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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Introducing World Missions" (A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee)

TITLE: Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission)
AUTHOR: A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (336 pages).

Recently, the wife of a modern missionary, Jim Elliot, passed away. She was passionate about missions. She experienced it, spoke, about it, and died with missions very much in her heart. The world has lost another missionary but the work of missions continue. What are contemporary missions? How has it changed over the years? This textbook provides a comprehensive introduction to what world missions is about. Aimed not just at missionaries to be, the authors want to share not only the importance of missions but also to educate more about this important work of the Church. The first of a series of eight books on missions from an evangelical perspective, this book covers a broad overview of:
  • Missions Primer
  • Missions in Scriptures
  • Missions in History
  • Missionary Candidates
  • Being Sent Out and becoming a Sender
  • Missions in the Contemporary World
The eight volumes of the "Encountering Missions" series are:
  1. Introducing World Missions (2004, 2015)
  2. The Changing Face of Missions (2005)
  3. Encountering Missionary Life and Work (2008)
  4. Christianity Encountering World Religions (2009)
  5. Encountering Theology of Mission (2010)
  6. Developing a Strategy for Missions (2013)
  7. Effective Intercultural Communication (2014)
  8. To be confirmed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

"I Will" (Thom S. Rainer)

TITLE: I Will: Nine Habits of the Outwardly Focused Christian
AUTHOR: Thom S. Rainer
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2015, (128 pages).

The author of "I Am a Church Member" has done it again. In that book, he talks about six implications of what it means to be a Church member. In this latest book, he has decided to move from inside the Church to what a Christian can (or will) do outside the Church. It contains what the author calls "nine traits of outwardly focused Christian." Thom Rainer then sets the tone early in the book to encourage readers to move from a "I Want" Church member to a "I Will" disciple. Beginning with a list of "Top Nine Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests," he helps readers to see that a "I Want" mentality represents an inward focused Christian while a "I Will" means an outwardly focused Christian. It is also an opportunity for Rainer to move from the previous focus on attitude in membership matters to a new purpose in right actions.

The first trait is a "I Will Move" which represents a resolve that right actions must follow from right attitudes. Right attitude means unifying, sacrificial serving, praying, and rejoicing Church member. Right actions mean putting all of these into tangible deeds.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"The New Adapters" (Jacob Armstrong with Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter)

TITLE: The New Adapters: Shaping Ideas to Fit Your Congregation
AUTHOR: Jacob Armstrong with Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015, (120 pages).

How much do we love the Church? Do we spend more time criticizing the things she does? Have we constructively built up the Church over the years? Do we really believe in the Church that we are prepared to adapt our ways according to changing times? In this book, after a conversation with United Methodist Church ministers, Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter, Jacob Armstrong have come up with a model called "The New Adapters" model to bridge and help old established ideas with adapting to new reality in changing times. His vision of such new adaptation comprises eight broad proposals. Firstly, the vision must fit the mission field. This means that we cannot allow our own preconceptions to determine the ministry we want to be in. Rather, we need to know the community first through "learning, knowing, and loving the community" that we are in. This calls for an attitude of "Praying and Listening" so as to bridge our past "megaphone model" with the current "direct marketing" model to our community. Armstrong provides six questions to help do the listening. Secondly, the mission of the Church must include ministry to the poor. We must resist the temptation to stick to the wealthy, the influential, and the powerful. For such efforts tend to make us rely less on the providence of God. Preaching good news to the poor was Jesus' announcement prior to his ministry. Such "focus on the poor" can help bring any inward focus toward outreach. Churches that ignore the poor do so at their own peril. Thirdly, create new spaces for new people. Let these new spaces bring people from buildings to programs. Spaces are not just physical places but opportunities for people to work and live together.  This means not making visitors and strangers fit into our mold but to allow compassion and love to adjust according to the needs of these visitors and new people.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Divine Sex" (Jonathan Grant)

TITLE: Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age
AUTHOR: Jonathan Grant
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (256 pages).

What images does the word "sex" brings to mind? Are they positive images of beauty or negative pictures of filth? Are they from respectable publications or is it from erotic tabloids? Do Christian publishing houses talk often enough about sex and sexuality matters, apart from abstentions, avoidances, or sexual addictions? Not often enough, which is why this book aims to bring back the beauty of sexuality and how the world at large needs a vision of God's creation, something Jonathan Grant calls, "Divine Sex." The world we live in unfortunately have inundated us with corrupted images of what was meant to be good into something that represent all things wrong. Grant calls it "hypersexualized age" where sex and love are confused with personal preferences and sexual objects for self-gratification. Even churches stayed silent on many matters on sex. Maybe it is due to ignorance, or probably it is due to fear of negative pushbacks by a society that is bent on insisting upon their own ways. Grant asserts that we as a Church need to "catch up," "to understand the needs of this generation as it deals with the brokenness and fragmentation of modern sexuality." Based on this recognition, Grant goes on to tackle these key questions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird" (Amy Lively)

TITLE: How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird
AUTHOR: Amy Lively
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015, (224 pages).

