Book Talk

Nancy Guthrie

I have about four thousand people who will vouch for me when I tell you I have sung onstage with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. OK, so I was sitting at the side waiting to speak while they were singing songs from its newest release, "This Is Your House" (M20), but I was singing along! You can’t help it. And I’ve found I can’t help wanting to lift my hands in praise even when I’m driving with the CD playing in the car.

Just as listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir will make you want to praise, reading pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Jim Cymbala’s "Break-Through Prayer" (Zondervan) will make you want to pray – and actually expect God to answer.

This is not a typical book about prayer; there are no tips or techniques. Instead, you’ll find moving stories of lives changed in the Brooklyn Tabernacle through the power of prayer and sound teaching. Rather than a formula to get what you want from God, Cymbala challenges readers to obedience, holiness and study of God’s Word, so that we might experience not just break-through prayer but break-through blessings, break-through joy and break-through fruitfulness.

Cymbala writes, “Breakthrough prayer isn’t born out of an ‘I should pray today’ attitude but, instead, out of an ‘I must have God’s help’ frame of mind.” When you finish reading this book, you won’t want to settle for the self-sufficient, going-to-church kind of Christianity that many of us have fallen into along the way. You’ll want a break-through in your life.
You’ve heard of “chick lit,” right? It’s books featuring young, unmarried female heroines finding their way through modern life. But have you heard about Christian chick lit or read about it in USA Today? Publishers Weekly dubbed it “Bridget Jones Goes to Church.” Whatever you want to call it, these books are fun, and the characters are more like people you actually know than those you typically find in some Christian fiction titles. According to Kristen Billerbeck, author of one of the first chick-lit titles to hit the bookshelves, Christian chick lit is about more than a single girl’s love life and career world; it also encompasses her faith.

Meet 28-year-old Ashley Stockingdale in Billerbeck’s "What a Girl Wants" (W Publishing), who says, “All I want is a nice Christian guy who doesn’t live with his mother ... and maybe a Prada handbag.” And what does Ashley push into her CD player as she drives along in her convertible, Burberry scarf blowing in the wind? David Crowder’s "Illuminations" (SixSteps), one of Billerbeck’s favorite bands. “David Crowder inspires me as a writer,” says Billerbeck. “His music just really puts me in touch with God, and I wanted to portray that aspect of worship being important to Ashley.”

So you’re more like a 40-something than a 20-something, and you still want to have some fun? You may want to check out Robin Jones Gunn’s new series, which is closer to mommy lit than chick lit but still full of real life. Starting with her first release, "Sister Chicks on the Loose!" (Multnomah), Gunn describes a “sisterchick” as “a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.” The second book in the series, "Sisterchicks Do the Hula!," is out this month. Forty-something herself with two teenagers in the house, Gunn names her favorite artists as Margaret Becker and the late Rich Mullins.
Recently, my Bible study has been studying Malachi. (Never done that before, have you?). And each week we’ve had a reading assignment in Scotty Smith’s book, "Reign of Grace" (Howard), which uses the book of Malachi as its inspiration and focal point. What an amazing book! And I’m not the only one to think so. Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay says Smith’s book “provokes us to dig deeper into our lives with the truth of the gospel as both scalpel and stitch.” Wes King says the book, “has the lyrical ring of a Spurgeon with the weight of an Edwards, the accessibility of a Lewis, and it is all adorned in the sound theology of a Henry van Til.”

I found that while this book is deep and theological in its examination of grace, redemption and how marriage reflects God’s love relationship with His people, it is also incredibly practical and piercing in its discussions of suffering as discipline, addiction as idolatry and stewardship as worship. Most of all, the book paints a picture of the irresistible love of God for faithless people like me.

“God’s reign of grace isn’t a free meal ticket to heaven for people who invite Jesus into their hearts,” writes Smith. “It’s the Bridegroom’s costly pursuit, dowry, invitation and proposal to a wedding feast and marriage – our own! It’s the guarantee that this quintessential romance is not merely a spiritual metaphor but the ultimate transforming reality.”

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