Archive for the ‘Book Review’ category

Book Review: “Help Me Understand” by Dr. Terry Cutrer

November 11, 2009

I have known Dr. Terry Cutrer for nearly ten years and count him as a good friend. We served together for several years at the Moffett Road Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, where he continues to serve as senior pastor. Dr. Cutrer is a husband, father, church-planter, golfer and pastor. He’s also a man of deep faith and Christian commitment with a sound grasp of biblical principles. As a pastor, he has counseled many people who, out of hurt and confusion have posed the questions of “why?” and “how?” – Why did my spouse leave me? Why did my wife have to die? How can I raise my kids? How do I cope? How do I trust?

“Help Me Understand” is written from the heart of a pastor who has not only counseled people facing adversity – he’s faced numerous trials himself. Dr. Cutrer addresses several issues that people often have difficulty facing. He offers practical, biblical answers to these key questions of life. The answers are not always easy – Dr. Cutrer does not sugar-coat the answers, but he does offer hope and direction. His message is built on the understanding that God loves us and Jesus provides us salvation, purpose and a future hope despite our earthly circumstances.

The book is not long – less than 100 pages – yet with economy of words, Dr. Cutrer offers a mix of engaging illustrations mixed with appropriate biblical instruction and guidance. He addresses the pain of an abandoned wife and how she may learn to forgive.  He speaks to those who face adversity, particularly loss of a loved one. There is counsel for married couples, parents, and those who struggle with the Christian faith.  Particularly gripping are the stories Dr. Cutrer shares from his own journey of faith.

If you are looking for a deep theological tome, you will need to look elsewhere. That is not the intent of this book. If you, like most of us, find yourself asking the question, “why me?” and “how can I cope?” then I can highly recommend this book to you. Pastors, you might consider ordering several of these books to give to people you counsel.  “Help Me Understand” is available through Amazon.

Top 10 Book Recommendations for 2009

January 12, 2009

Here’s my top-ten list of recommended books for Christian educators and Bible study leaders. (Actually, I would recommend these to any follower of Christ.) I don’t include the Bible in this list because I’m making the assumption that if you’re leading a Bible study, you’re already reading it. If not, forget these ten and start with the Word.

These are not listed in any particular order. I’ve based my selection on doctrinal soundness, practicality, readability and availability. (There are some books I’d love to recommend that are, unfortunately, out of print and very hard to find.) The titles are linked to Amazon or other sources if you’re interested in purchasing one. And no, I receive no commission.

1. Knowing God by J.I. Packer. A classic work on the nature of God and how we may come to know Him. Not a systematic theology book, but a well-written foundational tome by one of our generation’s leading theologians. I recommend reading it slowly. The section on the Trinity is worth the price of the book.

2. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He has led Redeemer to reach out to the city’s secular culture and lovingly challenge them with the truths of Christ. This book is an excellent work on apologetics (a defense of the faith) that addresses many of the common questions posed by skeptics, agnostics and atheists. The arguments are respectful and well-reasoned – a tremendous resource for those engaging our post Christian culture.

3. The Six Core Values of Sunday School by Allan Taylor. Allan Taylor is Minister of Education at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia – one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention with a tremendous Sunday School organization. Dr. Taylor shares his philosophy of Sunday School work and provides practical helps about reaching people, teaching people the Bible, ministering, involving people, assimilating people and building relationships with people. If you teach a Sunday School class, you need to read this book!

4. Disciple-Making Teachers by Josh Hunt. Josh has a passion for helping Sunday School classes grow. In this book, he challenges teachers to become equippers, helping adults become growing, serving disciples of Christ. He provides a detailed description of a disciple and offers a helpful process for a teacher to guide a group in spiritual transformation.

5. Basic Christianity by John R. W. Stott. In this short book (142 pages), Stott addresses the central tenets of the Christian faith. If we desire for our teaching to be Christ-centered, this is a worthwhile resource and a great gift for anyone interested in the Christian faith.

6. Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks. A very helpful book about personal Bible study. Hendricks and Hendricks provide insightful tips for reading the Bible in a systematic manner, taking notes, and digging for application.

7. Celebration of Discipline – The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. This classic book on spiritual growth addresses the ancient practices of the faith that still are valid for modern believers. Foster covers these disciplines under three major sections: the inward disciplines, the outward disciplines and the corporate disciplines. This book should be read by every Christ-follower who desires to grow deeply in their faith.

8. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. A powerful challenge to live the life God intends for us. Dr. Willard covers redemption, justification, discipleship and our growth in grace. A deep but readable book that will give you greater appreciation and awe of the work of Christ.

9. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. A book that explores grace at “the street level.” A very real and gritty account of living out grace in a graceless world. Believers will be challenged to live lives of grace and mercy when their own beliefs are challenged and ridiculed.

10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin.  While this is a secular book on leadership, Godin’s insights have tremendous application for those who teach Sunday School or lead small groups. Find out what a tribe is (and your own tribe!) and how people connect over an idea. I think you’ll like this book.

You may wonder why I chose these ten books. To be honest, there were several others I wanted to include, but I intentionally limited the number to ten. I believe that most anyone could read these ten books in a year. Also, these ten address foundational issues of the faith as well as contemporary challenges. Certainly, there are many others I could recommend or even swap out with the above choices: for example, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity in place of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. I chose the latter as it directly addresses many of the contemporary arguments against the faith. So please don’t take these selections as a thumbs down to other works – far from it. But, hey! I had to start somewhere.

Feel free to leave comments or suggestions for books you might wish to include in a top ten list.