review

Review: Without This Ring

Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce
by Donna Pyle

Divorce rips apart what God had made one. How do you survive that? What happens next? This is not a book of devotions. It is not a how-to showing you how to justify your divorce. It is not a guidebook to make sure you’re always in the right. Instead, it walks through the emotional and practical journey of what to happen when divorce comes. Throughout, Donna Pyle shows scenes from her own story of heartbreak. She also sprinkles in many other stories that show other aspects of divorce. Most chapters end with a few ages each written by a pastor and a professional counselor reacting to what Pyle wrote. Each chapter is followed with a guide for further prayer and journaling.

This book isn’t aimed at me. I’m not divorced, and Lord willing, I’m not planning on a divorce! Hopefully, though, no one going into marriage plans on divorce. I figured that I should get some more training and knowledge in dealing with people in those circumstances, though, and so I picked up this book.

I’m glad I did. (more…)

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Review: Religion on Trial

Religion on Trial: Cross-Examining Religious Truth Claims
by Craig A. Parton

So, there’s a lot of religions out there. How do you know which one is true? Are any of them true? How do you test them? Does it even matter? In Religion on Trial, Craig Parton posits a way to test religious claims. Parton is a trial lawyer, and holds religion to the same standards that he would any witness on the stand. As he states in the introduction,

So, whether you are utterly convinced that you are one with God or the divine or that you are an insignificant piece of matter in a gigantic but ultimately purposeless cosmic game, or you are positive that God may be there but is deathly silent, or you are sure that your “religion” is true because it makes you feel good about your balanced spirituality and integrated personality, you should not fear a relentless search for the truth.” (8)

Parton’s presentation is pretty solid. He walks through a bunch of valid questions: Aren’t all religions the same anyway? How do you evaluate them? Do any of them make verifiable truth claims? Does it even matter? By examining evidence and laying out what can’t be controverted, and by presenting everything as if it were a trial, Parton shows an adept hand at talking through what truth is. This book could be very handy for anyone looking for some guidance in apologetics. (more…)

Review: Internalizing the Faith

Internalizing the Faith: A Pilgrim’s Catechism
by J. Brandon Burks

A catechism summarizes the confession of a church in a simple form that can be memorized and passed down easily. In Internalizing the Faith, J. Brandon Burks presents a Reformed catechism to teach the youth of his church body and reinforce the beliefs of those who already know their faith.

Burks has written a pretty good encapsulation of Reformed theology here. The book is slim, to the point, and generally clear. I appreciated the format. Burks presents one hundred seven questions, most with one-sentence answers. Each answer has one Biblical reference with an endnote. The endnotes present a paragraph for each question in the main body of the book. Each paragraph has a number of biblical references and books for further reading. (more…)

Review: How to Talk Confidently with Your Child About Sex

How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex
by Lenore Buth

Trying to figure out how to have “The Talk” with your kids? What do you tell them when? How do you know what they already know? When do you let go? When is it too much for them to handle? In How to Talk Confidently with Your Child about Sex, Lenore Buth walks parents through many tips. Throughout she points to Jesus as the source of our confidence, and encourages parents to point to him constantly.

This is the last of the Learning About Sex series from Concordia Publishing House. I’ve reviewed several books in the series (which you can read about here, here, here, here, or here). In short, the series has been good but a little uneven.

This book falls into the “strong” category. Buth does a fantastic job pointing to Christ as the source of both the parent’s and the child’s identity. She offers several sample conversations, how to initiate them, and how to graciously answer questions that might make a parent uncomfortable. I greatly appreciated her grace-filled responses to questions a child might have about sin. (more…)

Review: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
by Phillip Keller

When David wrote Psalm 23, best known as “The Good Shepherd Psalm,” nearly everyone in that culture knew exactly what he was talking about. They understood the analogies and how shepherds worked. They knew sheep. Well, most of us today don’t know much about sheep, except one followed Mary wherever she would go. In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller speaks about his experience as a shepherd for many years and what Psalm 23 is really talking about.

First off, this book is generally regarded as a classic, and rightly so. Keller’s descriptions of the shepherding life and the phrases of Psalm 23 really work. He comes across not only as competent, but able to actually talk about it in language that a city slicker like me can understand. He also has a thorough knowledge of Scripture, not just quoting Psalm 23, but pulling in passages from all over the Bible as prove useful. (more…)

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…)

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: Young and in Love

Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage
by Ted Cunningham

Is falling in love and getting married young a sure red flag and a precursor to divorce? Ted Cunningham doesn’t think so. In Young and in Love, he writes that age isn’t the thing that causes divorces; immaturity is. He writes his book to young people who want to get married and are facing an uphill battle from parents and society that tell them to make sure their careers are settled first, encouraging them to find and display maturity.

First off, I love Cunningham’s thesis:

While there are many valid reasons to delay marriage, your age should not be on that list. Marriages fall apart for all sorts of reasons: unmet expectations, unrealistic expectations, buying into the “soul mate” myth, prolonged adolescence, lack of commitment, and a culture that devalues marriage. But to say those all go away with age is a fallacy. The issue is maturity, not age. (22)

YES. (more…)

Review: Make Your Marriage Stronger

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Marriage Stronger
by Ron Garwood

You can have a better marriage, and there’s some things you can do to secure that better marriage. In this little book – less than 100 pages! – Ron Garwood guides the reader through some simple steps you can take to strengthen your marriage.

First off: There is nothing wrong with this book. All the information is gospel-based and solidly presented. The advice is good advice, and I stand behind it. If you’ve never read anything about how to strengthen a marriage, this is a good place to begin.

That said… maybe I’ve read too many books about marriage, but this was both way too shallow and way too deep for the length of the book. (more…)

Review: Elijah

Elijah: Fiery Prophet
by James A. Aderman

Elijah served when a wicked king and queen suppressed worship of the one true God. Because of their evil, God shut the sky for three and a half years. Elijah struggled with depression as well, even asking God to kill him. And yet this prophet was used by God to share his Word in dramatic ways. This book takes the reader through the life of Elijah, seeing how he both received grace from God, and shared that grace with others around him.

Elijah is one of my favorite prophets to read about. I find his struggles with God and his own depression so incredibly relatable. I was looking forward to reading this little book that gives him a story-based biography. Unfortunately, some unique choices in the writing made it a hard read for me. (more…)