"Tempted, Tested, True" by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

Cole, Arnie. Ross, Michael. Tempted, Tested, True: A Proven Path to Overcoming Soul-Robbing Choices. Bethany House Publishing, 2013. 

 Tempted, Tested, True is a book about overcoming temptations. Combining biblical insight with testimonies and stories from multiple sources Cole and Ross explore temptation from a number of different angles. There is a chapter on the life-cycle of temptation, a chapter on men and on women, and topics such as addiction, worry, and confession. Following each chapter is a "nudge." The "nudge" is a set of activities and reading divided into 'tempted' (questions to help you see your own situation), 'tested' (methods of overcoming these temptations), and 'true' (help to "customize a realistic 'change plan' you can apply to your life" [22]).

The goal of this book is good. And there is some good content, especially in the 'nudge' sections. Encouraging people to memorize scripture, pray, and ask some questions that will lead towards self-awareness are all good and worthwhile. Unfortunately, laudable goals and the 'nudge' sections do not make up for what I consider to be three problems in this book. 

1. A "scientific veneer" - Near the beginning of the book Cole and Ross discuss the extensive experience they have and research they have done which form the "empirical foundation for this book." (19) This language, and stance, which suffuses the book, leads to such gems as claiming that research confirms "the Enemy's forces have studied our behavior since the day we were born." (62 See note 1 below) Or "Four of five people will face at least one temptation in a given day." (92. Note 2). Such nonsense aside, this veneer relays confidence falsely and in precisely the wrong places. In dealing with temptation our confidence needs to be in the power of Christ, not the power of empirically researched and proven paths. Sadly, it is just when Ross and Arnie come to our relationship with God that they have the least to say. One can hardly turn a page without being told to spend more time with God, to give things up to God, to submit to God, and so on. But one would search in vain for helpful writing on how to actually do these things. 

2. Scattered Writing - This is partially my own stylistic preferences coming through, but I don't like books with so many random stories and disjointed sections. What isn't just me is that I found this book poorly organized. 

3. The compilation of errors - Beginning with the errors I mentioned in point 1, and continuing in the same light, I found that about half way through the book I could no longer read with a trusting ear. What really clinched it for me was a section on anger. "What God says about anger: Stop being angry!" What of Ephesians 4:26? Or the fact that when God confronts Jonah the question is "Have you any right to be angry?" 

Conclusion: 2.5 Stars. Not Recommended. I have no doubt that this book will help some, especially the 'nudge' sections. But overall, I simply cannot recommend this book.

Note 1: What kind of research could possibly confirm this? Nowhere in this book are research methods discussed. Sources and evidence are absent. Claims are just made. Did Cole and Ross find that many people agreed with this statement? Made this statement? As a piece of Christian theology one might agree with it but that hardly makes it a subject of research.

Note 2: Really? 4 out of 5? The other 20% get through a whole day without a single temptation? Either 20% of people move through each day completely unconscious or this is utter nonsense. I can't even say that 20% of people simply lied, as I don't know where this number comes from. If I was told that in a survey 4 out of 5 people admit to facing at least one temptation a day, I would confidently conclude that the other 1 of 5 lied or misunderstood the question. I don't even know that much though; it's just another number thrown out at random.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review


"Ordinary Prayer" by Jeremy Rios

Rios, Jeremy. Ordinary Prayer: Encountering God through our Everyday Needs. Jeremy Michael Rios, 2012. 

Rios begins with two important truths: 
1. The center of prayer is petition. 
2.Petition is difficult. 
From there he offers a  guide to, you guessed it, ordinary prayer. Petitionary prayer practiced daily over all of our needs, small to large, common and repeated or unique. His goal, his prayer, is that "as you read you will be led to put the book down and begin praying."

What follows is a guide to understanding prayer, how to pray, how to understand God's answers, how to pray in groups, and more. And by guide I do not mean exhaustive step-by-step instruction manual. "Ordinary Prayer" and Rios, as the author, is more like a wilderness guide. He won't carry you up the mountain, but he will tell you which paths are fruitful, which rocks are firm, and point you to the views along the way. In other words Rios is not out to be prescriptive, nor to answer all of our questions, but to enable us to pray. In this he succeeds. 

This is an excellent book. It is, in fact, one of the best books on prayer I have ever read. Helpful, surprisingly insightful, applicable in ways far broader than the subject of petitionary prayer, this book is worth reading several times. And I'm not just saying that because I know the author. Rather, that last sentence was included as a subtle way of giving you, the reader of this review, full disclosure; Jeremy did not pay for or even ask for this review, but he is my friend. The book has been published for some time now; he just had the bad luck to publish it right as I stopped reviewing books. Now that I might start again, I thought I should start with something great. 

Conclusion: 5 Stars. Highly Recommended. Pray. Then read this book. Then pray more.