Passport to Heaven (A Review)

Passport to Heaven is Micah Wilder’s personal memoir recounting his journey from a zealous Morman missionary to a born-again Christian. His story is captivating and encouraging, a beautiful picture of how God’s love can break through a man’s heart and make it come alive. It’s one I stayed up late to finish and had a hard time putting down. 

For Micah, it all started with one simple challenge from the Baptist pastor he tried to convert: read the Bible as a child.


‘It’s all about love’

Contrary to what the world seems to preach, true love is not affirming others in their sinful and lost state, it is proclaiming the Christ who can liberate them from captivity – Passport to Heaven

Micah’s childhood was marked by a burning passion to seek God like David, to simply sit in His presence and be alone with Him. Over time, this passion was enveloped into the rigors and rules of his religion, fading into stiff obedience to the “one true church.” But Micah was still full of that desire to know God, so he pursued his religion to the fullest, only to find himself trapped trying to earn his way to heaven.

In the unexpected setting of a Mormon mission, God broke through and paved a path forward for a young man whose entire family, social circle, and world was wrapped up in a false religion. Seeing that story unfold on the page was beautiful.

Faithful believers came alongside Micah throughout the process, speaking the truth in love. It was heartwarming to see how God used these early encounters to lead him towards faith in Christ. 



Part narrative, part apologetic

Passport to Heaven accomplishes more than sharing a personal narrative. It also clearly draws out the theological differences between Mormonism and Christianity and answers frequent objections by waving them into the flow of the story.

The reader learns the answers as Micah does, through situations he faces and the knowledge he gains from reading Scripture. When the pieces finally fall into place at the end, Micah’s writing manages to capture some of the joy in understanding the truth of Christ he’s been so desperate to find. 


Insight into Mormonism

Micah’s descriptions of the internal workings of the Mormon church, missions, and culture provided a lot of great insight and helped me better understand what it is like coming from that background.


Engaging and encouraging writing

Vivid descriptions, lots of personality, and a touch of humor helped make this book uniquely engaging. I felt like I could connect with Micah, which not only kept me reading, it was also very encouraging. 


The magnitude of God’s grace

One thing this book really reminded me of was the unsurpassable gift of free grace, grace not contingent on anything I can do. Grace that should move us, as it did for Micah, to tell the world about the Lord’s goodness.

Having to work for salvation, uncertain you will reach it, is really an unbearable burden. As this false gospel of works was constantly set against the true gospel of grace in Micah’s story, I was reminded how wonderful it is that Christ promises rest to those who are weary and heavy-laden. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).


Who should read it

Believers with Mormon friends or family members will be especially encouraged to read Passport to Heaven. It will deepen your understanding and sympathy for those trapped in the Mormon church and motivate patience with them. It will also help you better understand what it feels like on the inside. 

But Passport to Heaven is an enjoyable read for everyone. For me, seeing how God led Micah to the true gospel through the events of his missionary experience was a reminder that God is sovereign over salvation and is relentless in His pursuit of the lost. 


Only Jesus: What It Really Means To Be Saved (A Review)

In 1988, John MacArthur published The Gospel According to Jesus, which was one of the most controversial books in conservative evangelicalism when it hit the bookstores. Phil Johnson, one of MacArthur’s closest friends and partners in ministry, compiled some of MacArthur’s key points and published Only Jesus in March of 2020. Like its predecessor, Only Jesus confronts the “easy believism” that dominates many Christian circles today. MacArthur emphasizes that the Christian life is that of surrendering to Christ as Lord and Savior, and in doing so allowing Him to govern our lives according to Scripture.


Key Scripture Passage

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26-27

The Aim of this Book

The aim of this book is to gain “a thorough and proper understanding” of the fullness of the gospel in a concise study (p. 8). Specifically, MacArthur examines the statements made by Jesusthe Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2)that indicate He is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).



Introduction: Come and Die—In order to follow Jesus, we must die to ourselves daily and serve Him (Jn. 12:24-26).

1) Master and Slaves—“Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8); no matter what, Christ is our Master.

2) What is the Gospel Message?—“Jesus is both Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11)” (p. 26); repent and be saved by grace through faith in Him alone.

3) You Must Be Born Again—“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

4) In Spirit and in Truth—True, authentic worship that is “in spirit and in truth” flows from the heart seeking to know God and be known by Him (Jn. 4:23; 17:3).

5) Good News for Sinners— “Christ’s call to salvation and discipleship is extended only to desperate sinners who realize their need and desire transformation” (pp. 84-85).

6) To Seek and Save the Lost—In dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners, He lived out His message of hope to the lost: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt. 9:13).

7) Repentance—When Jesus calls someone to repentance, He’s calling them to continually turn away from sin and turn to Him for salvation.

8) Faith—Faith is humbly coming to Christ as you are , and trusting Him to not leave you as you are.

9) Justification—This is when God imputes Christ’s righteousness to believing sinners, forgives them of all unrighteousness, declares them to be righteous in His sight, and delivers them from His just condemnation (p. 136).

10) The Cost of Discipleship—Even though the cost of following Jesus is high, the reward possesses an eternal weight of glory that makes the calling worth it.

11) The Cross—The work of redemption was finished on the cross when Jesus made perfect atonement for sin by His blood.


One of the things I like about MacArthur is that he explains issues and doctrines in a clear and concise way. He doesn’t get off track or become too confusing for readers, especially those studying the gospel for the first time. Another notable highlight is MacArthur’s straightforward attitude. This is often lacking in not only church ministry but also in the world. This is what MacArthur says about the call to discipleship:

The call to Christian discipleship explicitly demands just that kind of dedication. It is full commitment, with nothing knowingly or deliberately held back. No one can come to Christ on any other terms. Those who think they can simply affirm a list of gospel facts and continue to live any way they please should examine themselves to see if they are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5) – p. 149

MacArthur’s clear and candid writing style makes him unique in the realm of writing and ministry. He rarely shys away from controversial issues, and it shows in his writing. 



