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Thursday, March 4, 2021

"Journey to the Common Good, Updated Edition" (Walter Brueggemann)

TITLE: Journey to the Common Good, Updated Edition
AUTHOR: Walter Brueggemann
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021, (143 pages).

Our world is in a crisis. Whether it is economic or financial, social or spiritual, the pandemic is rocking the world from its sense of normalcy and security. The economies of the world are mostly in recession and with the continuing loss of jobs experienced by many, and with many more to come, people need hope more than ever. There is also the continuing tussle between opposing groups with opposing philosophies of life. The Right vs the Left; the East vs the West, and the various other divisions that are split based on age, education, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and others.  What is good? How do we progress to a better world? The way forward is actually to learn about lessons from the past. Author and esteemed professor Walter Brueggemann urges us to go all the way back to the wilderness narrative experienced by ancient Israel. Calling  wilderness as "the hard work of alternative," Brueggemann reminds us that such an environment pushes us toward greater dependence on God and exposes our innate sinful tendency to complain. It forces us to look toward life according to the mercy and providence of God instead of self-dependence or self-centered subsistence. More importantly, we are reminded that life is a gift from God and it takes a wilderness crisis to wake us to the reality of how God had provided for us through all times and how we all need God. Under Pharaoh, Isreal could neither protest nor complain. Living freely in the wilderness, the freed slaves of Israel could even complain against God! Brueggemann observes how our modern culture has "freed" the various people groups who had previously faced "repression, brutality, and abandonment."  In this book, Bruggemann offers three paths toward a common good. From the Exodus narrative, he attempts to show us how hope could progress from personal anxieties to the practice of neighborly love. Readers are challenged with the question: "What is the common good?" Like how Jews welcomed Christians to share in the joy of seeing Israel liberated from Egypt, we also share in the natural common anxieties surrounding food, safety, security, and freedom. We see how Pharaoh exploited the Israelites and how God eventually delivered Isreal from slavery into freedom. Seeing how God had provided for His people should encourage us to hope in the future of promised abundance. For that, we need to recognize our anxieties caused by a scarcity narrative that often prevents us from generosity for the common good. We need to depart from the old to enter the new. These movements away from scarcity to abundance are essential in order to avoid extreme nationalism, toleration of poverty, policies that harm the environment for the sake of selfish profits, and so on. It is a mindset revolution that is needed. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"The Congregation in a Secular Age" (Andrew Root)

TITLE: Congregation in a Secular Age (Ministry in a Secular Age)
AUTHOR: Andrew Root
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, (288 pages).

What time is it? It's secular time! In a three-part volume about Christian life in a secular age, author, and professor Andrew Root paints for us the challenges surrounding youth ministry; pastoral ministry; and ministry to the congregation. The first volume deals with the reasons why young people's faith had flipped from a culture of "difficult not to believe" to "difficult to believe" within 500 years. The key is to move away from talking about faith to practicing faith in love to the young ones. Root looked at the state of authenticity and how it interacts with duty-bound individuals. The second volume looks at the challenges of pastoral ministry in a secular age where the challenge is for pastors to communicate hope even to people who refuse to see any hope. Thus, the second volume aims to encourage pastors with hope through historical examples and that ministry unveils God's presence to people by helping them recognize and perceive "divine action" in their midst. From youth ministry to pastoral ministry, now author Andrew Root helps us look at congregational ministry in an age of secularism. His key thesis is this: Congregations are unable to keep up with the changing tide of cultural changes leading to burnout, depression, and a shift from sacred living to frantic behaving, from faithfulness to a "drive for vitality." The solution is to go back to the fundamentals of ecclesiology and to help local congregations do the same. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

"The Big Idea Companion for Preaching and Teaching" (Matthew D. Kim and Scott M. Gibson)

TITLE: The Big Idea Companion for Preaching and Teaching: A Guide from Genesis to Revelation
AUTHOR: Matthew D. Kim and Scott M. Gibson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, (640 pages).
 
