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Friday, March 16, 2018

"101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties" (Paul Angone)

TITLE: 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties: (And Let's Be Honest, Your Thirties Too)
AUTHOR: Paul Angone
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018, (256 pages).

Many teens in high school when asked about what they want to do with their lives, the typical answer is: "I don't know." Even those who declare some area of interest soon find themselves choosing other options soon after. High school students change electives and concentrations. Undergraduates move from course to course. Some prefer to simply go earn some money while thinking about what their second job would be. Then, there are relationship matters where young people reaching puberty would try to make sense of where there hearts and emotions lead them to. What if someone could guide them or mentor them? What if questions themselves are more useful than answers? This is what this book is aimed at doing. Instead of trying to give or spoon-feed kids about what they need, let them discover for themselves. This book of questions fit in nicely because they are designed to prompt Millennials into active thinking. For many of them are often less open to people telling them what to do. They prefer to find their own answers. They simply need a guide by the side instead of sage on the stage. Paul Angone is that guide by the side. According to Angone, there are four major concerns about people in their twenties, and other age groups as well.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"A Disruptive Generosity" (Mac Pier)

TITLE: A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities through Strategic Giving
AUTHOR: Mac Pier
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (208 pages).

Giving and mission go hand in hand. For the grace of God is about that generous gift of Jesus Christ for the world. All who have received and benefited from this gift would go on to share of the gospel message of love in Christ. Just as Christ had disrupted the archaic world of human society, we too are called to disrupt the world of sin with the gift of grace. In this book, this is about "disruptive generosity." Containing many testimonies of what generous giving had done, readers are empowered through these stories that transformation of the world is possible, one person at a time; one place at a time; one possibility at a time. Such acts of generosity do not simply appear out of nothing. They are rooted in the fundamental truths of the Bible. According to the author, there are three big ideas in this book. The first is to highlight biblical truths from the Book of Isaiah. The second is to link these truths with practical movements. The third is to build relational networks starting with believers convicted about transforming the communities they live in. All these three are rooted in the gospel.

Friday, March 2, 2018

"Departing in Peace" (Bill Davis)

TITLE: Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life
AUTHOR: Bill Davis
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2017, (328 pages).

Many of us have heard of situations where people had to make tough medical decisions pertaining to a terminally ill patient. Should we extend medical care at all costs just to keep the person alive? What if the person is brain dead? What if the only way to stay alive is through hospital ICU care and expensive equipment to sustain life? How can we make biblically sound decisions pertaining to extending or ending life? As far as euthanasia is concerned, is it our role to play God? Is there ever a justification to take away life? These are tough questions to answer, let alone navigate. That is probably why there are so few books and resources available to help us answer such tough questions. Thankfully, Bill Davis fills in the gap with this very helpful resource that is biblical and thoughtful. In this book, we have an A to Z guide on what to do with such issues. The list includes:

  • Biblical Principles: Stewardship; Authority to Decide; Honouring Life and Accepting Death
  • Medical Issues: Making EOL medical decisions (Coma; Mental consciousness; Terminal Illness; Permanent Tube feeding;...)
  • Ethical Issues: Knowing the limits and the wisdom of making decisions when one is mentally healthy
  • Legal Matters: Advanced Medical Directives 
  • Philosophical Issues: 
  • Financial Considerations: Is it ok to commit to sky-high medical expenses beyond our means?
  • Deciding between curative care vs comfort care
  • Deciding between extending earthly joy vs entering spiritual joy
  • Hospital Realities: Not exactly what Hollywood has painted them to be. 
  • Questions to Ask Doctors

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Teach Us to Pray" (Gordon T. Smith)

TITLE: Teach Us to Pray
AUTHOR: Gordon T. Smith
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2018, (112 pages).

