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Friday, April 29, 2016

"Strong and Weak" (Andy Crouch)

TITLE: Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing
AUTHOR: Andy Crouch
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (192 pages).

What are we meant to be? If where we are now and where we ought to be are so far apart, what's the reason? These two questions dominate the discussion of this book about the paradox of life. The first question deals with our self-understanding while the second talks about the gaps between who we are and where we ought to be. Essentially, it is about great hopes, great regrets, the human condition, and how one can flourish. The author's key thesis is this: "Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak. Flourishing requires us to embrace both authority and vulnerability, both capacity and frailty — even, at least in this broken world, both life and death."

Andy Crouch is executive editor of Christianity Today and has served for ten years as campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. With his keen interest in Christianity and culture, he has previously written books like Culture Making which deals with the Christian in modern culture, and more recently, Playing God which is about the stewardship of power. If "Culture Making" is about the broader engagement of Christians in their existing culture; and "Playing God" about the engagement of Christians in their use of power; this book is about Christians in their personal and honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, with an eye on personal calling and identity.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations" (Mary Schaller and John Crilly)

TITLE: The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations: Walking alongside People Who Believe Differently
AUTHOR: Mary Schaller and John Crilly
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016, (256 pages).

People are different. They are diverse in many ways. From the colour of clothes to the choice of cell-phones, more and more people simply adore the ability to choose. This is something that more companies and businesses are trying to cater to: Personalize their offerings to suit the person. In order for that to happen, businesses must first understand their target audiences. Just like there is no one way to understand a person, there is no one way to share the gospel. The gospel is the same message but the delivery and way to share can be very different. Not only are there people of diverse backgrounds, every individual comes with their own set of preferences and stages of spiritual awareness. In a book that brings together the many different ways in which we can reach out to different people, authors Mary Schaller and John Crilly have shared from their journeys at Q Place, some time-tested guidelines and resources to help us do the same. Based on the lifestyle and practices of Jesus in the gospels, we learn about the importance to ask rather than tell people what they need. We learn to walk the way of Jesus as a way to relate, apart from mere talking about facts. We learn about seeing evangelism through the lens of discipleship so that the two are not separate from each other. Our lives are measured according to how we love. In fact, all of our spiritual conversations need to begin with discipleship in mind. Briefly, the nine ways are:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Portraits of Faith" (Joel R. Beeke)

TITLE: Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us About Our Life with God
AUTHOR: Joel R. Beeke
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015, (72 pages).

What is faith? What else can we learn about faith? Perhaps, faith is not so much about of our act of believing. It is much more about God revealing Himself to us. Faith is not about us trying to reach God but us allowing God to reach and embrace us. The author, Joel Beeke, gave four talks to hundreds of young people attending the Aberystwyth Conference in Wales in the year 2003. The talks had convicting power and have led many to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. At the heart of his talks is the core meaning of faith, which is "saving trust." Rather than to rely on definitions, he uses five biblical characters to demonstrate what faith actually means.

The first and second portraits are the faith of Adam and Eve. Adam's faith is demonstrated in how he names Eve. The name 'Eve' which Adam gave means 'life, life-giver, living.' This may seem surprising to some of us who tend to connect the world's first couple with sin and disobedience. Faith here is demonstrated because of Adam's trust in the future of life. After the pronouncement that Adam and Eve will die because of their disobedience, God also put a promise in which He will crush the serpent and godly seed will come out of Eve. Eve's faith is demonstrated in her willing to bear children despite the curse of sin and death. Both Adam and Eve believed God. Genesis 3 reveals how the human couple exercise childlike faith in spite of their sin.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Church Basics: Understanding Baptism (Bobby Jamieson)

TITLE: Understanding Baptism (Church Basics)
AUTHOR: Bobby Jamieson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016, (74 pages).

