Christian Retailing

close-up: Barnabas Piper Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Monday, 09 June 2014 05:07 PM America/New_York

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 Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 10:12 AM America/New_York

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 Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 02:05 PM America/New_York

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 Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 01:56 PM America/New_York

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 Print Email
Written by   
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 04:30 PM America/New_York

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

Book Reviews CR September 2011 Print Email
Written by Production   
Friday, 12 August 2011 11:28 AM America/New_York

Top Pick

TheChairThe Chair

James L. Rubart

B&H Books

softcover, 400 pages, $14.99



 Rubart’s·The Chair·follows antiques dealer Corin Roscoe, a man struggling with his past and whose life is further unsettled when he takes possession of a unique chair.

When a mysterious woman walks into Corin’s shop and gives him the seat from “the greatest carpenter that ever lived,” he is beyond skeptical of his “chosen” status—until sitting in the chair heals a young boy. Intrigued, Corin sets out to discover all he can about the legendary artifact.·

But, he finds, he isn’t the only one trying to uncover the truth about the chair, making for a dangerous adventure when others, including a megachurch pastor who wants to use the chair to increase his following, will do anything to acquire it.

With its surprise ending,·The Chair·delivers not only mystery and suspense, but also a powerful message of restoration and forgiveness. Rubart will attract new readers with this unusual story, as well as fans of his previous works,·Rooms·and·Book of Days

—Adela Diaz



Every Day a Friday


Joel Osteen


hardcover, 304 pages, $24.99


Every Day a Friday: How to be Happier 7 Days a Week unpacks what it could look like to experience the joy of the Lord every day. Osteen, who tends to use joy and happiness interchangeably, reminds readers that every day is a gift from God, and that though happiness often appears to be a product of circumstances, a posture of joy and thankfulness is a choice available to all.

Known for smiling frequently himself, Osteen highlights the benefits of a simple smile—perhaps the first step in choosing happiness and not irritability. Anything from traffic to a lost relationship can chip away at a person’s attitude, but, he asserts, faith in an all-knowing, all-loving God allows joy to remain. He also shows how God removes obstacles for those who choose happiness.

Using scripture and anecdotes throughout, Osteen makes a convincing argument that a happy-all-the-time way of life is both possible and biblical. Every Day a Friday is a long-awaited book for fans of this popular TV evangelist and best-selling author.

—Bonnie Bruner

GodsStoryYourStoryGod’s Story, Your Story

Max Lucado


hardcover, 288 pages, $24.99


Lucado, New York Times best-selling author and minister of preaching at San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church, shows readers that their sometimes mundane, humdrum lives are actually part of God’s grand saga. “Your story indwells God’s,” he writes in God’s Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours, part of Zondervan’s The Story campaign.

The goal of the book is to sift through the New Testament in search of God’s narrative, extracting promises of His orderly plan and timetable. “You are so much more than a few days between the womb and the tomb,” the author explains. 

Encouraging and inspiring, Lucado weaves in his trademark warmth, humor and powerful illustrations. For instance, he draws inspiration from the lives of South African President Nelson Mandela and the apostle Paul to show God “working all things together for good.”

Readers will grasp their own unique significance against the backdrop of God’s providence and sovereignty. They will comprehend that they are not puppets in the hands of fortune or fate. Instead, they are integral characters in the unfolding, purposeful tale of God’s redemption.

—Brian Smith McCallum


Power for LifePowerforLife

Matt Sorger

Charisma House

softcover, 224 pages, $14.99


In Power for Life: Keys to a Life Marked by the Presence of God, minister Sorger challenges believers to live in God’s power and shows them how to continually walk in it.

Sorger presents time-tested biblical truths on how pursuing intimacy with God will bear spiritual fruit. He emphasizes that a life of purity, faith and integrity is crucial to unleashing God’s power. 

Perseverance, perspective, vision, truth and joy are some of the secret weapons he encourages believers to use in pushing through trials and defeating Satan and his minions. God uses this as training to move Christians into what He has called them to do. Sorger writes: “Don’t waste a good trial, and never let the enemy steal your praise!”

Using examples from his family and from influential leaders past and present, Sorger’s teaching is simple but key to the Christian life. He aims to teach readers how to stop looking at their circumstances and walk in love to activate God’s promises. Then, he says, God’s power will be released without limit.

—Nicole Anderson

PrayingNewsPraying the News

Wendy Griffith & Craig von Buseck

Regal Books

softcover, 208 pages, $14.99


Christian Broadcasting Network colleagues Griffith and von Buseck—she a television anchor, he a director of online ministry at Pat Robertson’s network—combine their efforts for an inspiring call to prayer fueled by an often-shunned source, the news media, in Praying the News: Your Prayers are More Powerful Than You Know.

Rather than turning their backs on the horrors of the headlines, the co-writers say, Christians should respond like the men of Issachar in 1 Chron. 12, whom the Bible says “understood the times,” and use the information to pray God’s will into situations.

In addition, Christians should intercede specifically for journalists because they play an important role in setting political, social and cultural agendas by what they cover, the writers point out. They draw on personal experiences and interviews with other media professionals.

