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Monday, May 30, 2016

"Reaching Millennials" (David Stark)

TITLE: Reaching Millennials: Proven Methods for Engaging a Younger Generation
AUTHOR: David Stark
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany, 2016, (176 pages).

The news is grim. The statistics are not encouraging. The Church in the West are largely shrinking. The conventional belief now is that a growing number of the younger generation, especially the Millennials (Born between 1978-1998) are no longer going to Church. Is it too late to reach them? Can we stem the outflow of believers to an increasing number of "Nones" (Non-Affiliated; Non-Church-Going; and non-committal) group of people? In a book that offers to push back against the tide of dismay and discouragement, David Stark offers this book not just as a life-buoy but a firm call to re-think, to re-assess, to re-imagine, and to rebuild. Before that can happen, two things need to be done: 1) Change the Mindset; 2) Re-work the Methodologies.

In changing the Mindset, Stark studies the gospels and the Acts of the disciples to discover the way Jesus and the early believers reach out to others. He looks at the ways of evangelism; the wisdom and patterns used; the questions posed to unbelievers; and the need for cultural awareness. At the least, do not make it hard for unbelievers to come to Christ.  He shows us five ways in which we can streamline the process of changing mindsets, beginning with ours.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"Lessons in Belonging" (Erin S. Lane)

TITLE: Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe
AUTHOR: Erin S. Lane
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015, (208 pages).

Far too often, when we talk about young people and the Church, it seems like strange bedfellows where there are often more suspicions than trust. Sometimes we have cross accusations where the old would claim the young are uninterested while the young say the old are too archaic in their ways. It is easy to criticize the Church. In fact, people of all ages can say negative things about the Church. Yet, the truth is, we need one another. We need both the young, the old, and everyone else in between. In one word, this book is about "belonging." While that is the key point, what makes it most interesting is the way the author writes counter-culturally. She gives a refreshing perspective from the mindset of a Millennial. For instance, instead of seeing "disillusionment" as something chronically negative, how about seeing it in terms of a good thing, like having an opportunity to be free from our personal illusions? Not only can it free us from the castle of self, it enables us to reflect on what role we ought to play with regard to being a part of a community. Rather than pinning the blame on something less controllable, like the Church and how she should behave, it places the responsibility back on the individual. How do we trust people? What can we do to be a part of the enduring community? It is a call not only to accept messy living but to participate in a community no matter how messy it is.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Live Like You Give a Damn!" (Tom Sine)

TITLE: Live Like You Give a Damn!: Join the Changemaking Celebration
AUTHOR: Tom Sine
PUBLISHER: Eugene OR: Cascade Books, 2016, (pages).

There is a renewed energy growing. This is not about the establishment, the successes of the past, or the words of the rich and the famous. This growing phenomenon is in the young people living in ways the past generations have never seen before. Hold your horses people. The younger generation is back and they are changing the world in more ways than one. They are not the "whatever" generation who do not care. Instead, they are passionate about their ideals; energetic about their ideas; and are already making a difference in the world at various contexts of their lives. How are they making a difference? Tom Sine, author of "Mustard Seed vs McWorld" has noticed several ways in which the younger generation have done so and are doing more and more. The key purpose of this book is not just to describe the innovative changemaking initiatives that are happening, but to invite readers and people from other generations to be excited, and to join in. Rather than to lament on the so-called declining Church, why not celebrate the wonderful imaginative work done by those 35 and under? Instead of focusing on activities pertaining to Church only, what about extending it to neighbours as well? Tom Sine and his wife Christine lives in a an intergenerational community house where they participate in gardening, cooking, and various forms of hospitality and service to neighbours and friends. Sine prides himself as a "disorientating" person to help others think out of the box.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Small Matters" (Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado)

TITLE: Small Matters: How Churches and Parents Can Raise Up World-Changing Children (Exponential Series)
AUTHOR: Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

