It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
BOB HOSTETLER is a writer, editor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and Quit Going to Church, have sold over three million copies. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is a co-founder of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife Robin have two grown children, Aubrey and Aaron. Bob and his family reside in Oxford, Ohio.
Visit the author’s website.
Life Stinks . . . And Then You Die is a gritty, honest look at the world around us and the world inside us. It is based on an ancient book of wisdom that many consider to be the Bible’s most perplexing book, Ecclesiastes, to a man who seemed to have every advantage–wealth, education, and power could possibly offer–but still struggled to find happiness and meaning. It does not offer platitudes. No easy fixes. It doesn’t spackle over the rough reality of life in the twenty-first century. But it does offer perspective. And hope. And a plan for living well in spite of all that’s wrong with the world and with us.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (November 12, 2013)
I love this book so so so much! Definitely one of my fave nonfictions reads!
It’s funny yet serious all at once.
The chapter titles alone had me laughing out loud.
The author takes a unique and indepth look at the book of Ecclesiastes.
Life Stinks is so creative, fun and so informative.
This book had me laughing, crying and pondering the Word of God in a whole new way!
Also included is a group study guide, perfect for using this book in a Bible study group.
*****5/5 STARS- LOVE IT; GET YOUR OWN COPY; FAVE!!!*****
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Just a Bowl of Cherries.
butterfly, or perhaps its look-alike, a viceroy.
butterfly lands on the side mirror of a large SUV, setting off the car’s
anti-theft alarm. The noise startles a squirrel, which loses its perch on a
branch and drops into a bowl of nuts or grapes next to a sunbathing woman.
Frightened, she leaps up and screams, distracting the man across the street,
who is washing his car. He inadvertently sprays the operator of a front loader,
who loses control of his machine and launches a large rock into the air. The
rock flies over a building and lands on the tongue of a boat trailer. The boat
on the trailer flips into the air like a missile and crashes through the roof
of a house as the home’s resident stands in front fixing his mailbox. Hearing
the clatter behind him, the man slowly turns around to see a gaping boat-shaped
hole in the roof of his house. The television commercial ends with an
announcer’s voice: “Life comes at you fast. Nationwide. Investments.
effective advertisement was one in a series of Nationwide Insurance commercials
that ran for five years, each bearing the tag line, “Life comes at you fast.” Some of
the commercials featured celebrities such as MC Hammer, Fabio, and Kevin
Federline. Many became big hits, and the series spawned numerous parodies on
YouTube. By any measurement, the commercials were a success.
campaign worked, of course, because the commercials were funny. But they also
tapped into a nearly universally recognized truth: life does come at you fast.
Sometimes blindingly fast. And it often leaves gaping holes and burning embers
in its wake.
fun and games. It comes at you fast and often leaves a mark. That is the reason
for the title of this book: Life Stinks .
. . and Then You Die. But that’s not to suggest that life lacks all
pleasure. Not at all. There is much in life that is beautiful and wonderful—a
baby’s laugh, a friend’s hug, a mountain lake, a pie pulled fresh from the
oven. As songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss wrote (and Louis
Armstrong famously sang), many lovely features of this world—trees of green,
red roses, “the bright blessed day” and “dark sacred night”—can prompt a person
to think, “What a wonderful world.”[i]
be told, many people do seem to skip blithely through the meadows of this world
with nary a wound or scar. Day after day seems to shine on them. They wake up
each morning with a smile on their face. They meet and marry the person of
their dreams. Their children are always clean and obedient. Their cars never
break down, their friends never betray them, and their jobs never get
“outsourced” or “downsized.”
seems to me that most of those people are still quite young. The longer a
person lives, the more pain he or she experiences. The older a person gets, the
more tempting it is to become cynical. Jaded. Or, as some might put it, simply
write full time these days, I have in my short lifetime been the pastor of four
churches—one in southeast Ohio, one in northeast Ohio, and two in southwest
Ohio. Being a pastor is, in some ways, like having a front row seat to life’s
highest highs and lowest lows. Pastors are present not only at jubilant events
like baptisms and weddings, but also at less-happy moments in hospitals,
nursing homes, and funeral homes.
