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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"Faith is For Weak People" (Ray Comfort)

TITLE: Faith Is for Weak People: Responding to the Top 20 Objections to the Gospel
AUTHOR: Ray Comfort
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2019, (224 pages).

Not many Christians actively share the gospel. Some hide behind good works while others succumb to a climate of fear and intimidation. The Bible urges believers to be strong and courageous for if God is for us, who can be against us? Plus, there is no fear in love for perfect love casts out all fear. Why then are people afraid to speak up for God's Word and the salvation of the world? Perhaps, it is due to the hostility surrounding Christianity in society. It might also be linked to people feeling ill equipped to deal with objections, especially those questions that even Christians find it hard to answer. Bible teacher and apologist, Ray Comfort knows it from experience. He makes his point very clear. Some Christians roar like lions on social issues such as corruption, violence, poverty, drug abuse, and so on, but when it comes to the gospel, they squeak like mice. The way of salvation is not through good works but through the gospel of Jesus Christ. More importantly, love overcomes all manner of fear. After making a passionate plea for all believers to advance the gospel, Comfort challenges all to have a ready answer for 20 top objections. I have paraphrased most of them.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Labor With Hope" (Gloria Furman)

TITLE: Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
AUTHOR: Gloria Furman
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2019, (160 pages).

Brother Lawrence taught us about the spirituality of practicing the presence of God. Paul Stevens and others promote the spirituality of work and the marketplace. Mike Mason shows us spirituality of practicing the presence of people. Seminarians remind us about the spirituality of study and research. What about the spirituality of childbirth? Gloria Furman advocates the following: "Jesus has everything to do with everything, including our spiritual nourishment in pregnancy and childbirth." In this book, she not only describes the spiritual connection in the present, she also shows us how these "point us to eternal realities." These two aspects are expressed in every chapter. From the creative narrative in Genesis, Furman shows us how the human procreation act is derived from God's creative initiative. Men and women are image bearers of God, and children born are image bearers of their parents as well. All of us are called to be fruitful and multiply for this is the very character of God. Fertility reminds us of fruitfulness and how our endeavours point us to God's glory that is to come. On childbirth pains, we learn from Scripture that it is because of the curse of sin. When God said "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing," we learn that it is not restricted to simply the birth moment. It is a part of the whole area of judgment because of sin. More importantly, it tells us our need for a savior. This is where the title of the book describes this paradox: Labouring in pain without losing hope. While recognizing the reality of pain, Furman also shows us the significance of hope. Like babies, we cannot deliver ourselves. In parenting, we learn how tough it is to bring up children. Even as we grapple with the seriousness of sin and evil, we also see the power of the gospel to deliver us from sin and death. Forgiveness through the gospel stretches far and wide, even to those who had undergone abortion.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Soaring Through the Bible" (Skip Heitzig)

TITLE: Soaring Through the Bible: A Travel Guide from Genesis to Revelation for Kids
AUTHOR: Skip Heitzig
PUBLISHER: Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2019, (224 pages).

The Bible is one big book to read through. Adults often have trouble even trying to understand what the Bible is saying. Many have spent years studying it and still find it mysterious. It is not easy to read the Bible cover to cover, partly because of its length and many genres. The ancient contexts are not easily understood. Thus, there are many commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and biblical helps for people wanting to know more about the Bible backgrounds. Many of these resources however are not easily translated into a manner suitable for kids. This book helps teachers, parents, and youth leaders in giving a Bible overview to kids. Using the metaphor of flying in an airplane and looking down on earth, author and Bible teacher Skip Heitzig gives us a bird's eye view of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The main idea is this: "the higher up you go into the air and look down, the more you can see of the earth than you can from the ground." Heitzig takes us through a three part framework for every book of the Bible.

  1. Check Your Location (Context)
  2. Plot Your Course (Content)
  3. Enjoy Your Trip (Practice)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

"An Uncommon Guide to Retirement" (Jeff Haanen)

TITLE: An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God's Purpose for the Next Season of Life
AUTHOR: Jeff Haanen
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019, (204 pages).

What do we do when we retire? For some, it is an extended vacation but the problem is affordability. Some go to other extreme by claiming they don't have enough money, and prefer to save up for the proverbial rainy day. Some Christians believe that the idea of an endless vacation is not biblical. Still others think that they need a bigger vision and purpose for retirement. Each of these options have their pros and cons. In this book, author Jeff Haanen challenges the typical views about what to do after retirement and argues that believers ought to resist fear, doubt, and uncertainty with a better sense of relationship and trust in God. He calls his counter-cultural views as "uncommon views." Many common topics are discussed. He looks at culture first, looking at the reasons why retirement is increasingly being talked about. He asks new questions of his own about work, finances, rest, family, calling, and purpose. He observes our shifting cultural climate that will have a greater proportion of aging Baby Boomers; increasing financial struggle; limited and uncertain pension plans; rising health care costs; and continued fear of the future. Haanen deals with each of these relevant matters thoughtfully with a gentle touch of realism.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

"Rogue Saints" (Jerry Herships)

TITLE: Rogue Saints: Spirituality for Good-Hearted Heathens
AUTHOR: Jerry Herships
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019, (114 pages).

His first book, "Last Call" was about his personal journey from an altar boy in Church to show business, gigs, bars, and various game shows to make ends meet. He returns to the ministry albeit with a difference: going out people who congregate at bars and pubs. He shares his story of "from serving drinks to serving Jesus." In this follow up book, Herships continues by giving us a closer look at what his unconventional ministry looks like. More importantly, he tries to help us find out our big purpose in life through connection and community. He tells stories of people who would be considered "misfits" in many churches. Just knowing that there are people with bigger problems than our complaints about life, will easily put our worries in perspective. In an uninhibited "in the face" manner, the author makes it clear that he does not stand for rules and restrictions about how to do ministry. He even admits to wanting to bash "shitty church." Preferring to let the ends justify the means, he kicks off by reminding us that our starting point for theology should not be "original sin," but "original blessing." We don't start off by thinking how bad we look but how good we have been created. We are created in the image of God. He does several counter-intuitive things such as labeling people as "heathens," choosing unbeliever to be part of his leadership team; even adding in cocktail mix at the end of each chapter. The objective of the book is to help us find a way to serve God through meaningful connections with the community around us, especially in the uncommon places.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"The Pastor in the Secular Age" (Andrew Root)

TITLE: The Pastor in a Secular Age: Ministry to People Who No Longer Need a God
AUTHOR: Andrew Root
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, (336 pages).

Some authors address youth concerns from a program-centered and activity standpoint. They address the symptoms of youth boredom well. Other authors analyze the challenges of youth ministry from an experiential standpoint. Still there are those who interviews youths in order to find a better fit between faith and life. Unfortunately, many of these efforts fail to get beyond the aesthetics. Questions need to be asked not just about what the young people or the next generation need, but why things are happening as they are. Contextual understanding needs to come before any attempt at solutions. In this deeply philosophical book, author and professor Andrew Root carries on his analysis of the culture affecting youthful minds with a concentration on the increasingly secularized society. All the efforts about engaging youths through authenticity, through authority, through activity, and others, cannot be sustained without a clear theological vision to guide us through a secular age, let alone any age. This is the crux of this book that peruses the historical past; probes the present context; and proposes a path forward for the future. The reason for the focus on youths is mainly because they are the ones most likely to "no longer need a God." Until we address this area of concern, youth ministries will continue to reach out merely at surface level. Root goes much more than mere youth ministries. He looks at how pastors are affected and ways to address their ministry concerns. These two concerns, one to young people and the other for ministers, drive the writing of this book.