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Notable books

Notable Books | Four gospel-related books reviewed by Susan Olasky

Home Another Way

Several years ago WORLD sponsored a short story contest. Christa Parrish was one of the finalists. She received a book contract from Bethany House, and this is her first novel. It follows the story of Sarah Graham, a prickly, fast-living woman, who moves to a small mountain hamlet in order to receive an inheritance left to her by her estranged father. The one condition: She must stay for a year. Despite her basic surliness and unpleasantness, people in the little town show her love-even when she betrays a trust. She and others in the town learn through many trials that God saves sinners not because they are good but because He loves them.

Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes

Sin is a cancer, "mangling our desires and pointing us toward poisonous delights." It is, Cook says, like a mining landscape where pits and holes mar the way the world was created to be. When Jesus comes preaching about the kingdom, He is promising restoration and repair of the broken world. Cook shows how the seven deadly sins-pride, envy, sloth, greed, lust, wrath, and gluttony-destroy individuals and communities, and how the Beatitudes "are Jesus' portrait of a dead world resurrected from the clutches of the seven deadly sins." Both lists are invitations to a way of living. This book is an invitation to see, choose, and serve God's future.

The Art of Public Grovel

Bauer examines the way that confession of sin has changed over the years from a private or small group interaction between sinners and God to a public ritual performed by errant politicians, sportsmen, and preachers. She argues that public confession may be rooted in religion but it also has a lineage in psychotherapy and talk shows like Donahue and Oprah. Tracing the transformation of public confessions through Grover Cleveland, Aimee Semple McPherson, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Bill Clinton, Bauer shows why some confessions "worked" and others didn't.

The Prodigal God

The word prodigal means recklessly extravagant or having spent everything. Keeping these definitions in mind, Keller delves into the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son to get at the heart of the gospel. Instead of focusing primarily on the younger brother, whose sins are obvious, Keller explains how the story highlights the sin of the older brother, the conventionally moral son. His careful examination of the story, its context, and audience, and his applications make this short book a perfect introduction to the gospel or a corrective to anyone who misses the meaning of grace and is still trying to obey his way into heaven.

Spotlight

In When Christmas Came (Family Life Publishing, 2008) Barbara Rainey retells the Christmas story and its meaning through an extended meditation on John 3:16. Using poetry inspired by the words of the verse and two-page homilies often based on her own life, Rainey shows how the Christmas story is rooted in God and His love for the world, and how the coming of Jesus provides a basis for hope and eternal life. The poems and homilies are set amidst Rainey's beautiful watercolor decorations, making for a fresh retelling of the Christmas story.

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