I’ll always remember July 4, 1985, when my wife and I were called to the
hospital room of two dear friends. We expected to hear the news that Bud and
Becky had welcomed their first child into the world. But we learned instead
that their baby boy, whom they had named Jonathan, was stillborn. We cried
together, cradled that tiny lifeless form in our arms, and held a bedside
memorial service for that precious child—and for his parents’ countless hopes
and plans for him.
entry in my pastoral records is for a young man named Jason. Just weeks into
his senior year of high school, eighteen-year-old Jason was killed in an
automobile accident on his way to school. The honor student planned to take his
girlfriend to their senior homecoming celebration, which was to take place the
man in the church my wife and I had helped to start in Oxford, Ohio. He had
recently moved to the area in secret, having escaped his former high position
in a satanic coven in Pennsylvania. He found our church, became a follower of
Jesus, and made many new friends. He was baptized on the Sunday before
Christmas 2002. Just two months later, however, one of his new friends went to
call on him at his apartment. Bill didn’t answer. He had died of a massive
heart attack in the middle of the night.
with whom I have hurt and cried over the years. The worst of it is, their
experiences are not unique. Many others could share tales of one heartbreak
after another, stories of disease, divorce, depression, abuse, addiction,
poverty, and pain. Even if your life has been largely pleasant and generally
positive to date, you have certainly endured some painful experiences—if you
are old enough to read this book, that is. And while those experiences may not
yet have pierced your optimism and sunny disposition, you may someday wonder
(as many others do) if it is possible to live well when life seems to curdle
and sour. You may hunger for hope. For answers. For something more real and
lasting than well-meaning platitudes.
coming pages of this book. However, I won’t be alone in that endeavor. I will
rely on another guide, someone who experienced more of life, wealth, wisdom,
and experience than I could ever claim.
Jesus Christ. His father was king. And not just any king, but a man who molded
a kingdom out of a bunch of fractious tribes and warring factions. The father’s
name was David; the son was given the name Solomon. The father was a shepherd,
a poet, and a warrior; the son’s very name was “peace,” a form of the word shalom.
Solomon became the king in Jerusalem, sometime around 967 BC. He reigned for forty years,
presiding over a period in Israel’s history that is routinely called the
“Golden Age.” His kingdom extended from the Euphrates River in present-day
Syria to the Arabian Desert and the Gulf of Aqabah in the south. His crowning
achievement was the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. He was renowned
for his wisdom, wealth, and accomplishment, some of which is described in 1
of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. And from Dan in the north to
Beersheba in the south, each family had its own home and garden.
had 4,000 stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses.
district governors faithfully provided food for King Solomon and his court;
each made sure nothing was lacking during the month assigned to him. They also
brought the necessary barley and straw for the royal horses in the stables.
Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands
of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the
East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan
the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread
throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and
wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants,
from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a
wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And
kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of
Proverbs, in our Bible. At least one of his songs—the Song of Songs, or Song of
Solomon—is also a part of our Bible. The ancient rabbis, as well as many more
recent authorities, suggested that Song of Songs was written when Solomon was a
young man, and Proverbs was written (and perhaps compiled) in the middle years
of his life. But a third book is often considered to have been the product of
Solomon’s mind in his latter years, when he had seen it all, done it all, and
bought the T-shirt, so to speak.
Fine-Hammered Steel of Woe
book of the Bible. George S. Hendry called it “Disjointed in construction,
obscure in vocabulary, and often cryptic in style.”[iii] F.
C. Jennings referred to it as “an enigma” and an “arsenal” for attacks against
the Bible as God’s Word.[iv]
On the other hand, Herman Melville, in Moby
Dick, praised it as “the truest of all books . . . the fine-hammered steel
And novelist Thomas
Wolfe said, “Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever
“Ecclesiastes is . . . like a diary in which a man has recorded his impressions
from time to time,”[vii]
and Dr. Charles Swindoll describes it as the journal of Solomon’s “mid-life
agreed that Solomon wrote it. He is never identified by name in the book.
