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Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Able Soul" (Lucy Goncalves)

TITLE: Able Soul: Empowering God's Spirit Within
AUTHOR: Lucy Goncalves
PUBLISHER: Vancouver, BC: Able Soul Wheel Press, 2019, (90 pages).

Many of us take our physical freedom and mobility for granted. Those who lack the use of any part of the body would be labeled either "disabled," "handicapped," or the more politically correct phrase, "physically challenged." For many people, this would pretty much define our outlook in life. As the saying goes, it takes one to know one. What about a book where we can see life from the eyes of those who are physically challenged? This book is a beautiful example of one who has multiple challenges. Speech impairment and the inability to walk may restrict one's lifestyle choices, but the most crippling of them all, is a broken and downhearted spirit. Such a mood would easily break down one's enthusiasm for life. Lucy Goncalves discovers this early, that the biggest barrier is put up by oneself. She writes with honesty that she's "the one who puts up the barriers" with her negative emotions and unwillingness. Her story challenges us to pray in spite of helplessness; to press on in spite of weakness; and to persevere on in spite of challenges. She shares twenty personal reflections on God, faith, life, and lessons. Each time she compares and contrasts what she lacks with what she receives from God, family, friends, and the kind things that are visible to her when she is willing to see it. I like the way she credits the writing back to God, that the books was "birthed in prayer." This is the essence of all books written about spirituality.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"The Dark Side of Our Digital World" (Andrew Weiss)

TITLE: The Dark Side of Our Digital World: And What You Can Do about It (LITA Guides)
AUTHOR: Andrew Weiss
PUBLISHER: Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2020, (272 pages).

We live in a world of information technology. Almost everything in the world has a digital counterpart. One of the signs of the digital revolution is the impact of e-Commerce and the way we are living our lives. We are slowly moving from snail-mail to email; from texting to social media; and from face-to-face communications to video conferencing. Looking at the way technology stocks had usurped the top positions of traditional bricks and mortar companies, we know that the world of digital is here to stay. Our world has changed forever and there is no going back to the slow-paced world of yesterday.  For all the fascination and the optimism that comes with digital platforms, a few people are not content in simply consuming these stuff as they come along. They question. They critique. They look outside the box to try to challenge conventional ways of thinking. One such explorer is Andrew Weiss, a librarian and cultural observer who recognizes the dark side of the digital world, which is what this book is all about. It is essentially learning to use digital tools wisely while being aware of the insidious dark side. Written in four parts, the first three parts deal with the awareness while the final part offer steps toward redemption. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

"Courageous" (Dr Robert Jeffress)

TITLE: Courageous: 10 Strategies for Thriving in a Hostile World
AUTHOR: Dr. Robert Jeffress
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2020, (272 pages).

What are we afraid of? What do we do when our faith is under attack? What strategies can we adopt when living in a hostile world? Can we live beyond simply surviving toward thriving? In this book, author and pastor Robert Jeffress gives us ten practical "survival tips" which are actually a disguise for helping us to thrive instead. These ten tips are:
  1. Don't panic
  2. Gain situational awareness
  3. Take inventory
  4. Develop a victor, not a victim mindset
  5. Trust your training
  6. Bend, don't break
  7. Beware of celebrating the summit
  8. Learn from the past
  9. Help others
  10. Do the next right thing.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

"When Did We Start Forgetting God? "(Mark Galli)

TITLE: When Did We Start Forgetting God?: The Root of the Evangelical Crisis and Hope for the Future
AUTHOR: Mark Galli
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020, (256 pages).