What is the meaning of baptism? Is it necessary? Is it a must for all believers? What is the significance of baptism? Why is it required for Church membership? What are the kinds of baptism in the Christian world today? These questions are covered in this series of "Church Basics" that deal with basic questions asked in churches all over the world. In brief, there are three types of audiences that the author is addressing to. The first group are those who have not been baptized yet, and are exploring what the whole significance of baptism is about. This group also includes those who are just about to take the plunge into the baptismal act. It also includes those who are unsure of whether it is important or necessary in the first place to go through the ritual. The second group are those who have been baptized but needed either a refresher course or a reminder of the meaning of baptism. Over time, people do forget the significance of this event and by being reminded of the importance of baptism, they would have a renewed commitment to live out their baptismal covenant and to encourage others to do the same. The third group are the pastors and leaders of the Church. Having resources to teach and to share with the church congregation is an important one. Very often, members who have questions need to ask someone. The pastor or Church leader is a common resource. This book equips leaders to share about the meaning of baptism and at the same time, use the contents or modify them to be a part of the overall Church Education curriculum. There are many more applications that can be put in.

The key belief in this book is this: "Baptism is a church's act of affirming and portraying a believer's union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer's act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world." It is a statement of affirmation that baptism is not only necessary but is part of the biblical mandate of the Great Commission. It lists the theological arguments for and against infant baptism before the author lays out why he says infant baptism is not the biblical baptism. He gives seven reasons why baptism is required for membership and also how baptism should be done. However, there is not much about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Briefly, the book comes with answers to six basic questions about baptism.
  1. What is Baptism?
  2. Who Should Be Baptized?
  3. What about Infant Baptism?
  4. Why is Baptism Required for Church Membership?
  5. When is "Baptism" Not Baptism?
  6. How Should Churches Practice Baptism?
The author is a PhD student in New Testament at the University of Cambridge. He has previously written "Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership" from which this book has been based on. The booklet form makes this book ideal for giveaways or as a baptismal gift that accompany the traditional Bible. This book is one among the six Church Basics series of books. The others are:

For an introduction to baptism, this booklet helps iron out the basics of the Christian Faith, and this fulfills the purpose of the series of Christian Basics.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of B&H Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Tozer for the Christian Leader" (Compiled by Ron Eggert)

TITLE: Tozer for the Christian Leader: A 365-Day Devotional
AUTHOR: AW Tozer (compiled by Ron Eggert)
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (432 pages).

Aiden Wilson Tozer is one of my favourite spiritual writers of all time. He is bold, passionate, and staunchly biblical. He is not afraid to be tough when it comes to God's truth. Having written many books, he has impacted many people not only when he was a pastor at Chicago's Southside Alliance Church, but many more around the world. From individual books, publishers have compiled "The Best of AW Tozer" and other combinations. Due to his insightful writings, publishers have also put together devotionals based on themes from his many books. This devotional contains 365 excerpts from the many books and booklets written by Tozer. While the writings are Tozer's, the collection of articles according to the leadership them is owed to Ron Eggert, a regional representative for Mastermedia International. Limited to one page per day, each devotional as a title for the Christian leader, a Bible passage, a prayer, and an excerpt from one of Tozer's many writings.  They are arranged in monthly leadership themes that cover a wide range of areas.
  1. January: The Leader's Personal Life
  2. February: The Holy Spirit in the Leader's Life
  3. March: Pastoral Ministry and Leadership
  4. April: Prayer
  5. May: Preaching 
  6. June: Worship
  7. July: The Church
  8. August: Evangelism
  9. September: Revival
  10. October: Failure and Success
  11. November: Spiritual Warfare and Sin
  12. December: Trials and Pain

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"A Spirituality of Listening" (Keith R. Anderson)

TITLE: A Spirituality of Listening: Living What We Hear
AUTHOR: Keith R. Anderson
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (208 pages)

God has revealed himself and is still revealing more today. The question is: Are we listening? In this book, author and President of Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Keith R. Anderson shows us that life is meaningfully sustained with listening. We all have lots to learn about listening. It is not about hearing words but the meaning the hearing entails. In order to listen well, one needs to be able to love the beauty of words, sounds, and stories. Listening well comes with cherishing the relationship in the first place. It means learning to spend time in the presence of God, not just waiting for audible voices. Anderson calls it "resonance" which is not simply an "echo" but a "complex point and counterpoint." In other words, listening is not passive receiving but active engagement. Such engagements can be in the form of questions for the self and moments of reflections.

