Jim Atwood is one of those wise pastors who keeps files of the interesting stories and quotations he comes across as he goes about his work. Here he opens the file cabinet and shares his collection of insights into the church’s work and worship, offering a host of anecdotes about culture, gospel, baptism, justice, humanity, and much more.
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: Living Through the Lord’s Prayer, by Telford Work. Eerdmans, 2007. Pb., 252 pp. $16.
Telford Work offers a thorough exploration of the landscape of the Lord’s Prayer, finding in its terse phrases both help and challenge for folk to live what they pray. He explores the implications of God’s character, reign, providence, mercy, and more for the Christian life, doing so in conversation with Scripture, tradition, and modern voices.
Always Being Reformed: Faith for a Fragmented World, by Shirley C. Guthrie Jr. Revised Edition. WJKP, 2008. Pb., 155 pp. $24.95.
Originally published in 1996 as Guthrie’s Warfield lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary, Always Being Reformed challenges the church to live faithfully — and grace-fully — in the midst of a rapidly-changing, pluralistic world. This revised edition includes essays by Daniel L. Migliore, Amy Plantinga Pauw, and George W. Stroup, along with a tribute to Guthrie by Charles B. Cousar, presented at a 2006 colloquium in celebration of Guthrie’s life and work.
And I Turned to See the Voice: The Rhetoric of Vision in the New Testament, by Edith M. Humphrey. Baker Academic, 2007. Pb., 238 pp. $22.99.
While not commonplace in the New Testament, visions are reported from time to time. Humphrey explores these vision reports within the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, and Revelation, noting the ways that visions function to complete narratives, to direct arguments, to shape narratives, and to “fire the imagination.”
Contesting Texts: Jews and Christians in Conversation about the Bible, edited by Melody D. Knowles, Esther Menn, John Pawlikowski, O.S.M., and Timothy J. Sandoval. Fortress, 2007. Hb., 229 pp. $29.
Drawing on the work of the Contesting Texts Conference in 2005, this volume collects eleven essays from both Jewish and Christian authors that explore commonalities and differences in reading biblical texts. As one concluding essay notes, readers will not likely agree with everything included, but they will certainly be challenged to think more deeply about how Scripture is read, and how Scripture functions, in religious communities and in public life.
Earthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People, by Tex Sample. Abingdon, 2008. Pb., 104 pp. $15.
Walking across a college campus, grieving the death of an adult child, experiencing tragedies of racism and murder as well as the joys of hospitality and generosity: in these reflections on his life’s experiences, Sample bears witness to mystical experiences of God’s presence, and God’s absence. He does so by telling stories: earthy stories of sin and grace, of pain and redemption, and ultimately of “this God who will never leave us alone” (xv).
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Literary Meditations on Suffering, Death, and New Life, by David S. Cunningham. WJKP, 2007. Pb., pp. $19.95.
Arranging his reflections on “suffering,” “descending,” and “rising” within the three-day cycle of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, Cunningham writes deeply, passionately, and helpfully about these human experiences. Each of his nine chapters engages in conversation with a work of literature: The Brothers Karamazov, Watership Down, the poetry of T. S. Eliot and Janet Morley, and others.
The God of Second Chances, by Erik Kolbell. WJKP, 2008. Pb., 143 pp. $16.95.
In a time of anxiety, intolerance and fragmentation, Kolbell tells us that “no matter how far we might wander from a truly integrated life, we can always find our way back, and … will be welcomed by our God of second chances” (xi). Gathered around the Latin prefix “re-,” (meaning “to go back, to do again”) are twelve reflections addressing such topics as reconciliation, rebirth, resurrection, revelation, remembrance, and others.
Good Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief, by Allan Hugh Cole Jr. WJKP, 2008. Pb., 122 pp. $14.95.
Written with biblical and theological depth and with pastoral sensitivity, Good Mourning is a faithful guide through the wilderness of bereavement, grieving, and mourning. This is a very helpful work to share with grieving or mourning friends or parishioners (Cole includes many suggestions for reading and prayer), and will serve as a substantive resource for anyone who journeys alongside those who have suffered loss.
HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History, edited by James Pritchard and Nick Page. HarperOne, 2008. Pb., 192 pp. $25.95
Fully revised and expanded from the original 1990 edition, this atlas offers detailed geographic and topographic maps, timelines, photographs of archaeological sites, and helpful summaries of biblical history. The atlas situates the Bible’s history within its larger historical context, and makes a useful reference work for students of Scripture.
Hearing Beyond the Words: How to Become a Listening Pastor, by Emma J. Justes. Abingdon, 2006. Pb., 115 pp. $16.
Justes offers a helpful reminder of the importance of pastoral listening, which she describes as an act of profound Christian hospitality. Such listening is characterized by humility, thoughtful availability, vulnerability, and reciprocity, and is attentive to the fullness of thought and feeling of both the speaker and the listener.
John Calvin: A Biography, by T. H. L. Parker. WJKP, 1975 and 2006. Pb., 224 pp. $19.95.
This revision of Parker’s classic biography of Calvin brings the reformer to life, exploring the development of Calvin’s theology and preaching within the turmoil of the Reformation. The year 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth; Parker’s work offers a helpful way for Reformed folk (and others, too) not only to remember Calvin, but to better understand him and his legacy.
Johnson Speaks to Us: Professor Robert Clyde Johnson’s Lectures on Martin Luther, John Calvin, Søren Kierkegaard, and Karl Barth, edited by Thomas J. Kelso, Bruce F. Mase, and David G. Davis. Eisenbrauns, 2007. Hb., 551 pp. $45
With profound gratitude, the editors (all former students of Johnson, who taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School) gather herein many of Johnson’s lectures, as well as a few sermons and other addresses. Those wanting to know more of the life and work of these “great Christian thinkers of the Reformation and the modern age” (ix) will not be disappointed.
Judges, by Susan Niditch. Old Testament Library. WJKP, 2008. Hb., 290 pp. $44.95.
Often overlooked because of its scant representation in the lectionary (it appears only twice in the three-year cycle), the Book of Judges nonetheless tells of a formative period in the history of Israel — a period that comes to life in Niditch’s translation and interpretation. With careful attention to the oral nature of the book, Niditch explores Judges as an “epic” tale that speaks to challenging issues: war and violence, conflict between competing ethnic groups, and more.
A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, by Michael S. Northcott. Orbis, 2007. Pb., 336 pp. $20.
Northcott offers a thorough, well-researched reflection on the issues and challenges of global climate change. Concerned for the state of planet earth (particularly for the current crises in the tropical and arctic regions), Northcott offers suggestions for change, ending with a word of hope for those who work for such change, “for those who so act give expression to the Christian belief that it is God’s intention to redeem the earth …” (p. 285).
A New Church for a New World, by John M. Buchanan. Foundations of Christian Faith. Geneva, 2008. Pb., 92 pp. $14.95.
Part history of the church as a people on the move, part exhortation for the church to keep moving, Buchanan offers a useful resource for folk who want to know more about whence the church has come, and whither it may be going. In the midst of many challenges, he finds in the church’s history a “strange resiliency” (p. 85) that encourages us for the church’s ministry in our own time.
News to Me: Gospel Stories for the Real World, by Lawrence Wood. WJKP, 2008. Pb., 201 pp. $16.95.
Lawrence Wood knows a good story when he sees it: stories he has read, or heard about, or experienced himself — and certainly the story of Scripture. In News to Me Wood brings the biblical story into fruitful conversation with these other stories in ways that will feed the faithful imagination of those who read along.
Prayers for a Privileged People, by Walter Brueggemann. Abingdon, 2008. Pb., 198 pp. $19.
Those who read or pray Brueggemann’s prayers gathered herein will simultaneously find themselves lifted into the presence of the Living God, and sent into the world with renewed commitment to serve God’s purposes there. They are saturated with rhythms and images of Scripture, and full of concern — and hope — for the world in which God is present and active.
Prayers for the New Social Awakening: Inspired by the New Social Creed, edited by Christian Iosso and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty. WJKP, 2008. Hb., 185 pp. $19.95.
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Social Creed (and including the text of that creed along with the new social creed of 2008), this collection of prayers is gathered around themes of justice, environmental concern, peace, and many others. Truly an ecumenical undertaking, these prayers are useful for personal devotion, and could easily be incorporated into the corporate worship of God’s people.
Raising Children to Love Their Neighbors, by Carolyn C. Brown. Abingdon, 2008. Pb., 114 pp. $16.
Carolyn Brown provides a wonderful, practical resource for congregations who want to equip their children to love their neighbors. With plans for elementary children’s classes, ideas for preschool mission projects, workshops for parents and teachers, and resources to help the entire congregation encourage loving behavior in children, this work will surely help the church live in faithful obedience to Jesus’ great commandment.
“The Responsibility of the Church for Society” and Other Essays, by H. Richard Niebuhr. Edited and with an Introduction by Kristine A. Culp. Library of Theological Ethics. WJKP, 2008. Pb., 180 pp. $24.95.
Drawing from Niebuhr’s essays and books from the 1930s through his “Reformation: Continuing Imperative” from The Christian Century in 1960, these essays elucidate significant themes in Niebuhr’s thought. Culp’s introduction helpfully orients readers to an overarching theme, presenting “what we can call H. Richard Niebuhr’s theology of Christian community” (xi), a community whose chief aim was the “increase of … the love of God and neighbor” among all people (p. 93).
The Rhythm of Discipleship, by Luther D. Ivory. Foundations of Christian Faith. Geneva, 2008. Pb., 86 pp. $14.95.
Ivory finds a grace-filled pattern of Christian discipleship in his childhood experience of the “call and response” of his mother’s summons to his family to come to the dinner table. Shaped especially by the work of John Calvin and Martin Luther King Jr., Ivory finds that this sacramental pattern leads to an “engaged piety” that is at once deeply personal and actively involved in the transformation of the world.
Spirituality for Extroverts (And Tips for Those Who Love Them), by Nancy Reeves. Abingdon, 2008. Pb., 156 pp. $10.
Affirming extroverted practices of faith that pull people together or keep them in motion (prayer, singing, conversation, time outdoors, and others), Reeves offers an encouraging and helpful book for those who may be intimidated or put off by traditional meditative practices. Full of helpful insights and suggestions for extroverts and introverts alike, each chapter ends with questions for journaling … or, appropriately, for discussion.
The Switching Hour: Kids of Divorce Say Good-Bye Again, by Evon O. Flesberg. Abingdon, 2008. Hb., 119 pp. $14.
Flesberg brings to light a painful reality often hidden within the lives of families, and church families: the emotional challenges faced by children who move back and forth between divorced parents. Her insightful work offers helpful suggestions not only for these families, but also for those who care for these children: at church, at school, or wherever they may be.
Vital Signs: A Pathway to Congregational Wholeness, by Dan R. Dick. Discipleship Resources, 2007. Pb., 143 pp. $14.
Following a study of some 700 United Methodist churches, Dan Dick diagnoses these congregations as Vital (stable and growing), Dystrophic (unstable and growing), Retrogressive (stable and declining), and Decaying (unstable and declining). Eschewing popular cookie-cutter models (“there is no model of a vital church to emulate, no formula to follow” [p. 114]), Dick encourages a variety of healthy practices that may be appropriate to particular congregations.
Who Will Be Saved? by William H. Willimon. Abingdon, 2008. Pb, 166 pp. $16.
Claiming that “we live in a conflicted supermarket of salvations that are based on very different ideas of what or who saves” (x), Willimon challenges many popular notions of salvation (especially the one that asserts that we somehow save ourselves). Heavily influenced by the work of Karl Barth, Willimon clears the way for a broad affirmation of God’s saving work in Christ, which he portrays as “strange,” and ultimately grace-full.
Women in Mission: From the New Testament to Today, by Susan E. Smith. Orbis, 2007. Pb., 236 pp. $25.
Detecting in recent missiological works a lack of attention given to the roles played by women, Smith offers here a helpful corrective that skillfully narrates the significant witness given to the gospel by Catholic women of faith. Beyond her tracing of the contributions of both well-known and lesser-known women in mission, she also explores the contours of a feminist missiology.
Writing Tides: Finding Grace and Growth Through Writing, by Kent Ira Groff. Abingdon, 2007. Pb., 188 pp. $19.
Proceeding under the assumption that “people write all the time” for a host of reasons (p. 1), Groff encourages his readers to write with greater intention and awareness of writing as a spiritual discipline and practice. Reflecting on the awareness, wonder, method, depth, and flow of writing, Groff supplements his work with 30 exercises for writers, which are useful for individuals and groups.
Randy Harris is pastor of Highland Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and book editor for The Presbyterian Outlook.