One of the most popular and powerful methods for preaching is the late Dr. Haddon Robinson's "Big Idea Preaching." It is simple in its basic concept and widely applicable in communications, especially in the area of preaching and teaching. This book essentially applies the Big Idea to the whole Bible. Most of the contributors, if not all of them, have benefitted from Robinson's teachings and have applied to all 66 books of the Bible. It can be the preaching version of the abridged commentary of the whole Bible. Taking each biblical book, contributors worked through chapters, pericopes, and selected segments to give us the key exegetical idea, the subject, and the complement for each of them. On top of that, each book would come with:
  1. An introduction to the major idea of the whole book
  2. Tips on how to divide the segments
  3. Guidance through difficult passages
  4. Cultural contexts
  5. Recommended resources

Friday, February 19, 2021

"Discipleship in Community" (Mark E. Powell, John Mark Hicks, and Greg McKinzie)

TITLE: Discipleship in Community: A Theological Vision for the Future
AUTHOR: Mark E. Powell, John Mark Hicks, and Greg McKinzie
PUBLISHER: Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2020, (192 pages).

Who are the "Churches of Christ" and the "Disciples of Christ" organizations? What do they believe in? What is the Stone-Campbell movement and their "restoration perspective?" For the authors of this book, the key operative word answer is "discipleship." Thus, the title for this book. Such discipleship mirrors the two greatest commandments: Love God and Love People. Discipleship is about participation in the life of the Triune God as well as building up a community of disciples in order to share in God's mission. This theme of discipleship is anchored on six fundamental convictions:
  1. A Trinitarian vision of God
  2. An eschatological outlook
  3. Strong biblical orientation in its teaching and spirituality
  4. The Believers Church tradition
  5. The sacramental presence and working of God, especially in baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  6. The church’s participation in God’s mission  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

"Better decisions, Fewer Regrets" (Andy Stanley)

TITLE: Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move
AUTHOR: Andy Stanley
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Reflective, 2020, (192 pages).

What should I do next? What should I do with my life? What do I really want? Why do I want to know what's my next move? Tell me the answer and I will do it! For Christians, one of the classic questions would be to ask: "What is God's calling for me?" These perhaps are some of the decision making questions that challenge us daily, and for some, the question might even linger on for a lifetime. Indeed, making decisions is one of the most important things we do. So much so that for some, not making a decision is an easy way out. While popular wisdom says that there is no such thing as a dumb question, it is always helpful when we learn how to ask better questions. Some answers would challenge the mental while others might just appease the curious. The most powerful questions are those that help us determine our calling and purpose in life. "What do we do next?" is a question that needs to be asked at regular intervals of our lives. Instead of allowing our emotions and desires rule over our decision making, we need to involved the mental calmness and objectivity in asking hard and honest questions about what we are seeking. Enters the five questions which Andy Stanley hopes will help unlock ourselves toward a meaningful journey of self-discovery and good decision making. The questions deal with one's sense of identity, purpose, and desire for fulfilment. These five questions are:

Monday, February 8, 2021

"Holy Sexuality and the Gospel" (Christopher Yuan)

TITLE: Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story
AUTHOR: Christopher Yuan
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook & Multnomah, 2018, (256 pages).

One of the biggest issues in our modern world is in the area of human sexuality, in particular, homosexuality. This topic has divided many parts of society. Whether it is between tradition and modern convention; older generation vs younger generation; East vs West; or any distinctive people group, it is a controversy that has torn apart many relationships. For Christians and the Church, it hits home at the heart when members of our Church or even our families confess they are gay. Even the theological community has been split in the interpretations or re-appropriation of the Bible verses that speak about homosexuality. Even love has many different definitions and expectations. For many, it is a theoretical and theological exploration on what God is saying with regard to homosexuality. For others, it is using the Bible to defend what they believe in. However, for those who are trapped in the middle, it could be arduous and tormenting. In 1993, author Christopher Yuan announced to his parents that he is gay. Due to his family's conservative Asian background, it is particularly hard on their relationship. Worse, Yuan after coming out into the open about his sexuality, his new found "freedom" led him to some destructive behaviour including promiscuity, illicit drug use, drug peddling, and unbelief. He was subsequently caught and jailed. This was the moment that forced Yuan to spend more time reading and praying over the Bible's teachings. Right thinking must come before any intentions. Any relevance or pragmatism must never come at the price of Truth. This book is Yuan's personal journey to discover this Truth, believing that "right knowing" comes before any action or behaviour. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

"101 Leadership Insights" (Bob Phillips and Del Walinga)

TITLE: 150 Essential Insights on Leadership (Legacy Inspirational Series)
AUTHOR:  Bob Phillips and Del Walinga
PUBLISHER: Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2021, (176 pages).

