Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Glance: Gospel Conversations

When your friend is hurting, what comes after the hug? Truth? Love? Have you ever wondered what people need from you first? Gospel Conversations shows the reader how the Bible answers this, and many similar, relational questions. While "The Bible never pits truth against love" (pg. 33), it is often hard for us to find a wise balance between the two. Gospel Conversations is a tool that can help.

What is a "Gospel" conversation, you may ask? Dr. Kelleman writes: "Gospel conversations promote personal change centered on the person of Christ through the personal ministry of the Word" (pg. 16). As a result, the reader of Gospel Conversations, will find that Kelleman keeps the grand redemptive narrative of Scripture central, demonstrating how, "In biblical counseling, the whole Bible story impacts the whole person's whole story" (pg. 74).

Essentially, "Gospel Conversations is a local church curriculum map…for equipping God's people to care like Christ" (pg. 17). "…the big idea of Gospel Conversations…" is that "We learn to become competent biblical counselors by giving and receiving biblical counseling in the context of real and raw Christian community" (pg. 17) and the design is such that this book seeks to foster "…real and raw, vulnerable and open relationships among your equipping group members" (pg. 17). Thus, it is ideal for small group use with members gaining experience in biblical counseling as they engage one another. To this end, Dr. Kelleman supplies almost 200 multi-part, thought-provoking personal reflection/discussion questions for self-counsel and group or partner interaction making Gospel Conversations a useful equipping manual of sorts. Furthermore, Gospel Conversations contains concrete, measurable objectives and suggested schedules for each section, as well as, useful section outlines and "tweet-sized" summaries at the conclusion of each chapter. There are also a number of forms in the Appendixes for more formal counseling ministries.

With so much material, this is not a book to read hastily, but rather, one in which to camp out for some time…preferably with a friend. Some may be dissuaded by some of the terminology (ex. "twenty-one biblical counseling relational competencies") and the numerous acronyms as they can make this book seem more formal and textbook-y and less relational. However, the reader will find that Gospel-Conversations is solidly grounded in Scripture and contains much useful content for groups and individuals. In particular, I was helped by Kelleman's idea of a "trialogue". He writes:

"This book is called Gospel Conversations for a reason. The gospel -- Christ's victory narrative, the story of our redemption from sin through Christ's grace -- is the meta-narrative, the grand story, that shapes every conversation…Counseling is not a monologue -- one-way teaching at. It's not even just dialogue. It is a trialogue, a three-way communication between the counselor, the counselee, and the Divine Counselor through God's Spirit and God's Word" (pg. 161).

Gospel Conversations contains hundreds of sample conversations which are intended to stir the imagination of the reader (pg. 164), showing us how to explore Scripture together and demonstrating how we can effectively use questions to draw people out in conversation.

Another aspect of Gospel Conversations that I love is that Kelleman highlights the importance of knowing God rightly and helps the reader to label dominant doubting-God lies, recognizing that:

"The relational battle to win our heart is won or lost in the relational battle regarding the heart of God. Puritan Pastor Richard Sibbes explains the root source of our battle. 'It was Satan's art from the beginning to discredit God with man, by calling God's love into question with our first father Adam. His success then makes him ready at the weapon still'

It was also Martin Luther's conviction that attacks on God's holy love were a staple of the Devil. 'This, then, is the most furious and sudden of all attacks, in which the devil exerts to the full extent all his powers and arts, and transforms himself into the likeness of the angry and ungracious God' (pg. 195).

Like Luther, Gospel Conversations seeks to move people toward a gospel-centered, Christ-focused faith in God:

"In Luther's eyes, therefore, spiritual counsel is always concerned, above all else, with faith--nurturing, strengthening, establishing, practicing faith--because 'faith cometh by hearing,' the Word of God (or the Gospel) occupies a central place in it. The ministry to troubled souls is a ministry of the gospel. It is a ministry to those who have or who lack faith" (pg. 207).

Gospel Conversations concludes with the reminder that biblical counseling is "…not a side ministry done by one or a few…biblical counseling is the one-another ministry calling the body of Christ" (pg. 354). If you're looking for a resource to equip you for that ministry, you might consider this one. I, for one, look forward to spending more time with this book and plan to reference it regularly as I seek to grow in asking good questions, offering truth and love as I minister the Word to those closest to me.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: When Lightning Struck!

