Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Book Review - Loving Jesus More (30/9)

I don't know about you, but as a christian growing up, I often wrestle with the questions of why I’m unable to love God more? Why is my love for Him so lacking? Why aren't I growing as much as I hope to in my love for Jesus? If you’re like me, then this book is for you and for me.

In a series of 9 sermons, Phil Ryken takes the readers through various aspects of what a christians need to know and understand so that we can grow to love Jesus our Saviour more. Phil first takes the readers to the source of love, both our love towards God and more importantly, His love towards us. Phil then rakes the readers through many struggles a christian might face in the journey of being a christians. I felt that as i read, many of the sermons addresses real needs and questions for myself and for other christians and he always directs and reminds us of the love Christ has for us.

This book is also written very pastorally, Phil shows what is written in God’s word fearlessly and tells the readers to struggle alongside with him, he does not need or want to act as if he has reached sinless perfection. Although Phil is the president of Wheaton College, yet he is too is in the trenches with us, struggling and wanting to love Jesus more.

If you find yourself struggling or lax in your love for Christ, read this, be encouraged and I believe you’ll walk away wanting to love Jesus more. I foresee myself turning to this book time and again in the future, just to be encouraged to love Jesus more and more.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Book Review - Churches Partnering Together (2/9)

I come from a small church, but often we think with a big church, ‘we-are-independent’ mentality, so much so we hardly work with other churches. This book is a good start to how my church can start to solve this issue.

It’s a wonder why no such books has been published thus far! For the christian faith that has always around koinonia and the unity of the church, it is indeed bewildering why churches far too often chooses to work alone rather than in partnership with others and i think that is one of the reason why the churches often has too little effect on the society it’s in (of course, there are many more factors to this).

Bruno and Dirks first defines the terms of what the partnership is and is not. Bruno and Dirks centres partnership around the kingdom mindset. This is a valid point, too many churches are too centred around their own local church and therefore most of the time sees partnership, at worst, as pointless, or problematic, and mutually beneficial, at best. There has been a deep lack of kingdom mindedness in our culture today.

Bruno and Dirks then covers in a step by step format what churches will need in order to form good, well grounded partnership. Although I’m not entirely convinced on some the biblical text they used as foundations on their principles, overall I find them practical and sensible. It covers everything from starting, whilst in the midst of partnership and also how to move on after the partnership has reached it’s goal.

All these finally cumulates into the last chapter when it is all “put together”. This is a book that many church leaders and pastor should first read and then to seriously consider how they can partner with other churches, so that by our working together, we can attempt to do more and bigger stuff and that finally God will be glorified more and more.

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Book Review - The Stories We Tell (31/8)

Chances are, you most likely would spend at least some times watching television or movie every week. The approach that christians often take in respond to this are usually asking what can I watch or not watch? What is right or wrong about this film/video? It seems as though Christians thinks that the shows and movies tell us nothing more than that.

Mike Cosper thinks otherwise and wants to show christians that movies and television does tell stories, stories that christians can easily resonate with. Cosper argues that these stories do, in one way or another show glimpses of the gospel truth, in one shade or the other, in one facet or another.

Cosper first explains the Grand Story, the story of the bible, and from it, he picks out the various main themes that runs throughout the bible, these will need be the ‘lens’ that Cosper will use to help the readers pick out and see traces of these in the various shows and movies. Cosper then goes through 8 of such lens through each chapter.

Each chapter was first explained and illustrated within the biblical context, to show the readers that these really can be done within the bible (ie. the author is not making these up!) then he would run through various shows or scenes that (sometimes intentionally) portrays topics, as examples.

I must say that as I read this book, I do find myself watching a film or watch with these lens, not that prior to these I was just ‘watching’ a show, but the strength of this book is that Cosper does manages to pick up some of the more subtle topics (or sub-topics) and the examples he give are tremendously helpful. Even though I really do not watch a lot of shows, there’s enough description within the text that allows me to ‘catch’ the point and example.

