Monday, January 14, 2019

Christmas Days – Joseph C. Lincoln

©1938  Coward-McCann, New York

I am a sucker for a good Christmas book. I would probably go so far as to say that the book doesn’t have to really be that good if it has a solid Christmas setting and it may win me over. The Blushing Bride is aware of my affection for Christmas literature, so in the most recent Christmas season (when times had been tough) she found a well-worn and inexpensive ex-library copy of this little gem entitled Christmas Days.

A cursory glance tells the prospective reader that the book covers three Christmases—one in the ‘50s, the next in the ‘60s, and finally in the ‘70s. Having noted the copyright date of 1938, it didn’t take long for me to decide that the Decembers covered were in the middle 1800s. And I must add that I really did enjoy my excursion into the Cape Cod community filled with sailors and ship-masters.

A selling point for the gift-giver (aside from the Christmas setting) was the claim from the fly-leaf (pasted into the end papers in the habit of libraries) that the book promised “shortly to take its place in that select and enduring little group of Christmas classics which began with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.”

The title is more than just about days during the Christmas season, but follows the lives of two brothers, Rogers and David Day, who come from a line of seafaring captains. During the three important Christmases promised we see the boys grow into men and become ship-masters in their own right.

The writing has an easy pace with a plot line that is easy to follow if not flat out broadcasting intent to the reader. The author’s use of dialect and mid-19th century shipping jargon brings the characters to life although he does have the habit of chopping dialog which forces both character and reader to finish the thoughts of a speaker. I invariably hoped that my conclusion to a statement was the same as that of the character speaking. Whether Lincoln assumes too much of his reader, or just has difficulty smoothing out dialog may be a question better answered by someone who has read more than one of the author’s books.

As for the claim of a seat among the greats of Christmas literature: it’s a good selling point, but maybe more wishful thinking than anything else. I don’t expect to be hearing as much about Rogers Day in future as I already hear about Ebenezer Scrooge, but it is a fair tale. There is more of the Jacob and Esau in the story than the Scrooge and Marley, though I can’t say more without running up the spoiler alert.

The bottom line is this: if you enjoy a nice Christmas story—one with lots of feeling, nostalgia, and miracle—this little tale will provide a few good hours of holiday escape for you. If you like to read about the sea and shipping, Christmas Days has a smattering of it for your taste. If you are looking for a gut-wrenching, plot-twisting, soul-changing, last-for-centuries Christmas classic, you would do well to pick up Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or Evans’ The Christmas Box, Christmas Days leaves too much detail of the changing in the heart of Rogers Day to fit the bill.

For our rating, I’d give the book three and one-half reading glasses. I’ll probably read it again some Christmas to come, but I won’t give it berth with some of my annual re-reads. Would I be willing to read any more of Lincoln’s “Cape Cod Stories?” The writing is plain enough and certainly free enough of the curse and caper that requires a 24/7 censor to be engaged in the reader’s mind that I would have no problem picking up one of Joseph Lincoln’s books—although he hasn’t won my heart like my good friend Bill Crider did with his mystery stories.

For those who want to hang their hat on a phrase or two to decide whether to give this unfamiliar voice a try, I give you: snow, sailing, and romantic tangles.

—Benjamin Potter January 14, 2019

Saturday, November 4, 2017

I Will – Thom S. Rainer

©2015  B&H Publishing Group, Nashville

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Since taking that position, Rainer has made a point of developing books that are helpful to the local church leader and the local church member be better at church. Books like Simple Church (co-written with Eric Geiger), I Am a Church Member, and Autopsy of a Deceased Church [all published by B & H]. This book is no exception.

In the same vein of Church Member and Autopsy, I Will is a small volume that reads well and gives sound advice on how church members can be the best church members they can be. Whereas I Am a Church Member deals with the actions of a church member who makes a difference, I Will addresses the attitudes that lead church members into joyous church membership. Within its pages, Rainer dispenses advice on removing selfish “I want” attitudes and replacing them with outward focused “I will” ones.

