s not me! He keeps making division where none needs be.

“Knowing things about the Bible is terrific, but I’d trade in a dozen bible studies for a bucket full of love and acceptance. And truth be told, so would everyone around us.” Why not both? We learn to love by learning about God’s love for us, which is in the Bible. Studying the Bible is where we learn our purpose – and it’s not just kindness, patience and understanding. It’s also speaking truth, teaching others about God and the right way to live (disciplining).

Ironically, Goff continues to tell us to not tell others about their behavior and how to act yet his whole book is his attempt to tell us how to live.

Goff, to me, is an example of an overreaction to the hyper legalism of those who stand with signs and shake their finger at the sinful world around them. So turned off by the unloving attitude and behavior, Goff responds by going too far toward “loving” that they go from one rut on the side of the road, across the road to the rut on the other side. The narrow path is a razor’s edge that’s difficult to stay on. We have to avoid judgmentalism, legalism, finger pointing and disdain AND total affirmation of the unrepentant and good works.

One last thing. I was struck by was the overwhelming sense that Goff’s life is richer than mine and probably most of the people who would read this. I mean richer in the sense of he is clearly richer than the average reader. He buys cars and airplanes and houses whenever he wants. He travels half a million miles a year. He can do anything he wants. But I can’t and probably you can’t either.
For instance, he gets a collect call from a prison, which costs $9.95. He accepts that call at least three times in that story, then buys an ankle bracelet that costs so much that Goff says he “gasps and clutched his chest” but he pays it for a stranger. I tried to find how much that would by searching online and it looks like this was probably a couple hundred bucks to set up then maybe $10-20 a day. Goff said this bracelet costs him a “bundle.” This one story has Goff paying an unexpected several hundred dollar charge. The stories in the previous chapters where he rents airplanes or even buys a water airplane are even more. Can you afford this? I can’t. So as I listened I kept thinking that many of these stories were out of touch with average Christian.

This isn’t to suggest that if we get that call that costs $9.95 we shouldn’t accept it. We should. And we should give out food, donate to the Goodwill or shelters, volunteer time for charities and be kind to people we meet. It was that I was turned off by Goff’s generally expensive examples of these. It didn’t come across as encouraging, but discouraging. It felt like I was reading about the privileges of wealth were a guy tells us about all his extra time, extra money and perfect family with his daredevil sky diving and airplane flying son and his “Sweet Maria.”

Like I said at the beginning of this review, I liked the book for the most part. And if a reader hears and acts more loving then great! But I think this is a shallow Christianity that has more in common with the feel good Osteen faith than the real Gospel that focuses on not just making someone feel better in their sin, but helping them find life and relationship with Christ and feeling better about the freedom that they now have from sin.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Anders

Can you get a good exegetical understanding of the Bible and the theology therein in only a month? Possibly.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible
by Max Anders
Thomas Nelson
October 2018

This is actually an expanded thirteenth anniversary edition of Anders’ book. I’d never heard of it or read it before. It’s fascinating! Like a survey course in college this book goes a little deeper than normal studies but not quite as deep as higher level classes. I read through several and liked the way that he presented the information, allowed for repetition and fill in the blanks and then sometimes allows time for a test.

Speaking of time: there is no way that normal readers will get through this in 15 minutes! Some chapters, to be done right, will take 30 minutes or more. There is a lot of data to learn in each chunk. The good news is that the data is worth learning. So the extra time is worth it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. 

Unbelievable? by Brierley

I have had occasion to listen to the podcast by the same name by Brierley and found it interesting and worth my time, but how would a book work? Like he explains in the beginning chapters, this book is the first apologetic he’s written directly to readers and listeners.

Unbelievable?
Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I’m still a Christian
By Justin Brierley
SPCK
June 2017

Brierley comes across as thoughtful, if somewhat basic (if you read apologetics you’ll have already heard most of this.) Where the book shines is in his stories about his guests and their debates. It’s a short read and worth it, especially for fans and those who are interested in the topic but don’t want a more dense volume.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Surprised by Hope by Wright

My daughter was reading this in a NT college class so I read along with her. This is Wright’s attempt to refocus Christians on the resurrection that happens at the point of salvation, here and now, instead of a future hope in an otherworldly heaven.

Surprised by Hope
Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the of the Church

by N.T. Wright
HarperOne
February 2008

I found the book to be both challenging as well as explanatory. Challenging in the sense that we can work towards bringing the Kingdom here without going full Social Gospel, which I think can become a works oriented, and sometimes idolatrous, gospel. We can find a balance between God does the changing/ fixing and we were created for good works. It’s a balance that I haven’t solved, but I’m convinced I should be doing a better job living the Kingdom now.