Evangelicalism is in a crisis. The original movement that has united believers in all things Bible, all things Cross-centered; all things conversionism to Christ; all things Christian activism is now deeply divided. Many believe that the chief reason is politics and the way evangelicals align their identities according to which political power they support. Thomas Kidd of Baylor University has singled this factor out, saying that historically this has never been the case. It is no longer about biblical doctrine but about political allegiances. Journalist and cultural critic, Mark Galli takes this a little further toward spirituality. He notes that evangelicalism has lost its soul because it has forgotten God. In order to find out how to restore hope for the future, we need to go back to the root of the problem to ask the question: "When Did We Start Forgetting God?" Thus, the title of the book is the author's quest to understand the background behind the escalating divide of the different camps, and the deteriorating spiritual climate of the movement. This has led to many evangelicals who think they are devoted Christians when they are actually "practical atheists!" In fact, Christians can easily continue to live with the label outside but on the inside, they are far from the spiritual being they were perceived to be. The heart of the question is this: Are we more in love with God, or are we more in love with ourselves? The lack of congruence between these two is the source of our crisis. This single factor has precipitated other crises such as family, social justice, evangelism, racism, theology, and many more. If only we can get back to restoring our desire for God, things will get better. Much better for the Christian witness.

Friday, May 22, 2020

"Exploring the Bible Together" (David Murray)

TITLE: Exploring the Bible Together: A 52-Week Family Worship Plan
AUTHOR: David Murray
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, (224 pages).

With the ongoing coronavirus crisis, families have been stuck at home. Parents work from home. Kids are homeschooled with teaching staff engaging them online. Families are cooped up together inside their homes. They watch TV or stream movies on their mobile devices. Whether it is YouTube or Facebook; social media or mainstream media, many people are consuming digital content more than ever. If we were to graph out time spent on the Bible and time spent on other things, what would our pie chart look like? Whatever the shape, it is hoped that this book would help us chart it with a greater slice of our time dedicated to Bible reading together. This book provides the following:

  • Daily readings;
  • Journeys from Genesis to Revelation via selected passages;
  • Short Bible passages give us time to read slowly and deliberately;
  • Gives a roadmap at the beginning of each chapter;
  • Colourful pictures to illustrate the theme;
  • Provides snapshot verses and prayer pointers
  • Easy to understand questions to answer and to discuss
  • Prayer for personal application.
  • Brief.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

"Truth and Hope" (Walter Brueggemann)

TITLE: Truth and Hope
AUTHOR: Walter Brueggemann
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020, (265 pages).

In an ideal situation, truth speaks to power. Truth overcomes everything every time. Truth reigns supreme. However, the world we live in is imperfect and unjust. Power often tramples any rising heads of truth. As a result, those who are weak, vulnerable, and powerless would be abused and disadvantaged. As author Brueggemann points out, none is as stark as what happened to Jesus on the way to the cross. Jesus spoke truth but the world spewed violence and inflicted wounds on Him. In spite of the grievous injustice, Christ rose again from the dead, giving all believers the reason to hope. In what is thought to be the last piece of work by the esteemed Old Testament professor, this book is a call for believers to rise up in spite of unjust and cruel trampling of the truth. With an eye on present day politics in America, a growing divide between the haves and have-nots; the powerful and the weak; and the deepening fission across all sectors of society, Brueggemann calls for an audacity to engage society boldly. It begins with Scripture. It continues with reflections on how some spiritual voices in the past have spoken up on the ills of society. It concludes with Brueggemann's exhortation for believers to stand up and be counted as contemporary voices who will be fearless in truth-speaking and Christ-bearing. He calls it a witness resembling the "prophetic tradition of Jeremiah."

Friday, May 15, 2020

"John" (Brian Chung, Bryan Ye-Chung, & Jan Johnson)

TITLE: John (Alabaster Guided Meditations)
AUTHOR: Brian Chung, Bryan Ye-Chung, & Jan Johnson
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (116 pages).