We learn about listening to creation and the things that God has created. If we listen well, we do not simply see the good in things but the greatness of God that these created things testify. We see the extraordinary amid the ordinary. As we grow in listening, we also grow in wonder. We are more attentive to the normal things of life, and learn not to take things for granted. Even the act of reading can be a form of listening. He points out some of the flawed ways we read that we do nowadays that inhibit good listening.
  • We use our mind alone to analyze rather than observe;
  • We read in order to confirm our own ideas rather than to learn
  • We read critically to respond rather than to appreciate
  • We read quickly to get answers rather than to understand the author
  • We read for personal gain rather than for edifying others
  • We read in order to form views rather than relationships...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"A Theology of Biblical Counseling" (Heath Lambert)

TITLE: A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry
AUTHOR: Heath Lambert
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (352 pages).

Is Christian counseling compatible with secular psychotherapy techniques? Some would say yes. Others say no. When it comes to counseling, most people would accept all kinds of techniques, be it scientific or religious, as long as it works. This pragmatic approach is not necessarily compatible with Church teachings about counseling. For many years, Jay Adams has been one of the pioneers for Christian counseling that is centered on the Bible and dependent wholly on the Word of God revealed. With the rise of psychology and psychotherapy treatments used together with the Bible, more people are preferring to use not only the Bible but modern sciences in counseling approaches. Adams develops ten classic doctrines of the Christian faith before applying them to counseling. Thirty years later, as new scholars, theologians, and teachers rise up from the ranks, we have an updated version by Heath Lambert who raises the bar by insisting that the Bible alone is the full and final word on matters of counseling.  For Lambert, "counseling is a theological discipline." Right from the start, he admits that this is a controversial statement. Throughout the book, the author asserts that theology informs counseling and all matters pertaining to counseling. Lambert's definition of counseling is this: "Counseling is a conversation where one party with questions, problems, and trouble seeks assistance from someone they believe has answers, solutions, and help." The counselee comes with problems, questions, and need for some help. The counselor is supposed to be the agent with answers, solutions, or some ability to help. Believing that secular forms of counseling are never neutral by themselves, Lambert prefers to be upfront on the risks of secular counseling. He critiques "cognitive behavior therapy" that measures success on the basis of emotional well-being. The danger is one becomes a worshiper of self and feelings. He does not minces his words for conservative Christians trying to introduce secular psychology into their counseling practice.  Key to his criticism is the fundamental basis of counseling success: Is it human-centered or God-centered?

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Conscience" (Andrew David Naselli and J.D. Crowley)

TITLE: Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ
AUTHOR: Andrew David Naselli and J.D. Crowley
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016, (160 pages).

It is not often that the Church talks about conscience, let alone sermons. What is the meaning of a "clear conscience?" How relevant is conscience for Christian living? What is the role of conscience with regard to Church unity? What does bringing our conscience under the lordship of Christ really mean? These questions are covered in this unique book about the inner workings of a person with regard to critical issues of life, relationships, and faith. In this book, authors Andrew Naselli and JD Crowley aim to bring back the topic of conscience to the Church, believing that such awareness will bring about greater church unity, empowers evangelism and missions, improves relationships, and minimizes misunderstandings among servants. It is also hoped that this book on conscience can even strengthen our spiritual maturity.

In chapters 1 and 2, the authors show us what conscience is and is not. In it, we learn that conscience is more than shoulder angels/demons. Animals do not have a conscience. Our consciences reflect the image of God and for us is very personal. Two simple principles apply. First, God is lord of conscience and second, we need to obey our conscience. The word conscience in the New Testament is "syneidesis" which occur 39 times in the Greek New Testament. It is used positively in two ways and negatively in six ways. Positively, it means being blameless and clean. Negatively, it means being weak, wounded, defiled, emboldened to sin, guilt, and seared. Conscience can lead us to witness, to judge, and to act upon. With such powerful links between conscience and behaviour, Naselli and Crowley highlights four challenges to be covered in the later chapters.

  • What do we do when our conscience condemns us?
  • What does it take to calibrate our consciences with God's will?
  • How do we relate to people whose conscience clash with ours? 
  • What about clashes between consciences and cultural differences? 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth" (Christopher J.H. Wright)

TITLE: How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth
AUTHOR: Christopher J.H. Wright
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (288 pages).

