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Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First by Doug Bender

The real aim of this book is to challenge people to put Jesus first in everything they do, say, and particularly, how they live and engage God’s world.  I think at the outset that this is a noble goal.  Not having read the first book, I Am Second, I was a bit unfamiliar with the whole philosophy beyond the movement.  Yet, this book, Live Second, is more of a devotional, taking a Scripture reading, adding a brief commentary on the passage and giving some points of prayer and action.  What is unique about this type of devotional is it’s connected to a QR code on most pages that sends you to a video related to the theme of the day.  Most of the videos are either by athletes, Christian authors, pastors or people in the pew.  I actually found the videos to be more enlightening and encouraging than the comments on the Scriptural passages in the devotional.  I don’t think this was always due to the fact that Bender was dull or not insightful, but the story of brokenness and how God is healing his people is very powerful indeed through multimedia.

What made the most impact for me in the book was the way Bender incorporated prayers into the daily devotions.  He says after commenting on Matthew 10:16-42 in the Talk with God section, “Prepare me for rejection, ready me for hatred, and give me courage so that nothing may stop your message from flowing through my mouth” (106).  Why was this so powerful?   Because rejection and the need to be ready for it is not pushed aside for some comfortable platitudes, this truth sets us squarely within what Jesus calls his people unto.  Yet, the message of courage, the message to not gift up in an immense struggle of hatred and rejection is certainly a biblical one.  The Live it and Tell it sections are good reminders that we need to apply the biblical text to our lives.  I really think this kind of book would be best used in small group church study or a class of believers committed to a particular church.

My only critiques of this book would be two-fold: the very nature of the devotional and the biblical commentary.  Throughout the book I sensed that although the devotional comments were based on biblical passages, they took a more didactic framework rather than taking into account the story of Israel, the story of Jesus and his coming being connected to the larger story of the Bible.  It is a most difficult task to write a daily reader, yet I think that a more concentrated connection between the way the Old Testament provides the storyline for Jesus’ coming will help readers appreciate the true significance of the Messiah.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Book Sneeze program for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.

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