This is a whopping eBook with a tonne of illustrations on the gospel of John. Filled with incredibly beautiful photos and pictures of daily life, it brings to life the gospel of John by inviting us in via the spiritual practice of lectio divina. For those who don't know what that is, the authors of this book make use of the classic definition of lectio divina by St John of the Cross: "Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation." The authors expand this by incorporating a 4-step process: Read; Reflect; Respond; and Rest. By pairing photos with the gospel of John, the hope is that it will not only illuminate Scripture in a unique way, but also evoke an inner response within our hearts. That as we read the gospel, the photos will prompt us to reflect on the words and to respond accordingly. This is followed by a gratitude in rest. Each guided meditation not only gives us the steps, it shows us the way to read, to reflect, to respond, and to rest. The reader is never left to figure things out alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

"The Attributes of God Vol 1" (A.W. Tozer)

TITLE: The Attributes of God Volume 1 with Study Guide: A Journey Into the Father's Heart
AUTHOR: A.W. Tozer
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2020, (112 pages).

Who is God? What is God like? What are the attributes of God? This is the focus by a beloved and well-respected author and pastor. It is also one of Tozer's best known books in his spiritual pursuit of God. This endeavour is lifelong, and his books all reflect this common desire: To know Christ more and to make Christ known more. Collected from ten of his sermons, this book comprises ten attributes of God:

  1. God is Infinite
  2. God is Immense
  3. God is Good
  4. God is Just
  5. God is Merciful
  6. God is Grace
  7. God is Omnipresent
  8. God is Immanent
  9. God is Holy
  10. God is Perfect

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Double Blessing" (Mark Batterson)

TITLE: Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It.
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2019, (240 pages).

This is a surprisingly good book. I was thinking if this is another of those self-help writings inclined toward the health and wealth gospel angle. Coming from Mark Batterson, no way I thought, and I was right. With vivid storytelling and creative illustrations, the author takes a biblical theme of blessings and doubles the space for deeper understanding. The message is simple. Blessings are there to be received. They are also there to be given. The biblical mandate given to Abraham is that he will be blessed to be a blessing to many nations. This unconditional covenant continues to be active in our world today. He starts with a story of "Ariadne's Thread" which in itself could teach us multiple meanings. The key point is that many people in search of blessings tend to be like those who rush into the labyrinth of personal wants, only to be trapped inside. We need the other part, which is the thread to escape this labyrinth, in order to continue the process of blessings, lest we commit the error of James 4:3, which warns us about praying with the purpose of self-gratification.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

"How to Read Daniel" (Tremper Longman III)

TITLE: How to Read Daniel (How To Read Series)
AUTHOR: Tremper Longman III
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (190 pages).

This is the sixth book of the "How to Read" commentary series. Bible books of the apocalyptic genre are generally more challenging for the layperson to read and to comprehend. There are visions, dreams, and multiple symbols that pose some level of difficulty when it comes to interpretation. What can we make of these ancient visions? What do they mean then and now? How can we understand the message of Daniel for today? These questions and more are covered in this volume. Part One deals with the literary structure of the book such as the genre, the structure, the language, history, background, and the main theological messages. In Part Two, readers could dive into the six stories and four visions; and the lessons Daniel had experienced from. In Part Three, we read Daniel to learn about applications for our modern context.

Some people avoid the apocalyptic books simply because they think it is too difficult to understand. They might have thought about studying it but shy away for lack of guidance and background information. Others study it but due to the lack of foundation about biblical theology, they might miss the forest for the trees. For both categories, this book can fill in the gaps. It is easy to read as far as the layperson is concerned. While not as technical as some other commentaries, this book can provide compelling guidance for scholars and seminarians. In other words, this book is not too difficult but do not let the simplicity of the language used deceive us. Some of the terminology and concepts used in the book are what biblical scholars would be most familiar with. "Apocalyptic" is one. "Chiasm" and the interpretation of numerology are others. These are however kept to a minimum.

The author leaves no chapter unturned. Through helpful citations and interesting observations throughout, readers will not find this book dull at all.

Monday, May 4, 2020

"Aging" (Will Willimon)

TITLE: Aging: Growing Old in Church (Pastoring for Life: Theological Wisdom for Ministering Well)
AUTHOR: Will Willimon
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020, (192 pages).

