New Stuff

Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential - N.T. Wright (2013)

Case For The Psalms - NT WrightThe weight of most books by NT Wright focus on biblical history, theological concepts and important themes that flow as the undercurrent of the biblical narrative and its teachings. Most prominent of these is Wright's understanding of the mission of Christ, his place in Hebrew history, his embodiment of so many concepts (such as Torah, Temple and prophet), and the kind of kingdom that He inaugurated and passed on to the Christian church through the apostles and early disciples. What all this teaching does, however, can only be properly understood through the world in which Jesus was originally speaking- the world of the first century Jewish tradition. And nothing so profoundly and deeply saturated the Jewish tradition and devotion as the poems and songs of the Old Testament: The Psalms.

This book is not so much a technical treatise of its main theological components (though that is reflected on). Nor is it an indepth examination of the groupings of the Psalms, or even a detailed exegesis of many or even a few of the Psalms. Instead, this book is NT Wright's personal exploration and explanation of the power and depth of life lived and breathed within the life of the Psalms, as a center of devotional life.

As per usual, Wright centers his readers in the context of who and what we are.

God created humans in the beginning to be his vice rulers over the world.1

From there, the author launches into a swift but careful journey through not only how the Psalms are important to us but why- pointing to the rich heritage that the Jews, and later the early Christians, had with the Psalms as their foundation for devotion and liturgy. Not just that, but he convincingly explains the personal connection of Christ with the Psalms, not just as a forerunning text prophetically announcing Jesus, but as a seminal text which Jesus lived and breathed:

This means, of course, that the Psalms were the hymnbook that Jesus and his first followers would have known by heart.2

All the while, Wright is not trying to place technical proof for later study in the professional minister's teaching war-chest. Rather, he is outlining the real reason that the Psalms are so unique in their vocation as the sub text of the Christian life- because they are so profoundly human. As Wright puts it:
The Psalter forms the great epic poem of the creator and covenant God who will at the last visit and redeem his people and, with them, his whole creation.3

The book is arranged in sections primarily answering how the use of the Psalms explore and invite the reader into the reality of God's kingdom. It is a reality which infuses us with the wholly right kind of Christian "worldview", not expressed in or as politics and dogma, but as the time, space and matter through which God, the world, and human beings encounter each other. These three concepts of God's time, God's space and God's matter are at the heart of Wright's exploration of the Psalms.

And if that were all the book contained, it would be well worth your time and investment. But there is  something more personal for Wright here. The last two sections of the book (which, at just a couple hundred pages, is much shorter than almost all of his other works) contain a personal testimony and appeal to the church to consider the Psalms as their own life-transforming songbook and poetry.

As a worship leader, writer, Christian, husband, father and leader I have recently found a deeper longing for spiritual formation through the ancient texts of the Psalms. This last year, our own local church has had a program of reading (twice) through the Psalms for us to do as a community as well. Along with this practice and reading this book, I have found a new depth of closeness with God. It isn't something mystical, really. Just a profound knowing that the story that I am in is part of the broader story- my struggles, joys, pains, hopes and loss are understood and shared, not just by the God whom I worship but by the history of humanity trying to find Him in every day lives.

This is another excellent book by NT Wright.  It is easily his most personal and passionate work. If you are worship leader, this should be your #1 next book to read. But any person at any place in life could really benefit from this book. And then, follow its prescription- read the Psalms. Daily. Regularly. After Simply Christian, this is my favorite book from NT Wright. Excellent.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


  1. Wright, N. T. (2013-09-03). The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (Kindle Location 576). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ibid. (page 11)
  3. Ibid. (page 33)

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters - N.T. Wright (2010)

After You Believe - NT WrightLike all NT Wright books, "After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters" tackles a specific topic or area with an aim to provide scriptural and historical context as a foundation for the author's theological and philosophical positions on the topic. Wright always does his research and this book is no exception. "After You Believe" tackles the topic of character by looking at the ancient Aristotelian concept of virtue and how it was reimagined and reformed by the theology and practice of both Jesus and Paul.

The book is a treatise exploring a Christian virtue ethic in which the believer takes on the assumptions of character transformation through gradual surrender to God's kingdom concepts of worship and mission. More specifically, this is not a book about the "how-to's" of Christian practice.

What you find here is NT Wright continuing his conversation about how not only our theology, but our practice, must anticipate the full appearing of kingdom of God in it's action. That is to say, Wright's vision of a Christian virtue ethic is based on eschatology (where we are headed) and how full human flourishing occurs as we make the journey there, beginning in this world, not the next.

