Content: McGrath ably narrates a half-millennium of Protestant history, with chapters on the Reformation's ripples in culture, education, economics, and science. He concludes with chapters on Pentecostalism and on Christian expansion beyond Europe and North America.
Gist: The dangerous idea is Protestantism's emphasis on all individuals having access to God without the mediation of priests or institutions. The challenges offered by Luther and Calvin radically transformed what could have become a static Christendom.
Content: Gary Thomas asks at the beginning of his book, "Is the Christianity taught today large enough to seize our hearts? Does its promise of transformation so compel us that we would give all we have to take hold of it?"
Gist: The rest of the book is an exploration of how that transformation takes place. The book challenges readers to move beyond moralism and a life that says only no to sin. Instead he calls for a full-bodied faith where hearts, minds, feet, hands, ears, and tongues are put to Christ's service by His power.
Content: Kay Warren's book illustrates the themes in Gary Thomas'. In 2002, God used her casual reading of a story about HIV/AIDS in Africa to call her to involvement. Surrendering to the call is the subject of the book. It has led her all over the world, where she's prayed for and comforted people in dire straits.
Gist: Warren says the Church is the only organization that can effectively deal with the crisis. Warren writes honestly about her struggles with sin, breast cancer, and melanoma.
Content: This new study Bible uses the English Standard Version and arranges it in paragraphs rather than columns. The notes, by two orthodox biblical scholars, highlight literary aspects of the Bible, showing how the narrative works and pointing out the genres used by the inspired writers.
Gist: The paragraph structure and the lack of theological notes makes this version ideal for reading when you want to focus on the Bible's story rather than its theological riches.
In Caroline Cooney's young adult thriller Diamonds in the Shadow (Knopf, 2007), a church family volunteers to take in an African refugee family, not knowing what horrors the family has experienced. The Americans also don't know that a brutal killer is chasing the refugees in order to recover "blood diamonds" they smuggled into the country for him. The exciting story shows the depths of man's sinfulness but also depicts well hospitality and the power of the gospel message to heal hearts broken by their sin and the sin of others.
Isabel and the Miracle Baby by Emily Smith Pearce (Front Street, 2007) is an honest and funny novel about 8-year-old Isabel, who resents her baby sister, fears her mother's cancer might return, has trouble making friends at her new school, and misses her daddy who has to travel to faraway jobs.