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!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Book Review - God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History (22/7)

Who likes history? Honestly, I think not many will thrilled at this particular topic. However, Brain Cosby has attempted to make church history something interesting to the kids/youths with this book.

First Cosby defends the need for us to know our history well, the common adage ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ has proven to be true numerous time. But christians has an even more important reason to know our history well. We each come from a particular denomination and they have existed for a particular reason, it would be wise for us to know why. Secondly, history is really His-Story. When we know about our history we can rejoice what God has done, and trust in what he will do in the future.

Cosby then explains and teaching church history chronological, starting from the very first church! Those that are started in the apostolic times and working across the centuries and millennium, Cosby brings out the ‘big players’ during the particular eras. No particular person was given extra attention, though John Calvin did received slightly more attention.

What Cosby did excellently in this book is how he approach the topic on ‘Crusades’, this is a dark history in the church’s history but Cosby does not sweep things under the rag, he slowly tease out the issue, and explains how christians can answer those who questioned the atrocities committed by the church.

Cosby did give more content in this book to the reformation and those reformation era, which was covered in greater depth than the eras before that.

This is a relatively easy book to read too, it can easily be finished in a few sitting, however since it is published by CF4kids, I do question at what age is it especially pitch at? I feel that kids that are younger (12 and below) would most likely not read this book, and unless for teens who are deeply interested in this topics, the rest might not be engaged enough in this book to read it through. However, this remains to be a good primer for those who wants a quick, brief, succinct introduction to church history (even for adults!). You might be surprised at how much you’ll actually learn from this thin book. [Update: It's meant for teens 14-16!]

One tiny complain for this book, a little too much self-promotion of the previous books the author has written (no I don't dislike the author!). But maybe also include references to other books by other authors too.

Rating: 3.75/5

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



Here's the book trailer.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Book Review - Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (18/7)

I thought for a muslim to convert to Christianity was hard, I just didn't know it was that hard… Even for a muslim who live in the land of the free. That’s my initial thought when I was about 3/4 through the book, truly every conversion is only possible because God is working in the hearts of man (Matt 19:26)

Nabeel Qureshi recounts his story of how he converted in this book. The strengths of this book are numerous.

First, it is very engaging, each chapter is relatively short, and it does not hit the readers to too many technical terms at one go (although the first few chapters do seem to contain a little more).

Second, Qureshi chooses not to use only english within the book, inside Qureshi decides to use the actual Arabic words or Urdu words (I think?) within the biography. This is good because it actually puts you into his setting, and you really get to slight feel how it is like to be a muslim in his world.

Thirdly, many of the stories were very personal and very moving, for every muslim as he himself explains within the book has A LOT of respect for the prophet Muhammad and very obedience to Allah. But many a time as he slowly discovers the truth of his belief, he often has a knee jerk reaction against these accusations. Slowly, bit by bit…. part and parcel of his world crumbles down. It is indeed hard for us to enter into the kingdom of God (Matt 7:13-14).

Fourthly, Qureshi shows very clearly what we as christians need to do if we want to reach out to them. Far too often, those who want or who has converted over just find themselves literally alone in a brave new world. Christianity used to be known for their hospitality, what has happened to us? There is a great need for us to recover this.

Lastly, this book is able to explain much of the religion of Islam to readers who are very new to it. It does not just gives you the bare bones which others have often tried to do, nor does it gives you a detailed exposition to everything within Islam, it does equip you with a reasonable amount of the Islamic religion to allow you to have meaningful conversions with other muslims.

Highly recommended if you would like to ‘feel’ what’s it’s like for a muslim to convert to christianity, or if you want to have a reader’s friendly start to knowing more about the Islamic religion.

Rating: 4.75/5

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

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Book Review - What's Your Worldview? (15/7)


This is a really good book. Not only is it concise, informative, and well written, it’s actually quite fun to read it! Anderson was done something that few authors have done — a book that’s for everyone. This is literally such a book, no matter what worldview you may hold, you will find this book helpful and informative.

The concept of the book is very simple, make a decision at every section and at the end of it all, you will find out what worldview you have. At the ‘end’ of each route, you will have a summary of the worldview and also a quick evaluation of its strength and weakness of the particular worldview.

Anderson should be praised for the comprehensive scope of the number of worldviews covered, each and every summary Anderson almost always points out succinctly some of the problems of each worldview.

