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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"A Surprising God" (Thomas G. Long and Donyelle C. McCray)

TITLE: A Surprising God: Advent Devotions for an Uncertain Time
AUTHOR: Thomas G. Long and Donyelle C. McCray
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021, (112 pages).

One of the most popular questions Christians tend to ask is how the Bible of ancient times speaks to us in modern times. With a strong devotion to the Word and a desire to practice the Word, we ask general questions like "How relevant is the Bible today?" to specific questions surrounding contemporary life such as: "What would Jesus do in our situation?" or "What does the Bible has to say about politics, our friends, our current issues, or even our personal life?" Biblical scholars tend to be skeptical about such questions that begin with contemporary life instead of the Word of God first. In a marvelous preface, authors Thomas Long and Donyelle McCray believe that we need to do both "in the fray" (what it means then) as well as "above the fray" (what it means now). My first thought is: Easier said that done. Then authors Long and McCray surprise me with how they manage to write this Advent devotionals from three angles of relevance: Heavenly, Societal, and Personal.  Long and McCray alternate their devotions with the same format. Each day begins with a catchy title and short Bible passage. After a brief story or personal anecdote, we get to ponder upon the various surprises that defy our wildest imaginations. Even in the midst of troubles and turmoils around us, when the world around us seems to paint a bleak future, Jesus promises something totally unexpected: Redemption is coming! When doubts and uncertainties surround us with stories of doom and gloom, the Bible surprises us with the promise of eternal hope. Even when Revelation produces quite frightening images, we could still hang on to the promise that on Judgment Day, Jesus will rule with Justice and Mercy. This pattern of surprises come amid our current atmosphere of protest movement surrounding "Black Lives Matter," wars, political turmoil, economic struggles, poverty, etc. The authors want to prepare our hearts for the Hope of hopes, the Love of all loves, and the Surprise of all surprises: aka, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

"Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew" (Scot McKnight)

TITLE: Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew
AUTHOR: Scot McKnight
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2021, (184 pages).

This review is a follow-up on the complementary volume from my previous review, that theology and biblical studies should complement rather than compete against each other. After all, they help the rest of us understand biblical truth more deeply. Theologian Hans Boersma's tongue-in-cheek foreword subtly maintains the supremacy of systematic theology over biblical theology. He even brands biblical scholars like Scot McKnight as more theological than what most people might have perceived. What he is saying is that McKnight's views put him on the same side as his own. In endorsing this book, Boersma is even saying that at the end of it all, both biblical and dogmatic theology affirms the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity: Christ is present sacramentally (theological) in the biblical texts (biblical scholarship). This sets the stage for a grand pushback by eminent biblical scholar, Scot McKnight. Arguing that the task of a biblical scholar is more difficult, McKnight points out the nature of biblical studies which is to take ourselves away from our contemporary viewpoints to immerse ourselves into the biblical texts. Such a task is immensely more challenging. His central point: "All theology must start at the exegetical level."  

Friday, September 10, 2021

"Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew" (Hans Boersma)

TITLE: Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew
AUTHOR: Hans Boersma
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2021, (176 pages).

The disciplines of theology and biblical studies ought to complement each other in the study of Truth. Together, they help us form a more wholesome picture of what Scripture teaches us. With greater knowledge and insight, we have deepened our understanding of both systematic theology and biblical theology. Unfortunately, the bridges of understanding between the two disciplines have not grown correspondingly. This has led to unhealthy comparison and sometimes, willful playing down of each other by proponents of either party. While most professors and theologians see the disciplines as complementary, this is often more theoretical than in reality. Apart from the professional respect offered to one another, we need a third angle to help bridge the gaps that may exist. Who could best do that? This is where two eminent professors and authors from each of these disciplines could do. By bringing forth five major things they wish the other side would know, they not only highlight the unique strengths of the particular disciplines concerned, but they also form five bridges of understanding.  In the spirit of mutual encouragement, cross-disciplinary learning, sprinkled with dockets of humour, Professor Hans Boersma points out the purpose of theology, which is: "to use the Scriptures as a means of grace in drawing the reader to Jesus Christ." This Christocentric reading ought to circumvent the tendency to overemphasize historical studies. More importantly, this should lead us toward sacramental communion with God, in Jesus. Whether it is cheekily done or not, Boersma uses a common phrase "no Scripture" to highlight the key things before the biblical scholar's favorite distinction. He then lists the following five compelling things he wishes biblical scholars should know: 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

"Made to Worship" (Phil Stacey)

TITLE: Made to Worship: Empty Idols and the Fullness of God
AUTHOR: Phil Stacey
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2021, (272 pages).