Instead, the first verse ascribes the book to “the Teacher, son of David, king
It is a clear reference to Solomon, though some scholars say he couldn’t have
written the book, because of some of the words and phrasing it uses. In any
case, there is no doubt that not only the first verse but the entire book
refers to and relies on the life, wisdom, and experience of King Solomon.
word, Qoheleth (or Koheleth), which,
when it was translated into Greek, became “Ecclesiastes,” and in English is rendered
“Teacher.” Hendry explains: “The word is connected with qahal, the public assembly, and it suggests the kind of wisdom
delivered by the speaker to those in the outer court, as distinguished from the
‘hidden wisdom’ which is known only to those who have been admitted to the
mystery of God (1 Cor. 2:7).”[x]
“prophet,” “priest,” and “king.” But there may also be a broader intention in
the use of that word—and in the way the entire book is presented, according to
Ronald B. Allen, senior professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological
Seminary: “Solomon might have written this wisdom book as a tract for
other nations. . . . Solomon had entertained many dignitaries from other
nations, including the queen of Sheba. The queen’s questions concerning the
basic meaning of life might have prompted him to write Ecclesiastes to teach
the Gentiles about the living God.”[xi]
often refer to the author as Qoheleth
in these pages. In doing so, I hope to preserve the author’s apparent intention
to evoke the king’s wisdom and authority while simultaneously assuming an added
aura of mystery and universality. I will also conclude each of the chapters in
this book with a prayer, to help you apply and internalize the content of the
preceding chapter at a deeper level. I truly believe the inspired words of
Ecclesiastes can change your life, and those prayers are key to that process. I
hope you won’t skip them. In fact, I hope you will do more than simply read
them. I invite you to take the time and thought to pray each one, even aloud,
because I believe that sincerely praying those words (and, ideally, even adding
to them, according to how the Holy Spirit of God is moving you at that moment)
will make you a partner with God in applying his Word to your life and bringing
about real and lasting change, which is the purpose for which I write.
great value, and perhaps never more so than in this day and age, for people
like you and me. Dr. John Paterson writes, “It would have been a great pity and
a serious loss if a book that is meant to be the Bible of all men made no
reference or failed to deal with the mood of scepticism which is common to all
ancient book available today to set the record straight. All around us are
people who are buying into [an] empty, horizontal, who-needs-God perspective.
Their . . . whole frame of reference is humanistic. We see it lived out in soap
operas every afternoon and on prime time every night. We hear it in political
speeches. We learn it in the halls of academia, on the streets of any city.”[xiii]
best summed up as, “Life stinks . . . and then you die”? Is it inevitable for
the potential and optimism of youth to falter and fade in the harsh light of
disease, divorce, depression, abuse, addiction, poverty, and pain? Or is it
possible to live well in spite of such dangers and disasters? Does the wisest
man who ever lived have any wisdom to impart to us, thirty centuries later?
I am ready. I am open. I am willing and waiting to hear your voice speaking to
me through the words of Qoheleth. Please use
this “fine-hammered steel of woe”—this book of Ecclesiastes—as well as the
pages of this book that follow and the time and attention I invest in them to
shine a light on my experiences, struggles, disappointments, defeats—and
victories. Use this book to teach me how to live well when life seems to curdle
and sour. Use these pages to speak far more than well-meaning platitudes—speak
your truth and your will to my listening ears and waiting heart. Impart hope.
Give insight. Meet needs—not only my needs in this moment, but those that you
know will arise in the days and weeks and months ahead. Guide me through this
book so that when I have finished reading it will have been far, far more than
an interesting intellectual exercise. Please make it a life-changing
experience, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Thiele and George David Weiss, “What a Wonderful World,” 1967, Memory Lane
Music Group, Carlin Music Corp., and Bug Music, Inc.
S. Hendry, “Ecclesiastes,” The New Bible
Commentary: Revised (London: Inter–Varsity Press, 1970), 570.
Jennings, Old Groans and New Songs: Being
Meditations on the Book of Ecclesiastes (London: S. Bagster and Sons, Ltd.,
Melville, Moby Dick (New York: Pocket
Books, 1999), 424–425.
Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again (New
York: Scribner, 2011), 628.
Harper, “Ecclesiastes,” Beacon Bible
Commentary (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), 549.
R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge
(Waco: Word Books, 1985), 17.
Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 779.
Paterson, The Book That Is Alive (New
York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1954), 120.