Book Description From the Back Cover:

Martin Luther's life was too exciting not to be written for teens and younger readers! In this fast-paced, action-packed novel of Martin Luther's life, teen readers (and more than a few adults!) will be introduced to a fascinating time when princes ruled Europe and knights roamed the countryside. They'll learn about a time when powerful forces lined up against each other and believing the wrong thing could get you killed.
When Lightning Struck! is far more than just an adventure story, of course. It also tells a theological story. Drawing carefully from Luther's own words, this book introduces readers to a kindred spirit who struggled with what knowing God through Scripture means for daily life. They will understand what was at stake and how powerfully liberating Luther's idea of grace through faith was—in his time and in ours!
In crisp, enjoyable prose, author Danika Cooley conveys both the drama and the meaning of the Reformation for younger readers like no one before her!

My Take: What must one do to be saved? This is a question with which Martin Luther wrestled in his early years until he encountered Truth through the Word of God. His life would never be the same and neither would the lives of many others whom he has impacted. Employing vivid imagery and metaphor, Danika Cooley shares how God revealed Himself to Luther and used him to purify His church. When Lightning Struck! is the story of one man's journey to peace with God, which ironically led to growing unrest with the church leaders of the day. Luther modeled humbly appealing to authorities with whom he passionately disagreed and boldly asked the question, "Who will be king?" Perhaps what makes When Lightning Struck! unique is that it is thoroughly researched and quotes Luther extensively, yet appropriately, for the intended young adult audience. When Lightning Struck! is theologically rich and filled with many wonderful lessons. One such lesson, drawn from the life of Luther, is that, in order to save one's life, one must be willing to lose it for the sake of Christ. For what would you be willing to die? Luther was willing to sacrifice his life that all may come to a true knowledge of the love and grace of Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and died in the place of sinners that all may have peace with God. He was a man who didn't waiver in his commitment and faithfulness to the Word of God. Mrs. Cooley does an excellent job communicating his story in an engaging and exciting way for the next generation in When Lightning Struck!. This is a skillful blow to the "Fiery Dragon"!

Not only has Mrs. Cooley taken the time to compose a well-written narrative account of Luther’s life for young people, but she has also created and generously made available a FREE downloadable guide for the book as well as a FREE 12-week unit study. More information can be found on The Thinking Kids Blog

*Many thanks to Danika Cooley and Fortress Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reformation Day Giveaway

As many of you know, October 31 commemorates what has become known as "Reformation Day." Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to a church door on October 31, 1517, in Wittenburg, Germany, provoked a debate that resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

As the “Father of the Reformation”, Martin Luther is a vital figure in Church history. His sacrifice and willingness to wage battle against the spiritual, religious, and political powers of his medieval world allowed Christians throughout time to embrace the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as explained by Scripture alone.

Author Danika Cooley has written Luther's story for young people in her new book, When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther, which our family is currently enjoying.
  Reformation Day Giveaway

To celebrate Reformation Day and the release of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther, I've joined together with a team of blogger friends to host this wonderful giveaway, valued at over $500! One person will win ALL of the following: $100 Amazon Gift Card Fire 7-inch Tablet, WiFi 8GB ($49.99)  When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther (hardcover $16.99) From, a $50 Gift Certificate From Nuremberg Tourist Board, a Playmobil Martin Luther figure ($9.99) From Thinking Kids Press, a curriculum bundle from When Lightning Struck! author, Danika Cooley:
From Fortress Press, a book bundle by author, Tim Dowley:
  1. Christian Music: A Global History  ($35)
  2. Introduction to the History of Christianity: Second Edition ($55) 
  3. The Student Bible Atlas: Revised Edition  ($12.99) 
  4. Atlas of the European Reformations ($24)
From Home School Adventure Co.:
  1. Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics (digital $39.95)
  2. Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal (digital $18.95)
To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below.  a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions:
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Thinking Kids Press email list. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Marie Durand

In a day when "Every detail of the palace and its grounds was meant to glorify the king" (pg. 60), how does one woman glorify the King of Kings? Simonetta Carr's latest book, Marie Durand, paints a clear portrait of a woman who did just that. To some, the life of Marie Durand may seem wasted as they reason, "How can a woman who spends more of her life in prison than out of it be of any use to God?" To others, Marie's life will prove faith-building as she chose to be an instrument in God's hands in the midst of trying circumstances, using her knowledge and skills to teach and encourage others, rather than simply pining away in a prison, overcome with self-pity.

