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book review: Practicing the King’s Economy by Rhodes, Holt and Fikkert

Cover ArtI received this book free from Baker Publishing for review purposes. I chose it because the synopsis excited me. We are a ministry family in a small New England town, and we are always seeking to honor the Lord more and more in our budget and stewardship. From the description, I believed the book was going to show me and my family how we could do just that. However, as I’ve been reading, I’ve come to see this as another book filled with all the ways that middle class Christians need to give up all they have to honor God with their finances.

This book shares a lot of examples and stories of highly sacrificial churches and Christians, that were admirable and beautiful. But how many of us are called to downsize into an inner-city impoverished neighborhood to do ministry? What about those of us who stay in the suburbs, and minister to our neighbors there? I did not realize that this book was yet another social justice book, looking at how the church is failing the poor and underprovided for. I had so hoped it was a book aimed at helping me, as our family serves the Lord where He has called us and in raising our children to be godly men and women.

I also had a theological beef with this book. On page 104, the authors discuss the Lord’s Supper,  referring quite clearly to the Lord’s Supper/Communion instituted by Jesus at His Last Supper. In describing how they believe Paul writes about how God wants us to fulfill that command in 1 Corinthians 11, they write, “The point wasn’t to stir up a bunch of hidden sin in the quietness of their hearts before they took the bread and wine; the point was to make sure the Supper that shaped the church’s entire life truly embodied God’s equally generous welcome to all who came, including the outcast and the poor…Paul emphasized getting the Lord’s Supper right because he believed the impact of that meal in the sacred space of the house-turned-church would ripple out into every aspect of the Corinthians’ lives. He believed a renewed Lord’s supper practice would, by God’s grace, form believers into people who would live lives of solidarity with the marginalized, show love for their neighbors, and embody generosity toward the ‘have-nots’.” Now let’s remember what Jesus said in Matthew 26 as He instituted the Lord’s Supper: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Christian hospitality is essential, and we should all grow in extending that to everyone we meet. But not at the expense of a correct understanding of God’s Word. This understanding of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is central to 2 chapters of the book. And it is wrong. Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians 11 that if the Corinthians are hungry they should eat at home before coming to the Lord’s Supper, lest they eat and drink judgment on themselves. He has no notion that it is “God’s potluck”, intended to welcome and feed the community. It is intended for God’s people alone, and should be taught as such.

I was highly disappointed by this book. The authors have hearts for the Lord, and they are earnestly serving people generously and sincerely. However, that doesn’t necessarily qualify them to write a book to instruct others, and I don’t recommend this book.


Book Review: The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus

Image result for the farewell discourse and final prayer of jesusSeveral years back, Albert Mohler wrote something that stuck with me:  “Here is a simple rule to keep in mind:  When D. A. Carson writes a book, buy it.”  At the time I was not very familiar with Carson’s work.  Nine years later, I can affirm the wisdom of Mohler’s rule.

The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus is a commentary on John 14-17, a well-loved section of Scripture recalling Jesus’ last words to his disciples before his betray, trials, and crucifixion.  Carson has already dealt with this at length in his outstanding commentary on John.  But the commentary is rather technical and is dealing with questions at an academic level that many are not looking for.

This book is a commentary as well, but it doesn’t get bogged down in grammatical issues or fighting through the vast history of interpretation of the Gospel according to John.  Instead, it focuses on a straightforward explanation of the text. I found it enormously successful, using it as devotional material in the mornings for the most part.  Carson does such a great job of presenting the truths of the Scripture and constantly connecting them to the lives of modern readers.

Throughout the work, Carson turns to the lyrics of old hymns.  Several times he breaks forth into his own poetry.  This is worship, even as it brings the words of our Lord to life. And throughout Carson writes with a pastor’s heart, constantly pointing people to the very real impact these ancient words have on the lives of Jesus’ people today.

This book was originally published in 1980, but as Christians should know, old works do not mean less valuable works.  Carson’s explanation of John 14-17 has the ring of truth and the power of the Spirit.  I highly recommend it … but I will give a small disclaimer.  Carson writes for a more mature Christian who will understand terms like parousia and who are not intimidated by vocabulary like otiose or proleptically.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit greatly from reading the book anyway if you are a newer or younger reader, but it does mean that the book will push you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker in exchange for an honest review.  There was no expectation of a favorable review, but I give one anyway.  Take Albert Mohler’s advice … when Carson writes a book, buy it.


book review: Your God is Too Glorious: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places by Chad Bird


I received this book free from Baker Publishing for review purposes. I chose it because the synopsis excited me. I’ve been in a hard place spiritually, and I was looking at this book topic as one that could be encouraging and remind me how God uses “radically ordinary lives” and “gets excited about” them. Unfortunately, 57 pages in, I stopped reading and will not be finishing this book.

Chad Bird turns out to be an ex-Lutheran minister who, due to ambition and perhaps other unstated choices, lost his ministry, wife and children 10 years ago and has now written a book about how God can use those in ordinary places (like truckers, nursing mothers, soldiers in the line of duty) to bring truths about Himself to others. I agree with this, and as a homeschooling mother, that is a great reminder and even relief as I look at my life and remember that my “ordinary” work is extremely precious and eternally valuable to the kingdom of God and to His heart.

My problem was with the way the author chooses to present this premise. I believe we can remember God’s imminence (He is Emmanuel after all, God with us) while still bringing Him glory and in no way diminishing Him or the calling He puts on the lives of others, callings that may be more formal or prominent. For example, he tells the story of a fellow trucker and friend named Willy, who said if he ever won the lottery, he would use it to buy a double wide trailer and a few acres and bring all his family there to live with him. I have no problem with that goal, I love that he loves his family. But Mr. Bird says, “In that double-wide trailer…my friend Willy would have come into his kingdom. He could do more than spend 15 hours a day on the road and at work…I found a holy man in the oil fields.” (p. 37). Again, I have nothing against finding God in the ordinary. But this man’s goal (and Mr. Bird’s response to it) has nothing to do with God, His glory, or His kingdom. Since when has God ever focused on us coming into OUR kingdoms?

In the author’s making much of ordinary lives, I believe God is diminished. And I worry that perhaps he ventures into blasphemy, as he writes things like “The Sprit blows willy-nilly across the vast field of humanity, spreading the seeds of grace into all kinds of soil.” (p. 39). One thing God isn’t, as Father, Son or Holy Spirit, is “willy-nilly”. He has purpose, and wisdom, and does all things through perfect planning with the knowledge of eternity. He does indeed distribute the seeds of His grace into all kinds of soil. But we read in Ephesians 1:3-4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He chooses with purpose and plan, and to say otherwise is dangerous and wrong.

I am saddened that I couldn’t give this book a better review. Please look for encouragement in the ordinary things of life elsewhere.


Book Review: Outrageous by Aaron Tredway



I enjoyed this book a lot, it was a quick read yet had depth to it. Aaron Tredway has had a lot of adventures, especially relating to his career playing and coaching soccer. What I especially appreciated about the writing of his adventures however, was that he doesn’t do a lot of name dropping and he is very skilled at using all his examples to point to Christ and to bring glory to God.

I will say that the introduction was concerning to me as I read it. It implied that the book was very self-focused, a how-to on living an adventurous life with God as the director, as though the point in life is to have outrageous adventures in and of themselves. But from chapter 1 on, I was relieved and pleased that the rest of the book truly points to God and makes much of Him through all of life’s adventures, outrageous or simple.

I was given a copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of reviewing, but my thoughts are all my own.


Unlocking the Bible

unlockingthebibleAs in every age, there is a lot of interest in the Bible.  Ask the average Christian and they will tell you that they know they should be reading the Bible more.  People who are curious about Christianity understand that this is the book on which the faith is based.  But for many people, wading into the Bible is a deep mystery.  Where do you even start?  Why are the different books in the Bible so different?  What is the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

For people who ask these questions, Jeff Lasseigne has written Unlocking the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016).  This book aims to give you an overview of the Bible, illustrating how the pieces fit together and giving some tools for how to understand where the Bible came from, where a given book fits into the Bible’s story, how to study a passage and get as much as you can out of it, and even how to effectively teach the Bible to others.  It’s an ambitious target, and the results are hit-and-miss.

It should be stated right up front that this is a book for somebody who is fairly new to the topic.  There are nuggets in here that are helpful, but if you are generally familiar with the Bible, you would probably do better looking at a book that specializes in the area that interests you.  The material is good, but it is definitely a beginner’s level. There is only so much you can cover.

Lasseigne writes from an unabashedly evangelical perspective (specifically dispensational premillennial, if those terms mean anything to you.)  He is absolutely convinced that this is the word of God and he wants you to love it like he does.  He does a solid job of bringing all of these ideas like where we got the Bible and can we trust that it has been transmitted through history accurately very well.  His overview of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the often overlooked time between Malachi and Matthew is solid, but simple.

Fully half of the book is giving an overview of each of the books of the Bible, including its theme, a dozen or so interesting facts about the book, and some famous quotes from people who have appreciated the book.  It’s a little different from the overview you get in a good study Bible … this is more little nuggets designed to make you curious about the book, or little details you can bring up while you are teaching the book.

This brings up one of my two major complaints about the book.  Of the seven regular chapters of the book, one of them is dedicated to how to teach the Bible.  What he says is true and good, but in general this book is a lot more basic than I would hope somebody who is looking to be a Bible teacher would be reading.  That chapter felt a little out of place for the overall target audience of the book.

My second complaint is the humor and stories included throughout.  Now, I don’t mind humor at all … for example, I think Matt Chandler and Alistair Begg are brilliant in including reverent humor in their messages.  I think that is where Lasseigne is trying to go, but it misses.  It’s just trying to be funny for the sake of being funny.  He has a two page illustration of funny quotes by flight attendants which was genuinely funny, but it served no purpose.  This happens a lot in the book.  It’s a shame because he says himself:

When it comes to using stories and illustrations as seasonings, we don’t want to overdo it by substituting stories for sermons or illustrations for illumination!  Too much seasoning spoils the meal.  I’ve heard messages made up of stories and silly jokes and very little Bible study.  That dishonoring to the Lord and is a dereliction of duty (140).

I don’t think his stories go to the extent of replacing content, but it was clear after a while that he was simply including these stories to lighten to the tone of the book rather than to advance the material, for the most part.  After a while I was groaning as I came to another.

Overall, I think this is a valuable book to somebody who is a new believer and who is trying to get an understanding of what all of these books in the Bible are.  I think for that audience, this book succeeds very well.   If you already have a basic understanding of that, I would suggest looking at other book that deal with the topics in more depth.


Book Review: Resolved: 10 Ways to Stand Strong and Live What You Believe


I highly recommend this book. If you are in a dark season in your walk with God, this book will encourage and rebuild you. If you are in a season of great spiritual health, read this as a tool to recommend to others who might need encouragement, as well as to remind you as to why things are going so well for you right now.

I wanted to read this book because I got the impression from the subtitle and summary that it was going to encourage me in the face of spiritual persecution. That is not the focus of this book. The first chapter, Believe When it Looks Ridiculous, does address that aspect of being resolved in your faith. But the main focus of the book is to stand resolved when the challenge comes from within, when the temptation to forego your faith is because the sin within you or circumstances surrounding you lead you to doubt God’s promises, His power, and His presence. Despite being quite different in content and direction than I initially thought, I was very pleased and encouraged as I read this book. While Ms Abujamra writes in a very conversational style that is easy to read, Resolved is full of meaty truths and powerful Scripture references that build the believer up.

Resolved addresses 10 life situations that can make faith weak. They are: Believe When it Looks Ridiculous, Love when It’s Inconvenient, Obey When It’s not Popular, Yield When It’s my Right, Speak Up When It’s Easier Not To, Give When I Barely Have Enough, Be in Community When I’d Rather Be Alone, Have Joy When Life is Depressing, Hope When it Hurts Too Much, and Rest in the Midst of Chaos. Each chapter has many personal examples from Ms. Abujamra’s life, practical suggestions and approaches to aid the reader in putting the topic into practice in their life, and each ends with a formal resolution that the reader can make going forward.

I appreciated this book as I was in a dark season when I read it, and the final chapter on Rest in the Midst of Chaos was a great balm to my spirit. It is very encouraging to know we are not the only ones going through hard times, and Ms. Abujamra is very open and honest in her writing.

I received a copy of this book from Baker Books for the purpose of reviewing, but I was under no obligation to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.


book review: 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex

Cover ArtAs a mom of 4 daughters, I chose to read this book to review because I hoped to find a resource to equip me in talking with them about sex. I was not disappointed by Miller’s book; it is candid, honest, and useful.

Ms. Miller is very open about her qualifications for writing on this topic. She shares about growing up as a pastor’s daughter and the sheltered life that didn’t prepare her for the real world of sex. She endured sexual abuse at the hands of a youth pastor in high school, which led her to turn to pornography and have an unfaithful relationship with a young man she was engaged to before finally breaking free by God’s grace. She is now a speaker at colleges and churches on the topic of sex, and is happily married. Her story is heartbreaking yet encouraging, as she shares how God has healed her and is using her to bring light and hope to a subject that can be intimidating and even terrifying for parents.

Ms. Miller’s 5 points center around one thing: your child is not the exception. In talking to our kids about sex, the ineffectiveness of sheltering, mainstream media offerings, pornography, and sexual abuse, she underlines the fact that avoiding talking with them in hopes of not “spoiling” our kids’ innocence will only backfire. They will learn about all these topics from someone, and don’t we want it to be us, their parents?

She explains that the best approach is not just one big conversation at some predetermined age, but a lifetime of open, respectful discussions that are age-appropriate and that can and should be initiated by both parent and child. Families should determine their values and then cover these topics in light of that. The best way to protect our children is to educate them and to prove ourselves trustworthy listeners and information givers. Ms. Miller gives very thoughtful information based on her most up-to-date research, as well as providing updates via her website

Each chapter ends with very practical tips (“The Bottom Line”) as well as a written interview with an expert on the topic covered within. I feel well-equipped to have meaningful conversations with my daughters, and am not intimidated by issues that may arise. I am thankful for this book and highly recommend it to parents who want to have honest, real conversations with their kids on a hard but beautiful subject.

I received a free copy of this book from Baker Books, and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.