Book Reviews

Books are treasures.   One of the grave weaknesses of our current culture is that people read less and less, especially men.   But sooner or later, we discover that those who would advance need to know; and books are essential to that process.  Whether the subject is fishing, making steel, fixing cars, or teaching about the Old Testament, the only way to rise out of ignorance is to read.   In that spirit, I offer these book reviews.   I desire to encourage reading as it encourages growth in people.   Growing people help others to grow as well.   Hopefully, reading these reviews will help you discover some books you want to read for your own advancement and pleasure.

These pages will be short book reviews of books I have recently read that I feel would be helpful to review.   Occasionally I may also review a book that I have read some time before.   I also invite the leading teachers of our congregation to submit reviews of books they have read. Occasionally, I may review a controversial book.

I have devised a simple recommendation system to go with my reviews.  It has just four categories as follows.

Book Recommendation System
HR Highly Recommended without reserve.
RWC Recommended with a caveat, a warning about some specific matter, but with an overall value definitely superseding the concern.
RNLP Recommended for a narrowly limited purpose such as to research a point or understand an issue.  Probably not suitable for all readers. I will also use this category for books with more than one caveat.
NR Not recommended

Each review will have have the appropriate code at the top.  Eventually, I hope to use a color strip to make it visual.

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

Highly Recommended This book may be the most significant book on how to do church since Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church.    Like Warren’s book, it is a distillation of the years of experience and key strategic decisions that have produced another one of America’s great churches – North Point Community Church.   Andy is very...

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Not Alone by Nell E. Noonan

  Not Alone by Nell E. Noonan   I recently finished a series of small group sessions for a Caregivers Support Group sponsored by our church.   While digging for resources I came across a gem of a devotional book.   I used some if its insightful and inspiring content in every session. Nell Noonan’s book, Not...

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Finding God New Testament by Biblica

A useful New Testament I have just come across a very helpful but inexpensive printing of the NT that I would like to recommend.  It is called the Finding God New Testament printed by Biblica.  I purchased my copy at Morningstar Christian Bookstore in Manchester CT. for $4.99.   What makes this New Testament unique...

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Change the World by Mike Slaughter

I highly recommend Change the World by Mike Slaughter, Abingdon Press, Nashville 2010.  It is easy to read yet insightful and all church leaders will greatly benefit from its perspectives and wisdom. Pastor Mike Slaughter is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.  Under Mike’s leadership, the church is grown...

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The Glorious Pursuit by Gary L. Thomas

The Glorious Pursuit by Gary L. Thomas HR In the excellent tradition of NAVPRESS, The Glorious Pursuit is a great encouragement for Christian discipleship.   The subtitle, “Embracing the Virtues of Christ,” tells us the direction which the subject material will take. Author, Gary L. Thomas, explores the virtues of humility, surrender, generosity, patience, thankfulness, gentleness,...

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Growing God’s Church; How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today by Gary L. McIntosh

Growing God’s Church; How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today by Gary L. McIntosh Recommended for specific purposes This book is very concerned that the Church of Jesus Christ be able to reach out effectively to those who have not yet become Christians. McIntosh writes, “it is my perception that direct evangelism receives little...

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Earn, Save, Give; Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money by James A. Harnish

Earn, Save, Give; Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money by James A. Harnish Highly Recommended This little book is a compact exposition of the philosophy for the personal handling of finances by a Christian that was taught by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It is a short read consists of only four chapters. The first...

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Created to be God’s Friend by Henry T. Blackaby

Created to be God’s Friend by Henry T. Blackaby How God Shapes Those He Loves Thomas Nelson Publishers 1999 Highly Recommended It is not very often that I read a book and want to read it immediately again. Created to be God’s Friend by Henry Blackaby is such a book. It is inspiring, penetrating, interactive,...

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No Little Places: the Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church by Ron Klassen & John Koessler

Highly Recommend for leaders in churches under 100 This helpful little book about the challenge of ministering in rural and small-town places comes to me at a most opportune time. The book is about how to adjust to the mindset and small group dynamics of the smaller church and how to strengthen the smaller church. ...

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No Act of Love is Ever Wasted by Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L Morgan

Highly Recommended I read this delightful and helpful book as a part of my preparations for a support group for caregivers that our church is now sponsoring during this summer and fall.   I was well rewarded. It is written by two people with extensive experience with caregiving both personal and professional. I was impressed by...

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United Methodist Beliefs by William H. Willimon

Highly Recommended Bishop Willimon has a very engaging and easily readable style. He also has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of the matter. This is very helpful in a book intended to help neophytes negotiate the new territory of church beliefs, where it is so easy to get distracted amid unnecessarily complicated...

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The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel

  As Easter draws near once again, perhaps you find yourself among the many Americans who have sincere doubts about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If you do this is exactly the right little book for you in this season.   The disciples of Jesus claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to...

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The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus by Adam Hamilton

Highly recommended. Are you looking for an excellent easy-to-read summary of the life of Jesus?   Adam Hamilton’s thoughtful, pithy and yet accurate and perceptive volume, The Way, is just what you are looking for.  It is part of a series that Hamilton is writing that are inspired by trips to the Holy Land and use...

