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Review Roundup: January 2022

Mixed Media

Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church

By Matt Smethurst

Reviewed by Cedric Parsels

Matt Smethurst sets out to help churches regain a more biblical understanding of and greater appreciation for the office and work of deacons. He starts with an overview of how the church has historically thought of and utilized deacons. He then turns to Scripture to explain the origins of the diaconate, the biblical requirements for those who would serve as deacons, and the responsibilities of the office. Finally, Smethurst reminds us that the office deacon (ideally) is a reflection of Christ himself. This relatively short book would serve well as the basis for a book study, especially one predominantly made up of elders and deacons. (Crossway)

The Real Life Podcast

By Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke

Reviewed by Kayleigh Fongers

Remember a time when podcasts weren’t as popular as they are now? Even then, Jefferson (Jeff) and Alyssa Bethke were podcasting. The married Christian couple launched their podcast in 2014. Several years and a name change later, the duo still shares wisdom through The Real Life Podcast.

The heart of the show is authentic, faith-based conversation on topics of theology, culture, and family life. As Jeff shares in the intro, the couple’s goal is for listeners to feel as though they’re sitting in the Bethkes’ living room drinking a cup of coffee and engaging in discussion. This genuine feel makes the show appealing and engaging for listeners. Episodes of The Real Life Podcast are available for streaming on most podcast platforms.

Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land

By Toni Jensen

Reviewed by Agnes Mastin

Toni Jensen’s recent book, Carry, jars the audience out of its comfort zone. It’s difficult to read at first, but as the reader nears the end of the journey, it becomes difficult to put down. It is important to note that while Jensen mentions the Bible Belt, Sunday school, and enjoying going to church, this is not a story of a journey toward Christ. It is a powerful, poetic memoir about what it means to exist as an Indigenous woman in America, told in snapshots of the author’s encounters with gun violence. I encourage those who choose to pick up this nonfiction piece to take frequent breaks and practice self-care, as the content is not for the faint of heart. (Ballantine Books)

Only Murders in the Building

Reviewed by Lorilee Craker

Martin Short is getting rave reviews for his hilarious portrayal of Oliver, a sweet but narcissistic aging Broadway producer who, along with Steve Martin’s character, Charles, launches a true-crime podcast as they chase down clues to who murdered someone in their posh apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Selena Gomez’s Mabel is the needed cup of black coffee to Oliver and Charles’ dessert of non-stop antics. Part satire, part comedy, and part murder mystery, the show raises good questions about the true-crime craze. Do we dehumanize victims (and even killers) by reducing human beings to characters in a story we follow? As content creators, to what lengths will we go for more followers or, in this case, podcast listeners? Rated TV-MA for strong language and gory images. (Hulu) 

The Lowdown

You're Only Human: Kelly M. Kapic offers a better way to make peace with the fact that God didn't create us to do it all. Readers will emerge better equipped to cultivate a life that fosters gratitude, rest, and faithful service. (Brazos)

Based On Francine River’s Beloved Novel: Redeeming Love is a powerful retelling of the biblical book of Hosea against the backdrop of the California Gold Rush of 1850. (PG-13, Jan. 22, Universal Pictures)

Ben and Erin Are Back: Since 2016, the dynamic duo of Ben and Erin Napier has been transforming their small town of Laurel, Miss., one historic home at a time on their hit show Home Town. Season 6 drops Jan. 2. (HGTV, Discovery+)

Violeta: This sweeping novel from Isabel Allende, the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea, tells the epic story of Violeta del Valle, a woman whose life spans 100 years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. (Ballantine)

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