October 30, 2016

Review: Martin Luther






Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links. 


Martin Luther, Simonetta Carr's latest addition to the Christian Biographies for Young Readers, tells the story of Luther's life and the beginning of the Reformation in a brief and attractive format. Don't be deceived by the series title, though. While the book is written to engage young readers, I found myself drawn into Luther's story -- even through much of it was familiar to me! I also appreciated learning more about his post-95-theses work, when he focused on providing biblical education.

While Carr's writing style drops you right into Luther's life, Troy Howell's beautiful illustrations help set the mood and tone of the time period. Original paintings and engravings of the people and region complement the storytelling, as well.

While not all of Luther's writings are exemplary (and Carr makes this clear when appropriate), his courage and conviction in learning and upholding the truth during a time of persecution can be a great encouragement to us, even in our own increasingly-difficult times.

As we look toward celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, this book provides a great launching point. I recommend this book as a great addition to the reading libraries of families, churches, and schools alike.



{You may also be interested in my review of John Knox from the same series. Many of the general comments made there apply to this book, as well!}


Review: Christ All Sufficient




"Through the power of the gospel and the work of the Spirit, we are being restored to our humanity. The gospel makes us fully alive, fully ourselves. By God's grace, we are becoming human again."
Brian Hedges

Over the past year, my pastor has been teaching through Colossians. It's been a much-discussed epistle in our home for years (in case you don't know, I happen to be married to my pastor), but hearing these verse-by-verse messages has been so helpful. When I learned that Brian Hedges had recently published a new commentary on Colossians, Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians, I looked forward to reading it. You see, I read (and reviewed) Hedges' book, Active Spirituality, a couple of years ago and found it very helpful.


I'm no Bible scholar. I have no seminary training and do not know the biblical languages. As a Christian, however, I am a student of the Bible. For all of these reasons, I appreciate that this commentary is easily accessible to believers at all stages. Hedges admittedly draws from sermons he prepared for his own congregation, as well as the scholarship of others who have influenced him along the way. These roots make the book readable, while providing stepping stones to further reading, if desired.

For me, the book was strengthened by the clear illustrations of theological truths that were included. Some of these are timeless, others are currently more culturally relevant, all were helpful. I also appreciated the inclusion of oft-forgotten hymns that teach the truths of Scripture.

Christ All Sufficient provides clarity on the meaning of Colossians, but goes even further by providing challenging application, as well. This makes the book more than a resource for teachers of the Word, but not less than that. Throughout the book, Hedges reminds the reader of Paul's main purpose in writing this letter:

With every stroke of the pen, Colossians proclaims, "Christ is supreme! Christ is sufficient! If you have him, you have all you need!"

I requested and received a copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review. 

October 23, 2016

Review: The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life


"People actively make choices all day long. These countless decisions flow from the more hidden dedications of the heart. Whether strongly conscious or less conscious, the heart's intentions drive a person's actions. People are, in large part, who they choose to be."
Jeremy Pierre

The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience is a convicting personal read, as well as helpful in counseling others -- as all good counseling books should be.

In The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Jeremy Pierre seeks to help the reader see the that our hearts respond to life in a three-fold manner: cognitively (knowledge/beliefs), affectively (desires/emotions), and volitionally (choices/commitments). Rather than being a clinical analysis, this perspective helps us understand that we are "wholly spiritual persons". And Pierre is careful to say that while "...all problems are spiritual problems, I am not saying they are merely spiritual. People have bodies as well--bodies that function not as vehicles to an independent soul that drives it, but more like the canvas and paint embodying the ideas of an artist.... all human responses are by nature spiritual."

The premise of the book is well expressed in the introduction:
People are often only partially aware of the beliefs and values residing within them, and they will tend to read these beliefs and values into Scripture. People must become more willing to listen to God's voice for what it actually is rather than what they want it to be. As Scripture is thus received in the heart, God's revelation shapes people's thoughts, feelings, and choices.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with how the heart responds dynamically. This includes a careful look at what the heart was designed for, how it was corrupted and redeemed, and how it is affected by its context. The second section deals with what the heart dynamically responds to. This section examines four facets of influence upon the heart. The last section deals brings us to nuts and bolts of counseling from this biblical paradigm.

I found The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life to present a strong, biblical perspective on common struggles, along with very practical helps in working through these struggles. It's not a quick read, but worthy of chewing on as you go. This book will be helpful for pastors, counselors, and believers who simply want to work out their own salvation (Phil 2:12) and walk side-by-side with others in this same pursuit.

"God designed the heart's functions for worship: he wants people to respond to him with the complex beauty that reflects his own. Dynamic hearts worship God in daily life--in the way they think, the things they want, the choices they make."
Jeremy Pierre



I requested and received a copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review.