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Friday, March 30, 2018

"15 Things Seminary Couldn't Teach Me" (C Jeffrey Robinson Sr, editor)

TITLE: 15 Things Seminary Couldn't Teach Me (Gospel Coalition)
AUTHOR: C. Jeffrey Robinson Sr, editor
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2018, (160 pages).

Seminaries serve the Church and not the other way round. Seminaries do not call pastors. This calling belongs to God alone. Seminaries do not produce pastors because pastors are formed by God through churches. These are some of the things in which perspectives are important. It is easy for young seminarians, even professors in theological institutions to have an ivory-tower perspective that is utterly disconnected from church reality. A prominent academic and theologian even acknowledged that "ministry studies" is the "weakest component" in theological studies. In driving the point home, education is important, but the application of it is equally important. Like letting our bodies being operated on by a surgeon. Would we prefer a well-educated medical graduate without practical experience or an experienced doctor? Indeed, the school of hard knocks is where young seminarians would have to enroll after their graduation. This book shows us 15 things that we can learn from experienced practitioners.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Peaceful Mom" (April Cassidy)

TITLE: Peaceful Mom: Building a Healthy Foundation with Christ as Lord
AUTHOR: April Cassidy
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2018, (336 pages).

Following her popular book about being a "Peaceful Wife," author and mother, April Cassidy has written one for being a "peaceful mom." The title itself suggests several things about the needs of mothers. They need some way to establish calm amid the many challenging demands on the responsibilities and expectations of a mother. They need guidance, especially new mothers, about what it takes to maintain balance between their roles as mothers, wives, and other social roles. They need peace with themselves too because some of the hardest expectations come not from without but within. This is what this book is about. It is about restoring serenity within the mother's heart, the security for the children, sanctity for the faith, and sanity for the self. The key: A mom who "knows God intimately and follows Him wholeheartedly." This central theme helps the mom to trust God with all of her circumstances; to trust God for her future; to trust God in all of life. Genuine peace must always begin with God. After all God is the Author of True Peace. There is a need to examine our own hearts to ask who or what we worship. If we are after our own expectations, probably we are what we worship. If we are after God's heart, it is God we are worshiping. This may seem obvious but it is hugely necessary. It is the anxiety behind the activities that often drive mothers to do what they thought was good for their family. Over the long run, this Trojan horse of fleshly anxiety breeds worry, discontentment, exhaustion, and eventually disillusionment with parenting. Examine the heart for any idols to be dethroned. There can be no two masters remember?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Subversive Sabbath" (A. J. Swoboda)

TITLE: Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World
AUTHOR: A.J. Swoboda
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2018, (256 pages).

We are a restless people living in a restless world surrounding by restless activities. This is an understatement. In fact, a widely accepted answer to the question of "How are you today?" is the word "Busy." Many would nod in agreement as if being constantly busy is a good problem to have. On the flip side, not being busy could even be viewed as taboo. Christians have also been caught up in this whirlwind of constant activity. Forgetting the commandment of the Sabbath, they are non-stop at work. As a result, many have trouble learning how to rest, substituting leisure and entertainment for true rest. The truth is, we are restless creatures needing to find true rest in God alone. Author A.J. Swoboda is spot on when it comes to identifying the true human need amid all the frantic happenings. The solution is simple: For one 24-hour cycle each week, stop what we ordinarily do over the week, and rest in God alone. It brings benefits not only to self but also to our neighbours and creation at large. How? This is what this book is about.

The author begins the book with a personal story of how a lottery windfall that was initially received as a godsend ended up breaking the family apart. It was a tragic case of how a family was unable to steward such a gift. This is not an uncommon theme among lottery winners. Some even wished they had never won anything in the first place. This is one example of how mankind fail to steward the gift of Sabbath; choosing to abuse the time of rest in exchange for more commerce; more activities; more work; more busyness. For Swoboda, he admits that "even thinking and writing about Sabbath has the power to heal the soul." If that is so, what about those who actually practices it? There is something very precious about such an ordinary day as a rest day. Like hidden treasure that lies in our ordinary backyard, the first thing we ought to take note is the way it helps us arrest the tyranny of a 24x7 time rush. Systematically, the author leads the reader through the basics of Sabbath, beginning with what it means for us. He addresses the biblical description of the Jewish practice of Sabbath, which urges us to remember the history, the significance of tradition, that we will not forget the great mercies of God. We are reminded of the example of God leading the way to teach us how to rest. We can even have sabbatical reflections over work. One may ask: Isn't that an oxymoron? He gives us a clue about what he means by pondering about how we will have jobs in the new Jerusalem. Work would essentially be perfect worship, and will not be seen in the same way as earthly work as we know now. How does that happen? In a nutshell, a proper understanding and practice of the Sabbath will give us a healthy framework to view work. We learn that work is not the ultimate but work itself in its true essence points us toward the Sovereign Lord. Plus, there are benefits in terms of health as well. Apart from the obvious benefits from overwork, regular rest promotes healthy lifestyles. Put it simply, the Sabbath shows us that it is ok to say NO to things that threaten to derail our rest. We learn that life is not simply about production efficiency or process expediency. It is much more than simply making a living. Once we learn how to deal with the Sabbath ourselves, we are ready to help others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Holy Solitude" (Heidi Haverkamp)

TITLE: Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels
AUTHOR: Heidi Haverkamp
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018, (148 pages).

In the season of Lent, Christians traditionally practice a more solemn mood as they reflect on the life of Christ, how Jesus watched and prayed, and determined Himself to go to the Cross. It is a time of loneliness. It is a time of emotional and spiritual struggle. It is a time of quiet reflection to ponder from the intersection of faith and doubt; God's will or our will; and for self or for others. Knowing the right thing to do does not necessitate choosing the right thing. Fear has a way of dislodging our wills from the sills of faith. Daily, we are confronted by the insidious spiritual forces of darkness that often creep into our unsuspecting lives, to deceive us, to derail us, and to discourage us in our spiritual walk. In Lent, we sharpen our spiritual senses through fasting, through praying, through meditating upon the Word, and through the practice of various spiritual disciplines. This book is a way to help us through these practices of reflection, introspection, and self-inspection of our hearts, as we look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties" (Paul Angone)

TITLE: 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties: (And Let's Be Honest, Your Thirties Too)
AUTHOR: Paul Angone
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018, (256 pages).

Many teens in high school when asked about what they want to do with their lives, the typical answer is: "I don't know." Even those who declare some area of interest soon find themselves choosing other options soon after. High school students change electives and concentrations. Undergraduates move from course to course. Some prefer to simply go earn some money while thinking about what their second job would be. Then, there are relationship matters where young people reaching puberty would try to make sense of where there hearts and emotions lead them to. What if someone could guide them or mentor them? What if questions themselves are more useful than answers? This is what this book is aimed at doing. Instead of trying to give or spoon-feed kids about what they need, let them discover for themselves. This book of questions fit in nicely because they are designed to prompt Millennials into active thinking. For many of them are often less open to people telling them what to do. They prefer to find their own answers. They simply need a guide by the side instead of sage on the stage. Paul Angone is that guide by the side. According to Angone, there are four major concerns about people in their twenties, and other age groups as well.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"A Disruptive Generosity" (Mac Pier)

TITLE: A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities through Strategic Giving
AUTHOR: Mac Pier
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (208 pages).

Giving and mission go hand in hand. For the grace of God is about that generous gift of Jesus Christ for the world. All who have received and benefited from this gift would go on to share of the gospel message of love in Christ. Just as Christ had disrupted the archaic world of human society, we too are called to disrupt the world of sin with the gift of grace. In this book, this is about "disruptive generosity." Containing many testimonies of what generous giving had done, readers are empowered through these stories that transformation of the world is possible, one person at a time; one place at a time; one possibility at a time. Such acts of generosity do not simply appear out of nothing. They are rooted in the fundamental truths of the Bible. According to the author, there are three big ideas in this book. The first is to highlight biblical truths from the Book of Isaiah. The second is to link these truths with practical movements. The third is to build relational networks starting with believers convicted about transforming the communities they live in. All these three are rooted in the gospel.