If youths are the future of the leadership of society, then what about those who are on the way to becoming youths themselves? In two words, the authors of this book have crystallized the importance: "Small matters." I would add, "It matters indeed!" Just like every little girl is a princess and every little boy a prince, everyone of us as children of God are royalty in the making. Taking issue at how young children are being ignored, abandoned, abused, and even manipulated, Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado believe that we must love and care for children in the same way Jesus did. For we battle not just against physical poverty but emotional, mental, and physical aspects too. From broken marriages to material greed, children are often helpless when they are suffering from the fallouts of flawed adult decisions. At the same time, there are external threats like gunmen shooting schoolchildren and terrorism that lurks at increasingly more places in our society. The authors' conviction is that every child needs a Church.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"The God We Worship" (Various Contributors)

TITLE: The God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People
AUTHOR: Edited by Jonathan L. Master
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, PA: P and R Publishing, 2016, (192 pages).

What is worship? Is it about man or is it about God? Some churches choose worship formats and songs according to the needs of people. Others choose worship liturgies to adhere closely to tradition. Without adequately understanding what the essence of worship is, it is hard to plan out a meaningful flow of worship. More importantly, how we begin determines the general thrust of the worship experience. The core message in this book is about God, with each sermon and message pointing readers to the nature of God. For without God, worship is meaningless. In this book, ten contributors give their unique perspectives of a certain aspect of worship. Organized thematically, the essays and sermons begins with the glory of God; covering the Fall of man; proclaiming the call to worship; meditating on God's grace and mercy; the truth claims of Jesus Christ; the work and Person of the Holy Spirit. Worshiping God is like admiring and gazing at a lovely diamond, with each worship moment helping us to cherish and worship God in a specific way. Bryan Chapell in "God's Glory Revealed" begins with a reflection on Isaiah 6 to meditate on the glory of God and to imagine what made Isaiah tremble. Charles D. Drew in "Called by God to Worship" reflects on how God pursues people; and considers three questions to ponder. He asks:

  1. How do we know God seeks worshipers?
  2. Why?
  3. Why should we say yes to Gods pursuit of us?

Richard D. Phillips continues this same line of meditation with "Sought by Christ to Worship" covering on New Testament revelations of Christ. Joseph Ryan touches on God's providence in "Guided by God's Sovereign Providence" through the three types of providential care (planning presumption; personal presumption; and positional presumption) as described in James 4:13-14.  Philip Graham Ryken sees God as Redeemer  in "Redeemed by God's Sovereign Mercy" addressing the reality of pain and suffering while acknowledging God's sovereignty over all. Focusing on Romans 9, Ryken sees the distress experienced by Paul, agonizing over the depravity of man while affirming the mercy of God. He settles on the position that God is not merely concerned about mercy per se, but the full revelation of Himself, Truth personified. Michael S. Horton shares about "Sanctifying Grace" and argues that before we can understand the process of salvation (Romans 6-8), we need to disengage from our culture of self-help and therapy-obsession. For grace is a full acceptance of what we cannot do for ourselves and the undeserved grace we receive. Through the already and not-yet theological model, we are reminded about our limitation and that it is up to God to fully reveal Himself according to His perfect timing. Richard D. Phillips looks to Christ as Royal King, High Priest, and Redeemer. He concludes with the vision of the glorious kingdom to come in Revelation. Out of this beauty of God's holiness comes our desire to serve God even more.  Michael A. G. Haykin speaks of the Holy Spirit in "The Spirit of Holiness" arguing that the essence of worship is God's holiness. Al Mohler describes worship through "Know the Truth" believing that right worship comes with right belief. Worship is not manipulation but an affirmation of the Truth of God as declared in the Bible. D. A. Carson in "I Am the Truth" brings together the biblical passages in both the Old and New Testament and shines the limelight on Jesus Christ, and how the Holy Spirit enables us in worship as God's truths get embedded in our hearts.

