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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Sensing God" (Laurence Freeman)

TITLE: Sensing God: Learning to Meditate Through Lent
AUTHOR: Laurence Freeman
PUBLISHER: Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2016, (120 pages).

One of the most important periods of the calendar year is Lent. Beginning Ash Wednesday, it is a forty days period of focused meditation and spiritual awareness for Christians to remember how Jesus had fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. According to Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk and Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, a contemporary, ecumenical contemplative community:

"The forty days and nights of Lent are about simplification, purification, getting priorities reestablished and remembering that God, not my ego, is the centre of reality."

For each day, there is a specific verse from the Bible. There are instructions on how to meditate, notes on postures, tips on time and place, and practical examples of how to go about preparing our hearts for Lent. Simple steps are given to help us get into the flow of meditation. This includes breathing techniques, mind awareness, formation of habits, daily meditations, and brevity that suggests the need for moments of silence. At the end of each week, Freeman repeats the mantra to remind us that meditation is a continuous learning exercise.

Any devotional on Lent ought to be brief. It ought to be Word centered and prayer filled. It also needs to supply lots of space for individuals to be quiet and reflective. This devotional meets all of these aspects and for that reason, I recommend this for the use this Lent and for every Lent. Let this book guide you in praying and a deeper seeking after the heart of God.

For 2016, Ash Wednesday begins February 10th and Easter is on March 27th, 2016.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Franciscan Media and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Walking with Jesus Through the Old Testament" (Paul Stroble)

TITLE: Walking with Jesus through the Old Testament: Devotions for Lent
AUTHOR: Paul Stroble
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, (136 pages).

The Old Testament points to Jesus in more ways than most people would have thought. With Lent approaching this Wednesday, it is appropriate to prepare our hearts through a more devotional life, to let Scriptures capture our imagination; to walk through the Old Testament with an eye on the cross; to put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus. The hope is that as we do this, we will experience the presence of Jesus in some very special way this Lent and every Lent. Each day, there is a title and scripture passages. Following this is a prayer and a challenge to dig deeper into the mood of Lent by self-examination, self-denial, and daily actions. The "Sunday Reflection" is a summary reflection of the week, which reflects on the whole week's passage themes as a block. This helps readers to think back on the past week. The first week shows us how the prophecy all started. The second week gives us a glimpse of Jesus' early years on earth, from the infanticide due to Herod's evil; to the pronouncement of Jesus' ministry with the baptism episode. The third week shows us snippets of Jesus' ministry. The fourth week helps us see the manifold blessings of Jesus via teaching, healing, and helping. In the fifth week, we see the themes of salvation like Israel's exodus from Egypt; the covenants; the giving of the Law; the Prophets; the Priests; and glimpses of Christ's sacrifice.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"Daily Readings from The Christian in Complete Armour" (William Gurnall)

TITLE: Daily Readings from The Christian in Complete Armour: Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare
AUTHOR: William Gurnall
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1994, (384 pages).

The book, "The Christian in Complete Armour" is widely considered a classic when it was first published in the 17th Century. It was published in three volumes (1655, 1658, and 1662) by William Gurnall, a Puritan and English clergyman.  Widely considered as one of the best Christian books published in the English language, it can be obtained for free here. As the title suggests, this book is basically a treatise about the saints of God warring against the devil. John Newton calls this book the second book to be read besides the Bible. Charles Spurgeon even said that "every line is full of wisdom; every sentence is suggestive." While the original came in three separate volumes, James S. Bell Jr. has chosen selected portions to be used in this 365-days devotional.

It is a book written to encourage spiritual growth. One reason why some believers fail to grow is because of their lack of awareness about the reality of spiritual warfare. It is one thing to profess one's belief but yet another to proclaim of God boldly and without reservation. Like the call to courage, before he talks about being bold, he points out the need to be bold on our inside first. If we prefer the "bondage of Egypt," how can we learn to claim the promise of God? We are reminded of what it means to be a child of God. As children of the King, surely there is not simply the promise of an inheritance in heaven but a vigour in living on earth. We serve God not like spiritual wimps but gallant soldiers in Christ. Our true strength is in God and that comes forth as a counter to humanism. If we do not check that, we would be trusting in our own strength rather than God's. Gurnall's volumes began with a quote from Ephesians 6:10-20 that sets the tone of his books. Unlike Gurnall's originals, this particular daily readings are not primed at exposition of the armour of God but as short "soul-searching reflections" of God's power on the individual believer.

Friday, February 5, 2016

"Holy Spirit I Pray" (Jack Levison)

TITLE: Holy Spirit, I Pray: Prayers for the morning and nightime, for discernment, and moments of crisis
AUTHOR: Jack Levison
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2015, (120 pages).