Christians who believe in the authority of the Bible will have no problem about the importance of the Old Testament. However, when it comes to communicating the truths and the nuances of the biblical texts for the general audience, it becomes more challenging because of the ancient contexts, the archaic languages used, and how it is relevant for contemporary cultures. Author Christopher Wright has seen it all. He knows how infrequent preachers use the Old Testament for their Sunday sermons. Even those who teach prefer to use the New Testament as it involves less work for the teacher and less intense for the students. Yet, the difficulty should not be the reason for not studying the Old Testament. Despite the title of the book, there is a progression of why first before the how. This is important.

Part One of the book is about the WHY we need to preach and teach the Old Testament. Part Two reveals the HOW.

Friday, April 15, 2016

"How Jesus Saves the World From Us" (Morgan Guyton)

TITLE: How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity
AUTHOR: Morgan Guyton
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, (208 pages).

There is a common saying about the spiritual obstinacy of ancient Israel: "You can take Israel out of Egypt, but you cannot take Egypt out of Israel." Compared to external things, whatever that is inside our hearts is much harder to remove. In the same light, people who have dabbled with all forms of worldliness will have the world in their lives. What does it take to be liberated from all of these? How can we be more free to pursue our calling instead of running after things that do not last? According to Morgan Guyton, it is not about removing us from the world, but to remove the world from us! He gives not just one but twelve"antidotes" to save the world from us.
  1. Worship, not Performance
  2. Mercy, not Sacrifice
  3. Empty, not Clean
  4. Breath, not Meat
  5. Honor, not Terror
  6. Poetry, not Math
  7. Communion, not Correctness
  8. Temple, not Program
  9. Solidarity, not Sanctimony
  10. Outsides, not Insiders
  11. Servanthood, not Leadership
  12. Kingdom, not Stadium

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Answering Jihad" (Nabeel Qureshi)

TITLE: Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
AUTHOR: Nabeel Qureshi
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (176 pages).

What does it mean to say that Islam is a religion of peace? Is this understanding the same for both Western and the Middle-Eastern minds? What is Jihad? How does a religion cause a person to become radicalized? What is the meaning of Islam and its origins?

Spurred by the rising anxiety of terrorism from Islamic radicals and the confusion surrounding religious truth and ideology, Nabeel Qureshi shares honestly and passionately about what Islam stands for, what Jihad essentially means, and how we can respond or relate to Muslims. Qureshi is a former Muslim who when young, was very pious about all things Islam. He has previously shared about his conversion from Islam to Christianity in a book entitled, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus."

Some of the clarifications he have made in the book include his study, experience, and analysis of the history of Islam and the teachings of the Quran.
  1. The Western understanding of Islam as a religion of peace is different from the Muslim's understanding of peace. Islam means "surrender," a peace that comes only after all the enemies of Islam have surrendered. Violence may be necessary in order to bring about such peace. 
  2. The word 'Jihad' means 'struggle,' and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam. While the word sometimes is used in the Quran in a spiritual sense, it more often than not refers to a physical struggle for a spiritual goal.
  3. Each time anyone attempts to go back to the origins of the Islamic faith, violence is part and parcel of the struggle in the faith. A vast majority of Muslims have not bothered to go back to the roots of the religion. In order to understand the Islamic religion, one must also understand the contexts of the religion. 
  4. The history of the prophet Muhammad is replete with violence; both offensive and defensive forms of jihad. (Example, in Quran 9:29, there is a command to fight Jews and Christians because of belief, not aggression)
  5. "Sharia" literally means "path to water" but the interpretations of Shariah law varies tremendously due to "abrogation" where there are verses the some say are no longer relevant but others insist on its relevance.
  6. The expansion of Islam involves the use of the "sword" whether directly or indirectly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"The Heart of Revelation" (J. Scott Duvall)

TITLE: The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible's Final Book
AUTHOR: J. Scott Duvall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (224 pages).