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Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

Recommended only for specific purposes Fr. Richard Rohr is a new author for me, a Franciscan priest writing about moral and spiritual maturity.   The book was recommended to me by a friend who like me comes from a strict evangelical background.   I found the book very interesting to wrestle with.  The subtitle, The Search for...

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The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

  Highly Recommend The main principle upon which the book is based is very simple. “It is direction–not intention–that determines our destination” (p. 14).    This is an eminently practical principle for helping us focus the spiritual direction of our lives. It dovetails very well with Jesus teaching about the narrow way versus the broad way...

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Ageless Faith by Keith and David Drury

Highly Recommended Those who like books that promote discussion and debate will absolutely love Ageless Faith.   It is written as a lively dialogue between father and son on important issues in the church today.    The subjects that comprise the chapter titles include those that are the most volatile flash points of friction between generations in...

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Saturdays with Stella by Allison Pittman

Cute dog; inspiring stories A Bible Study Book for Dog Lovers Occasionally one finds an unusual devotional or Bible study book that draws fresh inspiration from another area.   Saturdays with Stella (Multnomah 2008) is just such a book.  The subtitle tells the story-- How My Dog Taught Me to Sit, Stay, and Come When God...

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Making the Small Church Effective by Carl S. Dudley

HR A book that truly understand small churches Making the Small Church Effective by Carl S. Dudley stands out as truly different among the many books about strengthening the church and helping churches of various sizes grow.   I have much experience in smaller churches myself.    I grew up in a rural church of about 55...

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Taking Your Church to the Next Level by Gary L McIntosh

  HR   If I cut some flowers for the table, I wonder how long they will last.   I’m also wondering how long my aging Buick will last.  Even buildings have a useful life.  When they are new everyone admires them and toward the end of their existence, everyone wonders when the wrecking ball will be...

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Smith Wigglesworth: The Secret of His Power by Albert Hibbert

HR Reading the biographies of great Christians is a challenging experience.   On the one hand, one is often inspired and strengthened in faith by the testimony of God’s powerful working in their lives.   On the other hand, sometimes, when I read the great experiences of giants in the faith, I feel pretty small and ask...

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Use Your Brain to Change Your Age; Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day by Daniel G. Amen

Highly Recommended   A book that will get your attention and motivate you to healthy habits! Too often we think that the rate at which we age is pretty much beyond our control.  Daniel Amen's book brings scientific proof that this is definitely not the case.  Based on his work with nuclear medicine studies of...

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Being a Christian; Exploring Where You, God, and Life Connect by Stephen Arterburn and John Shore

Highly recommended This is a great book for a person who is new to the Christian faith, who is asking questions and would like to find a book with many practical, easy to read, but not trivial answers. It is written with the new Christian, or the newly recommitted Christian in mind.  It takes difficult...

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Our Lord Prays for His Own: Thoughts on John 17 by Marcus Rainsford

 Highly Recommended   This book is a Kregel Classics reprint of a classic book on Jesus’ high priestly prayer.   The work was originally written in the 19th century by Rainsford, an Irish preacher who was a contemporary of D.L. Moody.  In 1866 he was called to London where he remained and while there was a...

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365 Days with E. Stanley Jones, Mary Ruth Howes, editor

HR E. Stanley Jones ­— a great devotional writer E. Stanley Jones was an outstanding Methodist missionary to India in the mid 20th century.    He wrote extensively and I have read and collected several of his books. Many were written in daily devotional book format.  He is no relation to me as far as I...

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Fresh Encounter by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King

HR At once spiritually stimulating and very challenging is the way I would describe Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book, Fresh Encounter.   This year was a good year to read this book as it has been called the year of disaster because of the eleven natural disasters so far this year that have cost our country...

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Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

HR Inspiring, thought-provoking and reassuring—all these words aptly describe the feelings that come from reading this account of Colton Burpo’s near death experience.  What a great read—and a fast one too.  The energy of the story pushed me forward as I started reading in mid-morning and was finished by mid-afternoon.   The naiveté and innocence of...

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Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint by Christopher Witt

HR Most everyone who speaks and presents information today has their own stories to tell about using PowerPoint.   I have personally wrestled with its use over a several year learning curve and so found it very interesting to find a book addressing the subject from the point of view of a leader. But the book...

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The Faith by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett

HR The Purpose of The Faith What Charles Colson writes is very profound and clearly relevant, yet maintains accessible simplicity.  The Faith (Zondervan 2008) is no exception.   His purpose is to address the great need today for foundational yet thorough and articulate instruction in basic Christian truths. He aims to delineate and explain the unifying...

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Out of the Blue by Mark Victor Hansen and Barbara Nichols

RNLP I have been reading this book a little at a time for several years.  I picked it up during a time when I was struggling with long term discouragement, even mild depression.   I was attracted by the fact that Mark Victor Hansen is one of the authors of the Chicken Soup Series which I...

