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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: "The Faith of Leap"

TITLE: THE FAITH OF LEAP - embracing a theology of risk, adventure and courage.
AUTHORS: Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011, (222 pages).

Frost and Hirsch have done it again! Using a much familiar structure like one of their previous books, The Shape of Things to Come, they have contributed a new book for faith-living. Key to the understanding of the book are the ideas of 'liminality,' 'communitas,' and to 'disturb' the status quo in order to free ourselves toward deeper and positive change to spread the kingdom of God.

The first faith of leap is in terms of 'liminality.' 'Liminality' is defined as a 'threshold experience' that comprises of any kinds of 'danger, marginality, disorientation, or ordeal and tends to create a space that is neither here nor there, a transitional stage between what was and what is to come.' (19)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: "Small is Big"

TITLE: SMALL IS BIG - Unleashing the big impact of intentionally small churches
AUTHORS: Tony & Felicity Dale and George Barna
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Barna-Tyndale, 2011, (272 pages).

Statistics show that the best means of evangelism within an American context is starting a church." (13)

This simple statement unveils the entire book's main point. The 'new' way of growing a church is via small and manageable house churches, instead of large and unwieldy institutions. Key to the authors' thesis is that 'building churches' is God's work, while 'making disciples' is our work.
"Churches that are intentionally small (simple churches, organic churches, house churches) can reproduce easily and with virtually no cost. They have the potential for rapid multiplication because anyone can gather a few people together in a living room or coffee shop. And they are very easy to duplicate. Not only that, but they also penetrate sectors of society that will never enter a church building. That's why small is big!" (xiii)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: "After You Believe"

TITLE: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
AUTHOR: N. T. Wright
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: HarperOne, 2010, (307 pages).

This book won a place on ChristianityToday's list of top books for the year 2011. Appearing under the THEOLOGY/ETHICS section, it is the third book on the important question: "How Christians should live?"

The first book, "Simply Christian" argues for the rationale of the Christian faith. The second book, "Surprised by Hope" is a nice eschatological treatise on what really happens when we die. It brings Christians back down to earth, saying that the final hope of a Christian is not waiting to go someplace in the future, but is in being resurrected into God's new heaven and new earth, available right now! This third book also deals with the present moment, about the need to cultivate Christian character in the now. The author's basic point is this:

"Christian life in the present, with its responsibilities and particular callings, is to be understood and shaped in relation to the final goal for which we have been made and redeemed. The better we understand that goal, the better we shall understand the path toward it." (NT Wright, After You Believe, NY: HarperOne, 2010, ix)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Review: "Love Wins"

TITLE: Love Wins - A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
AUTHOR: Rob Bell
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: HarperOne, 2011.

It has been a few months since this book was launched. About two months ago, I collected a few links of both positive and negative reviews on the book. The book's controversy lies in the book's apparent departure away from orthodox evangelical beliefs, by a prominent evangelical pastor of a MegaChurch.  I delayed my review partly because I want to let the hype fade away first. Here is my opinion.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: "Heaven is For Real"

TITLE: Heaven is for real
AUTHOR: Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2010, (166 pages).

I confess. I am somewhat skeptical about stories of people going to heaven and back. While not totally dismissing it, I remain agnostic about the stories told, in particular the story of Colton Burpo, a 4-year-old boy’s 3-minute trip to heaven and back. Unlike Don Piper's 90-minute trip to heaven and back in his bestseller, where Piper personally writes his book, Heaven is For Real is written by the boy's dad.

What is the Book about?

Written by Todd Burpo, the father of the boy who said has seen heaven and Jesus, it is very much a personal and family testimony of the spiritual adventures of the Burpo family. Todd is a pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church, a small church in Imperial, Nebraska. A volunteer firefighter, chaplain, as well as a member of the high school board, coupled with a full-time job as a pastor, Todd certainly has his hands full as far as work and activities are concerned. Plus the need to raise two young children, Cassie and Colton, at that time, the stress is huge.

On March 2003, a bout of Appendicitis happening to 4-year old Colton launches the family into a harrowing journey to save their son’s life. While the parents busy themselves with the logistics of treatment in and out of hospital, Colton goes in and out of heaven. For the next seven years, the Burpo family learns of multiple inexplicable instances of Colton’s description of heaven. Instances like:
  • “Jesus had the angels sing to me…” (xix)
  • Colton meeting John the Baptist (64)
  • Seeing Jesus’ bodily wounds (69)
  • Everyone looking like angels in heaven (73)
  • References to heaven as described in the gospels, the Book of Hebrews, Revelation
  • Meeting his grandpa, Pop, and his first unnamed sister who was unborn.

My Comments

I read this book with an open mind. There are two ways to read this book. The first is one of an alternative interpretation.
  • Maybe the pastoral and church environment around Colton influenced his visions of heaven?
  • Perhaps, the parents have extrapolated the young boy’s short statements to link with their own knowledge of the Bible?
  • Maybe, the Burpos have been good Sunday School teachers themselves, sharing Bible images with their children at a very young age.
The second way to read it is the 'as-is' version. I suppose this is the way that has spurred the book to a bestseller status. Reading this way gives the reader some reasons to be encouraged. I must say that the testimony will most definitely touch the hearts of the parents, their community first. It will take a while before it can be real in the mind of the distant reader. I believe the author meant every word that he said. My uncertainty lies in the interpretation of each specific vision. Again, I am not saying that Colton is lying. I am simply saying that there can be alternative interpretations.

That said, I am still amazed by such a testimony. It is a visible witness of the reality of heaven. Having said that, there is something else more important than living witnesses of the divine celestial kingdom. It is faith. Don’t get me wrong. I am not downplaying the testimony of the Burpos. I am simply affirming that faith in Jesus must remain the first brick in our stairway of faith. All other steps are built upon this cornerstone. I believe Colton Burpo’s testimony are the other bricks. I am thankful that the Burpos have shared about this story, and that it has meant so much to their faith, the community they serve, and the many readers who have been touched. When you read this book, be open. Be encouraged. Be assured that Jesus loves all the little children, including us.

Ratings: 3.5 stars of 5.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".