How does one lead to inspire? How could a leader motivate another to improve and to do better? How do we go about discovering our own personality profile and leadership styles? What does it take to be a leader? What do we do when our leadership is challenged? How do we move from dealing with differences to learning to make a difference in the lives of people? How does one deal with criticisms? What does it take to be a forward-looking leader? How could a leader learn to distinguish between rights and responsibilities? What about avoiding burnout? How does one form a vision? What does it take to develop resilience in leadership? What about loneliness? How do we balance the different expectations on us? These and many more form the basis of this large volume of leadership insights. Filled with lots of famous quotes and illustrations, it is a fascinating look at the many different perspectives of leadership. There are chapters on leadership styles and behaviors to help us determine the most appropriate attribute for different occasions. Authors Bob Phillips and Del Walinga have given us a book filled with insightful advice and powerful examples of leadership. Knowing the highs and lows that come with leadership, they encourage us to learn and to keep on learning. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"What the Bible Says about Divorce and Remarriage" (Wayne Grudem)

TITLE: What the Bible Says about Divorce and Remarriage
AUTHOR: Wayne Grudem
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, (112 pages).

One of the most crippling events in any human relationship is divorce. It breaks up the marital union. It tears families apart. It damages children's perception of the future of their own marriages. Worst of all, it dishonours the marriage institution as well as ridiculing the marriage vow: "For better or for worse." Of course, sympathetically speaking, there are legitimate reasons to break the marital bond. Rather than to throw a blanket no, Jesus's approach is to adopt a reserved exception to the norm. For Christians, the issue of divorce can become complicated especially when it comes to understanding what is the right thing to do ethically and theologically. With modern culture becoming more sophisticated, is the Bible's teaching on divorce still relevant for our times? A related matter after divorce involves the topic of remarriage. What are the circumstances where remarriage is allowed or disallowed? Other questions covered include:
  • Are there any legitimate grounds for divorce? If so, what are they?
  • How about spousal abuse as morally acceptable ground for divorce? 
  • Are there other grounds for divorce that are not explicitly stated in the Bible?
  • Is remarriage allowed?
  • Can a divorced person serve in the capacity of a Church officer?
  • What are the reasons for "no remarriage?"

Monday, January 25, 2021

"The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness" (Marina Berzins McCoy)

TITLE: The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness: Ten Steps to Healing
AUTHOR: Marina Berzins McCoy
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2020, (144 pages).
 
Forgiveness is more like a dance. Our first dance partner is God, followed by everyone else at a party. Then, regardless of wealth or social status, all come together to interact as people. The party is by invitation. The mood is celebratory. Call it a ten-step dance or as the author calls it, a "road map." Each step helps to till and loose any hardened soil of bitterness. Not only that, it helps one be more aware of the changes happening inside, to let God draw one closer to Him and His heart. Due to sin, forgiveness is never a default human inclination. That is why we all need God's help, and this book guides us in that direction. Based on the spiritual teachings of St Ignatius of Loyola, this book is a companion to guide readers through the fundamentals of prayer and especially the prayer of examen. After laying down some basic themes of Ignation spirituality, McCoy takes time to commit the book to prayer, praying the concluding prayer of pilgrims traveling along the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). This is a reminder that prayer is a pilgrimage with God. Like a spiritual expedition, we prepare our hearts to encounter milestones, twists and turns, highs and lows, and all manner of terrain. She then launches into the steps proper, starting with three challenging questions:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Posting Peace" (Douglas S. Bursch)

TITLE: Posting Peace: Why Social Media Divides Us and What We Can Do About It
AUTHOR: Douglas S. Bursch
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021, (204 pages).

