Content: Jesus instructed His followers to make disciples and "teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." Piper draws out the meaning behind 50 of those commands.
Gist: Piper writes in this fine book that "if we rightly understand Jesus' demands, and if we are willing to find in Him our supreme joy, His demands will not feel severe but sweet." In short chapters he teases out the meaning of commands such as "Repent," "Love me," and "Worship God in Spirit and Truth" and shows how Christ empowers us to keep them.
Content: This reissue of Stott's 20-year-old book examines basic questions: Why did the cross become the central symbol of the Christian faith? What's its theological significance? Why is substitutionary atonement so important?
Gist: This isn't a book for the faint of heart, but lay readers willing to work will find a clear explanation of the necessity of the cross and how it became the place where God's justice and love could both be satisfied. Stott concludes, "I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross."
Content: "Praying is of the essence of Christian experience," yet many believers struggle with prayer. This excellent book can teach many Christians how to pray.
Gist: The tone is pastoral, admonishing and encouraging in turn. It looks to Scripture for lessons on the various ways God's people pray, including praising, asking, complaining, and brooding. The advice is sometimes blunt ("the idea that private prayer should always be made in total silence . . . is quite silly") and always edifying.
Content: The former head of the Human Genome Project reconciles his Christian faith with science in a bestselling book that is part autobiographical and part scientific defense of BioLogos or theistic evolution.
Gist: In matters of Christian faith, Collins follows the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose writings were instrumental in his conversion. But in matters of science, Collins is a committed evolutionist, although he argues that the Big Bang fits with Genesis. He offers arguments in favor of both embryonic stem-cell research and therapeutic human cloning.
Cooking with the Bible by Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayer W. Hesse (Greenwood Press, 2006) is a cookbook and a food/social history of Bible times. In it the authors present 18 meals described in the Bible and offer recipes so that the modern reader can replicate the repasts. Biblical text and commentary along with black-and-white photographs accompany each recipe.
In Learning to Pray Through the Psalms (InterVarsity, 2005), James Sire presents 10 psalms to the reader as models and aids to prayer. Step by step he shows how to read a psalm (slowly and several times before beginning to analyze it) and then get at the meaning (both rational and emotional) before using it as a springboard to prayer. "Prayer is practice," he writes. "Practice . . . practice . . . practice."
In S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life (Zondervan, 2006), Erik Rees (a pastor at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church) offers various questionnaires meant to help the reader discover his "unique Kingdom purpose." Think of it as a spiritual What Color Is Your Parachute?