Personally, I love deep theological studies. Intense doctrinal studies intrigue and captivate me. I would imagine many of you enjoy deeper studies as well. If you’re looking for a deeper study into soteriology, Only Jesus is not the book for that. It’s an excellent book for a foundational understanding of the Gospel or for group study, but not for deeply studying the doctrines of election or atonement, for example.


Why this Book Should Be in Your Library

I firmly believe this book should be in your library with copious amounts of underlines, highlights, or notes in the text because this book contains several excellent statements that are concise and understandable. This would also be a great book for a simple refresher on the gospel. Group study of this book would also be excellent. While you’re reading this book, examine yourself to see whether your life of pursuing Christ is rooted firmly in the teachings of Scripture and is clearly evident among your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here is the link to the book on Grace to You website:

I graciously received this copy for free from Grace to You.

New Morning Mercies (A Review)

This is a book review on Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies

As a twenty-five-year-old young adult, it can be difficult for me to remember what life was like before I met Jesus at eight years old—peering into my father’s eyes at 2:30 a.m. From that moment forward, everything I did was for the Gospel, and while I am not perfect, my relationship with Him from an early age prevented much hardship in the future.

In 2 Corinthians chapter five, Paul explains this transformation that took place in me as being made into a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here. – 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

The Passion Translation coins this as not only a new entity but a new spirit that starkly contrasts the old ways we leave behind, replacing them with fresh and new life. 

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new person. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17, TPT

In the same way that partaking in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ presents newness to our lives, sometimes, we all need a fresh outlook on studying the Gospel. 


What is New Morning Mercies? What is the aim of this devotional?

Since I got saved and baptized at an early age, I read over one hundred different devotional books, commentaries, versions, and translations of Scripture by the time I reached early adulthood. Yet, I was still looking for something more. I was longing for something to take me deeper instead of surface-level material you will often find in juvenile literature.

When my best friend gave me New Morning Mercies for my birthday, I was ecstatic. I knew that she often felt the same way I did regarding devotionals, so I trusted her generosity. I was tired of reading things applicable for high school and college students but finding nothing that challenged my greater cognitive skills. One page into this book, and I was hooked. 

The windows of my mind expanded, and my heart began to grow. This devotional not only presented New Morning Mercies for 365 days, but every lesson offered space for reflection, questions for discussion, and supplemental paired reading for an extension. Never in my life have I read a devotional like this that cuts to the chase about Christ, but presents the Gospel in an authentic and applicable way. 


Where This Book Excelled

Not For the Faint of Heart

While other devotionals I have read speak gently about the Gospel, I fear that far too many tip-toe around serious topics that need to be addressed. Instead of dabbling in small and simplistic truths that are evident to most, Tripp dives deeper and isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. 

In 1 Corinthians chapter three, Paul again says that those who are mature in the faith must challenge themselves with solid spiritual food. If we’re always running back to milk, we won’t grow. Like a weaned child learning to digest solid food so he can mature and grow, we need books like these to examine our faith and challenge us with practical steps for growth. While some are not yet ready for this food, those who are need to be willing to step out of their comfort zones to be challenged. 

I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. – 1 Corinthians 3:2, AMP

The Message version writes it bluntly this way: 

But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally childish. – 1 Corinthians 3:2, MSG

If you are ready for a challenge and devotional that will take you deeper, Tripp presents applicable lessons for late-college-aged students up to mid-level adults, but beware: it isn’t for the faint of heart! Not only will these segments push you, but they might convict you to the core. 


Be Open to Conviction

Unlike previous books I have read for daily devotionals, I was impressed with Tripp’s ability to speak profound truths in a way that the Holy Spirit always talked to my heart. 

Hebrews 5:12-14 reminds us to be open to this heart of conviction in our relationship with the Lord, for a spirit of stagnancy is one that we are never meant to rest within and stay. Again, this is why Paul writes in Hebrews the importance of continually maturing, challenging, and growing our faith. Reading devotionals and commentaries that do not push us is not worth our spiritual investment. We must be willing to search and do the difficult work if we want to mature in our intimacy with the Lord.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV


Where This Book Fell Short?

While I have nothing too critical to say about Tripp’s novel, I will note that many devotionals took me a few reads to understand. I still found the material challenging with a biblical degree because many of the lessons took quite a few reads to wrap my head around. While this could be because I was tired and not as focused in the morning, I think many sections could’ve been clarified or shortened with more straightforward explanations. 

Second, although the book is called New Morning Mercies, I often found that the lessons could be read during any time of the day, though the title would beg to differ. I would have also liked to see more questions for the application and connections to the supplemental reading. 


Who Should Read This Book?

Contrary to the title, anyone with a basic understanding of the Gospel would benefit from this book. While I would not recommend this devotional for new believers, I believe that those with biblical degrees or extensive knowledge of Jesus will grow from reading its contents. 

The topic is relatively simple: Every day, young or old, old Christian or new, we need to be willing to listen for how the Lord may speak in new and fresh ways. If morning is your time for that, then allow New Morning Mercies to flood over your soul, but don’t be surprised if you read it in the evening and find New Evening Mercies are possible as well. Don’t confine God to a box or restrict a book to its title. The possibilities are endless, and if you are willing, Tripp may speak truths that convict, heal, and prompt your growing soul. 

The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity, and the Church at its Best (A Review)

This is a review for The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity, and the Church at its Best by Irwyn L. Ince Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning.” Although strides have been made within the Church to unify and diversify the Church, there is still much work to be done.