One of the world's biggest concerns is a growing aging population. As people live longer, world leaders are increasingly concerned over the costs of medical care and the rising infrastructure requirements to take care of the elderly. In many societies, the aged are no longer net contributors to the economy. It costs the state more money to take care of them. Of course, it can be argued that during their younger days, the aged have done their fair share to bless the economy. Retirement benefits are a way in which the state show appreciation for their past contributions. However, if the aging numbers continue to dwarf all other age groups, it does pose not only a financial concern, but many other issues as well. Projected numbers by various research groups show that if the trends continue, many aged will be living in abject poverty. Measured on such a scale, it can be downright depressing. Author Will Willimon writes that many people in this age group, "unaffordable health care, poverty, housing insecurity, and painful dislocation will fill their last years with anxiety and fear." This is indeed a major concern. For the Church, financial matters are not the main concern. They need to help address the spiritual and emotional side of aging as well. More importantly, we need to ask the question: "Where is God leading me in this time of life?" Willimon aims to help us do just that. This is also something crucial to the author's ministry as the average age of his large Church denomination is 62!

Friday, May 1, 2020

"Handbook on Acts and Paul's Letters" (Thomas R. Schreiner)

TITLE: Handbook on Acts and Paul's Letters (Handbooks on the New Testament)
AUTHOR: Thomas R. Schreiner
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020, (480 pages).

Some commentaries are too dense as they go line-by-line into Scripture interpretation. These are often used by teachers and preachers in their preparation for Bible classes. Others especially the popular one-volume handbooks are too brief, and are useful mainly for a quick overview. This handbook sandwiches between these two ends and gives readers a balanced summary on the book of Acts and the Pauline epistles. The publisher avoids calling this a commentary or an introduction. A handbook is more descriptive name for this, so readers would be poised to see semblance of an introductory text as well as a commentary rolled into one. It looks like an introductory text in terms of its preamble; its outlining; its commentary on broad segments of Scripture; its lack of footnotes and endnotes; and its concise headers to show readers where the author is going. It looks like a conventional commentary in its occasional usage of original language; its many Scriptural cross-references; the abbreviations; and a pretty impressive bibliography. One would easily see that the author tries to maintain a balanced approach to make this handbook more accessible for the layperson and also sufficient to provide a convenient springboard for further research. The handbook is targeted primarily at "lay people, students, pastors, and professors," a pretty general scope I might say.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Analog Church" (Jay Y. Kim)

TITLE: Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age
AUTHOR: Jay Y. Kim
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (216 pages).

This is a strange time to be reading this book. With much of the world locked down due to the coronavirus crisis, many churches are forced to conduct services digitally. They meet via virtual rooms. They see each other's faces (when the cameras are turned on), as well as the physical environment they are in. More often than not, they put on their best looks when online. In a digital environment, things are made to look more like zeros and ones, metaphorically. As the world becomes more digitized and virtualized, we have a challenge of trying to make human connections as authentic as possible. Knowing the limitations of technology is one thing. Making extra effort to bridge the gaps is another. In this increasingly hybrid community, we don't really have a choice. Digital Church is convenient but not necessarily practical; fast but not necessarily effective; comfortable but not necessarily authentic. Author Jay Kim takes a closer look at the differences between analog and digital communities and points out why digital connections can only go so far and are ultimately inadequate for true connections. He cautions readers against adopting a sense of what CS Lewis calls "chronological snobbery," which is another way of preferring new things over the new. True enjoyment and happiness comes not with the latest and greatest gizmos but the down to earth relational activities we do, especially those face-to-face. Otherwise, we reduce human relationships to convenience, efficiency, and even status updates. The latter especially is merely a tip of the understanding the iceberg of a person. One can post an emotional status now and a minute later feels totally opposite of what was posted.

Friday, April 24, 2020

"Eyewitness to Crucifixion" (Stephen M. Miller)

TITLE: Eyewitness to Crucifixion: The Romans, the Cross, and the Sacrifice of Jesus
AUTHOR: Stephen M. Miller
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: ODB Publishing, 2020, (208 pages).