The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament. Filled with metaphors, images, and symbols, it is also one of the most challenging books of the Bible to interpret. What is Revelation all about? Why is it in the Bible? Who are the original audiences? What are the circumstances surrounding its writing? These questions continue to be asked through the centuries, even today. In fact, interest in this last book of the Bible remains very high. Many scholars and theologians have written on it. Many pastors and preachers have preached it over the pulpit. Many teachers have debated and shared the various perspectives for eager students. Still, the fascination remains.
  • What are the seals of the scrolls?
  • How do we understand the 144000 saved?
  • The horses, the wars, and the dragons, what do they all mean?
Author and professor, J. Scott Duvall is Professor of New Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He shows us that there are three ways to reading Revelation. The first way is to read it once and then leave Revelation alone. The second way is to be obsessed by it to the point that one becomes paranoid about all things last days. He recommends the third way, which is to read in context, the understand the themes, and to practice the present with care to avoid the extremes of the two earlier ways. He points out ten themes to understand Revelation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Mission Failure" (Michael Mandelbaum)

TITLE: Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era
AUTHOR: Michael Mandelbaum
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016, (504 pages).

The title says it all. America's post-Cold-War foreign policy has largely failed. Looking through the recent decades, despite pockets of successes, American influence in the world has created lots of negative perceptions more than ever. In spite of the reputation of being the world's sole superpower, there are limits to what America can do to or for other nation states. Whether it is military interventions or economic embargoes, one wonders if America has gone far beyond what it is called to do. Has the country over-exerted itself in its foreign policy? Has it interfered in the domestic politics and policies of countries of lesser economic strength? Has it overstepped its moral or legal boundaries to what it needs to do? In a nutshell, for a post-Cold-War era, how can a nation that claims to want to do good for the world ends up creating more problems instead? These and many more questions are examined and answered in a very insightful book about American foreign policy after the Cold War, and especially after September 11. The author looks back at the history of American foreign policy and lists four distinct periods.
  • Period 1 (1789-1889): Inward focus; American Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Period 2 (1898-1945): Outward focus
  • Period 3 (1945-1992): WWII aftermath and the Cold War
  • Period 4 (1993-2014): America's Post-Cold-War era
This book is about Period 4, and how America's foreign policy had shifted:
  • From Controlling external behaviour of other countries to Internal Governance
  • From containment to interference
  • From Military Defense to Ideology Expansion
  • From Self-Interest to Humanitarian
  • From political practices to political values (eg human rights)

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Who Are You To Judge?" (Erwin W. Lutzer)

TITLE: Who Are You to Judge?: Learning to Distinguish Between Truths, Half-Truths, and Lies
AUTHOR: Erwin W. Lutzer
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

When Jesus said that we are not to judge, it does not mean that we cannot judge. It is just that by the way we judge, we shall be judge. In this book, renowned pastor and author, Erwin Lutzer shows us the way to discern between judging and being judgmental. On the topic of judging, Christians are called to stand for justice and to defend the weak in a just manner. How can they do that if they are to absolutely refrain from any manner of judging? Is the question, "Who are you to judge?" to be treated as an absolute prohibition from even speaking out? If not, what are the principles we can adopt to ensure that we judge fairly and do not fall into judgmentalism?

This book deals with this important topic in a manner that is biblical and practical. Essentially, it is about discernment. It is about sharpening the uniqueness we have as a body of Christ with truth and holiness as the differentiating characteristics of our existence. Our task is to stand up for the truth, to make wise judgments in a non-judgmental way.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"More" (Todd Wilson)

TITLE: More: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to the Fullest Measure
AUTHOR: Todd Wilson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (224 pages).

Books on calling continue to be very popular with people wanting to find meaning and significance in their lives.

The opening verse to the song "Consuming Fire" is an apt description of what this book opines: "There must be more than this." While Tim Hughes's song leads us to the working of the Holy Spirit and unity, Todd Wilson uses this to point us to personal calling and purpose. Not satisfied with the status quo, he asks the fundamental questions:

  • BE: Who are we fundamentally? (Our identity and design)
  • DO: What should we be doing? (Our mission and purpose)
  • GO: How can we release our fullest potential? (Our mission field and positioning)

In short, this book is about BE-DO-GO. Written in two parts, the first part, "Foundations in Calling" lists the ten truths of personal calling. The second part, "Discovering Your Calling" shows us the way on how to apply the framework to discover our own calling. The Ten Truths are:

  1. Trusting God to show us
  2. Stepping Forth in Faith
  3. Abandoning the Earthly for the Eternal
  4. Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus
  5. Embracing Christ's Mission to bring the Gospel to the Masses
  6. Living in common with a local community of faith
  7. Taking personal responsibility for One's Life
  8. Trusting the Holy Spirit to Guide and to Empower Us
  9. Following Our General Calling of core Identity, core Mission, and core Position
  10. Following Our Specific Calling of Unique Identity, Unique Mission, and Unique Position.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"The Listening Life" (Adam S. McHugh)

TITLE: The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
AUTHOR: Adam S. McHugh
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (224 pages).