In “The Beautiful Community”, Irwyn L. Ince Jr. breaks down why the Church still faces division today, while also calling us higher to pursue unity and reflect the fullness of God’s beautiful community. I think Ince shows one of the main needs for this books when he says,

“We could argue that too much of the church’s role in the history of America rejected the countercultural message of Imago Dei and we have a lot of catching up to do as people of God in living out its implications.” -Robert L. Ince Jr.


One of the key points the author made to show how the church has become so divisive, meaning that too often we are finding our identity in other things than in God. Ince gives two really good examples of this.

First, he talks about how his own racialized view of the world was out of step with the Gospel.

Another example, the author brings up is a misplaced identity that led to the formation of the Black church. Essentially, the Black church was created in America because of white supremacy. Black people were not allowed to worship with their white brothers and sisters. As a result, the church’s identity was placed more in their ethnicity than who they are as image-bearers. But even in the midst of this sin of racism, God is still able to work and move through the Black church.

When our identity is placed in anything other than God, we do not see other image-bearers as equal to ourselves. This consequently creates division. But, when we see we are all united by the same God, then we can come together to worship and thank God that He made all people equally beautiful.

“The Lord determined the day of my birth, my parents, and my ethnic cultural context (Acts 17:26.) Thus, my ethnic identity is a good thing. It’s just not the thing.” -Irwyn L. Ince Jr.


Another point the author makes for division in the church is what he refers to as “the Ghettoization of Humanity.”

“I’m talking about ghetto as an environment where a group of people live or work in isolation, whether by choice or circumstance and draw their sense of worth and dignity from identification with that community” -Irwyn L. Ince. Jr

We all tend to flock to people with whom we have similarities, whether we realize it or not. But if we are around everyone that thinks like us or looks like us, then we do not get to grasp and appreciate how unique each of us is made. At the end of the day, it is not worldly things that unite us but rather the Gospel and God.

“For He is our peace, who made both groups one, and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.” -Ephesians 2:14

When we all leave our “ghettos”, we have to understand that it will not be easy. We will all have to address the preferences that we have too long held onto, learning to trust one another, as well as listening and bringing about change.


In the latter part of his book, Ince touches on what it looks like for the church to applicably become more unified. One way the author points out doing this is by looking back at the New Testament Church.

Prior to the early Church, seen in Acts, ethnic identity/pride was very strong and caused much division. But in the New Testament church, identity in Christ trumped all of that. When worshipping with others, it was not your ethnic identity at the center, but rather Jesus at the center, which brings all of God’s people together.

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

If we are to be unified within the Church, we must realize that this is not something that happens overnight or something that only we can do alone. Unity is not something we can simply make. We need the power of God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit to work in us and our churches. It is important to invite God into our work and pray for guidance on how we can love each other well and ultimately glorify Him.

“The Spirit does not remove our diversity. Rather he enables us to love, hear, understand, and pursue one another in our diversity.” – Robert L. Ince Jr.

Another way we can intentionally pursue unity is not staying silent when members of our community are hurting. Biblical justice is something we are called to pursue. We can not just call for justice and peace when it only affects us directly because anything that grieves our brother and sister in Christ should also grieve us.


I loved the use of personal examples from various people the author included. Some stories followed a woman feeling like the token “Black person” at her church. Other stories follow along the lines of a person learning and understanding what it truly means to be unified with diversity in the church.

I also loved the practical applications the author gave for how the Church can become united and how real he was in that these changes will not happen overnight.


The author referenced other speakers and books to back up his messages, but sometimes they seemed so frequent or in an awkward spot, it was hard to tell whose point was the author’s or him referencing something else.


The things I have mentioned here are just a drop of the fullness that this book has to offer. I think everyone can take something away from it. Whether you are already pursuing unity through diversity or if it’s a journey you are hoping to begin, this book has great truths and applications for embracing how God has made us differently while staying unified through Him.

This is a call for the Church to resist polarization and joyfully pursue God’s plan for a beautiful community of God.

Everyday Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity (A Review)

This is a book review on Every Day Matters by Brandon D. Crowe.

It is no secret that we live in a world that praises hustle culture and the bustle of life. But if we are being honest with ourselves, that kind of lifestyle can be quite draining and not sustainable. Brandon D. Crowe wonderfully crafted in his novel what it looks like to be productive from a biblical standpoint. Crowe breaks down the need for productivity by connecting it back to Scripture while also providing the reader with their own actionable steps to take.

Once I started this book, I could not put it down and read it all in one sitting. Therefore, this review will be mostly positive. I think anyone who reads this book will walk away with a new outlook on productivity and realizing the importance of making sure each day matters.


This book depicts how to steward our time in a way that displays peak productivity and honors God. Crowe helps the reader understand that productivity lies in more than just checking things off a to-do list.


By looking at both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, Crowe helped lay the foundation of what productivity is. I liked how he showed the difference between both books in reaching the ultimate intent behind productivity:

“Whereas Proverbs deals with applying the law of God in daily life, Ecclesiastes wrestles with the purpose of life.” – Brandon D. Crowe

Proverbs is the way we get practical wisdom for how to lead a productive life by showing that the wise are diligent in their work. Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, helps us recognize our limitations and that even though there are seasons we go through, each one can be used for the glory of God.


The latter half of the book is more practical as Crowe gives the main principles of productivity. The ones that stuck out to me were: priorities, goal setting, routines, and rest/repent.


To know what our priorities are, we must look to Scripture to guide us. By identifying our Scriptural priorities, it opens up the door for us to identify our areas of responsibility.