Christians all over the world regularly proclaim the great reality of the faith: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." Author Stephen Miller focuses on three angles of the crucifixion: 1) What the Romans say about crucifixion; 2) What they say about Jesus' crucifixion; and 3) what the Bible says about Jesus' death on the cross. The Bible does not say a lot about the nature and the exacting details of the crucifixion. Thus, the author goes back to several Roman characters to give us an eyewitness account of the terrible nature of the crucifixion. Seneca the Younger calls it the "worst torture of all." Cicero says that crucifixion is almost like killing one's father or brother. Horace lists some of the frivolous reasons used to send people to be crucified. Plutarch talks about criminals being asked to carry the cross enroute to their own execution. There was even a case 250 years before Christ was born where Hannibal the commanding officer of the ship was crucified by his own sailors after leading them to another defeat. Lactantius, advisor to Emperor Constantine teaches Christians not to resist death, even if it means the threat of crucifixion. With a large segment of the book devoted to the description of what crucifixion means to the Roman world, Miller aims to show us the cruelty, the humiliation, the senselessness, and inhumane nature of the execution.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

"40 Questions About Islam" (Matthew Aaron Bennett)

TITLE: 40 Questions About Islam
AUTHOR: Matthew Aaron Bennett
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020, (304 pages).

Whether it is inter-religious dialogues, defending the faith, or trying to build bridges or to explain one's faith, it is always necessary to speak or listen with understanding. Without understanding, one might misinterpret or misconstrue another party, and propagate fake news. For Christians, speaking without understanding might lead to reduced credibility and hamper the testimony of the gospel. People tend to be open to those who are open. In the classic prayer of St Francis of Assisi, there is a line that says: "Seek not to be understood but to understand." In this spirit, that is what this book is about. Using a question-and-answer format, author and professor Matthew Bennett tackles forty questions about Islam, with the purpose of informing and educating non-Muslims about Islam. It may not make one an expert overnight, but it sure helps us be more knowledgeable and more importantly, not to misrepresent the Muslim faith. As much as Christians would like to be understood fairly, so too are Muslims who would be pleased if others could understand correctly what they believe. Written by an author who has many Muslim friends and who has lived many years in Muslim-majority countries, he hopes that the spirit of dialogue and understanding would continue through this book. The book is sub-divided into seven parts:

Friday, April 17, 2020

"Strength for the Cancer Journey" (Deborah Barr)

TITLE: Strength for the Cancer Journey: 30 Days of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Comfort
AUTHOR: Deborah Barr
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2020, (208 pages).

Cancer is a tough experience to go through. Not only is it difficult for the patient, it also wreaks havoc on family and loved ones. In fact, just to say "hard" would be an understatement. For many, it begins with shock and denial; proceeding with anger and anguish; followed by resignation or depression. Individuals express it in their own ways. In this book, author Deborah Barr writes a 30-days inspiration with inputs drawn from eight different cancer patients. The emotional ups and downs range from sleepless nights to physical pain. The key question posed in this book is this: Would you face cancer on your own strength or God's strength? If you choose the latter, this book is definitely for you. Meant as a 30-days devotional and journal, this book helps us to journey along both spiritually and emotionally along the difficult path of cancer. Each day introduces a particular thought or emotion. Barr parallels each occurrence with a corresponding set of Bible text to help us lament and learn. We lament the state of brokenness while learning to deal with faith matters. Using real life stories to describe the human experience, Barr helps readers to meander through the many range of emotional expressions without dumbing anyone down. Remembering our pain does not necessarily deny the reality of faith. Acknowledging our questions does not mean we answers are immediately available. Each day is an opportunity to build strength through daily meditation and prayer. With intentionality, the book helps us not only to honestly deal with our questions but also to wait for spiritual enlightenment.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"7 Feasts" (Erin Davis)

TITLE: 7 Feasts: Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament
AUTHOR: Erin Davis
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2020, (192 pages).

Food brings people together. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any other time, it is always a good opportunity to meet people. In times of celebration, we feast and enjoy the lavish food. Across all countries, cultures, and communities, if there is any one timeless tradition, eating and drinking would be it. One of the best ways to understand the roots of this tradition is to learn from ancient cultures. Such historical surveys will inform the modern mind that there is really nothing new under the sun. Author Erin Davis takes the reader through seven Jewish feasts over an eight week period. For each week, there are five daily studies that we can accompany with a Bible, a pen, and some friends to ponder over the message. Instead of jumping straight into the feasts, Davis dedicates the first week to teaching some basics of how to rightly handle the Word of God. By providing some guidelines on how to read the Bible, readers are reminded to learn to handle the Word with care, before jumping into the text. Such reminders are necessary to warn us against spiritual amnesia. Gradually, she encourages us to change our pattern for living, in order to live out biblical principles in all that we do. After the first week of preparing the heart and mind, readers will then be ready to plunge into the study of the sacred celebrations of the Old Testament.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus" (Nancy Guthrie)

TITLE: Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus
AUTHOR: Nancy Guthrie
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, (240 pages).

People are complicated. No one likes to be stereotyped on the basis of one event. it is also unfair to caricature them in one image, for whatever the reason. The same applies for characters in the Bible. Typically, in many story-telling contexts, including Sunday School classes, we use labels such as "Peter the rock," "Brilliant Paul," "Doubting Thomas," "Gentle John," or "Sacrificial Stephen" on the basis of significant events and behaviors recorded. Understandably, it is a case of oversimplifying for kids' sake. During such times, we can go deeper into the study of the character and discover more truths about the person beyond the superficial labels. When people grow up, they would realize that people do change over time, and their different emotions and reactions will also change. Driven by curiosity, author Nancy Guthrie takes a deeper look at some common characters in the gospels and Acts to nuance the same kind of person under different circumstances. Whatever "saints" or "scoundrels" behaviour in any one person, they all need Christ. This makes this book a powerful Bible Study series on ten biblical characters found in the gospels and Acts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

"A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Studies" (Nijay K. Gupta)

TITLE: Beginner's Guide to New Testament Studies
AUTHOR: Nijay K. Gupta
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020, (197 pages).

Anyone thinking of picking up this book needs to know that it is about biblical scholarship rather than a layperson's guide to basic New Testament books. It is not popular debate over the New Testament nor about a survey of the 27 books of the New Testament. It is essentially about scholastic debates within the realm of NT biblical scholarship. Meant primarily for beginner students of New Testament scholarship, it summarizes many of the important controversies surrounding the subject. Controversies such as the which gospel is the earliest; whether some of the gospel writers had copied from an anonymous source named Q; how the synoptic gospels differ from John; authorship of some New Testament books; the view of Paul and Jesus; etc. These and many more form a primer for theological studies in the New Testament.

Author and professor Nijay Gupta summarizes the general issue before giving us various perspectives surrounding it. He is careful not to be dogmatic about the issue, choosing instead to lay out the basic ideas and points of view before giving a personal take on it at the end. For the new NT student, this book is a godsend. It is like a special edition of "New Testament Studies for Dummies." With this clear guide, New Testament students can grasp quickly the history and context of the matter concerned. The key debates include:

Monday, April 6, 2020

"What Every Christian Needs to Know About Judaism" (Rabbi Evan Moffic)

TITLE: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Judaism
AUTHOR: Rabbi Evan Moffic
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2020, (224 pages).