Attentiveness is a much needed quality these days. In a culture where distracted driving is occurring more often than drunk driving, people tend to be talking more and listening less. Welcome to an age of distraction and self-seeking endeavors. According to Adam McHugh, "listening comes first" even before we were born. McHugh, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church USA is also spiritual director, speaker, and retreat leader. His first book, "Introverts in the Church" talks about the plight of introverts trying to find their place in churches that tend to appeal more to extroverts. This second book of his attempts to contrast the need for listening in a highly talkative world. Why listen? That is because listening is the foundational discipline for what it means to be human. It is the first step of discipleship. It helps us avoid grabbing too much sound space from others. It prepares us with a disposition to receive instructions from God rather than to tell God what God already knew. For preachers, listening comes before preaching. In this very perceptive book, McHugh provides some challenging questions:
  • If we learn to listen first, how will that impact our relationships?
  • If we discipline ourselves to listen to God first, how will our relationship with God become?
  • What if our default position in anything is listening?
  • What will happen if we learn to listen first with our ears rather than to move our lips?
  • What about listening to our inner selves?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Be You. Do Good." (Jonathan David Golden)

TITLE: Be You. Do Good.: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive
AUTHOR: Jonathan David Golden
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (224 pages).

I have heard people telling me that they dread waking up on Monday mornings. Some hated their jobs while others are simply doing it for the money. Rather than merely dragging our feet to work, or to simply try to make ends meet, what happens when a person catches his calling? What would we choose to do if money is no object? What does it take to heighten our boldness to pursue the very things that drive our inner beings? The core message in this book is that once we have discovered our inner selves, the outer actions are simply no-brainers. Our core identity determines our best activities. Better still, what if the very things we are motivated to do are directly or indirectly impacting lives and bringing goodness, goodwill, and even goodies! For we are created in the image of God, and we can surely do good. Lots of good. In this book, we learn of twelve ways in which we can be on our way to doing good. Golden calls them "twelve adventures" that will help us find our calling.

First, we clear the decks by letting go of the myths. The myth of equating our jobs as callings because former is more about money while the latter is beyond the financial considerations. Long task lists, grand positions, and erroneous thinking about the way calling works are dispensed with. Golden also makes a point to clarify that ministry is not necessarily a "higher calling."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"40 Questions About the Historical Jesus" (C. Marvin Pate)

TITLE: 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus (40 Questions and Answers Series) (40 Questions & Answers Series)
AUTHOR: C. Marvin Pate
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015, (408 pages).

Who is Jesus in history? What events inspired the first, second, and third quests for the historical Jesus? What were the scholars trying to prove? What about the non-biblical sources and the oral traditions? How do we make sense of the apocryphal gospels? Why should we learn anything about the historical Jesus in the first place? What is the significance of the study? Isn't the Bible sufficient? These questions are part of the 40 questions dealt with in this fascinating overview of the "Historical Jesus." Briefly, the book is demarcated into four major sections.
  1. Background Questions about the "Historical" Jesus (11 questions)
  2. Questions about Jesus' Birth and Childhood (8 questions)
  3. Questions about Jesus' Life and Teaching (13 questions)
  4. Questions about Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection (8 questions)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Rare Leadership" (Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder)

TITLE: Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits For Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead
AUTHOR: Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

Another book on leadership? How rare is "rare?" Is there some new thing that we do not know? These questions may be on the minds of some readers who find the words, "leadership" more and more jaded these days. It has been said that most 'new' ideas are not really new, just a new rehash of some old idea. While the idea is not new, the book reminds us of the important traits of leadership. Yet, it is important enough to merit a reminder because of three reasons. Leadership is lacking in many areas; Leadership is always needed in all areas. Leadership is also constantly renewed. What may have piqued some readers is the use of the word 'rare.' The word "RARE" here is used more as an acronym rather than an adjective. It is the conviction of the authors that four "uncommon habits" are related to emotional intelligence, which in turn will draw out the best in people through a "dramatic increase in trust, joy, and engagement."
  • R - Return to Joy (gladness of togetherness)
  • A - Act like yourself (identity)
  • R - Remain Relational (belonging)
  • E - Endure Hardship (let hard times unite the people)

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Dwelling in the Land" (Jeanette Howard)

TITLE: Dwelling in the Land: Bringing Same-Sex Attraction Under the Lordship of Christ
AUTHOR: Jeanette Howard
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2015, (288 pages).