The book includes examples of dramatic answers to prayer in history and modern-day accounts of Christians who have seen God’s hand in unfolding events as they have been stirred to pray by news reports.

—Andy Butcher


Sanctuary of the SoulSanctuary-of-the-Soul

Richard J. Foster

Formatio/IVP Books (InterVarsity Press)

hardcover, 160 pages, $16


Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and Prayers From the Heart, among others, this time offers a practical approach to meditative prayer that describes “the witness of Scripture and the witness of the devotional masters.” Referring often to those whose lives were filled with prayer—Thomas à Kempis, Madame Jeanne Guyon, St. Cuthbert and others—he sets out to help today’s readers understand the whys and hows of the practice. 

Foster describes the three steps into meditative prayer (recollection, beholding the Lord, inward attentiveness), then offers readers useful help in facing the common difficulties of practicing meditative prayer and answers common questions. “We have noisy hearts,” he writes. 

Foster’s writing is lyrical, his advice sensible, his encouragement profound as he urges Christians to tap into the “listening side” of the “interactive communication that transpires between God and ourselves.” Those who follow Jesus can only benefit from Foster’s newest book.

—Ann E. Byle



TheTouchThe Touch

Randall Wallace

Tyndale House Publishers

hardcover, 300 pages, $14.99


Lara Blair—owner and CEO of a Chicago-based biomedical engineering firm—is on a mission: to find a surgeon who can do the delicate work on the human brain that even she has yet to accomplish. Andrew Jones, a highly gifted surgeon, shuns the scalpel after he fails to save his fiancée at the scene of their car accident. How the lives of Lara and Andrew mesh is the subject of The Touch, a novella byBraveheart screenwriter and Secretariat director Wallace.

Life for Andrew will never be the same after the accident, but he also is rejuvenated as he serves the poor at a mountain clinic. Lara, however, is singularly focused and seeks Andrew’s skilled help—but in an unusual plot twist, Wallace reveals the reason for her quest. The two fall in love, but also grow as individuals.

Unlike many Christian novelists, Wallace does not shy away from sex, offering a brief honeymoon lovemaking scene. This well-paced story will engage fans of contemporary fiction that teaches lessons without even trying.

—Christine D. Johnson

Book Reviews CR August 2011 Print Email
Written by Production   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 12:12 PM America/New_York

Top PickTheSecondMessiah

The Second Messiah

Glenn Meade·

Howard Books

hardcover, 464 pages, $22.50


Reading similarly to both a Thoene novel and·The Da Vinci Code,·best-selling author Meade’s·The Second Messiah·will keep readers on the edge of their proverbial seats.

The story revolves around Jack Cane’s archaeological dig and the discovery of an ancient scroll that dates back to the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Written in a strange code as well as ancient Aramean, the scroll claims there was a second messiah who may have lived at the time of Jesus—an idea that strikes fear at the heart of the Vatican and the nation of Israel and leads them to bury its evidence.·

A strange accident that predates the murder of a prominent archaeologist makes Cane wonder if the two incidents are related, and a chase ensues through Europe and the Middle East.

The Second Messiah·reads quickly and will hold the reader’s attention with its many plot twists. In the story, Meade also addresses the problem of suffering in an insightful comment from the pope. Fans of fiction tied to news headlines will enjoy this geopolitical thriller. Recommended for readers of Joel C. Rosenberg.

—Jennifer Toth

Surprised by OxfordSurprisedbyOxford

Carolyn Weber 

Thomas Nelson

softcover, 384 pages, $16.99


Surprised by Oxford offers a host of delightful gifts for readers looking for depth and breadth in their summer reading. When Weber heads to the oldest-surviving English-speaking university in the world, she’s prepared for rigorous study and mental challenge—but not to find herself drawn to Christians who challenge her broken thinking and hostile heart. A friend she calls “TDH” introduces her to real Christianity, endures her anger, feminist leanings and skepticism, as well as her heartfelt questions about faith.

Readers can expect challenging questions and answers about a true life of faith; rich history that seeps from the walls of Oxford; and enough literary references to delight the heart of any aficionado—from Homer to Donne, Tolstoy to Bono and, of course, C.S. Lewis (the title perhaps an allusion to Surprised by Joy) and the Bible. 

Weber has written an astute, stimulating memoir of her conversion to Christ, as well as her year at Oxford. Readers will walk the city’s ancient streets and along with Weber feel her heart change.

—Ann E. Byle

A Confident HeartAConfidentHeart

Renee Swope 

Revell/Baker Publishing Group

softcover, 208 pages, $13.99


Swope, radio host and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries, encourages women who struggle with self-doubt to get out of the cycle of defeat in A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God’s Promises

Swope opens up about her own lack of confidence and what she has done to combat it. Having heard whispers of doubt in her own life, she helps readers confront such thoughts as “I’m such a failure” and “I don’t have anything special to offer.”

From her insecurity as a child of divorce, wondering if she was worth keeping, to doubting her ministry calling, Swope tells many a story women can relate to and encourages them to understand the heart of God, who is for them. Practical and personal, A Confident Heart doesn’t offer a quick fix, but aims to help readers discover the value of their inheritance in Christ and claim God’s promises for themselves.