Marie's life is instructive, answering the timely question, "How should we live in the midst of persecution?" We see how God sustained her and enabled her to live a life of persistence, resolve, and faithfulness throughout her imprisonment. Although she spent time writing letters to secure provisions and request release for herself and the other prisoners, she did not allow these matters to consume her overly or prevent her from living a fruitful life but "…simply continued to do what God called her to do every day, keeping her eyes on the future 'triumph of glory,' loving those around her, and thanking God for what she described as 'the honor of wearing His uniform for His just cause" (pg. 53).

Marie Durand is the ninth book in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, and the second of these biographies to highlight a female. It is enhanced by a letter from Marie to her niece, Anne, which is included at the end of the book and reflects Marie's humility and hope in God. This seems particularly fitting since much of what is known about this fairly ordinary woman is a result of her correspondence.

When it comes to church history, "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" is one of our family's favorite series for children.  As I've written before, Ms. Carr is a very gifted author and one of my personal  favorites as her writing has a purpose and depth which exceeds that found in much of written material for children today. I am grateful that she continues to add to this exceptional series!

As with previous volumes in the series, readers of Marie Durand will encounter a carefully researched account that is instructive and edifying.  Understanding is aided by a map and a  timeline, which Ms. Carr has thoughtfully included. The text is adorned with delightful illustrations and well chosen, intriguing photos, as one can see from the sample pages which  Reformation Heritage Books has provided. What can't be conveyed in these samples is that these sixty sturdy pages are contained in a  hardy hardcover with a stitched binding, making this book a collectible title that will endure many years of enjoyment, as we've come to expect from this high quality series.

I commend the biography, Marie Durand, and pray that many will be strengthened as they seek to persevere in light of God's faithfulness. The profitability of studying the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us cannot be understated!!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted"(Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV).

You can read more about Simonetta Carr's "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" here, as well as, download activity pages for several existing titles (Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin) and a study guide for John Owen.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, Reformation Heritage Books, and Simonetta Carr for providing me with a complimentary copy of Marie Durand in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Inheritance of Tears

Inheritance of Tears; Trusting the Lord of Life when Death Visits the Womb, by Jessalyn HuttoThe Bible says, " is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). There isn't a person living who hasn't experienced trouble. For many couples, miscarriage is one such trouble. In the midst of suffering, we are faced with hard questions:

  • Who is in control in the midst of trials and suffering?
  • Is God good? Can I really trust Him?
  • Why do babies die? Is it because of something that we do?
  • Does anyone understand my suffering?
  • What purpose, if any, does my pain serve?
  • What happens to babies that die?

Jessalyn Hutto knows the pain of miscarriage. In her book, Inheritance of Tears, she answers these questions, as well as, others and seeks to comfort couples with the comfort with which she has been comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). She points others to the rock-solid truth of God's character as revealed in His Word and to the hope that we can have in Jesus Christ. While miscarriage is the specific context to which Jessalyn speaks, her words can easily be more generally applied to suffering and trials.

Unlike Jessalyn, I have not experienced miscarriage first hand. However, when my friends and family have faced miscarriage, my attempts to comfort them have seemed woefully inadequate. I came to this book desperately wanting to learn how to be a better friend and care more effectively. God used this book to remind me that the most helpful comforter is the one who points the sufferer back to God. He wants His children to draw comfort from Him. As Jessalyn writes:

"Indeed, even the feelings of isolation can be a great blessing, for isolation from all worldly comforts forces us to draw comfort from the Lord himself" (pg. 55)


"Trials sanctify us and draw us into closer fellowship with God, which inevitably leads to genuine, eternal happiness" (pg. 72).

Inheritance of Tears is a Biblically faithful primer on suffering. Jessalyn writes honestly about the questions that miscarriage raises. I pray that God will use this book to comfort many couples in the face of loss and to equip many more to be Gospel-centered comforters.

Thanks to Jessalyn Hutto and Cruciform Press, you can have the opportunity to win a copy of Inheritance of Tears. If you are interested, simply fill out the form below before  12pm EST, Thursday, April 2, 2015, for a chance to win. (Sorry, giveaway only open to those with a US mailing address.)

*Many thanks to Jessalyn Hutto and Cruciform Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of Inheritance of Tears in exchange for my honest opinion!