He was set apart for a singing career. Yet, the very things that made him famous are also the very reason for breaking him down. Growing up in a family of singers, Phil Stacey has a gifted voice and a love for music. As a son of a pastor, Church is like his second home. He and his family thrived musically everywhere they went. For Phil, his music was what attracted people to him. It was the reality show, American Idol, that launched him to fame. This book is his memoir of faith, of his humble beginnings, his journey to American Idol, and the subsequent darkness that befell him in the midst of glittering images of fame. Writing about his fall from grace, he shares also about his return via the path of faith. He ends with a powerful note to proclaim that all his music, all of his experience, and all of his life are essentially made for worship. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

"Why You Matter" (Michael Sherrard)

TITLE: Why You Matter (Perspectives: A Summit Ministries Series): How Your Quest for Meaning Is Meaningless without God
AUTHOR: Michael Sherrard
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2021, (194 pages).

For every "what" there needs to be a "why." For some of us, we need more than simply an answer to the latter. For many of us, this is essentially a quest for meaning and significance of our lives. What makes life meaningful? How are we part of the grand plan of significance? The key thesis in this book is that God exists, and that is why we matter. With the ongoing pandemic, many people are dealing with disruptions, loneliness, deaths, sicknesses, health issues, in particular mental and spiritual well-being. These might lead them to question the meaning of life. Then comes racial issues which led to the rise of the "Black Lives Matter" as well as an "All Lives Matter" reaction by some quarters. Even in societies that pride on equality and freedom of expression, many people still go through crises of various types. Author and pastor Michael Sherrard focus on a "crisis of meaning" to probe behind the reasons why people insist their lives matter in the first place. Once we can understand that, the rest will come into place. He helps us go beyond mere feelings as a judge of our worth. For feelings are often too subjective to be reliable. Rather than letting our feelings, our skills, or our subjectivity determine our life's meaning and identity, why not go back to our Creator? How is that meaningful? In the quest for such answers, we start by observing the culture and society we are living in. Can our present situation of secularism and godless society bring everlasting meaning? What are the promises of atheism? What about morality? The author helps us take a critical look at the society we are in, on the emptiness of the "good life" we often assume we are in. Gradually, he switches gear to help us envision a world with God. Sherrard essentially says the following:  

Friday, September 3, 2021

"Rediscover Church" (Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman)

TITLE: Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential (The Gospel Coalition and 9Marks)
AUTHOR: Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2021, (160 pages).

Why do we need to rediscover Church? Isn't it enough to simply believe and practice our faith daily? With the rise of online church and how many people have become so familiar with watching Church services on YouTube, Zoom, or other online channels, surely we can maintain this new way of doing church? Well, authors Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman disagree. A Christian without a Church is a Christian in trouble. We still need to get back to the meaning of the Church and to live together as a Community in Christ. There are many reasons why believers stay away from Church. The conventional arguments against the church include things like limited authenticity, distasteful politics, politicizing of religion, negative publicity, lack of transparency, irrelevancy, and the age-old accusation: hypocrisy. With covid, this disinclination from physical church gatherings has been accelerated. On top of this electronic distance, there are also those who feel disillusioned about the lack of pastoral care and the inability of their pastors to match up to the charismatic preachers who draw people to their professional online offerings. With such overwhelming cultural disarray surrounding faith and Church, it is no wonder that many people are looking for a reason to go back to Church. This book comes at the right time to answer that very question. There is a need and a future for the Church. What is necessary now is to go back to the essence of what Church is and what it means to be Church in the 21st Century. Hansen and Leeman began with the metaphor of marriage where Christ is the groom while the Church is the bride. If Christ gave himself for the Church, shouldn't that alone speak volumes about the importance of Church? 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

"First and Second Thessalonians" (Timothy A. Brookins)

TITLE: First and Second Thessalonians (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament)
AUTHOR: Timothy A. Brookins
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, (256 pages).