Christians generally recognize the link between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus ministered among Jews. Many religious rituals came from Jewish culture. The twelve disciples were all Jews. The Bible contains many references to Jewish practices. There were feasts and rituals that are familiar to the Jew. However, from these, not much else is known to the layperson. In this book, author Rabbi Evan Moffic's primary purpose is to unpack Jewish teachings for Christians, to establish a deeper appreciation of Judaism and Jewish culture. In this manner, he hopes that Christians will learn to grow closer to Jesus by understanding the times, the contexts, and the uniqueness of Judaism. In doing so, he aims to build bridges between Jews and Christians to share the common heritage. Throughout the book, Rabbi Moffic shares the common elements. First, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures is the same as the God of the Bible. He addresses common questions surrounding the nature of God; His Revelation; topic of suffering, etc. On suffering, he helpfully points out the three different approaches to suffering: Job approach; Jeremiah approach; and the Maimonides approach; Lurianic approach; and the Kaplan approach. These are definitely eye-opening approaches that Christians would benefit from learning.

Friday, April 3, 2020

"The Learning Cycle" (Muriel I. Elmer and Duane H. Elmer)

TITLE: The Learning Cycle: Insights for Faithful Teaching from Neuroscience and the Social Sciences
AUTHOR: Muriel I. Elmer and Duane H. Elmer
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (224 pages).

From time to time, I would hear graduates speak about how disconnected their college education was from their jobs. Some would say that what exists in practice do not quite match up to the theories they learned in school. Among older folks, they prefer to tell us that experience is worth much more than the educational qualification. This common sentiment is also felt among seminarians and those who had theological education. I once came across a study that shows how inverted the expectations are between seminaries and churches. What church elders and members claim are more important often do not align with theologians and biblical scholars' expectations. Ideally, they should be the same. Practically, they are more different than thought. Helping to bridge this divide is the aim of this book. As educators for the past 50 years, the authors share their passion for teaching and give us insights about how to learn. Their underlying assumptions are:

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

"Work Worth Doing" (Tom Heetderks)

TITLE: Work Worth Doing: Finding God's Direction and Purpose in Your Career
AUTHOR: Tom Heetderks
PUBLISHER: Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2020, (176 pages).

If there is one thing we all do, it will probably be work. Whether it is working at home or in the office, proft or non-profits, small or large, or any kind of activity, we are all part of the economy of work. For we are all recipients of someone else's work. For example, imagining turning on the TV. Some company employees have manufactured the machine. Others have packed it, shipped it, sold it, delivered it, and installed it for us. There is the cable or Internet company needed to provide services to the TV. Then there is the power company to supply electricity to our device and the distribution network. These and many more are needed for all to happen at the push of a remote control button. This is one small illustration of how our work impacts so many others in society. The point of work is not simply to make a living. If we were to look at work from a bigger picture, what we do provides varying levels of essential services in the economy.  Author Tom Heetderks expands on this notion of work to share that work is essentially something worth doing. With conviction, he gives us an acronym: Worship Our Risen King, to remind us that as believers, we work as a means to honour God. Of course, non-believers might feel a little out of place to hear things like that. Not only that, employees might find it hard to work for a boss they don't respect. Heetderks challenges us to list down our top reasons for work and to compare that to this bigger picture. For non-believers, this big picture is about the wider benefit to society. For believers, we serve and work not just for the sake of our neighbour, but for God's kingdom. In that manner, this book should appeal to a wider audience, both believer and unbeliever.

Monday, March 30, 2020

"Living the Resurrection" (Eugene Peterson)

TITLE: Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life
AUTHOR: Eugene Peterson
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2020, (160 pages).

Eugene Peterson is one of the most loved authors in the evangelical world. What makes him most readable is his creative use of words and how he crafts ideas together in a manner that helps us see ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Most of all, he is Bible-centered. He is what I call a word-smith, and a teacher of the Word of God. What is the book about? It's about the resurrection of Jesus. Here, Peterson shows us at least three things that help us incorporate the reality of the resurrection into the reality of our present lives.

