Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS edited by Bodie Hodge

THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS edited by Bodie Hodge is a book that seeks to get people back to what is true about Christmas, including the origination of the use of X-Mas over Christmas. The book features several essays about the elements of Christmas. The essays explore the virgin birth, where the Christmas holiday originated, and why December 25 is likely not when Jesus was really born.

The book interesting in the way that it explores what Christmas is about and where it came from. I don't really like the warfare metaphor of the book, but I understand where the authors are coming from. I think the essay on Santa Claus could have been better. Parents wrestle with what to do with it, but I think it's a little more complex than lying to children. It is a story we're telling to engage the imagination, but the wrestling has to be with whether or not utilizing the story is sinful deception and how we frame the story. The naughty and nice list, for example, is obviously the opposite of how the gospel works, so my wife and I eliminate that part of the story.

Overall, THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS is an interesting book to read during the holiday season.

Review copy provided by Master Books through Handlebar Publishing

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review of WHAT IS BIBLICAL THEOLOGY? by James Hamilton

WHAT IS BIBLICAL THEOLOGY? by James Hamilton is small book that has a ton of great insight in it. In the book, Hamilton seeks to illustrate the unifying structure of the whole Bible, clarifying what is meant by the term Biblical Theology

Hamilton looks at the symbols the authors of the Bible uses to communicate their story. My favorite part of the book is the way Hamilton shows that biblical theology is about each of the authors' perspectives upon redemptive history. They build upon one another, and they together tell one grand story. Hamilton walks us through the Scriptures to show how this one grand story is laid out.

I've read a lot of books on biblical theology, and this is definitely one of my favorites. For a short book, it reveals so much.

Review copy provided by Crossway Books

Photo Credit: Crossway

Review of WALKING WITH GOD THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING by Timothy Keller

There may be no better contemporary communicator of biblical issues than Timothy Keller, and in WALKING WITH GOD THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING, he tackles the problem of evil head on and promotes some deep thinking along the way.

Keller walks us through the historical ways people have dealt with the problem of evil. He shows how any method outside of the biblical perspective fails to account for the way the world actually is and that Christianity holds the most profound answers for why evil exists in a world created by God.

Keller leaves no stone unturned, and he wrestles with some of the most challenging issues related to the problem of evil. I've always believed in the free will defense, but Keller raises some questions about it that I have to deal with. I can't say that I'm abandoning it, but Keller's book is definitely challenging my thinking.

Ultimately, what Keller does well is illuminate the loving character of God and his commitment to finally make everything sad untrue. Keller's is a powerful look at suffering from a biblical perspective.

Review copy provided by Dutton Adult

Photo Credit: Dutton Adult

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review of RISKY GOSPEL by Owen Strachan

What stops us from taking risks in our pursuit of the Christian life? In his new book RISKY GOSPEL, Owen Strachan says that we stand in our own way, lacking the faith to follow God into whatever risk he calls us to. And it's not about being ultra radical in our walk with Jesus. It's about following Jesus in the places we find ourselves. It's things like leading our family as followers if Jesus and engaging our work with a heart of faith. It's having the courage to live boldly for Jesus wherever we go.

Strachan's book is good in the way that it challenges us to pursue Jesus wholeheartedly and the way Strachan relates personal stories throughout. It's clear he loves Jesus and wants others to as well. I'm finding a lot of encouragement from this book, and I think other Christians will also.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through BookSneeze

Photo Credit: Thomas Nelson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review of DIE EMPTY by Todd Henry

I loved Todd Henry's ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE, and it's a book I return to again and again. His latest book DIE EMPTY is about living the kind of life that, when we finally leave this world, we'll know we poured out our best. It's about getting the ideas we have out of our heads and make them a reality.  Dying empty is about not hanging onto our ideas and waiting for perfection before we execute.

Henry's book is great because he seems to genuinely live out the principles he lays out in the book. He talks about the three kinds of work we should be doing to be continually productice, and he gives practical tips for overcoming the natural tendency toward procrastination that many creatives experience.

Like THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE, DIE EMPTY is designed to encourage productivity, and it does a great job.