—Christine D. Johnson

Hell is Real (But I Hate To Admit It)HellIsReal

Brian Jones

David C. Cook

softcover, 272 pages, $14.99


Jones, senior pastor at suburban Philadelphia’s Christ’s Church of the Valley, had a secret: As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and during his first four years of ministry, he didn’t believe in hell. Prominent theologians such Clark Pinnock rejected the doctrine of hell, after all. What’s more, Jones rationalized that earthly life is hellish enough and admitted that he “liked being liked,” avoiding confrontation about theological matters.

But he was confronted by biblical texts—including the words of Christ—on the existence of hell, and now in Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) shares his journey of coming to believe in the reality of eternal punishment. His goal: to help the church recover “the all-consuming conviction that overtakes you when you realize that hell is real, and that it is within your power to help people avoid going there.”

Written in a candid, conversational tone, Hell is Real is peppered with deep insights from theologians and literary figures. Hell is Real is an important, challenging work in light of Rob Bell’s recent controversial book, Love Wins.

—Brian Smith McCallum


Randy Alcorn

Tyndale House Publishers

softcover, 400 pages, $14.99


From the creators of Fireproof comes Courageous: Honor Begins at Home, a novelization based on a screenplay by movie-making brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick.

Set in the same town as Fireproof—Albany, Ga., where the Kendricks’ church happens to be—Courageous follows the lives of law enforcement officers Nathan Hayes and Adam Mitchell and their partners. At home, Nathan is the spiritual leader of his household, but Adam, though a professing Christian, is not taking his role at home seriously, leaving his wife frustrated and family relationships deteriorating.

When the unimaginable happens, Adam must decide whether or not to deal with the tragedy and let God turn it into something good. During this time of rebuilding, he develops The Resolution—a father’s pact—which becomes his testimony in church.

Although some readers may find some similarities with FireproofCourageous has a wider variety of characters and storylines, with an intriguing, fast-paced plot. Alcorn’s novelization is not just about policemen facing down gang members, but also about their responsibilities as Christians, fathers, husbands, friends and community leaders.

—Jean Breunle

The Art of MentoringTheArtofMentoring

Darlene Zschech

Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group)

hardcover, 192 pages, $19.99


Former Hillsong worship leader and church co-pastor Zschech believes every person needs to know he or she is “valued and completely valuable.” This belief has enabled her to develop gifted, young musicians into great worship leaders. She encourages, praises and supports her teams in their successes and downplays their failures while expecting them to work diligently. 

Leadership expert John Maxwell influenced Zschech to teach the “why” behind the “what” in training others to lead, which she does in The Art of Mentoring: Embracing the Great Generational Transition with 14 values taken from the Scriptures.

Although the book would benefit from personal examples, The Art of Mentoring is a thought-provoking read for busy leaders.

—Eilene Ishler


Change AgentChangeAgent

Os Hillman 

Charisma House

softcover, 256 pages, $14.99


A leader in the faith-at-work movement, Hillman calls out the desire inherent within every person to make a difference in the world in Change Agent: Engaging Your Passion to Be the One to Make a Difference. Through profiles, biblical and contemporary, he shows how God assigns individuals a destiny, preparing them to make an impact.

Hillman reminds believers not to focus only on the gospel of salvation—which is a starting point, but can lead them to wait for Jesus, not work toward His return—rather than the gospel of the kingdom. He encourages Christians to see even their everyday tasks as kingdom work and calls them to influence aspects of culture: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. 

Simply written and well organized, Change Agent takes readers through the six stages of how God prepares His change agents, cautioning them that spiritual warfare is necessary. Recommended for the believer who knows there must be something more to the Christian life or who wants to influence the culture for God.

—Nicole Anderson

Book Reviews CR July 11 Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 08:57 AM America/New_York

Top PickLionofBabylon 

Lion of Babylon

by Davis Bunn

Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group)

fiction, hardcover, 384 pages, $22.99


softcover, 384 pages, $14.99


Best-selling author Bunn takes readers on an entertaining, suspenseful, hopeful adventure in modern-day Iraq in Lion of Babylon. 

Marc Royce is called away from his job as a forensic accountant to re-enter his life as a State Department operative. His best friend, along with two other Americans and one Iraqi, has gone missing, and neither the American nor the Iraqi government is offering answers. Marc teams with an Iraqi attorney, a former Iraqi special forces soldier and the nation’s top religious leader to uncover what becomes more than a kidnapping for ransom. 

Faith, both Muslim and Christian, plays a big role as Marc and his friends come to understand that the kidnappings are tied to an underground movement created to build a new Iraq. Unseen enemies will stop at nothing to destroy the movement and install their leadership. 

Bunn has created an Iraq that offers seeds of hope sown by the only Reconciler capable of bringing the sharply divided country—and region—into harmony. His writing is taut, his message clear: Hope comes from God alone.

