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Book Reviews
close-up: Barnabas Piper PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Monday, 09 June 2014 04:07 PM EDT

BarnabasPiper-CreditJenniferVanWinkleLatest project: The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (9780781410359, $12.99, David C Cook).

You are a pastor’s kid (PK) as the son of best-selling author John Piper, yet The Pastor’s Kid is not a memoir. How would you describe this book? It is a blend of observations, conversations and my story. Over my lifetime, and especially in writing this book, I have connected with dozens of PKs. I have had the chance to observe their lives and struggles and talk with them about it. I also have my own life and challenges.

What are some of the unique challenges PKs face? Expectations. We are expected to be better behaved, but on the other hand, we are also expected to be screw-ups. We are expected to lead and set an example for our peers because we share a home with the leader of the church. The list goes on, but faultily high expectations are a big challenge.

Another significant challenge is connecting with Jesus in a real, personal way. Jesus is so commonplace for many PKs that He is little more than part of dad’s job. To connect with Him as a transcendent, powerful, gracious Savior is difficult. For some, the doctrinal distinctives and traditional depictions of Jesus are a hindrance to faith. Moving to a place of seeing Jesus clearly and meeting Him personally is both vitally important and not at all easy.

The last significant challenge is that of identity. It is tied to knowing Jesus in a real way because it’s only through Him that anyone can really find his or her identity. PKs are labeled so often as something or someone and have so many expectations placed on them and grow up in such a defined and high-pressure environment that getting to the place of truly being at peace with who God made them to be is difficult. It is hard to rise above the expectations and pressures and find confidence in the gifts and personhood God gave us.ThePastorsKid

What are also some of the blessings of being a PK? One big one is simply the amount of Scripture PKs absorb throughout their early lives. Whether they believe it straight away or come to a saving faith later, the blessing of knowing the Bible is huge.

A second blessing is the inner understanding of the church. So many people come to the church and its leaders with pie-in-the-sky hopes and expectations only to be disillusioned by their sin. PKs know all about the sin and dysfunction from an early age, but they also see the unique blessings of lives changed, people coming to faith, challenges overcome and more. PKs get the full picture of the church, bad and good, so when they mature, they can love it and serve it even better.

How can retailers help to get The Pastor’s Kid into the hands of readers? Connect with local pastors. They will likely be the ones who gravitate toward buying the book. Maybe even offer a deal if they buy one for themselves and their kids or other staff members.

close up Michael L. Brown PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 09:12 AM EDT

MichaelBrownLatest project: Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality (9781621365938, $16.99, FrontLine/Charisma House).

Latest project: Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality (9781621365938, $16.99, FrontLine/Charisma House).

For what audience did you write Can You Be Gay and Christian?
The book is for everyone who is same-sex attracted and wants to follow the Lord—or who once wanted to follow the Lord, but could not reconcile their sexual desires and romantic attractions with the Scriptures and so walked away from the faith. The book is also for all believers who have a heart to minister to the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered] community, as well as pastors and leaders who want to be faithful to God as they stand up for what is right while reaching out with compassion—in short, as they seek to minister with grace and truth.

What compelled you to write this book?
The title of this [book] represents a question of great importance to the church today. Is it possible for someone to practice homosexuality and follow Jesus at the same time? Just a few years ago, such a question would have seemed absolutely absurd, but with more and more gays and lesbians talking about their love for the Lord and their commitment to Him—including same-sex couples—this is a question that we cannot avoid.
The first issue that confronted me was that of gay activism, beginning in 2004 in Charlotte, N.C. As the Lord began to burden me with a sense of calling to confront the activist agenda, I felt it important to do my best to understand those I was differing with, to see the world through their eyes, to hear and read their stories, especially those [who] claimed to be gay Christians.
The more I read and listened, the more my heart broke, but as a biblical scholar, I had to test the “gay Christian” arguments. This book is the fruit of a broken heart for those who identify as LGBT, combined with a love for the Lord and His Word.

What do you hope your work on this book will accomplish?
I really hope that Can You Be Gay and Christian? will accomplish a number of things, including: helping believers in general develop a greater understanding of the unique challenges experienced by those who seek to combine their Christian faith and their homosexuality; setting the record straight on what the Scriptures really say about these issues, using sound scholarship, but writing in a way that everyone can understand; dealing with difficult objections to the traditional understanding of key texts that are being raised by gay theologians (sadly, most Christians, including Christian leaders, are poorly equipped to answer these objections); and pointing the way forward for those who truly want to obey and know the Lord.