One of the most popular prayers used in churches and many Christian communities is the Lord's Prayer. Many churches use them in their Sunday rituals. This prayer has also spawned many books. Almost every major preacher and theologian has written something about this famous prayer. Jesus' curious disciples must have been piqued by Jesus' constant desire to pray and to seek God. What is it that made Jesus so earnest about prayer? What can we learn from this prayer? Author and theologian Gordon T. Smith helps us to see this prayer from a community perspective which in turns helps us in our personal prayers. In the title, "Teach us to pray," the question is posed on behalf of a community. Smith hones in on the "us" word, showing us the frequency of this pronoun in the prayer itself. The power of united prayer show forth the power of togetherness under the common identity of citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is a prayer as a community to God to bless the communities on earth. He also notes the active word "participant" instead of mere observers in the prayer. Adding to this, instead of us trying to pray according to our present circumstances, why not pray to alter our lives? In other words, pray not according to our circumstances but according to how God wants us to live. The Lord's Prayer is great in forming us in this attitude. We pray as grace receivers desiring to share grace with others. We see prayer as "recalibration" our our souls to be in sync with the will of God. Praying in the Spirit essentially means abiding in Christ. He encourages us with a different take with regard to the rising secularism in our society. Instead of lamenting the lack of public prayer or the difficulty of sharing Christ in the public squares, why not see the hidden opportunities that require us to seek God's Eye rather than our own eyes? Rather than fighting the world with the weapons of the world, why not take up the spiritual armour of God? There is a powerful weapon we have: The sword of the Word of God. Letting the psalms inform us, Smith shows us the richness of Scripture and the evidence of praying in the Spirit. For when we pray in the Spirit, we cultivate character. We obtain "vocational clarity and patience." We receive joy.  The Lord's Prayer is a powerful way to focus our attention on God, to seek God fully and to have God's will manifested fully in our being and in our doing.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Sex in a Broken World" (Paul David Tripp)

TITLE: Sex in a Broken World: How Christ Redeems What Sin Distorts
AUTHOR: Paul David Tripp
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2018, (192 pages).

It is no secret that our culture has been highly sexualized. Whether it is sexist language or sexualized commercials that depict male and female stereotypes; or scandals and news about the latest Hollywood breakups and couple hitches; there is a deep public interest and curiosity over what people do in private bedrooms. According to author and pastor Paul David Tripp, sexuality reveals the sinfulness in human beings more powerfully than any other thing. So much so that it has split communities; break apart churches; divided families; and corrupted relationships. Is there hope in the midst of such brokenness? Calling himself a "sad celebrant," he reveals the conflicted feelings and thoughts about sex in a broken world. On the one hand, he is sorry about the sad state of affairs pertaining to the way people use and abuse one another. On the other hand, he is hopeful about the promises of redemption of the world in Christ. What does it mean to live between the "already" and the "not yet?" With Christ having died for our sins at the cross, God has already won our salvation for us. Yet, we remain incomplete and imperfect. Even after the gospel has been preached, we continue to hurt one another in various ways. Sexual sins is a major part of this brokenness. What can we do about it? How do we think redemptively about sexual sins? Can marriages survive adultery? What could sexually charged individuals do with their strong sexual desires? After describing the emotional conflicts about sexuality, the author hones in on Romans 8 passage to point out the reality of the world in sin and the promises of hope in redemption. There will be temptations. There will be pitfalls. There will be hardships of different degrees. There will be suffering, one that includes sexuality as well. In this book, Tripp shows us that God's grace is often "uncomfortable grace"; "intervening grace"; "unstoppable grace"; "providing grace"; and "inseparable grace."

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Lies Women Believe" (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth)

TITLE: Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free
AUTHOR: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018, (288 pages).

It has been said that truth hurts. So do lies. In fact, lies may seem harmless initially, but it sows seeds of discord, distrust, and disappointment. In fact, our culture is full of deceptions. From advertisements to dubious claims that sound too good to be true, the unfortunate thing is, some people still choose to believe them, despite suspicions about lies and deceptions. Going all the way back to the first sin of creation, we learn how Satan deceived Eve first, then Adam, and the whole world went spiraling downhill ever since. Deception is the #1 weapon utilized by the evil one. It worked at the beginning. It is still potent even now. Looking at the first sin at the Garden of Eden, Wolgemuth shows us a pattern of how sin takes a foothold in our hearts. It begins with us innocently listening to a lie. It tempts us like a clever salesman selling us things we do not need in the form of benefits that we want. Once planted in our minds, we dwell on the temptation, initially with a desire to honour God first and all others second, but gradually letting our other priorities take over. This leads to us believing the lie, assuming that there are more good than evil in it. Finally, when we act on the lie, the deception is complete. We are enslaved to the perils of participating in the lie, even propagating it to others. Thankfully, there is hope. We can undo the wrongs simply with acknowledgment and humble repentance. Recognizing our errors is an all important first step. Without this, we remain in denial.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"The Power of the 72" (John Teter)

TITLE: The Power of the 72: Ordinary Disciples in Extraordinary Evangelism
AUTHOR: John Teter
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017, (176 pages).