An additional value to this book is how it can be used as a conversational starter towards evangelism, many a time as I was read, I did envision myself, if I did managed to catch such topics to be able to use them as starters to engage my non-christians friends after the show.
Finally, I do not think there’s any book out that at this moment that helps christians see movies in this particular way, and therefore I do think christians should read this book, pastors, students, parents. This would be helpful to you personally, and also helpful as you interact or ministers to others as well. Pastors could even use these as a stepping stone to learn how to get illustrations they could use in the future when they are preaching these topics.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Book Review - Why God Created the World - A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation (12/8)

This is a question that every christian would have asked, ‘Why did God create the world?’ The young asks in curiosity and the old asks in bewilderment, their advances in years have seemingly not helped them much on this question!

But, Jonathan Edwards has done A LOT of thinking in this question, and has even written a book on it! But, sometimes people have complained about how difficult it is to read Jonathan Edwards. So what can these people do? (Other than persevering on and reading it!) A good alternative is now available, Ben Stevens has paraphrased and modernised Jonathan Edwards’ ‘A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which the World Was Created’ into this easy to read work.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of abridgement or paraphrasing or anything of that sort. To me, if you really want to know what someone has written, you should be prepared to work hard at trying to understand what he’s actually saying! But alas, some works prove to be really tough, and only those who are already well-motivated to read that particular work/author would be prepared to work through it. Most would be turned off and would never again go back to such wonderful works. (John Owen would be one such example)

As I read this book, I was quite marvelled at how well and systematic and comprehensive Edwards was in thinking through this question. No doubt, being able to read this text at such a fast and easy pace made it easy for me to follow the argument that Edwards was making. (I doubt I would have been able to if I was reading the original work, you can try it yourself too! The 1st chapter of the original work is found at the appendix)

Ben is highly commended for the excellent job he has done especially with this very tough assignment. He is really able to allow Edwards to speak to us, in no way does he tries to interject his ideas into the readers but really allows the readers to come away with a deep appreciation of Edwards, and to spur readers to then dive into Edwards’ own writing.

I foresee this work will spur even more readers to be exposure to Edwards, and also encourage them to read Edwards’ in his original form. This book is really a good primer for anyone who wishes to have a feel of how Edwards is, and will act like a ‘hook’ to hook others to read Edwards even more after they’re done with this book and I look forward to future such adaptations!

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Book Review - Healed at Last (10/8)

If only I had enough faith, I would be healed by now’ or ‘You just need to believe, then you’ll be fully healed’. I don't know about you, but I’ve heard this being reverberated around even in the conservative circles I’m in. So what would you do if you hear someone who walks up to another person and says, ‘You know, you can be fully healed?’ or if a sick church member is asking on your opinion on the healing services that’s being held down the street. How would you response to them?

For some time, I’m quite sure of my own stance towards these ‘miraculous’ healing, yet am not able to articulate it out well to others. Now, I’m quite sure I’ll be able to explain why I think these aren’t necessary biblical. Scott Blackwell, in this very helpful book explains why this is so.

First, Scott gives a quick introduction on himself, and how he could have personally been able to ‘attest’ to such healing, yet because of God’s clear Word, is unable to. Scott then analysis the scene and seeks to explain why some within the christian circles are so keen/eager to witness to such ‘healings'. Scott does spent a bit of space on this topic and though I do not fully agree with his analysis, I think overall Scott has made an accurate and clear analysis of what is happening within these circles currently. One other point that Scott made clear within this section is that life is hard. Too many a times, Christians ‘forget’ that life in this sinfully world is hard! Why should we be so surprised at some of the suffering we would have to go through in this world?

Next, Scott looks into the bible, and from there defends why he thinks such healings are not warranted by the bible. I found this section particularly strong and well worth the price of the book (though the wording of one particular chapter is rather misleading). This section does make any Christian wrestle with these texts themselves, ‘Does the bible gives us warranty for such miraculous healing?’ Now please don’t misunderstand me or Scott, we are not saying we believe in a deist, one who has created the whole world and has now left the world running on it’s own. We do believe God can, and might heal, but that is His prerogative, He might, out of His grace, but no amount of ‘work’ we do will expedite or ‘direct’ such healing.

Lastly, Scott very wisely, deals with the question of promises, what promises does the christian today have? This I thought was a very good ending to the book. Not only does Scott aim to answer against these miraculous healing, but he also aims to build christians up in the correct direction and base their trust in the correct promises. This is commendable and wise, and will definitely be helpful to many christians.