Review copy provided by Portfolio Hardcover

Photo Credit: Portfolio Hardcover

Review of THE HERO'S LOT by Patrick Carr

A HERO'S LOT by Patrick Carr is the continuing journey of Errol Stone and a kingdom that hangs in the balance over immenent death of its king. Errol is convicted for a crime that he did not commit, and he begins a mission to find an evil man named Sarin Valon. Errol's fate seems wrapped up in the fate of the kingdom. Who is he and why is he so important? Errol continues to grow as a character and in his relationships with other people.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed A CAST OF STONES, and I was equally excited about the sequel to the story. A HERO'S LOT has a great epic fantasy feel. Errol's character grew so much in the first book, it's interesting to see where the story takes him next. The circumstances and the whole story world that Patrick Carr has created really adds to the story and envelops me as a reader.

As this book is the second in a trilogy, it sets up for a final act that I'm very excited about. Patrick Carr has proven himself to be a really good writer who knows how to tell a great story.

Review copy provided by Bethany House

Photo Credit: Bethany House

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review of EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY by Michael Bird

There's no lack of systemic theology textbooks in the evangelical world, so why add a new one? With the recent resurgence in the last few years of a focus on being gospel-centered, Michael Bird's new systematic theology text EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY seems almost inevitable.

Bird covers theology from both a biblical and systematic perspective, and finds the unity of the Bible's story line and core message to be the gospel. That being the case, Bird delves into the core of the gospel, drawing from the Bible's overall narrative and communicating why a gospel-centered approach to theology is important.

The book is broken up into eight sections, and it is without doubt centered on the gospel, beginning with "The God of the Gospel" and finishing with "The Community of the Gospelized." All the important concepts you will find in a systematic theology are covered, though organized a little differently to fit the organizational paradigm Bird has built the book around.

The book includes plenty of illustrations and discussion questions throughout to get believers thinking deeper and drawing closer to the God of the gospel. A unique feature to this book that you won't find in other systematic theology books is Bird's use of humor throughout. It's a refreshing approach to what can sometimes feel like a dry subject.

As with any systematic theology, you probably won't agree with Bird on every point, but he'll get you thinking on the areas you find yourself in disagreement. EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY is a truly gospel-centered biblical and systematic theology that will be beneficial to any believer.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Academic and AcademicPS

Photo Credit: Zondervan

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review of BETTER by Tim Chaddick

Title: Better

Author: Tim Chaddick

Publisher: David C. Cook

What It's About: In Better, Tim Chaddick takes us on a journey through the book of Ecclesiastes and compares our world to what Solomon had to say. Ultimately, he makes a comparison between the wisdom of Solomon and the wisdom of Jesus and shows that Jesus is so much better than anything else we can find.

Why I Read It: I heard about the book on Twitter and it sounded interesting.

What I Liked About It: Chaddick is a pastor in Los Angeles where much of the culture we're surrounded by in the U.S. is shaped. I love the personal stories he shares and how he brings the ancient book of Ecclesiastes to life in our modern context. I love that the book is about Jesus being better and that Chaddick shows how Jesus is better by comparing and contrasting Jesus with real struggles we face. The structure of the book is helpful as he tackles actions, assets and aspirations. A book like this has the potential to feel like a cliche because of how much we go around talking about Jesus being better. This book doesn't fall into that trap. It was a fresh approach, and I didn't really find anything I didn't like about it.

Review copy provided by David C. Cook

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review of A WALK ONE WINTER NIGHT by Al Andrews

A WALK ONE WINTER NIGHT by Al Andrews is a short tale about a man's wrestling with the meaning and atmosphere of the Christmas season. It's a story about a man so frustrated by disappointment that he takes a walk one night and encounters a nativity scene. At first glance, it's just a regular nativity scene, but then everything changes, and the man is faced with a truth bigger than can be captured in the scene before him.

I love the Christmas season, and this book just feels like Christmas. It's a short book, and the colors of Christmas are splashed onto the pages throughout in a really beautiful way. The story is simple, but profound. I love the way the author forces us to look past the baggage that we often place upon Christmas to see what the first Christmas really was about. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have much to teach us through their experience, and Andrews brings that out through this book.

The book won't take long to read, and it is one that is both encouraging and challenging. I highly recommend this little book for the Christmas season.

Review copy provided by Worthy Publishing as a part of their First Look Program

Photo Credit: Worthy Publishing