Rainer takes a page from his son’s book on financial decisions (Art Rainer, The Money Challenge, reviewed here) by introducing his topic with a fictional story that could be anybody’s story—it could be your story if you are finding yourself burdened by church. Perhaps the answer is not jumping ship on the church where you are, but adjusting your attitude. Here are the nine traits that the author identifies in an “outwardly focused Christian”:

  1. Moving from an “I Am” to an “I Will” attitude – finding biblical solutions to attitudinal issues.
  2. Worshiping with others – stop trying to go it alone.
  3. Growing with others – get into a small group where people know, love, and encourage spiritual growth.
  4. Serving – instead of expecting others to serve me.
  5. Going – taking the love of God with me everywhere.
  6. Generous giving – everything belongs to God anyway.
  7. Perseverance – don’t drop out of church because it gets difficult or I don’t get my way.
  8. Avoiding “Churchianity” – playing at church instead of being the church.
  9. Making a difference – look for ways to advance the Kingdom of God.

In a culture where cafeteria-style Christianity and church attendance has become the norm, it is time for church members (and all Christians) to develop an attitude adjustment that leads us to looking outside our own shell of contentment in order to strengthen the church and obey her Master.

This little volume may not have the impact of I Am a Church Member, but it certainly hits the mark as a genuine partner work. I give Rainer four out of five reading glasses here.

—Benjamin Potter, November 4, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Leading Through Change – Barney Wells, Martin Giese, Ron Klassen

©2005  ChurchSmart Resources, St. Charles, IL

Some wag once said that the only person who wants change is a baby with a dirty diaper. And I once heard a comedian indicate that that person may have questions about wanting change with the statement, “Leave it alone. It’s my mess. I made it; and I want to keep it.” However, change is inevitable if we want to exhibit life.

We see how change shows life if we watch the rose bush we planted last spring. We want to see growth, buds, flowers, and even the falling of the flowers. We want to see the plant go dormant for a season so that it can come back to growth, buds, and flowers again in the spring.

In church life, change must happen if the church is to exist to see the next generation become a part of our congregation. The principle is that the church must change or die. This is true not only for the church in the urban or suburban setting where the community is changing around them, but it also applies to the rural or small town church where the community itself seems to be drying up. If we are to exist—to continue to be effective in our communities—we must see where change is necessary, and make change.

With this in mind, I would like to recommend the book Leading through Change to pastors and leaders in country, rural, and small town setings. With shelves of books on leadership, church growth, and change for the good of the church in bookstores today it is difficulty to choose the one that fits for you. This book addresses the need for change, but more importantly it gives advice (not cookie-cutter process) on how to approach change that will remove lifelessness and add life to the local Town and Country church.

Section one of the book sets the foundation explaining the need for change, indicating the difference between change that works in the suburbs (which is addressed by most of the volumes on change available) and what will be helpful to bring about necessary changes in a rural setting. Section two develops some of the key ideas about change that will help the leader of a small-town our country church breathe new life into a church that needs to reach new people.

The authors, representing over 100 years of ministry (most if not all of which is in the small town or rural setting), develop nine steps (some “spiritual” some “cultural”) to approaching change in the church. A basic idea is not to force change, but to “lead through change” (as implied by the book’s title) by adapting to the change that is going on around you in your community.

This is an invaluable book for the pastor of the rural church. It includes encouragement (reminding the pastor/reader that just because some statisticians are bemoaning the decline in membership of churches as a sign of death without taking into account that some specifically rural communities are experiencing decline in population), and some practical helps about having a vibrant ministry in a culture that once was but is no longer the “preferred” culture of our society. Country living is still a viable option.

Here are some of the plusses about the book: It is short. Pastors (many who are bi-vocational) don’t have as much time to read the 300-400 page textbooks available on church growth and health. It is written by men who are part of the culture to whom they are writing, including real-life examples of what worked (and did not work) in their own ministries. And it is practically biblically based. We can see the Bible foundation for the actions taken as a church ministers in the midst of change, and the practical application of that Scripture.

One more bit of advice concerning leading through change. If you get a copy, start by reading page 77. This will give a good picture of leading change and leading through change in the small town and country church. It will also give you a good snapshot of what is to come as you return to page one and read the entire book.

For the small church, country church, rural church pastor, this is a must read and will be a positive resource throughout the years of his ministry in such a setting. I give this resource 5 out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, October 24, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Convicted – Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins (with Mark Tabb)

©2017  Waterbrook Press, New York

The caveat on the cover of this book reads: “A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship.” When I saw the title and the cover of the book, I was intrigued. Since I usually turn to mysteries or suspense novels (with a western thrown in for good measure) for my leisure reading, and concentrate on mostly ministerial books as a general rule for work, I find that the “True Crime” genre rarely catches my attention. But this one looked like it might be worth a minute or two.

I received the book in the mail about two days before leaving the country on a personal trip that wouldn’t allow time to read (even on the plane—which I don’t read well on planes anyway). So, I socked it away with the hope of getting into it upon my return. I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to the book. From the first page of the prologue (don’t skip the opening “Author’s Note” for background, but the story doesn’t start until the prologue) I was hooked. I almost wished that I hadn’t read the descriptor on the cover, though, because from the very outset my reader’s mind was set against the cop (one of the book’s voices).

The story is exactly as advertised: an innocent man gets caught in the cross-hairs of a policeman doing whatever he can to put criminals away—which includes fudging with the truth to a certain extent. After all, in the neighborhood where he works, most of these people are drug users or dealers anyway, right? Within these pages you will read the sad state of corruption that plagues police departments (and is, one must say the exception rather than the rule). The outcome of the story is that once the cop (Collins) was caught in his web of deception, he had to come clean with details of all the arrests he had made that had been compromised by corrupt practices. All of which were overturned. Meaning that a lot of guilty criminals went free because one dirty cop wanted to cut a corner or two—in the service of justice.

At the same time the story is about a man just about to embark on a promising future (especially coming from the neighborhood in which he lived), who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, by the wrong policeman, with the wrong friend. It is a case of mistaken identity, misused power, and misplaced trust. And the result is a three-year federal incarceration for an innocent man.

The final outcome of the story is not such a depressing thing though. With all of the ill-will, all of the bad blood, and all of the system abuse, Convicted is the story of how God uses unusual circumstances to bring sinners into relationship with Him. Even more, it is the story of how two men who start out as mortal enemies—and according to all conventional wisdom should remain so until they reach the grave (maybe at each other’s hand)—become friends through forgiveness only available through Christ and knowing Him.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It has action, suspense, and an unusually unexpected happy ending. It’s in stores or online today. And read this 5-reading glass treasure about forgiveness.

—Benjamin Potter September 20, 2017

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Choosing to SEE – Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn

©2010 Revell, Grand Rapids

Maybe you haven’t heard of Mary Beth Chapman, but if you have listened to music (especially that with a Christian message) you may well be acquainted with her husband, Steven. She is the one who wrote this story. He states in the Foreward to the book, “For many years I’ve been known as ‘the writer’ of the Steven Curtis/Mary Beth Chapman duo. And while I’ve been known to pen a song or two, and maybe even a book (with a whole lot of help, believe me!), here’s the real, honest to goodness truth: Mary Beth Chapman is a way better writer than Steven Curtis . . .” Whether you agree with the famous husband or not, the book is well worth your read on a variety of levels.

Several years ago (shortly after it was published), my wife picked up this book with the intention to read. It was written and subsequently published not too many months after the tragedy that spurred the writing invaded the Chapman household, so we knew it would contain some heart-breaking, tear-producing passages (note: you will want to bring a case or two of facial tissue with you when you embark on this reading—you have been warned). So, the book sat unread on our shelves.

Fast forward to 2017. We decided to clear out our bookshelves for the purpose of selling off some of the books (we have a mountain) to help fund, of all things, our adoption process. While clearing the shelves, I came across, and dusted off this book. I decided to keep and read it—a decision that I both love and regret. I love because it is book that speaks to the very core of your being, challenging and healing you at the same time. Regret because it is a book that touches you to the core of your being, coaxing even the hard-heartest of us to weep tears (don’t tell your manly side).

Here’s the low-down on this book: in the very opening pages the author recounts a tragedy of loss that no one should ever go through. I’ll not repeat the story, although many who are reading this review would remember the horrifying accident that has colored the lives of the Chapman family from that day to this (and onward).

The book is not about tragedy and grief though. It is a book about hope. Within the pages the author gives some biographical background that gives insight into her life and her life with Steven Curtis Chapman, award-winning musical artist. Her writing is engaging, funny, real, and touching. You won’t want to put the book down, even though you have to get another box of tissues.

I picked up the book, because I wanted to read it as we raised money and waited for the call to travel to Vietnam to meet and bring home our little girl. That call came in the midst of the reading and (because of the amount of crying I was doing) I decided to put it down until after the journey ended. The tears I shed during the reading were not sympathy or even empathy tears for what happened in the Chapmans’ lives. No, reading of their struggles in the journey of life and their hope found at the end of long, dark tunnels brought to the surface of my own heart struggles, pain, as well as laughter and joy that had been a part of my own story. My story is not her story, but her story evokes mine. I don’t know whether that means she’s the great writer Steven claims her to be, her emotional roller-coaster is one that all of us can relate to on some sort of level, or I am just a sentimental sap. What I do know is that you will want to read this book for the stories of triumph, the stories of forgiveness, the stories of adoption, and the stories of heartbreak. Bring those tissues with you, but cry away, the tears will be cleansing. I know they were for me.

BTW, if you stop reading before the end (for adoption travel, or life-happening, or whatever reason) you will still be glad that you picked up this book. It has the full complement of 5 reading glasses from this reader.

—Benjamin Potter, September 12, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Hum of Angels – Scot McKnight

©2017  Waterbrook Press, New York

I had heard of McKnight. He blogs at Jesus Creed. And he is a well-respected author, speaker, and professor at Northern Seminary near Chicago. It had been suggested to me that I might do well to read some of his work. So when he authored a book on such a fascinating topic as angels, I decided to give him a try.

I must be perfectly honest, beyond the fact that both McKnight and I believe that angels exist and are active agents in the world, I really struggled with this book. Throughout the pages, I couldn’t decide whether he was advocating an argument that angels were creatures and the agents of God, or that they were (as God’s agents) God Himself.

Perhaps it is that McKnight writes on a headier level than I comprehend, or maybe I’m actually onto the fact that the writing just isn’t compelling. At any rate, I found this (though a truly fascinating topic) to be an utterly put-down-able book. Sometimes I found, as I was trying to detect the “hum of angels” (an analogy touched off by the author’s fascination with humming birds), that the buzz was just putting me to sleep.

I’d like to give the book a positive rating, but then I’d be forced to read it again—and stay awake. Just two reading glasses for this book.

—Benjamin Potter July 26, 2017

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NIV Kids’ Visual Study Bible

©2017 Zondervan, Grand Rapids

A Study Bible. For Kids. What a neat idea! I know that my children, raised in a Christian home, coming to know Christ as Savior at an early age, and now growing up in a society that no longer values the Bible as much as it did, say 40 years ago when I was a kid, and I have been looking for something that might be a good study tool for them as they come to a place where learning more about the Bible, its lives and times. Perhaps this new offering from the Zondervan publishing group might fit the ticket.

As a book for reference and study use, I would give the publishers fairly high marks for the physical construction of this Bible. It is a hardcover with pretty sturdy binding that includes a built-in place ribbon for marking one’s place when he/she puts the volume down. I can also say that the cover and the contents (“over 700 images inside!” boasts a colorful sticker on the front cover) are vibrant and eye-catching. While the pages aren’t the delicate and precious onion-skin type pages you might find in a high-end, leather-bound copy of the Scriptures, they are thin enough to keep the nearly 2000-page book from being unwieldy.

I think that it would be good to look at what this Bible claims about itself to help in assessing its usability for kids.

First of all as a Bible for kids. The question that comes to mind is, what age and reading level constitutes a “kid”? I would want to settle into the 9 – 12 age range (give or take a year or two), which would place the reader in the 4th – 6th grade reading level. Going with the NIV for the text of the book could be argued as a less than stellar decision because of the eighth-grade (estimate) reading level of that version. When you want to reach kids with a study resource, it might be better to use a more readable translation (although going with the third-grade level NIrV might be going a bit too shallow) when Americans often tend to top-out at the sixth-grade level.

The book also says right up front that it is “visual” and announces (albeit with a sticker) the presence of “over 700 images”. I did not take the time to count the images, but the book is packed with them. Some are photographs that illustrate the portion of the Scripture that they accompany. Other images are artists’ renderings. All of these are okay, and seem to be of really good quality, but the images that caught my eye are the charts, graphs, and visuals that give a thumbprint explanation of such things as the difference between the Jewish months/calendar and our modern understanding of the year. From time to time a margin will be dedicated to the “Life Line” of one of the biblical characters (such as Jacob, Moses, or Herod the Great).

Apart from the pictures scattered throughout the pages, what makes this a “study Bible”? Nearly every margin contains some quick and simple commentary on the Scriptures of that page. These comments are rarely more than a simple paragraph, but help in the understanding of the ways and words of the Bible. Also, each book of the Bible is preceded by a full-page background of the book: Who wrote it? Why was it written? What are the major themes? And so on, to help the reader get a better understanding of the book they are reading. At the back of this volume are a table of weights and measures to aid in comparing biblical amounts to modern equivalents, some obligatory maps (the Exodus, Paul’s missionary journeys, and the like), and a couple of indices to help find the “infographics” and maps scattered throughout the text. What’s missing is even a simple concordance to aid the reader in finding the passage(s) he/she wants to study.

Overall, I think this is an excellent effort to put “dig deeper” Scriptures into the hands of boys and girls. I would recommend it for children ages 10-13 (around 4th – 6th grade). At a cover price of $32.99 (US) it would be a good investment in the Christian growth of your child or grandchild. I would give the book 4 out of 5 reading glasses for doing a good job of achieving the publisher’s goals.

—Benjamin Potter June 27, 2017

[This book was provided free of charge by the publisher for purposes of this review. The opinions are my own.]

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hello Stars – Alena Pitts (with Wynter Pitts)

©2017  Zonderkids, Grand Rapids

The author of this book is a young (very young) actress/model who got her start in the recent film War Room. She teams up with her mother to pen this book about a young girl who literally falls into an acting role.

In some respects, Hello Stars is fairly easy to categorize—it’s a book by a twelve-year-old girl writing about an eleven-year-old girl and what can happen if life takes a turn. Choosing to abide by the writer’s motto, “write what you know,” Alena tells a story that could be very similar to her own. Is it any wonder that the book is targeted to preteen girls? It is a book that brings faith to the forefront in both family and workplace settings. Even with all of this right up front, the book itself categorizes itself in a laundry list of titles: it is part of the “faithGirlz” books developed by Zondervan’s Zonderkids division; it proclaims on the cover that it is the first in the “Lena in the Spotlight” series (which advertises book 2, Day Dreams and Movie Screens, is available in bookstores and online). So, choose a category and settle in for a nice story.

The story, told from the voice of 11-year-old Lena Daniels, brings the reader into the heart and mind of a preteen girl. She has her special friends at school, she loves her family, and she would just die to meet her favorite singer, Mallory. When she prays that her video greeting to Mallory will win her an opportunity to spend time with the singer, she is convinced that it’s a flop. And then the call comes that Lena has been chosen to star opposite Mallory in an upcoming movie based on faith.

The book is a good read and will appeal to its target audience for a variety of reasons. It speaks in a voice that is familiar to them, it addresses topics and dreams that most (if not every) preteen girl is concerned with, and it bears a positive message about faith and God.

As with any book of this nature, and especially first outings for an author, the story does have some drawbacks. It will have limited appeal even among young female readers because it has a tendency to “preach” a lot. Not that the sermons are bad, but it may find its way only into the hands of girls of faith. The tone and message of the book will help this limited audience to grow in faith (just as the main character does), but if the desire is to reach an audience outside the Christian community, the authors and the publisher will find an uphill battle.

All in all, I’d have to give the book 4 out of 5 reading glasses for a really fun summer adventure offered by a first-time author. I did find myself enjoying the family I met in the pages of Hello Stars (almost to the point of checking out book 2) even if I’m not a preteen girl (I am the father of one, though).

—Benjamin Potter, June 22, 2017

(I received this book from the publisher for the express purposes of this review.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Not All Roads Lead to Heaven – Robert Jeffress

©2016 Baker Books, Grand Rapids

When I was a high school student I was part of the team. I did not play football, basketball, or baseball, but I was on the team—the speech and debate team. I will readily admit that I was neither exceptionally nor remotely gifted in the art of debate. In fact, at tournaments, I begged our debate coach to let me just participate in the speech events that I enjoyed. But alas, she always made me partner up with my buddy and lug our cases of cases and evidence into the debate room where we would participate in two to three rounds of debates usually being eliminated early.

As you can see, dear reader, I have not decided to make apologetics my life ambition. I’m just not going to go out of my way to get into a theological debate with someone. Even so, there are times when I find myself in a situation that requires me to bring an answer for my faith—and often the questions are difficult. What is a Christian to do when it comes time to stand up for faith? That’s where it helps to familiarize oneself with people who have a gift for defending the faith.