—Ann E. Byle


 GrowingUpAmishGrowing Up Amish

Ira Wagler

Tyndale House Publishers

softcover, 288 pages, $14.99


More than a story about a Plain man and his primitive community, Growing Up Amish is a memoir of one man’s struggle with God. Born in an Old Order Amish community in Aylmer, Ontario, and later moved to Bloomfield, Iowa, Wagler had 10 siblings, a loving mother and a strict father highly regarded for his newspaper writings.

From age 17, Wagler came and went from home, unsettled and closed in even when he chose to join the church and become engaged. Drifting from place to place and living in rebellion, he always came back, mainly out of fear of eternal damnation.

An encounter with Sam Johnson—an intelligent young man born “English,” but who opted to join the Amish—led to Wagler’s new birth at age 26. Though finally at peace, he subsequently left his people for the last time, but this time without fear.

Growing Up Amish unveils what Amish life is like on the inside. Beyond that, this well-told story will leave the Christian rejoicing that a prodigal has come home.

—Christine D. Johnson

MyLifeLesserMy Life and Lesser Catastrophes

Christina Schofield

Chosen (Baker Publishing Group)

softcover, 144 pages, $12.99


In My Life and Lesser Catastrophes: An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Faith, Schofield shares the story of the motorcycle accident that left her husband, Allen, a quadriplegic.

With Allen, a campus minister, confined to a wheelchair, Schofield had to learn to care for him as well as their toddler. She also had to allow herself to accept help and to lean fully on God.

With scriptural references and anecdotes, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes showcases the author’s humor and wit. The book’s chapter titles also are a break from the ordinary—“Fried Chicken and Priorities,” for example. 

Not just an account of a wife’s new role as caregiver, My Life is about a woman’s faith in God. This touching book is a reminder that even in life’s frailest moments, God is present to comfort and carry His children.

—Jean Breunle

Christian Life

Face to Face With God

Jim Maxim

Whitaker House

softcover, 192 pages, $10.99


In Face to Face With God: A True Story of Rebellion and Restoration, author Maxim tells how as a teenage alcoholic, he found himself face to face with God after a tragic auto accident—one that destroyed his looks, but renewed his life. 

While in the hospital, Jesus appeared to him, Maxim writes. With little knowledge of God, he was headed to Marine boot camp when he found a Gideon Bible, its words satisfying his thirsty soul. He also developed a pattern of praying that God would help him make faith come alive in the hearts of others, accounts of which he shares along with key scriptures.

The military proved a testing ground for his faith, but also an opportunity to have his appearance restored through reconstructive surgery. Today, as a businessman, Maxim does his work as unto the Lord. 

An evangelist at heart, Maxim urges readers to follow Christ. Christians will benefit from the book’s rich resources for those who want to share their faith.

—Eilene Ishler

TotalMoneyMeltdownThor Ramsey’s Total Money Meltdown

Thor Ramsey

Moody Publishers

softcover, 160 pages, $12.99


For many readers, wondering if the author is related to Dave Ramsey will likely be the first reaction to Thor Ramsey’s Total Money Meltdown—and he isn’t. After the author establishes that he has read the personal finance expert’s books, he shares his own story of loss, debt and renewal.

A Christian comedian known for his work on the “Thou Shalt Laugh” series, Ramsey uses humor to draw the reader and then explains how he overcame his own financial battles to finally succeed at reducing his debt level to zero by the time he finished writing the book. He found that what seemed impossible could only be accomplished through his understanding of God’s love and commitment. 

Total Money Meltdown offers entertainment, yes, but more importantly, the tools for how to begin to hope again for those in debt. By disclosing his Starbucks addiction, then how his wife shredded his credit cards, Ramsey admits his own failure, but also shares his triumph, hoping to inspire readers on their own financial journey.

—Jennifer Toth

WhatsYourSecretWhat’s Your Secret?

Aaron Stern

David C. Cook

softcover, 208 pages, $14.99


Sometimes it takes a light touch to tackle a potentially life-altering topic—a touch Stern, a college and twentysomethings pastor, employs in What’s Your Secret? Freedom Through Confession.

Acknowledging that everyone has secrets—which have the power to harm—Stern shares the fallout of his own secrets and calls readers to take the path to freedom, which starts with the act of confession. Encouraging readers through success stories, Stern also cautions them to admit their secrets to the right people—and offers guidance on how to identify the wrong people. 

But, he writes, confession is only the start of the journey. In the book’s second half, he challenges the reader to see sin for what it is and repent instead of opting for a quick self-help fix. 

Stern urges readers to keep only the good secrets—the secrets of their good deeds, building their treasure in heaven. What’s Your Secret? is applicable to the life of any Christian and offers an important corrective in this image-driven age.



FallenAngelFallen Angel

Major Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky 

B&H Books

softcover, 400 pages, $14.99


Black Hawk Down survivor Major Struecker lends his military knowledge to author Gansky for an engaging thriller in Fallen Angel. The title refers to an American Angel-12 spy satellite knocked from orbit by the Chinese, eager to seize and copy its military secrets.