“You need to identify the overall purpose of your life, in accord to Scripture, and be sure that your daily actions line up with it.” – Brandon D. Crowe


In this section, Crowe emphasizes that the best way to reach our goals is by taking small steps. Another important idea he introduced was having S.M.A.R.T goals. These are goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. Setting your goals up this way ensures you the best way to complete your goals. For instance, in the novel, Crowe makes the point that if a goal of yours is to “live a healthier lifestyle”, make it more specific and say “workout twice a week.” or “eat one healthy meal a day.”


As someone who loves a good routine, this section was probably my favorite. Crowe touched on the importance of not just having a single routine, but rather have a personal routine that focuses on your spiritual well-being and physical health. As well as a work routine if applicable.

Crowe also stressed the importance that as seasons and time goes on our routines will look different, referencing back to Ecclesiastes. It is okay that our seasons/means of productivity will change. It is all a part of the flow of life.

“There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


While it seems like working all the time helps reach peak productivity, that is simply not the case. Rest is an important part of maintaining a productive lifestyle.

“To maintain an effective, productive lifestyle, you need rhythms of rest built into your schedule. Instead of working longer hours each day, you should aim to maximize your time devoted to working so that you have time to recover before the next day.”-Brandon D. Crowe (page 84.)


One part of this book I loved is that at the end of each chapter, Crowe had action steps based on what the chapter was on. This is great because even if you understood what the chapter was on but was not sure where to start, Crowe had a list of practical steps waiting at the end of the chapter.

I also enjoyed that even though this was an easy read, there was so much wisdom packed inside. I took many notes while reading.

Crowe did a great job also with helping the reader understand that this process to live a productive life will not happen overnight and not to beat yourself up if you slip up. But rather have grace with yourself and have weekly or quarterly evaluations to see what may need to change in your routines/lifestyle.


All in all, no matter where you are in life: a student, a professional, single, married, etc., this book is for you. Crowe takes this broad idea of productivity and breaks it down in a way that leads you back to Scripture while also giving practical wisdom and application.

I know I will take what I learned from this book and implement it into my life. Pick up Every Day Matters to see that a productive life is more than what meets the eye, while also leading you back to the principles God has set for his people as it relates to living a balanced life of work and rest.

The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself (A Review)

This book, written by Marlena Graves, serves as a reminder to the forgotten core truths of Christianity that appear so demonized in our society today. Graves takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery, in a raw and contradictory way, so that he/she comes out on the other side understanding more about the heart of Jesus and how we as Christians are to live in such an inauthentic world. The hard-hitting reality is that Jesus came and lived a life that was radical in speech and action, and we are called to do the same.


Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled [emptied] himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

You may be asking yourself, so what does Graves mean when she says that we become ourselves when we forget ourselves? Now that sounds confusing and challenging right!? Well, she boils it down to a simple statement: “Being emptied in order for God to fill me (and any of us) is the pathway to deeper communion with him” (pg. 5). The idea stems from the Greek word kenosis which means “to empty out”. Graves begins by challenging the reader to realize that this is probably not an unfamiliar word, especially if you been active in Christian circles, however it is one thing to define and discuss kenosis in a detached sort of way—to keep it at a safe distance. “It is another thing altogether when God calls us to put it into practice. And he always calls us to put it into practice” (pg.6). The rest of the book is full of instruction and practical ideas of how to live in a state of kenosis in such a way that glorifies God above all else.


1.) Self-Emptying: The Mystery of Our Salvation—surrendering our whole lives and will to God.
2.) Down Low with Jesus—Having poverty of heart, soul, and mind that reflects Jesus (Matt. 5:3-12).
3.) All Flame—Living in such a way that Christianity is not merely in our heads (mental abstraction) but rather is practiced through effectual prayer, fasting, and action.
4.)Daily Returning Home— “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3:8); God calls me to reality and to leave the fantasy existence behind and walk towards the eternal home.
5.) Do You See What I See? Transfiguration—We are able to truly see when we see the earth from below rather than from above. The practice of being a “God-seer” by seeing the reality of who I am and who others are and looking happy at them.
6.) Our Teachers: Messengers of Grace—Look around to see that they way of Jesus is not inconvenient and that our own self-interest blinds us to the enriching knowledge of learning from those around us.
7.) Rich Toward God—The treasure we hold dear to our heart, reveals who is the Lord of our life. Generosity is not contingent on abundance, rather God-seers defy the life of scarcity and live out of the abundance of the Kingdom.
8.) Memento Mori—Adopting the mindset of how fragile and vulnerable we are as humans.
9.) Cradled in the Heart of God: Gratitude and Contentment—Focusing on the gifts rather than the desires; taking our eyes off the deprivations and realizing how the Lord has blessed each person to serve Him.
10.) Incarnating the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Your Kingdom Come—(Phil. 2:3-4) Being believers whose selfless life exhibit holiness without even trying because their heart and the life of Christ have been woven into the fabric of who they are.

In my opinion, one of the most fruitful and cutting chapters was Chapter 8: Memento Mori. Within this chapter, Graves focuses on teaching the reader to embody the psalmist’s words, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). She highlights this ancient practice of memento mori, which is to have the expectation of death daily before one’s eyes (Saint Benedict). She uniquely depicts this concept by stating,

“Memento mor-ing—if I may use that term—is living and seeing through the brevity-of-life lens. A memento mori posture allows us to more constantly glimpse the “ripe,” “full,” and “perfect” moments—to live steeped in kairos time, to live God’s priorities rightly. We remember we are human instead of superhuman” (pg.116).

If I had my guess, I bet you as the reader would agree when I say that this concept is vital to understand and strive toward in the day and age we are in. An age where the world around us seems to be minute-by-minute drowning deeper into the darkness of sin, where the light and simple joys of the day seem to wane, and the hope of the promised tomorrow dims in the distance. This brevity of life that Graves mentions reminds us as Christians that we are only transient beings living not for ourselves, but living for our Creator God who commanded us to spread the good news until we breathe our last breath.