I have come across books about the 12 disciples, the 12 tribes of Israel, and songs about the 12 sons of Jacob. In the book of Revelation, there is the usage of 144,000 servants of God who were sealed. Symbolically, 12 is likened to a complete number, a total collection. In this book about the 72 evangelists sent out two by two, we also see it as a multiple of 12. Based on Luke 10:1-20, author John Teter expounds this text to showcase 72 unnamed disciples evangelizing everywhere they go. Calling himself "one of the 72," Teter sees himself in the text as a convicted evangelist. In fact, the gospel of Luke has defined his ministry setting. The mission statement comes from Luke 4; the one-verse vision from Luke 10:2; the evangelism model on Luke 10; and letting the gospel of Luke master him. He also makes an interesting interpretation that the 72 could also mean the known number of countries at that time, which he then extrapolates to mean evangelism for the whole world. I am not sure about that literal stretch, but that does not change the heart of Christ for the whole world. Indeed, the gospel is for all, and the hope is that all would come and believe in the gospel. Jesus called, trained, and sent the 72 out on this evangelistic outreach. What and where exactly is this power? It is that conviction by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, that the gospel is for all. In this book, Teter seeks to do four things:
  1. Provide a clear theological foundation for evangelism, preaching first to the poor
  2. Present theory of process conversion
  3. Proficiency in four ministry tasks
  4. Prepare for daily rejection with a focus on eternal joy

Monday, February 19, 2018

"The Gospel According to Star Wars" (John C. McDowell)

TITLE: The Gospel according to Star Wars, Second Edition
AUTHOR: John C. McDowell
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017, (224 pages).

The latest Star Wars installment is in theaters everywhere. It has solidified its reputation as a top-selling movie franchise. With its popularity, many are renewing their love for characters such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, as well as the newer characters like Rey and Kylo Ren, and many more. It is amazing how the 70s franchise had lasted till now, where each of the episodes had sold-out crowds on their opening days. Beyond the entertainment aspect, is there a hidden message in the Star Wars saga? Is it more than simply a movie written for kids? How did such a movie franchise grow to be so popular? If there is a secret message, how do we make sense of it without misrepresenting the original storyteller's intentions? For those who say no, they would probably not even bother to pick up this book. For those who say yes, they have to sieve through the many complex interpretations, symbolism, religious undertones, and cultural understanding. For those who are unsure, perhaps, this book would offer not just an alternative look at the SW stories but invites them to consider the religious and spiritual messages hidden within the movies.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Immeasurable" (Skye Jethani)

TITLE: Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.
AUTHOR: Skye Jethani
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (224 pages).

How do we measure how our organizations are doing? What are the best practices we can learn from others? How can leaders manage an increasingly diverse community in a world of complex needs? These are common questions which would be familiar to those of us in management and corporate circles. What about churches? Chances are, many church leaders would use some form of popular management paradigms and best practices to run their churches. However, are those appropriate for Church ministry? How Christlike are those strategies? Have we incorporated worldly values into our Church? Perhaps. This is something that should make every church leader sit up and ponder. In trying to make things more visible, more tangible, and more measurable, they have unwittingly missed out their focus on the invisible, the intangible, and the immeasurable things. One can truly become so materially rich but spiritually poor. Thankfully, we have this book to remind us of an alternative. We have many resources teaching us about the 'how' but relatively few on reflections on the 'why.' With the infatuation over success and worldly measurables like numbers, efficiency, visible presence, and other signs, we have fallen prey to letting the world define our ministry. Jethani reminds us of Richard Halverson's words:

"In the beginning, the church was a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Make a List" (Marilyn McEntyre)

TITLE: Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts
AUTHOR: Marilyn McEntyre
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2018, (208 pages).

