Book review: Letter from a Christian Citizen
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Letter from a Christian Citizen A Response to Publisher: American Vision Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation is a runaway bestseller, competing on this list of bestsellers with several other titles dealing with atheism. In a personable, affable style, Sam Harris sets out to destroy religion and to call the attention of the American public to the destruction caused by religion. His aim is nothing less than the eradication of all religion. Letter from a Christian Citizen is Douglas Wilson’s response to Harris. In a book that looks very similar and is written in a similar style, Wilson writes a response directed directly at Sam Harris. He goes point-by-point through Letter to a Christian Nation addressing Harris’ claims and arguments. While never ceding any ground, Wilson is always very respectful and kind (even if he is a tad sarcastic at times). He writes in a way that will not offend or cause people to turn aside because of the form of address. Perhaps the book’s closing words show most clearly his care not to provoke the reader: "May the Lord call you to Himself, on the basis of this kind…

Book review: Kindled Fire
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Kindled Fire How the Methods of C.H. Spurgeon Can Help Your Preaching Publisher: Mentor Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The pages of church history give us great examples of Christian men and women whose lives can teach and inspire us in our own ministries.  Even as we rise to face the unique challenges of presenting the unchanging gospel in the modern world, we should gladly admit we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.   Zack Eswine, professor of homiletics at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis has written an outstanding book for preachers, using the methods of C.H. Spurgeon as material for our instruction.    Although the 19th century British preacher is now well-known and admired, in his own day he was often vilified by fellow clergy for both his doctrine and his manner of speaking.  Furthermore, Spurgeon faced some of the same cultural hindrances to preaching that we face today.   Eswine notes that many preachers in Spurgeon’s day attempted polished oratory in order to attain much-desired respectability in society. While Spurgeon did not lack the mental ability to be a refined orator, he deliberately chose instead to talk plainly, imitating…

Book review: Redemptive Suffering
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Redemptive Suffering Lessons Learned from the Garden of Gethsemane Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No Leslie Montgomery is no stranger to suffering.  Not only does she counsel others through their trials as member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, her life is marked by several difficult trials of her own.  Redemptive Suffering: Lessons Learned from the Garden of Gethsemane is a book birthed from Montgomery’s own intense suffering.  Montgomery’s desire is to help the reader meet Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, see His suffering, examine the decisions He made in the garden, and observe how Jesus rejoiced in his suffering.  With Jesus and his disciples as examples, Montgomery seeks to illustrate how believers can be strengthened in their own gardens of Gethsemane. Montgomery begins by explaining how all people suffer and process grief differently.  However, because Jesus has experienced suffering just as we have, all can look to Jesus as an example and as a friend who understands our own particular suffering.  Not only is He our example, Montgomery shares that Jesus is also our necessity when we are suffering. Using the geography of Jerusalem, the surrounding area, and other important biblical…

Book review: He Said It! I Did It!
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

He Said It! I Did It! Lessons from my Father on Mastering Personal Finance Publisher: Orman Press Inc Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes The material found in this book can be found in works written by other Christian authors. However, it is actually a complement to say that Buffington’s book can be compared to best-selling authors such as Larry Burkett or Ron Blue. He acknowledges that personal finance is not rocket science, and that in the grand scheme of things nobody should reinvent the wheel when it comes to handling one’s finances. However, every book has its own flavor. What you expect to get from a book often determines your appreciation for it. I suppose that some people might pick up a book on personal finances written by a Christian author and think that the book should necessarily have the characteristics of a Bible study. There are in fact some books on the market that have as their main purpose the examination of scriptural texts relating to finances and a Christian’s relationship with money. Buffington certainly mentions the spiritual ramifications of how we handle our money, but his main thrust is to teach people the basics…

Book review: Marley & Me
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Marley & Me Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog Publisher: William Morrow Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I recently decided that I would attempt to read not only books that are published and widely read within the Christian community, but also in the mainstream. To that end I walked into a Los Angeles Barnes & Nobles on Saturday and decided I would buy whatever was listed as being the current top seller among non-fiction. It just so happened that this dubious honor went to Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same." That description from the slip cover, obviously written by an editor, does not quite do justice to the back-story, but does give a general idea of the premise for this story. John and his wife, newly married, decided to sharpen their parenting skills, which they…

Book review: Velvet Elvis
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Velvet Elvis Repainting the Christian Faith Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No In his basement Rob Bell has a Velvet Elvis. A genuine, bought-by-the-side-of-the-road Velvet Elvis. Bell uses this image of a work of art stashed in the basement behind suitcases and boxes as a metaphor for churches that are out of date. For thousands of years followers of Jesus, like artists, have understood that we have to keep going, exploring what it means to live in harmony with God and each other. The Christian faith tradition is filled with change and growth and transformation. Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live. The challenge for Christians then is to live with great passion and conviction, remaining open and flexible, aware that this life is not the last painting. Times change. God doesn’t, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating,…

Book review: A Man of God
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

A Man of God Essential Priorities For Every Man’s Life Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes I have not read many books endorsed by Pat Summerall, Roger Staubach, Gary Carter and Chuck Norris (yes, that Chuck Norris).  So, I was a little hesitant picking up Jack Graham’s manifesto to men.  What exactly was this book about? Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, "one of America’s largest congregations" and recently the President of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He writes in a very warm and engaging style and keeps his book focused on one topic: men.  The early chapters begin with an overview of what it means for a man to be a Christian then he moves on to discuss integrity of character, family life and ministry.   His writing style is very simple and would appeal especially to men that do not read a lot.  There are ample chapter divisions and the book is well-organized.  I suppose some might consider it as study group material and this might work based on the size and extent of the writing. There is no question that Graham writes as an American to fellow Americans.  It is…

Book review: Selling Out the Church
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Selling Out the Church The Dangers of Church Marketing Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Much has been written in recent years about marketing the church. Of all the books I’ve read, both for and against marketing the church, few have been as helpful or as biblical as Selling Out the Church. The authors set out to answer the question of whether the market-drive church can remain Christ’s church. While many proponents of church marketing consider this debate to be over, the authors of this book consider it wide open. "We hope to enable a more robust debate about the wisdom of employing church marketing by articulating as clearly as we can what we take to be its dangers" (page 16). They ask the reader to consider this book "a contribution to what we hope is a churchwide conversation about the identity, character, and mission of the church, and more specifically about the wisdom of employing marketing thinking and practices in the service of that church" (page 17). Church marketers believe that marketing is a neutral force, in that it shapes only the form of the church while leaving the function alone….

Book review: The Purpose Driven Church
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Purpose Driven Church Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No There is little doubt that many modern churches are failing to grow and flourish. New churches are planted only to wither and die while established churches are stagnant, growing only from within. Rick Warren, pastor and founder of one of America’s largest churches, Saddleback Valley Community Church, wrote The Purpose Driven Church to address the failures of today’s churches. The book outlines the principles he used to establish his church and seeks to apply these principles to all churches, whether they are established or newly planted. Since it’s publication in 1995, this book has served as a manual to thousands of other churches and Warren’s model has been used across the globe to start a whole new breed of church. Terms you may hear in association with this model are "Purpose Driven" and "church growth movement." Warren’s approach centers on something that is startling in its simplicity. Every church needs to be defined by a purpose. Warren states, "Until you know what your church exists for, you have no foundation, no motivation, and no direction for…

Book review: Six Battles Every Man Must Win
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Six Battles Every Man Must Win …And the Ancient Secrets You’ll Need to Succeed Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: There are few things I like less than Christian books and programs that offer easy answers, for nowhere does God promise that living for Him will be easy. It seems, though, that the Christian world just laps these books up. Those dealing with Christian living seem to be particularly prone to “easy-answerism.” Fortunately bestselling author Bill Perkins avoids this concern in his new book entitled Six Battles Every Man Must Win. Based on the Biblical account of King David’s mighty men, this book seeks to address the cultural bullies that continually attempt to steal men’s hearts. Perkins offers insight on how men can set their sights on God’s will for their lives and escape the destructive behavior that is keeping them from being warriors for Him. “This book was written for men who…are tired of living like spiritual weaklings. It’s for men who believe they were created to be warriors but aren’t sure how to fight or what they should be fighting for. It’s for men who want to lock on their purpose for…