CanYouBeGayAndChristianWhat are some of the many questions you explore in the book?
We tackle questions like: Are we using the Bible to sanction anti-homosexual prejudice, just as the church in the past used the Bible to sanction slavery and segregation and the oppression of women? What does the Hebrew word abomination really mean? What did Jesus and Paul have to say about homosexuality? What did Jesus mean when He told us not to judge others? And, of course, can you be gay and Christian?

More than 500 endnotes provide documentation of your research for this book. How much time and research went into the project?
On the one hand, I’ve been studying the Word for the last 42 years, also earning a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and writing Bible commentaries and scholarly theological articles over the years. So, the book is based on decades of careful study and prayerful reflection.

Also, beginning in 2004, I started reading whatever I could on homosexuality, ranging from articles and books on the gay liberation movement to stories from gay pastors (with book titles like Holy Homosexuals), along with theological works on all sides of the issue and sociological, psychological and historical books, amassing quite a library in the process.

My book A Queer Thing Happened to America, which came out in 2011 and is 700 pages long with 1,500 endnotes, reflects my research on the issues of gay activism. Can You Be Gay and Christian?, written with a focus on practical and gracious ministry throughout, reflects years of study with the emphasis on reaching out.

What are some things Christians can do to extend God’s love to those who identify as gay?
Read this book, for one! Aside from that, the key thing is sensitivity and understanding. They should ask God for His heart for those who identify as LGBT; they should read their stories and get to know them (the book is full of relevant stories in this regard); they should separate gay activism from gay-identified individuals; and they should get to know them as fellow human beings for whom Jesus died, building loving and redemptive relationships wherever possible.

Is there anything else Christian retailers should know about this book?
I truly believe this book will fill a unique need in the body [the church] today. On a constant basis, people write to me or call my radio show with questions about homosexuality, either pertaining to their own lives or to the lives of a loved one, and this book provides the answers to their questions.

Interestingly—and providentially, it appears—my book is being released the very same time that another book on the subject is coming out, but that book is written by a young, gay activist who has launched a campaign to try to “reeducate” the church on “gay Christianity.” So, at the very moment his book comes out—I’m sure it will be celebrated by the secular media and liberal church as well—the answer to that book will be out as well.

Larry Crabb reexamines today’s gender roles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 01:05 PM EDT

FullyAliveWhile teaching a class 20 years ago, Larry Crabb wondered aloud what book he would write when he cared more about what God thinks than what people think. In his latest work, he writes, “This may be that book, perhaps the first of many.”

Crabb, a psychologist and best-selling author, is founder of New Way Ministries. His new Baker Books (Baker Publishing Group) title, Fully Alive: A Biblical Vision of Gender That Frees Men and Women to Live Beyond Stereotypes (9780801015304, $19.99, June), explores what it means to be masculine and feminine. 

Crabb asks a number of big questions, including: “What does it mean to be fully alive as a male or female for the glory of God?” and “What makes a man deeply masculine in a way that reveals something wonderfully unique about how God relates?”

To explain the biblical answers to these questions, Crabb closely examines the Scriptures, including Greek and Hebrew meanings of words. He discusses the difference between sex and gender, and critiques current thinking on this topic, including the traditionalist, complementarian and egalitarian approaches.

Crabb also presents the idea of “relational gender.” He writes that the triune God is “a community of persons” and “the relational divine being creates relational human beings.” According to Crabb, this relational aspect of God is meant to be expressed in distinct ways by each gender.

He also examines the core fears of men and women and offers practical advice. He challenges traditional understandings of submission, saying, in part, that it “requires wise discernment, not reflexive obedience.”

Fully Alive is not for couples only, but for all men and women. Crabb beseeches readers not to limit or define themselves by anything except God’s call to come alive in relational masculinity and femininity. 

To order Fully Alive, call Baker Publishing Group at 800-877-2665.