When studying the Bible, one of the key emphases is to interpret the texts in the right context. That usually means trying to understand the literary and cultural situations back in ancient times prior to applying them to our present world. This commentary series goes much further and deeper to build the "theological convictions and moral habits" of readers. Instead of verse-by-verse, the commentary moves in terms of "rhetorical units." Within each unit, readers learn about the introduction, the narrative flow, and the theological themes. The introduction includes matters such as the identity of the author, the intended audience, the background, and an overview of the letter. Noting how little attention has been paid to the nature of the 2 books as letters, author and professor Timothy Broookins pays special attention to the letter genre to make sense of its literary composition. Using the nature of the letter as an interpretive lens, to understand the ancient contexts, the authorial intent, audience, history, cultural backgrounds, and so on. He goes further to point out that Paul's letter in a "literary" one rather than a "nonliterary" or a "diplomatic" one. It gives us a glimpse of Paul's narrative, being forced out of Thessalonica by the opposition. It was a tumultuous time as Christians in the region continue to be persecuted. Taken together with Acts, one could roughly piece together the places Paul had gone. Questions remain whether the reasons for the letter were situational, social, political, doctrinal, or even "anti-imperial." Some of the theological themes are:

Thursday, August 26, 2021

"Restless Devices" (Felicia Wu Song)

TITLE: Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age
AUTHOR: Felicia Wu Song
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021, (232 pages).

With the fast-changing technological landscape, issues pertaining to human-machine interactions continue to evolve. Since the turn of the century, people are increasingly using technological devices in all of their human interactions. Whether one is a digital native or digital immigrant, the common denominator between the different generations is the use of technology. What is increasingly common is that time spent for both adults and kids on digital devices is also rising, albeit for different reasons. Addiction, mental health, restlessness, and so on are becoming more unsettling each day. Just think about it. How many people can live without WiFi or some form of Internet access? In this book, author and professor Felicia Wu Song argues that we are all descending down a digital environment that is threatening to unravel our personhood and calls us all to start on the journey to recover our humanness through a process of re-embodiment. We do not have to surrender to every desire to upgrade our devices or to constantly check our phones for the latest news. Song proposes three paths forward:
  1. Spiritual disciplines and practices
  2. Recovery of our Human Embodiment
  3. Living in Community

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

"Cannabis and the Christian" (Todd Miles)

TITLE: Cannabis and the Christian: What the Bible Says about Marijuana
AUTHOR: Todd Miles
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2021, (176 pages).

A decade ago, marijuana has been declared a controlled drug, illegal for private consumption without a prescription. Times have changed. Countries in the West are starting to relax their controls to allow casual use of cannabis. With more countries and states jumping into the bandwagon of legalizing the use of pot, Christians would need to grapple with the reality and find out an appropriate response to this liberalization. Apart from the associated legal issues, one would need to consider the cultural, ethical, scientific, social, medical, as well as theological implications. In the past, things were pretty much straightforward. If it is against the law, parents could tell their kids not to use it. For states that are legalizing casual use, parents would have to reconsider their conventional approaches. Author and professor Todd Miles hit the popular speaker jackpot when he decided to talk about "Marijuana and the Minister" a few years ago. The upshoot in interest goes to show the pent-up need to understand the new cultural landscape. No more depending on the government to tell us what we could or could not do. We need to actively engage the issue on a biblical and theological basis. The challenge here is that as far as marijuana is concerned, we don't have any explicit instructions from the Bible. One key point Miles makes for anyone trying to understand the issue is this: "Our experiences shape our convictions, and they color the way we see and hear things." We must be careful of subjective biases that would tilt our interpretations. So the author aims to help us think about the issues theologically. He covers the following:

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

"The Worship Architect" (Constance M. Cherry)

TITLE: The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services
AUTHOR: Constance M. Cherry
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, (352 pages).

