Review: Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions (Thomas Nelson)

Hannah More. Have you heard of her? I hadn’t before seeing advertisements for Fierce Convictions pop up on several of my social media feeds a few months back. The cover made me think of Jane Austin. It also stated More was a “Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.” That’s all I knew.

Well I just finished Fierce Convictions —I loved it. It’s my surprise best read of the year so far. I enjoy biography so I was expecting to be entertained. But this book hit all the high notes for me. Swallow weaves in themes that I love—friendship, justice, fortitude, sacrifice. The story is well-crafted and honest. And More’s life has something to teach us all.

Early on Swallow tells us, “But with this letter, along with many other words from her pen, More painted a picture she hoped might move her friend’s imagination. Perhaps then his heart, mind, and actions would follow” (xviii). Imagination. Something that played a crucial role in More’s success as a writer and also as a social activists. Her writing was successful in changing hearts, minds, and actions because it attacked the imagination of a nation.

Swallow starts by re-telling the history of More’s family. She avoids the well-worn hagiography. She’s honest when the picture is blurry and sets the stage for the rest of More’s life. She also goes on through the book to tie More’s life to other interesting people of that time and also major events that More influenced. The meat of the book deals with More’s rise to prominence in London as a writer who was successful in her interaction with those above her natural station and also uncomfortable eventually receding back to the country.

Read More

Review: Scott Sauls’ Jesus Outside the Lines (Tyndale House)

I’ve appreciated Scott Sauls’ writing ministry for some time now. He is honest about his own struggles and need for grace. His writing is firmly rooted in the amazing truths of the gospel. And he tackles flammable cultural issues with a firm winsomeness. All of that leaks into Jesus Outside the Lines. It’s always disappointing to pick up a book that starts strong, but fizzles out by the end. Jesus Outside the Lines starts strong and gains momentum like a wave. The book begins with Sauls stating, “I am tired of taking sides . . . . Are you?” (xi). And each chapter builds on the core truth that “When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and least offensive people in the world” (xiv).

Sauls starts with the hot topic—politics. He points us back to the kingdom of God as our primary citizenship, not the party on our voting card. He says, “[T]he Kingdom of Jesus advances through subversive acts of love—acts that flow from conservative and progressive values” (17). He ends with the ever-pressing topic of doubt about Christianity. These discussions form an inclusio of sorts for everything in between.

Read More

Deborah Harrell & Jack Klumpenhower’s What's Up: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are

Jack Klumpenhower’s Show Them Jesus was my dark horse favorite book of 2014. I had never heard of Klumpenhower and had heard nothing about the book. But man did it blow me away—the deftness with which Klumpenhower revealed Jesus was refreshing.

I immediately jumped at the opportunity to receive this new project he partnered with Deborah Harrell to write. I received a teacher’s guide and student’s guide for What’s Up: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are.

I trialed this with my two oldest daughters. I took bits from each lesson and used it in family worship. They loved it. It’s fresh, engaging, and aimed for the heart. Harrell & Klumpenhower tackle issues, insecurities, and sins that kids deal with daily.

Read More

Review: Leonard Sweet’s From Tablet to Table

I’m a foodie. I love fine dining. I love cooking. I love experimenting. An important part of all our family vacations are the restaurants we’ll visit along the way.

I’m this way because of my mom and grandma. My grandma was a small abuelita who had eight kids and more grandkids than I can count. When I was a kid and living in CA, I still remember the entire family—kids, grandkids, cousins, aunts, & uncles—all meeting at her tiny home for a huge family feast. My family stills meets together for a Sunday lunch!

Read More

Review: Trevor Burke’s Adopted into God's Family

The Old and New Testaments speak about the relationship between God and His people in a many ways. The Apostle Paul in particular employed a rich vocabulary from which theologians have systematized the doctrine of salvation—election , justification, redemption, reconciliation to start. Yet theologians have neglected one significant Pauline metaphor in comparison—adoption (Gk. υἱοθεσία, transl. huiothesia). Trevor Burke's thesis in this volume from IVP Academic's New Studies in Biblical Theology series is “if adoption is important and distinct enough from other soteriological terms in the thinking and theology of Paul, then it is worthy of greater consideration. Rather than adoption being regarded as on the periphery of Paul's theological agenda, it should occupy a more vital role in our theological reflection and understanding” (28).


To begin Adopted into God's Family, Burke examines how adoption has been misunderstood (Chapter 1). For example, adoption was mistakenly conflated with justification (by, for example, stalwarts of Reformed theology such as Francis Turretin and Louis Berkhof and contemporary theologians such as Anthony Hoekema) and sometimes subsumed under regeneration (by, for example, Abraham Kuyper). Burke subsequently demonstrates briefly that previous scholarship on Pauline adoption has also erred by focusing mainly on background. While background is undeniably important, this focus has left other vital and interesting aspects of Pauline adoption largely overlooked and unexplored. “One of the main aims of this study on adoption is to attempt to widen the discussion and open up fresh areas of debate” (30).

Read More