Guest Book Review: Just Mercy

One thing I love just as much as telling people about the books I love, is hearing from people about the books they love. As the Gracepoint Church Librarian, I have the delightful experience of receiving emails and texts, or having that quick hallway conversation about about this or that book someone just finished and loved.

But be forewarned: when you tell me about a book you love, I might hound you to write up a little review! But it’s in the service of fostering the love of reading across all of our Gracepoint Ministries and beyond, so it’s all good, right? I hope to feature these guest reviews on a semi-regular basis.

The following is a review by Michael Kim, for one of his favorite books:

At times I meet people — young people especially — that express difficulty in reading regularly. Reading is obviously less sensually dynamic than media, and it undoubtedly requires greater mental discipline than many other activities. I find it particularly challenging to read while tired. That being said, God relates to us through the Bible — this alone should be enough for all of us to strive for becoming better readers.

As a wise man once said when asked of his grandest wishes for his newborn daughter, “I just want her to follow Jesus and read well.”

just mercy

All this to say, Just Mercy is a phenomenal book. It is a book that I often give to friends — including those that don’t read much or well. The memoir documents the experiences of lawyer and civil rights activist Bryan Stevenson. Many of you have probably heard of him: Tony Campolo speaks of him in his GP-beloved Carpe DiemJust Mercy chronicles the vast injustice that plagues America’s criminal justice system, weaving Stevenson’s various legal battles with the main story of Walter McMillian, an African America man convicted of and put on death row for murdering a white woman. Many of his cases involve those facing the death penalty, and Stevenson goes on to challenge capital punishment and the prison-industrial complex of this nation.

But the memoir goes deeper than merely depicting Stevenson’s cases over the years. Stevenson, in the midst of such injustice and brokenness, examines the need for mercy and redemption for all — to both the black and white man; regardless if you are a lifelong Alamedan or born and raised in DeLisle, Mississippi; no matter whether empowered or oppressed; felon or saint. Stevenson reflects on the possible-truth that we are all in dire need of grace.

I read this book in high school and found it particularly formative in the way I perceived worth in this world. It is nothing short of gripping, inspirational and profound. Going back to the young folk thing: I’ve never had a friend that started this book and didn’t finish! Justin Yi and I liked this book, thus chances are you’ll appreciate it too. Holla — your boy got all the good reads.

Confession: I don’t quite know if I was supposed to include that last sentence in the review, but I *think* it’s like a book review mic-drop. Correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

Anyway, I can attest to Michael’s love for the book. For a while, every time I saw him, he’d ask me if I’d read it yet! And like he said, he got his friends to read it, and then Philip also proceeded to recommend it to me highly. So I did end up reading it and loving it as well. So that’s three people recommending this read. (Never mind that Oprah also recommends it!) [insert cry-laughing emoji]

Have you read Just Mercy? What did you think? If you have a book you’d like to review, contact me and we’ll get you in the queue!

Recommended Read: 31 Days of Power!

Today’s book recommendation comes from Susanna from Gracepoint Berkeley church.  Awhile back she recommended two other books for intercessory prayer that have enriched many parents’ prayers.

Before you read on, just wanted to make sure you don’t get today’s book recommendation mixed up with the recommendation for 31 Days of Praise, by Alice from Gracepoint Minneapolis church. Same author, different book. 🙂

41lnkABu9iL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_I would like to recommend Ruth Myers’ book 31 Days of Power: Learning to Live in Spiritual Victory if you need some help being daily reminded of the spiritual warfare that we are in, and how to articulate “faith-filled” claims and responses, as Pastor Ed preached yesterday.

I came across this book when I was sort of losing perspective during the toughest part of chemo side effects and did a search on other books that Ruth Myers wrote, and this prayer book helped me to gain proper perspective and turn my eyes away from my situation to see God’s cosmic picture.