The format and style of Worship in churches have been changing over the years. The factors that spur changes include congregational size, cultural influences, renewal movements, liturgical requirements, and so on. Along with the trend, the word "worship" has also become more loosely used to include personal devotions, small group gatherings, musical events, conferences, workshops, as well as everyday living. In an effort to recover the meaning of worship, author and professor Constance Cherry has revised her 2010 volume about designing worship services with a focus on Church services. Part of the concern has to do with what the author calls "a diminishing ecclesiology and an anemic Christology." The purpose of her writing this book is: "to equip leaders to prepare and lead Christian worship services that are faithful to Scripture, historically conscious,  relevant to God, Christ-centered, context-specific, and engaging for worshipers of all ages." Using the metaphor of building a house, Cherry designates four rooms of worship as follows:
  1. First Room: The Gathering of God's People
  2. Second Room: The Hearing of God's Word
  3. Third Room: The Response to God's Word
  4. Fourth Room: The Sending out of God's Disciples

Thursday, August 12, 2021

"From Daughters to Disciples" (Lynn Japinga)

TITLE: From Daughters to Disciples: Women's Stories from the New Testament
AUTHOR: Lynn Japinga
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021, (164 pages).

Many books have been written about the prophets of old, the kings of Israel, and the twelve disciples of Jesus. Yet, in the modern era, there are increasingly many who are questioning the patriarchal nature of the Bible. Why are there more male leaders? Why are most of the key figures in the Bible male? Is God showing preferential treatment to guys? With a desire to show that God is not blind to the needs of women, author and professor Lynn Japinga continues to shed light on some of the most prominent but often neglected characters in the Bible. Plus, they are all women! After writing her previous book about women's stories from the Old Testament, she continues this orientation by writing a companion volume on the women's stories from the New Testament. Yet, the author admits that this volume is more difficult because they don't speak much. Whatever they do, not much was recorded. Thus, compared to the first volume, the author tries to put herself into these women's shoes and does her best "imaginative speculation." She does this carefully after considering the New Testament contexts and reflecting on how Jesus treated the women then. Progressing from the gospels to the letters of Paul, Japinga begins with Mary, describing how conventional views paint her as obedient, blessed, ideal, or even the model woman for the rest to emulate. This is difficult for the modern woman to follow because no woman on earth is ever good enough. The author argues instead that she is more like one who had experienced grief, loss, and joy, all wrapped in one. She writes about the woman with a tissue of blood. While not much is known about this woman, Japinga manages to trace her background to give a counter-cultural proposal that instead of ostracizing her for her menstruation, readers ought to consider that as "mysterious and powerful." Mysterious because we still do not understand why the monthly period has to happen. Powerful because the process has the power to birth new life. On the Gentile woman who needed healing, the author puts herself in her shoes and to see her deep faith in Jesus in spite of her status.  Jesus accepted her in spite of her conditions. It is a lesson to remind us not to jump to conclusions about anyone. At one point, Japinga is close to accusing Jesus of not being inclusive enough. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

"A History of Evangelism in North America" (Thomas P. Johnston)

TITLE: A History of Evangelism in North America
AUTHOR: Thomas P. Johnston
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2021, (352 pages).

What is evangelism like in the past in North America? How could the past shed light on how we could do evangelism in the future? What can we learn about evangelism that we could use today? Scanning the past centuries in North American evangelism efforts, author Thomas Johnston brings together 21 professors to write on "evangelistic movers and shavers" who had influenced the North American cultural landscape. More importantly, it showcases how the Great Commission had been practiced by many in the past. Using a chronological progression, readers will learn about the history of key evangelists from the 18th Century to the 21st century. From Jonathan Edwards to Billy Graham; Bill Bright to John Piper's Reformed movements, the purpose of this book is to provide us a "biographical approach to evangelism," that the practice of evangelism is connected intimately to the personal lives of the evangelists. We learn of how Jonathan Edwards preached so passionately to convert rather than instilling fear. We see how David Brainerd, who lived for only 29 years, dedicated his life to minister to the Native American Indians. His perseverance in spite of great discouragement ought to provide a glimmer of hope for many modern evangelistic efforts. The 18th Century First Awakening was also impacted by the preaching efforts of two persons: George Whitefield and John Wesley. After John Wesley, Francis Asbury was instrumental in spearheading the Methodist movement in North America. While Asbury was not as eloquent as Wesley, he was an organizational genius, showing us that evangelism is more than speaking via the pulpits. In the 19th Century, we read about the Camp Meeting Revival Movement, in particular, in Cane Ridge Church where many churches and Christian communities started praying for revival to be just like Cane Ridge Church. That revival has been hailed as the greatest outpouring of God's Spirit since the first Pentecost in the Early Church. We see the impact of the Bible societies in America, laying the foundations for the Second Great Awakening. In the 20th Century, the key figures include John Mason Peck (and Rock Springs Seminary), Henrietta Mears (and the Sunday School movement), Dawson Trotman (and the Navigators), Billy Graham (and YFC), Bill Bright (and Campus Crusade), James Kennedy (and Evangelism Explosion), the Jesus Movement, and many more. 