Christians have been praying to God in the Name of Jesus since the days of the Early Church. The Holy Spirit came down upon the Church in Acts, sparking a Pentecostal revival that has helped spread the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the outermost parts of the earth. Jesus prayed to the Father in Heaven and encourages us to do the same. He also urges us to pray in His Name. What about the Holy Spirit? It is one thing to be praying in the power of the Holy Spirit, but what if one prays to the Holy Spirit? For that, it is interesting that not many books have been written with regard to this. It is not something explicitly mentioned in the Bible about praying to the Holy Spirit. In this book, Jack Levison, author of Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life, not only makes a case for prayers to the Holy Spirit, he shows us how to do it. Readers learn of prayers to allow one to rest, not escape; fly, not flee; and brood, not rush.

There are sample prayers for the morning and the evening. The prayers of discernment top the list of my favourites. What I really like about the prayers is the format of prayers on the left, and a scripture passage on the right. The prayers are written with the Holy Spirit as the focus of prayers. The scripture passage gives us a specific Bible reference to the working of the Holy Spirit. There is also a prayers for anytime section for all occasions.

This is a rare book on prayers to and about the Holy Spirit. I understand some readers may be uncomfortable about the relative lack of reference to Jesus and Father God, but the thrust of the prayers is the same. When one prays to the Spirit, one also prays to the Triune Godhead, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. In all honesty, I think the Holy Spirit is most shy of attention, and like Jesus, will always want to direct attention back to the Trinity. At times, I wish the format of the book be reversed. That is, the Scripture passage begins first, followed by the prayers. In this way, anyone unsure of the direction of the prayers will have the comfort of the Holy Scriptures to guide.

I warmly commend this book for your collection of prayers. It is a wonderful resource for prayer coordinators, prayer warriors, and anyone desiring to grow close to God in prayer.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Paraclete Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus" (Rabbi Evan Moffic)

TITLE: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus: A New Way of Seeing the Most Influential Rabbi in History
AUTHOR: Rabbi Evan Moffic
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015, (224 pages).

The seeds for this book were planted at the end of a lecture at a local church. Someone commented to the author about desiring to be a Jew just to understand more of what Jesus experienced. Challenged by that, Rabbi Evan Moffic tries to build a bridge for non-Jews to understand Jesus more through the lens of Jewish unique culture. We learn several interesting things.
  • A Disciple is more than simply a student. He is a "link between the past, present, and future." Without disciples, essentially there is no future.
  • Jesus' miracles are not to wow audiences but is a direct challenge against the stubborn Pharisees and religious leaders. The miraculous signs are traces of God's presence to show us the existence of the supernatural.
  • Love in Jewish culture is an "active pursuit" rather than a passive feeling.
  • In Jewish culture, faith is about persons rather than in things or concepts. That's why "faith" in the Old Testament is more about "faithfulness," how one exercises faith, rather than some idea. 
  • Just like the Torah has multiple entry points to God, we can love God in multiple ways too. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

"John: A Commentary" (Marianne Meye Thompson)

TITLE: John: A Commentary (New Testament Library)
AUTHOR: Marianne Meye Thompson
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, (576 pages).

The gospel of John has been said to be like a pool shallow enough for a child to wade in and deep enough for an elephant to swim in. It is one of the most loved books of the Bible. Written for believers in the first century, the Apostle John records the ministry of Jesus in such a way so that readers would come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. There have also been many commentaries written on John in the past, which begs the question: What's so special about this latest addition to the huge collection now? For author Marianne Meye Thompson, the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, the way to approach John is via a series of poignant questions on John's unique narrative of Jesus. Uniqueness such as:

  • Why John centers on Jesus' ministry in Galilee?
  • Why are there unique narratives only seen in John?
  • Why the specific signs?
  • Why the use of the symbols in John?
  • How do we understand the differences in John when compared to the other synoptic gospels?
  • Is John's account a more "spiritual" nature?
  • What is John's relationship to Jesus?
  • What can we make of the claims of Jesus in the gospel?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Gifted Mind" (Jeff Kinley with Dr Raymond Damadian)

TITLE: Gifted Mind: The Dr. Raymond Damadian Story, Inventor of the MRI
AUTHOR: Jeff Kinley with Dr Raymond Damadian
PUBLISHER: Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015, (240 pages).