We are increasingly angry online. Anything could become an anger trigger, a point of contention, or an explosive rant. With more people stuck at home during the pandemic, this situation seems to be getting worse. With such high temperatures on social media, what if this is just the early stages of an even bigger problem? Can we do something about such divisions? How can we bring about greater unity and calm in the digital world? Could the online wars contribute to the growing polarization among different sides and opinions? Lamenting on the inability of people (including Christians) to speak the truth in love, author Douglas Bursch probes the ongoing social media heat and helps us find a way to cool down and to be peacemakers. Otherwise, things might very well become more polarized. The key thesis in this book is that Christians need to lead the way in online communications to be peacemakers. It is hoped that such efforts would lead to greater restraint, reconciliation, and restoration of goodness in our relationships. The author knows this the hard way. Having been a talkshow host who tries to bring conservatives, moderates, progressives, and liberals to the same table to remove contentious debates, he has experienced bitter feedback and disappointment as people use the platform to hurl their views down the rest. The verbal mudslinging spoke louder than his voice of moderation. Many of the comments he received were mean and harsh. Political infighting and social media seem to feed off each other, deepening the existing divisions and widening the cracks. He also learns that for talk show hosts to be successful, they have to hold a strong opinionated side. Staying in the middle ground hardly cuts it. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

"Keeping Christmas" (Allison Pittman)

TITLE: Keeping Christmas: 25 Advent Reflections on A Christmas Carol
AUTHOR: Allison Pittman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2020, (128 pages).

Come each Christmas, modern people would associate the event with shopping and year-end festivities. Many would also go back to watching classic movies like "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," or "A Christmas Carol." Why do we enjoy old classics? Is there any reason for celebrating Christmas the old traditional way? Perhaps, the answer ought to be another question: "Why not?" CS Lewis has warned us about "chronological snobbery" to remind us not to let the everything-new jettison the everything-old. Not all new stuff is great. Not all old stuff is outdated. There are many things that are timeless and helps us appreciate life. Great stories are always worth telling and retelling from generation to generation. The lessons of old are essential for guiding learners, both old and new. More importantly, the lessons are reminders of how we are the old made new. Based on 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, the 25 devotionals remind us of how Scrooge was a life that was transformed, one day at a time, until that eventful Christmas Eve. This book is an Advent devotional to highlight such timeless principles daily for 25 days prior to Christmas. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

"This Hallelujah Banquet" (Eugene H. Peterson)

TITLE: This Hallelujah Banquet: How the End of What We Were Reveals Who We Can Be
AUTHOR: Eugene H. Peterson
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Waterbrook Press, 2021, (208 pages).
 
Eugene Peterson passed away on October 22nd, 2018. It seemed all so surreal that one of the most creative and eloquent evangelical voices had left us. Most famous for his work on giving us the paraphrase of the Bible, the MESSAGE, he has also written a number of bestsellers for Christians in general. His writings continue to be a powerful but gentle influence, giving us a fresh perspective on understanding the Bible. Taken from his series of sermons preached during Lent 1984 at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air Maryland, this book is based on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Each chapter follows a similar outline: 1) Part of Christ's character; 2) Strengths and weaknesses of the Church; 3) A promise to remember. The title of the book tells us that in spite of the warning messages that spell out judgment and doom, there are reasons for hope leading to the great hallelujah chorus in heaven. A keynote is that while Revelation often excites us about future happenings, we need to take a step back to reflect on the essence of Jesus' words to us. For all the cares and concerns we have about the future, very often the questions we ask are not the ones that truly matter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Covid-19 Helpers" (Beth Bacon and Kary Lee)

TITLE: COVID-19 HELPERS: A story for kids about the coronavirus and the people helping during the 2020 pandemic
AUTHOR: Beth Bacon and Kary Lee
PUBLISHER: Durham, NC: Blair Publishing, 2020, (36 pages).

This is a delightful children's book to describe the Covid-19 situation. The year 2020 has been devastated by the pandemic. Globally, every family has been affected one way or another. Travel has been strictly curtailed while lockdowns are happening in many major cities. From shopping malls to supermarkets, schools to workplaces, all of our social interactions are potential opportunities to spread the disease. We need to practice social distancing. Governments around the world have been scrambling for vaccines as a way to protect the medical infrastructure. Wear masks and avoid social gatherings. Why are governments going to such extremes to deal with this disease? Such things can be strange for a child. For the little ones, they might be wondering: 
  • What is Covid-19?
  • Why must I wear masks?
  • Why can't I visit and play with my friends?
  • What about a sleepover?
  • Why are schools closed?
  • What happens if I catch Covid-19?
  • How do I protect myself or my friends?
  • Why do I need to wash my hands with soap and water?
  • Why do I need to sneeze into a tissue or my elbow?
  • What is the right way to wash my hands?
  • What are vaccines and why are they important?
  • How does staying at home help with the battle against the coronavirus?