On and on, each contributor begins with the Word and concludes with a declaration that worship begins with God, proceeds with God, and concludes with God. All of them belong to a coalition of pastors, scholars, and clergy who hold on to the Reformed faith, called the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The breadth of topics make this book respectable, though some would argue that worship is a much bigger topic and deserves a lot more pages to cover. That said, the series of sermons are ongoing as each year, a conference is held to allow different members of the community to express their understanding of worship. It is definitely very instructive to people who tend to think worship only in terms of music and song. For them, this book is an eye-opener that worship is way more than the musical instruments and melodies played. The number of contributors could have been more.

Who should read this book? First of course are the worship leaders. Being able to lead is not just about the ability to play a musical instruments or to throw in a few songs to fill in the time space. It is about elevating the goodness and Triune Godhead. It is in ascribing to God His full attributes and who God is. It is about proclaiming the truth of God as affirmed in the Bible. The worship leader must always be worshipers themselves. Second will be the teachers and Bible facilitators. Having a good understanding of worship will teach us that our service flows not from our motivations or talents but on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help us know God and then to make God known. Third, it is for the lay persons, and anyone wanting to understand worship from a Reformed perspective.

Anyone who wants to know the heart of worship from a Reformed perspective should get this book. It is anchored in biblical truth and is consistent with Reformed theology.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

Monday, May 23, 2016

"Seasons of Waiting" (Betsy Childs Howard)

TITLE: Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed (The Gospel Coalition)
AUTHOR: Betsy Childs Howard
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016, (128 pages).

Waiting can be hard. It can be worrying. Sometimes, it can even make one sick, so says Proverbs 13:12 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Between the question and the answer, waiting is that middle way in which one can only remain in hope or worry with despair. This book is essentially about this phase. It is about trusting God to provide even as we wait out the tensions of unknowing. Author Betsy Childs Howard shares with readers five life stories where waiting is not only difficult, it is terribly painful.

The first story is about a single woman named Katy who wanted so badly to be married, to have children, and to have a nice family. Yet how is she going to start a family without a husband? How is she going to have children when her biological age window for child bearing is closing? How is she going to get married when she does not even have a boyfriend? How long will Katy have to wait?

The second story is about Christine who had trouble conceiving. After a miscarriage and constant inability to conceive, Christine suffered from endometriosis that was so serious that doctors recommended hysterectomy. That would spell the end of any pregnancy. The next option was adoption. Yet, that too was challenging. With infertility came disappointment. With disappointment came despair. With despair came pain. How long will they have to wait?

Friday, May 20, 2016

NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible

TITLE: NKJV, Apply the Word Study Bible, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition: Live in His Steps
AUTHOR: Thomas-Nelson Publishers
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2016, (1632 pages).

This new study Bible has one key focus: To help the reader get up close and personal with Jesus so as to be more like Jesus. This is indeed wonderful. The publishers have tried to achieve this with four emphases:

  1. Text: It begins with a reliable Bible text translation. 
  2. Resources: Plenty of resources are allocated to help explain the contexts and the content of the passages
  3. Practical: The commentary and notes are all written with application in mind.
  4. Invitation: Readers are invited to make a personal commitment at various junctures to take a step of faith and to deepen one's commitment to Christ.
Let me give some comments with regard to this study Bible. First, it should appeal to those of us who are die-hards with regard to the King James Version. This is a very good translation that has stood the test of time. Updated with more modern language, it retains the beauty of the language used. While the KJV is beautiful in itself, younger readers will find the language a little too difficult to understand. With the NKJV, it overcomes this by updating words and phrases for the modern reader. The publishers have retained the "thought flow" of the original translation. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"All Authority" (Joey Shaw)

TITLE: All Authority: How the Authority of Christ Upholds the Great Commission
AUTHOR: Joey Shaw
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2016, (214 pages).

God has all authority and not just any kind of authority. It is over all. It is superior to all. It is above all. Indeed, if Jesus is not lord over all, He is not lord at all. The whole of the Christian life must begin with this basic premise: We serve a living God who is the giver and the inheritor of all authority. The first words of Matthew 28:18 says it. On this authority, we learn to gaze at God through worship. With the Word, we proclaim the glory of God through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Mission begins with worship. It needs doctrine. It needs conviction about the truth. A conviction about the truth comes with a convicted heart by the Holy Spirit. These are all connected. The title of this book is essentially to help us gaze at God with awe, that we will be empowered the share the gospel with zealousness. Based on the Great Commission verses of Matthew 28:18-20, all ten chapters in this book expounds the verses with personal stories, biblical references, doctrinal truths, and reasons why God is to be worshiped and obeyed.