There have been great medical advancement through the centuries. Sometimes, many of us have taken the advancement for granted, oblivious to the many years of research, hard work, and brilliance behind each medical procedure we benefit from, each pill we swallow, and each medical equipment we use. One such equipment is the Medical Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment. From TV shows to real life hospitals, many people have heard of or benefitted from the use of the MRI to detect cancer or obtain some form of assurance about the presence of normal cells in our body. What about the origins and history of the MRI? Who started the whole process going? What are the milestones of the invention of this great device? Are there any controversies? Dr Raymond Damadian, a doctor working at New York's Downstate Medical Center in 1971 discovered how certain chemical signals in cancerous body cells react differently from normal cells in that the former contains more water. All it takes then is to develop a machine to detect the additional hydrogen atoms that linger in cancer cells.

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Four Small Words" (Jarrett Stevens)

TITLE: Four Small Words: A Simple Way to Understand the Bible
AUTHOR: Jarrett Stevens
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (160 pages).

We can read the Bible. We can memorize it. We can even quote verses from it. However, when it comes to understanding it, it is a totally new challenge. What if there is a way to understand the Bible that grows from knowledge to relationship? What if there is a simple way to understand the Bible? Jarrett Stevens, co-pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago believes that with four small words, one can be on the way to understanding the Bible in a personal and even profound way. The first word is OF which is based on Genesis 1-2, which tells "of" the creation story and our origins, our true identity. We learn of God who is much bigger than we are. The two basic concepts from this word are:

1) Coming From
2) Belonging To

Understanding our role in life begins with understanding of our own history and our source of being. We are made for community, just like the three persons of the Triune Godhead. We learn to ask of who God is, and who we are. After a brief narrative about life in the perfect garden, we read about the regrettable end of this paradise when Adam and Eve chose evil. The bible story move from how man who is of God, chose otherwise, leading us to the next word. Our story begins of God.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"The Power of the Cross" (Tony Evans)

TITLE: The Power of the Cross: Putting it to Work in Your Life
AUTHOR: Tony Evans
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (208 pages).

The centrality of the gospel is the cross. Without the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus, our faith would be in vain. Sharing about his childhood days of playing football with his friends, there was once when no one remembered to bring a football. The players were there, the stadium was ready, the lights were on, but without a football, there was no game. Using this example as a springboard to show readers the importance of the cross, author and pastor Tony Evans tells us that the cross is the centerpiece of Christianity; the "greatest affirmation and demonstration of pure love." The basic reason why many Christians lack motivation in their faith is because they have forgotten the "purpose, the preeminence, and the power of the cross." At the cross, we see that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. It is an expression of undying love; a symbol of forgiveness of sins; and a promise of hope that is to come. We are called to carry the cross of Christ. We are told by the apostle Paul that without the cross, our faith would be in vain. With all these as background, Evans then launches into three major expositions of what the cross means. First, Evans explores the unique person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is unique because He exists even before the world began. He is fully divine and also fully human. Evans gives four proofs about Jesus' deity; and spends a lot of time on describing Jesus' humanity. Readers learn about Jesus as the focal point of faith; the two coming of Christ; the foretelling (first coming) and the forthtelling (second coming). He talks about the prophecy; the death; the resurrection and the Ascension of Christ to showcase the centrality of the cross, which puts all of these together in one person.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Ready to Return" (Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley)

TITLE: Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church's Lost Generation
AUTHOR: Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley
PUBLISHER:Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015, (210 pages)

Why is the Church losing more of her young? How can the Church retreat from the rising secularization of the Church and her members? Where will the Church be in the next era? How do we bring back the "lost generation?" Despair comes with the downward struggle with sin. Hope comes with the upward perspective to build the Church based on the truth in Christ. It is only God who can preserve His Church. Before any such reformation, author Ken Ham helps us to learn from history. Every culture will go through a period of spiritual lethargy. From Jeremiah to King Hezekiah; and from Israel to the modern reformation movement, three patterns are common:
  1. God's people no longer observe and obey the Word of God
  2. They pursued other gods
  3. The shepherds and leaders lead people astray
Calling for a new reformation, Ham believes that the way back begins with us. We should be prepared for opposition and resistance. We should beware of compromising. We must beware of pride. We need to stay vigilant and watchful. These are the mission statements and values that Ham and his colleagues at "Answers in Genesis" adhere to. Ham is President and Founder of the apologetics ministry that believes in the Young Earth creationist perspective. They believe that the book of Genesis provides answers to many questions of life. In this book, the key problem is about the decreasing number of people in churches and the young leaving churches in droves. Statistics by Barna and Americas Research Group all point to a liberal generation. Anyone disconnected from the Bible will eventually be disconnected with church. Ham probes other disturbing trends and liberalism that are eating away at the fundamental faith values. Ham then shows a few steps to enable one to return to God.