Friday, August 6, 2021

"Creating Community" (Andy Stanley and Bill Willits)

TITLE: Creating Community, Revised & Updated Edition: Five Keys to Building a Thriving Small Group Culture
AUTHOR: Andy Stanley and Bill Willits
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2021, (193 pages).
 
Times have changed. Society and people too. Yet the need for relationships does not change. Technology may have changed the way we communicate, but there is no substitute for connection. We all need to be connected beyond just an Internet group. We need small groups to create a community.  According to authors Andy Stanley and Bill Willits, people everywhere still have the same need for community. They wrote this book back in 2004 and have updated this book for a new economy. Observing the trends that are happening today, the need for community could not have been greater. We might be technologically connected. We might have the latest means to keep in touch. We might also be able to do more things with less time. Yet, that does not necessarily translate into meaningful living. Living alone or doing things independently does not negate the need for true community. Recognizing the need is one thing. How to get there is another. Stanley and Willits give us five strategies to go about doing that. The five "keys" for real growth are classified in terms of needs, namely:
  1. People Need Community
  2. Leaders Need Clarity
  3. Churches Need Strategy
  4. Connection Needs Simplicity
  5. Processes Need Reality

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"A More Christlike Word" (Bradley Jersak)

TITLE: A More Christlike Word: Reading Scripture the Emmaus Way
AUTHOR: Bradley Jersak
PUBLISHER: New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2021, (288 pages).

How do we read the Bible? What do we mean by the Bible as the Final Authority for our faith? How do we apply the Truths revealed? These questions might seem elementary but they are important questions that need to be asked frequently. The Bible is the revealed Word of God and the more we understand the Word, the better for Bible believers and practitioners. Like the two disciples struggling to understand the Scriptures when they were on their way to Emmaus, author and professor Bradley Jersak brings us back to the Emmaus experience in Luke 24, how Jesus helped shed light on interpretation. He does this by following Peter Enns's five words for biblical interpretation. 
  • Genre-Calibration: Be aware of the genre of the text concerned;
  • Christotelic: Reframe the story of Israel toward the Person of Jesus Christ
  • Incarnational: Read the Bible both as God's Word and Christ the Living Word;
  • Ecumenical: Be open to the different readings and interpretations from the different Christian faith traditions;
  • Pilgrimage: Be humble to learn on the way.

Monday, July 26, 2021

"The Gap Decade" (Katie Schnack)

TITLE: The Gap Decade: When You're Technically an Adult but Really Don't Feel Like It Yet
AUTHOR: Katie M. Schnack
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021, (224 Pages).

What do I want to do with my life? The immediate answer is: That depends. It depends on are our life circumstances. It depends on our dreams and aspirations. Most crucially, it depends on what stage of life we are in and how God is speaking to us. Waiting is one of the most difficult things we will face. In an increasingly distracted and impatient world, many people find waiting a chore. This is especially at the life stage of a young person moving toward adulthood. In a heartwarming, honest, and humorous manner, author Katie Schnack shares her many moments of waiting. Calling it the ten years between young adult and adulthood, these are the transitional years of waiting and working out on what one needs to do with one's life. She shares how she got to meet her future husband. One major challenge was the school years when their schools were at two different places. Her boyfriend's at South Dakota while hers was in Florida. Despite the challenges, they got married at 21 years of age in Minnesota even before they finish school! Life after that was filled with more questions surrounding graduate studies, careers, housing, starting a family, etc. The big shock of all was the question of calling never stops being asked. She describes seven major transitional phases in terms of her dating life; work choices; paying taxes and other adult duties; moving across states (5 states for her!); marriage; mental health matters; and parenthood. While each of them are unique challenges, the common denominator is in terms of what the best decision needs to be made with regard to one's calling and God's guidance. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

"Where Prayer Becomes Real" (Kyle Strobel and John Coe)

TITLE: Where Prayer Becomes Real
AUTHOR: Kyle Strobel and John Coe
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2021, (224 pages).