One of the important things we do to help us remember is to make a list. We have shopping list; book list; grocery list; stationery list; school list; homework list; blog list; name list; and so on. Once we have the necessary items on the list, we would be assured that even if we forget some items in our heads, we have a dependable list written down somewhere. Most of the time, these lists are simply to help us remember stuff. What if the lists could do more? What if the lists:
  • Mirror something about us;
  • Works as an educational device;
  • Help us listen to ourselves;
  • Enable us to love;
  • Teach us how to let go of anxieties;
  • Facilitate our practice of prayer;
  • and many other uses?
What's really interesting is how the author is able to turn such an ordinary list activity into a device to practice spirituality. Part One is about the purposes and pleasures of making lists. This is the part that we are most familiar with. McEntyre takes us through the process and teaches us to discover small little opportunities for personal growth. She brings together a list of ideas with regard to the use of list making. Besides the practical lists, there are also lists to help us express our emotions. Why are we upset? What are the things we need to let go of? Why am I afraid of? What makes forgiveness so hard? What gives me joy? What could I pay more attention to? What are the risks worth taking? What are the things to do when down? Lists could even work out as a better "punching bag."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"The Way to Brave" (Andy McQuitty)

TITLE: The Way to Brave: Shaping a David Faith for a Goliath World
AUTHOR: Andy McQuitty
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018, (224 pages).

It is no secret that Christians nowadays live in a hostile world. As society becomes more secular and religions being seen as nothing more than simply motivation for good works, it is harder for Christians to live in this pluralistic culture. If we are content to just get-along with anything and everything in our culture, we would be left alone. What if we decide to stand up for our historical faith, the biblical principles and truth of Jesus? It would be an uphill task, given the way atheism and secularism had taken hold of all parts of society. Public schools forbid any talk about religion. Businesses generally discourage any discussions about faith matters. Any hint of religion in the public square would trigger push-backs from skeptics and secularists everywhere. The example of Russ Vought being ridiculed before the US Senate Committee for his Christian position is a case in point. On the other hand, violent programming and the sexually charged entertainment options continue to go unabated. Will Christians have courage to stand up against the tide of hostility? What can believers do in the midst of many obstacles that seemed so insurmountable? What does it take to shape a "David faith for today's Goliath World?" That is the crux of the book, which begins with a paraphrase of the biblical story of David vs Goliath in 1 Sam 17. The author writes this book hoping to encourage Christians not only to be courageous in a big way, but to do it in the right way and for the right reason. Courage don't just happen. They are strengthened with challenges. They go through a period of preparation. They stem from the conviction that God is love and God's love overcomes all.

Monday, February 12, 2018

"They Were Single Too" (David M. Hoffeditz)

TITLE: They Were Single Too: Eight Biblical Role Models
AUTHOR: David M. Hoffeditz
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2018, (160 pages).

Should I get married or remain single? Is it ok to be single? How do we live in a culture where being single seems to be some kind of a social stigman? What has the Bible got to say about singleness? Though there is no single chapter or specific reference that talks about the topic of singleness, (although 1 Corinthians 7 come close), the Bible does describe the lives of many single people. In this book, author David Hoffeditz highlights eight biblical role models of single people. Paul is the popular New Testament model of a single man, who taught about the gift of staying single, so that one can be focused on God's ministry. His key teaching is for us to be content with whatever state we are in, and also to learn how to value others who are single, without diminishing or belittling their roles in any way. Singleness also applies to widows like Anna, who had to deal with social inadequacies in the early century Jewish culture. Although not much was written about her in the Bible, the author manages to use her story as a way to teach us how a single person could still rest in God and serve God joyfully. Then there is Martha who has sometimes been vilified for the way she demanded Mary to help her. Using her example, we are warned about the dangers of distraction; a "God-needs-me atttitude," self-sufficiency, etc. More importantly, singles may try to escape from the stigma of singleness by immersing themselves into work and busy activities. Such things may work for a while but over time, reality bites. Instead, focus on resting in God. The prophet Jeremiah is a great example of one fully dependent on God for all his life, or for the most part. Instead of asking why, he prays "How Long, O Lord?" Instead of running after solutions from the world, he prays to God. In the midst of shattered dreams, Ruth is a classic example of trusting in God as her source of strength. In a world where women are treated as second class, she continued to be obedient to God in faith. Then there is Joseph who remained true to God in the midst of temptation and Nehemiah who truly felt alone when thrown into a multitude of fierce opposition. Finally, there is John the Baptist who was martyred. If there is anyone who would feel most alone, it would probably be John the Baptist.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Leaving Mormonism" (Corey Miller, Lynn K. Wilder, Vince Eccles, and Latayne C. Scott)

TITLE: Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed their Minds
AUTHOR: Corey Miller, Lynn K. Wilder, Vince Eccles, and Latayne C. Scott
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2017, (320 pages).