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Walking With Christ Every Day

365 Daily Devotions for Men   NR   This 2008 Parable release credits no editor and I can understand why. It contains some good material. Yet it seems to be a hurried effort put together to meet some competitive marketer’s niche.   While the material in it is doctrinally solid, the level of writing does not...

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Prayer That Brings Revival by David Yonggi Cho

HR Prayer That Brings Revival (Charisma House, 1998) is the kind of book that will change you.  David Yonggi Cho is the founder and pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, the largest church in the world with 750,000 members.  The key factor in the church’s growth has been an emphasis upon prayer....

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Lessons from a Sheepdog by Philip Keller

HR   This will be a dog lover’s favorite devotional book; especially if your kind of dog is an energetic, working breed like mine was, or if you love animal rescue stories that turn out well.   Philip Keller is a shepherd and owner of a rugged wind-swept sheep ranch by the sea in Vancouver.   Because...

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Organic Outreach for Ordinary People by Kevin G. Harney

HR If you are looking for a practical and encouraging book to help nudge you toward sharing your faith with others in genuine and helpful yet unaffected ways, this is a good book for you.  In a time when some want to water down the idea of evangelism, Kevin Harney is well-grounded in the key...

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The King James Only Controversy by James R. White

RWC As a pastor, I frequently find myself discussing with different people the merits of various Bible translations.  Often I run into people who honestly think that the King James Version is the only true translation.  I soon discovered that my simple explanations that all translations are human works and therefore fallible and that language...

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When You Don’t Know What to Pray by Linda Evans Shepherd

HR Stimulating, fresh, reassuring—those are three adjectives that describe Ms Shepherd’s useful book, When You Don’t Know What to Pray.  As is often the case, the depth of her writing grows from the story of her life.  The tragic accident which forever altered her own life as it shattered her daughter’s health informs her thinking...

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Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels

HR My review Insightful, highly readable, practical, and sometimes … provoking—these are all words I would use to describe Just Walk across the Room by Bill Hybels.    The greatest asset of the book is that Bill himself, despite his modesty about his gifts, actively shares his faith with people who are far from Christ.   As...

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There Is More by Randy Clark

HR This is a powerful and instructive book for all those who are seeking more of God’s Spirit in their lives. I have found it an inspiring blessing that made me thirstier for God. As a result of reading it, I have been crying out in prayer for a greater filling of God’s Spirit.  The...

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Tongues by Kenneth E. Hagin

RNLP This spiritually deep volume consists of writings of the founder of RHEMA Bible Training Center in Texas compiled posthumously by his son, Kenneth W. Hagin.   The doctrinal viewpoint is traditional Pentecostal.   The numerous personal testimonies are inspiring; the teachings are challenging expositions of Scripture and the overall effect of the book is to encourage...

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25 Ways to Win With People by John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott

HR Practical, insightful, and eminently useful-- that is how I would describe this highly readable how-to volume from a great authoring team.   Maxwell, the leadership expert, brings his natural gift of encouragement and leadership genius to the mix.   Parrot, a mentee of Maxwell and a psychologist, provides the illustrative stories and personality insights.    In fact,...

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The Church God Blesses by Jim Cymbala with Stephen Sorenson

HR Straight-forward, practical, convicting, and filled with both Biblical and contemporary illustrations; all these describe this small and very readable volume.   As usual, in The Church God Blesses, Jim Cymbala keeps the focus on issues that really matter.   For example, he reasons from the fact that most of the books of the New Testament are...

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Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar

  HR Exceptional creativity is unleashed when we seek to integrate two usually separate fields and allow our minds to find new insights and generate new paradigms.    That is what has happened as Halpern and Lubar combined together their learning in the fields of acting and leadership into this exceptional volume, Leadership Presence (Gotham Books 2003).   ...

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7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner & Lane Jones

HR Andy Stanley and crew are masters of focus.   So many of us, me included, tend to be more jacks-of-all-trades.  We need to learn from 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (Multnomah, 2004).   The interest-grabbing novel-like personal story with which the book opens (Part I) sets the stage for the later leadership lessons (Part II) extremely...

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Recovering the Scandal of the Cross by Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker

RNLP This thought-provoking book succeeded in expanding my horizons concerning the way we explain what Christ accomplished for us on the cross.   Recovering the Scandal of the Cross provided a healthy reminder that all our theological explanations are metaphors.  And it demonstrated successfully that both the Bible and the history of Christian theology have provided...

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How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

By Mark Victor Hanson and Art Linkletter RNLP Two unique and unusual men with something in common to say to folks over fifty, something crucial, encouraging,  and well worth hearing; that’s how I would describe this good book.    In a society that idolizes youth; in a time when many fifty-something workers have been forced into...

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Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

RWC Fascinating, easy to read, inspirational—all describe Mitch Albom’s 2009 book Have A Little Faith.  I could hardly wait to get started on each succeeding chapter.   The genesis of the story is the request of Mitch’s childhood family Rabbi that Mitch would do his eulogy when that day should arrive.  Since the author could hardly...

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