How many of us actually know who our neighbors are? It is well known that Jesus commanded his disciples to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yet, it remains one of the most challenging aspects of modern Christian living. Sometimes, we try to rationalize away that our neighbors are mainly in our workplaces or social areas, and minimize the literal physical neighborhoods. That was something dealt with by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon in their book, "The Art of Neighboring" which is about building genuine relationships with our physical neighbors. They identify fear as one of the key barriers to actually loving our neighbors. For how can anyone love their neighbor without first loving them? Some don't know how while others simply feel weird about it all. For these struggles, many people simply give other excuses for not even trying to know their neighbors. In the same vein, Amy Lively, a popular speaker and author based in Lancaster, Ohio, reinforces this need to reach out to our neighbors with a whole book dedicated to three key aspects, or should I say, gives me three compelling thoughts.

First, it is about overcoming one's fears of reaching our neighbors. Having personally experienced the weirdness of just trying to reach out, she shares about her earlier years learning from some Christian neighbors who were not intrusive but were still very influential in their welcome and care. Often we get trapped by fears of negative reactions by people who prefer us to mind our own business. Yet, what if our very neighbors are in some crisis or trouble that we will never know until we ask? What if under the external facade of wealth and well-being is a soul struggling with loneliness and discouragement? What if we have unconsciously judged our neighbors by their covers? One way to overcome fear is to let curiosity leads the way. Notice what they have been doing through the day. Smile at them. Pray for them. Be aware of their presence. They are social people, not some puzzle for us to solve. Lively also shows us that it is easier to invite our neighbors to our homes rather than our churches. Who knows. It could very well bring them a step closer to the faith. Another way to overcome fear is to recognize how diverse our communities are. Weirdness comes about often because we are different. Once we recognize that differences are common aspects of a diverse community, we can learn to live with differences and acceptance. More importantly, the battle is often within ourselves, not outside. For we can have our heads full of ideas, only to be stopped by a heart full of resistance.

Second, the focus is not conversion but conversational moments. It is about making friends. One reason why Christians fail to make good neighborly connections is their self-imposed pressure to convert people. That is not necessary for conversion is God's responsibility. Ours is conversational moments. We do the greeting. We make friends. We strike up ordinary conversations about life. We begin with natural relationships. Let God lead the rest. Do kind deeds and be a good neighbor. We may not be eloquent with words but we can certainly show kindness in ways we are able to. We can pray. Lively puts it bluntly:

"The two most important things you can do to make your neighborhood safer are to get to know your neighbors' name and to get out of your houses." (117)
Indeed, if we do not even get out of our own houses, how are we to even know our neighbors, and our neighbors to know us? In an increasingly online and virtual society, it is tempting to stay indoors so much that we forget about the outdoors. Even our most obnoxious neighbor, God still loves him or her. If those of us who spend countless of hours working or serving in Churches can broaden our perspectives to see the world as our parish, why not our neighborhoods? The spiritual gifts that we have, surely they are not limited only to church stuff? How people respond is not our responsibility. How we respond to God's calling for us to love our neighbors is ours.

Third, stepping out is a step of faith. For we speak and reach out not on our own strengths but God's. We can become like walking Marthas constantly busy with our own work that we forget that we are not living in the desert with nobody. We forget that we live in neighborhoods with people that Jesus loves. We forget that ours are not the only messy houses around. Many others have their own mess too. It is a risk that can be rewarding. Even though the results are often unpredictable, the risk is worth is simply because Jesus thinks it is worth it. After all, He died for us.

So What?
Amy Lively gives us a book of ideas and encouragement to overcome our fears and to step into our neighborhood with courage. There are many ideas but most of it all is a call for us to simply set down our fears, settle down our anxieties with prayer, step out in faith, and serve our neighbors in whatever appropriate manner. For all we know, a bit of kindness can unleash open hearts and minds not only to keep our neighborhoods safe but also fun to be in. "How to Love Your Neighbor" may not be a book written by a bestseller or poise to bring in millions of dollars in royalty payments. It is written with a desire for believers to make a difference in their neighborhoods by simply getting to know them, to recognize their presence, and to love them as best as possible.  Above all, it can put to rest those uneasy butterflies in our stomachs, those weird thoughts that are crippling our outreach, and those fears that often defeat us before we even open our house doors.