Niagara Falls high-wire artist finds his balance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 12:56 PM EDT

BalanceFamed Wallenda performer tells behind-the-scenes stories of spectacular stunts and grounding faith

As high-wire artist Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls in 2012, his continual prayers were broadcast live to millions of television viewers. Unbeknownst to Wallenda, ABC officials kept his microphone on, which allowed listeners to hear the fruit of his faith. In Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line, written with David Ritz, Wallenda recounts his lifelong journey with Christ, his battles with ego and his experiences as a circus performer.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation descendant of the legendary Great Wallendas. At age 2, he first walked a tightrope in his parents’ backyard. His great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, was an accomplished acrobat and Wallenda’s hero. In 1978, while walking between the towers of Puerto Rico’s Condado Plaza Hotel, Karl fell to his death because of faulty rigging. From then on, Karl starred in Wallenda’s recurring dreams of skywalking.

When Wallenda was 6, his parents were performing in the Shrine Circus in Buffalo when they took him and his sister to Niagara Falls. Wallenda recognized the site as the falls in his dreams in which Karl said, “Walk over the falls.” 

Wallenda worked 10 years as a circus clown with his family and first walked the wire in a show at age 13. His parents required Bible study in his homeschooling, and he accepted Christ as a child. Along the way, he met his wife, Erendira, who is also a performer. 

As an adult, Wallenda has executed numerous spectacular stunts, including breaking his family’s world record by creating an 8-man pyramid and completing a skywalk and bike ride live at 135 feet high from New York City’s Prudential Center to a crane on NBC’s Today show.

Wallenda and his team then endeavored to make the Niagara Falls walk happen. Setbacks with permissions from the U.S. and Canada made the feat look impossible at several points. While waiting for approvals, Wallenda successfully recreated his great-grandfather’s high-wire walk in Puerto Rico—and his mother walked with him.

Finally the Niagara event was approved. Amid wind and rain, Wallenda crossed the falls with millions watching and listening. He writes, “I’m glad the world heard how, in the midst of my most precarious walk, I turned to Jesus to balance my spirit.”

To order Balance, call FaithWords at 800-759-0190.

Book Reviews CR March 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 03:30 PM EDT

Top Pick


Frank Peretti

Howard Books

hardcover, 512 pages, $26.99



Ever-popular author Peretti will surely delight his many fans—more than 15 million copies of his novels are in print—with this newest plunge into the space between reality and fantasy.·


Dane and Mandy have been a popular magic act for 40 years, until she is killed in a traffic accident. But when she reappears as a 19-year-old girl with no memories of their years together, Dane’s life turns upside down. Is he crazy? Can it really be her? Or is she crazy? Mandy, who now goes by Eloise Kramer, takes up magic, soon making a name for herself with her amazing abilities. But what seems like extraordinary skill becomes much more when the truth is slowly revealed. 

Peretti weaves a marvelous tale of magic and science that will keep readers guessing—and gasping—from start to finish. His illusions and allusions will leave fans pondering the power of human and divine love, as well as this caution: “So to put the lesson simply, we are not God.”

—Ann E. Byle




 Miracle for Jen

Linda Barrick with John Perry

Tyndale House Publishers

hardcover, 288 pages, $19.99


Heading home from a concert in November 2006, the Barrick family’s van was struck by a drunk driver in Lynchburg, Va. In Miracle for Jen: A Tragic Accident, a Mother’s Desperate Prayer, and Heaven’s Extraordinary Answer, Jen’s mother, Linda Barrick, tells of the accident that left all of the family members with serious injuries.

Worst of all, 15-year-old Jen suffered brain trauma and skull fractures that left her in a coma for five weeks, but even while comatose, she was able to talk to God clearly. Jen eventually opened her eyes and began praying and praising Him, though she didn’t always recognize her parents or even recall that she had a brother. 

Barrick shares openly her struggles in wanting to see Jen get back to normal. She uses Jen’s journal entries before the accident to show the depth of her daughter’s faith, as well as comments from hospital visitors and others impacted by Jen’s life.

A well-written, inspiring story, Miracle for Jen not only celebrates God’s goodness, but also demonstrates the power of love as seen through the unsung heroes who sacrificed to help the Barrick family recover.

—Nicole Anderson




 1000 Days

Jonathan Falwell

Thomas Nelson

hardcover, 240 pages, $22.99


Falwell’s 1000 Days: The Ministry of Christ focuses on Jesus’ public ministry, which transpired over the course of a mere three years. 

The son of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell and senior pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., highlights Christ’s pivotal reading of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue as recorded in Luke’s Gospel and shows that the mission of Christ focused on four groups: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and the blind. In brief, Christ came to liberate the oppressed. Falwell encourages the followers of Christ to pattern their lives after Jesus by studying his teachings and actions and by allowing themselves to be infused with the Holy Spirit.

