Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review of DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY by Michael Reeves

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you’re looking for a book that will help you to see God for who he is as presented in the Bible and therefore cause your heart to desire this kind of God more, Michael Reeves’ new book DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY is the book you’re looking for. I picked it up because I thought it sounded interesting and I wanted to read a book about the trinity, but I wasn’t prepared for how truly profound this book was going to be. Reeves presents the trinity as absolutely foundational to the Christian faith. In Reeves’ reading of the Bible, believing in the trinity isn’t optional. If God isn’t triune, then much of what we believe about Christianity just doesn’t add up.

Reeves outlines the biblical revelation of God as an ultimately loving eternal Father pouring out his love on his equally eternal Son by his once again equally eternal Spirit. He does a great job of explaining what Tim Keller often calls The Dance of the trinity. The Father’s love so overflows for his Son that he wanted to create human beings with whom he could also pour out his love. God is foundationally loving toward his creation, and even when it became fallen, his love continued to overflow in sending his Son to die in our place. His love is experienced by those who trust in him by the indwelling Spirit of God. The Spirit’s indwelling catches us up in the loving Dance of God.

The book is short and is even a bit repetitive at times, but it has helped reignite a transformation view of God for me. If the trinity is true, then the way we think about some of the most common ideas in the Bible is important. Read this book, and you might find yourself challenged to embrace a bigger view of God than you did before.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of GOSPEL DEEPS by Jared C. Wilson

Rating: 4 out of 5

GOSPEL DEEPS by Jared C. Wilson is a basking in the gospel of Jesus and a call to find our greatest joy in the God who so beautifully planned and completed our redemption through the gospel. From the beginning, it's clear that Wilson doesn't want Christians to be satisfied by a narrow view of the gospel that sees it as only about saving sinners from hell when they die. Instead, the gospel is meant to impact every aspect of our lives. In fact, one of my favorite chapters in the book is his chapter on cosmic redemption. Jesus means to redeem all of our lives, bringing great joy in following him. Chapter 4 is a chapter that combats the idea that following Jesus is boring as Wislson explores the idea of enjoyment.

Of course, following Jesus doesn't mean a life void of suffering, and Wilson presents some biblical ideas of why God allows suffering. However, the key to this chapter is resting in Jesus in the midst of our suffering more than about trying to find a reason for our suffering.

A couple other highlights are Wilson's chapter on the atonement and a discussion of the attributes of Christ being always present in the incarnate Christ.

While there was some areas that I was in disagreement with Wilson (he holds to a deterministic view of God's providence), I still found myself impacted by his deep love of Jesus and his authenticity in sharing some intimate details of his spiritual journey. GOSPEL DEEPS is a celebration of "the excellencies of Christ," and a focus on Christ's character and nature is much needed by believers and the Body of Christ as a whole.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of INTERPRETING THE PARABLES (Second Edition) by Craig Blomberg

Rating: 5 out of 5

I've always loved Jesus' parables, but throughout church history, not everyone has been in agreement with how they should be interpreted. In recent years, many theologians have rejected the idea of the parables as allegories, and instead argued for one main point for each parable. The rejection of allegory is understandable in light of many abuses by theologians of the past who have spiritualized every single element of a parable, pulling in ideas that are foreign to the plain reading of the text.

INTERPRETING THE PARABLES by Craig Blomberg explores the parables in detail, including the history of their interpretation and arguing for a return to recognizing the clear allegorical elements of the parables. In contrast to the one-point view of interpreting the parables, Blomberg makes the interesting suggestion that each of the characters in Jesus' parables represent a point Jesus is trying to make with the parable.

Part 1 is a lengthy exploration of the history interpretation and the approaches taken in interpreting the parables. Part 2 is the most valuable part of the book because Blomberg looks at the individual parables, drawing out their meaning according to the approach he argues for in Part 1. The final section looks at the Christological element of the parables.