Gay marriage may have been legalized throughout the United States. It may have become the norm in many parts of Western society and others. It may also have been accepted in various religions and churches. Yet, it remains a contentious issue in many churches. Some churches insist on therapy for homosexuals, believing that spiritual healing is needed for such conditions. Others insist on re-interpreting biblical texts to make it more acceptable for same-sex orientations. Still, there are those who do not want to make a stand on such a divisive issue. They can choose celibacy or total abstinence from sex. They can also choose to avoid talking about the topic altogether. Almost all Church denominations have become split over this matter. What about those who believe that the biblical does not support homosexuality and yet experience some form of same-sex attraction (SSA)? This book is about one who openly admits her homosexual tendencies and yet believes that the Bible does not support homosexual acts. It is about the honest struggles personally and biblically. With regard to SSA, the strategy is not elimination but re-orientation. This book is the story of one who has gone through that and is sharing her experience, her knowledge, and also her pain.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Core Christianity" (Michael Horton)

TITLE: Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
AUTHOR: Michael Horton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

The story that we believe will determine our responses to events in life. This is the core message of the book. Also known as worldview, author and professor Michael Horton puts it simply as the story we believe in our hearts. For Christians, Horton believes that the story is the Christian story. We understand it by proper doctrine; by living in Jesus; by having reason informed by faith; and the fundamental Christian living determined by the 4Ds.
  1. Drama: The biblical narrative
  2. Doctrine: What the drama means
  3. Doxology: Praising God with grateful hearts
  4. Discipleship: Fruit of love and good works
Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He has also authored several theology textbooks, one of which is Pilgrim Theology. Comparatively speaking, this book is a distilled version for lay readers. It is written with the ordinary church goer in mind. Selecting ten core doctrines, Horton writes in a more direct, conversational, and popular style. Where there is a need to describe in theological terms, the author makes it a point to separately define and explain it, which is useful for those of us unfamiliar with the more demanding words used in theology. The ten doctrines are:
  1. The Deity of Jesus
  2. The Trinity
  3. God
  4. Sin
  5. Old Testament Promise
  6. Salvation
  7. The Gospel
  8. Jesus Christ
  9. The End Times
  10. Witnessing for God

Friday, April 1, 2016

"Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness" (Eric Metaxas)

TITLE: Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness
AUTHOR: Eric Metaxas
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (256 pages).

Biographies are often very inspirational. By reading the story of individual lives, how they succeed, how they pick themselves up after failures, their background, their sources of influence, and so on, we read about people who are more down to earth than the public perception suggests. If one is inspirational in itself, what about seven? What about the seven women whose lives have become a testament of faith and courage? Having written two bestselling biographies, of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and another book of shorter biographies of seven other men, the author applies his gift of storytelling to a similar book of shorter biographies of seven women. One of the biggest challenges is not about finding which women to write about but the criteria of selection. As one who had written an earlier edition of seven men, it is tempting to write a similar one, only that it is about women. Noting this tendency, Metaxas opts for a story that defines them as women rather than some comparison against the males. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was chosen for her youth, innocence, and purity. Rosa Parks (1913–2005) was chosen for her exemplary courage in the face of immense opposition. Susanna Wesley (1669–1742) was seen as a strong mother figure while Saint Maria of Paris (1891–1945) went beyond biological motherhood toward being a spiritual parent. Hannah More (1745–1833) exemplified a valued friend and Corrie Ten Boom (1892–1983) and Mother Teresa (1910–1997) manifested a warm human spirit that we can all learn from regardless of our gender.   While the stories between the seven women and seven men are not interchangeable, the principles of learning can be gleaned from all of them. The following are some of the criteria: