lucado interview

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Christian author Max Lucado who has written about such theological topics as grace, God's forgiveness and the resurrection is known for his comfortable writing style and easy conversations.

In a recent interview with the Southeast Missourian, Lucado spoke about weighty matters of the world and the burdens God wants to lift. He spoke about terrorist attacks and the events that followed Sept. 11, overcoming fears, spiritual revival and prayer.

In his latest book, "Traveling Light," Lucado writes about the unnecessary burdens people tend to carry through life. The book, based on Psalm 23, is particularly relevant today when many Americans are fearful of travel because of recent terrorist attacks and airline disasters. Yet the book was published in early October before the attacks.

During a 13-city book tour shortly after the attacks, Lucado was asked to pray, speak about Psalm 23 and offer some counsel to people in need of comfort. Bookstores canceled dozens of other tours nationwide but kept asking Lucado to come. Many said if there was ever a time they needed a pastor in their store it was now, said Jana Muntsinger of McClure/Muntsinger Public Relations who helped schedule the tour.

While the nation is being told to return to normal, there is some soul-searching that needs to be done on a national level. "Christ would want us to be peacemakers and extend the hand of dialogue," he said, adding that now is the time to be good neighbors with people of other beliefs.

While Americans are feeling the weight of the world after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the possiblity of traveling light still exists. The terrorist events revealed that some people carry baggage they didn't even know they were carrying, Lucado said.

At the top of that list is self-sufficiency.

"The events of Sept. 11 remind us that none of us can control the events of the world," he said.

People need to know that there is a God and that he's a good God, who calls himself our shepherd.

The nation also needs to learn to regard our heavenly father not just as Creator but as a kind shepherd, he said.

For many people that takes a leap of faith in their spiritual maturity. If any good comes out of Sept. 11, it would be that people say they need a shepherd, he said.

Right after the terrorist attacks, Lucado said he felt the nation might be on the cusp of revival because thousands were flooding into churches to pray. But things have started to slow -- less people are returning to church week after week.

Although, he said, there could be a marked spiritual difference in the lives of some people.

Revival won't come until individuals begin to own up to the problems in their lives, he said. There are still things that could be better.

Lucado cited religious divisions, denominational differences and morality issues as continual problems in the country.

Biblical revival was always preceded by extended periods of prayer and repentance.

"We sure have a lot of prayers going up but in terms of repentance we could probably do better," he said.

People are still gripped with fear about terrorism, death and destruction. Lucado said his book, written about a very famous, oft-quoted passage of Scripture, "is like medicine for the sick soul.

"This is a refresher on how close God is and how he will help us deal with these fears," he said, quoting verse 4 of the psalm, that speaks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

"The whole country is in the valley of the shadow of death," he said. "The question I hear people asking 'Is God close, is he near?' The answer of 23 Psalm is yes. In fact all of Scripture says don't interpret the presence of pain as the absence of God."

God can use pain to call us closer to him, Lucado said.

Throughout the book "Traveling Light, Lucado used the analogy of a weary traveler laden with baggage he can never carry. The message of Psalm 23 is to lay aside the bags you don't need -- and never again pick them up.

As a minister with the Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas, Lucado said he sees people who carry bags all the time. Bags that they don't have to carry: anxiety, guilt, sorrow.

"Most of life, most of maturity is simply a matter of setting those bags down day after day after day, until finally we get used to life without them."

The image of a traveler is something that everyone can relate to, Lucado said, which is why he chose that analogy for the book.

Lucado is known for turning weighty theological concepts into manageable, everyday language.

While there is a chance that something gets lost in the translation, Lucado said he's never tried to put himself or his work in the league with theological thinkers like Richard Foster or C.S. Lewis.

"I live in a different realm," he said. "Somebody once said 'thanks for putting cookies on the lower shelf.' I said, 'well I keep them there so I can reach them.'"

Lucado said he doesn't feel like his work is oversimplified.

"I try to keep it on a conversational, accessible level because that's really where I live and that's how I best receive Scripture," he said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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