Concordia Publishing House

Review: The Executioner’s Redemption

The Executioner’s Redemption
by Rev. Timothy R. Carter

Tim Carter participated in more than 150 executions. Not a lie, not a fiction, not a story. He worked for the Texas State Penitentiary death squad.

And then he became a pastor.

The Executioner’s Redemption is his story. How did he end up on the death squad? What did that do to his emotions? To his soul? How did Jesus reach him there, and what did it mean once he was a Christian? Tim Carter takes us through his life, and how good the grace of God is. (more…)

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Review: Family Faith Walks

Family Faith Walks
by Kelly J. Haack

So, you want to start helping your family draw closer to Jesus, but they’re not the type to gather around a book every night? Is there some other way to approach devotions?

In Family Faith Walks, Kelly Haack presents about one hundred activities that, with discussion, can provide good spiritual illustrations. Each activity comes with a Bible passage, the idea for the activity itself, follow up questions that draw out the spiritual truth, further activities to cement the concept, a prayer, and further ponderings for adults to dig deeper into the truths presented. The activities are presented month-to-month for easy searching (for instance, there’s a Halloween activity in October). (more…)

Review: Pastoral Care under the Cross

Pastor Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering – Revised Edition
by Richard C. Eyer

Where is God when people suffer? God suffers with them on the cross. In this excellent book, Richard Eyer guides pastors with multiple practical applications. He begins by laying out the theology of the cross, and then in subsequent chapters applies that theology to various suffering groups: the elderly, the dying, the mourning, the depressed, and others. In the end, he always points to Jesus as showing that God is with the sufferer.

I love Eyer’s definition of pastoral care: “Pastor care consists not in removing someone’s suffering but in helping the sufferer learn to interpret his or her sufferings in the light of the cross” (21). So much of our culture focuses on taking away suffering of any kind, even saying that life isn’t worth living if it’s going to involve suffering. Eyer reminds us that Christians have a different outlook. The point of life isn’t escaping suffering; it’s Jesus. “The goal of pastoral care is not necessarily to remove a person’s discomfort, but to help the sufferer use the discomfort for growth in faith and love of God” (71). (more…)

Review: Heartbeat!

Heartbeat!
By Stephen J. Carter

Do you long to live with passion for God’s Word? You know you’re supposed to, and you understand that the Good News that Jesus is your Savior is overwhelming, but something just doesn’t connect? In this book, Stephen Carter looks at the examples of those who live with passion for God’s Word, examines what lies in the way of our living with passion, the importance of confession, how to discover the Word of Christ, how to dwell in that Word deeply, and how to live out that passion in the world. Carter himself explains his goal: “God’s heart beats through His Church, gathered around His Word and Sacraments. His heart beats in you through Baptism as you immerse yourself in the Word of Christ. Consequently, your heart will beat with God’s passion for the world as you praise him, serve others, and bear witness to your faith in Christ daily and throughout your life” (22)

When I started this book, I quickly became very worried I was wasting my time. First off, Carter is fine with his theology. I didn’t notice him saying anything wrong at all. He’s very Gospel-centered, for which I am grateful. However, the first fifty pages are supposed to be examples of people who live with passion, which will show us why living with passion for God’s Word isn’t just some good ideal, but something we want to pursue.

Except… after reading those fifty pages, I was frankly bored. (more…)

Review: Appreciate Science and Love the Bible

5 Things You Can Do to Appreciate Science and Love the Bible
by Charles St. Onge

Science and the Bible don’t seem to play nice, do they? If you love the Bible, do you need to give up science? Do you need to be suspicious of anyone with an engineering degree? Do you need to check your brain at the door? Thankfully, no! This little book (about 90 pages) tackles what science and the Bible have to do with each other in an engaging and Scripture-filled way.

Short review: Yes. You need this book in your library. (more…)

Review: Joyfully Aging

Joyfully Aging: A Christian’s Guide
by Richard Bimler

Everyone ages. Everyone. You can’t prevent it. So instead of dreading it or becoming bitter, how about thanking God for old age? In Joyfully Aging, Richard Bimler uses a mix of humorous anecdotes and Scriptural encouragement to help us learn how to age with grace.

Half of this book is fluff tangentially connected with what it surrounds. The rest is solid Law and Gospel application to those on the older side of life. The fluff would make a Lutheran congregation smile loudly – harmless humor. The Law and Gospel, though, is perfect. The mix seems to be perfect for Bimler’s intended audience, too, at least in my experience. If you handed just Law and Gospel, you could lose a lot of people. It would be too deep, or be regarded as too deep. But he doesn’t forget why he’s here, either; he makes sure that in the end the book really points to Jesus. It’s not just fluff! (more…)

Review: Sex & the New You (boys 12-14)

Sex & the New You (Boys ages 12-14)
by Richard Bimler

So kids talk about sex. They need a place they can get not only factual answers, but also answers from God’s Word. Sex & the New You is part of a series from Concordia Publishing House that addresses sex education from a Confessional Lutheran Standpoint, written for various ages. This particular edition has a lot about dating, pornography, friendships, and relating with parents, along with basic differences between the sexes and how children develop into adults. Throughout, a stress is put on Law and Gospel, laying out what God says is right, and how Jesus won us forgiveness. The book emphasizes that the child’s identity is safe in Christ, so they don’t need approval from peers to feel good about themselves.

Last year I reviewed the previous volumes in this series, How You Are Changing. I gave it a pretty positive review. This book continues the series in mostly the same fashion, and I appreciate that. It’s still something that’s pretty good to use with my own son.

Except. (more…)

Review: Understand the Bible Better

5 Things You Can Do to Understand the Bible Better
by Zach McIntosh

You want to read the Bible better, right? This short book aims at equipping you to do just that! In five chapters, it talks about the central premise of the Bible, how to read the Old Testament, how to read the New Testament, how to expect the Bible to change you as you read it, and how to get help with the parts you don’t understand. In the end, it encourages the reader with great advice: The best way to read the Bible better… is just to read the Bible!

Well, chalk another dash in the “frustrating book” column for me! The advice in this book is solid. The chapters on the Old and New Testament give great introductory material that equips the reader on the breakdown of the major “storylines” and how to read different sections. Those two chapters are, by far, the best parts of the book. (more…)

Review: Family Trees & Olive Branches

Family Trees & Olive Branches
by Christina Hergenrader

Your family tree might have some unsightly blemishes that no one likes talking about. Maybe your family tree is stunted or warped. Is your family tree a mighty oak or a palm tree? No matter what, your family tree has influenced you in many ways, whether you recognize it or not. Why not have a family tree grown in grace? But how do you create a culture of grace? In this book, Christina Hergenrader shows readers how to grow in that grace and extend it to your immediate family and beyond.

I recently read a book about how to speak to your children that led me feeling guilty, not empowered. The book lacked any forgiveness. I didn’t recommend the book.

This book is the exact opposite of that one. Hergenrader has written a book soaked in the Gospel. She constantly reminds the reader that their identity is “child of God” and it is based on what Jesus has done, not on what we do. She begins, ends, and revels throughout in the Gospel. And throughout, she unpacks what the Gospel means as we live with our families. (more…)

Review: Living with Dying

Living with Dying: Blessings and Prayers for Those Who Grieve 
Ed. by Scot A. Kinnaman

This little book provides a wealth of resources for those preparing for death, readying for the death of a loved one, or mourning. It contains devotions, Bible passages, favorite hymns, selected psalms, and prayers sorted by category easily looked up in the table of contents or in the index. Those who mourn or those who minister to those who mourn will find much help in this book.

In general.

Mostly.

Except when it doesn’t help. (more…)