Sergeant Major Eric Moyer leads a covert team into Siberia to retrieve the downed satellite and the first team that was sent in, captured and tortured into confession by a rogue Russian military squadron hoping the satellite would further their goal of restoring the Soviet Union. The Chinese deploy a secret salvage team as well. 

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Moyer’s teenage daughter, Gina, disappears, and ransom videos surface demanding Moyer’s mission be halted. As military and civilian police search for Gina, the president tracks the three-way race for the Angel, ready if necessary to launch a surgical strike to destroy it and everyone around.

Fallen Angel’s bicontinental intrigue engages the reader despite the lack of a consistent point of view. Struecker and Gansky also interlace the suspense with the spiritual inclinations of believing men sworn to protect their nation.

—John Leatherman

Book Reviews CR June 2011 Print Email
Written by Production   
Friday, 10 June 2011 04:41 PM America/New_York

TOP PICK: Fiction

TheJudasGospelThe Judas Gospel

Bill Myers

Howard Books

softcover, 320 pages, $16.99


Judas had another plan for Jesus, but his dream fell through when Jesus chose to proclaim the truth through His death and resurrection. In Myers’ supernatural thriller The Judas Gospel, the betraying disciple gets another chance to “proclaim His truth my way.” Jesus allows Judas—reimagined as a contemporary Jude Miller—to “sell” God to the public via fragile, spiritually gifted Rachel Delacroix. 

Rachel’s healing gift is the perfect vehicle to market God, except that she also has dreams about a serial killer that seem to implicate her. Add to the mix a rookie cop attracted to Rachel, a pair of veteran detectives, a beautiful psychiatrist and a bunch of demons attached to a troubled kid—Myers blends it all in a taut tale of spiritual strength, horrific evil and marketing genius. 

Readers will find much to ponder in this strangely riveting story as Rachel’s pastor-father does his best to find the true message of God amid a cacophony of success and fame; his job is difficult, yet God’s truth always stands strong despite humanity’s deepest evil.

—Ann E. Byle

MoreThanORdinaryChristian Life

More Than Ordinary

Doug Sherman with Terra McDaniel


softcover, 240 pages, $14.99


Author and businessman Sherman shares his unique take on Christian living in More Than Ordinary: Enjoying Life With God. In a testimony that baffles even some of his pastor friends, as a disgruntled teenager he meets Christ in the form of a man and surrenders his life. Thereafter, he claims Christ appears to him in a physical presence, figuring directly into all of his actions.

Sherman uses a variety of analogies to elucidate his vision of the ideal Christian walk, but the one to which he returns throughout the book is that of God or Christ as a parent. If God is a parent, Sherman argues, He is interested in every aspect of His children’s lives, no matter how trivial, and wants to train His children to go into the “family business” of bringing souls to Christ.

Sherman sets high standards for his readers, insisting on finding witnessing opportunities in the most mundane of activities, such as shopping or pumping gas. Still, believers will find Sherman’s approach to Christianity refreshing and inspiring.

—John Leatherman


Matthew Hagee

Charisma House

softcover, 240 pages, $15.99


Written by a sixth-generation pastor who is a son of well-respected author and pastor John Hagee, Response-Able: Lessons From My Father About Life…and Making a Difference is a play on words, aiming to heighten the reader’s curiosity. Explaining the title in the foreword, John Hagee says that the response-able Christian is “always able to make an intelligent and godly response.”

Presented in an informal, easy-to-read manner, Response-Able brings a fresh perspective to the areas of personal, social, financial, educational and political responsibility. This work lays the foundation for making a difference in the believer’s life and explains what it means to live by principle and not by passion. Real-life anecdotes and scriptural references illustrate what it means to be response-able.

With a clear, straightforward approach, Hagee shows that as life’s circumstances continually change, the ability to respond is always there. Thought-provoking and potentially life-changing, Response-Able is not just practical in application, but also empowering and motivating.

—Jean Breunle

TrueNorthTrue North

Gary Heim & Lisa Heim

Kregel Publications

softcover, 320 pages, $16.99


Difficult circumstances—from mundane frustrations to soul-shattering trauma—assail us and few learn to suffer well. The Heims provide a compass in True North: Choosing God in the Frustrations of Life, which features a foreword by Christian psychologist Larry Crabb.

The couple—who have served as counselors, professors and church leaders—explain that believers have a choice in how they respond to life’s challenges. They can “head south” when they focus on themselves, which fosters grumbling and grasping, or face north—toward God—which results in gratitude and giving. What makes this work especially helpful is that the authors disclose how they have coped with their own struggles.

Drawing from the well of spiritual and psychological insight, the authors quote from literary scholar C.S. Lewis, spiritual director Henri Nouwen and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. 

With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, True North is suited for individuals as well as group study. It will help readers connect or reconnect to God in the midst of trials.

—Brian Smith McCallum

TheWaitingPlaceThe Waiting Place

Eileen Button

Thomas Nelson

softcover, 240 pages, $15.99


Newspaper columnist and commentator Button gives a vibrant snapshot of life in The Waiting Place: Learning to Appreciate Life’s Little Delays. 

She chronicles life’s delays, sometimes with humor, sometimes with pain. At times, she observes, life’s delays are so filled with meaning that their purpose is obvious; at other times, they are simply to be endured.