Friday, March 2, 2018

"Departing in Peace" (Bill Davis)

TITLE: Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life
AUTHOR: Bill Davis
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2017, (328 pages).

Many of us have heard of situations where people had to make tough medical decisions pertaining to a terminally ill patient. Should we extend medical care at all costs just to keep the person alive? What if the person is brain dead? What if the only way to stay alive is through hospital ICU care and expensive equipment to sustain life? How can we make biblically sound decisions pertaining to extending or ending life? As far as euthanasia is concerned, is it our role to play God? Is there ever a justification to take away life? These are tough questions to answer, let alone navigate. That is probably why there are so few books and resources available to help us answer such tough questions. Thankfully, Bill Davis fills in the gap with this very helpful resource that is biblical and thoughtful. In this book, we have an A to Z guide on what to do with such issues. The list includes:

  • Biblical Principles: Stewardship; Authority to Decide; Honouring Life and Accepting Death
  • Medical Issues: Making EOL medical decisions (Coma; Mental consciousness; Terminal Illness; Permanent Tube feeding;...)
  • Ethical Issues: Knowing the limits and the wisdom of making decisions when one is mentally healthy
  • Legal Matters: Advanced Medical Directives 
  • Philosophical Issues: 
  • Financial Considerations: Is it ok to commit to sky-high medical expenses beyond our means?
  • Deciding between curative care vs comfort care
  • Deciding between extending earthly joy vs entering spiritual joy
  • Hospital Realities: Not exactly what Hollywood has painted them to be. 
  • Questions to Ask Doctors

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Teach Us to Pray" (Gordon T. Smith)

TITLE: Teach Us to Pray
AUTHOR: Gordon T. Smith
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2018, (112 pages).

One of the most popular prayers used in churches and many Christian communities is the Lord's Prayer. Many churches use them in their Sunday rituals. This prayer has also spawned many books. Almost every major preacher and theologian has written something about this famous prayer. Jesus' curious disciples must have been piqued by Jesus' constant desire to pray and to seek God. What is it that made Jesus so earnest about prayer? What can we learn from this prayer? Author and theologian Gordon T. Smith helps us to see this prayer from a community perspective which in turns helps us in our personal prayers. In the title, "Teach us to pray," the question is posed on behalf of a community. Smith hones in on the "us" word, showing us the frequency of this pronoun in the prayer itself. The power of united prayer show forth the power of togetherness under the common identity of citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is a prayer as a community to God to bless the communities on earth. He also notes the active word "participant" instead of mere observers in the prayer. Adding to this, instead of us trying to pray according to our present circumstances, why not pray to alter our lives? In other words, pray not according to our circumstances but according to how God wants us to live. The Lord's Prayer is great in forming us in this attitude. We pray as grace receivers desiring to share grace with others. We see prayer as "recalibration" our our souls to be in sync with the will of God. Praying in the Spirit essentially means abiding in Christ. He encourages us with a different take with regard to the rising secularism in our society. Instead of lamenting the lack of public prayer or the difficulty of sharing Christ in the public squares, why not see the hidden opportunities that require us to seek God's Eye rather than our own eyes? Rather than fighting the world with the weapons of the world, why not take up the spiritual armour of God? There is a powerful weapon we have: The sword of the Word of God. Letting the psalms inform us, Smith shows us the richness of Scripture and the evidence of praying in the Spirit. For when we pray in the Spirit, we cultivate character. We obtain "vocational clarity and patience." We receive joy.  The Lord's Prayer is a powerful way to focus our attention on God, to seek God fully and to have God's will manifested fully in our being and in our doing.