Scott has done an superb job especially in the tone of the book by not outrightly arguing with christians who might have been firm believers in healing, but has gently tried to show them what he thinks is a more biblical way towards this topic and calls them to turn to what the bible says.

Great book, really suited to a topic that’s happening in our day and age, yet not too overly technical or difficult. Recommended for pastors, church leaders and Christians who are interested to think through this issue biblically.

Rating: 4.25/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi. [sorry, only kindle version available for now]

Friday, 8 August 2014

Book Review - Poverty of Nations (8/8)

Why are some nations so rich, and some so poor? Why do some nations — improvised in natural resources — yet can become so rich, but some blessed abundantly with natural resources and still remain so poor? Or think about it this way, what can nations (even those deprived of natural resources) do if they want to move out of poverty into prosperity?

The answers (un)surprisingly lies mostly within the system in which the country run by, economist Barry Asmus and theologian Wayne Grudem combine in this book to promote and defend their concept of free-market economy as the only solution for any nations to move out of poverty.

So steps can a nation take to move out of poverty? The main thesis of this book is that there is only one way for nations to do that — by producing more goods than they consume. However the book is not just about economics, good governance which this book see as fundamental to good economy are also entailed within this book.

This book is a tour de force of exceptional good writing, even with a minimal understanding of economics none of the concept was too hard to understand. Asmus and Grudem does show their depth of research and thinking through the solutions they propose which aim to help every nations. I cannot recall any other book which is so comprehensive and detailed in it’s depth which aims to explain how nations can start to be prosperous.

One minor areas that I thought might be good to be raised here in this review, although the book claims to be “Christian” with Grudem on board to explain the theological basis for such a system, I found some of the verses to be more of proof-texts in the initial chapters. I felt that the model proposed was more economically driven that theologically driven, though I do not disagree with the theological basis raised within the book. What is more, in the last chapter, I think Grudem has done a superb job of proving, explaining and defending the theological basis of the model especially in the cultural values. The other point is, some of the points can be rather repetitive, especially the point about private property (p. 140-149, 191-192, 325, etc), although they might be sometimes viewed from other perspectives on this issue, it was a bit too repetitive on this one point. These minor points does not in any way makes the book any less helpful and useful for nations though. Although this may be a bit of a long read, this book is easy to follow and comprehend. I highly encourage those who wants to have a good concept on economics or wishes to help their nations be prosperous to read this book, I’m sure you’ll see that these points are valid, practical and feasible.


If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), mobi.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book Review - Yawning At Tigers (5/8)

When was the last time you heard a sermon or read something remotely close to God’s holiness? How about the last time prior to that? I bet that will probably leave you scratching your head for a little while. Now compare that with the love of God, i’m sure that would be an easy question to answer, but wouldn’t it surprise you that God is far more often praised for his holiness in the bible? What’s with this skewness in our churches today?

With this concern in mind, Drew Dyck hopes to remind today’s christians that God is holy, and a untameable God. Dyck introduces God as a being who’s holy, one who’s set apart, one who’s the ‘other’, and fully worthy of praise. He mentions the importance of having the vision, the vision of God’s holiness which no doubt will shape and mould our lives. I agree with him on this point, as the common aphorism states ‘your attitude determines your altitude’, so much of weaknesses in today’s christianity often lies in the low, trifling view of God.

Dyck also brings out the point of the relief of holiness in this book. RELIEF you say? How can holiness be relieving? Well, it can, because you and I are meant to be holy, and by being holiness we will find relief from our greatest enemy: sin. (You have to read the book for this and many more! I shall not reveal too much)

Often as I read, I find my self thinking, have I have too low a view of God? Have I been worshipping a puppet God? And this is the strength of the book, it help us to reflect on what kind of God we’ve been worshipping, is that the same God as the God described in the bible? Far too often we want a tame down version of the God of the bible, but that will only be to our detriment. We need to recover a right of God, and soon, because God is far, far too valuable to be tamed.

This is a great book for all christians, but especially preachers or small group leaders. Ask yourself this, does your church treat God as holy? If not, read, be enthralled and repent.

