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(Excerpts from each book are below.)
A Search for Common Ground (100 pages) is a book for anyone. If you know someone who is different from you in their perspective on life and their view of things, yet you are friends and want to have something to discuss together, I think this would be a good book. It will gently challenge most angles. It has Thought/Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter.
Peace Within Reach (70 pages) is an expanded, illustrated explanation of the Gospel–God’s rescue of a person from the grip of sin. It has Thought/Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter.
Excerpts from A Search for Common Ground:
- INTRODUCTION: “My work on this book began after reading some billboards in my city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The billboards were sponsored by a local Free Thinkers group, and they were placed along busy streets throughout the city. It seemed well-organized. The Free Thinkers had their own billboards, and their member groups—atheists & agnostics, scientists, zoologists, and feminists—had similar billboards……. At first I was annoyed by the billboards, which seemed to mostly promote atheism within the Midwest of the United States……… This book may displease some readers. In not wanting to seem sly in my approach, I admit that I have written it as a Christian. However, I seek to highlight and challenge all angles………. Thank-you, Free Thinkers, for confronting me down to my roots. Let’s keep the communication lines open.”
- CHAPTER 1 — POLARIZED: “Have people ever been more polarized than they are today in their lifestyles, beliefs in the supernatural, and understandings of the world? True, not all are on the extreme north or south pole of these different spheres. Many are somewhere in the middle, near the equator. However, feelings can even be strong toward those who are relatively close by. From strong feelings come distrust and suspicion of other people. Personally, I do not like to be distrustful of someone because I know they probably do not trust me either……… In the church, this often leads to a lack of engagement with the rest of the world, with an effect of churches becoming islands—fortress islands……… At the same time, the Church is told to be “salt” and “light” to the world, not an island (Matthew 5:13-16 of the Bible)………. No matter where you are in regards to belief, lifestyle, and understanding of the world, I appreciate you for reading this book….”
- CHAPTER 2 — UNSTUCK: “As humans, we all experience emotions—instinctive responses to what we are thinking. Some emotions are positive, like hope, curiosity, surprise, love, and gratitude. Some emotions are negative, though not necessarily bad, like fear, anger, hate, and frustration………. Indifference is the lack of an emotional response in which a person does not seem to care. Entrenched polarization often occurs when a person experiences negative emotions when considering someone else, yet he is largely indifferent to their feelings………. Sometimes it is not a matter of polarization, but rather we are simply indifferent to the circumstances of others. I personally experience this………. May we experience transformation and growth in what we share in common—human life—rather than being indifferent, stuck, and of little impact.”
- CHAPTER 3 — EVOLVED?: “A search for common ground requires moving beyond our comfort zones. Discussing the theory of evolution does that for some……… Francis Collins: “Will we turn our backs on science because it is perceived as a threat to God, abandoning all of the promise of advancing our understanding of nature and applying that to the alleviation of suffering and the betterment of humanity? Alternatively, will we turn our backs on faith, concluding that sciences have rendered the spiritual life no longer necessary? Both of these choices are profoundly dangerous. Both deny truth. Both will diminish the nobility of humankind. Both will be devastating to our future. And both are unnecessary”…..
- CHAPTER 4 — ANCHORED AND UNSURE: “I think God actively designed every part of the physical world. But I am uncertain about how exactly God did this. With much evidence discovered within fossil records and genetics, it seems increasingly unlikely that Moses intended to write an exact scientific account when he wrote Genesis 1-2 around 1500 BC. Is it possible that the big bang and evolution theories can be in harmony with God as creator rather than in opposition? Perhaps, but what about us humans? The Bible describes that we are uniquely made in the image of God,………. How could we humans possibly have evolved from a common ancestor like chimpanzees, as described by evolutionists, if we uniquely have the image of God?………. Is it necessary that all believers in God have an understanding of evolution? It may not be necessary that all older-generation Christians understand evolution. But, if they want to be relevant to their younger loved ones,…….”
