Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review of Bringing Sex Into Focus by Caroline J. Simon

Bringing Sex into Focus

Bringing Sex Into Focus: The Quest for Sexual Integrity
by Caroline J. Simon
ISBN 978-0-8308-3637-6
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This short and readable little book attempts to deal with the intersection of Christian ethics and human sexuality in a wise, succinct, and highly intelligent way. For the most part, Caroline Simon succeeds in her effort that she put forward in Bringing Sex Into Focus, challenging readers to think and process issues in human sexuality in a thoughtful and winsome manner.

Simon begins her book by proposing six "lenses" that people view sexual behavior through. Two of these views are explicitly Christian: understanding sexuality as expressive of covenant and as a procreative act. Other ways of viewing sexuality are often held by Christians, but are less explicitly Christian, and at times work against a world view that lifts up the Word of God for the authority of what is ethical. Such "lenses" include: a romantic lens, the plain-sex view, the power view (which is many ways is an argument against the plain sex view), and and expressive lens (my sexuality is a way of expressing my individualism and identity).

The rest of the book addresses how people live out their sexuality, both in relation to Christian ethics, and in relation to these other lenses as well, and how those behaviors demonstrate healthy and/or unhealthy and holy and/or  unholy ways of living out one's sexuality.

Simon begins with tackling what most Bible-believing Christians believe are the channels that healthy sexuality should flow through. Namely, virginity and chastity outside of marriage, and fidelity and the becoming of "one flesh" from within the boundaries of marriage. After this, she tackles some more controversial expressions of human sexuality such as flirtation and homosxuality. Then she tackles what she calls, "deficient" views of human sexuality.

Simon writes well, and gets her readers to think. She has clear convictions, and expresses her conclusions as times, but always with a class and grace that will be appreciated by the reader.

This is a book I will keep on my bookshelf and refer to from time to time for several years.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review of Story of God Bible Commentary: Sermon on the Mount

The Story of God Bible Commentary
by Scot McKnight
ISBN 978-0-310-32713-4
Zondervan Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Scot McKnight is, perhaps, one of the fastest rising and prolific scholars to write on New Testament studies today. This latest series of commentaries, which he both edits and writes for, promises to be another excellent contribution from Dr. McKnight. Taking a narrative approach to the Scripture, McKnight works hard to bring the historical and religious context of Ancient Israel into our understanding of the Scripture in the 21st century. Before comments are made, the Scripture being discussed is translated and shared. Then, other pertinent passages throughout Scripture are shared so students can read this text in its canonical context. After this, in each section, comments are made about the passage's original meaning. Then, ideas are shared for pastors, teachers, and students so that they can find ways to understand the old, old story in their everyday life. I have been using this for months, and I love it! McKnight has deep insights, and yet communicates in an accessible manner. I am sure this will be on pastor's bookshelves for years to come.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review of Take Charge of Your Emotions

Take Charge of Your Emotions: Seven Steps to Overcoming Depression, Anxiety, and Anger
By Dr. Linda J. Solie
ISBN 978-0-7542-1113-3
Bethany House
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Take Charge of Your Emotions is a technique to achieving mental health presented by a mental health practitioner named Linda Solie. Dr. Solie presents a biblically-infused 7-step program with dealing with some basic, common mental health issues.

This book, although oriented toward people who are struggling especially with anxiety, depression, and anger, it really is an even better guide for non-professionals looking for tools to help counsel people in these kinds of situations. This is a thick book full of tables and diagrams that give examples of people working through issues or problems, and how they can discover the tools they need to function effectively.

It is thorough and well-written. Solie focuses on cognition to begin with, and then hope to change attitude and behavior through healthy thinking and through resourcing oneself with spiritual help from Scripture and other Christian influences.

A nice text, but not quite what I expected.

Book Review of Pray the Scriptures by Kevin Johnson

http://www.amazon.com/Pray-Scriptures-40-Day-Prayer-Experience-ebook/dp/B00B85M30G/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395531715&sr=1-2&keywords=pray+the+scripturesPray the Scriptures: A 40-Day Prayer Experience
by Kevin Johnson
ISBN 978-0-7642-1103-4
Bethany House
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Really, this is more of a prayer journal than a formal book. Each day in the 40 day journal provides on Scripture for meditation, a few thoughts, and ample room to write in one's personal response to the material provided. For this reason, I would purchase this is a bound copy, but would not purchase it via Kindle.

Each day has several intelligent, probing question on a topic that the Scripture provided presents. These helpful guiding thoughts help the reader meditate on Scripture in a more intentional way. And, after each day the reader will be provided with practical ways they can grow in their faith. Whether it is a task of a disciple, or a character quality or attitude, readers are invited to allow Scripture to change their thinking so that they can be changed as a human being.

This would be a great study for Lent. If only I had noticed it soon enough...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review of Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus by Jamie Snyder

Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus
by Jamie Snyder
ISBN 978-0-7642-1099-0
Bethany House
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Real is a book about living our faith from the inside out, every day of the week. The premise of this book is a question the author was inspired to ask himself. That question was, "Would people know I was a Christian if they did not see me at church?"

From this initial question Jamie Snyder begins by making the case that the Christian faith is not about Sunday, but rather about what we do the rest of the week. After making this case, Snyder espouses certain values, attitudes and behaviors that are hallmarks of authentic Christians that live their faith visibly and attractively in the world around them.

The book is pretty simple and straightforward. Having said that, the book has questions and answers at the end of every chapter, and would make a fascinating discussion for many church groups. And, it is well-organized enough that it could be easily adapted for a teaching/preaching series.

This book is both instructional and informational, and will be very encouraging to many believers in Jesus.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review of Bad Dad's of the Bible by Roland C. Warren

Bad Dad's of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid

By Roland C. Warren
ISBN 978-0-310-33716-4
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Many of our Bible heroes were wonderful leaders, and not so good parents. Roland Martin takes us through a journey of learning from the mistakes of Old Testament fathers so that we can be better fathers ourselves.

Most of the advice contained in this book is helpful and intelligently communicated, but also common sense. Topics covered include being a good role model for your children, and not abandoning your child. However, there are also some guidelines that should be common sense, but are rarely communicated. These include not making your children compete for your affection, or not addressing sibling rivalry before it gets out of control.

This would be a fun book for a group of young fathers to read through and discuss.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review of Fresh Air by Jack Levison

Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life
by Jack Levison
ISBN 978-1-61261-068-9
Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Very few books come more highly recommended than this fine book from Jack Levison. With glowing reviews from people such as Eugene Peterson, Nicole Nordeman, N.T. Wright, and Will Willimon, I wondered if the publicity might overstate the value of this book. They did not. This book is as good as advertised.

This brilliant book does a wonderful job of weaving together the narrative of the Spirit, the author's personal narrative, and the story of God as revealed in Scripture.

The text has a narrative flow that makes it easy to read, and yet there are times when you must stop to think. It moves through Scripture in a sequential and logical ways, in many ways communicating a biography of the Holy Spirit and his relationship to humanity. Levison shares enough insightful stories and pithy, well-written lines that at the same time readers will pause to ponder. Each chapter has companion Scriptures to study and consider.

The book, while accessible, has theological depth. Especially, as one might consider, the theological depth relates to the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. And while some theological books on the Holy Spirit simply cause one to think, it becomes very clear that Levison's goal is to form spirits.

As I read and continue to read, I sense this book touching and forming my own spirit. For that I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review of God's Great Blessings Devotional by Patricia Raybon

God's Great Blessings Devotional
by Patricia Raybon
ISBN 978-1-4143-3871-2
Tyndale Publishing
Reviewed by Clint Walker

While Jennifer was in cancer treatment and sleeping last week I went out to run around town a little bit. And when I say run around town, I mean look at office supplies and books. So, after leaving Office Max I headed to BAM to look over what might be on sale.

Last time I was at BAM was a little after Christmas, and I had noticed this devotional on the shelf that looked good, but it was much too expensive. When I returned last week it was still on the shelf, and it was  was half-off! So I purchased the book right away, and I have not regretted it.

Currently, I am trying to work through a week a day until I get caught up on where I am supposed to be for the year with this devotional. Both the appearance of the book (a light green color with greenery), and the fact that the author is female could fool you into thinking the devotional is targeted at women, but I have found this to be far from the truth. This is a very well-written, human devotional full of thoughtful insights on Christian living.

A little research will demonstrate that Patricia Raybon is a very accomplished writer, and crafting a devotional such as this could be considered a little below her pay grade. A professor, journalist, and author of several books, Raybon is respected for her writing skill throughout the country.She has partnered with nationally respected ministries in the past, as well as wrote for publications such as The New York Times, Newsweek, and USA Today.

Each week in this devotional has a theme. As the week goes on, Raybon shares six different thoughts about the theme for the week, and then at the end of the week there is a day that is open for the reader to respond and think about what they have learned over the 7 days. After the reflection questions, the whole process starts again. Again it is very well done.

If you are looking for a devotional that challenges you to think and feel the gospel, this is the study for you. Purchase one at your nearest bookstore before they are all snapped up.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review of Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson

Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge
by Mark Batterson
ISBN 978-0-310-32712-7
Zondervan (Harper Collins)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I grabbed this book off the shelf at Sam's Club the other day. The DS of the United Methodists gave us a copy of The Circle Maker for Christmas, and had recommended the book to me earlier in the year. Since I am doing some study on prayer for both worship and Sunday school, I decided to add this in as a Lenten Devotional. And I have to say, it has been simply fantastic.

I love this book for several reasons. First, each chapter seems to have at least one memorable or pithy quote. Also, Batterson litters his book with helpful stories and illustrations that bring home his point. Each day's devotion is short, but more in depth than simply a daily devotional. Draw the Circle strikes a balance between being encouraging and inspirational, while at the same time being convicting. Finally, at times the text offers practical insights at times of action steps to improve one's prayer life, which will really aid folks who feel the need to be "hands-on" while growing deep in their prayer journey.

Grab this book now. Your life will be changed.


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