Readers will see Christ’s brief ministry and journey in a new, transformative light through Falwell’s debut book.

—Brian Smith McCallum


 Heroes and Monsters

Josh James Riebock

Baker Books (Baker Publishing Group)

softcover, 304 pages, $16.99


A compelling look at a Gen-Y author’s journey toward understanding himself and his faith, Heroes and Monsters: An Honest Look at the Struggle Within All of Us engages the reader with vivid stories of childhood hero worship—and anguish at his father-hero’s failures.

When Riebock’s father’s drunken driving left the two of them stranded in a cornfield—his father unconscious—the frightened little boy focused on a scarecrow whom he imagined was named “Jack.” Riebock’s relationship with his father was shattered, but throughout his young years, he maintained a relationship with “Jack.”

Riebock relives his youth and early adulthood as he struggles with his failures and downplays his successes. Later in life, his wife and friends assist him in exploring his inner “monsters,” while his growing intimacy with Jack leads him to self-revelation and maturity. Jack’s desire to be a part of every area of Riebock’s life illuminates God’s desire to be known personally.

Riebock’s struggles are familiar, but unique, and the help he receives from Jack is reminiscent of William P. Young’s portrayal of God in The Shack. Readers may also appreciate Derek Geer’s graphic art throughout the book.

—Eilene Ishler


 FourthFishermanThe Fourth Fisherman 

Joe Kissack

WaterBrook Press

hardcover, 224 pages, $19.99


When a Taiwanese tuna trawler picked up three Mexican fishermen who had been lost at sea in the Pacific for about nine months in 2006, it made headlines. While there were many skeptics questioning the facts, it was a powerful story of survival that could be credited solely to the constant presence of God.

Author Kissack, a Hollywood executive, was also lost, but in a different way, spiraling into his own sea of despair and on the verge of losing all he had when he finally exchanged his old ways for new life in Jesus. Soon thereafter, he writes, he distinctly heard the call of the Lord leading him to pursue the fishermen’s outlandish story to make a movie out of it. In the process he discovered it was not only a test of his newfound faith, but also a confirmation that no one is ever beyond God’s ability to rescue.

The Fourth Fisherman: How Three Mexican Fishermen Who Came Back From the Dead Changed My Life and Saved My Marriage is a story of the sovereignty of God, unshakable faith and a reminder that nothing is impossible with Him.

—Heidi L. Ippolito


 WednesdaysWerePrettyNormalWednesdays Were Pretty Normal

Michael Kelley

B&H Books

softcover, 272 pages, $14.99


Admitting his propensity to be a “professional Christian,” Kelley, a former student pastor and LifeWay Christian Resources editor, found his faith put to the ultimate test when his 2-year-old son’s rash turned out to be more than what Kelley and his wife expected.

In Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer and God, what was thought to be a routine doctor’s visit proved to be something no parent wants to hear when young Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia. In the book, Kelley chronicles the journey that he and wife Jana faced during Joshua’s treatment, and is candid about his fears, doubts and how “everything he thought he knew about God was now being processed in real life terms.”

Ending on a happy note, the account of the family’s painful ordeal demonstrates that faith is a one-step-at-a-time walk with God. Raw, authentic and transparent, Wednesdays will challenge and guide believers walking through hard times.

—Aj Luck




 CovenantofWarCovenant of War

Cliff Graham


softcover, 352 pages, $14.99


Author Graham expands on the Old Testament record of David’s conquests in Covenant of War, the second book in the five-part “Lion of War” series. This episode roughly correlates with 1 Chron. 11 and 2 Sam. 2-3.

Israel’s new king, David, has just taken the throne in Hebron, and the northern tribes loyal to the late King Saul still view him with suspicion. David must supplement the largely green Hebrew army with paid mercenaries, some from enemy Philistia, while a lack of fresh water threatens to destroy Israel. Soft from years of philandering, he must return to the battlefield with his Mighty Men to capture the wells of Jebus (Jerusalem) in a showdown with the Philistines on the same plain where he slew Goliath years earlier.

Graham depicts 10th-century-B.C. warfare in meticulous and sometimes graphic detail. Some readers who have not read the first book may be confused by the shifting viewpoints and large cast of characters, but the biblical source will provide sufficient back story. With the first book optioned for film by Hollywood insiders, this series is one retailers will want to watch.

—John D. Leatherman

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