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Saturday, November 23, 2019

"Who is an Evangelical?" (Thomas S. Kidd)

TITLE: Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis
AUTHOR: Thomas S. Kidd
PUBLISHER: New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019, (200 pages).

A few decades ago, evangelicals were understood as people who were Bible-believing church goers of the conservative stream. As more of them engage in politics, they have become associated with Bible-thumping activists pushing the Republican agenda in the name of Christianity. Due to the sizeable influence of such lobbying to tilt the results in their favour, many see with disdain the mixing of politics and religion. In contrast to the born-again believer affirming the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, the evangelical label is going through a unpleasant public perception, especially in North America, thanks to the Trump. However, according to author Thomas Kidd, historically, evangelicalism was never defined by partisan politics, unlike today's climate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"40 Questions about Heaven and Hell" (Alan Gomes)

TITLE: 40 Questions about Heaven and Hell (40 Questions Series)
AUTHOR: Alan Gomes
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2018, (384 pages).

What happens once a person dies? What kind of afterlife is there? What about the questions surrounding the intermediate state of being between death and resurrection? What about the final judgment? What does the Bible say about the eternal state of believers and the eternal state of hell? These questions are part of 40 well thought-out questions and answers about heaven and hell. Written in a way like the catechism of old, this book categorizes the questions in four parts:

  1. Overview of the Afterlife (9 questions)
  2. The Intermediate State (5 questions)
  3. The Final Judgment (6 questions)
  4. Eternal State for Believers (9 questions); Unbelievers (11 questions)

Some of the questions may not reflect the way the sections are named. For instance, the part about eternal state for animals don't exactly fit into the believers category, but the authors put the question there. At the same time, some questions do cover across different categories. Thus, I would say that the categories are mainly to be used as a general guide. A more accurate guide would be the the question set forth. The style reflects a catechism style of questions and answers. A key difference would be the length of answers. Catechisms give brief answers. This book provides much more. The answers look more like detailed articles to teach and to serve as a resource for anyone interested in the topic. Some of the very interesting topics for me are:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Leveling the Church" (Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield)

TITLE: Leveling the Church: Multiplying Your Ministry by Giving It Away
AUTHOR: Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019, (192 pages).

Ministry is more about people and less about programs. It is more about serving, less about receiving. It is about directing people's attention to God more than anything else, through discipleship and multiplication of more of such 'directors.' Church leadership is precisely called to do that. After a long period of serving in church from youth pastor to senior pastor, authors Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield reflect on their ministries and if they had to do it all over again, they would focus on the multiplication of people to do the ministry instead of doing everything themselves. In rethinking leadership and how to lead in Church, they acknowledge that the "biblical plan for church leadership is to develop a culture of multiplication: to not only see people come to faith, but also help them grow into maturity." Examining Ephesians 4:11-16, they are convinced that God is calling the Church to enable the people in Church to serve. That's what the spiritual gifts are there for. Growth is not just about numbers. It is about growing the fundamental trunk of servants. Teaching good sermons is not enough. We need to train servants to serve. Growing numbers is not enough. We need to grow in maturity. Being faithful in service is not enough. We need to bear fruit. The three key thrusts in this book are: Discipleship, Leadership, and Mission. At the onset, the authors take time to examine the way of Jesus, how he was investing his time with his disciples. After putting forth the biblical stance, he goes to show us the barriers that prevent many churches from practicing that. One could get bogged down with history and traditions that hamper the introduction of new ideas. A key problem is the mindset of running church with paid professionals. Another problem is with the wrong expectations placed upon the functions of church. This is followed closely by the problem of "applause" where leaders serve on the basis of pleasing people. Naturally, these three erroneous barriers create a poor measurement scorecard. The authors propose a better one: 1) Deliver the Word; 2) Disciple the Believer; 3) Deploy the Church.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Intensional" (D.A. Horton)

TITLE: Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World
AUTHOR: D.A. Horton
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: NavPress, 2019, (224 pages).

Different groups describe justice differently. For some, it is about retaliation. For others, it is about making sure the culprits are brought to justice and punished accordingly. Then, there are those who would use perceptions of injustice to do other forms of injustice. In a divided world, it is not just definitions or perceptions that are divided. People are deeply divided over matters of religion, political stance, language, looks, and especially ethnicities. If there is one thing that is badly needed, it is reconciliation. It is about building bridges instead of walls. It is about learning how to live and to accept one another's differences with grace and humility. This is what the kingdom of God looks like when it comes into the world. The biblical story is divided into four seasons: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. As Horton works through the process of conciliation, he guides us with a theological principles of how the Church should practice and embody Galatians 3:26-28, the part about all people baptized into Christ, regardless of human distinctions. He warns the Church, especially the American Church about the "sin of partiality." If we take sides among our human race, then we are sinning against God. Looking at James 2, we learn about the dangers of using poverty and social ranks to judge people. We need to apply the golden rule. We need a "Color Blind Christianity," one that affirms a person's ethnicity. Affirmation is neither idolizing nor ignoring. Accepting one another's ethnic differences means we don't make it superior nor inferior.

Monday, November 4, 2019

"Paul's Idea of Community, 3rd Edition" (Robert J. Banks)

TITLE: Paul's Idea of Community: Spirit and Culture in Early House Churches
AUTHOR: Robert J. Banks.
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020, (240 pages).

Many people have pretty positive views about the word 'Community.' It is a good way to deflect attention from self toward others. We have all learned the importance to be in it for the greater good. Unfortunately, this word has been overused, even abused. It can also become a cliche for political correctness or to score points with our support base. For many Christians, the word 'community' has become a part of their Church or non-profit names. Lest we diminish the true meaning of community, it is good to come back to the biblical definition and understanding of community. The prime example: The Early Church. This book takes a look at community using references from his epistles to the various churches at that time. The third edition thoroughly revises and updates the material for a new generation. Also include is an article with a catchy title: "Going to Church in the First Century." However, the crux of the book is the same: to highlight the key themes of community from the many epistles of Paul in the New Testament, the apocrypha, Jewish writings, and extra-biblical sources. The main source will remain the New Testament epistles. Although Paul did not proceed step by step to build on his theology of the community, Banks actually did by arranging the book according to themes. He begins with a sociological and religious settings to give readers a context from which Paul's ideas were cultivated. This will give us a better understanding on the origins and nature of community in the first century. The goal of community was not some kind of altruism or harmony, but Christian maturity. This is important because it points us back to Christ. A community that is Christian in the first place must lead us toward Christ. It cannot become an end in itself. A community is visible through its interactions and members' behaviour toward each other. Through meals and signs of fellowship, the body of Christ is a unity of body, mind, and spirit. The acts of baptism, communion, fellowship, the sharing of possessions, gifts, and ministry support of one another allow the gifts of grace to be evident. The gifts of God to the community are there to help members edify the body.  They are there to promote unity and diversity at the same time.

There are some chapters on specific issues such as women's role in the community, especially on Paul's prohibitions on women. At least on a relative scale, Christian communities at that time give women more rights than societal norms. Paul also takes time to dissolve any legalistic distinctions that threaten the fabric of unity. That was why he takes pains to tell the communities that neither male nor female; slave or free; Jews or Gentiles; priests or laity; or any distinguishing status in society should ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul also argues for the abolishing of all kinds of discriminatory practices; in particular, gender, race, and class distinctions. On leadership in the community, Paul teaches leadership by function rather than by position. There are also teachings about how communities ought to welcome visitors, guests, and missioners. Paul makes an important point about a community that needs to look outward more than inward. The chapter on the link between mission and the Church does exactly that. The community of Christ is both local and global; centralized and decentralized. This is a powerful reminder that structures don't define communities. It is the reverse that is true.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Don't Give Up" (Kyle Idleman)

TITLE: Don't Give Up: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going
AUTHOR: Kyle Idleman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2019, (240 pages).

How do we encourage someone? Do we use the soft gentle approach like Mr Rogers? That might tempt one toward self-pity or worse, a sense of depression. Or do we use the William Wallace approach to usher in courage? That might move us beyond our comfort zones. In this book by bestselling author and senior pastor of one of the largest mega churches in America, we are told not only to never give up but to press on with the exhortation from the Bible book of Hebrews 12:1-3. After showing us the powerful examples of faith in the long list of people in Hebrews 11, we receive a “battle cry” to press ahead to finish the race of faith. There is a time for sympathy and a time to spring into action. Idleman’s key thesis has to deal with the latter. His three-part strategy is based on the Hebrews 12:1-3 text, especially verse 1.
  1. Listen to the Crowd
  2. Throw off the Weight
  3. Run Your Race

Thursday, October 24, 2019

"Letters to my Students Vol 1" (Jason K. Allen)

TITLE: Letters to My Students: Volume 1: On Preaching
AUTHOR: Jason K. Allen
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2019, (192 pages).

There have been many great preachers who have graced the pulpits of the world. One of the most well-known preachers is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the eloquent Baptist pastor also known as the "Prince of Preachers." The author first experiences Spurgeon's ministry through a book given by a friend. That book was "Lectures to My Students" by Spurgeon. He was transformed and for much of his preaching life, Jason Allen learned from the thoughts and teachings of Spurgeon. In gratitude to Spurgeon and with desire to share his knowledge with others, Allen writes this volume of letters to students with regard to the topic of preaching. The three key aspects of preaching described in the letters are:
  1. Preparing to be a Preacher
  2. Preparing the Sermon 
  3. Preparing to Preach.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

"A Guide to Bible Basics" (Tyler D. Mayfield)

TITLE: A Guide to Bible Basics
AUTHOR: Tyler D. Mayfield
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018, (288 pages).

One of the biggest challenges among many Christian communities is the Bible literacy rate. People are not only unable to read their Bible well, many are not even reading it on a regular basis! The reasons for such unwillingness to read the Bible could also be due to the sheer volume of books. Reading through the Bible is a daunting task, given that many of the books come from an ancient era totally foreign to many of us. This is where Bible handbooks come in useful. With brief overviews, introductions to each Bible book, what its themes are, maps, charts, and various illustrations to illuminate the background for reading, it is hoped that not only will this make the Bible clearer for the modern mind, it also makes it more enticing for more readers to plunge into the Word for themselves.

Author Tyler D Mayfield takes pains to categorize the Bible books according to popular literary genre, to give us a birds-eye view of how the Bible is arranged. While they are not necessarily in chronological order, the Bible books are arranged in a mix of chronological and genre perspective. Some of the other highlights include:

Friday, October 18, 2019

"John's Letters: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching" (Herbert W. Bateman IV and Aaron C. Peer)

TITLE: John's Letters: An exegetical guide for preaching and teaching (Big Greek Idea)
AUTHOR: Herbert W. Bateman IV and Aaron C. Peer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2018, (448 pages).

Every English Bible translation is in itself an interpretation. Unless one is trained to read the Scriptures in their original language and context, it would be difficult to fully comprehend the Bible merely by using English. The next best thing would be to get closer to the original by learning or gaining more insights from a Greek perspective. This book is one such channel of insight. The "Big Greek Idea Series" is a collection of guides specifically for pastors, professors, and seminary students trying to bridge the gap between the ancient Greek and the modern English culture. This volume focuses on the letters of John; namely the Johannine letters (aka 1, 2, 3 John). The authors suggest this book be used in three ways.: 1) as a grammatical commentary; 2) as an interlinear; and 3) as inspiration for exegetical nuggets.

There are many features in this book. It combines exegesis with thought-for-thought analysis. There is careful unpacking of "transitional and structural markers" to help us keep track of any big ideas within it. There are detailed grammatical explanations that could be too technical for some of us. Getting a grammatical refresher before reading this book would be ideal to ensure seamless reading. Those who are in a rush would benefit from the underlined clauses and words accompanied by explanations. The authors help us pay attention to the syntax. By detailing the grammatical, syntactical, and semantic functions, readers get to do both exegesis as well as hermeneutics and to link them together. The Introduction provides a summary of some of the grammatical terms to be used. It is essential to read this before plunging into the rest of the book. This is the grammatical heavy-lifting that would bring dividends when approaching the rest of the book.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"What Does Your Soul Love?" (Gem Fadling and Alan Fadling)

TITLE: What Does Your Soul Love?: Eight Questions That Reveal God's Work in You
AUTHOR: Gem Fadling and Alan Fadling
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2019, (220 pages).

In order to grow, one needs to change. In order to change for the better, one needs to be willing to be formed. In order to be formed, one needs to be transformed from the inside out. If we want to grow, we need to be changed from the inside out. Often, we need to be challenged into making a decision to be changed. It does not come easy, as Gem shared her struggle with the question whether she would be willing to give up her husband. The the question represents the dark room, the answer provides the light waiting to illuminate the room. Using Thomas Kelly's reflection as a guide, this book essentially helps us connect our mental levels with a more profound inner level through "fruitful interplay." The eight questions proposed by the authors form the framework to enable such interactions. Authors Gem and Alan Fadling lists a few other questions to expand on this. These eight probing questions are:
  1. What do you really want? (Your Desire)
  2. What is getting in your way? (Your Resistance)
  3. Where are you hiding? (Your Vulnerability)
  4. What is most real to you? (Your Truth)
  5. How are you suffering? (Your Pain)
  6. What are you afraid of? (Your Fear)
  7. What are you clinging to? (Your Control)
  8. What does your soul love? (Your Joy)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

"Resilient Faith" (Gerald L. Sittser)

TITLE: Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian "Third Way" Changed the World
AUTHOR: Gerald L. Sittser
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2019, (240 pages).

Finding a middle path, a way that meanders between any extremes, or some "third way" has been the pattern among many movements in the path. Evolution sees it as "survival of the fittest." The secular world views it as natural selection. The business world thinks of new potential as a new wave. Whatever it is, the possibility of a new way in the midst of conflicting old ways is always a path of hope. In the Early Church, this "third way" is the Jesus Way. Jesus spoke about this as He moves among two huge forces of resistance: Roman and Jewish. Followers of Jesus were also known as followers of "The Way." This way has resisted the Roman persecutions, the Hellenistic cultural forces and Jewish legalistic regimen. In doing so, this way of Jesus impacted the early centuries and is continuing to do so today. By studying the why and how of this Third Way, author Gerald Sittser helps us understand and learn from the resilient gospel of Jesus, and to see its relevance today in our increasingly challenging world. The recurring question that Sittser asks throughout the book is this: How did the Christianity flourish in the light of persecutions and inhospitable conditions? On top of these, they had to resist worldliness. They had to battle heresies. They had to endure being ostracised for their beliefs and lifestyles. Interestingly this "third way" disappeared overnight upon the official recognition of Christianity after Constantine's influence in AD313. It also took on negative perceptions due to the crusades, the Thirty Year War, and many other politicizing of Christianity. In our modern era, we are challenged with a post-Christian hostility, a Millennial scepticism, and the rise of new age spiritualities. In writing about faith and the resilience of the Christian beliefs, Sittser aims to help us see the future with hope even as the days appear dark and daunting. He does this by comparing and contrasting the old and new eras constantly. It flourished in the early centuries because it was deemed new and novel. It was also seen as a major threat to the pre-existing establishment then. During the persecution era, Christians pledged allegiance to Christ incurring the wrath of the Roman emperors.  He begins this with a focused look at how the ecclesiastical tradition helped shaped faith through the ages. However, he soon discovers that it was not the Church per se, but the belief in Jesus that is more significant. The Third Way is the Jesus way. For in Christ, we see a bridge between the old and the new; the old world and the new world; the renewal movements and the desire for spiritual refreshment; etc. This pattern of renewed focus on Jesus and revival in the Spirit is what makes the Christian faith resilient.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"The Courage to See" (Greg Garrett and Sabrina Fountain)

TITLE: The Courage to See: Daily Inspiration from Great Literature
AUTHOR: Greg Garrett and Sabrina Fountain
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019, (376 pages).

Devotionals are meant to be brief, simple, but deeply insightful. They are there to reach out to a wide group of people, especially people of faith, believers on a pilgrimage, or those struggling to make sense between what they believe, what they experience, and how to live. We all need insights for living. We also need courage to live and to go forth especially to places where we have never gone before. The title of this book helps us do exactly that. As we develop inner courage to see, it is hoped that we will enter into the world without feeling being left alone, but to know that God is with us at all times.

Containing a year's supply of devotionals, this book helps us with a daily page filled with literary quotes, Scripture passage, and a prayer. The authors are acutely aware that good books will challenge us with a story to charm us, a thought to grip us, or a phrase to challenge us. It is a great way to escape into a book that captures our imaginations. Books shape us and our thinking. With this conviction, authors Garrett and Fountain shares a literary gem each day, followed by a Scripture text to accompany the quote. The page ends with a prayer to maintain our reflection heavenward. There are many inspiring works from Christian writers such as Wendell Berry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Frederick Buechner, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, Brennan Manning, Kathleen Norris, Marilynne Robinson, Dorothy Sayers, etc. Other writers include works from Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, David Henry Thoreau, and even JK Rowling!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

"Emblems of the Infinite King" (J. Ryan Lister)

TITLE: Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God
AUTHOR: J. Ryan Lister (with Anthony M. Benedetto)
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2019, (192 pages).

What is the key to unlock the fountain of truth and ideas? Is there an accessible way to reveal the truths of God's Word? How can we explain difficult theological truths in simple terms, so that kids could understand? Surely, theology should not be restricted just for adults. With pictures, illustrations, and creative use of familiar symbols, author Ryan Lister gives us the metaphor of locks and keys. Making the use of keys to unlock eight fundamental theologies, Lister shows us fascinating ways to learn about the doctrines of God; humanity; sin; Christ; Holy Spirit; Salvation; Church; and the last days.

Keys are given to us. We ought to pick up these keys to open the lock and to enter into the truths God wants to reveal to all of us. For God is the "Key-keeper." Each key opens us to a particular room. The "Throne Room key" opens the door to theology, the Doctrine of God. We learn about worship in celebration and song. We move from ourselves to God, to see that the most important thing in the world is not us, but God. God wants to bless us, but we must let Him do so. Subtly, we are reminded that the king is not us, that God alone is king. The "Dust Key" reminds us that we are nothing until God came along. We are made from dust into the image of God, but we are still creatures needing God. Yet, God has made us his highest prize and desires to bless us. The "Serpent Key" is about sin and how mankind has fallen into brokenness and despair. It reminds us of Adam and Eve who fell into the deception of the serpent.  Lister spends time to describe various images of pride (Tower of Babel); and the stain of sin from Genesis to depict the fallenness. Instead of worshiping God, man ends up worship other gods, even himself.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"Adorning the Dark" (Andrew Peterson)

TITLE: Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making
AUTHOR: Andrew Peterson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2019, (224 pages).

Seeking God in our lives is a daily practice of intentionality. Seeing God clearly comes about with an awareness that His presence is always with us.
If we take our time and pay attention to the way others have done it, we would learn a great deal. The great song composer Bach is acutely aware of the presence of God as he writes the initials "S.D.G" (To God be the Glory) at the bottom of his manuscripts written for church. Eric Liddell runs for God and feels His pleasure.  Instead of getting stuck with mere admiration for these spiritual giants, author Andrew Peterson boldly writes essays, music, and various thoughts to express his devotion to God. The title of this book is exactly about that. While initially, he may seem to be in the dark about what to write and how to go about adoring God, faith is essentially about taking the first steps to be creative. Don't let the ways of the world hem us into its mold. Instead, grow our relationship with the divine through a recognition of our identity in Him; our calling from Him; and our living for Him. Peterson shares details about how he writes music. Overcoming the writer's block is essentially about a battle of fear and a leap of faith. Writing a song is essentially telling a story. Putting songs together into an album strings together stories according to a certain theme or focus. Peterson recalls his first college album which he calls "Bible album." Incredibly, this album became a tour and more importantly providing him with a platform to connect community, family, and his devotion to God.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"Pilgrim's Compass" (Paul H. Lang)

TITLE: The Pilgrim's Compass: Finding and Following the God We Seek
AUTHOR: Paul H. Lang
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019, (128 pages).

Pilgrimage is one of the most popular words to describe a Christians's journey or spiritual growth. Whether one is talking about calling or searching for God's will for our lives, it all begins with the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbours. Spurred by rising yearnings to have a more intimate and personal relationship with God, people are directions. They need a spiritual compass to lead them in their expedition. This book fills in this need as well as to help one "hear the call of God and respond in faith, journeying together with friends on the path to a Spirit-led and joyful life." Unfortunately, Christianity has a checkered history with regard to the pursuit of God in this pilgrimage. After Constantine legalized Christianity, the faith became more institutionalized, making the way of spirituality more formal and rigid. Faith formation is tied to religious affiliation. So much so that spirituality has been defined more on man's terms rather than God's terms. People tend to be more willing to adapt to culture instead of paying the cost of discipleship. Looking at the emerging church, author Paul Lang notices the way culture and the history of Christendom had mangled the way of God. We need a pilgrim's compass and we need it badly. Despite the excesses of the past and the mistakes by the institutionalized churches, there are many who have bucked the cultural trends. The desert fathers and the reformers are some examples of such courageous people of faith. Lang offers us some tools to help us begin our pilgrimage by embarking with the end in mind: definition of a pilgrimage and the recognition of ourselves as pilgrims on the journey. This journey is not necessarily limited to a physical movement. It is a metaphor to guide us through each and every possible opportunity, which includes both physical and non-physical aspects. Tools of the journey include maps, the Bible, spiritual practices like the Lectio Divina, Daily Examen, Prayer, and helpful acronyms to guide us. One example is the ESWN directions of a compass:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

"The Lord's Supper" (Keith A. Mathison)

TITLE: The Lord's Supper: Answers to Common Questions
AUTHOR: Keith A. Mathison
PUBLISHER: Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019, (99 pages).

Some call it the Eucharist. Others prefer to use "Holy Communion." Patterned after the gospel's record of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, it is also popularly known as "The Lord's Supper." What is it? Why do Christians celebrate it? Why is it so significant in the Church? How should Christians approach this sacrament? These questions are some of the common ones described in this book. The author shares about some of his curiosity about this topic in his early years attending Church services. When young, he simply accepted the elements and rituals as they were. Gradually, he starts asking questions about meaning and purpose of these sacraments. He recalls in Church that while there are many lessons about Christianity and the faith in the Church, the doctrine of the Lord's Supper is seldom covered or talked about. This is made more complex in the light of multiple ways of interpretation and understanding of the Holy Communion. It is hoped that this book can fill in this void. The purpose in this book according to Mathison is to "help Christians better understand the doctrine and practice of the Lord's Supper in the Reformed Tradition." In view of the many different interpretations on the significance and meaning of this sacrament, the author uses eleven big questions to guide us through this topic. The eleven big questions are:

  1. What is the Lord's Supper?
  2. What are the Different Views of the Lord's Supper?
  3. Why did Jesus institute the Lord's Supper on the Passover?
  4. What did Jesus mean when He said: "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood of the Covenant?"
  5. What does Paul teach concerning the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 10-11?
  6. Is Jesus present at the Lord's Supper?
  7. Is the Lord's Supper a sacrifice?
  8. What are the elements of the Lord's Supper?
  9. How frequently should the Lord's Supper be observed?
  10. How should believers prepare for and partake of the Lord's Supper?
  11. Should children partake of the Lord's Supper?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

"Irresistible Faith" (Scott Sauls)

TITLE: Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can't Resist
AUTHOR: Scott Sauls
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2019, (224 pages).

The Christian Church is in the midst of challenging times. In fact, the way that the world view the Church has not changed a lot. The Church and Christians remain quite a rejected bunch of people in many societies. One of the reasons is what author Scott Sauls say: "the people of Jesus often have not represented him well." Many of us know that Christianity is about Christ. Yet, there are many who are disappointed with the behaviour of Christians, which in turn leads them to reject Christianity altogether. This is a pity but also a common reality. Mahatma Gandhi once commented about Christians: "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." He is not the only one who says things like that. Many non-believers are aghast at the way some Christians are politicizing religion; having hypocritical behaviour; and doing things that are perceived as "holier-than-thou" attitudes. Such cultural climates, rightly or wrongly, are what believers have to go through these days. Safe to say, if believers were to practice according to the teachings of Jesus, they might be seen in a better light. Having said that, historically, believers no matter how pious or charitable they had been, criticisms have never subsided. Even Jesus Himself had been persecuted. This is unavoidable. What author Scott Sauls has proposed is a good posture of resilience and optimistic response.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"Into His Presence" (Tim L. Anderson)

TITLE: Into His Presence: A Theology of Intimacy with God
AUTHOR: Tim L. Anderson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019, (280 pages).

How do I grow closer to God? What does intimacy with God means? What do I do if I don't feel close to God? These are some common questions and confessions from Christians yearning for a deeper relationship with God. As society becomes more feeling-oriented, many are asking questions about how to cultivate divine intimacy. Recognizing this need, author Timothy L Anderson helps us on this journey with a focus on the theology of intimacy. He qualifies his effort by saying that it is not a book meant for devotional reading. Neither is it a book to make one feel closer to God directly. Instead, the book serves two purposes: to affirm the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and to intercede for a deeper relationship. Before one embarks on the journey to intimacy, it is helpful to know the different windows to pursue God. "Catholic Mystical" writers such as Thomas Merton, St John of the Cross, and Augustine seek God in a two-way relationship, with the sole objective being union with God. The "Pentecostal Experiential" finds intimacy in signs, visions, and wonders. The "Evangelical Devotional" focuses on the pedagogy of discipleship and spiritual practices. Anderson cautions us from adopting either extreme absolutism or extreme liberalism on any of them. The way toward intimacy needs to begin with a theological framework. Anderson paints this framework using a hub and spokes metaphor. He defines intimacy with God as "the movement of God and Christians toward a place of true knowledge and close contact." With this hub as the object, Anderson goes on to describe the various spokes of intimacy. Before that, he describes the four biblical elements of intimacy:
  1. Movement toward intimacy
  2. Intimate knowledge
  3. Intimate place/location
  4. Intimate contact/touch