The parables are my favorite genre of Scripture to study, and I enjoyed Blomberg's exploration of them. At 450 pages, INTERPRETING THE PARABLES is a thorough resource for anyone wanting to look deeper into the parables of Jesus.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Monday, September 24, 2012


Rating: 5 out of 5

A LITTLE BOOK FOR NEW THEOLOGIANS by Kelly M. Kapic is a great biblical introduction for any theologian. Kapic defines theology as “an active response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, whereby the believer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, subordinate to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles as recorded in the Scriptures and in communion with the saints, wrestles with and rests in the mysteries of God, his work and his world.” By defining theology and expounding upon it in this way throughout the book, it is clear that all believers in Christ are meant to be theologians. We all do theology because we all think about God. Theology is very relevant to our lives.

The book is separated into two parts. In the first part Kapic covers why anyone should study theology. There’s some great discussion about knowing and enjoying God and theology as a pilgrimage.

The second part of the book covers the characteristics of faithful theology and theologians. The highlight of this section was the chapter on doing theology as part of a community. This means allowing voices of past theologians to speak into our study, as well as being a part of the body of Christ and learning from other believers in their theological pursuit.

The book is titled A LITTLE BOOK FOR NEW THEOLOGIANS, but it’s a great book for all believers whether they’re just jumping into their study of who God is, or if they’ve been following Jesus for several years. It’s a short book, but it’s packed full of wisdom that will lead to a humble pursuit of knowing God.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin

Rating: 5 out of 5

A government experiment goes terribly wrong and plunges the world into chaos as human beings are either transformed into vampire-like creatures or killed by vampire-like creatures. Contained societies find refuge day and night in the light because darkness means death. At the center of it all is a girl named Amy who has lived for a long time with the knowledge that she may be the only one who can bring redemption to a world full of monsters.

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin is the first of a trilogy, and although it is long at about 800 pages, I was compelled to finish it by the brilliance and emotional pull of the story. At first when I learned that this was essentially a vampire novel, I wondered if it would be a cheesy story. Cronin, however, tells a gripping story by using a tragically failed government experiment and centering the story on a world in need of redemption and a promised rescuer.

The virals (as the creatures are called) are bloodthirsty monsters, and yet we know all along that they’re still human beings deep beneath what they’ve become. At the same time, the group of characters we grow to journey with see the virals as a very real threat to their own survival. As the characters travel a long distance in search of where the viral outbreak began, you can sense the ever present danger, especially when they find themselves having to escape when they’re surrounded by virals.

Early in the novel, it seems likes the story is centered on FBI Agent Wolgast and his care for Amy. I was disappointed when the story moved away from him after the outbreak spread throughout the world. The story moves one hundred years into the future, though, and I grew to understand, given the grand epic story Cronin is telling, why the story had to move in this direction. Amy is a very likable character, and though she’s absent for much of the story, her eminent presence is still felt.

The way the story builds up to the outbreak was very well done, in my opinion. Some readers may find it long and overly done, but I enjoyed the email exchange that explains what happened in the jungle, as well as the janitor’s experience of dreaming about Subject Zero.

THE PASSAGE is the first in a trilogy, and the second book in the trilogy comes out in October 2012, and I can’t wait to continue this gripping story. Cronin has created a memorable story of a world desperate for redemption, and fans of post-apocalyptic stories will want to check this story out.

(Note: This novel contains strong language and violent content)

I received this book for free for review from Ballantine Books through, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review of WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron

Who the Book is For: Writers, Storytellers
Rating: 5 out of 5

According to WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron, brain science has discovered that human beings thrive on storytelling. Stories help our brains to become prepared for possible situations that may arise in our lives in the future. Stories act as a type of practice for our brains.

WIRED FOR STORY looks at the various ways the human brain is impacted by story and walks writers through the ways to apply these important insights to crafting stories that will keep readers hooked from the very beginning. Each chapter begins with a cognitive secret and then applies this to writing a great story. I especially appreciated the chapter on theme. Cron argues that every story has a point that it is trying to make, and she gives advice on how to shape the story's meaning and communicating it in a way that isn't preachy.

WIRED FOR STORY has a lot of the same advice you'll find from almost any fiction writing book. However, it looks at storytelling from a more fundamental perspective of how our brains are designed to affected by story.

I received this book for free for review from Ten Speed Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Blog Tour Review of MORTAL FIRE by C.F. Dunn

Rating: 4 out of 5

MORTAL FIRE is a story about an English professor named Emma who takes a position in the United States because it will connect her with a mysterious 17th-century journal. She’s quickly welcomed by the staff and students of her new post a college in Maine. She is lecturer in history on the subject of torture. Soon events surrounding the journal’s secrets begin to put her life in danger.

