Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Max Lucado’s “For the Tough Times”

For the Tough Times Lucado, Max. For the Tough Times: Reaching Toward Heaven for Hope. Thomas Nelson (2008 reissue of 2006 For These Tough Times).

When I was asked to review Max Lucado’s book For the Tough Times it seemed providential. I had asked to review Karen James’ new book, Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mt. Hood Tragedy, but it had sold so well upon release that it had gone out of print and Nelson was reprinting it and had no review copies. And so, I was asked to review “For the Tough Times” instead. The timing, as I said, was providential. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and, concurrently, informed that my job would be ending at the end of January.

Lucado’s book is small (81 pages). It seems designed almost as a gift book. A book for a pastor to hand to a family in crisis; a book for a friend to attach to a flower arrangement at the funeral; a book for one friend to hand to another after a heart to heart talk over coffee. (It is an adaptation of articles previously published in America Looks Up, The Great House of God, In the Grip of Grace, and When Christ Comes.”) The theme of dealing with suffering and tough times is all around us. And Lucado deals with it typical Lucado style.

You either love Max Lucado’s writings or you hate them…and I would say the same is true of this little book. If you are looking for biblical theology, don’t look here. (His section on Satan as a tool of God is both biblically questionable as well as almost blasphemous to God). If you are looking for well-thought arguments, don’t look here. Lucado is often clichéd (“If he drove a car, your name would be on his bumper sticker. If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name in the bark.” Puh-lease, it doesn’t get more clichéd than that).

And yet…

I was blessed by the book. It spoke to me. I was genuinely touched by many of the illustrations he used. The word picture he uses to explain how and why we “magnify” God will stick with me for a long time. Reading in another place, I just sat and marveled at Lucado’s perception when he noted that before the raising of Lazarus, the messenger said, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Not:”The one who loves you is sick.” Lucado notes: “The power of the prayer…does not depend on the one who makes the prayer, but one the one who hears the prayer.” So many of us need to hear that. The effectiveness of our prayers are not determined by the fervency of our prayers and our love for Jesus. Our prayers are heard and answered because we are important (“loved”) by the eternal Christ.

Times can be tough (per the title). People do lose their jobs. People do get cancer. Even much worse happens in this sin-filled world. As David asked in Psalm 11:3: “When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?” Lucado’s answer is the same as David’s. A declaration that “The Lord is in his holy temple.” Look to Him. I would recommend this for situations similar to those mentioned above.

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