Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review of "Fearless"

Let me get all the disclosure stuff out of the way first. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. I also received a free copy from the family, signed by Larry, Janice, Kelly and Shawn Brown, along with the author. I know Larry and Janice personally. Larry and I have ministered in Garland County Detention Center together for several years. The church I pastor sits on what is now called Adam Brown Road, right down the road from Lake Hamilton school where Adam graduated. That may make me a biased reviewer, but without all of those connections, I would still give this book a five star review.

I've been obsessed with Navy SEALs and the spec ops community since I was in high school. I read about SEALs before it was cool to read about SEALs. I've read many books concerning these top of the line spec ops men from their involvement in the Vietnam War to their current actions against international terrorists. In light of that, "Fearless" is one amazing read. It captures all the grueling demands of the SEALs, all of their patriotism and heart, and most of all their outstanding sacrifices. More than mere adrenaline junkies, these men are true warriors, true patriots, true husbands, true fathers and true Americans. In the case of Adam Brown, he was also a true follower of Christ.

Let me throw one more disclosure out there. This book is inundated with the Christian faith. Be warned. If seeing the name of Jesus offends you, this book will probably offend you. However, it could not have been written without the numerous mentions of Jesus and the Christian faith because they were so integral to Adam's life. I love what author Eric Blehm says at the conclusion of the book: "And though I hadn't opened a Bible in more than twenty-five years, his [Adam's] faith encouraged me to question my own questioning about religion." You see a bio of Adam Brown excluding mention of the Lord Jesus Christ would not be a bio of Adam Brown at all.

"Fearless" is the biography of Navy SEAL Special Operator Adam Brown who gave his life in service to his country on March 17, 2010 on a harrowing mission in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. He was a member of SEAL Team Six, the elite of the elite in the spec ops community. The book focuses on the journey of Adam Brown, which is an amazing, mesmerizing, exciting journey.

In the book we see Adam grow up a child who seems to be missing the "fear gene" and growing into a man that struggles with a dark addiction to crack cocaine. His addiction nearly ruined him, but three things saved him. First and foremost his faith in Jesus Christ saved him. Second, his lovely bride Kelly helped to save him. And finally, his enlistment in the US Navy and advancement to SEAL Team Six saved him.

Author Eric Blehm does a fine job narrating the civilian and military aspects of the book. If I could add anything to it, I would put a small dictionary in the back to explain things like MH-47 or AC-130 gunship and other military terms. Having read numerous pieces of military fiction and non-fiction I had no problem with it.

In Adam Brown, we find a man who could be a faithful follower of Christ, a compassionate husband and father, and a fierce fighter of international terrorism and be successful at all three. The story in this book will make you laugh, make you cringe, make you cheer and make you cry. It is a difficult read to put down when you start it. It is an encouragement to know that men like Adam are serving our country. He would never have labeled himself a hero, but all those around him considered him that.

I noticed that at Family Christian they have a warning about some of the language used in this book. After all, we are dealing with some full throttle soldiers and they can use colorful language occasionally. Do not let that dissuade you from reading this book. The language is extremely tame and I'd give it a PG or PG-13 rating at worst.

Readers may approach this book to learn more about the SEALs and specifically SEAL Team Six. They will not walk away disappointed. However, they will also walk away with much more. They will walk away with the story of how a man overcame his personal demons. They will walk away with the story of how a man can be a true husband and father. They will walk away with a picture of loyalty, commitment, determination and faith. They will walk away seeing what a true Christian should look like. As expressed by Adam in a letter he wrote for his children should something happen to him on the battlefield: "I'm not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this Earth because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me...No matter what, my spirit is given to the Lord and I will finally be victorious."

I offer my highest recommendation for "Fearless" as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, as an American. This book is powerful, and brings a message of hope that we desperately need in our nation today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Am The Way

I’ve done many things in the interest of customer service over the years. Maybe my most infamous incident was sitting in a tub with a customer to see if it could comfortably hold two people. We were still clothed, and yes, I did get the sale. Also on my list of more extreme measures was sitting in on an Amway sales pitch. A prospect I’d been after for awhile was involved in Amway and asked me if he could do a presentation for me. I thought it might be a way to get my foot in the door with him so I said, “Sure!”