Frankly, overcoming our fears is already a major step forward in learning to love our neighbors. Many of us simply do not know our neighbors. Some may not even know their names even after so many years. That can change. Fears can provide us unlimited excuses, but only love can motivate us to open our doors of our timid minds, to step out in faith with a willing heart, and reach out in love to needy souls. If we can get to know one neighbor, just one, it would have been a soul that has been touched by God's love. Read this book and be encouraged to step forth in faith! Confucius once said, "The journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step." I say, the journey of loving a thousand neighbors begins with a simple greeting of a neighbor we meet.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Monday, June 22, 2015

NIV Dad's Devotional Bible

TITLE: NIV Dad's Devotional Bible
AUTHOR: Notes by Robert Wolgemuth
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (1504 pages).

Dads are usually the busy guy. Expected to work hard and support the family, they are also expected to be the spiritual head of the household. One of the key spiritual disciplines is to read the Bible regularly. There is no substitute for regular reading. What if this regular reading can be supplemented by 260 daily devotions, 7 articles to help build up the children, and a easy reference for dealing with questions kids often ask? This is what this devotional Bible is aimed at. The main text of this Bible is of course, the Bible, more specifically the New International Version (2011). This devotional version was first published in 1997 after a chance encounter the author had with the publisher. Tasked to write devotional notes to accompany various selected portions of the Bible, Robert Wolgemuth, a well-connected name in publishing circles took six whole months to write out the accompanying material. Eighteen years later, Zondervan has released a second edition updated not only with the latest NIV edition but also a new foreword by Kirk Cameron.

The devotions are scattered all over the Bible, each with a Bible passage for the day followed by a verse for the day. Due to the nature of devotions, there will greater freedom of thought and application, and that invariably means the devotions may not necessarily exegete the passages as accurately as a Bible scholar. At the bottom of each devotional, there is a link to the next devotional reading, anticipating readers' needs. Unfortunately, some may think the devotionals distract the reader from actually reading the Bible itself. I think such anxiety is unnecessary. Once the devotionals are read, it will not be referred back as often. In comparison, the Bible texts are more likely to be read, re-read, and re-read, for a long time to come. Devotions in the book are temporary. The Word of God is forever. The devotional themes include:
  • Relationships like brotherhood, communications, and family
  • Behavioural traits like patience, giving, and diligence
  • Family activities like Church going, Christmas activities, 
  • Decision making for young kids, teenagers, and young adults
  • and many more.
I appreciate the section called "The Bible for Dads" which provides a short summary of every book of the Old and New Testament. The "Questions Kids Ask" section also anticipates common questions and provides a clear answer. The "Fruit of the Spirit" topical index brings together the important themes with appropriate biblical references.

Sometimes, I feel like it may be better to have the devotionals all in one section rather than to scatter them throughout. This would prevent flipping the pages back and forth to go from one devotional to another. In this way, readers can focus on devotional reading when they want to do devotional reading, and Bible reading when they want to read the Bible texts. An alternative method for this is to use an ordinary Bible with a devotional book side by side. That is not the intent of the publisher of this Bible which is to let the devotional supplement the Bible passages. Perhaps, this is a matter of personal preference. Thus, this devotional Bible format may work for some but not others.

One critique I have for this Bible is the color of the font. I would prefer the texts to be black rather than brown, for black would have provided a better contrast for the eye. The font size could have been a point larger for a hard cover edition. Dads do get old quite quickly.

Father's Day may have been over, but it is still not too late to get a devotional Bible. While theme-based bibles may not exactly reflect the real intent of the Bible itself, from the perspective of a Bible literacy promotion standpoint, anything that encourages one to read the Bible a little more regularly will tilt my recommendation to YES. Another positive feature in this Bible is the actual title. In the family home,anyone finding the Bible anywhere in the house, the kitchen table, the living room, the study, the bedroom, or in any other room, would straightaway know: "Hey, this is dad's Bible!"

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

Friday, June 19, 2015

"We Need To Talk" (Linda Mintle)

TITLE: We Need to Talk: How to Successfully Navigate Conflict
AUTHOR: Linda Mintle
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (256 pages).

Conflict is inevitable. Sooner or later, even the most cordial of relationships will encounter rough patches. The fact is that conflicts in themselves are not necessarily bad, especially when we can learn to respond constructively when they occur. In Dr Linda Mintle's words, it is simply summarized in four words: "We Need to Talk," which is exactly the title and the central theme of the book. Called a "relationship doctor," Mintle is a popular speaker, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist, and also chair of the Division of Behavioral Health at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She deals with the topic of conflict sensitively but with firmness. Her three basic assumptions are:

  1. Conflicts are part and parcel of any close relationships;
  2. Under the right conditions, conflicts can help grow relationships;
  3. In unhappy relationships, conflicts can escalate and one needs to learn how to deal with them.

