Posts Tagged With: Christianity

Cast of Characters by Max Lucado

Addition: review paperback

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Christian Theology


Some of the most powerful stories from the Bible will come alive for today’s readers through these inspiring selections from the writings of Max Lucado. Max provides a compelling look at the most high-impact moments in the biblical narrative, drawn from his previous 20+ years of writing.

At the end of each chapter will be study guide questions so the reader can go deeper into this scripture.

Extraordinary stories are told about the following characters:

Mary, Peter, Matthew, Joseph, Nicodemus, Woman at the Well, David, Esther, Job, The Samaritan Woman, John, Rich Young Man.

And more

I received this book from BookSneeze, and am glad I did. A long review is not needed for this book, as instead of one long story, Max Lucado looks at a range of different people from the Bible. Every chapter and point Lucado makes he backs up with Bible verses. It is clear from this book that he is man who knows his Bible well.

The first thing to notice is the beautiful cover. Every time I saw it I was drawn to the book. It is a gorgeous picture, full of colour and it just compelled me to read this book. Another great feature of this book is the short chapters. When I read theology books I worry that the chapters will be long and my concentration lost. This did not happen with Cast of Characters. Every chapter is only a few pages long. Lucado gets straight to the point and uses language which is simple and clear. He retells the story with modern twists, so we can see how they can be relevant to us today, and draws out what God is telling us. I found this helpful and made the book more readable.

There is not one chapter that sticks out more than the rest; all were helpful. I read this book with a notepad and Bible next to me, so I could check out the verses Lucado uses and note down what he teaches us. This was a great book that taught me a lot. I have already recommended this book to others, and it is a book I will keep and read again. Even if you aren’t a Christian and don’t fancy theology, this is a good book to dip into; it is well worth reading for everyone.

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Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Save by John Piper

This book does exactly what it says in the title: it gives fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Using the New Testament John Piper explores the many reasons why Jesus not only came to Earth, but chose to die too. Many books have been written surrounding Jesus Christ, and most of the well known ones argue that Jesus and the Bible are nonsense. This book is authored by a man who is a well-known author and pastor, and who believes completely in the Bible (and yes as an aside, I have to say I agree with him). I think it is important not to dismiss this book because the guy believes in God – give it a go like you would a book by Philip Pullman.

This book is easy to read and cut down into short chapters. Every chapter is based on what it says in the Bible. As a Christian I found this a really useful book and well worth reading. If you like this, it is worth noting that a lot of Piper’s books are available online for free. I have found his books useful and would recommend him for his theology, intelligence and his books. This is really worth getting hold of – it explores why Jesus came to die in a Biblical and coherent way.

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Influential Women by Wendy Virgo

influential women

Waterstones synopsis:

Wendy offers studies of key women in the New Testament as a starting point for a series of reflections on women’s roles in the church today. Some of these women were saints, full of good works; some were frankly poisonous and did considerable harm. From her long experience within New frontiers, Wendy offers a good deal of shrewd advice and writes candidly about her own struggles to fit into church structures. ‘Women can be powerful in a church and can be influential in changing it from a sick community to a healthy one. They can be a tremendous asset or a huge liability. They can influence the whole ambiance of a church…The pages of the New Testament contain a surprising number of references to women to whom we can relate as we seek to build good healthy churches in the twenty first century’.

In this book Wendy studies the women in the New Testament and shows how even though women are not meant to lead the church, they can still influence it, either in a good way or bad. I liked the way Wendy did this – she expands on Biblical story, adding fiction to make the stories substantial and for the point to be explained. There are explanations and examples to help us understand how we can function well in the church. Wendy also uses real life examples, from her own life and friend’s stories, so we can see the impact women can have.

I found this book really useful and will be holding onto it. I think this is an important read for women in church, so they know how they can help the men and wait to watch out for so that they do not cause problems. I for one know I don’t want to be a jezebel and now have an idea of what to be aware of.

This book is for women and does have some strong opinions, such as how women should not lead the church. I think this should be pointed out so people are prepared in case they might be offended/have a different view. I agreed with what Wendy wrote however and found this book incredibly well written, easy to read and very helpful. I have nothing bad to say about this book and highly recommend it.


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The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

the prodigal god

Synopsis from Amazon:

In THE PRODIGAL GOD, New York pastor Timothy Keller uses the story of the prodigal son to shine a light on the central, beautiful message of Jesus: the gospel of grace, hope and salvation.

Keller argues that the parable of the prodigal son, while Jesus’ best-known parable, is also his least understood. He introduces the reader to all the characters in this timeless story, showing that it concerns not just a wayward son, but also a judgemental older brother and, most importantly, a loving father.

This short but powerful book is a reminder to the faithful, an explanation to the seeker, and finally an invitation to all – both older and younger brothers – to enter in to the ‘unique, radical nature of the gospel’: the reckless, spendthrift love of God.

This is the first Tim Keller book I have read, and I found it very useful in my walk with God. Keller looks at an alternative way of looking at the parable of the prodigal son. He looks at the elder brother – the one who didn’t take his inheritance, run off and shame the family. In that parable, the father shows amazing grace and love and forgives the younger son completely. The elder brother however, does not. Keller explains how Christianity is not a religion – where you follow rules, like the elder brother to get into heaven. He explores how it is by God’s grace and Jesus’ death and resurrection that we are saved. The elder brother did not have a relationship with his father, he was bitter – just like the Pharisees. He followed rules and was into legalism. Keller explains how that is something we need to break out of – that won’t bring us salvation.

This is a short book that clearly explains the Gospel message and how to adapt ourselves to live in relationship with the Father. I did dip in and out of this book, which was not a problem. It is a book that will get re-read. I did find however that when I was reading it, to take it in I had to give the book my full attention.

My fiancee started the book this afternoon and is already half way through – that is a good indication of how readable it can be – especially as he is not a big reader.


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The Kiss of Heaven by Darlene Zschech


Description from Amazon:

Darlene Zschech describes The Kiss of Heaven as the sense of heaven touching earth, as if God himself kisses her on the head. In this book she shows readers how they can experience God’s favor as they pursue the dream He has planted in their hearts. Practical biblical teaching explains how the God-given dream will come to life as people devote themselves and their desires to God.

I found this easy to read and useful in my walk with God. Zschech talks about the practical ways of pursuing your God-given dream – including reading the Bible and getting involved in worship. I even found myself thinking about what she had written and applying it when I was in church this morning. This is not a long book and the chapters and fairly short so it is easy to dip into. She writes well and I will be happy to read her work again. All she says is backed up by the Bible and other scholars and preachers, and ultimately this is a really useful book and will help me on my path and walk with God.


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Incomparable by Andrew Wilson

Incomparable by Andrew Wilson is a Christian book which looks at the character of God. I purchased it because my brother needs it for his theology training and I really enjoyed it.

This is a very readable book which looks at some of the characteristics of God. Every chapter is short, no more than 6 pages long which makes this an accessible book and easy to dip into. However, there is a lot of theology in this book and even though I was able to read this book in a few days I would like to re-read it slowly to see what I probably missed/didn’t take in.

Wilson writes in a very accessible way and argues every point clearly and concisely, using evidence from both the Bible and other sources. I have learned an awful lot from this book, and there is probably more I can learn when I re-read it.

This is a really informative, enjoyable and easy-to-read book.


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The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

Synopsis (from Wikipedia):
The protagonist is Tom, a young chimney sweep, who falls into a river after encountering an upper-class girl named Ellie and being chased out of her house. There he dies and is transformed into a “water baby”, as he is told by a caddis fly — an insect that sheds its skin — and begins his moral education. The story is thematically concerned with Christian redemption, though Kingsley also uses the book to argue that England treats its poor badly, and to question child labor, among other themes.

Reading The Water Babies is like having a large quantity of morals and saccharine forced down your throat, and the constant digression (in particular, the one about salmon rivers; one of many digressions that seemed to have utterly no point!) makes it even more difficult to swallow.

The cloying condescension makes it even more unpalatable, as does the fact that if each meandering incident of digression and every lesson imparted to the reader were removed, we’d be left with a sweet story of about three pages in length.

This was very obviously written with an audience of just one in mind (constant personal references such as, “that’s more than you can do!” are certainly aimed at a specific young boy) and the rambling fairytale appears to have been constructed with the sole purpose of having him grow up to be a good, God-fearing man, which is all very well, but didn’t much endear it to me.

Overall, it was just far too sickly-sweet and moralistic (although the narrator claims the story has no moral on account of it being a fairytale – as if that ever made a difference to morals within tales!) to be completely enjoyable – I prefer not to be lectured while I’m reading!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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