- CHAPTER 5 — EXPOSED: “To find common ground, we need to know the concerns, perspectives, and beliefs of others. “Okay, so that’s why you feel that way…Well, I don’t agree with your position, but it helps to understand your perspective and what you have been through…I think we are closer in our thinking than I originally thought us to be.”……… Christians are viewed by many as anti-climate, as against “green,” the major color of creation, even as they encourage worship of the Creator. That seems hypocritical to others, which is a problem Christians need to thoughtfully address. Another concern of nonbelievers of God,…….. As our differences are brought to light, we can be more understanding and respectful of each other. As the mistakes and hurts of each other are exposed, we will be more sympathetic toward each other.”
- CHAPTER 6 — PROVE IT: “I am often challenged to show proof of God or to give reasons for belief in God, so I seek to do that here. To which you might ask, “I’m not a believer in God, so how does that contribute to building common ground?” That is a fair question. This book is not about building common ground. It is about realizing our common ground that already exists. We all……… Acceptance of multiple evidences of God beyond what is scientifically provable has given many people a strong faith in God…….. For others, based on their standards for proof, any evidence that is not scientifically provable is fully rejected, therefore they reject belief in God”……
- CHAPTER 7 — PROVE IT MORE: “Here is more evidence to consider. Like all other ancient books, the hand-written original of the Bible is not available, but many ancient manuscripts have been found………. Josh McDowell was an atheist when, as a college student, he decided to prepare a paper that would examine the historical evidence of the Christian faith in order to disprove it. Upon completing his research, rather than disproving faith, he came to believe in the Bible’s message………. To those who are strong debaters against belief in God, why are you so resistant to the ample evidence of God which is not necessarily scientifically provable? If you never have, would you be willing to dip your foot, or at least a toe, into testing whether”…..
- CHAPTER 8 — OKAY, BUT… : “They don’t act very Christian.” Valid questions are raised: “If God is such a life changer, why does that guy continue to be a jerk, even though he believes in God? In fact, since coming to faith, he seems to have a worse personality than before.”…….. Some people do not believe in God because they may be looking for people of faith to be better than others, and they are not finding that. For example, because Susan is a Christian, one might think she should clearly be a better person than Jim, who is not a Christian……… Here are some questions and concerns about faith which I have heard: Does faith based on the Bible disallow…….. Placing faith in God is difficult for some people because upon reading Old Testament books in the Bible like Joshua and Judges, God seemed harsh”…..
- CHAPTER 9 — SPIRITUAL SPECIES: “A 2015 poll by Gallup International found that only 22% of the world population is not religious and only 11% were “convinced atheists.” Humans are clearly a spiritual species, which is not surprising to those of the Abrahamic (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) families of faith, which believe that every person is made in the image of God……… Hinduism made up 13.8% of the world population in 2010, according to The World Factbook. It is practiced by……. People adhere to many different religions. To that, I have heard it said, “It does not matter what religion you have because we all believe in the same God and we are all going to the same place after we die anyway.”……… Jesus Christ said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”……
- CHAPTER 10 — RESULT: COMMON GOOD: “Befriending people of different faiths, including those who have no faith, is a good practice, especially because of our differences. One of my friends is an atheist while I am a Christian. By being…….. We are different from each other, but being human is common ground for us, through which we can seek the common good of others. This common good occurs as we simply offer up our unique mix of abilities, personalities, and life experiences……… For the common good of others, I remind those who are my fellow believers in God that we often pick on certain lifestyles and sins, especially those which might not be challenging for us personally. This causes us to ignore our personal sins. Not only does this stunt our growth in God, but……..”
- APPENDIX: AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO MOVE FROM ABILITY TO EXPERIENCE
Excerpts from Peace Within Reach:
- CHAPTER 1 — YOU ARE WORTH IT: “Unless we are acquainted, I probably don’t know you personally. But I know you have great value; you are of great worth. I don’t think that because I’m so caring. I know that because you are a human. As a human, unlike anything else in the world, you have the image of God in you………. The preceding paragraphs may be frustrating to you and other readers, especially if you disagree with what was written. I hope it will be helpful to read the next eight pages on my perspective as the author, which might surprise you………. I grew up attending a private school which taught that God was the originator of all things”…..
- CHAPTER 2 — EVEN THOUGH WE MAKE A MESS: “Because we are made in God’s image, we have the ability to have a personal relationship with God. Within that ability we can honor God or dishonor God. We often dishonor God. People have been dishonoring God since the beginning of time when the first people described in the Bible sinned……… Sin includes……… Sin separates us from God, like a deep canyon that cannot be crossed………. Jesus Christ offers a bridge over the deep canyon of sin that separates us from God”….
- CHAPTER 3 — HOW DID THEY? CAN I?: “Imagine standing in the middle of a wide river where the water is up to your chest. The water is flowing downstream at a fast enough pace that you can just barely remain standing in one place. A powerful, crushing waterfall is 400 meters downstream. Your life depends on you getting to the side which is 200 meters away. You are not a very strong swimmer but you try to swim anyway. Meanwhile, a boat………. When I met Rebecca, she was fifteen years old. She was raised mostly by her dad after her parents broke up. Her mom was an alcoholic who went to jail frequently………. Angola Prison….the once bloodiest prison in America became one marked by grace, compassion, love, and hope.”
- CHAPTER 4 — REALLY STRONG: “It was earlier described how God knows you personally. He uniquely designed you as a person made in His image. Next, sin was discussed, but then how God specially expressed his love as Jesus, by the will of God, received the punishment for our sins. Jesus’ death on the cross offers us the opportunity to receive forgiveness for our sins, and to be with God in heaven when we die. There is more…….. Here are some people who opened their lives to God. They were Holy Spirit-strong!”…..
- CHAPTER 5 — WHAT COSTS ARE INVOLVED?: “Anything that has value, especially the kind of value that God’s grace offers, must have some personal cost, “some strings attached,” right? Not in this case……… Is it worth it? Ask my friend Kathy. Kathy experienced much grief in her life. Her dad died when she was six and her mom died when Kathy was fifteen. Her only sibling was her older brother who……
- CHAPTER 6 — WHAT ABOUT CHURCH?: “Whether you personally receive God into your life, or not, it is important to understand “church”……… In The Purpose Driven Life, it is written this way: “Every church could put out a sign, ‘No perfect people need apply. This is a place only for those who admit they are sinners, need grace, and want to grow…….”
- CHAPTER 7 — PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: “The plain fact that you are a person makes you worth a lot, whether or not you agree or disagree with the message given in this book. You are significant because as a person, a human being, you bear the image, the likeness of God. And, God designed you in such a way that, amazingly, you are unique from every other person who has ever lived. God knows you personally and he has much available for you, when you ask for it”……
- CHAPTER 8 — NINE COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS (and answers):
- What do I do if I want to believe in God but I feel so much uncertainty, and even skepticism?
- If God is holy and loving, why does He allow bad things (tragedies, terrorism, devastating storms, starvation, deadly disease, etc.) to happen?
- Why should I believe the Bible is to have more authority for my life than any other book?
- The Bible is such a big book. Where should I start reading in the Bible to gain the best understanding of its message for my life?
- How should I pray? What is the right way to pray?
- In this book, God is called “Father.” Jesus, his Son, is also called God. And, the book also describes the Holy Spirit of God. Are there different Gods? Are there different parts to God?
- What is a cult?
- I’ve heard some say, “It doesn’t matter what religion you have because we all believe in the same God and we’re all going to the same place after we die anyway.” Does it matter?
- I hear people talk about heaven and about hell. Where are these places? Where do the concepts of heaven and hell come from?