Matters of the Heart
By Juanita Bynum
248 pages, paperback, $13.99
Reviewed by Adrienne S. Gaines
Sitting in her driveway in May 2000, prophetic minister Juanita Bynum had an encounter with God that ran a freight train through her way of thinking. She had been "burdened" about a conference that didn't draw as many attendees as she expected, and an upcoming summit was experiencing logistical difficulties. "God began to deal with me," Bynum writes in her new book Matters of the Heart. "He started showing me that my 'burden' was not for the people and what they would receive. I was more concerned about my image, what I would project and what others were going to 'read it' to be."
She was convicted, and says the Lord told her: "'You are always trying to make that outward image look acceptable...Jesus made Himself of no reputation...You are thinking about all that you are doing, the major platforms where you are able to speak and all the exposure that you are getting. But what is the condition of your heart toward Me and toward My people?'"
Bynum describes this as a watershed moment in her spiritual life, one that led her on a journey to truly walk after God's Spirit and not her flesh. Using medical metaphors, she writes that her answer was in receiving a "new heart"--one that was fully submitted to God's will over her own. "Even though I was preaching a powerful gospel, I was having...struggles in my personal life, constantly warring against the flesh...I could never seem to bring my thoughts and emotions under subjection to my converted heart."
She says she had become a great pretender within the church, learning how to "act" sanctified without having fully yielded to God's process of sanctification. Though she was preaching in prominent venues, she suggests that she was not in right standing with God during this time. "The scary thing is, I had gone a long time not knowing the state that I was in because my works were so wonderful. Every time I think about it, I am amazed how I could help others find the way to Christ while I could have gone to hell from major platforms."
Today Bynum appears frequently on national Christian television, and is well known for her best-selling books and sermons on sexual purity. Yet she believes this "new heart" message is her most important thus far. "I believe that of all the messages I have ever preached, this will be the greatest--regardless of whether or not it is recognized as such by man. The 'new heart' was Jesus' greatest message...In all of Scripture, that with which God is most concerned is this vital truth--the matters of the heart."
The aWAKE Project
By various contributors
304 pages, paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Adrienne S. Gaines
The numbers alone are shocking. Today, 5,500 Africans will die of AIDS; 13 million children have been orphaned, and the number is expected to rise to 40 million by 2010. In some sub-Saharan African nations, life expectancy has dipped as low as 37.
But there's another number that may seem just as shocking. In a study conducted last year by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, only 3 percent of evangelical Christians said they would be willing to donate money to a Christian ministry helping AIDS orphans in Africa.
That statistic, coupled with the enormity of the pandemic, has led W Publishing to produce The aWAKE Project, a compilation of essays and articles designed to raise awareness within the Christian community about AIDS in Africa. Divided into three parts--awareness, knowledge and engagement--the book has a diverse list of contributors including Bono of the rock band U2, former South African President Nelson Mandela, President George W. Bush, Franklin Graham and Tony Campolo.
Perhaps most helpful is the book's engagement section, which clearly outlines ways Christians can get involved, with topics such as "How to Sponsor Drug Therapy for HIV-positive Mothers and Their Newborn Children" and "How to Offer a Pastoral Response: Prevention, Education, Care, and Counseling."
A portion of the proceeds from the book will benefit Jubilee 2000 and World Vision. Within a month of its release, W Publishing had received $17,000.
Starting a New Church: The Church Planter's Guide to Success
By Ralph Moore
244 pages, paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Sean Fowlds
Author Ralph Moore sows the seeds for pastoral success in his book Starting a New Church. Moore's insightful message is based on 30 years of firsthand experience in overseeing the Hope Chapel Movement, a church-planting organization responsible for more than 200 new churches, including the one that Moore founded and currently pastors in Hawaii.
Readers will benefit from Moore's thoughtful analyses of such topics as "Thinking Through a Church Plant," "Designing the New Church" and "Planting the New Church." Moore points out that he is not suggesting "the right way" to plant a church--he mentions Jesus' founding of the Jerusalem church as the ultimate example--but he does offer numerous practical applications for starting a local work.
Of particular interest to many readers may be the chapter dealing with the issue of bi-vocational pastoring. Moore suggests that the Bible supports the idea of a pastor working a secular job while planting a church, but he also separates romance from reality by looking at the pros and cons of it. He writes that he would only recommend it "to people who possess strong familial support and only in situations that actually dictate it," such as urban or rural church plants.
At the end of each chapter are helpful "Church Planter's Checklists" designed to move readers from principle to practice. Also peppered throughout the text are "Helpful Hints" suggesting practical pointers for multiplying one's ministry.