"After You Believe" is a subtle side-swipe of the standard "spiritual disciplines" talk that has come through in many popular Christian books. Wright has little patience for "self-help" Christian concepts, and debunks the "God-less do-gooding" as much as he deconstructs the popular notion of "cheap grace" - both of which he considers errant parodies of true Christlikeness. In fact, this book nods at Aristotle's astute observations of virtue, and yet, explains that Jesus and Paul answered the ancient Greek notion of virtue with the true answer to human flourishing - love-fueled Christlike character.

NT Wright has done with "After You Believe" what he has done with many other New Testament topics- re-addresses them in light of his creational theology that puts God's goal of rescuing humanity from it's sin stained condition and restoring the future of our created intention through Christ's work on the cross and the Holy Spirit's presence with the church through the ages.  This book is vivid, powerful and readable. But it is not simple. It requires you take seriously the concepts he brings to bear in his other books (though he leave you enough overview in this book, even if you haven't read the others).

The purpose of this book is pragmatic (explaining to Christians what they are to do in this life, while waiting for the glorious eternity in the next), but it has a powerful, perhaps eternal intent- to get us walking towards the future in the area of our character, long before the future fully arrives.

It is an excellent book on, as Wright puts it "how to think about what to do". Get it. Read it.  You will not be disappointed. A great book from a great thinker about a topic that is of great importance to all Christians.


Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

EntreLeadership - Dave Ramsey (2011)

I've read business books. I've read leadership books. But what I haven't read is a real, honest-to-goodness, practical play-book of how to do small business. Until now. Dave Ramsey's book, EntreLeadership, is just that- a fairly comprehensive and integrated manual for growing small businesses that (whether they know it or not) will need training in leadership development and core business skills.  For those that don't know, Dave Ramsey is a radio show talk personality who largely is known for his on-air advice to callers on the topic of personal finance. Something of a combination of Suzie Orman and Clark Howard, with Christian values contextualizing his perspective, Ramsey is strongly opinionated but has proven to be practical and effective as an advisor on money matters, especially concerning the topic of debt.

Ramsey's advice and radio show have been the centerpiece of a company that also sells products and training services to millions of people looking to manage their finances and pay off their debts. The success of his sales of those goods and services has turned him into the leader of a small but growing and successful enterprise in its own right. The author clearly knows what it takes to actually build a business, and he understands how to effectively dissect and represent good thinking about the strategies that can be transferable to other people. In short, Ramsey is as capable a coach as he is an implementer, and this is a rare trait.

EntreLeadership not only defines the generalities of vision, mission and goals, he gives play-by-play details on very well thought out execution plans for sales, marketing, employee management, financial oversight, leadership and much more.  Actually, I found that Ramsey abbreviates points I've heard in other books, but does so with sharper focus than other business "leaders" who tend to leave their advice open-ended to work with various situations. Dave Ramsey is more "black-and-white" than most. And to be frank, this makes his book worth its weight in gold because he doesn't mince words. He has some opinions about how to get things done - sales for example- and they are about 99% right. I caveat the remaining 1% because he falls trap ever so slightly to one of his own mentioned vices- believing his own press.

I suspect that this comes from Ramsey's unflappable personality, but more than once, the author expounds his success as a validation of his book. For sure, this is essential for any great teacher- do first, then teach to do. Ramsey's success is certainly a proof for his passing on his wisdom. But his salesmanship bleeds through. In the introductory section of the book, Ramsey goes from saying "our tremendous success"1 to declaring "This is the personal play-book of an ultra-successful EntreLeader."2 in just a few sentences. Microsoft, Dell Computer and Chick-Fil-A are examples of "ultra-successful" leaders and companies (all examples that Ramsey acknowledges in his book). But self-identifying Ramsey's company as "ultra-successful" seems comically ill-advised.

However, that minor brush of hype aside, no small business leader should pass by a chance to read this book and put its points into practice. It really is a succinct and arduously well organized course that can do nothing but help anyone trying to "make it big" with their big idea.  Ramsey is a great doer and an even greater instructor. Don't skip over EntreLeadership. You can't afford to. It's that good.


Amazon Book link:


Review by Kim Gentes

1. Ramsey, Dave (2011-09-20). EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches (p. 2). Howard Books. Kindle Edition. 

2. Ibid. Pg. 2

A Well-Worn Path: Thirty-One Daily Reflections for the Worshipping Heart - Dan Wilt (2013)

[Free Devotional Download "7 Sacred Steps" from writer Dan Wilt- see at the bottom of the review.]

OK. Confession time. I'm one of those people who prays everyday, and reads most days. For a long time, I would go on the "energy" of a scripture section, allowing the concepts, fused as they are with a perfusion of love and truth, to propel me through an ongoing desire to read and meditate on the Bible. But what I found is that I actually need to be more intentional about my devotional life. Not because God is standing over me, frowning for my lack of enthusiasm, but because at the core of my human condition is a lack. A lack of the real material of heaven that is required to live life on earth.

When I feed regularly on the scriptures, my soul is filled with what Jesus promised - "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." But often enough, as silly as it sounds, I just forget or let myself become overwhelmed with the cares of daily life that I don't leave enough space in my day for meditations on God's word. When I lose focus, I find it is helpful to reset myself by using a guidebook or plan to help structure/lead my devotional time. The last month, I was privileged to get an early copy of Dan Wilt's "A Well-Worn Path" book. 

It was just the kind of simple structured path I needed to get my daily walk into a regular rhythm again. I've read a number of things Dan has written, and this may be his most piercing work yet. He doesn't mince words or paint pictures for pages. He gets to the heart of an issue in short order. Each scripture. Each day.

In fact, as I read each day through, I felt as though the devotionals were a sort of scriptural, even prophetic, declaration over my life. "Believe, Then See", "Enter Light", "Cease Worry", "Do Good", "Create With God", and on it went. Rather than giving placid generalities, Wilt throws a spear into the heart each day, by taking the most poignant edges of scripture and punctuating it with a simple phrase of instruction. After a further paragraph or two of clarity he offers up a prayer that we can join in immediately.

The devotions are simple, one page, and a pure gasp of clean air from the atmosphere of heaven. Much of Dan Wilt's writings are crafted stories and imagery meant to bring you into the heart of the matter. "A Well-Worn Path" is much more direct and works well as a month-long progression that doesn't tire you out from his style or topics. In fact, the nice thing about using a well-written devotional like this is that the choice of topics makes the journey authentic and prone to learning. I wouldn't have chosen to challenge myself in the same way the author does, and this is good. We are often too easy on ourselves.

Having gone through the devotional, I can honestly and completely recommend it to you. It is powerful, succinct and absolutely worth-while. In my opinion, it is Dan Wilt's best writing yet.


Amazon Book Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Check it out below!

Be sure to chime in and let us know what you thought (post comments) and you are welcome to share this with friends on Facebook and twitter with your friends. 

Free Devotional Download "7 Sacred Steps" from author Dan Wilt

7 Sacred Steps
by Dan Wilt

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.

Thirty Stories Of Hope: Daily Readings To Encourage The Heart - Dan Wilt (2013)

[Free Devotional Download "5 'Makes' of Great Relationships" from writer Dan Wilt- see at the bottom of the review.]

 I've read a lot of books that deal with Christian topics, but many of them diverge into two camps:
A) theoretical advice that falls far afield from the reality of having to live here on earth, and
B) personal stories of victory and rescue that seem as foreign and contrived as movie fiction with no connection to what might actually help me.

What I love about Dan Wilt's book here is that he is our "everyman" talking about real life stories that meet you and I on the playing field of life, not some super-stardom miraculous happenings that never seem to happen to you and I. Dan talks about moms, dads, children, working, friends, struggles and real life- and shows the absolutely glorious rays of hope that shine into our lives from the source of true hope- God Himself. I won't share details of these stories because they are rich in their reading and well worth the individual time to digest one a day until you've filled up with the kind of life-giving inspiration Dan weaves with words. Dan's gift is story-telling, and judging from the 2 million listeners he speaks to each week, there is little doubt that his message is heard, loud and clear.

I've had plenty of tough times, personally, and the stories Dan tells are part of a diet of encouragement that our world is desperately in need of. And it's not just because they are clever stories. Rather, it is because the center of his hope-telling is the person of Jesus, in whom all Dan's stories source their glistening ray of light.

I love this book because I can read something reasonably sized for my busy day and just let it digest for 24 hours. Some times I feel like a story is good enough for a few days. But I like that the book is set up for busy people like me. The story is powerful but succinct. Each story has a theme, a real life application and a foundational scripture verse he ties things together with.

I can't recommend this book enough. Really, it is a great treasure.


Amazon Book Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

DOWNLOAD! Check it out below!

Be sure to chime in and let us know what you thought (post comments) and you are welcome to share this with friends on Facebook and twitter with your friends. 

Free Devotional Download "5 Makes of Great Relationships" from author Dan Wilt

5 "Makes" of Great Relationships
by Dan Wilt

Note: To save the ZIP file above
simply [Right-Mouse] click the link.