Last night I prayed over the flaming arrows of Satan’s accusations that I hear so loudly at times. Today’s prayer from this book was “Safe from Accusation.” Wow, I felt personally loved by God as He wanted to nail that point for me as a follow-up to yesterday’s message.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s prayer (Day 7):

“I want to give You abundant thanksgiving and praise that I’m Your chosen one, and therefore the enemy cannot succeed in accusing me before You. He may try to bring a charge against me for my sins, but he will fail, for they’ve all been forgiven — past, present, and future. ‘Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for me, Christ rose for me, Christ reigns in power for me, Christ prays for me.’” […] “You have cleansed me, given garments of righteousness and praise instead of despair. So day by day I can rise up, put on those beautiful garments, and worship You in holy array — in the beauty of holiness.”

Here’s an excerpt from the prayer for Day 8:

“You are my strength every morning, my salvation in times of distress. You’re the stability of my times. So I clothe myself with my beautiful garments of praise. I treasure the safety You’ve provided from my crafty attacks by the enemy — from anything that would not be for my ultimate good or for the advance of the Good News. Even when You allow severe trials in my life, You know my path; and when You have tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

I personally dubbed this book as the “manly” version of 31 Days of Praise, as some brothers might prefer this book more.

Just so you know, copies of the book will be arriving at the bookstore at Gracepoint Berkeley church by next week.  I’m looking forward to powerful times of prayer (see what I did there?) and invite you to enhance your personal prayer life too!


Heroes of Faith Challenge Winners (Get Inspired!)

The Heroes of Faith Spring Reading Challenge at Gracepoint Berkeley church is officially over. In all, we had 14 people finish, with some people completing twice.

Here are some noteworthy statistics/awards:

  • Most favorited Heroes of Faith: George Mueller (Christian Heroes Then & Now) and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)
  • Post-College finishers: 5
  • College Student finishers: 7
  • Elementary Student finishers: 2!
  • Female finishers: 12
  • Male finishers: 2
  • Most represented ministry: tie between Klesis and Koinonia Berkeley with 3 each.
  • Double finishers: Seniors Emily Rah and Krystal Han, from a2f Berkeley and Koinonia Berkeley respectively
  • Most senior finisher: Sarah Kim (?? years old)
  • Youngest female finisher: Julia (9 years old)
  • Youngest overall finisher: Wesley (8 years old)

With their permission, I am featuring our youngest finishers and their mini-reviews. I hope you’ll be inspired to pick up some more books!


Julia (holding her favorite biography) celebrating her completed bookmark with two of her friends!

Hi, my name is Julia. I’m 9 years old and in 4th grade. The heroes of faith book I liked the most is about William Wilberforce. I liked that book the most because when he really starts to understand the true meaning of what it is like to be a Christian, lots of people are asking him to present a bill against slavery to Parliament. After like a week he finally decides that he will present the bill. He decided to do that because this guy named Thomas gave him a copy of his essay to read. After he read all those words he started studying slavery. He learned all of these crucial facts about what people were doing to slaves, and that is what led him to the point when he presented the bill to the others.

Throughout half of his life he fought for others to have their freedom even though people kept on rejecting the bill. He still persevered, he brought up the bill several times, and had lots of supporters too. He eventually succeeded and it became a law officially.

This inspired me because he was a really bad person before. He would never study and his tutor would make fun of him if he studied or went to church or even read the Bible, so William would just gamble away and drink a lot. But when he met his old friend Isaac, he turned into a Christian and wanted to help all slaves get their freedom.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.



Wesley not only reads Heroes of Faith biographies, but plays baseball too. 🙂

Wesley is 8 years old and in 3rd grade. Here is his mini-review of his favorite book from the challenge:


My favorite Christian Heroes book I read is about Jacob Deshazer because he was stuck in jail for many years and then he told a lot of people about God in China. When he was in jail for many years, he got to read books and one of them was the Bible. He read it 15 times before he gave it to someone else. This is how he became a Christian. I also thought it was cool that he was part of the Doolittle Raiders who first attacked Japan with a B25 bomber.