It was also explanatory in the sense that I have, seemingly apart from Christianity, come to believe that the escapism of the modern western church is wrong and that I feel strongly that certain injustices should be addressed. I believe that mistreatment of creation (environment) and animals (factory farms) is wrong, that the enslavement of people literally and through debt or poverty is wrong, and that the wrongs we see around us aren’t just supposed to make us upset or tut-tut, but should spur us to action. Feeling that way but being raised in a Western church didn’t mix and didn’t give me a justification for these feelings being Biblically based calls to action and definitely not connected to resurrection or the Kingdom. Wright connected the dots for me.

I recommend this book highly.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Abolition of Man by Lewis

This very short collection of lectures is a fascinating look at a mid last century argument against, what I believe we now call, postmodernism.

The Abolition of Man
by C.S. Lewis
1943

Lewis argues most vigorously against the attack on reason that a couple authors of a school text make, knowingly or not. The idea that sets Lewis off is a seeming rejection of objective reality; that things are objectively true regardless of our opinions. He carefully makes his argument without referring to Christianity or any religion at all, but falls back on what he calls the Tao or – and Lewis readers will recognize this one – natural law.

This argument is a winning one, but unfortunately we see that nearly 80 years later society has embraced it. Postmodernism and relativism rule academia and culture. “My truth” and “your truth” are accepted even though they don’t exist, objectively. “That’s how you see it” or “That’s your opinion” have not only been shown to be as destructive as Lewis anticipated but lead to exactly where he warns us: the death, or abolition, of all objective knowledge.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Great Divorce by Lewis

I’ve read this classic before and revisiting this quick read is definitely worth it.

The Great Divorce
By C.S. Lewis
1945

For those that don’t know, the whole story is a dream that the main character has of waking up in Hell in a line for a bus that is taking a trip to Heaven. In Heaven we observe several miserable visitors as they are wooed and pleaded with to join citizens of Heaven (that they knew in life).

The story is very reminiscent of Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in that we aren’t supposed to take this as a true theology of Heaven and Hell, but instead we are to see the character and decisions we make in choosing Hell over Heaven. While Screwtape takes the point of view of a tempter of vice, this book takes the point of view of the sinner choosing vice. So long as we see this book from that perspective and not an attempt at theology of Heaven – or an attempt to paint Lewis as a Universalist – this is a great book.

Insightful as always and cutting for those of us who still struggle to choose Joy instead of Self. With the reminder ever so often.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Blessed are the Misfits by Hanson

I don’t often listen to the radio but I’m always excited when Brant comes on. He speaks clearly and with love. He knows the Bible well and, I think, has a good grasp of God as well. So I was excited to read his new book. It wasn’t a let down.

Blessed are the Misfits
by Brant Hanson
Thomas Nelson
November 2017

This book is about how those of us who are introverted, different, odd, and even those of us who may have a syndrome like Brant’s Aspergers, can find a place in the largest of big tents in God’s kingdom.

I found a lot to relate to and a release on certain aspects of my faith that just wasn’t like everyone else’s, and that I subconsciously blamed on myself. I must not be seeking God enough. That’s why I didn’t feel his presence at church this week. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. Definitely worth the read.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Paul Behaving Badly by Richards and O’Brien

A book that asks the question, is the Apostle Paul a racist, chauvinist jerk?

Paul Behaving Badly
by Richards and O’Brien
IVP
November 2016

I found it to be an excellent resource on questions and topics that come up frequently in discussion about Christianity, like, the role of women, homosexuality, and Paul’s sometimes aggressive arrogance. Each section digs into the claims to make the case against Paul and then domains the truth about him using historical criticism and exegesis.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible

This isn’t just a study Bible for kids!

NIV Kid’s Visual Study Bible
Zondervan
June 2017

The only thing that sets this Bible apart from other study Bibles for adults is that the cover says this is for kids. This has study notes, pictures, maps, explanations and descriptions just like what you would find in your adult or teen study Bible. Everything is easy to understand and at a reading level that older children can comprehend. (My 10 year old was able to read the notes with no issues.)

Normally, I don’t like seeing a ton of new versions of the same study Bibles, but in this case I think this is one that stands apart for how comprehensive it is with the notes and visual aspects. I already had a couple of study Bibles for my two young sons, but this one will preplace those as the go to version.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher and Handlebar as a review copy.

Befriend by Sauls

Befriend will challenge and encourage us to examine our hearts when it comes to moving towards “other” with the same love Jesus has towards us. Saul’s honesty and vulnerability makes it easy to swallow and stomach the hard truths we ignore when it comes to our prejudices towards “others” that don’t fit in to our norms. Very good book that I highly recommend.


Victoria Mason is a married, stay-at-home mom of six who loves learning, reading and studying God.

This book was provided by the publisher for review.