MORTAL FIRE is the first in a trilogy, and the book will undoubtedly leave you wanting to continue the story to find out what will happen. The story is told in the first person, and it grabs you into its narrative early on in the first scene. All the characters are interesting and complex. The author’s descriptions of her scenes are very well-written and visually captivating.

The book is full of mystery. It’s about an ancient book, which is why I picked it up in the first place because I’m always interested in history and books from the past. It’s a rather long book, but the story is compelling throughout. It includes an excerpt from the next book in the series to whet readers’ appetites for the continuing of the story.

I received this book for free for review from Kregel Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review of GODSPEED by Britt Merrick

Photo Credit: David C. Cook

Who the Book is For: Christians
Rating: 5 out of 5

GODSPEED: MAKING CHRIST’S MISSION YOUR OWN by Britt Merrick is definitely one of the best books I’ve read of 2012, and probably one of the best books I’ve read ever. It’s both thought-provoking and heart-stirring in a way that brings Jesus and his mission to the forefront and encourages a complete embrace of God’s mission to save the world.

GODSPEED is about Missio Christi, the mission of Christ, and our place within it. But we shouldn’t mistake that this is a book about us, or that the Bible is a book about us. Merrick makes it very clear throughout that this grand story is all about Jesus and his mission. The beautiful reality that Merrick paints by looking into the pages of Scripture is that God invites us into his mission to work with him to save the world.

Merrick challenges the common ideas that come to mind when we think of missions and encourages us to lose the “s” and consider that our lives are meant to be lived on mission in the time and place where God has us. He also challenges the mundane lives many people who claim the name of Christ live and paints a picture of Christian living that is truly adventure of walking with and working with Christ.

I love how Merrick organized this book around the work of the trinity, and I also loved the stories he shares from his own life. Merrick is transparent and authentic in this book, and his life is clearly one that is on a genuine journey with Christ. Merrick also tells the stories from Scripture in compelling ways.

GODSPEED is a powerful look at what the Christian life should look like. It is a life that is meant to pursue the hearts of people and bring them into the life of journeying with Christ. I found myself challenged and convicted throughout, and I find myself wrestling with how the implications of what Merrick is revealing through GODSPEED need to specifically play out in my life. Christians everywhere need to read what God is doing through the message of GODSPEED.

I received this book for free for review from David C. Cook, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Blog Tour Review for frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament by Eric Larson

frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament is a new and unique resource written by Bible teacher Eric Larson. It is a survey of the New Testament. frameworks gives people studying the New Testament a good “lay of the land.” It’s not overly in depth, but it’s a great overview of much of the most foundational things anyone studying the New Testament should know.

The book functions like a Bible handbook, covering the contextual framework of the New Testament world, which includes the life and ministry of Christ and the continuance of Christ’s ministry through his followers. The book covers each of the New Testament’s 27 books, answering the following ten questions:

1. What is the book like?
2. What is this book about?
3. Why was it written?
4. How is the book organized?
5. How does it read?
6. How do I move through it?
7. What makes the book or its author unique?
8. What should I remember most?
9. How can I explore further or go deeper?
10. What one verse can I apply right now?

frameworks is unique in its approach by using visuals to help readers get a grasp on the important concepts of the New Testament. People learn and retain knowledge visually, and Larson keeps this in mind in designing this book. I really enjoyed the introductions to the books because they provided some interesting information to keep in mind as you’re reading each of the New Testament’s books.

Check out more about frameworks at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review of FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL edited Michael F. Bird

The Apostle Paul was probably the most significant figure in the spread of Christianity and its continued preservation to this day. His writings have been widely read and widely quoted. Yet not everyone is in agreement about what Paul was trying to communicate in his writings. In fact, although I was somewhat aware, I didn’t completely realize the range of thought that people have come to in their study of Paul and his writings. In the Zondervan Counterpoint Series volume FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL, four scholars present four different perspectives on Paul. Thomas Schreiner presents the Reformed View. Luke Timothy Johnson presents the Catholic View. Douglas Campbell presents the Post-New Perspective View. Finally, Mark D. Nanos presents the Jewish View.

The book presents each of the scholars’ essays, which are followed by responses by the other three scholars. It shows a great interaction between the authors concerning their views. The only addition I would like to see from one of these books is a rejoinder by the essay’s author in light of the other scholars’ responses.

I fall in line mostly with Schreiner’s Reformed View, but I enjoyed reading the responses to his essay on some things that might need to be rethought and reformulated.

FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL is a good resource for theologians interested in diving deeper into the New Testament text. I must say that I found it a bit frustrating that Paul’s writings could be seen in some very different ways, which can lead to confusion for some believers. However, I do think it’s important to look at the evidence and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of IDEAS FOR PARENTS by Mark Matlock & Christopher Lyon

In RAISING WISE CHILDREN youth ministry expert gave some insightful tips on how to mediate wisdom to your children. IDEAS FOR PARENTS expands on the ideas presented in the first book, giving very practical ideas on how parents can develop meaningful, deep, and enduring relationships with their children. I can really appreciate the goal of this book because I have three children who are very young, and my wife and I want our relationships with them to be the most impactful they can be. We want to follow Jesus in a way that causes them to want to follow Jesus.

Relationships are formed and cultivated by the time we spend together, and this book seeks to make those times as meaningful and intentional as possible. Therefore, the book gives several ideas for activities parents and children can do together and talking points they can discuss together. The book is broken up into sections such as family relationships, school, media choices, discipleship, etc. Each section starts with a short essay or interview by well-respected youth ministry leaders.

IDEAS FOR PARENTS is a great resource for parents to be intentional about their relationships with their children. Coupled with RAISING WISE CHILDREN, these two books will greatly help in raising children who love Jesus and live wisely as he did.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of THE REASON FOR GOD by Timothy Keller

Rating: 5 out of 5

Timothy Keller, lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has become one of the leading voices in Christianity, well-respected by church leaders everywhere. He’s one of my favorite authors, and THE REASON FOR GOD is perhaps the book that put him at the forefront of Christian thought.

In THE REASON FOR GOD, Keller suggests and I think convincingly illustrates how belief in God, and specifically the God of the Christian Bible, makes the most sense of reality. In fact, to not believe in God makes less sense given the evidence we have.

Keller tackles some of the most common difficulties people have with Christianity and does a great job of disarming some of the most convincing arguments against a good and loving God. His chapter on hell actually reveals an incredibly loving God quite well.

Keller gives several evidences for God’s existence, as well as some great insights on the difference between religion and faith in Jesus. The final chapter on the dance of God in the trinity will help you to see God’s relational nature in a fresh new way.

Keller eloquently argues for belief in Jesus and in Jesus’ great love for fallen human beings. THE REASON FOR GOD is a book that all Christians and non-Christians should read.

I received this book for free for review from Dutton, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review of THE KINGDOM by Bryan Litfin

Photo Credit: Crossway Books

Rating: 5 out of 5

THE KINGDOM is the final book in Bryan Litfin’s Chiveis Trilogy. With trilogies, the final act tends to be one where anything could happen. You know how you want the story to end, but will the characters you’ve grown to love so much even make it to the end. Teo and Ana’s journey of discovering the ancient faith of the Christiani has been a non-stop adventure story, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Litfin did a great job of creating suspense by putting Teo and Ana in the direst of circumstances throughout.

What I also loved about THE KINGDOM, which is true of many great trilogies, is the revelation of things that go back further than even the first story in the series. For example, in the opening prologue Litfin reveals how Christianity became nearly extinct in the first place, which was something we didn’t know in the beginning. The back story of Jean Luc Beaumont provided much explanation of how the world came to be the way it did after the Great Destruction.

Overall, The Chiveis Trilogy is an incredible journey because it is a journey of discovering the God of the universe for the first time. THE KINGDOM is a story of God’s pursuit of his fallen creation and the humbling thought that he would use fallen people to accomplish his redemptive plan.

THE KINGDOM is an exciting story that is full of adventure, love, and incredible sacrifice. I’ll be recommending this story to everyone I know who loves fiction.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Novelization by Greg Cox

Photo Credit: Titan Books

Rating: 5 out of 5

I haven’t seen THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I decided to read the novelization of the movie because I’m waiting until the movie comes out on DVD, but I love to read and I wanted to know what it was like to experience the story in written form. So this review is in light of having not seen the film.

The story of the THE DARK KNIGHT RISES follows the general rules of the final story in a trilogy in that the stakes are raised to incredible heights. Anything can happen and everyone is expendable. I was continually aware throughout the story that even Batman may not survive this journey. Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer created a story of a world in absolute destruction in desperate need of the redemption only a hero could provide.

I’ve always been a fan of Batman, and I was surprised by and excited that they borrowed from the Knightfall storyline of Bane’s breaking of Batman’s back. With Batman out of commission for much of the story, I still felt like I was reading an incredible story as several of Batman’s allies, such as Commissioner Gordon, Detective John Blake, and Lucius Fox, showed that anyone can be a hero, which happens to be one of the primary themes of the story.

Not having seen the movie yet, I felt like Greg Cox told the story very well and in a way that kept me turning pages, wanting to know how this story was going to end. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was an incredible exploration of human nature and our often desperate need for redemption. I loved how the story tied the whole trilogy together into one cohesive story.

I received this book for free for review from Titan Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review of SPARK by Jason Jaggard

Rating: 4 out of 5

SPARK by Jason Jaggard is a battle cry for people embrace the risks it will take to make a positive impact on the world and in our individual lives. Even more than that, it is a call to embrace community, to change the world while realizing that God is about creating a community of people who will deeply care about and transform their world.

I picked up SPARK because I knew that Jaggard had once served alongside Erwin Mcmanus at Mosaic in LA. McManus is one of my favorite authors and speakers. What I loved about this book, that I also love about McManus’ teaching is the focus on helping people to reach their God-given potential. God created people to do great things, but in our fallen nature, we often settle for mediocre living. Jaggard refers to us as sleeping giants in need of awakening. SPARK is very much a motivational book, and Jaggard calls people to embrace life.

The common thinking is that to make a truly transformational impact on the world we must do something big and spectacular. We may not believe we have what it takes. However, Jaggard shows us that a large fire starts with a small spark. For us, it’s the small risks that we take that compound to create transformational change.

One of my favorite chapters of the book was about the perceptions and ideas that we have ingrained in our minds that might cause us to not see new patterns and new ways of doing things. We become blinded by our own learning capacity, or as Jaggard puts it, “learning ourselves to death.” We have to learn to think differently, and we have to learn to let others into our lives. We weren’t meant to live life alone. Jaggard prescribes Spark Groups in which the people involved are the content, and the whole point is to challenge each other to take small risks that will make a big impact on their individual lives and in their world, then discuss these risks after they’re taken.

If I were to change anything about the book, it would be to add a bit of clarification. Jaggard encourages readers to embrace life, and he defines this life as life in Jesus Christ. Readers of this book may be Christian or non-Christian. In fact, I think the ideas would be appeal greatly to a non-Christian audience. But a clearer explanation of what Jesus came to do through the gospel would have been well-placed. Not that it was completely missing, just a bit vague.

I loved the format of the book. Short paragraphs and interesting stories throughout make the reading very easy. SPARK is full of very practical wisdom on leading a great life. Jaggard makes you want to live a great life, and that’s a mark of a great communicator.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review of SURFING FOR GOD by Michael John Cusick

SURFING FOR GOD by Michael John Cusick is a book about the struggle men often have with sexual addiction, but even more than that, it is a book about the profound power of the gospel of Jesus to set people free from the slavery of sin. Cusick walks men through the source of their struggles, revealing what their hearts are truly desperate for and how the slavery to sin acts as a counterfeit to their desperate need for an intimate relationship with God. The book seeks to empower men through a clear exploration of the gospel and give hope of being better men.

The book gives a lot of practical help for battling the struggle, but the chapter that I found the most illuminating was the chapter on being addicted to your own brain chemistry. While the chapter is specifically about sexual addiction, it also reveals how any sinful behavior can become firmly ingrained in us by the neural pathways we create in our brains by giving in to our temptations over and over again.

SURFING FOR GOD is a great resource for men seeking to be men of integrity and men centered on the gospel. It’s an incredible exploration of the transformative process the gospel takes on our hearts.

I received this book for free for review from Thomas Nelson through, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own