Monday, July 30, 2012

Review of SUBVERSIVE KINGDOM by Ed Stetzer

Photo Credit: Broadman & Holman

Who the book is for: Christians
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ed Stetzer’s newest book SUBVERSIVE KINGDOM is a challenging, inspiring, and thoroughly biblical exploration of the kingdom of God and a Christ follower’s role within it. Stetzer paints a world that is in open rebellion to God, its rightful King, making Christ followers in rebellion against this wide scale rebellion. Citizens of God’s kingdom are meant live differently, and Stetzer looks at the nature of the advance of God’s kingdom in the Bible to be highly subversive. The subversive nature of the kingdom means that followers of Jesus are constantly seeking ways to impact the culture we find ourselves in with the radically transforming message of the gospel.

I love how Stetzer connects the vision painted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to how Christians are to engage with people both on the inside and the outside of the kingdom of God. The Kingdom “Rules of Engagement” mean that Christ followers are constantly pursuing people with genuine love and a desire to see the gospel transforming their lives. This genuine love leaves no room for self-righteous judgment in our engagement with people. We offer grace and mercy as we meet practical needs and show people the incredible nature of our King.

Stetzer's writing style is warm and engaging as he shares many personal stories and several humorous stories as well. I especially appreciated the story he shared about him and Thom Rainer.

Stetzer calls Christians “agents of Gospel transformation,” and I think he has done an incredible job of painting a real-world ethic for how Christians are to live in the world, both individually and as part of the gospel community of the church. Churches should get this book into the hands of its members and encourage people in their journey of being agents of gospel transformation.

I received this book for free for review from Broadman and Holman, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Review of THE TWO FEARS by Chris Poblete

Photo Credit: Cruciform Press

Who the book is for: Christians
Rating: 5 out of 5

THE TWO FEARS by Chris Poblete explores the often unpopular topic of fearing God. Specifically, it looks at two types of fear. One type that the Bible celebrates, and one type that the Bible condemns. Ultimately, the book is about giving credence to a God who is utterly not like us and whose nature should invoke worship in us.

There is holy fear and there is unholy fear. Holy fear acknowledges the awesome and honestly terrifying power of God, but also realizes with incredible gratitude that this terrifying God is for us when we place our faith in Christ. It’s the realization that the one who can provoke more fear than anyone is also our only hope, and this is a great thing. Alternatively, unholy fear sees God not as someone whom we should place our hope, but as someone we should run from. Unholy fear causes us to believe God doesn’t want good for us. Unholy fear drives us from God. Another aspect of unholy fear that Poblete explores that is common to man is the fear we often have of other people. We often care more about what people think of us than what God thinks of us, and this fear drives our behavior. Poblete shows how irrational this is in light of who God is.

Holy fear of God should drive us to worship God for who he is and what he has done. The fear of God is an often misunderstood concept, and THE TWO FEARS is a much needed resource to counteract that.

I received this book for free for review from Cruciform Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

My Review of WINTER SPARROW by Estevan Vega

Rating: 5 out of 5

After what would seem to be a fairytale romance, Joshua and Mary are on the verge of starting their new life together. But Mary is struggling to believe in the love they share together. A nagging sense that this life they’re creating together will inevitably fail to satisfy pulls on her more and more. Though she’s an artist, Mary finds it difficult to visualize the potential beauty of the run-down mansion that Joshua’s father left them. Fortunately, the mansion includes a stunning garden that take’s Mary’s breath away. Though Joshua genuinely seems to love her dearly, a tragedy strikes shortly after they’re married that causes Mary’s heart to grow cold to him. Mary is rescued by a mysterious stranger after a car accident, and her whole world is turned upside down. Suddenly, the life she knew with Joshua seems like a distant dream. Did Joshua ever really exist? Did their love exist, and could she ever get it back? Would she even want to? Who is this mysterious stranger who has claimed her heart and promised her life?