The presentation was not really boring, nor compelling. It did not change any of my pre-conceptions of “multi-level marketing” at all. I did ask the presenter a question that could have made me jump on board, “How much residual income has this business generated for you?” Ultimately, the true testimony of success would be somewhere in the thousands of dollars. After all, I just sat through a presentation that promised me the moon – I could make enough money that I could quit my regular job and work from home making more money than I ever had. You know be your own boss and make your own hours.

This particular prospect is quite intelligent and prudent. Besides successfully running his own plumbing business, he has actually invented some items. In my assessment, if anybody was capable of earning significant income from Amway, he was the man. In order to convince me that I could be successful, I needed to hear of the results of his success. I’d already heard about people he had read about who were successful. I’d already heard about conference speakers he had heard that were successful. I’d even heard about people he had met and talked with personally and were successful. But was he successful?

He shared with me that on a good month, he might bring in an extra $100. Of course that involved an investment of time as well. He had been doing this for 20 years and that was the most he had ever managed in a month. His personal testimony failed to match up with what the product and service promised.

It struck me lately that this same attitude I possessed towards Amway can be the same attitude that non-believers have towards Christianity. After all, we are promising them a changed life, a resilient hope, a Savior that can heal brokenness, addiction, heartache and all other sorts of emotional and spiritual pain. We are promising better marriages, a part in a thriving community of believers, joy unspeakable, a peace that surpasses understanding and an abundant life. When the prospective unbeliever looks us over, quizzes us and finds us stressed out, depressed, in the middle of a divorce, strung out on sleeping pills, forming fighting factions in the church and using fake smiles to cover up our unhappiness he is just not “sold” on our “product.” He does not just want to hear how awesome Jesus is, he wants to see how awesome Jesus is!

Check out what James writes: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).” Good works do not save an individual, but a saved individual should be marked by good works! Even more powerfully the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17),” or “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).” The verb in the Romans passage is especially strong, coming from the Greek word where we get our English word “metamorphosis.” The evidence of the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is a changed life. A changed life does not result in salvation, but salvation should result in a changed life!

Consider the caterpillar. He spends his existence creeping around, a fuzzy, ugly, little bug. Yet then he goes into a cocoon, and afterwards emerges as a beautiful, colorful, soaring butterfly. Nobody ever mistakes a butterfly for a caterpillar. And a butterfly does not emerge from the cocoon to keep crawling around on the ground. He soars on his new wings! He has undergone a metamorphosis, a dramatic change. His new life barely looks like his old life.

Can you imagine a butterfly pitching the value of a cocoon to a caterpillar? The caterpillar can gaze on the colorful wings of the butterfly as he listens. “That’s right Mr. Caterpillar, I used to be just like you – crawling around and earthbound. But then, I bought a cocoon, and a few days later I came out changed forever! Check out these colors! Check out these wings! My life is totally new!” The new life of the butterfly is visibly evident for the caterpillar. How big of an influence would that be on his cocoon decision?

Unbelievers should see us in the same light, especially those that knew us before Christ changed our lives and the Holy Spirit filled us. A changed life is not to the glory of us, but to the glory of Christ. That changed life is evidence of the Gospel. Before people will read a Bible or read a book or an article, they will read you. Authentic Christians are a powerful tool for reaching the lost. Never underestimate the power of God’s word to reach people – a Bible in the hands of a seeker can accomplish miraculous things. However, some people want to see proof that our Savior and his Word have truly life changing power. Then they look to you.

Ultimately, my gambit with my prospective customer was a lose / lose scenario. I chose to not invest in Amway, and I failed to win him over as my customer. I didn’t see the value of buying into his offer, and he didn’t see the value in making me his primary supplier. Both of those were minor decisions when compared with the decision to accept or reject Christ. Has your life been truly changed? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you? To “wash” you and “renew” you (Titus 3:5)? Do people see a change in you? Do people see the hope, mercy, love, grace and peace of Christ in your life? The coolest part of the deal is when they ask you how much that costs, you can tell them, “It’s free – the price has already been paid.” You’re not selling Amway, you are sharing Jesus, the one who said, “I am the way.”