Monday, January 11, 2021

"J.I. Packer" (Alister McGrath)

TITLE: J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought
AUTHOR: Alister McGrath
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (192 pages).

To many Christians around the world, he is known as the author of the bestselling book, "Knowing God." To North American evangelicals, he is known as the Puritan evangelical from England. To students at Tyndale, he was remembered as the theologian who impacted their ministry and preaching. For those in Regent College, he was their beloved professor, a friend of Regent's co-founder, James Houston, a scholar who is passionate about equipping the layperson for ministry. For budding authors, he was always willing to contribute a preface, a foreword, or a brief commendation about a book waiting to be published. In a richly informative and inspirational biography of Dr James Innell Packer, Oxford scholar Alister McGrath has written a beautiful tribute. It is a story of the life of a man that simply needs to be told, for the benefit of anyone considering ministry or theological education. In it, McGrath gives us wonderful snippets of Packer's life and most interestingly, some of Packer's most famous quips. His reminder about the value of old books as well as the three ways to engage tradition with theological reflection is worth the price of the book.

Monday, January 4, 2021

"After Evangelicalism" (David P. Gushee)

TITLE: After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity
AUTHOR: David P. Gushee
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020, (243 pages).

Ever since the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States, the terms "evangelical" or "evangelicalism" has been treated with disdain. Sometimes, it has also become a derogatory term. Such negativity could be traced even further back a few decades. The moment evangelicals dabbled themselves with politics, it marks the beginning of the end of the marks of evangelicalism. In this book, author David Gushee writes for those who "used to be evangelicals," including himself. Quoting a 2014 Religious Landscape Study by PEW Research Center, about 8% of Americans who used to be associated with evangelicalism had switched to another faith persuasion. Young people are among the largest groups leaving evangelicalism. The reasons are varied. It ranges from something as wide as accusations of bigotry to factors as narrow as personal offenses. Gushee even gives out a sample test of 25 references to do an evangelical test. He then begins with his personal story why he left evangelicalism. More details can be found in his book "Still Christian." Calling himself starting as a "center-left," he rebelled against various traditional practices of the Southern Baptist conservative colleges, the biggest being his stand regarding LGBTQ. In fact, he sees a growing number who reflected his stance as a post-evangelical. What comes after this cultural definition of modern white American evangelicalism? Gushee gives us a vision of a "New Christianity." He covers three broad topics: 1) Authorities; 2) Theology; 3) Ethics; and tries to answer questions like:

Thursday, December 31, 2020

"25 Days of the Christmas Story" (Dr. Josh and Christi Straub)

TITLE: 25 Days of the Christmas Story: An Advent Family Experience
AUTHOR: Dr. Josh and Christi Straub
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2020, (128 pages).

The Advent is the season of roughly four weeks prior to Christmas Day. Depending on the year, this season ranges between 22 to 28 days. The authors of this book use 25 days to average out the typical Advent season. Simply put, this book is about a story of a Bible character for each day of the Advent. Thus, there are 25 stories for each Advent day, leading up to Christmas. Children loved stories and adults never get bored listening to stories that are told over and over again. There are stories of prophets like Isaiah and Zechariah. There are stories of New Testament characters such as  Simeon, Elizabeth, Simeon, Joseph, and Mary. There are also days in which stories are told about the angel Gabriel, Bethlehem, the Manger, the Star, Egypt, Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Nazareth. Each day begins with a statement of a character trait of the person, place, or element of concern. It ends with a life lesson as a result of the story told that day. This life lesson is also accompanied by a section called "Family Activity." This is for families to have their family time. The authors' intent is for parents or guardians to use this book as a way to introduce the meaning of Advent and Christmas to the young child. Through stories, the child gets to learn the relevance of the Bible narrative leading up to the birth of Christ. Christmas is a lot more than just singing about Mary's Boy Child or a Happy Birthday song to Jesus. There are many elements of faith that adults can teach the kids. The Bible is quite economical with details of Jesus' birth. This book fills in gaps in order to make the story more cogent and free-flowing. 