Reading this book helps us shift our paradigms from passivity to activity. It speaks from the authority of God against the idolatries of the world. It helps us move from the omission to the Great Commission. It emphasizes the "make disciples" more than mere talking about Jesus. Being Christlike is more important than mere knowledge.

As the International Field Office Director for Austin Stone Community Church, Shaw serves outside the United States as one of the more than 100 workers out in the field. The idea of God's total sovereignty grip his heart so much that fear is replaced by courage and urgency replaces complacency. Throughout the book, readers can sense the gospel passion flowing out of every page. Sharing the gospel must not begin with ourselves or with human needs. These are important but they are also temporal. Sharing the gospel begins with an acknowledgement that we are not in control. We do not know what is best for ourselves. We need help. By anchoring the entire book on the authority of Christ, we learn to begin with God, continue with God, and end with God. All of our sharing must be this manner whether through verbal or non-verbal means. The good news is not simply about our salvation or some nice heavenly apartment. The good news is God is love, God loves us, and God demonstrates his love for us by sending Jesus to die for us. God is all authority over all life, all death, and all creation.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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

Monday, May 16, 2016

"I Don't Get You" (Sherry Graf)

TITLE: I Don't Get You: A Guide to Healthy Conversations
AUTHOR: Sherry Graf
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016, (80 pages).

What is sexual purity? Why is it important? How can one maintain a healthy conversation on the topic on sexuality? Can we relate constructively with the opposite sex without having the feeling of butterflies in our stomachs? Is it really possible to have emotional purity in our hearts? The key thesis of this book is that we need to learn to guard our hearts and to maintain purity in our relationships. Proverbs 4:23 teaches us: "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Be connected first to God before trying others. Any intimate relationship with people needs to flow out of that reverent relationship with God. This guide shows us not one but FIVE conversation categories.

The first category is BIO-DATA which deals more with facts about the person. This can be questions about hobbies, likings, family, and interests. This category of questions can be fun especially when individuals are genuinely curious about the other person.

The second category is TESTIMONY where one asks about the faith journey of the other person. Stick with facts. If possible, keep the conversations at a group level. Questions like, "When did you become a Christian?" or "How did you get to know about Jesus?" can often help us understand the faith aspects.

The third category is DREAMS which is about the person's ambition and goals. One can learn what makes that person tick. It is about vocational choice, career goals, and important pursuits a growing person will need to tackle.

The fourth category is FEARS which can range from phobia of various things to fears surrounding broken relationships.

The fifth category is DEEPEST HURTS which is very revealing and makes the other person vulnerable. It covers regrets, wounds, and pains.

Apart from these five categories, we learn about the levels of intimacy with respect to discussing each particular categories. There are tips on learning not to share too much too fast; not to defraud others emotionally; dating tips; and finally emotional purity and marriage.

Personally, the five categories are already worth the price of this book. It gives us a good way to structure our conversations, learning the do's and don'ts of communications, and how not to become too intimate too quickly. A healthy conversation needs to be respectful. With this book, readers would learn how to do just that.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, NavPress, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Friday, May 13, 2016

"Making All Things New" (Benjamin L. Gladd and Matthew S. Harmon)

TITLE: Making All Things New: Inaugurated Eschatology for the Life of the Church
AUTHOR: Benjamin L. Gladd and Matthew S. Harmon
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (224 pages).

At the onset, the authors make it clear that this is no conventional book on eschatology, or theology of the last days. Rather than to reserve the end times to the short period leading to the second coming of Christ, Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon believe that eschatology is about the entire time period between the first and the second coming of Christ. This is also known as "inaugurated eschatology." The key idea in this book is that a good understanding of the already-not yet theological framework will inform how we live and minister in Church. Recognizing the divisions that often ensue when people talk about eschatology, such as between covenant theology and the dispensationalism, the authors seek a middle ground, which is one reason why this book is written by a professors teaching in seminaries of both persuasions. Gladd teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary (Covena Theology) while Harmon teaches at Grace Theological Seminary (Dispensationalist). Together, they hope to demonstrate that there is a way forward even when eschatological views differ sharply. What better way than to invite their esteemed professor, G.K. Beale to articulate the general landscape of the already-not yet theological truths.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Understanding the Congregation's Authority (Jonathan Leeman)

TITLE: Understanding the Congregation's Authority (Church Basics)
AUTHOR: Jonathan Leeman
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016, (74 pages).

What is the meaning of Church leadership? What about the people of God and the priesthood of believers? Congregational authority is less about the meetings and activities but more about the mission of Christ. According to author Jonathan Leeman, congregational authority has more to do with Jesus' discipleship program. He believes in congregationalism which states clearly the responsibilities of each member of the congregation that guards the gospel; that helps mature the disciple; that strengthens the whole church; that solidifies holy integrity; that equips the people to love one's neighbours.

In this booklet about Church leadership and congregational authority, the author highlights four types of popular leadership styles. The first is the pastor-led or elder-led church in which pastors and elders are the spokespersons on behalf of the whole church. They drive the direction and the final authority for the whole congregation. The second type is the elder-rule type which believes that the final authority belongs to the elders of each independent church. Everybody, including pastors are under the leadership and spiritual guidance of the elders. The third type is the presbyterian model in which a "group of elders" rule over the Church. The fourth type is the episcopalians which gives the bishop overall authority over the whole church. While all of them share the similar belief that Christ is lord over all, the different positions express unique perspectives toward membership, financial matters, church discipline, and how matters of the church are conducted.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Living in the Light of Money, Sex & Power" (John Piper)

TITLE: Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power
AUTHOR: John Piper
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2016, (144 pages).

God has created this world for good, but sin had tarnished it in so many ways. Thus, good people no longer simply do good works. They are tempted to sin and can be deceived into turning good things into bad. How then do we live in our modern world of infatuation with things regarding money, sex, and power? Two words essentially surround this book's message about money, sex, and power: Corruption and Redemption. At the end of it all, Piper asserts that not only can God redeem these three areas of life, God is glorified when these are wisely stewarded and used for the benefit of all.

Money is simply a form of valuation, a cultural symbol of value that becomes a moral issue on how it is used. If the use of money is the surface, then the motivation behind its use or abuse is the underlying forces that we need to deal with. Sex is much broader than mere erotic stimulation. It is a good gift to be cherished and protected. Power is the capacity to get what we want. The common thread through these three is this: It is a God-given means of showing what we value. The root problem is the condition of the human heart that seeks to place idols above God. Using Romans 1 as the key Bible passage, readers learn of how light becomes darkness, idols become enthroned, and how power elevates self above all others.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Between Pain and Grace" (Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer)

TITLE: Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering
AUTHOR: Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (352 pages).

Suffering is one of the toughest, if not the toughest barrier to overcome with regards to people coming to faith. So people write songs, sing melancholic tunes, compose poems, and use artistic creativity to express themselves. Pain and suffering are real and often personal. The biblical writers are also well adapted and equipped to write about such things. The Psalms are filled with laments. The prophet Jeremiah has a whole book called "Lamentations." The apostle Peter acknowledges the suffering church and writes letters to encourage them to persevere. Paul himself is no stranger to suffering, having to endure an unknown thorn inflicted on his body. Job the righteous man also suffered tremendously. Of course, we have Jesus who suffered for all the world at the cross. Why then do we need another book on pain and suffering? Surely, lots have already been written about it. What is so unique about this book? In a nutshell, the authors in this book believe that we can learn a lot from the Bible with regard to pain, suffering, and of course the grace of God. The topics are wide-ranging. The contributors are many. All the Both contributors believe that pain and suffering are not something to be suppressed or repressed. Instead, it should be openly expressed.