Estevan Vega’s upcoming short story WINTER SPARROW is an eerie tale of loss and betrayal, love and hope, and scandalous redemption. Vega has a knack for complex characters with deep personal struggles. He really makes you feel what the characters are feeling. Furthermore, WINTER SPARROW is a powerfully redemptive story that gets to the heart of the human condition and the hope of a relentlessly loving savior. People will surely see themselves in the character of Mary, and the very last page will leave you desperate for the hope the story betrays, especially when that hope is cast against the bleak landscape that Vega portrays.

WINTER SPARROW had me thinking about its powerful theme for days, which is surely a sign of a truly great story. WINTER SPARROW is set to release this fall. For more information, check out Estevan Vega’s website at or follow him on Twitter at

I received this story for free for review from the author

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review of DIARY OF A PLAYER by Brad Paisley

DIARY OF A PLAYER by Brad Paisley and David Wild is a rare look into the life of country music artist Brad Paisley and his relationship with the musical instrument that has made him famous. I’m not much of a fan of country music, but I’ve always admired the guitar playing of Brad Paisley. For me, his music has always stood out above other country artists simply for the artistry of it. Paisley is clearly talented as a songwriter and as a guitar player, and there have been plenty of times that I’ve sat down with my own guitar to play a Brad Paisley song.

DIARY OF A PLAYER is unique in that it chronicles some key moments in Paisley’s journey as a guitar player, as well as a tribute to the guitar player who have inspired along the way. From the first guitar given to him by his guitar-playing grandfather to his successful career making music for a living, Paisley calls the journey he writes about in DIARY OF A PLAYER, “The story of a life with strings attached.” It’s a very fitting description. Some super-practical guitar tips by Paisley are peppered throughout the text.

Guitar players, new and veteran, could benefit from reading about Paisley’s journey. As a player myself, I resonate with the feelings Paisley describes about learning and playing guitar. Whether you’re a country music fan or not, it would be hard to deny the talent Paisley has on the instrument.

I received this book for free for review from Howard Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review of AMPED by Daniel H. Wilson

Photo Credit: Random House

Rating: 4 out of 5

A new technology promises to give thousands with neurological disabilities a chance at a new and normal life. The Neural Autofocus, a device implanted on the brain, amplifies a person’s brain functions, allowing them to function at peak performance. The Neural Autofocus has an interesting side effect: it makes those who have it smarter than humans without it. Students become better achievers than their classmates. Employees perform better quality work than their fellow employees. Arguing for fairness and equality, many reggies (those without the Autofocus) begin crying out against amps (those with the Autofocus) and demanding some way to level the playing field. High school teacher Owen Gray is an amp who finds himself caught up in a desperate pursuit of survival on the heels of a Supreme Court decision to deny people like him the basic protective rights awarded to all human beings. A country on the verge of war no longer views amps as human beings and sees them as a threat to humanity’s continued existence. After the murder of his father, one the Neural Autofocus’ primary technicians, Owen is led to a small haven for amps in Eden, Oklahoma to learn the secret behind the “something extra” placed inside of his amp. A dangerous ex-soldier named Lyle Crosby trains Owen how to be an expert fighter, but it soon becomes clear that not everything is as it seems. Lyle is growing an army of amps to fight regular humans. Tensions mount, and the fate of humans, regular and amped, hangs in the balance. Someone has to stop the war, but will Owen find in himself what it takes?

AMPED by Daniel H. Wilson is a fast-paced story set amidst a unique civil rights struggle. The concept alone of amped human beings convinced me to check the story out. It’s an interesting blend of science fiction and real world politics. Obviously, amped human beings aren’t something that technology would allow us to do at this point, but the story is a chilling exploration of what human beings could turn themselves into and the implications of that kind of technology in the hands of, let’s face it, human beings who tend to think of themselves before they think of others. Owen, the main character, even poses the question if most people are good, hoping and maybe almost believing that they are. Of course, like any great story worth telling, this is a story of good versus evil, and delivers on the good guys. Owen Gray is flawed, yet he truly wants good for people, even his enemies.

With the technological possibilities in AMPED, you can’t help but wonder what the amps are capable of, and Wilson gives us plenty of ideas. Increased intelligence, the ability to control prosthetic limbs, superhuman speed, even the ability to block out pain. There’s even a guy who turns his body into a mechanical spider with prosthetic limbs.

The story felt like it should have been more large-scale than it was, but it was still a page-turner all the way through. It felt like you were on the edge of something that could go terribly and insanely out of control on almost an apocalyptic scale throughout. It would be interesting if Wilson did a sequel with more of that kind of feel.

Overall, I enjoyed AMPED. It’s a compelling exploration of the human condition and a clever use of technology. Daniel H. Wilson will be a writer I’ll be checking out more.

(Note: this book does contain quite a bit of strong language)

I received this book for free for review from DoubleDay Publishing, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review of EDUCATION OR IMITATION by Curtis Allen

Photo Credit: Cruciform Press

Who the book is for: Christians interested in how to interpret the Bible
Rating: 4 out of 5

Is interpretation of the Bible just an academic endeavor meant for the most intelligent of Christ followers? Is it too difficult for someone without the right education to interpret God’s word? Of course, the answer is no. all believers are meant to read God’s word, interpret it, and apply it. It was written to be understood and followed by all people. But still it seems difficult at times.

Curtis Allen tackles the idea of Bible interpretation in his new book with Cruciform Press called EDUCATION OR IMITATION? Allen suggests that proper biblical interpretation is more about imitation than it is about education, meaning that education isn’t necessary to rightly understanding and being transformed by God’s Word.

Allen opens the story with a very raw and real story from his own experience that brilliantly illustrates how we all interpret things in our lives and live our lives in response to those interpretations. Interpretation isn’t foreign to us, and isn’t something we begin to do simply because we pick up the Bible. Allen covers the history of bad interpretation of God’s Word that began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, then he shows how Jesus as the incarnate Word of God is the ultimate interpreter of the Scriptures. He illustrates this with an example from the gospels where Jesus is in a battle over right interpretation with the Pharisees on the Sabbath day. He shows how Jesus rightly interpreted while the Pharisees, in their pride, wrongly interpreted God’s intention for the Sabbath.

The gist of Allen’s book is that interpretation is about imitating Jesus. We interpret the way that Jesus interpreted the Bible. And our application of the Bible falls on the heels of our interpretations of it.

I loved this book and its concept. I think Allen is right on about Jesus being the ultimate interpreter and about the Bible being all about Christ. The only concern I have is that interpretation may still seem difficult to people after reading the book because people may see how he arrived at his interpretation of the Sabbath day event with Jesus and the Pharisees, but they may not see how they could have come to that conclusion on their own. Allen doesn’t reject the benefit of education however, so I still believe the book will be extremely helpful to believers, but a little further education may be in order to show people how they can arrive at right interpretations for themselves.

EDUCATION OR IMITATION? is a great book. It’s short and can easily be read in a day. It makes much of Jesus, and it inspires right living by following the example of Jesus.

I received this book for free for review from Cruciform Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own


Photo Credit: Intervarsity Press

Who the book is for: People interested in the overall message of the Bible
Rating: 5 out of 5

How does the Bible fit together? Is it a bunch of different books and letters thrown together with a loose connection, or does it tell one overarching story? What is its purpose? Graeme Goldsworthy has come to be known as a respected voice in the area of Biblical Theology, and in his new book CHRIST-CENTERED BIBLICAL THEOLOGY from Intervarsity Press, he carefully reveals his approach to Biblical Theology and makes a strong case for the Bible’s unity.

Biblical Theology hasn’t always been taken seriously, something Goldsworthy points out in the early chapters of CHRIST-CENTERED BIBLICAL THEOLOGY. He begins with a critical look at some different attempts at reaching an overall unity for the Bible before going into his own approach which he attributes as inspired by fellow Moore College professor Donald Robinson.

Goldsworthy shows from the Old and New Testaments the Bible’s inherent unity as it chronicles redemptive history and the idea of God’s covenant faithfulness throughout Scripture. While a little wordy at times, Goldworthy’s approach is brilliant and biblically faithful. All of the Bible points to Jesus as it is the story of Jesus and his redemptive action in history. Goldsworthy gives some important tips on how to see each of the Bible’s texts as pointing ultimately to Christ.

CHRIST-CENTERED BIBLICAL THEOLOGY is an important work in the area of Biblical Theology, and anyone interested in the Bible’s unity should check it out. Reading it gave me more of a sense of how redemptive history is all about Jesus. He is its hero, and I’m thankful for what God has done and revealed through the Scriptures.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of CHARITY AND ITS FRUITS by Jonathan Edwards, edited by Kyle Strobel

Photo Credit: Crossway Books

QWho the book is for: Christians, Anyone interested in the works of Jonathan Edwards
Rating: 5 out of 5

Jonathan Edwards has been called America’s greatest theologian. When I was in high school, I had to do an in depth research paper on Edwards and specifically his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In the years since that paper when I didn’t know much about being a follower of Jesus or what Edwards was trying to say, I’ve come to appreciate theology and the thoughts of many of history’s greatest theologians. Edwards is undoubtedly one of the most quoted theologians, and he, of course, has many more theological and devotional works to his name than the sermon I had to do a research paper on.

Crossway Books has recently released Jonathan Edwards’ work CHARITY AND ITS FRUITS, edited by Edwards scholar Kyle Strobel. CHARITY AND ITS FRUITS is a collection of sermons that Edwards preached on 1 Corinthians 13 and the concept of Christian love. Every Christian would benefit by reading the works of some of the great theologians of the past, but because of their antiquity, the task can seem difficult. Strobel’s editing work does much to aid in this difficulty with CHARITY AND ITS FRUITS. Strobel introduces us to the work by giving us some background and a brief overview of Edwards’ theology that informs his sermons on Christian love. In addition, Strobel includes editorial remarks throughout the text that aid in understanding some of the difficult sections of the sermons.

Strobel warns about taking a journey through Edwards’ sermons very seriously. Edwards isn’t to be read simply because it adds to our well-read reputation. Edwards was committed to Christ and making him known, and his sermons radiate a profound admiration for the glory of God. I’ve never read a more thorough or insightful look into biblical love. Taking Edwards’ sermons seriously means to grow in our relationship with Christ and our love for others.

CHARITY AND ITS FRUITS should be read by any believer who wants to understand what Paul was trying to communicate in 1 Corinthians 13. Edwards clearly had a deep love for God and his glory, and reading his sermons should drive us deeper into the Bible for ourselves and inspire our own love for God’s glory.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of TWO SECONDS LATE by Eric Wilson

Photo Credit: Kingstone Media

Rating: 5 out of 5

A young woman named Natalie Flynn is caught in the middle of a dangerous plot to introduce human microchipping to the world. Some see it as a way to save lives, Natalie included, because she was once the victim of a kidnapping. If humans are microchipped, finding them becomes incredibly easy. Others see it as a dangerous to basic human rights, such as the right to privacy. When Natalie begins dating young politician Reuben King, she finds herself, like Esther once was in the Bible, in a position to influence passing of a bill to begin microchipping humans. But there’s more going on beneath the surface than just a bill. Someone wants to exploit the technology, putting countless lives in danger. With the great influence she’s been given, will Natalie be able to rise above her own fears and inner darkness to save lives from a powerful villain?

TWO SECONDS LATE by Eric Wilson is a suspense-filled journey through one woman's greatest fears and the threat to a nation's right to privacy. Eric Wilson has quickly grown to be one of my favorite writers as he delivers captivating stories with interesting characters who struggle with deep issues of faith and the nature of the world we live in.

Having read ONE STEP AWAY, which introduced us to the character of Natalie Flynn, I wasn't sure that a story with her as the primary protagonist would be able to hold my interest the way ONE STEP AWAY had. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy her character. I think I just wanted a new story with completely new characters. After reading TWO SECONDS LATE, I'm glad Wilson went with a story about Natalie. Her backstory combined with her questions about God's providence and her hopes for the future made her a character I felt like I really got invested in. Reuben King was another character that I found compelling. Reuben was a man driven to live a life of faith and integrity, but we learn that there's more below the surface than the polished political profile he portrays to the world. Serpionov was an interesting villain with his twisted view of helping the world and his unique choice of weaponry to kill those who threaten his plan. I found it funny that he calls his kills "dropped calls." You have to read the book to understand it.

The concept of the story seemed like something that could be taken from real life. The story brilliantly explores the fears and hopes for human microchipping. I also got a sense of the intricate ways that God works in our world to limit the evils perpetrated by humanity.

Eric Wilson is a great storyteller with some really compelling story premises. I think men and women both would enjoy reading TWO SECONDS LATE. I can't wait to read the next book in Wilson's By the Numbers series.

I received this book for free for review from Kingstone Media, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of TELLING THE GOSPEL THROUGH STORY by Christine Dillon

Photo Credit: Intervarsity Press

Who the book is for: Christians interested in storytelling and sharing their faith
Rating: 5 out of 5

The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message that Jesus died in our place to reconcile us to God, is the most important message in the world. It’s a message that is meant to be communicated and responded to. But too many times we don’t do it justice. Too many times we communicate an incomplete gospel, a gospel that is detached from real life as people know and experience it. How do we communicate the gospel in a way that keeps people engaged and left inspired to either embrace it or investigate it further?

TELLING THE GOSPEL THROUGH STORY is a new book from Intervarsity Press by Christine Dillon. In the book, she walks readers through a way of communicating the gospel message through a method called storying. The message of the Bible, after all, is presented to us in story form. From beginning to end, the Bible is the story of God, the story of Jesus, and the story of us whom he created and died for to redeem.

I love stories and storytelling, so I really resonated with the ideas in this book. Dillon rightly shows that people get wrapped up in stories, and this was Jesus’ primary way of communicating to people. She also shows that the gospel story only makes sense when the key points of the story are all communicated. For example, the story of the Fall is vital to understanding why Jesus needed to die for humanity. Storying gives us the opportunity to communicate the message of the gospel so that people can see how relevant it truly is to their lives, and because stories captivate us, people stay interested and are moved to respond in some way.

Dillon walks readers through how to develop a basic story set that we’re ready to communicate to people. She also shows the importance of not trying to memorize stories word for word because it’s not natural. Storying is great because it gets people journeying through the Bible. Dillon then walks through teaching storying to others, as well as how to have meaningful discussion.

Everybody loves a great story, and TELLING THE GOSPEL THROUGH STORY gives everyone the opportunity to learn how to be storytellers of the gospel story. It’s a great way to introduce people to the gospel. Obviously, it’s not the only way to evangelize, but it would be great for Christians to learn how to do Bible storying.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review of CRAZY DANGEROUS by Andrew Klavan

CRAZY DANGEROUS by Andrew Klavan is the story of a teenage preacher’s kid named Sam Hopkins. Sam gets mixed up with the wrong set of friends, learning things he was never meant to learn. His life gets more complicated when he protects a strange girl named Jennifer. Jennifer has premonitions. Something bad is about to happen, and Sam must do something to stop it before it’s too late.

I enjoy reading a lot of different fiction books, but I had a difficult time getting into this story. It had its intensity and twists and turns, but the tone of the story didn’t pull me in. The story is told from the first-person of the main character. Several times it seemed that Sam would go off on a tangent, then finally come back to the events of the present moment. This made the narrative feel very shifty throughout, like the character couldn’t keep his attention focused for very long before being drawn by something else.

One of the strengths of the book is the characters. They’re interesting and well-developed. The climax of the story raises the stakes pretty high, especially for a young adult novel. Being a young adult novel, this book will probably appeal to high school students.

I received this book for free for review from Thomas Nelson through