Monthly Book Reviews

Each month, Pastor Stef reads and reviews a different book - many of which you can find in The Hub, our church library.

  • Overcoming the impossible: a life of trials and triumphs

    Click here for July 2019 Book Review

    Monica faces numerous daily challenges in her life. Her physical challenges are evident, but her inner turmoil she hid from the world until now. She stands out from the crowd because she is different; yet there is an inner strength that pushes her forward to Overcome the Impossible.

    Click here to purchase Monica's book.

  • Sources of christian self: a cultural history of christian identity

    Click here for June 2019 Book Review

    Beginning with such Old Testament figures as Abraham, Moses, and David and moving through the New Testament, the early church, the Middle Ages, and onward, the forty-two biographical chapters in Sources of the Christian Self illustrate how believers historically have defined their selfhood based on their relation to God/Jesus.

    Purchase James Houston's & Jens Zimmermann's book here.

  • Can god be trusted? faith and the Challenge of Evil

    Click here for May 2019 Book Review

    In a world riddled with disappointment, malice, and tragedy, what rationale do we have for believing in a benevolent God? If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why is there so much evil in the world? John Stackhouse goes beyond Rabbi Harold Kushner, M. Scott Peck, and others to take a more historically informed approach to this dilemma, examining what philosophers and theologians have said on subject and offering reassuring answers for thoughtful readers.

    Purchase John Stackhouse's book here.

  • The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

    Click here for April 2019 review.

    In a radical new vision for Christianity, Rod Dreher issues a manifesto and clarion call for American Christians to consider how the practices of an ancient Christian way of life—the Benedictine way initiated by sixth-century monk, St. Benedict of Nursia—can be applied and lived out within today's Church.

    Purchase Rod Dreher's book here.

  • Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World

    Click here for February 2019 Review

    Can Christians act like Christians even when they disagree?  In these wild and diverse times, right and left battle over the airwaves, prolifers square off against prochoicers, gay liberationists confront champions of hte traditional family, artists and legislators tangle, even Christians fight other Christians whose doctrines aren't "just so."

    Purchase Richard Mouw"s book here.

  • Gay Girl, Good God

    Click here for December 2018 Review

    Growing up fatherless, Jackie abused drugs, loved pornography, embraced lesbianism---and knew what Christians said about all of the above. But how was she supposed to change when homosexuality felt natural to her? When she came face-to-face with God at 19, she found her answer! Read her amazing story and discover how she was made new.

    Purchase Jackie Hill Perry's book here.

  • The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

    Click here for September 2018 Review

    In The Bible Made Impossible acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. If evangelical biblicism worked as its proponents say it should, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that biblicists themselves reach when they actually read and interpret the Bible. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

    Purchase Christian Smith's book here.

  • PTL:  The rise and fall of Jim and TAmmy Fay Bakker's Evangelical Empire

    Click here for August 2018 Review

    In 1974 Jim and Tammy Bakker launched their television show, the PTL Club, from a former furniture store in Charlotte, N.C. with half a dozen friends. By 1987 they stood at the center of a ministry empire that included their own satellite network, a 2300-acre theme park visited by six millionpeople a year, and millions of adoring fans. This is the story of a grand vision gone wrong, of the power of big religion in American life and its limits.

    Purchase John Wigger's book here.

  • The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New (2015)

    Click here for July 2018 Review

    In the cellar of an old stone cathedral, two children discover an ancient book called The Ology. The beautifully illustrated storybook ushers them into a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder in which they discover life-changing truths about God, themselves, and the world around them. The first illustrated systematic theology book designed especially for grade-school children, The Ology includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy learning about God together.

    Purchase Marty Machowski’s book here.

  • Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity

    Click here for June 2018 Review

    In this new book, Rolheiser takes us on a journey through the dark night of the senses and of the spirit. Here, we experience the full gamut of human life, pleasure and fervor, disillusionment and boredom. But, as Rolheiser explains, when we embrace the struggle and yearning to know God we can experience too a profound re-understanding to our daily lives.

    Purchase Ronald Rolheiser’s book here.

  • Humility Rules: Saint Benedict's 12-step guide to genuine self-esteem (2017)

    Click here for May 2018 Review

    Saint Benedict's fifth-century guide to humility offers the antidote to the epidemic of stress and depression overwhelming modern young adults. But the language of The Rule by Saint Benedict is medieval, and its most passionate advocates are cloistered monks and nuns. How then does this ancient wisdom translate into advice for ordinary people?

    Purchase J. Augustine Wetta's book here.

  • Gender Roles and the people of God:   Rethinking what we were taught about Men and women in the church

    Click here for April 2018 Review

    Most Christian women don't want to "lord it" over men---but do want to be accepted as full participants in God's work. How can they fulfill their divine calling? Surveying Scripture and church history, Mathews advocates for an "egalitarian complementarity" that will allow women and men to use their gifts together for the good of the church.

    Purchase Alice Mathews' book here.

  • O me of Little Faith &
    What's so confusing about Grace

    Click here for March 2018 Review

    I’m going to cover two books this month because of their similarity. Both are memoirs of growing up in the evangelical subculture. They reflect on what the authors have come to embrace and reject of that tradition. The writers are still Christians, but have worked through (and are still working through) the process of making their faith their own.

    Purchase Jason Boyett's book here.

    Purchase Randal Rauser's book here.

  • Cloud of witnesses

    Click here for January 2018 Review

    As Africa and Asia take their place as the new Christian heartlands, a new and robust company of saints is coming into view. In seventeen inspiring narratives Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom introduce pivotal Christian leaders in Africa and Asia who had tenacious faith in the midst of deprivation, suffering and conflict. Spanning a century, from the 1880s to the 1980s, their stories demonstrate the vitality of the Christian faith in a diversity of contexts. This kaleidoscopic witness to the power of the gospel will both inspire and educate. Whether for a class in global Christianity or for a personal journey to other times and places of faith, is a book that tugs at our curiosity and resists being laid down.

    Purchase Mark Noll's book here.

  • Reviving Old Scratch: Demon and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted (2016).

    Click here for November 2017 Review

    The devil has fallen on hard times. Surveys say that even the majority of Christians doubt Satan's existence. In Reviving Old Scratch, popular blogger and theologian Richard Beck reintroduces the devil to the modern world with a biblical, bold, and urgent vision of spiritual warfare: we must resist the devil by joining the kingdom of God's subversive campaign to interrupt the world with love. The beliefs of liberals and conservatives alike will be tested by Beck's groundbreaking ideas, fascinating stories, and clear thinking. Because if Jesus took Satan seriously, says Beck, then so should we.

    Purchase Richard Beck's book here.

  • Finding Grace in the face of Dementia

    Click here for October 2017 Review

    A diagnosis of dementia in a loved one can be both frightening and frustrating. Only a biblical foundation fuels a Christian response that both honors the patient and glorifies God. Drawing on years of professional experience working with Alzheimer's patients, Dr. John Dunlop wants to transform the way we think about dementia.

    Purchase John Dunlop's book here

  • When did everybody else get so old?

    Click here for September 2017 Review

    From writer and veteran columnist Jennifer Grant comes an unflinching and spirited look at the transitions of midlife. When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? plumbs the physical, spiritual, and emotional changes unique to the middle years: from the emptying nest to the sagging effects of aging. Grant acknowledges the complexities and loss inherent in midlife and tells stories of sustaining disappointment, taking hard blows to the ego, undergoing a crisis of faith, and grieving the deaths not only of illusions but of loved ones. Yet she illuminates the confidence and grace that this season of life can also bring. Magnetic, good-humored, and full of hope in the sustaining power of the Spirit, this is a must-read for anyone facing the flux and flow of middle age.

    Purchase Jennifer Grant's book here.

  • Life is mostly edges:  A Memoir (2008)

    Click here for August 2017 Review

    Calvin Miller finally turns his hand to the one story he has yet to tell - his own. This book takes us on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from the difficulties of a poverty-stricken upbringing to the success of a celebrated scholar.

    Purchase Calvin Miller's book here.

  • Mister Good Morning: Stories of Flesh, Blood
    and Holy Spirit

    Click here for July 2017 Review #2

    This is a collection of stories about men and women and children who stumble upon crossroads.  Their stories are parable, they are allegory, they are realism and short fiction and they are stories that will enter into you and make you part of them.

    Purchase Murray Andrew Pura's book here.

  • Abandoned faith

    Click here for July 2017 review

    Based on the latest data as well as the authors' inside experience, Abandoned Faith interviews top Christian leaders including Dr. Tim Clinton and Kara Powell about their views concerning Millennials.  Why are they the most religiously unaffiliated individuals in American history and what can parents and church leaders do to lead them back to Christ and His Church.

    Purchase Alex McFarland, Jason Jimenez book here

  • Confessions of X

    Click here for June 2017 review

    Giving voice to one of history's most mysterious women, The Confessions of X tells the story of Augustine of Hippo's nameless lover, their relationship before his famous conversion, and her life after his rise to fame.  A tale of womanhood, faith, and class at the end of antiquity.  It is a timeless story of love and loss in the shadow of a theological giant.

    Purchase Suzanne Wolfe's book here


    Click here for May 2017 review

    Martin Luther's historical significance can hardly be overstated.  Know as the father of the Protestant Reformation, few figures have had a greater impact on Western Christianity.  This book will help modern readers go deeper in their spiritual walk by learning from one of the great teachers of the faith.

    Purchase Carl Truman's book here.

  • pure pleasure: why do Christians feel so bad about feeling so good

    Click here for April 2017 review

    Shake off the shackles of misunderstanding about sin and build a life of holy pleasure that will nurture your relationships, protect your spiritual integrity, and energize your worship!  Thomas provides spiritual insights, a theological framework, and practical exercises that will help you approach life in Christ with new wonder and joy.

    Purchase Gary Thomas' book here.

  • Embracing the Body

    Click here for March 2017 review

    In Embracing the Body, Tara Owens calls us to listen to our thoughts about our bodies in a manner that brings us closer to God. Are your thoughts about your body shameful? Painful? Or seemingly too private to bring in prayer? Then you may need to think about your earthly temple in a new way. She guides you to see your body not as an inconvenience but as a place to meet the holy and embrace God's intention for you. Exercises are included at the end of each chapter for reflection and exploration.

    Purchase  Tara M. Owen's book here

  • Getting the REformation wrong: correcting some misunderstandings

    Click here for February 2017 review

    The Reformation did not unfold in the straightforward, monolithic fashion some may think.  It was, in fact, a great big mess of cultural upheaval.  Interacting with the most current Reformation scholarship, James R. Payton exposes, challenges and corrects, the common misrepresentations, assumptions, people have developed about the Reformation.

    Purchase Payton's book here

  • The Life of the Mind: A Christian Perspective

    Click here for January 2017 review

    Do purely intellectual pursuits have a purpose in the lives of Christians? Should Christians study subjects that have little bearing on their future careers and ministry? According to Clifford Williams, the answer to both of these questions is yes. To support this view, Williams, a veteran professor of philosophy, offers an examination of the life of the mind. Christians who cultivate the life of the mind read, think, experiment, and engage in discussions. They are interested in the acquisition of knowledge that is both unrelated and directly related to their faith. Williams answers common objections to such activities, describes the virtues of the person who engages in the life of the mind, and asserts that the life of the mind is justifiably a Christian calling.

    Purchase Clifford William's book here

  • The Gospel According to Starbucks

    Click here for December 2016 review

    You don't stand in line at Starbucks just to buy a cup of coffee. You stop for the experience surrounding the cup of coffee. Too many of us line up for God out of duty or guilt. We completely miss the warmth and richness of the experience of living with God. If we'd learn to see what God is doing on earth, we could participate fully in the irresistible life that he offers. 

    Purchase Leonard Sweet's book here

  • Subverted: How i helped the sexual revolution hijack the women's movement

    Click here for November 2016 review

    The thirst for truth, integrity, and justice for women that led Browder into journalism in the first place eventually led her to find forgiveness and freedom in the place she least expected to find them. Her in-depth research, her probing analysis, and her honest self-reflection set the record straight and illumine a way forward for others who have suffered from the unholy alliance between the women’s movement and the sexual revolution.

    Purchase Sue Ellen Browder's book here

  • Saving the bible from ourselves: leadering to read & live the bible well

    Click here for October 2016 review

    In these pages Paauw introduces us to seven new (to us) understandings of the Bible as steps on the path to recovering one deeply engaged Bible. With each "new" Bible presented, deficiencies in how we currently interact with the Bible are explored, followed by recommendations for a new practice. The Bible's transformative power is recovered when we remove the chains Christians have applied to it over the centuries. The Bible does not need to be saved because of any defect in itself, but because we have distorted and misread it. Saving the Bible from Ourselves provides students of the Bible a new paradigm for reading and living the Bible well.

    Purchase Glenn R. Paauw's book here

  • Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither

    Click here for September 2016 review

    Is Genesis properly understood as history, fiction, or something else? Comparing and contrasting three predominant interpretive genres, James Hoffmeier, Gordon Wenham, and Kenton Sparks make a case for Genesis as theological history; proto-history; and ancient historiography respectively. In point/counterpoint arguments they defend their positions and provide examples of each conclusion's implications for biblical understanding.

    Purchase James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham & Kenton K. Sparks' book here.

  • Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America

    Click here for August 2016 review

    A profound influence on 20th-century evangelicalism, Francis Schaeffer was a Christian apologist, a political activist, an author, and an intellectual mentor. What forces shaped this young fundamentalist American pastor into the founder of L'Abri, a European community that welcomed existentialists, evangelicals, and radicals? Drawing extensively from primary sources, Hankins's appreciative biography reveals a complex, flawed, and ultimately prophetic figure.

    Purchase Barry Hankin's book here

  • Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church

    Click here for June 2016 review

    In Counterfeit Christianity, Roger Olson describes the curses but also gifts that heresies bring the Church. While heresies can occasionally correct a version of orthodoxy, they are not simple confusions or misunderstandings about impenetrable mysteries of divine revelation. Instead they undermine the faith and are dangerous distortions. The author describes major heresies and how the church dealt with them, the players, and what pastors can do to address these faith issues in order to educate congregations about Jesus, God, and salvation.