Mormonism has been in the news in the recent past. Some years ago, a presidential hopeful garnered the support of many evangelicals, even though he was a Mormon. Some say that his faith is just another denomination. Others prefer to call it a cult, or some other name to dissociate it from Christianity. With arguments flowing back and forth, it is easy to accuse people who are not Mormons to shut up until they know what they are talking about. While it is one thing to know the theologies,  it is yet another to experience it. In order to have some measure of credibility, a few criteria would need to be met.
  • They have deep knowledge of Mormon doctrines and practices at an academic level. (Knowledge)
  • They have experienced what it means to be a Mormon at a personal level. (Experience)
  • They have critically, passionately, and lovingly engaged the faith and are able to explain rationally why they left Mormonism. (Truth in love)
  • They have voices from both "left-brained" and "right-brained" perspectives. (Diversity)
  • A bonus would be all of them hold academic PhDs!

Friday, February 2, 2018

"Awaiting the King" (James K.A. Smith)

TITLE: Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Cultural Liturgies)
AUTHOR: James K. A. Smith
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, (256 pages).

What has theology got to do with politics? What has Church got to do with State? Is there a better way forward in public engagement without having to police the boundaries of such relations? For author James K A Smith, it is essentially about societal and human flourishing. Whether it is in the political or public sphere, we need to redeem them. Borrowing heavily from Oliver O'Donovan's works and Augustine's thoughts on "City of God," Smith seeks to present a Christian approach to active engagement in the public square, to see it as a calling and not simply something to be shunned or be afraid of.

The political arena today is strewn with bipartisan politics not just in Washington DC but also in various theological circles. What is the relationship today between Christ and Culture? The Church herself is a cultural center that could influence the world. With this in mind, in a nutshell, it is about cultivating a posture of theological engagement rather than policy formulation. Calling it "part diagnosis and part prescription," Smith believes that the Church plays that very vital role in adopting "Augustinian principles for public participation." At the same time, using O'Donovan's works on a "missionary order," which is putting the needs of society before government, we are able to develop a series of postures to help us think, re-think, and reform our public theology. Our main posture is patience and optimism in the coming kingdom. Let me try to summarize some of the postures advocated by the author.

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Joy" (Edited by: Christian Wiman)

TITLE: Joy: 100 Poems
AUTHOR/EDITOR: Christian Wiman
PUBLISHER: New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017, (232 pages).

Joy is not just essential for life. It is crucial. Imagine a life without joy. It would be meaningless. For all the wonderful things we can say about this fascinating and needful emotion to have, people still feel conflicted about what it means, especially for them. Editor Christian Wiman notices this in her introduction to the book of poems. While dictionary definitions provide a starting clue about what joy is, truth is, joy is more than a definition. It is an intimate part of life that could be elusive to many, but highly sought after. It could not be scientifically manufactured lest the product comes forth as artificial. Even the word 'faith' needs healing before seekers can actually enter into a deeper comprehension of it. Truth is, joy can be found in more places than mere ecstasy or human happiness. It does not appear in one long climax but manifests itself in unique moments of life. Poetry is a powerful way to examine and experience these precious moments. Dictionaries can highlight the academic meaning of joy, but poetry tills it, massages it, evokes its essence in ways that typical prose and scientific manuals cannot do. Frogs jump for joy without even having to make an indepth study of their leaping experience. It comes in expectancy of freedom like a moth ready to take its first flight. It can be like a grand return to home after a long and weary expedition. It is a "catalyst" that leads us to other things, such as seeing life with a more positive viewpoint. Sometimes, joy is not simply described but played out through music. People sing and shout out loud.

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Mending Broken Branches" (Elizabeth Oates)

TITLE: Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Oates
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2017, (240 pages).

Marriages break up. Divorces happen. Children suffer the consequences. Can we escape from our past? Maybe. Will we be free to live well in the present? That depends on how we are healed. In spite of the high place of family in society, these are some of the modern struggles family go through. It pretty much describes the landscape of the cliché: “No family is perfect.” While that is true, it is also true that some families are more imperfect than others. This is often what society means when they say “dysfunctional families.” Writing from her own broken background and a determination to heal from her wounds, author Elizabeth Oates uses the planting metaphor to help us make sense of our past, our present, and our future. The purpose in this book is three-fold. First, we are given the space to grieve our past. Second, we learn to be equipped to deal with our present circumstances. Third, we are encouraged to build a healthy and hopeful future.

Part One helps us work through our past to find our true significance in Christ instead of the “transactional relationship” with Santa Claus. Readers will learn about being bold to open the dreaded Pandora’s Box of any shame in the past. Oates uses a familiar plant model to craft out our past. There is the root of the problem which is a failure to find our significance in Christ alone. There is a need for pruning, where we tackle head-on the heavy baggage from the past. Our family of origin is not to be blamed or praised but accepted. The sprouting willows and branches are like opportunities and spaces for us to acknowledge our past. Just like a branch that can grow in any direction, once we are safely anchored on a trunk, we grieve with all the space we need. We need not feel alone because we are not the only ones that have baggage from the past. Every family do. Slowly but surely, we learn to let go and move forward. Whether it is shame or lost childhood; failed dreams or broken realities; the positive thing to do is to acknowledge our various stages of grief. Here, Oates uses Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief model. It would have been better if the author had acknowledged this in a footnote but I suppose the model is popular enough for most people. This journey to the past ends in the embrace of the Heavenly Gardener, God Himself.

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Everything Happens for a Reason" (Kate Bowler)

TITLE: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved
AUTHOR: Kate Bowler
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Random House, 2018, (208 pages).

Is it true that God rewards the good when they do good and punish them when they do bad? Is it also true that there is absolutely a reason for everything that happens to us? Must well-meaning Christians always do something for those who are going through tough times? What about things such as as direct blessings or curses? Is it true that God blesses us when we are good and curses us when we are bad? By the way, is there a cancer cure for those who seek God hard enough, or when we pray fervently enough? Having gone through personal struggles and doubts over past pet beliefs, author Kate Bowler emphatically says no. In a nutshell, there is no such thing of a spiritual guarantee for some earthly cure from heavenly realms. Having written "Blessed," one of the most in-depth studies and research on the prosperity gospel, Bowler shares her inner thoughts and feelings about the promises and perils of believing in the prosperity gospel in the midst of extreme pain and cancer. In a frank and open manner, Bowler reveals how her stomach pains and frequent discomfort led to a shocking diagnosis of an advanced stage of colon cancer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"The Perfect You" (Dr Caroline Leaf)

TITLE: The Perfect You: A Blueprint for Identity
AUTHOR: Dr Caroline Leaf
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (320 pages).

Is there such a thing as a perfect person? What happened to the common phrase: "There's no perfect person?" Before we dismiss this book on the basis of the title, perhaps we could begin with the cultural use of the word 'perfect.' In our everyday conversations, sometimes we would respond to the question: "How's your day going on?" with the answer: "Perfect!" This book is neither about semantics nor cultural cliches. Instead, it is about helping us become the best version of ourselves. It is about identity and what we can do to unleash our deepest potential. Most importantly, it is about recognizing the perfection is not about us but about the Perfect God who had designed us and made us. Our key to unlocking this is understanding how we are wired. It begins with God and the blueprint provided in this book will bring us closer to seeing this beauty of God in us. Combining theology, science, philosophy, and practical checklists, Dr Caroline Leaf helps us to discern how we think, feel, and choose. Based on neuroscience, she is convinced that our minds control our brains. Based on her research and practice, she believes that individual choice plays a bigger role. She defines the "Perfect You" as "how you uniquely and specifically think, how you uniquely and specifically feel, and how you uniquely and specifically choose." It is essentially the intersection of mind, heart, and will that makes up the framework of this key thesis. She redefines success as being able to transform our community and to bring heaven to earth. Instead of searching for some potential out there, we are urged to consider developing the potential that is in us.