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Book Review - Philosophy (Faithful Learning Series) (1/8)

Whenever you see this word philosophy you often get a very polarising response, some are thrilled with it, some run away in horror and the rest are just ambivalent towards it. So how does one approach this topic?

James Spiegel attempt to show why christians need to understand and study philosophy in this short introduction on this topic. Spiegel begins with the age-old question of what Athens has to do with Jerusalem, and attempts to convince his readers that rigorous philosophical study is critical for a christian so that he will not held captive to hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col 2:8).

Spiegel then goes through a quick history of how the christian faith has suffered abuses and attacks from non-christian philosophers through rationalism and positivism, and how the notion of God has been attacked vigorously by them. Christianity appears to have no answers with regards to these 2 areas until….. Alvin Plantinga comes into the scene and begins to challenge their claims.

The challenges that Plantinga raises are then explored and explained and shown how these claims are not unreasonable or irrational, in fact, it was shown how it would be irrational and unreasonable for the claim of God’s existence to be argued on the same plane as other topics.

Following which Spiegel brings up several arguments that supports the existence of God and also encourages future christians whoa re students of philosophy to do the hard work of studying philosophy with a christian worldview in mind, so that we can able to give a defence for the reason of our hope (1 Peter 3:15).

Lastly, be prepared to work through this deceptively small booklet. This will not be a park through the park but you will be rewarded for your hard work, especially recommended for those who are interested or are studying philosophy.

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping) [Sorry, can't seem to find it]

The Kindle version is only $0.99

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Book Review - Sociology (Faithful Learning Series) (29/7)

Have you ever notice when someone is acting out of the social norm? Maybe it’s a tourist, an immigrant or even yourself! But have you every wondered what made you felt that way? One helpful area to explore would be the topic of sociology. And Matthew Vos has done a great job in this book which seeks to help students who are studying sociology to look into this topic from a christian perspective.

Some may be intimidated by this topic, or even scoff at this. But Vos has managed to be able to raise up several strengths that sociology can provide for the church, likewise Vos has shown the limitations of sociology alone.

Vos also does a good and quick introductions to the who’s who in sociology and also brief introduction to some of the concepts that are commonly found in every introduction to sociology 101 courses. Lastly, the book also directs the believer to well-know christian sociologists which will help provide a source of relief for the christian who sometimes feels so beaten down by the secular scholars.

This is a great book as a primer for those who wants to find out more about this topic, or before you start your undergraduate studies on this particular topic, I can only hope I had read this book before I had studied sociology module, it would be so helpful for me.

Rating: 4/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping) [sorry can't find it]

The kindle version is only $0.99!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Book Review - The Pagan Heart of Today's Culture (25/7)

What do you think atheism, postmodernism and gnosticism have in common? On the surface they might seem to be poles apart but Peter Jones thinks otherwise, and attempts to shows it in this booklet.

First Jones goes through each of the terms, stating the definition, explanation and a brief history into each of them. Then Jones introduces the term ‘perennial philosophy’ which binds all of them together. Briefly it is a system of Oneism, where everything shares the same nature and are essentially one, as compared to Twoism, where the creator-creature distinction is apparent and distinct.

Jones then argues how atheism, postmodernism and gnosticism all belong to the Oneism sphere, and then responded with the christian Twoism claims and how these 2 systems will always be at odds with each other. Finally Jones ends why showing that although these 3 worldview (postmodern, gnosticism and atheism) looks really different, they are not really ‘new’ in the sense that they are really bring us back to the garden of Eden, where these two are clashing against each other yet again.

Those who would really gain from this booklet are those who are willing to put in the hard work to think. interspersed within the booklet are numerous discussion questions that encourage the readers to digest each small section and think about what they have read. Do not aim to look to the booklet for answers, it’s not meant to do that, it will guide you in the right direction through.

One weakness for this booklet is that I found the arguments not very convincing, however, the grouping of the three worldview under Oneism certainly is something very new and ought to be further explored to strengthen the claims. Recommended for those who would like to explore within this area, and likes/hopes to think deeply over what he has read.

Rating: 3.25/5

Not sure where you can get it other than on the publisher's website. If you're aware of any, do let me know!