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Pentecostal Outpourings" (various authors)

TITLE: Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition
EDITORS: Robert Davis Smart, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Ian Hugh Clary
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016, (280 pages).

The timing of release for this book couldn't have been more apt. For the Sunday (May 15th, 2016) is Pentecostal Sunday! Most resources and materials are produced by Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, and given the title of this book, it may appear that this too is another book published by the same. No. It is in fact about revival from a Reformed Perspective. In the tradition of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the authors are convicted that the Holy Spirit is the reason for revival. This work of grace from heaven is much needed for this age and every age. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, people will not only know and experience God at a deeper level, they would also be spurred on to good works. The three emphases in this book is about increasing the knowledge of God, spreading the gospel of Christ, and experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is also an apt preparation for Trinity Sunday following Pentecost Sunday.

What makes this book even more interesting is the multiple flavours of Reformed views that bring out the beauty, the unique perspectives, and the many different ways the Holy Spirit works. In the British Isles, Eifion Evans looks at "Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and Revival" where preaching and teaching are Spirit-inspired rather than preaching revived; that reformation is about God bringing about purity and power of His Truth to Christianity. This comes about through Spirit-inspired teaching. Ian Hugh Clary describes the Irish Revival, in particular two Ulster revivals and the Irish Dissent. The 1625 Six Mile Water Revival occurred along the river that runs through the towns of Ballynure, Ballycare, Templepatrick, and Antrim. Lesser known preachers were used mightily by God to spread the gospel. The Methodists and Baptists in 18th Century Ireland also had their revivals. The second Ulster revival in 1859 came about after the Great Famine. Like many forms of revival, it has prayer meetings as foundational to waiting on God. The revivals were unplanned and came about after long periods of prayer and waiting. Michael A. G. Haykin describes the revival in the early 1640s on the Calvinistic Baptists which grew from 7 congregations in 1644 to around 300 by 1689! He describes the rise and influence of Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliff, and A Coda whose heavy dependence on prayer and preaching in the power of the Spirit led to a revival in Baptist circles. Iain D. Campbell looks at the Presbyterian revival in Scotland and points out three different perspectives of Scottish revivalism: Historiographical; Social; and Denominational; before concluding with four lessons about the sovereignty of God; the supernatural work of God; our role as servants; and recognizing that revivals are not the only means God can bring about the renewal of the Church. It is the beauty of the gospel in itself that should be the purpose of our endeavours.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian" (Michelle Lee-Barnewall)

TITLE: Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate
AUTHOR: Michelle Lee-Barnewall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (240 pages).

In the evangelical debates over gender, there has been traditionally two camps. The first is the hierarchicalists, or commonly referred now as complementarians. Backed by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), this group insists on gender from the perspective of man's authority. On the other extreme, there is a group that calls themselves "egalitarians," backed by the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) that emphasizes on women's rights and equality of gender. Due to the strong stance taken by both groups, this issue of gender often forces an evangelical to choose either of these views, which can be very polarising for the Christian community. The reason for the impasse is that both camps argue from strong biblical positions. Both sides have people who love the Lord and who are passionate about the Bible. Both sides are trying to speak the truth in love as best as they can. Yet, the differences do remain. Backed by well-known scholars and theologians, both sides have formidable theological support for the views. Is there another way to view the gender debate? Is there some middle ground that others can identify with? Is there a place where both moderate individuals within the existing camps can come together? According to Michelle Lee-Barnewall, the answer is a clear Yes! Key to the formulation of a third view is this culturally sensitive paradigm, that if the ancient views of gender reflect the cultural norms of that day, then our theologies on gender need have interpretations that reflect modern cultural sensitivities. In fact, Lee-Barnewall argues that both complementarians and egalitarians have incorporated their understanding of cultural nuances into their positions. The former is influenced by rising tides of post-war individualism while the latter's rise parallels the secular feminist movement on the 70s. Some of the key arguments are:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Theology Without Borders" (William A. Dyrness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson)

TITLE: Theology without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations
AUTHOR: William A. Dyrness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (182 pages).