This is a great book for christians who wants to share with people of other faiths (or with no particular faiths). This would help the christian have a brief understanding of what others believe, and also what are some things that the Christian can ask in response to what they believe. Sure these are not silver-bullet questions, but I do think they are able to good conversion starters. It would also be good christians to give to non-christians who wants to know what kind a worldview he has, and whether he is able to live consistent with his belief.

Rating: 4.75/5


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

Here's a video (unrelated to the book) that explains what a worldview is.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Book Review - The Athesist's Fatal Flaw (12/7)

If you have ever tried to share gospel with an atheist, one of the most frequent argument you will hear raised against the Christian faith is that of the moral argument between God’s benevolence and omnipotence. Often it is argued that if suffering exist, God is either powerless to stop it or God is not as good as who He claims He is, and therefore he is not fit to be worshipped. In light of debunking this argument, Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy sets out to point out what they think is the fatal flaw within this string of argument.

Fatal Flaw takes this one argument and elaborates on it, quite extensively. The authors showed the depth of their research by the numerous and sometimes lengthy quotes from the atheist, often quoting from the Four Horseman of atheism (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett) but also Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Dan Barker, just to name a few.

In the first chapter, Geisler and McCoy sets the context of the book and examines briefly the flow and the gist of the book. Thereafter, it's followed with a 6 chapters analysis of the moral argument, with each chapter flowing from the previous point made. Finally, a ‘summary’ of the points that actually shows how among these actually contradicts what they are argument against. Geisler and McCoy then raised some of the objections against the atheists they answering against and ends with a call for them to examine what they have written about and how this argument is not a good enough for the atheists to reject the christian faith.

Frankly, I feel the book a bit too long,with too many quotations and too repetitive, many a times what was quoted in the beginning of the chapter is quoted again for the end when a summary for the chapter is made. In their defence, I’m sure they are trying to show that they have done their research thoroughly, and have sought to read and understood the argument fr
om the primary text. In reading the quotations they have referred to, i have felt the sting and wrath of the attacks made against the christian faith. But one does wonder if there a more concise way of summarising them could have been more helpful. It was at times a drag to read through all the quotations with seemingly ‘no light coming out of a very (very) long tunnel.

I felt also that the argument was dragged a little too long, and did not answer the question raised very effectively. In fact, i see that the main argument was raised very early in the book and should have been the main thrust of argument rather than using it at times within the book.

More alarmingly, I counted that there was only around 5 books within the bibliography that was remotely close to the topic of apologetics, which is striking for a book that sets out to attempt this task. No doubt, they are trying to put forth a new argument against the atheists, but I’m not quite if this argument is good enough. Would it be better to show why this new method is necessary? Or perhaps a combination of showing the flaws of the argument along with Christianity’s answer against it?

In sum, I think this book would help those who have read the New Atheism deeply or would like to attempt to talk with those who have, but be warned, only those who preserve to the end would be rewarded.

Ratings: 3.5/5

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

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Book Review - For the World: Essays in Honor of Richard Pratt (10/7)


For the World is a festschrift for Richard Pratt, esteem educator and president of Third Millennium Ministries, included in this book are 14 essays written in his honour, and these essays do vary from each other to a certain degree.

The essays are separated in 3 aspects, ‘Biblical & Theological Studies’; ‘Ministry & Missions’; Ministry Training & Theological Education’.

The first section ‘Biblical & Theological Studies’ contains the most difficult chapters to comprehend within this book. A knowledge of Greek and Hebrew will be necessary in order to fully appreciate the first 3 chapters, having said that, I do not have a working understanding of greek or hebrew, and will leave the comments of those chapters to those who are more apt to the task. Within this section, Holcomb does write an interesting piece regarding metanarratives, though (in my very limited knowledge) I’ve not heard anyone who has had the same view as him, it remains to be an eye-opening piece that will spur others on in (I hope) the right direction with regards to this topic.

The next section deals with ministry and missions, which were very engaging as they are talk about topics that were more “down to earth”. Each and every of the chapter will be helpful for pastors who are serving in churches and who will undoubtably have to wrestle with these issues one time or another within their ministry and thus this is a good book to start with.

One of the topics that was repeated a number of time includes how Pratt, a professor and a Harvard graduate, is humble and personal with his colleagues and students alike. Included inside was also his ex-students reflection on his (in)famous ‘Introduction to Theological Studies’ (you can get this course on his website for free). Having viewed a couple of videos on this series, I have to say, Pratt’s course was able to challenge both kinds of students, those who are firmly reformed and calvinist, and those who are not. Pratt drives the students to the word of God and often tells the former to be more humble and open-minded, and to the latter, to see if what he teaches is truly what the bible says. After you have finished reading this section in this book, I’m sure you will be interested to take the course for yourself too.

The last section, talks about the contribution of Pratt within the area of theological education. It is heartening to see how Pratt and others have seen the weakness/lob-sidedness of the current theological educational system, and have made efforts in trying to reform it. This final section would most helpful for those are or intends to go for theological training. The contributors highlight what is lacking and problems that current theological training have and their solutions to resolve it. These are good solutions that would have to be seriously considered by churches and seminaries.

After reading, I do come away with a deeper appreciation of the work done by Richard Pratt and I do wish Richard Pratt and his team all the success they can have with this endeavour, and may the Lord use his efforts to train up well-equipped pastors for His own church.

Rating: 4.5/5

If you're interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping) [*couldn't find any, will update with links if I managed to find one]

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Book Review - Ex-Mulism (8/7)

Naeem Fazal was a muslim serving Allah, but now he is now a christian serving the Lord Jesus Christ, and this book is his story how his life has been changed.

Naeem Fazal certainly lived a unique life, though he was born a Pakistani, he lived in Kuwait. And through many divine interventions came to know the Lord Jesus Christ in the US. This book is well written, recounting the author’s life chronologically (as you would expect from any biography), with in-depth details on the historical and culture context of his own life.

What is good about the book is that it’s very east to read and follow. Not only so, you can get to have a tiny “feel” of what it’s like to be a muslim, though it was not too many to overwhelm you, you do get to see bits and pieces of it scattered around the book. Furthermore, by reading this book, you do get a quick introduction to the basic belief of Islam and Hinduism.

Additionally, Fazal is able to show us how community is an extremely important area for a muslim, and if we intend to reach out to them, this is certainly one area that must never be overlooked. Also, he is able to show how there are some “point of contact” between muslims and christians that we can use to identify ourselves with them, and why the Lord Jesus is the only solution to the problem of sin.

Although much has been said about the Islamization of Europe, this book gives us hope that the muslims are searching for the same thing everyone else is — salvation from our sins, and only jesus can give that.

Although I may not agree with everything said, I do recommend it if you’re interested to read up about how to evangelise to an muslim, and/or if you generally like biographies. I have yet to read “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”, so it’ll be hard for me to conclude which is better.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Here's a trailer for this book


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Review: Power Perfected in Weakness (5/7)

Power Perfected in Weakness by Chris Klicka

Imagine you’re diagnosed multiple sclerosis. What would you do? How would you response? How will your spend your remaining time? This actually happened to the author of the book. But instead of complaining or whining, the author shows us what it means to live a life of thanksgiving and joy.

Here are three things I think you can learn as you read this book:

1) Rejoicing - Interspersed throughout the book, you will see many many situations where the author repeated give thanks for everything that has happened, be it a fall or an excruciating pain that Klicka is experiencing. This is not something that is extraordinary, it just helped us see what this familiar verse “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5:16) really should mean in our lives. As I read, I’m often ashamed as I reflected back on how unchrist like I am, as compared to Chris Klicka, who could have complained, but never did.

2) Evangelism - Many a times, you will read of how Chris is passionately sharing the gospel with everyone he meets, he appears to be tireless in this work and often finds or creates opportunities to share the gospel with the people around him. If you would like to “see” what it’s like to be with an evangelist up front, read it. Chris never lets an opportunity to share Christ slip, and so should we.

3) Productiveness - Chris does not in any way laze around despite his illness, you will find him doing his work as director in HSLDA until the point he is unable to continue to work. What drives him is the lordship of Christ in his life, as I reflect upon this, I recalled what John Calvin reply was when others tell him to rest more, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when He comes?”. I think that was how Chris felt as he lived through his remaining moments.

This is a heart wrenching book, and I mean this in a good way. As you read, you can’t help but catch his joy and excitement in life yet at the same time you can't help but reflect on your own life, “what more can you do for the Lord?”

Rating: 4.5/5

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

View all my reviews

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Review: Models for Biblical Preaching: Expository Sermons from the Old Testament (3/7)


Models for Biblical Preaching: Expository Sermons from the Old Testament by Haddon W. Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well this isn’t exactly a book on how to do expository preaching, it is a book that shows you how an expository sermon should look like. What’s more, all the sermons in this book is on the old testament!

Having just recently read the ‘Biblical Preaching’ by Haddon Robinson (an excellent book, I must add), I was very much eager to read this “follow up” book. Altogether there was 11 sermons inside. each from a different passage and genre.

I felt that the distribution of the genres and books were thought out and planned, no major genre were left out. The authors did not choose easy passages not did they used those frequently used passages, and a short commentary about the sermon itself was given each of them was presented.

What I felt was good about this book were the inclusion of the interview and commentary after each sermon. This really helps preachers old and new to see how others have been doing this work and also their tips and advice to preachers who have to preach to their congregation week after week.

Although not all the passages chosen were frequently used/seen, some of them were the more common ones that can easily be found elsewhere. And while each and every single contributors were students of Haddon Robinson and applied the skills as mentioned is his books on preaching, a more detailed study on each and every sermon would be more helpful. Understandably, based on the number of sermons included in this volume this would have made the task of reading a little repetitive. But since these are “models” maybe a more careful study on some or a few of them would be of more help to the reader.

Furthermore, would it be necessary for this book to be printed? I’m not sure about that. With more and more whole series on expository preaching (e.g. Preaching the Word, Reformed Expository Commentary, Mentor Expository Commentary, etc…) Would I have benefited more from them or from this book? Granted that these other series might not all use Robinson’s model, but with an average of 2-3 sermons for each genre, would that be sufficient? And without a detailed analysis of how the sermons reflects the model, would this book really help me if I'm trying to learn and utilise the model?

Don’t get me wrong, the sermons included in this book are good and deserves to be read by preachers. They would encourage you to stay on the course and help you see that preaching good sermons is something that can be accomplished, but I'm not certain whether this book would spur preachers to preach the Old Testament more or would have had the necessary tools to do that apart from the passages shown within the book.

Rating: 3.25/5

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

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (1/7)


If you have dipped into a few preaching books on expository preaching, you would no doubt be referred on multiple times to Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching. So it was with great joy and anticipation when I found that I can finally read this book.

Robinson first begins the book by making a case and defense for expository preaching. Though it was certainty not the most water-tight argument for expository, it does the job sufficiently. I have no doubts no readers who picked this book would rather have this book begin by making a lengthy defense for expository preaching. Robinson however does make show why expository is important and what is, and is not expository preaching. Too often the term ‘expository preaching’ is abuse by preachers and writers to an extent that almost any kind of preaching can be termed as expository preaching, Robinson refuses to do that and states clearly what he is teaching and advocating. His definition can be summarise as ‘communicating biblical concepts…. through proper exegesis… with the Spirit’s help in the preacher’s life and applying it to the hearers’

Robinson then takes the readers step by step through what can be commonly found in other expository preaching books. Deriving the main idea from texts, building an outline, asking functional questions (this section is very good), making good application, things to take note during preaching, how to introduce the audience to the text and how to conclude it.

I found the section on functional questions was very helpful, basically, there are 3 kinds of questions you might have to answer in every sermon, explaining, proving or applying it. This section really plays an important role in preaching, after all, what else could you do in preaching other than addressing these 3 questions?

Along the way, Robinson gives the reader tips and advice on what younger preachers can learn to do early on in their lives (e.g. having an index for illustrations for future use). At each step, Robinson guides the readers slowly, showing the necessity of each of these steps and their importance.

What I found was most helpful was the student exercises included at the back of the book, these I think really help drive the point home each time after I finished reading the chapter. I highly recommended and advice future readers to do each exercise after you have finished reading that particular chapter. The exercises help to recap and also illustrates Robinson’s point. Many a times, while doing the exercises, I find myself having light bulbs lighting in my head, due to the lucidity of these exercises.

Finally, Robinson brings the readers through one sermon he’s prepared and shows the reader how each and every part of the sermon is based on what he has taught us in the sermon. It was a great idea to include this is and really does bring the flesh onto the skeleton that he’s been teaching about.

All in all, this is an excellent book on preaching, though, I’m a little sad that no word was said about topical preaching, this really is a minor drawback. It would be good to include some advice for preachers who might want/have to preach occasionally a topical sermon, but still remain a committed expository expositor.

Rating: 4.25/5

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