The First Three Lines: A Contest

Yesterday, rather on a whim, I went through a few of the books on my shelves and jotted down the first three lines from each of them. Well, in most cases it was the first three lines—in a few I did more or less. And then it occurred to me that it might be fun to make a contest out of this. Most of these books are either classics or bestsellers. Most are the kind of books I love to read, though a couple are not. The majority of these books will be familiar to you either because they are on your bookshelves or because you’ve seen them just after walking in to your local Christian bookstore.

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So here’s the contest. Send me an email with the book and the author for each of the following selections (and, if you could, make the title of the email “The First Three Lines.” The person who gets the most right will win a $50 gift certificate for Westminster Books. If there is a tie, I’ll just randomly choose one to be the winner. Get to it!


  1. “Do you know the painting by Holman Hunt, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, titled The Shadow of Death? It depicts the inside of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Stripped to the waist, Jesus stands by a wooden trestle on which he has put down his saw.”

  2. “As clowns yearn to play Hamlet, so I have wanted to write a treatise on God. This book, however, is not it. Its length might suggest that it is trying to be, but anyone who takes it that way will be disappointed.”

  3. “This is a serious book about being happy in God. It’s about happiness because that is what our Creator commands: ‘Delight yourself in the LORD!’ (Psalm 37:4). And it is serious because, as Jeremy Taylor said, ‘God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.’”

  4. “A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates—all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seek to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.”

  5. “I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze. I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, walking toward me. Years ago He was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing.”

  6. “I know. I almost want to apologize. Dear Lord—do we really need another book for men? Nope. We need soemthing else. We need permission.”

  7. “The question before us is what the Christian life, true spirituality, really is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth-century setting.”

  8. “If you’re familiar with the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, you have probably heard of ‘the Down-Grade Controversy.’ Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism, which he rightly saw as a threat to biblical Christianity.”

  9. “In a culture that so often rewards the proud—a world quick to admire and applaud the prideful, a world eager to bestow the label ‘great’ on these same individuals—humility occasionally attracts some surprising attention.”

  10. “Thanks for picking up this book. Some people never get past the title. ‘My friends won’t touch it,’ one girl told me.”

  11. “Bookstores overflow with accounts of near-death and after-death experiences, complete with angels giving guided tours of Heaven. A few of these books may have authentic components, but many are unbiblical and misleading. We Christians who believe God’s Word are partly to blame for this.”

  12. “I died on January 18, 1989. Paramedics reached the scene of the accident within minutes. They found no pulse and declared me dead.”

  13. “Baseball. Hot dogs. Apple Pie. Chevrolet. These are all things American.”

  14. “Sacred cows make the best hamburger, but the meat can be hard to swallow. Christians cherish a mythology that, along with their theology, shapes and directs their lives. Perhaps no myth more strongly influences us than our understanding of how to know the will of God.”

  15. “In my basement, behind some bikes and suitcases and boxes, sits a Velvet Elvis. A genuine, bought-by-the-side-of-the-road Velvet Elvis. And to say that this painting captures The King in all his glory would be an understatement.”