BOOK REVIEW: 30 DAYS TO GROWING IN YOUR FAITH — Enrich Your Life in 15 Minutes a Day by Max Anders Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2021)

The well-known author and Bible scholar Max Anders has produced another helpful and encouraging resource for Christians with 30 Days to Growing in Your Faith. Using the same format he used in the classic work, 30 Days to Understanding Your Bible, this present book consists of 30 short chapters meant to be read in 15 minutes or less and to read one chapter each day for better retention of the material.

Anders directs this book to both newer believers and more seasoned disciples of Jesus, who might feel that their spiritual lives have stagnated or lack passion and energy. This volume builds its knowledge base for the reader in three parts: First, the person has certain fundamental truths they must know to be a Christian. Second, the person takes this knowledge they have gained about God and themselves to be the person God wants them to be. Third, the person is then in the position to live out God’s plan and do the things He has called them to do.

As a skilled seminary professor, Anders uses many tools such as repetition, fill-in-the-blanks, and thought-provoking questions to help the reader more fully engage with the content covered in the book. And he covers a wide range of issues that every Christian faces in their spiritual growth, such as the battle between the inner man and the outer man, renewing the mind, trials and suffering, self-discipline, prayer, trusting God, and discerning God’s will. This resource is one that a reader will actively work with and will want to return to multiple times. Highly recommended!

Understanding Peace — Dallas Willard

Understanding Peace

Peace, or shalom, is a kind of rest that comes from bedrock confidence in the holistic, universal provision of what is necessary and good. Hymnist Horatio Spafford offers one of the best descriptions of the effects and sources of peace: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.” Consequently, a person of peace does not attack others and faces attacks by others with calmness and without rancor, since there is an assured knowledge and experience of abundance. Such a one is neither hostile, suspicious, nor “touchy” to the point of offense. The wisdom that springs out of a life from above, says the Letter of James, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (3:17–18).

From The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth. Copyright © 2014 by Dallas Willard amd Gary Black Jr. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

THE PARABLES: Jesus’ Friendly Subversive Speech by Douglas d. Webster (Published by Kregel Academic: 2021)

A BOOK REVIEW

The Parables: Jesus’ Friendly Subversive Speech is a new book designed especially for pastors to get deeper insights into how Jesus used His parables to communicate the gospel message to His listeners during His earthly ministry. However, this book is written in such a manner that Sunday school leaders, small group leaders, and others who engage in teaching the Bible will gain much wisdom and helpful suggestions in how to make the parables more meaningful to others.

As suggested by the subtitle of the work, Webster posits the view that Jesus used parables to communicate the gospel to the crowds on two levels: On one level, they were entertaining stories that drew in the listeners and made immediate impacts on their hearts because Jesus drew the stories from everyday life and situations. But on a deeper level, these parables could teach the subversive truths of the gospels in ways that sophisticated listeners like the Pharisees could take as insults, but the spiritually hungry in the crowds could take as a balm for their souls.

Webster states that many commentators tend to be too analytical in their analysis of the parables and thus miss the impact of the parables on their original audiences. So, he aims to be mindful of the pastor in the pulpit and the person in the pew to bring out the meaning and applications of the parables that he covers in this book. And Webster has chosen to cover the parables that appear in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke because these two accounts are the most systematic in using the parables of Jesus to illustrate His teachings on important topics; such as the true nature of salvation and discipleship, the kingdom of heaven, perseverance in faith, the value of hospitality, and the importance of the inclusion of women and the poor in the kingdom.

This volume is written in a straightforward and easy-to-follow manner that will prove useful and valuable to both clergy and layman alike. Highly recommended!

** A free electronic copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the contents. **

Discerning the Presence of the Spirit — Dallas Willard

The Presence of the Holy Spirit

The presence of the Holy Spirit can always be recognized by the way He moves us toward what Jesus would be and do (John 16:7–15). When we inwardly experience the heavenly sweetness and power of life—the love, joy, and peace—that Jesus knew, that is the work of the Spirit in us.

From The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Copyright © 2006 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Spiritual Formation is When the Student Grows to Resemble the Master — Dallas Willard

The student resembles the master

Spiritual formation in Christ is the process through which disciples or apprentices of Jesus take on the qualities or characteristics of Christ himself, in every essential dimension of human personality. The overall orientation of their will, the kinds of thoughts and feelings that occupy them, the “automatic” inclinations and “readinesses” of their body in action, the prevailing posture of their relations toward others, and the harmonious wholeness of their soul—these all, through the formative processes undergone by his disciples, increasingly come to resemble the personal dimensions of their master. “A pupil is not above his teacher,” Jesus said, “but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

From Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks. Copyright © 2016 by Willard Family Trust. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.