The human heart can be one of the most, if not the most difficult thing to change. That is why there are many change specialists who show us different strategies to change the systemic environment that we live in. For instance, top change management specialist, Kurt Lewin popularized the change management paradigm called the "Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze" model. In simple terms, in order to make change more permanent, we need to undo the old, to inject the new, and then freeze it. Just like using super-glue. We clean the surface, apply the adhesive, and then wait for the glue to set. In the same way, if we need to change our own habits, we can learn a thing or two from such change paradigms. As the saying goes, old habits die hard. When it comes to prayer, there are many old habits that simply are hard to change. In this book about learning to pray more authentically, we learn about several habits that could become impediments to prayer. Habits like wandering minds; avoiding truth when it hurts; learning to embrace Gods expectations instead of ours; and how our prayers could be impeded by sin and pain; and others. So authors Kyle Strobel and John Coe give us tips on how to unlearn (unfreeze) our prayers. In fact, the desire to want to "pray correctly" might in itself make our prayers less real than intended. When prayers become performance, it would entail focusing on aesthetics and synthetics more than our organic self. When prayers become a place where we try to hide our vulnerability, we will not be able to present all of ourselves to God. When our prayers are filled with doubts about whether God can really answer us, we limit our faith and as a result, limit God. When we anticipate God only to be a God of good news and nice feelings, we would refrain from presenting our fears, concerns, pain, and heartaches to God. Thankfully, Strobel and Coe didn't stop there. They help us along with a way to pray honestly without ceasing. With guidance from the Lord's Prayer and many other teachings from Scripture, they show us a path forward. Their starting point for us is critical. For any prayer to be real, we need to deal with two temptations:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

"The Way of the Father" (Michael W. Smith)

TITLE: The Way of the Father: Lessons from My Dad, Truths about God
AUTHOR: Michael W. Smith
PUBLISHER: Rocklin, CA: K-Love Publishers, 2021, (208 pages).
 
It has been said that our views about God the Father are connected intricately to our relationships with our earthly fathers. Sharing intimate details about his late father, the popular musical artist and performer hail his father as his hero, devoted supporter, coach, diligent worker, his father, and how his life empowers his faith with his Heavenly Father. Smith opens up with how his father would bring his team to a Dairy Queen despite losing 30-0 in a baseball game. While some people celebrate with special treats when their team wins, his dad celebrates with the team regardless of the result. This demonstrated his dad's grace to see the team bigger than any game results. He was a deacon in Church, heading up many leadership roles from pastoral search to layperson's roles. His decision-making with regard to promotions or job opportunities always centers around God and family. Not surprisingly, he gives up promotional moments for the sake of his priorities. This is not something that a lot of people could do. Even though his dad was often tough, he had tender moments like during the aftermath of the Marshall football team air crash. Smith learns that the strength of a person is not defined by how much grit one has but how caring one is. Smith's dad checks out all the boxes. The rest of the book contains many powerful lessons about the impact of his father on him. Lessons such as:

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"A Habit Called Faith" (Jen Pollock Michel)

TITLE: A Habit Called Faith: 40 Days in the Bible to Find and Follow Jesus
AUTHOR: Jen Pollock Michel
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2021, (256 pages).

Don't just think your way to faith. Practice it. This is the crux of this book about spiritual formation via the practice of faith. Practice it regularly enough until it becomes a habit. This is the way of faith. For repetition is one of the most proven ways to cultivate memory. What better way than to use 40-days as a memory forming benchmark. The use of "40 days" has been well-documented in both Scriptures as well as popular literature. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Stephen the first martyr told the story of Moses in three 40-year segments. Rick Warren's famous book about purpose-driven was based on 40 days on intentional purpose forming. Written like a devotional, there are 40 days of exercises with daily readings, Bible verses, the author's reflections, and two questions. Designed more for individual and to some extent for group use, the key advice the author gives to any reader is to simply finish the book. The fruit is sweetest if this is practiced to the fullest. Michel divides the book into two parts. The first 20 days are based on the book of Deuteronomy while the other 20 days are reflections on the gospel of John. Interspersed every five days are testimonies of faith from different people. Mark Lawrence talks about his habits of church attendance and Sunday School. Ian Cusson's experience of Church is very much liturgical. In spite of his indigenous background of the pains of residential schools, he aims to be a bridge between "indigeneity and Christianity."