The Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore

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This family book will be a blessing to every person whether married or single. It bypasses surface issues at all points and couldn’t masquerade as a self-help book even with the best Madison-Avenue advertising campaign behind it. You might cross something on its pages that would make you want to do “better”, but this book soars in the brokenness of your family. Its Gospel light shines through whether you’ve felt the pain of family or were the perpetrator who inflicted the pain. As is more likely, it instructs when you’ve been part of both. In short, this book succeeds because of where it goes, a place that most Christian family books shop just short of—the foot of the Cross. I can’t be good enough. Spouse, parent, it doesn’t matter; I just can’t. My only hope is at the Cross, the place where I see myself as I am and the place I find redemption.

Besides the awesome material, this book wins as a book on every level.  I’ve read some Russell Moore on blogs, but I must say he impressed me as a writer here. His style was unique and really stood out among family books. Most telling was how he connected with the reader. I felt he was staggering to the Cross with me. He refrained from the allowing the reader to see him as the model husband or the champion father. Like me, he struggles with looking away from the Cross even if he can clearly enunciate why the Cross is the answer.

Moore had me by chapter 2 on “The Cross as Family Crisis”. My excessive underlining shows just how he hit me where I live. He with continued aplomb exposed spiritual warfare in the home, dismantled family idolatry and my using family for my own identity. All the while, he reminded me that the cross tells another story. His chapters on marriage and intimacy were neither trite nor common as he drug us again to the Cross from where we’d be most likely to go kicking and screaming. He stayed true to a conservative, biblically-faithful point of view while not being boxed in by some of its common misapplications too. His discussion of children and parents was equally perceptive and Gospel focused. Even his preview of aging proved I’ll be needing the Cross all the way.

The final chapter on “Free to Be Family” led to misty eyes for me. I’m not sure how to explain how truly wonderful this book is. Get it. You need it whether you know it or not. You need it because having the Cross but leaving it out of your home will mushroom into the most grotesque of errors. This winner is easily a book-of-the-year entry that every believer needs.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Love By The Book by Walter Kaiser

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Walter Kaiser has written many helpful works over a career spanning decades. I’ve enjoyed having many of them on my shelves. You know that you will get careful and capable help from a conservative standpoint. This work strikes me as him entering an area that differs from his usual academic work. In fact, the back of the book will show its classification as “Christian Life/ Love & Marriage”. Still, he can’t deny who he is and gives us something of a brief commentary on the Song of Solomon even as he attempts to give marital help.

As for the Song, he holds to a literal, non-allegorical approach that is most prevalent these days, though he is much more subdued than many such works in the intimate details. On the other hand, he presents a three-person interpretation (Shepherd, Shulammite, and Solomon) rather than the much more common two-person view (Shepherd and Shulammite). Though I believe some aspects of the allegorical view seeing Christ and His people must be true, and though I definitely can’t find my way around the difficulties of the three-person view, I found Kaiser clear and a good resource for me to check those competing views.

As for the marriage help, he holds to the traditional view of marriage that has been held up as the biblical position for centuries. He will have none of the radical trends pervading our culture and ensnarling the church. He makes a beautiful case for a superior way that is held up in Scripture.

My copy will be found on my Song of Solomon shelf, but this work can be used effectively in the “Love and Marriage” as well. How blessed we’d be if our views of marriage were what Kaiser champions here.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Romans (NICOT) by Moo (Revised)

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Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series has been the highest-rated modern, exegetical commentary on that pivotal letter over its 20-year life. It’s really not even been close. It was a no-brainer to ask Moo to revise this commentary rather than enlisting a new contributor. To those who have used this conservative commentary, the good news is that the revision doesn’t involve its solid conclusions. Think of the same home-run exegesis with up-to-date scholarly interaction. Since the conclusions remain, maybe it’s more of a scholarly dismissal of wobbly ideas that this revision’s additions accomplish.

Academic types will love the massively-expanded bibliography. It grew from 8 pages to over 120 pages! The Introduction changed little but little revision was needed. It’s something of a model introduction with great findings. The word “refreshing” comes to mind compared to much that’s printed today.

The commentary itself had places that changed little as well, but other sections had more shoring up of an already great presentation. (I actually laid the old edition beside it and compared on several passages). In the preface Moo explains what he sought to do in this revision—interact with 20 years of work and improve the writing. He succeeded. As you would guess, the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has mushroomed over these last 20 years. Moo shows us that, perhaps, it was a wasted two decades in many ways.

It’s no bold prognostication to predict this commentary will hold the top spot for another 20 years with this revision. I’ll further predict that scholarship will be at no loss at all if it does.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper

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Ok, so this is different. I’ve reviewed many Christian books and yet never one like this one. I opened it thinking that this book would be a cute idea and closed it convinced the lack of curiosity and wonder both have misled us over the years and strangles us in the present. The author, Barnabas Piper, could be the poster child for positive curiosity for his pervasive love of it. On the first page, the dedication of the book, and throughout the whole book, it’s clear his mother instilled a lusty, vigorous sense of wonder in him. What she instilled, he has imbibed into all of life. He has even absorbed this curiosity and tested its reliability with Scripture. Before you question the biblical thread of his argument, be sure to read him first. I think you’ll be won over. I was.

Part 1 takes three chapters to explain what curiosity is, what it is not, how important it is, and what its lack might cost us—binary thinking and missed or damaged relationships. He further shows how God has filled His creation with wonder and that curiosity has an element of seeking Him. He further digs in the Bible to show the vast difference between childlikeness and childishness. He champions imagination and looks at how culture has run from curiosity.

Part 2 gives eight chapters on “curious about…?” We are told to be curious about the right things before we are reminded of boundaries. Since there are grotesque things that even Scripture tells us not to think about, curiosity is morally bound. Some might wonder if he presents those boundaries distinctly enough, but likely he supposes discernment can guide us there.

I loved his observations; for example, how to balance information and curiosity. He said, “Google is the evil empire making us all dumber, ruining education, and providing easy answers to hard questions. Instead of thinking, we type, and we’re all worse for it.” Exactly!

Several times he reminded us one of curiosity’s best friends: books. Don’t miss either his balanced explanation of open-mindedness.

This timely paperback helped me to be reminded of the value of curiosity and the riches of wonder. That’s worth much!

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Fourth Edition)

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That this book reaches this 4th edition shows its influence. My guess is that’s its one of the most popular ethics textbooks from a Christian perspective available today and has been so for over twenty years. Morality is both in decline and being pushed out of our consciences by today’s amoral culture. Scott Rae brings a biblically grounded view of the major moral issues of our day in this helpful book. Rather than speaking in black and white terms alone, he helps us shine Scripture into the gray areas. While what the Bible explicitly says is strictly black and white, the ravages of sin often back us into confounding gray areas. In other words, we can use some help in sifting things that are not readily apparent.

Another feature of this book is help where the Bible is clear but culture is in rebellion. Standing against the tide requires more than glib answers. As Christians, we want to help people more than merely winning a fight, so we need more than surface-level thinking. Right and wrong and therefore morals can be logically proclaimed. We need to know how to make a difference.

After a fine introductory chapter that explains why morality is desperately needed, we have further looks at how to think of morality, what Christian ethics is, and insights into how to make ethical decisions in the subsequent chapters. The balance of the book takes individual issues and includes things like abortion, biotechnology, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, sexual ethics, and even environmental issues and border control. As you would expect, no reader is likely to agree with every argument or conclusion. I know I didn’t. But how to think about these issues is effectively presented in every case.

This fine textbook reads well, is easy to follow, and would be a boon for any reader. It’s a great title to either work through or have on hand when specific issues arise.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

An Old Testament Theology by Waltke

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That Bruce Waltke is revered in Old Testament scholarship is beyond dispute. His works on some OT books are the highest rated commentaries we have on them (particularly Proverbs and Micah). He’s written on most every section and genre of the OT and even contributed on Hebrew syntax. It comes as no surprise that Waltke would be chosen to deliver a comprehensive OT theology with those credentials. As he has done before, he even credits an associate who helped, in this case, Charles Yu, as a contributing author–but make no mistake—this is a Waltke work.

He gives 6 chapters of thorough explanation on what bible theology is as well as the importance of OT theology. By the time he’s done with this introduction, which compares to many a whole book on the market today, we are 170 pages deep.

Part Two covers chapters 7-28 and is labeled “Primary History”. It’s not just a chapter on every book or a combination of books of the Old Testament, yet every book that includes a historical element is covered. He lingers over the foundational Book of Genesis in covering the Cosmos, man, the Bride, the Fall, and the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants. He follows a theological interpretation of Creation that doesn’t demand a literal creation, which is less than I would believe. Still, he was more conservative in places that I anticipated, and as works are graded these days, he would be labeled “conservative”.

Part Three covers chapters 29-35, is called “other writings” and addresses Wisdom Literature. As you probably know, that is one of Waltke’s specialties. The final 70 pages of this fine volume are made up of helpful indexes.

To my mind, this volume is one of the three most important OT Theologies on the market today. Because of the cruciality of OT Theology, and because of the three distinct approaches, I recommend having this Waltke volume along with Paul House and Eugene Merrill. If one is all you want, this book gives you the most material.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

The Gospel & Marriage (The Gospel for Life Series)

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Though this is my first foray into The Gospel For Life series, I’m impressed with its potential. The series aims at major issues of our day and connects them to the Gospel. Once I learned what the series attempts to accomplish, I thought as I read this one on marriage that its presentation is ideal. Perfect for small groups or personal reading, this book edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker delivers the goods within the aims of the series striking the right balance between length and depth.

The first chapter by Mary Kassian gives a great overview that sees marriage as God sees it. Chapter 2 by Denny Burk was superb in presenting marriage roles in light of the Gospel—think biblical, conservative, and balanced. Familiar marriage author Dennis Rainey takes chapter 3 to discuss the practical work of marriage and sees it as a place for our Christianity to be displayed. Chapter 4 by Dean Inserra explains how the church should engage the issues of marriage while Andrew Walker explores the cultural shift on marriage in chapter 5. Both kept ties to the Gospel prevalent and wrote engaging help for us.

This book is one I’d be happy as a pastor to recommend to everyone. It’s not exactly a self-help book, yet it helps Christians orient their thinking in one of the most explosive issues of our day. If Christians can’t keep their thinking straight on this defining matter, the consequences will be dire. We need what this book says!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

 

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer

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Scrappy Church continues a series of wildly popular small hardbacks on church issues by Thom Rainer. This one strikes me as different than some of the earlier ones. It’s less practical this time, yet much more a plea. He seems to be asking us to take what he has been saying over several of his previous books and have the courage to just do it. It reads something like a don’t-give-up entreaty or maybe a start-now appeal. There could be, then, a little less information in this title, but more persuasion.

Rainer is in his wheelhouse in his declaration that God isn’t done with churches yet. He sees the issues and is well aware of the difficulties, but there’s no doubt he believes what he’s saying. There’s no sugarcoating in these pages, but no excuses either. Being a megachurch may not be in a church’s future, but distinct progress is possible to his mind.

The approach that’s given beyond the appeal is wrapped up in a turnaround cycle of outward deluge, welcome readiness, and backdoor closure. After you read this book you will likely agree that these three are the outline of the work that’s needed. I know I got some ideas out of this book and some challenge too. Another winner!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Here in Spirit by Jonathan Dodson

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This book has a wonderful approach to the study of the Holy Spirit. Most such books run straight to controversy as if the Spirit was nothing more than an academic question or a “spirited” debate. The better ones remind us that the Spirit is a Person. This one by Jonathan Dodson goes one better by stressing that He desires relationship—a relationship that is not merely representative of the Father and the Son, but personal to Himself. The author went so far in that vein that repentance was required in his life for what was rank neglect of the Spirit on his part. Perhaps like me, you aren’t far behind him!

Dodson knows how to connect with this generation. I’m not sure the word “hip” is still in currency as I don’t have a hip bone in my body, but he knew how to pull in a great deal of popular culture. For the record, I don’t think I had ever seen even one movie he referenced, but he told enough of the plot that I could connect the dots easily. What won the day for me was his prevalent sincerity and contributive content.

He didn’t drown in tongues, or gifts, or other strange favorites, but he displayed a clear understanding that preferred to stay on task for a relationship with the Spirit. My strongest recommendation for this book is the positive conviction it brought to me. In short, I prayed differently this morning. In a book aimed at Christians at all points of our journey, what could be a better endorsement?

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Counseling Techniques: A Comprehensive Resource for Christian Counselors

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This book is the best resource on Christian counseling that I’ve seen. I’m sure it would be a winning textbook for students and a major resource for counselors. Let me add, though, that as a pastor, I found the book fascinating as well. I’m not ready to be a professional counselor just because I have this book at my fingertips, but I can much better grasp what help they might be able to accomplish in a variety of difficult situations. What was offered in this volume was so clear and well written. The amazing consistency across the book shows an excellent editorial effort too. You could easily forget that every chapter was written by a different author as the continuity was seamless. It didn’t read like a dry textbook at all.

The book is divided into three main parts: theory-based strategies, population-based strategies, and clinical-based strategies. All three have captivating subjects to reveal. Coping skills strategies, attachment-oriented strategies, couple-focused strategies, and the last 4 chapters on special marriage issues were among the most helpful. The REACH forgives model in chapter 20 was as biblical as it was stimulating for counseling sessions.

Each article points to the literature without stalling in it. Summaries are refreshing and to the point. Examples that bring concepts alive are often provided. Compassion is always evident as is grace for our brokenness. Again, it’s not my field, but I can’t imagine how a book that covers such a wide swath of counseling issues could be any better. I predict I’ll always be glad to have this resource within reach!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.