Graves’ righting style, at times, was difficult to follow with her redundant use of short, pithy statements. Every so often her language made the ideas she presented seem choppy rather than fluid and left me yearning for smoother transitions. All that to say, her emotion and personal antidotes engages the reader to understand on a deeper level the human experience that occurs when someone forgets about themselves and remembers to whom they are living for instead. The countless biblical stories containing the recommended practices added beneficial support and evidence on how to live a life that is upside down.

This book at first may appear controversial and intimidating to the everyday reader, but the discipline it addresses of humility and living a life modeled after Christ is far-more beneficial than detrimental. I would encourage each believer to labor through any discomfort Graves’ creates by pointing out inward sin and misconceptions because we are called to live authentic lives as image bearers of Christ. As Graves highlights, “God is intent on making [us] more real, a less-distorted image of Him” (pg.6). Challenge yourself to settle into the Kingdom-come mindset that stirs us up to good works and sacrificial living, so that a dying world may be restored to life through each believer breathing life into it.

Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth- A Review

This is a book review for Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth by Thaddeus Williams

You don’t have to be on social media long to realize that what is called justice today often includes counter-productive outcomes of anger, hatred, bitterness, and wrath. Rarely do those calling the loudest take a breath to reflect on the wisdom of their words. Echo chambers mean we are quick to point fingers along partisan lines and rebuke those who violate man-made standards of righteousness.

This idea of “social justice” is typically either uncritically embraced or vilified within the church, but rarely defined or explained. Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth takes a step back from the madness to provide clarity to the conversation. The author doesn’t make the mistake of minimizing our need for justice or flatly dismissing claims to oppression. Instead, he provides a nuanced, even-handed analysis of today’s hot button issues.

“The most pressing cultural and political issues of our day are, fundamentally, worship issues.” – Thaddeus Williams

The book aims to and succeeds in providing the reader with a perspective on justice firmly rooted in Scripture. It distinguishes between two kinds of social justice—Social Justice A (the kind Christians have always practiced by helping the poor, honoring widows, reaching the least of these) and Social Justice B (the kind widely promoted in culture today). This second kind of social justice is critiqued through twelve questions, such as: Does it distort the gospel? Does it take seriously the godhood of God? Does it embrace divisive propaganda? Does it value group identity over identity “in Christ”?

This book’s greatest strength is that it repeatedly emphasized that justice without God is actually injustice, reaffirming that “all injustice is a violation of the first commandment.” Everybody wants to call themselves pro-justice. However, when people become their own arbiters of truth, their vision of justice becomes distorted as well.

By providing examples both from history and modern-day, Thaddeus Williams broadens our scope beyond the particulars of specific issues, hitting on the worldview assumptions at the heart of our debates.

The Highlights

Helpful appendixes
The end of the book included seven appendices labeled A-F addressing the issues of abortion, race, socialism, sexuality, helping the poor, fragility, and the culture wars. These were useful for going in-depth and illustrated how to apply the biblical principles outlined in the twelve chapters.

Enjoyable writing style
Though the book features heavy topics, the writing makes it enjoyable to read. Thaddeus Williams’ style is personable and witty, and his humor can be disarming when dealing with touchy issues. I also appreciated the relatable explanations and situations he included throughout which put tougher to understand concepts in an everyday context.

The end of the book includes 30 pages of research documentation. As different topics are addressed throughout the chapters, books going deeper into the issue are consistently referenced. By the time I had finished reading, I had a list of new books to check out next. These recommended resources make this book an even better jumping-off point for interested readers.

Inclusion of personal stories by contributing authors
The contributing authors were one of the reasons I initially decided to check the book out. I have learned and benefited from the writing and work of Neil Shenvi, Monique Duson, and Samuel Sey. I appreciated the inclusion of their stories and of others towards the end of each chapter. These short insights into their lives functioned as a powerful reminder that we are still dealing with real people, not mere statistics or ideas. Many of these stories gave me a new perspective, as they were outside of my normal frame of reference, like Suresh’s experience under the Hindu caste system and Becket’s experience in Hollywood.

Addressing seldom discussed issues
Thaddeus makes sure to address the biggest injustices of our day, things that typically get swept under the rug like exploitive porn, sex trafficking, children from split homes, lives lost to abortion and women exploited by the industry, religious persecution, and the victims of socialism. This reminds Christians not to simply jump on the trending issues for the sake of looking virtuous. Most of all, it reminds us that we need the gospel above all else.

Gracious in argumentation
Maintaining a humble attitude is difficult when your convictions are strong and the stakes of debate are high. Thaddeus’ respectful treatment of those he critiques is in-line with his early statement to “take aim at ideas, not people.” He keeps the gospel central and doesn’t get caught in the weeds.

What could have been better

There is very little to critique in this book, both in style and content. For an introduction to social justice from a Christian perspective, it is everything I could have asked for.

While this is a highly accessible book, some knowledge of social justice ideology is helpful for getting the most out of it. The ideology that lies behind many modern-day conversations–theory originating from scholars such as Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, the Frankfurt School, and Karl Marx–is touched on but glossed over. This book would pair well with something touching on the deeper philosophical issues behind social justice ideology, like Ratio Christi’s booklet on Engaging Critical Theory & The Social Justice Movement.


Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth is a very approachable and comprehensive overview of some of the biggest issues we face in culture. Few Christian books have taken the time to address social justice from a biblical perspective, so this book fills a unique void. For me, that was a breath of fresh air. Every Christian should read it to equip themselves to speak the truth and do justice in a culture that misunderstands both. I hope those who do pick it up will be encouraged to tackle difficult problems and go into the culture with the courage to bring light as past generations of Christians did when they rescued discarded babies in Rome, worked to abolish slavery and stood up for the downtrodden.

Our Favorite Books of 2020

Olivia Frost, Assistant Editor 

Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer 

If you struggle to understand the nature of servanthood and calling that Jesus beckons for His followers to adopt as kingdom citizens, then I recommend reading Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer. This book provides diagrams and analogies that further extend the breadth of servanthood from numerous angles. He addresses the challenges and the victories that come when one acts as a servant among cultures that are different than their own. Elmer outlines a seven-part process of servanthood that radically changes day-to-day interactions by combatting biases and heart conditions of the believer. He insists that the servant displays openness, acceptance, trust, a learning mindset, and understanding eyes.

This book convicted me in many ways and consistently reminded me that the crutch of Christ-like servanthood is humility, which in today’s society seems to be a forgotten character trait. Elmer identifies that to be a servant one must have a proper perspective of the holy God we serve which brings a proper perspective of self-defined by lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit and meekness of attitude. As a servant we must adopt a mindset of grace, recognizing that each individual the Lord has in our path is made in the Image of God and deserves to experience the common grace of our loving Father Jesus Christ.


Gabby Bass, Senior Book Review Editor 

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer focuses on how we can not only work but also rest biblically. In a society that is filled with hustle culture, this book was a great reminder of God’s intentionality in designing us to have a balance between work and rest, especially to see how important rest is.

While this book has great theological truths, it is also very applicable and practical. I love how Comer shows that no matter what “work” may look like for us, it can be used for God’s glory and that purpose can be found there. I also enjoyed that this book talked about the Sabbath and the importance of taking one- however it may look for us. Comer does a great job of helping the reader re-evaluate one’s priorities and find their way back to God’s original intention for us as humans. This book has helped me slow down and be more intentional with my time. I think it’s a great read for all.


Emily Zell, Assistant Editor 

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Shūsaku Endō’s Silence was the first book I read in 2020, and it was easily the most powerful. This book follows priests in Japan while Christians are being horrifically martyred. It wrestles deeply with the idea of apostasy—all the Christians have to do to avoid suffering is denounce Christ. It follows a priest and a man who constantly apostatizes and betrays him. Their relationship is chronicled as they battle with the harsh realities for Christians in Japan. 

The question cried throughout the novel is, “God why are you silent?” And throughout most of the book, it feels like He really is. People are being horrifically murdered for His name and nothing is being done about it. You can’t help but ache with the characters. It is graphic and sad and at the same time such a vivid image of the fragility of our faith; but it is also such an important read. It is rich and painful and transformative. I couldn’t recommend it more. 


Preston Blakeley, Editorial Director 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is perhaps the greatest work of literary redemption. Dostoevsky tells of Raskolnikov, the novel’s penniless and disheveled protagonist, who commits murder to prove that his ego can transcend man’s seemingly fictitious moral constraints. With raw Russian style and psychological depth, Dostoevsky condemns the reader into the severed intellect of the murderer, telling of his desired ascension, transgression, and eventual redemption. Where Raskolnikov believes he has successfully cast off the moral burdens intended for the weak, he is met with the reality that he has violated the Law of God. 

From a literary perspective, Dostoevsky’s novel is an impressive amalgamation of the intellectual debates of his day, a microcosm of the tensions between the rise of modern relativity and traditional authority. Yet, in the throes of doubt and anguish, Crime and Punishment seemed as if it came to me from Sinai, a providential and pointed gift from the Lord to a struggling and confused college student. When I was laboring to see confirmation of God’s authority in my life, Dostoevsky revealed to me that that authority was right in front of me. 


Nnanna Okafor, Senior Articles Editor 

The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin

I can tell you from experience that it is easy to be caught up in learning about God and His works without using that information to deepen your relationship with Him. The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin assists readers to better connect the theological information in their heads with the affections in their hearts. Knowledge of doctrine should always lead to greater enjoyment of God.

In this short booklet, Martin explains the ways in which a biblical understanding of salvation teaches us the depth of our sin and the great graciousness of the Lord Almighty. We should see in ourselves humility, holiness, and submission to God when we understand salvation rightly. By abiding by the scriptural principles described in this book, we will have deeper, more joyous experiences of God Himself. It has helped me receive theology as more than mere head knowledge.


Jacob Patton, Assistant Editor 

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Llyod

Girls Like Us is a memoir by Rachel Llyod, but it is so much more than that. She discusses not only her story of how she was caught up in the commercial sex industry, but also the stories of the countless other girls she has worked with who have been sexually exploited. Discussing often ignored social factors of abuse, dysfunctional family upbringings, and the nature of a young women’s “choice” to enter into sex work, Lloyd’s sociological considerations of sex trafficking are raw and insightful.

With the enormity of sex trafficking becoming more and more prevalent and apparent in our world today, it is important for Christians to understand the nature of the evil we are fighting. Girls Like Us explains this in heart-wrenching detail with firsthand examples. In order to bring an end to the sex trafficking tragedy facing our country, the problems and solutions Rachel Llyod puts forward ought to be listened to. As Llyod suggests, regular girls get caught up in sex trafficking, and regular people can make a difference in preventing this.


Blair Thornton, Operations Director 

Candide by Voltaire 

Candide, a satire by Voltaire, follows the rollercoaster of a story that is Candide’s life. Meaning optimism, Candide exhibits the arguments between absolute optimism and cynicism. Candide believes in a perfect plan, where this is the best of all possible worlds. His idealism is challenged repeatedly as his life continues to take turns for the worse without any particular reason. From a distance this book seems like a fantastical story, but deeper thought will show how the destruction of Candide’s optimism causes questions of a perfect holy plan. 

Throughout the book, Candide learns that there is no method behind the madness of his life. Due to this, Voltaire forces Christian readers to question their belief in God’s involvement and good will. With a steady head and strong faith in Jesus, a challenged faith can become a matured faith. This is just what Candide can do for Christian readers.


Cole Shiflet, Executive Director 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dave Ortlund 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund is by far the most beautiful and touching book that I’ve read this year. Ortlund grabs a hold of Matthew 11:29 and squeezes the meaning out of it in a way that seems more like the writings of the Puritans than a 21st century best seller. Ortlund takes the statement, “I am gentle and lowly in heart,” and presents it as good news to sinners and suffers. Not only was this book well-written, but the timeless truths of God’s Word were taught, explained, and shared in a year when many of us needed it the most.

The Broken Way (A Review)

This is a book review on Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way.

Over the past year and a half, I have become quite acquainted with what Paul calls joyful suffering in Romans 5.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

In the TPT translation, Paul defines joy amid suffering as “a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance…” (Romans 5:3, TPT).

When I graduated college in 2019, I felt like a clamshell cascading its way upon the smooth sand with little idea of where I was heading. Leaving a mark as I skidded along in confusion, adulting, and health concerns would leave me hollow and shell-less. In the fire of chronic pain, diagnoses, and Hell-brimming nights pulled from darkness and chaos, a friend gave me “The Broken Way” in hopes that by sharing someone else’s brokenness, I might be made a little more whole.

What Is The Broken Way?

Although my pain has not fully subsided, and to this day, suffering is a familiar friend, I am thankful for that mentor who wasn’t afraid to be cut by my wounded and fragmented pieces.
When I first began reading Voskamp’s view of being broken I had a skewed perception of what it meant to be whole. Since childhood, I watched family members destroyed by cynical abuse, addictive opioids, and enslaving bondages. For nearly a decade, an attempt to control anything through an obsession with health and exercise almost killed me.

You see, all my life, I was good at hiding. I was good at putting up a front and storing my broken places. And if Satan can convince you that the fear of being vulnerable and real with others is a burden, then he’s already won the war. Ironically, within the first page of the book, I was weeping. I was mourning because a struggle that people often only hear about was bled into the pages of Voskamp’s novel.

The Aim of the Essay

If you’re going to read this essay, you should know that Voskamp holds back nothing short of transparency. As a Christian author, she presents many arguments aligned with Scripture; however, one would not necessarily need to be a Believer to benefit from its presuppositions. Voskamp records the painful loss of her sister at a young age in a horrific farming accident. Relating that story to the art and craft of wheat, barley, and brokenness, she argues that a daring path into the abundant life usually comes at the expense of not being afraid of broken things. Broken things that split out from the wounds of her flaws and stories.

Where this Book Excelled

Overall, this page-turner was phenomenal. In almost 300 pages, Voskamp displays her beliefs not in opposition but through candor, heart, emotion, and The Word of Life. Specifically, three chapters stood out as pivotal:

1)Why Love is Worth Breaking Your Heart

2)Breaking the Lies in Your Head

3) Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken

Breaking Your Heart

Presenting a truth of vulnerability, Voskamp explains that while we’re often afraid to share our faults with others, true healing comes after we’ve shattered. Exchanging conversations with her farmer, children, family, and friends, it is clear that if one will benefit from this book, they must be willing to love. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Love Himself, in the beauty of Scripture, dwelt among us that we might love Him back. He broke His heart, His body, His soul at the chance that we may believe in Him. If you aren’t willing to give your heart to Jesus, to love Him and others with all your heart, and do so with authenticity and the validity of truth, you’ll never be capable of healing.

“Love is a risk–that’s never a risk” (pg.118).

Breaking the Lies

While the juxtaposition of Voskamp’s premise rests on the belief of choosing to love and be broken, it also suggests an exposed choice of using your temptations and trials as the launching for your testimony. Valuing God and His Word over personal feelings, we can defeat the lies of our past with the promises of His future. While sticks and stones may break our bones, and words do hurt, emotions are fickle, but His Word lasts forever.

“How we feel about us is not how He feels about us. How we are is not who we are. Who we are is who He is” (pg.193).

Breaking the lies begins with trusting Love and then being brave enough to show Him the scars of where you’ve been in comparison to where He’s calling you now.

Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken

Concluding her text, Voskamp fragments pieces of her heartbreak with the hope that one doesn’t have to be afraid to be broken. With arms wide open, it is by giving others a broken heart that both parties taste freedom. Though we fear cutting them with a truth too real or a hardship too unbearable, we cannot be fearful of being cut.

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5, ESV).

Where this Book Fell Short

Thus far, I have presented why Voskamp’s novel gleams from the pages with generous commentary and vivid imagery. However, I believe there are also a few elements that fell short when it came to the concept as a whole.

Complicated Language
While I am all for beautifully crafted figurative language, Voskamp often lost me in her arrangement of flowery words and painfully accurate descriptions. I found myself stopping a lot to re-read a reasonably simple statement because the terms tongue-twisted themselves almost every chapter.

Assuming Brokenness
Similarly, although I have been acquainted with the details of being broken, Voskamp assumes that everyone needs to share that brokenness to be whole. In theory, this is a valid belief; that we cannot relate to others and help heal them without being honest. However, some people recover better by keeping to themselves, using CBT, or journaling, for example, about thoughts and emotions.

Who Should Read this Book?

Contrary to appearance, this book is not just for those who have been broken or are fragmented, but also for those who want to help others who are. Through numerous Scriptures, real-life stories, and heart-wrenching tales, anyone who wants to learn the beauty of breaking and healing could benefit from this book.

The topic is relatively simple: If we want to experience growth from our brokenness, we must be willing to expose and share it at the expense of His testimony within us. Reading this book to fix your brokenness will not help if you aren’t ready to adapt, grow, and change. But choosing to serve, share, and embrace your brokenness will allow Voskamp’s principles to run deep in transformational change for your well-being.

The Possibility of Prayer: A Review

This is a book review on John Starke’s The Possibility of Prayer

As a pastor in the heart of New York City, John Starke is well acquainted with the busyness of pastoral ministry in an achievement-driven culture. Rather than providing keen insight on how to increase efficiency, Starke takes a less beaten path by discussing prayer. He begins by laying a foundation for the difficulty, yet simplicity of the practice of prayer. After the groundwork has been established, he provides seven practices that believers should cultivate in the normal rhythms of their life.

Since I often struggle to practice rhythms of rest and prayer in my own life, I found this book extremely helpful and enjoyable. Therefore, the majority of what I have to say is a positive discussion of a meaningful and well-written book.  Regardless of the personal application, I do not know any Christian who would not leave this book refreshed, challenged, and encouraged. My aim in this review is not to tell you the advantages and the disadvantages of the book, but rather to beg you to read this book by presenting the basic premise and the highlights of it.

The Groundwork

In order to establish and cultivate patterns of prayer in our lives, we must first correct our often limited and incorrect view of these habits. Starke skillfully guides the reader to a right understanding of the three most fundamental disciplines: prayer, scripture reading, and confession.


Far too often, Christians naively view prayer too narrowly. Sometimes even to the extent that we essentially see prayer as an act of making requests to a genie who can make our wishes come true. 

Starke defines prayer as “the business of conquering territory within us: territory that we think is ours but which God claims for himself.” I absolutely love this. With this understanding, prayer becomes an act of God getting more of us, rather than merely us getting more from God.

Scripture Reading

In the same way, many find themselves viewing scripture reading simply as an act of collecting information. In an extreme sense, Christians may avoid reading God’s Word because they do not want to engage with the text intellectually.

Contrarily, Starke corrects our incomplete view of the Bible by saying,

“If you read the Bible, you will see that God’s Word is often compared to a sword, and His presence, fire. These images teach us that the Word of God and His presence are not always comfortable. Swords pierce deep and cut away; fire burns and purifies.” – John Starke

The author’s point here is to say the Bible can and should deeply change and challenge us. When we read God’s Word, we do not only engage the text with our minds, but with our hearts. The Scriptures impact not only the thoughts of our mind but the desires of our heart.


Similarly, Starke exposes the “laissez-faire spirituality that boasts of weakness but is safe from criticism and reproof.” The point of confession is not merely to receive acceptance, but to be rescued. Unfortunately, many of us view confession only as a time to acknowledge our shortcomings and forget that this is about experiencing transformation. An element of confession is clearly missing if we do not see the depth of our sin and begin to turn away from it. 

Cultivating Rhythms of Prayer

As the book takes a turn towards more specific practices, there are a few that I would like to highlight.


As Starke discusses Scripture meditation, he writes,

“We’re not just reading the text to find examples to follow but mercies to receive.” – John Starke

Far too often, I find myself inclined towards viewing the biblical text as a self-help book that exists to make me a better version of myself. While there is merit in seeking to apply the Scriptures, Starke reminds the reader that this isn’t the only purpose. He goes on to write,

“Meditation is the discipline that lights the fuse between the understanding of the mind and the tasting of the heart — the knowledge of God and the joy of his presence.” – John Starke

This is huge. In my own personal life, I have found meditating on the Scriptures to be the bridge we all need between our time in prayer and our time in studying God’s Word.

Fasting and Feasting

In my article, “How Fasting Forms the People of God,” I argued that fasting was one of the least practiced spiritual disciplines in Evangelical Christianity, yet we should still teach ourselves how to fast. After building an exegetical foundation for the practice of fasting, Starke writes,

“So, yes, we ought to practice the regular rhythm of fasting but stabilize our souls with feasts, too.” – John Starke

Growing up in Texas, we certainly had our fair share of “feasts.” Yet Starke uses the word a bit differently than I initially would have thought. When I think of feasts, I do think of lots of food, but Stark paints a much more vivid picture by writing, 

Gather friends for a meal everyone is involved in making. Come prepared. Take a nap or sleep longer the night before — no one goes home early from a good feast… Set phones at the door.

For Starke, a feast is less about the abundance of food on your plate, but more about the enjoyment of relationships that God has provided.

Corporate Worship

All of the practices mentioned in this book – communion, meditation, fasting, feasting, solitude, and sabbath – culminate in corporate worship. As I am writing this, my county has been under a stay-at-home order for over a month. 

We are unable to practice the discipline of corporate worship in the way we previously have and therefore expectantly long for the day when we can gather in-person with our brothers and sisters to worship together. Yet, Starke defines corporate worship in a way we can participate in, even during the unexpected times we are currently living in. Starke writes, 

“Corporate worship uses deeper mechanisms of change because it is not a habit that aims directly at self-improvement but at enjoyment. Worship is a command to enjoy an object.” – John Starke

Though we are unable to meet together in the way that we have before, worship is about enjoying God. We can worship God in our living rooms with our family. We can worship God through our zoom calls with our community groups. Just because have to take a break from the way we traditionally view corporate worship does not mean we have to take a break from worshipping and enjoying God.

Read This Book

I do not know how to make it any clearer: you want to read this book. The way Starke pastorally corrects the misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding spiritual practices is challenging yet encouraging. If the point of this book was to make you love Jesus more, Starke has surely accomplished his goal.