    Purchase Roger E. Olson's book here

  • Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between sexuality and Spirituality

    Click here for May 2016 review

    Sex God is an enlightening exploration of sexuality and spirituality. With profound beauty and insight, Bell addresses the truism that we can’t talk about ourselves as sexual beings without asking who made us that way. For progressive Christians and readers who enjoy the writings of Donald Miller, N.T. Wrighter, Brian McLaren and Timothy Keller, Rob Bell is a pioneer among those seeking a new kind of Christian teaching.

    Purchase Rob Bell's book here

  • Understanding the Trinity

    Click here for April 2016 review

    Beginning with the current skepticism about God's very existence. Dr. McGrath starts off with some convincing apologetics. This alone makes the book quite compelling. But McGrath is not a mere apologist, he is a theologian. He knows that the only way to be sure about the living God is to encounter him: and this can happen to people who know alm0ost nothing about him. 

    McGrath then develops a number of models which help us to form some conception of God, leading to an important chapter on God as personal. An insightful chapter on the Incarnation follows, with some very straight talk to theologians who try to dispense with the deity of Jesus while making it clear that Jesus does not exhaustively define God, but is one person of the Trinity.

    Purchase Alister E. McGrath's book here

  • In the presence of my enemies

    Click here for March 2016 review

    On May 27, 2001, missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham were taken hostage by terrorists. A year later, Gracia was rescued by a helicopter, but Martin with "angel's wings." Gracia's riveting account tells about their ordeal; their relationship with each other and God; the actions of the governments involved; their captors' trial; and more.

    Purchase Gracia Burnham's book here

  • Divine Sex: A compelling vision for Christian relationship in a hypersexualized age

    Click here for February 2016 review

    In Divine Sex, Jonathan Grant offers a persuasive Christian vision of sex and relationships, calling young adults to faithful discipleship in a hypersexualized world. Drawing from his pastoral experience with young people and from cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines, Jonathan Grant helps Christian leaders understand the cultural forces that make the church's teaching on sex and relationships ineffective in the lives of today's young adults. He also sets forth pastoral strategies for addressing the underlying fault lines in modern sexuality.

    Purchase Jonathan Grant's book here

  • How to be Evangelical without being Conservative

    Click here for January 2016 review

    Many people equate evangelical Christianity with conservatism in religion, politics, theology and social attitudes. Some are scandalized by any separation between them. As one evangelical pastor's wife declared to a church group 'We are a conservative people!' In fact, however, evangelicals have not always been conservative; radical stances on doctrines, worship, social norms, politics and church leadership have often marked evangelicalism in the past. The 2007 movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce's protracted battle against the slave trade featured a small group of British evangelicals committed to abolition. The same radicalism characterized much of American evangelicalism in the years before the Civil War. In recent years the American media have portrayed the evangelical movement as a conservative force in society sometimes equating it with fundamentalism and puritanism. The missing piece of the story is, however, that both fundamentalism and puritanism contained radical elements that opposed the status quo. This book sets forth evidence that the link between evangelicalism and conservatism has not always been as strong as it is today in the popular mind and it will provide suggestions for contemporary evangelicals who want to remain evangelical (and not become 'post-evangelical') without identifying with conservatism in every way.

    Purchase Roger E. Olson's book here

  • 60 people who shaped the church

    Click here for November 2015 review

    Christian doctrines didn't appear out of thin air. They were fought over and debated by passionate people! Offering inspiring biographical sketches of those who played pivotal roles---including Josephus, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, John Calvin, Fanny Crosby, G.K. Chesterton, and others---Gansky reveals the church's past and encourages us to shape its future.

    Purchase Alton Gansky's book here

  • The search for god and GUINNESS: a biography of the beer that changed the world

    Click here for October 2015 review

    The Guinness tale began in the late 1700s when water in Ireland was rancidly undrinkable leaving the Irish to consume only cheap gin and whiskey. When Christians like Arthur Guinness began brewing beer that provided a healthier alternative to the putrid waters and hard alcohol of the time, a new business was birthed. Now a beloved global brand in 150 countries and one of the most consumed beverages in the world, the Guinness establishment continues to craft its hallowed beer, while remaining one of the most socially responsible businesses in the world. Catch the true events behind the Guinness story in Stephen Mansfield's informative new biography!

    Purchase Stephen Mansfield's book here

  • the confessions of st. augustine

    Click here for September 2015 review

    One of the most moving diaries ever recorded of a man's journey to the fountain of God's grace---now in contemporary English! Writing as a sinner not as a saint, Augustine shares his innermost thoughts and conversion experiences, wrestling with spiritual questions that have stirred thoughtful hearts since time began.

    Purchase Saint Augustine's book here