There's no question that the Bible challenges most readers, with (in several of the most popular versions) its archaic language, remote lifestyles and mores, and sometimes contradictory versions of the same story from one book to the next. Certainly the Old and New Testaments put the emphasis on very different aspects of faith, from law to love, and even the most determined reader can become frustrated and confused in their quest for enlightenment. What a new four-book series from authors Patrick B. Lawless and James R. Fisher aims to do is make the Bible more accessible -- and thus useful -- to today's Christians, one biblical book at a time.
The "Christian Gospels Alive" project focuses, just like it looks, on the four (non-gnostic) gospels: the first books of the New Testament, four unique versions of the same story -- the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ. John Alive! kicks off this ambitious series, serving as a modern translation of John's Gospel using contemporary vernacular and dramatizing the events and characters in its tale of humanity, divinity, acceptance and faith.
But this is more than a simple rewording for clarity and dramatic effect. Lawless and Fisher intersperse simple but profound questions throughout each chapter (which correspond to the actual chapters of the Gospel of John), provoking readers to pause and consider the nature of their own relationships to God. At each chapter's end, the authors share insights they've gained from that portion of John's story, and reveal their own intimate struggles and triumphs in the walk of faith. So it is that John Alive! moves beyond the arena of mere religio-historical fiction into the realm of reflection and study. This is a devotional, one that is designed for the individual but proves useful to Bible study groups as well.
Fewer and fewer are those professed Christians who pick up a Bible every day to read and reflect upon a passage, who use regular contact with the book of their faith to really live their faith. From the choosing of the Apostles to convincing the famously reluctant Thomas that Christ was indeed arisen, John Alive! makes the tale of Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection real, tangible, alive for modern seekers of a deeper, truer faith. This book is so earnest, so honest and hopeful, that not even typos can really annoy the nitpicking reader. It's an open expression of love and evangelism by two unusual men of faith - one, a lifelong military man who works with computers and has a philosophy degree; the other, a Harley-riding Air Force-brat top Naval chaplain. They've put an important part of the Bible's message within reach of those of us who need it.