What I like about this book is its simplicity; teaching moment; and family time. The simple and brief stories allow time for parents and adults to be creative in their storytelling. Just looking at the pictures throughout the book is enough to trigger a lively conversation over the topic. There are no complicated maps to see or difficult names to pronounce. By choosing a person, a place, or a symbol each day, parents could help the child to focus on one thing or one person at a time. As for teaching moments, the authors place the character trait right at the beginning to prepare the reader for what is to come. Nowadays, Christmas has become more commercialized than ever. Children could readily remember the names of Santa Claus, the elves, and the reindeers, but what about the Bible truths? Our children are increasingly being educated by commercials, malls, TV programs, and shopping culture. This book is a needed corrective to educate the child on the true meaning of Christmas. For 25 days prior to Christmas, parents can use this book to teach their children in a fun, captivating, and educational manner. 

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a husband, dad, and recovering human. By trade, Josh is a speaker, author, and family and leadership coach.

Christi Straub is most famous as a wife and momma to two feisty kiddos. On stage, Christi is a speaker, author, marriage and wellness coach, and a podcast and TV cohost.

Josh and Christi Straub are speakers, authors, and marriage and leadership coaches. Together, they lead Famous at Home, an organization equipping families and leaders to be famous at home, so they can thrive on their stage. 

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade

This book has been provided courtesy of B&H Publishing Group and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

"40 Questions about Biblical Theology" (Jason S. DeRouchie, Oren R. Martin, & Andrew David Naselli)

TITLE: 40 Questions About Biblical Theology
AUTHOR: Jason S. DeRouchie, Oren R. Martin, & Andrew David Naselli
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2020, (400 pages).

For many people, theology is already a difficult word to make sense of. Some delegate the work of theology to the academics or the learned community. Laypersons too have varied opinions and understanding of the word.. Throw in "biblical theology" and the confusion grows. For those who have been through Bible School, that is not the only term to grapple with. There are other terms like "systematic theology," "pastoral theology," "historical theology," "dogmatic theology," "practical theology" and so on. So what is "biblical theology?" Leave it to the professionals? Not really. Anyone keen in studying the Bible would benefit from the study of Biblical Theology. Put it simply, it is about the big picture of Scripture. Understanding this big picture would keep us from becoming too myopic when we interpret and apply what we learn in our Bible studies. This book helps make the complex terms understandable; the unfamiliar words recognizable; and any difficult concepts comprehensible. It makes the topic of biblical theology more accessible through a simple set of questions and answers. For some people, the word "theology" can itself be labeled as for academics only. This mini-catechism changes all that, showing us that Biblical Theology is for everyone interested in the Bible and what the Bible teaches. The forty questions are subdivided into five headings:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

"Room of Marvels" (James Bryan Smith)

TITLE: Room of Marvels: A Story About Heaven that Heals the Heart
AUTHOR: James Bryan Smith
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020, (192 pages).

Presented through the eyes of Tim Hudson, the book begins with Tim going on a personal 5-day spiritual retreat in a secluded New England monastery. Tim is an established author. He shares with his spiritual director about the loss of his mother, his friend Wayne, and his young daughter Madison. He was at the point of losing his own faith in God despite previously writing books like "God's On Your Side." He describes the mundane daily activities like eating in silence; sitting in silence for hours in his room; pacing the floors; reading Scripture; eat, sleep; and dream. He asks questions about the efficacy of prayer. He seeks a personal voice from God. He tells of a dream about him even interacting with animals, seeing his barber friend Ernie, and various snippets of heaven. There Tim works through some theological struggles in his interactions. In heaven, he meets his old friend Wayne and continues with questions and curiosity about his life after death. These conversations reveal the deep friendship between Tim and Wayne. In heaven, Tim meets his great-grandmother, his mother, as well as his daughter. At his personal retreat, his spiritual mentor challenges him with snippets of spirituality gleaned through the wisdom of CS Lewis and Dallas Willard. He poses questions many of us would ask. Questions like: