Friday, August 24, 2012

Review of LET'S WRITE A SHORT STORY! by Joe Bunting

Who the Book is For: Fiction Writers
Rating: 5 out of 5

I love writing stories, and I’ve always wanted to write and publish a novel, but a novel is a long and strenuous journey. Though I’ve written 60,000 words of a novel I started a couple years ago, I just can’t find or justify the time to finish it at this point in my life. But another thing I’ve always enjoyed doing is writing short stories. I’ve written several, but I’ve never really seen them as anything more than for my own benefit. A few people have read my stories and enjoyed them, but I’ve never thought I could get one published.

Joe Bunting of The Write Practice blog just released a new ebook called LET’S WRITE A SHORT STORY! It’s a concise and practical guide to writing short stories and why a fiction writer should spend time focusing specifically on writing short stories. Bunting does a great service to writers in providing the encouragement and direction to write stories and going through the emotional risk of submitting them for publication. If you don’t know how to submit a short story for publication, Bunting’s book will guide you through it. Bunting shows that writing short stories is great practice for larger fictional works, and it’s a source of inspiration to actually complete a story.

LET’S WRITE A SHORT STORY! leaves fiction writers with no excuses and every reason why they should make the goal of writing a short story and submitting it for publication to a literary magazine in the next month. In fact, that’s exactly what Bunting is calling readers to do. Check out the book’s website at>

Review copy provided by the author

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review of SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE by Mel Lawrenz

SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE by Mel Lawrenz is a book that looks at the subject of leadership from a distinctly biblical perspective, and the interesting thing about the book is that, though it’s written by a pastor, the principles contained in it aren’t just for church leaders. Lawrenz shows that leaders from all walks of life, in every area where leadership is required, are called to be influencers. Spiritual influence is powerful because it is guiding people with the best of God’s intentions for people in mind.

SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE is about the spread of the kingdom of God, and Lawrenz spends a lot of time talking about engaging with God and serving as a vehicle of leadership. Another high point of the book is how to deal with failure, looking at how to properly categorize failures and learn from them.

Influence is vitally important for people who take their leadership roles in people’s lives seriously when it comes to the potential of spreading God’s kingdom. SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE is a great resource to help people think through how God wants to use them to impact people’s lives.

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


Environmentalism isn’t something I’ve thought about a whole lot. I’ve always believed that God intended his creation to be taken care of, but I’ve never really given it much intentional thought. I decided to check out Dan Story’s book SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE ENVIRONMENTALISTS? because I like to read a wide variety of topics, and it is an interesting question. Story lays out the common misconception that Christianity does more to neglect the environment and encourage others to do also than people who don’t embrace Christianity.

The book carefully lays out the Biblical idea of human stewardship over God’s creation. I enjoyed this book because of its passion to show God’s love for the nature he created. Story also shares many personal stories of his own journey with environmentalism and how his faith has shaped his understanding of it. I especially loved his discussion of God’s intention to restore his creation in a new heavens and new earth.

I must confess that it was difficult to read this book and not feel convicted about my own neglect of the care of God’s creation. Fortunately, Story gives some very practical steps on what Christians can do to care for the environment on a daily basis.

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Review of WHY HOLINESS MATTERS by Tyler Braun

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

WHY HOLINESS MATTERS by Tyler Braun is a thoughtful exploration of the biblical concept of holiness in a Christ follower's life. Braun writes from the perspective of a Millennial exposing the Millennial generation's characteristic avoidance of holiness. Holiness is a concept that can be greatly misunderstood because the Bible calls us to be holy because God is holy, but God is so completely other than us. Braun does a great job of helping us understand what holiness is.

The book is refreshing because Braun takes us on a journey through his own exploration of holiness after a loss of innocence. The chapter on wrath was insightful in showing the seriousness of sin and God's wrath toward it, yet also revealing that God's wrath isn't just something he does; it's something we choose by suppressing the truth of God.

One of the primary insights I found in the book is the motivation for holiness. Braun shows that holiness is about a refocusing of our affections on Christ. Genuine love for Christ is the only way to find lasting transformation.

I loved the final chapter on the artistry of our lives in pursuit of holiness. God saves us to give us the opportunity to live a new creative life in holiness and obedience to God.

WHY HOLINESS MATTERS is a call to a generation to abandon all other things that pull on our affections yet fail to satisfy. It's about reordering our affections toward Christ. It's a fairly short book that paints a motivating vision of what life with God could be like.

Review copy provided by the author

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review of GOSPEL COACH by Scott Thomas & Tom Wood

It’s been exciting to watch a resurgence of churches and church leaders embracing gospel-centered thinking and practices in the last few years. This has been the fuel for several books on how to be gospel-centered, several of which I’ve read and learned from. The latest that I’ve picked up is GOSPEL COACH by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood. GOSPEL COACH is clearly from the heart of two men who want to see church leaders and anyone in a position of spiritual authority and care over someone else to be fueled by a deep penetrating and transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many church leaders are overcome by the demands of their chosen profession, and GOSPEL COACH presents the idea that all church leaders need someone investing in their life and helping them to be the best Christ follower and leader they can be.