Starting a New Church comes highly recommended by such respected pastors as Robert Schuller, Jack Hayford and Rick Warren. It's a must-read for anyone contemplating planting a church, as it could spare other pioneers from some of the more common pitfalls of planting churches.
The Low Road to New Heights
By Wellington Boone
196 pages, hardcover, $19.95
Reviewed by Chris Maxwell
In his challenging and inspiring book The Low Road to New Heights, Wellington Boone identifies the source that often leads Christians to feel depressed and defeated in their lives, offering spiritual therapy to recover from the common curse of "self"--pride.
Humility, prayer and leading by serving remove pride, Boone writes. The pastor of The Father's House in Atlanta and chief overseer of the Fellowship of International Churches, Boone identifies problems, common trends and dangerous temptations, showing how Christians can grow in grace, faith and maturity.
He writes that selfish demands--such as using prayer to get one's way or searching for a superstar's voice of God--make God's people shallow. He reminds readers, "No good father gives a child everything he wants."
Contending that many have lost the willingness to sacrifice, Boone argues against churches that have become little more than an entertainment medium. "It's time for the Church to develop saints with substance who are willing to lay down their lives, who are committed to reaching people, regardless of the personal cost, and become spans in the bridge of reconciliation to God."
Written for those sidetracked or stuck in their journey toward Christlikeness, Boone challenges Christians to truly die to self. Taking such a road, he believes, can lead servants to new heights.
By Ruth Hoppin
Lost Coast Press
194 pages, paperback, $19.95
Reviewed by Tom Gill
Who wrote the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament? For centuries, this question has plagued theologians, scholars, preachers and laymen. Author Ruth Hoppin believes she has uncovered the answer and reveals her findings in Priscilla's Letter: Finding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. After many years of research, travel to ancient sites, interviews and study, Hoppin suggests that Paul's friend and co-laborer, Priscilla, the wife of Aquila, wrote the book of Hebrews.
The thought of a woman writing Hebrews is akin to heresy for many. Firmly entrenched in the tradition of male authorship, many dismiss the concept of a female writer out-of-hand as pure feminist speculation. However, when the shock wears off and the dust settles, an objective reader may learn something from Hoppin's analysis. True discovery is searching without knowing what one will find. Researching to prove something often means a decision already has been made, and the scholar is simply looking for "evidence" to prove the premise.
Much of the evidence presented in Priscilla's Letter is based on sound scholarship. Each chapter has numerous footnotes, and the bibliography is extensive, which lends credibility to the author's hypothesis. However, some of what is presented requires more speculation than some would find comfortable.
For example, Hoppin seeks to identify the author's gender through writing style, stating that "various commentators on the author's style note a striking delicacy of expression...We would not have to go far afield to characterize this writer as cultured, perfectionist, and dainty."
Priscilla's Letter is a very interesting book. It is recommended if for no other reason than to stretch one's mind and foment more openness to the vast possibilities of God. Hoppin's challenge is provocative. Even those who disagree with her conclusion will find Hoppin's book to be an interesting read.
Pagans in the Pews
By Peter Jones
288 pages, paperback, $14.99
Reviewed by Chris Maxwell
Through the pages of Pagans in the Pews, author Peter Jones warns and informs: Pagan totalitarianism is coming. In fact, Jones believes it has arrived. He writes that many churchgoers embrace the same doctrine and values as non-Christians. Jones' teaching of history and current trends displays a crisis.
Picking and choosing which Scriptures are relevant, uniting religions whose beliefs clearly oppose biblical basics and merging paganism with Christianity, many Christians have opened a door to ancient Gnosticism. Jones, a professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, argues that feminism, liberalism and paganism have formed today's religion.
Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., describes the book as "a discerning analysis of the cleverly intellectualized, spiritually homogenized religion of blindness, bondage and decadence vying for the soul of this generation."
By eliminating sin and elevating unity, America now stands on the foundation that all religions offer a way to salvation. Tolerance has replaced truth. Jones uses solid research to reveal where the church is headed. He is more than a scholar; he is a prophet warning of danger and educating Christians about what to do now.
Worship From the U.K.
Shout to the North
By Robin Mark
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg
With scenes of vibrantly green rolling planes on the cover, any casual observer would expect Shout to the North to carry a strong Celtic influence. Yet those sounds are subtle on Robin Mark's new album. Instead, the Northern Ireland native has chosen a traditional worship sound. Songs include the opening "Let Everything That Has Breath," the sax-influenced "Revival" and the tender "Take Us to the River." Standouts include "Shout to the North" and the Celtic-flavored "Jesus, All for Jesus." Fans of hymns and classic worship will enjoy this release.