Sincere and uplifting,
This review is from: One Step Beyond: One Man's Journey from Near Death to New Life (Paperback)
This is not a book of my natural choice. I was lent the book and don't mind going out of my box from time to time. This is a book that puts up no pretence. The author speaks directly, sincerely and honestly about his life. It was about a boy who was lost from day one, got on the wrong side of the law very quickly, was helpless in changing his self-destructive path, ended up a homeless drunkard, and almost died of his alcoholism and other abuses; while he was in a coma on life support, when all hopes of his coming round were lost, by the power of prayer, he was "resurrected" and subsequently recovered. He has been chosen and Christ has saved him in every sense of the word. He became a new person, literally born-again, and his heart was filled to its brim for others like him. He did not waste any time to reach out to the lost just like him, and has worked tirelessly towards this cause eventually through the charity he set up after ten years being a Christian.
The book is 175 pages long, and the account moves with some speed considering that it covers 32 years of living before the author met Jesus. A sentence may read that he spent 18 months in jail - it takes less a second to read but it represents 18 months of Gram's life behind bars in his real life. Even we have his life condensed so much for us, there is still no escape of the fact that there were repeated disappointments - he letting himself and all his loved ones down. Time and time again, he said to himself and family that he was going to change, find a job, turning away from his old way. These only turned out to be hollow promises if not lies. In the end, he was on his own as his grandparents died in their fifties and his mother finally disowned him. He could not blame her. His life was full of rejection and abandonment from young. Despite his hard man exterior, he was actually a tender-hearted, looking for approval, acceptance and reassurance, which sadly no one could give him. He could not even trust himself - he could not summon up any resolve to make a difference. He lost his hope - he did commit suicide once but was saved.
His life experience shows that relying on our own effort, we can achieve nothing. How many times did he tell himself to quit drinking to no avail? It was therefore amazing that when he woke up in the hospital, having encountered Jesus, he quit smoking, drinking and drugs, just like that - even against the doctor's order. Once he was so lost that he did not know where was the path to get out. All of a sudden he turned away without even looking back. Step by step in obedience, he built up a new life,which he had not known how or possible before. In the introduction, he said that the Lord told him clearly to wait for ten years before he wrote his story. Among other things, he says, "Waiting also allowed the Lord to build a solid foundation in my life, proving that these changes were genuine, permanent and not a flash in the pan..." In fact his "story" is more complete with that ten years walking in Christ, because God's purpose in his life can be much more clearly seen. God does not waste our suffering.
For me personally, Gram's story tells me or confirms that
1) a bit about the world of criminality which I know very little about. As he was writing in first person, it helps us understand how one would "choose" this path;
2) God works all things for good for those who love Him;
3) God has been there in our life even before we acknowledge Him; and
4) God is our greatest physician who heals the broken-hearted and sets the captive free.
God is not a mean or selfish master who only concerns of enlisting workers for His profits - no. He is concerned about the well-being of His workers - He takes time to heal our emotional wounds and bring reconciliation, so as to make us complete in Him. He really does care about us. Gram's testimony speaks powerfully of that too - which is what makes the story moving.
Gram also asks an interesting question: when bad things happen, who do people tend to blame God and not the Devil, when the Devil is real?
For people who do not believe in Jesus' power, miracle or His power of resurrection, they will find this book inspiring.