Button writes with such clarity that her experiences will be well-recognized by the reader. From her early teen years waiting for her mother to finish styling her hair through marriage, the birth of two healthy children, financial hardship and the trauma of a child born with multiple birth defects, she learns to wait time and again. When her husband accepts God’s call to become a senior pastor in Michigan, she must leave the people in Pennsylvania who have loved and supported them through their son’s crisis.

Even while thinking “This is so not the life I dreamed of living,” Button has a simple encounter that causes her to hear God’s voice clearly, and offers encouragement to her readers to wait and listen in their own “little delays.”

—Eilene Ishler


BrokenWingsBroken Wings

Carla Stewart


softcover, 320 pages, $13.99


Stewart’s Broken Wings is an intriguing tale of an unexpected friendship between two women of different ages and stages of life. From the fateful night when Mitzi Steiner meets the distressed Brooke Wooden, she cannot help but want to learn more about the young woman who reminds her so much of her mother—both having allowed the men in their lives to abuse them.

Mitzi is one half of a popular jazz duo who reigned for 30 years on the music scene. The other half is her husband, Gabe Steiner, who is battling Alzheimer’s. 

Brooke, meanwhile, is engaged to the “perfect” man, the handsome Lance Evans who is aiming to become Tulsa’s next district attorney. But Lance has a temper, leaving Brooke with hard decisions to make. 

As one woman deals with the love of her life’s battle with illness and the other struggles with an unhealthy relationship,  they lean on each other and find healing. 

—Adela L. Dia


ALoveThatMultipliesA Love That Multiplies

Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar

Howard Books

hardcover, 288 pages, $19.99


Viewers of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting want to know how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have raised obedient children who embrace their parents’ faith, and why they are willing to have more, even after their 19th, Josie, was born premature. 

As their oldest children enter adulthood, how have they been prepared for courtship and marriage? How will they afford college? And what do they believe about women having careers? These questions and more are addressed in A Love that Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make It Work. 

Whether readers want to know how the family prevailed through Josie’s months in the hospital or if they are simply curious about Duggar life, their questions are answered here. The couple shares candidly their faith and how they have overcome their struggles in this well-written work.

—Tammy Tiansay

Book Reviews CR May 2011 Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 09 May 2011 02:24 PM America/New_York



NowIWalkNow I Walk on Death Row

Dale S. Recinella

Chosen (Baker Publishing Group)

softcover, 320 pages, $14.99



Recinella was a high-powered attorney with endless money and big dreams, but his heart was empty and broken. On the heels of closing a huge deal for the Miami Dolphins, he gave his life to Jesus in a rock-bottom decision, a moment in which “I will lose every illusory thing I have thought important, and be given everything that really matters,” he writes in Now I Walk on Death Row: A Wall Street Finance Lawyer Stumbles Into the Arms of a Loving God. 

Recinella records his long journey from penthouse to death row is this powerful tale of asking, “Did Jesus really mean what He said?” and receiving answers only God can give. He and his family move from mansion to inner-city apartment, from Florida to Rome and back again. They make decisions together, serve the poor and reach out to the mentally ill. He finds his true heart ministering to Florida’s prison population and, eventually, its death-row inmates. 

Recinella’s faith shines brightly in this memoir, with a foreword by Dallas Willard, that will have readers asking themselves how they can truly serve Jesus. —Ann E. Byle




MyHeartMy Heart, The Holy Spirit’s Home

Lynda Hunter Bjorklund

Regal Books

softcover, 224 pages, $14.99


My Heart, The Holy Spirit’s Home: A Woman’s Guide to Welcoming the Holy Spirit Into Your Daily Life should be read with Bible in hand. Author and speaker Bjorklund offers it as a guide to Christian women of all denominations on developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Rather than debating the subject of tongues, she asserts that the Spirit-filled believer can use the gift as a means of worship and communication with God. She then introduces the work of the Holy Spirit as Helper, Power and Authority, and leads the reader to explore His work in building character, assigning abilities and fulfilling one’s purpose in life.

While encouraging women toward a more dynamic relationship with God, Bjorklund closes with a caution to trust, but verify with the Scriptures all guidance on this subject. My Heart, The Holy Spirit’s Home serves as a resource for women who truly want to welcome the Holy Spirit into their daily lives. —Eilene Ishler


ToBePerfectlyHonestTo Be Perfectly Honest

Phil Callaway

Multnomah Books

softcover, 224 pages, $13.99


In To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man’s Year of (Almost) Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie., readers are in for plenty of insightful, laugh-out-loud humor. Callaway, best-selling author and popular conference speaker, begins by recounting a fateful assignment from his editor: to be entirely truthful for a year, and to record the entire experience.

But the result is not merely funny. As his journey into the honesty dare unfolds, Callaway offers a humble, perceptive look at the falsehoods in our hearts and in our churches. No ground is safe from inspection—among other things, Callaway examines sermons, church members, annual Christmas letters and how we read the Bible.

Though Callaway was reluctant to take the assignment—as a humorist, “I lie for a living,” he says—readers will be glad that he did. His delightful knack for mingling hard truths with sheer hilarity will appeal to a wide range of readers, including those who appreciate year-of books such as A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically. —Dave Stuart Jr.




APlaceCalledBlessingA Place Called Blessing

John Trent with Annette Smith

Thomas Nelson

softcover, 192 pages, $15.99


A Place Called Blessing: Where Hurting Ends and Love Begins brings the five elements from Trent’s classic best-seller The Blessing to life in story form. When 5-year-old Josh’s parents die in a car accident, he and his two older brothers find themselves placed in foster care and living in separate homes. 

Later, as a young adult, Josh’s desires are simple—find a job, a place to live and buy a car—and at 18 he strikes out on his own. When his ability to trust and love again is put to the test, the story takes a seemingly impossible twist. With God gently at work in Josh’s life, he ends up in a place where he receives the gift of the blessing.

Trent’s fans as well as readers of Andy Andrews’ parables will appreciate this short but powerful read. The book also includes discussion questions, allowing readers to apply the five elements of The Blessing. —Jean Breunle


TheAmbitionThe Ambition

Lee Strobel


hardcover, 288 pages, $24.99


A name well known in Christian publishing, Strobel crafts a gripping legal thriller in his debut novel, The Ambition. In it, the former Chicago Tribune legal reporter demonstrates his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the justice system. 

When the Illinois governor needs to fill a vacant Senate seat, Chicago megachurch pastor Eric Snow sees a new arena for his ministry. Viewing his evangelical image as a political liability, Snow’s advisors push him to resign from the church as atheist investigative journalist Garry Strider plumbs the church for Pulitzer-grade scandal. 

Strider finds nothing to report besides a series of miraculous healings. Meanwhile, a disgraced mob lawyer with a secret that could devastate Snow’s main opponent seeks absolution at the church and inadvertently embroils both Strider and Snow in a murderous plot.

Strobel’s multiple viewpoints can be disorienting, and some of the myriad subplots do not resolve. Still, the plot is engaging and exciting while staying grounded in the Christian faith. —John Leatherman




PassingItOnPassing It On

Myles Munroe


hardcover, 256 pages, $19.99


Servant leadership, a contradiction to some, motivated Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet. Munroe, a motivational speaker and business consultant, expounds on this topic and encourages mentoring in Passing It On: Growing Your Future Leaders.

Challenging leaders to build on their legacy, he asserts that it is only in appointing a successor that they will truly succeed. Rather than waiting until retirement nears, leaders should identify their replacement early, Munroe says, since doing so is “the first act of a visionary leader.”

Offering biblical examples of mentoring, Munroe shows that Jesus prepared Peter and his disciples for the cross by helping them see that they were to continue His vision. The greatest test for a leader is the willingness to love, he asserts, seeing this principle as one that guided each of the biblical mentors in choosing their successor.

Passing It On is an inspiring call to action for any who desire to become an effective leader in any vocation, including those in developing nations. —Jennifer Toth


TheIrresistibleChurchThe Irresistible Church

Wayne Cordeiro

Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group)

hardcover, 176 pages, $19.99


A best-selling author and pastor at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, Cordeiro lays out a strategic framework for pursuing change and improvement, in The Irresistible Church: 12 Traits of a Church Heaven Applauds. 

With a foreword by Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels, Cordeiro’s book defines an irresistible church as a body of believers that is “alluring, magnetic, and relentless in its persuasion.” It is an attractive community that cannot be ignored. Cordeiro outlines a dozen traits of an irresistible church, including that it continuously learns, hungers for the presence of God and follows a plan.

Each chapter concludes with an action item, and Cordeiro includes a study guide with discussion questions and Bible studies. This work will make an excellent year-long curriculum or simply serve as a tool to get small groups or church leadership talking. Readers will appreciate Cordeiro’s humble, God-dependent insights and his emphasis on making church irresistible to God, not only to people.  —Brian Smith McCallum

Book Reviews CR April 2011 Print Email
Written by Production   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 03:23 PM America/New_York

Top Pick

RadicalTogetherRadical Together

David Platt

Multnomah Books

softcover, 192 pages, $14.99


Christian Life

Platt—best-selling author of Radical, a call to authentic Christian living for the individual—turns his attention to the church in Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God.

As pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., Platt is in the process of working out the implications of the gospel in the local church. With that in mind, he examines six "essential" ideas, including that the gospel that saves us from working for our salvation in order to show our faith by our works, and that believers should be living—and longing—for the end of the world. 

Humbly admitting his own shortcomings, Platt acknowledges he and his church on the journey, too, but are experiencing some wonderful outcomes as members choose to adopt needy children, learn to make disciples and mobilize for ministry—no matter where in the world it may be.

Radical Together will be challenging and inspiring for pastors and believers committed to learning about God's plan for the local church, as well as fans of Platt's first book.  —Christine D. Johnson


Christian Life

ReviseUsAgainRevise Us Again

Frank Viola

David C. Cook

hardcover, 144 pages, $16.99


Each life is a story, an unfolding narrative heavily molded by one's family of origin and environment. In reality, Viola asserts, an individual's script often works on an unconscious level and may not be aligned with God's best. Known for helping believers find a deeper Christian life, Viola urges readers to return to God's script in Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Script.

The author focuses on 10 key areas, including how God speaks to believers and how the Holy Spirit works in followers' lives. Particularly interesting is Viola's discussion of "Christianeze," those Christian slogans and cliches that inhibit authenticity and mask the truth. He concludes with a reminder of the true gospel of the "new creation," pointing readers to 2 Cor. 5:17. 

Revise Us Again will challenge and refresh believers. Most importantly, it will help them solidify their identities in Christ by "putting off the old" and "putting on the new," as the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians.  —Brian Smith McCallum



Craig Groeschel


hardcover, 240 pages, $19.99


Groeschel, senior pastor of and best-selling author of The Christian Atheist, offers another unusual title in Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working.

Asserting that normal people are often overwhelmed with the demands of everyday life and live with strained relationships, Groeschel is out to prove that running with the crowd isn't all its cracked up to be. Applying the principles of God's Word to modern-day issues, including time, money and sex, he invites the reader to follow the narrow path in their Christian walk—and be "weird."

Challenging readers to consider if they are living a normal life just to fit in, Groeschel invites them to turn and follow Christ. He describes what it means to be a believer, sharing his own struggles and revelations. 

This easy-to-read book has a youthful feel, and Groeschel often uses humor as he describes his own "weird" life. Weird will challenge any Christian, young or old, to re-evaluate his or her own lifestyle. —Adela L. Diaz



AnEyeforGloryAn Eye for Glory

Karl Bacon


softcover, 368 pages, $16.99


In a historical novel timed for the sesquicentenary of the start of the Civil War, first-time author Bacon gives a first-person account of the frontlines of battle in An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier.

Told through narration and letters, An Eye for Glory follows Connecticut shopkeeper and family man Michael Palmer, who, feeling a moral duty, enlists in the Union army despite his wife's objections. He fights at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where his lifelong buddy dies. Outraged, he kills a Confederate soldier at Gettysburg with excessive malice and feels he has lost his soul. After the war, at his wife's urging, he returns the soldier's Bible to his widow and experiences the true depth of God's grace.

Michael's journey of descent and redemption unfolds slowly and seems almost a subplot to the narrative of the larger war. Still, with attention to detail, An Eye for Glory offers an engaging look at the everyday experiences of Civil War soldiers. —John Leatherman


TheDeepestWatersThe Deepest Waters

Dan Walsh

Revell (Baker Publishing Group)

softcover, 304 pages, $14.99


Just married, Laura and John Foster are excited about their future together. On their way back East aboard the steamship SS Vandervere, where John will be reunited with his family to introduce his lovely bride, a hurricane brews in the Atlantic, destroying the ship they are on and leaving little hope.

Fearing her husband's death, Laura struggles with how God could be so cruel as to put someone so wonderful as John in her life only to remove him so soon. But facing an unknown future, she bears witness to the miracle-working hand of God and His faithfulness to turn tears into joy.

Inspired by real-life events from 1857, where God did bring about one miracle after another, The Deepest Waters reminds the reader that even in hopeless situations, God is still at work. Walsh's emotional work matches the compelling storytelling of best-selling romance author Nicholas Sparks. —Heidi L. Ippolito



ProjectDadProject Dad

Todd Cartmell

Revell (Baker Publishing Group)

softcover, 224 pages, $12.99


"God made me to be a great dad." That is the thought that Cartmell, father of two and licensed clinical psychologist, wants his readers to begin with in Project Dad: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide for Becoming a Great Father. 

With this groundwork in place, Cartmell proceeds with practical, biblical advice that is generously seasoned with tongue-in-cheek humor that dads will appreciate.

The book is organized into five key areas, each of which Cartmell links to a body part: eyes, mouth, heart, hands and feet. Throughout the book, readers will discover the significance of these body parts as they learn God-honoring ways to look at, talk to, connect with, act toward and lead their children.

Thankfully, Cartmell is quick to differentiate between being a great dad and being a perfect dad. Encouraging his readers to admit their mistakes and seek God for growth, he takes them on a journey of faith that will benefit fathers and their families.—Dave Stuart Jr.



Love-WinsLove Wins

Rob Bell


hardcover, 224 pages, $22.99


Best-selling author and pastor Bell trades his to-date Zondervan home for its parent-company's broader religion imprint in Love Wins, a book some will see as similarly taking him from familiar evangelicalism to more open-ended spirituality.

Though he never uses the word "universalism," it is a summary—and judgment—likely to be made as he presents what is subtitled, "A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived."

Many will disagree with some of his reflections, which seek to rise above simple "in or out" pronouncements, but they also may be stretched in their understanding of what the Bible means when it talks about eternity, heaven and hell.

While pointing to what he sees as the church's "long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody," Bell's trademark reflectiveness and wonder at the immensity of God's love ultimately emphasizes the importance of how people's view of the hereafter shapes their lives in the here and now.  —Andy Butcher