That is where Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of FirstBaptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and his recent book come in handy. Dr. Jeffress is no stranger to defending Christianity. He has been interviewed on countless occasions where faith matters arise. He has found himself on the debate stage with noted opponents to the Christian faith and shown well. And so he has written Not All Roads Lead to Heaven to help the average Christian understand and defend the doctrine of exclusivity (that Jesus Christ is the one and only doorway into eternal life).

Jeffress address some of the most often voiced objections to and questions about the claim of Christianity that Christ is the only answer to questions about salvation. He bases his answers to these tough questions in Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) and weaves his way through the maze of logic that has tripped many a Christ-follower. Some of the loudest objections [exclusivity is intolerant; what about someone who’s never heard about Jesus? What about little children?] with care, understanding, and a better response than the typical defensive sarcasm that touches the lips of many Christians. The author reminds the reader of a couple of important notes that should be remembered whenever we encounter someone who wants to question our faith: We are dealing with God and His ways, and God’s desire is to see as many people come to salvation as possible. If we are to find salvation, we must do it on the terms of the Author of salvation, though, and not what seems like a good idea at the time.

This book is a short, readable guide to answering questions that a Christian might have about how inclusive the gospel message is; a resource to approaching non-believers (both friends and acquaintances) who might take issue with the exclusive claims of Christianity; and a study to acquaint the believer with a stronger foundation as to how to approach the doctrine of salvation—after all, it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (and only Jesus Christ).

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 reading glasses as at times it gets a little weighty, although Dr. Jeffress does an excellent job of keeping the complexity of the issue simple most of the time.

—Benjamin Potter, June 13, 2017

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Money Challenge – Art Rainer

©2017  B&H Publishing Group, Nashville

According to the blurb on the back of the book, Art Rainer is the “vice president for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and an MBA from the University of Kentucky.” What makes me want to read what Art has to write is more that he is the son of Thom Rainer, and I expect that what he has to say will be well-thought out and succinct. In relation to his degrees and position, I think that perhaps his subject matter is right down the alley of his education. That subject matter: money.

More than money, though this little 150-page book is about applying God’s design to your money in order to help you become a stronger follower of Jesus. It’s a book about the Christian’s use of the resources entrusted to him/her by the Maker and Master of his/her life. If you think that this is just another in a room full of already written, tried, and tested tomes about the subject of money management (or even stewardship) you’d miss the mark. Rainer seems to be more interested in helping Christians be better Christians than simply help Christians be richer Christians.

If you are interested in simply a stewardship or money-handling, pick up a book from Ron Blue or Dave Ramsey or the late Larry Burkett (all good Christian money management experts). Some of the money management principles they espouse are either used or expanded on here. So, what is it that Rainer is offering? I would personally label it discipleship. The springboard he uses to launch into Bible-based, full-out discipleship is one that is dearest to the heart of many Americans—the pocketbook.

The thirty days of discovery (part of the book’s subtitle) are woven into the three aspects of living the Christian life that turn money woes into money management and general living into genuine Christianity: give generously, save wisely, live appropriately. People, Rainer states, are designed to be generous. And through our generosity we find happiness. The reason we save is to be generous. The reason we get out of debt is to be generous. The reason we buy a house is to be generous (in the long run). Rainer also asserts that “living appropriately” is based in the idea of living within one’s means—not trying to keep up with the Joneses (whoever they may be) nor having the latest gadget.

What might draw the reader to this book as opposed to other money management books? Its brevity is a big plus. Rainer says as much in 150 pages as many gurus take 300 to disseminate. I also enjoyed the fictional example woven throughout the book, bringing a personality to both the person needing help and the mentor who presented her with the challenges (it never hurts to have an It’s a Wonderful Life allusion).

I would recommend this little book to Christians (both new and old), especially those who are struggling with financial matters. As with many books, producers may be interested in churches and small groups using this as a curriculum for small group study. I think it will have its best application as a one-to-one discipleship tool. In fact, I am making plans to use it to disciple my children as they reach the age of 14-17, as a tool for both discipleship and money management learning. It will be an invaluable tool for Christians desiring to find God’s design for them (and their money).

Five out of five reading glasses from me. For more information about the book, listen to this interview between Thom and Art Rainer (the publisher and author of the book). [#TheMoneyChallenge from @artrainer and @bhpub is available NOW at your favorite bookselling outlet.]

—Benjamin Potter June 10, 2017

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from B&H Publishing Group for this review.]

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