Review: Domesticated Jesus

Domesticated Jesus
by Harry L. Kraus Jr.

We’ve domesticated Jesus. We’ve made him a small, tame god that’s not able to protect us. We’ve made ourselves big and him small. But a domesticated Jesus isn’t worth our praise. He’s not worth our time. And here’s the problem: The real Jesus isn’t small. He is a mighty God that does protect us! In Domesticated Jesus, Harry Kraus looks at this abomination we commit ever day of our lives, who Jesus really is, and what we can do about it.

What I thought I was getting: A book that would look at how we domesticate Jesus, show us how Jesus isn’t domesticated, and that the real Jesus is so much better.

What I got: A book that touches on how we domesticate Jesus, and how we can make sure we don’t domesticate him in our lives. (more…)

Review: Peter

Peter: Bold Disciple
by Stephen M. Luchterhand

Peter walked on water. He denied Jesus. He was the rock. He was the leader. He lived with Jesus and knew him so well. In Peter, Stephen Luchterhand walks through the big moments of Peter’s life that we know about from Scripture, showing him for the sinful man he was who learned to depend on Jesus.

While Luchterhand’s prose style didn’t overly arrest me, his descriptions and settings are effective. In particular, his retelling of Peter walking on water worked very well, as well as Peter’s initial call. Writing Peter’s life story in such a small space presents a challenge: Do you pick highlights, or do you try to tell everything quickly? I think Luchterhand chose well by picking highlights to focus on, while giving some good summary statements for “the other stuff.”

The book did leave an effect on me, though. I think next summer I’ll be doing a sermon series on Peter! He is a fragile stone, and we can learn much from how Jesus treated this brash and broken man. Luchterhand is not afraid to show Peter’s sin and point to how Jesus reached out to him and forgave him.

If you’re looking for a quick primer on Peter’s life, this is a great book to grab. Go for it!

Review: Never Forsaken

Never Forsaken: God’s Mercy in the Midst of Miscarriage
by Kathryn Ziegler Weber

I wept over this book.

Nine women tell the stories of their miscarriages. Each chapter features a different woman’s story with a different focus. One chapter talks about dealing with the question, “Why?” Another talks about shame. Another talks about dealing with your own sins in lashing out while grieving. Another talks about how to talk about miscarriage with others. Every chapter ends with an excellent three-paragraph summation and an in-depth Bible study that takes the reader deeper. The book holds several appendices as well, including a worship service memorial for use by grieving families, Martin Luther’s words to parents of stillborn children, and suggestions for further Bible readings and prayers.

If you are a pastor or in charge of a church library, you need to get this book for the use of your members who face this trial. If you are a parent who struggles with grief from a miscarriage, I highly recommend you read this book. (more…)

Review: Connecting

by Larry Crabb

The scars on our hearts will not heal without help. We know Jesus, yes, but sometimes we need someone to tell us truths, or to listen to us, or to simply weep with us. In Connecting, Larry Crabb proposes that the best way to help heal diseases of the soul is to simply connect with one another – not attempting to give advice or pass the other person on to experts, but simply to connect. Crabb talks about what connecting is and what it isn’t, common impediments to connecting and how God deals with them, and what professionals can do to help. In the end, he advises that we belong to a community centered around Christ that is not afraid to be known.

I’ve been working on this book for a while, but it has already caused me to reconsider how I’ve connected with members of my own congregation. Was I working through to-do lists or actually caring about the people I shepherd? So, if for no other reason than that, this book has been good for my ministry.

Crabb’s list of impediments to connecting hit me hard. I saw myself in his three big impediments: my attitudes, my habits. And this has nothing to do with me being an introvert; a lot of what he said about connecting on a deep level made me ache to achieve that with some of the members I serve. (more…)

Review: Live a Jesus-Centered Life

5 Things You Can Do to Live a Jesus-Centered Life
by H. R. Curtis

You have seen how good Jesus is, that he loves a sinner like you. You rejoice that he died for your sins and has risen from the dead. But now you want to go deeper. How can you live a Jesus-centered life? H. R. Curtis tackles that topic in this excellent, short book. He encourages readers to go to church, go read, go pray, go work, and come home. He offers practical ways to do all the above, shows why they work, and how you can keep going when you fail.

I love that this book opens up with a very solid explanation: This is not how you get to heaven, and you don’t help by doing any of these things. All this is reaction to the fact that “It is finished!” Throughout both Law and Gospel are emphasized, too.

The book is also very practical. For instance, it walks through different ways to read the Bible in the “Go Read” chapter, and talks about how to experiment to find out what works best. The book also recommend a number of resources to go deeper.

In the “go to church” chapter, the book assumes that your congregation uses traditional liturgy. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it may make some difficulties depending the home congregation of those reading the book. That said, it explains why the classical liturgy can be so useful. I’m still not a “high church” type person myself, but this section is still very useful.

The “go read” chapter I found especially helpful. It talks about how to get a grip on the “big ideas” of Scripture, and how that help you understand what you’re reading as you dig into the Bible.

Now, the book has a definite audience: People who already know the basics of the Christian faith but want to go deeper. I would not hand this book to someone who was brand-new to the faith. It makes too many assumptions for knowledge level. That said, if someone does know the basics and wants to go deeper, the book is a home run.

I’m glad to have it on my shelf. Check it out if you want to know how to better live a Jesus-centered life!

Review: Savor, Sip, and Drink Deeply

Savor, Sip, and Drink Deeply
by Deb Burma

Ever notice how a lot of people love coffee? There’s so many varieties and ways to drink your coffee! In Savor, Sip, and Drink Deeply, author Deb Burma uses coffee and coffee culture as illustrations to draw us closer to Christ. We see that he has poured us an overflowing cup that we can indulge in!

I expected this book to be cute and light. It’s billed as “A Bible study for women,” and my experience of such things are usually, unfortunately, fairly shallow. I’m happy to say that while this book is indeed cute, it’s not shallow!

Burma talks about cups and how we fill them,using this as illustrations of how we fill ourselves. Do we use “bad beans” of sin or bitterness, or are we filling up on God’s good promises? We want our coffee mugs cleaned out; do we see that Jesus has cleaned us out? There are so many coffee blends; God has given each individual unique blends of personalities, talents, and opportunities.

In each of the seven chapters in the book, Burma presents at least five “mini” devotions with a lot of biblical meat. However, as the illustrations run throughout, nothing gets overly heavy. I think this would be an ideal Bible study to start a women’s group with for that reason! There’s also a recipe for a coffee-related item at the end of each chapter, as well as ideas for service projects.

I could tell the book was definitely not aimed at me, but as I’m hardly a woman, that doesn’t surprise me. However, if someone wanted to start a women’s Bible group, this is one of the books I’d gladly encourage her to check out!

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…)

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…)