Four recent Christian nonfiction books
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Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is one of the few books I recommend to every new Christian: First published in 1991, it is now expanded and updated. Basing the book upon Paul’s instruction to Timothy that he “discipline [himself] for the purpose of godliness,” Whitney explains that the Christian’s pursuit of holiness must be a disciplined pursuit. Through 11 chapters he explains and unpacks 10 important Christian disciplines that provide a framework for living a God-glorifying life: God in the Bible gives us those spiritual disciplines as ways for believers to gain closeness and conformity to Christ. Whitney is always bounded by Scripture and fully committed to a sola scriptura spirituality.
Women of the Word
Jen Wilkin loves the Bible and loves to teach other women to love it as well, which she does in her new book Women of the Word. Wilkin sets out to teach “not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own,” and she succeeds well. She teaches her readers to study with purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer: The method is simple enough to be practical, but significant enough to lead to deep understanding, reflection, and application. I especially enjoyed her emphasis on approaching the Bible intellectually more than emotionally, of training the mind to train the heart: That emphasis is missing in many books, especially those targeted to women.
Samson and the Pirate Monks
Most men tend to do poorly with friendship: I don’t know if we are actually bad at friendship or if most of us have just never given it a fair try. In either case, it is sad to see how few have genuinely significant friendships. Nate Larkin believes that Christian friendships are key to spiritual growth, discipleship, and victory in the war against sin. In Samson and the Pirate Monks he writes of being a lone sinner, of discovering friendship, and of creating a fellowship of men committed to holiness. His insights into the male mind are profound, and his vision for true spiritual friendship is both attractive and transferable.
One to One Bible Reading
David Helm argues in this little book that we may have made our evangelism and discipleship strategies too complicated. What if both evangelism and discipleship can be as simple as reading the Bible? “Reading one-to-one is a variation on that most central Christian activity—reading the Bible—but done in the context of reading with someone. It is something a Christian does with another person, on a regular basis, for a mutually agreed upon length of time, with the intention of reading through and discussing a book or part of a book of the Bible.” He introduces the idea, shows it in action, and describes the benefits. Best of all, he shows how it can be done in your neighborhood, your home, and your church.
Texas Grit by S.J. Dahlstrom (Paul Dry Books, 2014) is the second novel in The Adventures of Wilder Good series for upper-elementary readers. Wilder spends a week at his grandfather’s cattle ranch, while his mother receives cancer treatments, and has the kind of adventures most 12-year-olds could only dream about: riding by bus from Colorado to Texas, deer hunting, cattle branding and castrating, and learning what it takes to be a cowboy. Dahlstrom writes about ranch life with flair and specific detail.
Jan Karon fans have something to celebrate: a new Father Tim novel set in Mitford. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Putnam Adult, 2014) gets off to a slow start as she reintroduces characters who are older and feeling the effects of age. Now retired from the pulpit, Father Tim has to discover new purpose in life. —Susan Olasky