First, he helps us take a closer look at the particular aspects of Jesus' resurrection. Beginning with the gospel narratives of "wonder, astonishment, surprise," there is a sense that the resurrection is beyond our biggest imagination. All four gospels give a unique perspective about the state of wonder. Matthew's narrative looks at the women's perspective that reveals the shift from wonder to worship. Mark shows us how the women were stunned beyond words. Luke gives us a sense of awe and confusion rolled into one. John invites us to see and to be thoughtful about the truth being revealed. Pointing out six references to the common fear, and helps us see the difference between human fear and holy fear. Peterson gives us the biblical perspective of holy fear: fear of the Lord. In doing so, he shows us the beauty of heavenly encounters that transcend human paranoia. How do we connect from earth to heaven? How do we comprehend the meaning of the resurrection? Simply put: It all starts with wonder. Refuse to let our human intelligence and desire for control interfere with the working of the Holy Spirit. He shows us five ways to do that. We should not be afraid of mystery but be open to God showing us the beauty of the resurrection. After all, he describes life on earth as "not a vacation paradise" but a "war zone."

Saturday, March 28, 2020

"The Whole Counsel of God" (Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid)

TITLE: The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Entire Bible
AUTHOR: Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, (256 pages).

One common question among preachers is this: "What should I preach?" As one who preaches regularly, this is a weekly encounter. Some would preach topically while others insist on going through a Bible book at a time, something we call expository preaching. There is the the Big-Idea Preaching, the Christ-centered preaching, the Gospel-Centered Preaching, the Expository preaching, etc. Many preach on the Bible with selected passages but few advocate for preaching the entire Bible. This is understandable from a length-wise standpoint, for the Bible comprises 66 books altogether. Reading through it alone is already daunting but to preach through it? This is exactly what the authors, Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid are convicted about. It is only through preaching the entire Word of God that listeners will be adequately fed. For many, the problem is not about desire but about even entertaining the possibility of preaching through the entire Bible. After all, just reading through the Bible is already a huge feat, let alone preaching it. The authors are well aware of this challenge and takes pains to explain that it is far more profitable to try than to be bogged down by details. In fact, they go further to show us how to preach through the entire Bible. This is perhaps the key reason to get this book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Following Jesus Christ" (John K. Goodrich and Mark L. Strauss)

TITLE: Following Jesus Christ: The New Testament Message of Discipleship for Today
AUTHOR: John K. Goodrich and Mark L. Strauss
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019, (392 pages).

The big problem with the modern Church is that it is far more apt at receiving the gospel of grace but less prompt in following Jesus. Perhaps, that is why discipleship is often considered secondary among many believers. Discipleship is essentially about following Jesus. When asked to describe what the Bible says about discipleship, many believers would point to the gospels about Jesus' tough call to discipleship. It is so demanding that the famous WWII martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer even titles his book as "The Cost of Discipleship." Apart from the gospels, when asked about how the rest of the New Testament talks about discipleship, it becomes more challenging. Editors John K Goodrich and Mark L Strauss have gathered a team of scholars to contribute an essay for each of the New Testament books. They show us the concepts of biblical discipleship. They consistently remind us that discipleship is not simply something embedded in a few verses in the gospels but throughout the New Testament. By broadening our understanding of discipleship throughout the New Testament, it is hoped that readers will be able to go beyond the gospels. More importantly, they will see the process of following Jesus is the consistent messaging of discipleship. Matthew's gospel talks about discipleship from a narrative angle. Mark emphasizes the cost of discipleship. Luke summarizes the link between discipleship and the Great Commandment. John's gospel is an invitation to readers to "come and see." In Acts, we see how discipleship is lived out as the early believers venture from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the outer parts of the earth. Paul's epistles are consistently Christocentric, with traits on a Christian disciple (1 Corinthians); presence of Christ (Colossians); Community (Philippians); Holiness (1 & 2 Thessalonians); Church leadership (Titus and Timothy); etc. Hebrews recovers the lost concept of discipleship while James reminds us of the need for single-mindedness in following Christ. Peter's letters exhorts believers toward the themes of holiness, orthodoxy, resurrection, and hope as we follow Christ. Revelation shows us the prophetic vision of discipleship. By looking at the New Testament from the angle of discipleship, we get to see a fuller picture of the purpose of Christ.