Loving the Way Jesus Loves, by Phil Ryken (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 222 pp., paper $14.99

In Loving the Way Jesus Loves Ryken does a fine job describing love as taught in 1 Corinthians 13.  The uniqueness of this book is, after dealing with each facet of love as found in the Pauline epistles, Ryken then illustrates it with an episode from the life of Christ as found in the Gospels.  The effect is to put shoes on love and watch as it travels about in real life situations. Ryken devotes one chapter each to twelve descriptions of love as provided by Paul.  I particularly appreciated chapter three, “Love Is Not Irritable,” chapter five, “Love’s Holy Joy,” chapter eleven, “Love Forgives,” and the last chapter, “Love Never Fails,” but every chapter has valuable insights.  This volume also comes with a helpful study guide for small groups. There are a handful of questionable comments such as when the author wrote that the new commandment given by...

Leading with Love,by Alexander Strauch (Littleton, Colorado: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 2006) 201 pp., paper $10.49.

The title of this book is actually  “A Christian Leader’s Guide to Leading With Love” but with few exceptions it is a guide to any believer seeking to walk and serve in love.  After demonstrating the indispensable nature of love in Part One (the first three chapters), Strauch dedicates Part Two (chapters 4-9) to an excellent study of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  The author carefully explores the characteristics of love given in this passage.  He is both biblically sound and practical, lacing the study with insight from over 30 years of ministry within the church.  This section is applicable to anyone, whether in leadership or not.  It could also serve as a wonderful tool in counseling, or as an aide in preparation for teaching on love.  Part three (chapters 10-18) is entitled “The Works of a Loving Leader” and is more directly aimed at pastors, elders and others who are...

Golf’s Sacred Journey, by David L. Cook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 126 pp., e-book $9.99.

This is a novel about golf with a message about living.  The storyline concerns a young pro-golfer wanting desperately to make it to the big leagues (the PGA tour).  Thinking he is closing in on his goal, he has a classic meltdown in an important tournament.  At the end of his rope, he wanders to the little town of Utopia, Texas, where he meets a former golf coach who mentors him in golf and life.  In “Karate Kid” fashion the coach improves the young man’s game through other activities such as fly fishing, tossing washers, piloting a small plane, painting, and by introducing him to a revolutionary new kind of putter.  In a week’s time the young golfer’s game is transformed and he wins the biggest tournament of his life.  But the coach also teaches the young pro that there are things in life far more important than golf...

One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2010), pp. 237, Cloth $16.99

Ann Voskamp writes this bestselling book from an educational background in psychology and as a mother of six and farmer’s wife.  But her life has been shaped largely by the accidental death of her sister when the author was four (pp. 10-13).  Whether this tragedy was the main cause for Voskamp’s other emotional and spiritual problems can’t be determined, but we witness throughout One Thousand Gifts the tortured soul of one trying to find her way in life. She admits to periods of cutting herself, taking medication for depression, fear, anxiety attacks, and agoraphobia (pp. 144-149).  As is often the case, such emotional struggles led her to explore psychological theories which show up in her belief that she has rejected herself (p. 205), and in numerous statements such as, “The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling” (p. 136) and, “It’s impossible to give thanks and...

The Liturgical Year, the Spiritual Adventure of the Spiritual Life, by Joan Chittister (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009) 217 pp., cloth $17.99

The Liturgical Year is part of the Ancient Practices Series published by Thomas Nelson, which, according to Phyllis Tickle (the General Editor of the series) involves seven ancient practices that inform all the Abrahamic faiths (p. xviii).  This volume is devoted to the liturgical year and the liturgy presented from the framework of the Roman Catholic community (p. xv).   This would be expected since the author is a Benedictine nun who believes “the liturgical year is the arena where our life and the life of Jesus intersect” (p. 16).  It is the liturgy that binds the faith community together and deepens our understanding of spiritual life (p. xiv). As Chittister and the Catholic tradition understand it, “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ.  It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and...