Theology must be cross-cultural. In order to understand how the gospel is relevant to different cultures, different societies, and different borders, we must incorporate more contextual theology, which is what this book is about. While many Western churches are declining and dwindling in numbers, the overall number of Christians worldwide are not getting smaller. In fact, it is growing, if not maintaining its sizeable numbers. Why? It is because outside of Europe and North America, the Church is booming in South America, Asia, and other continents. In the area of missions, it is increasingly less about missionaries going from the West to the rest. It is increasingly more about the reverse instead. In this book, readers will be pleasantly surprised that there are more dimensions to the growth of missions and Church. In an age of globalization, the influences are multi-directional.

This is a book about contextual theology. Far too often, theology has a Western slant, viewed with Western eyes, and applied with Western biases and sensitivities. Put it another way, the way we do theology is directly affected by the backgrounds and worldviews of the theologians. Whether it is Eurocentricism or American-centric theological analysis, if we truly want to develop a global understanding of how theology relates to the world we live in, we need to think, study, learn, and theologize in a multicultural, trans-border, and intercontinental manner. The two authors have put together their thoughts on rethinking theology in a global context.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Why Bother With Church?" (Sam Allberry)

TITLE: Why bother with church?
AUTHOR: Sam Allberry
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2016, (96 pages).

In a postmodern world, most people think that the Church is no longer relevant to society. They believe that the Christian faith is no different from other religions. In fact, they even think that people would go to heaven in more ways than one, as long as they are good people. At the same time, there are those who had gone to Church and had become disappointed. Then, there are also those who believe that the Church is another of those religious social club that cares only for its members. The reasons not to go to Church are many, which is the basis of the question: Why bother with Church? The simple answer to the title of this book is this: The people and the Church need each other. It is hoped that by the end of the book, readers would be persuaded to the extent that they would be asking instead: "Why on earth would I not be bothered with Church?"

In six chapters, Sam Allberry, a pastor at St Mary's Church in Maidenhead, UK, argues that Church is more important than we thought. Chapter One is about "What is Church?" He points out several distinctiveness of Church. It is about a particular gathering of people; an outpost to point people to God; a family that cares for people; and the bride of Christ. He addresses the common accusations hurled at churches that have done more harm than good. On the one hand, the Church need to acknowledge the flaws and mistakes of the past. This is because the Church is comprised of sinful people too. At the same time, those who throw stones need to take a step back to recognize that there are lots of good that the Church have done in society.

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Zeal Without Burnout" (Christopher Ash)

TITLE: Zeal without Burnout
AUTHOR: Christopher Ash
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA, The Good Book Company, 2016, (112 pages).

The word "burnout" is a commonly used term to describe people who had worked so hard to the point of physical and spiritual exhaustion. It is also a good reminder to us that even good works and zeal for doing good have their limits. Being human, we are susceptible to false perceptions and flawed expectations. By ensuring that we take steps to take care of ourselves and our souls, we can exercise what Christopher Ash calls "Zeal without burnout."

Christopher Ash is the Director of the Cornhill Training Course, a two-year course from the Proclamation Trust. He is author and has served previously as a pastor and has seen people burn out from their service in Church. Recognizing that there is a better way, he writes this book with a deep concern for ministry workers and those serving passionately week after week. Why do people get discouraged over time? How do we support fellow workers in the Lord? How can one sustain zeal and joy in service? For Ash, there are seven "keys" to ensuring that our zeal in our service will be sustained over the long haul.

Part of the healing process involves recognizing that only God is God; we are dust. The seven keys are meant to keep us grounded in the reality of our human limitations and to keep up uplifted in the understanding of God's truth and love.

Key 1 - Sleep
Key 2 - Sabbath Rest
Key 3 - Friends
Key 4 - Inward Renewal
Key 5 - A Warning not to seek the praises of peopleKey 6 - An Encouragement
Key 7 - A Delight.