Thomas and Wood show why leaders need a coach and why they need a coach that is committed to living out the gospel and applying the gospel to the coaching relationship. They encourage a relationship that delves into the inner motivations of a leader. Leaders are encouraged to depend on and rest in the gospel, rather than performance. The goal of gospel coaching is helping leaders to be healthy shepherds of their people, as well as gospel-centered in their personal lives as well.

Thomas and Wood use many personal examples to show how gospel coaching works. The last part of the book actually looks at the process of gospel coaching and gives specific ideas for having gospel coaching sessions.

GOSPEL COACH is a great idea for church leaders. I’m not currently a church leader, but I have been, and having a gospel coach would have been a tremendous source of spiritual blessing and guidance for me. This is definitely a book to check out.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Photo Credit: Tyndale House

Who the book is for: Christians and fans of Batman
Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve always been a fan of superheroes. Though Superman claims the title of my favorite, when I was younger it was Batman all the way. I remember my dad bringing home the Tim Burton-directed Batman movie with Michael Keaton as Batman, and I was riveted. Then I just as taken in by Batman Returns. Then it started going downhill with Batman Forever and the horrendous Batman and Robin. Then Christopher Nolan, who is a brilliant filmmaker, gave us Batman Begins, the beginning of a new trilogy about the Dark Knight. The film was incredible, and I found The Dark Knight to be even better. Next month, the trilogy reaches its conclusion with The Dark Knight Rises. Without question, the movies have been incredibly popular. People seem to love the story of Batman. But why?

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises, author Paul Asay takes the opportunity to explore the history of Batman in all his different manifestiations throughout the years in a new book called GOD ON THE STREETS OF GOTHAM. The God part is there because Asay also proposes that Batman perhaps unwittingly acts as a guide to something greater than himself.

Rather than proposing Batman as some sort of Christ figure, Asay shows how Batman actually reflects a struggle in all of us to be a hero while often being dragged down by the darkness inside of us. The great things about Batman are the things that we wish were true of us, and the dark things about Batman are the things we wish weren’t true of us. Batman reflects a commitment to justice that seems to originate from outside of him. Using many different Batman symbols, Asay takes us on a journey of walking with Jesus, revealing the incredible gospel at our disposal because of Jesus.

While I love a good story that points back to Jesus, I also really loved the history of Batman mythology laced throughout the book. Asay clearly knows a lot about the Dark Knight, and his excitement over this story is infectious.

In Acts 17 Paul used elements the pop culture of the day to point people to the gospel of Jesus. People love the Batman movies, and using insights from this book we can both grow closer to Jesus ourselves while pointing others to the truth of Jesus’ story.

I received this book for free for review as a part of the Tyndale Blog Network, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review of THE TELLING by Mike Duran

After discovering a not-fully-human corpse with a face exactly like his Zeph Walker is carried into a mysterious adventure that my require from him more than he's willing to give. When Zeph was younger people saw him as a prophet of God as he communicates what he came to call The Telling to people thirsty for an encounter with God. But after a series of tragedies that eventually led to a racial deformity, Zeph has lived in seclusion, no longer to the voice of The Telling. But a group of people believe he is a prophet who may be the only one who can stop an ancient evil that seeks to take residence in the town of Endurance. Will he have what it takes, or will he finally walk away from his past forever?

Mike Duran’s latest novel THE TELLING had the feel of an episode of the television show Supernatural for me. It’s a dark story with elements of horror, but it’s also a story that explores that nature of the choices we make and the danger of silence and inaction in the face of incredible evil. Zeph suffers greatly in this story, and Duran gives us plenty of backstory for why he does what he does, yet it also has the feel of a hero’s journey because Zeph is called to fulfill his calling to combat the evil at the rumored ninth gate of hell at Otta’s Rift. Annie is a feisty and gutsy grandmother, giving the story some much-needed comic relief throughout.

The story was interesting and definitely had me turning pages to the end. The feel of the story was perhaps a little too dark for me, but that didn’t necessarily cause me to dislike the story. Readers may struggle with how some of the main features of the story line up with what the Bible teaches, given that this is a story written by a professing Christian. However, I don’t believe Duran was trying to put forth a certain theology; I think he was writing a story that for me very much had the feel of a parable, and the events of the story served to communicate what he was trying to say.

Overall, the themes of THE TELLING of responsibility and calling were things I’ve been thinking long and hard about after finishing the book. The book will appeal mostly to people who enjoy dark stories, but given that Duran is clearly a deep and often outside-of-the-box thinker, it’s worth giving the story a try even if you’re not into horror stories to perhaps stretch your thinking a little bit.

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