Jesus – Safe, Tender, Extreme by Adrian Plass (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 290 pp., cloth $23.99

Adrian Plass is a Christian author who has written many books detailing his experiences as he navigates through life.  His writing is humorous, vulnerable, refreshing and enjoyable.  He does not pretend to be a theologian (something he would not want to be anyway, see pp. 142, 145); he is “simply allowed to be a man with a broom, sweeping away the rubbish that prevents others from passing further in and further up, and tends to do this by talking about what Jesus does and doesn’t do in life” (p. 13).  To a certain degree Plass does sweep away some “rubbish,” such as when he deals openly and honestly with his own struggles with depression (p. 79) and doubts (pp. 40-44), when he points us to central truths such as loving and obeying Jesus (p. 139), when he reminds us that spiritual growth is not passive but calls...

Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence, by Ruth Haley Barton, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010), cloth, 164 pp., $11.49.

Two of the essential spiritual disciplines within the Spiritual Formation Movement are the overlapping ones of solitude and silence.   Ruth Haley Barton, who writes extensively on such subjects and is the founder of the Transforming Center which is devoted to spiritual formation through the means of contemplative practices, does a good job in this volume of describing exactly what is meant by silence and solitude by those who teach spiritual formation.  On the positive side Barton calls her readers to occasionally slow down, disengage, and rest in the Lord.  Coupled with meditation on the Word and prayer this is good counsel to us all, especially in the overly busy, constantly running and production-oriented world in which we live.  But she miscues early on by confusing silence with God’s presence, “We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God Himself” (p....

A Quest for More, Living for Something Bigger Than You, by Paul David Tripp (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008). 210 pp., paper, $17.99

If you are familiar with the writings of Paul Tripp, the subject and emphasis of this book will be what you would expect (see my review of Instrument in the Redeemer’s Hands for a fuller understanding of Tripp’s key ideas).  Tripp wants to expose his readers’ hearts.  He wants us not to be content with everyday lives, even the good things, but to find our satisfaction and life in Christ alone.  In this particular volume Tripp frames these two options of living as big kingdom and little kingdom living.  In little kingdom living we “constrict our life to the shape of our life” (pp. 22, 30).  Tripp insists that it is in the little kingdom that most people live and the little kingdom is inadequate for the life God intends for us.  This is why in our hearts we have a constant desire for something more.  That quest for...

The Peacemaker, A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflicts, by Ken Sande (Grande Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 281 pp., paper $14.99.

The Peacemaker Ministries, and its flagship book under review here, is too well known to need much by way of comment by me.  Sande has provided the body of Christ a great service by thoroughly presenting the teaching of Scripture on the subject of unity and peacemaking.  This is a marvelous source for personal use as well as a tool for counselors who will inevitably deal with conflict.  The only drawback I see is that the length of the book may prove overwhelming to some readers.  There is a children’s edition that might be used in such a situation. The book is organized along the guiding principles of Peacemakers, also known as the Peacemakers Pledge (pp. 235-237).  These principles are: • Glorify God (chapters 1-3)• Get the log out of your eye (chapters 4-6)• Go and show your brother his fault (chapters 7-9)• Go and be reconciled (chapters 10-12) When following these principles...

Satisfy Your Soul, Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality by Bruce Demarest, (Colorado Springs: NavPress 1999), 312 pp., paper $10.50.

Dr. Bruce Demarest, longtime professor of theology and spiritual formation at Denver Seminary, offers this book as a polemic for what is commonly called spiritual formation, a method of spiritual development created and promoted for centuries within Roman Catholicism.  Demarest assures us repeatedly that he is evangelical in doctrine (see p. 10) but discovered something lacking in his life which his theology could not address. He similarly assumes that those reading this book have a similar need in their souls (pp. 7, 17, 22).  Due to the author’s perceived lack of spirituality he decided to participate in a six-week residential program at the Renewal Center at the Roman Catholic Benedictine Abby in Pecos, New Mexico (pp. 23-24). There he was instructed that “for centuries Christians understood what it meant to ‘live by the Spirit’…. are not taught how to find the growing edge of our souls—where we...