Conflicts always involve a power struggle and the key is to manage power imbalances as best as possible to balance between emotional needs, personal integrity, people's well-being, and the stress of life. In order to resolve any conflict, trust must be cultivated. Keeping secrets, being unreliable, history of betrayal, are all examples of how trust can be eroded. In order to build trust, show grace with providing second chances on the one hand and to draw boundaries on the other. Learn of Jesus' humility. Cherish differences without having to pander to every wish and fancy. Beware of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse: 1) Criticism; 2) Defensiveness; 3) Contempt; 4) Stonewalling. Anticipate a clash of styles and to learn strategies on how to deal with each. Be realistic with what is solvable and what is not. Like a family, one can disagree but still remember that we are all family. Families must learn to fight fair and to deal justly. There are also gender differences to be aware of. Distinguish the needs behind the desire for sex. One popular belief is that men and women have opposite views of sex and affection. Men puts sex before affection while women sees otherwise. Rather than focusing on these two, Mintle suggests both genders find ways to get validation and love in order to meet both of these needs. Mintle also gives 20 guidelines with regards to social media usage and sex.

Conflict styles also vary. Mintle pays special attention to difficult people that provokes high conflict levels. "High conflict" personalities tend to be too emotional about issues and often see things in black and white. Due to their rigid mental styles, they can become manipulative when they do not get things their way. They tend to yell and lose their tempers. They need help in controlling their anger and enabling lots of forgiveness. Use the serenity prayer as a guide.

With lots of practical tips, this book essentially helps us to clear the decks without dismissing the most difficult players. We learn to recognize the different kinds of styles and the various approaches to deal with conflicts. Sometimes it is good to minimize conflicts. Other times, it is best to deal with the situation at hand. With a positive outlook, confidence and humility need to be used simultaneously. The chapter on "Dealing with Difficult People" alone is worth the price of the book. Mintle has given us a powerful resource on how to live together with well-being of all in mind. Perhaps, for those of us who want to do something about everyday conflicts but don't know how, we need to pick up this book, learn from it, and to be equipped on how best to calm down and to promote a constructive dialogue. For Jesus' sake.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Christianity and Religious Diversity" (Harold A. Netland)

TITLE: Christianity and Religious Diversity: Clarifying Christian Commitments in a Globalizing Age
AUTHOR: Harold A. Netland
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (304 pages).

With globalization comes the interactions of cultures. With cultural pluralism comes the clash of different social cultures. With secularism comes the tension with religious and non-religious beliefs and practices. With the rising call for tolerance comes the delicate balancing act of religious convictions versus spiritual diversities. How can one live out the Christian commitment in a globalizing, pluralistic, diverse, and complex interactions of cultures? The one word is understanding. The key motivation for the writing of this book is this: "Responsible theology of religions requires more than simply sound biblical exegesis; it also demands proper understanding of the phenomena that go under the category of religion." In such a climate, it is no longer acceptable for any one religion to insist that it is the right way. While the fact is true that all religions basically teach a certain sense of rigid doctrine, how the doctrine is being lived out is a different thing altogether.
With remarkable insights into modern culture and changing values in society, Harold Netland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies at Illinois's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has to go back to the fundamentals of cultural understanding before tackling the religious questions surrounding diversity and convictions. In a complex and culturally diverse environment, things can get quite confusing. That is one reason why the author spends time trying to "rethink" religion, what it means and how it is being understood. First, there is the "theological way" of understanding religion. This means understanding the religion from a particular school of faith. For Christians, this means having a worldview that is associated with specific values and teachings. This is why people like Karl Barth puts forth a huge amount of material comprising Church Dogmatics. It centers around beliefs. In contrast, the second method is the "phenomenological" approach looks at how the religion is being practiced. While the "theological" can refer to people having a particular religious expression, the "phenomenological" can refer to all persons practicing a particular worldview. This means that even those who proclaim to be atheistic or agnostic are "religious" in the phenomenological sense. Not only that, there is the issue of Western imperialistic concerns about whether religion is a modern construct brought about as a parallel to the way globalization is now being exported to the rest of the world. Historically, this has a precedence when we see how Europe in the fourth century was defined as "Christians and religious others." In India, there is a "Hindus vs the rest," or "Eastern Buddhism vs the rest," just like many cultures having a majority religion.  The point Netland insists upon is that common understanding of religion is more "phenomenological" than anything else. That is, it expresses the "social and communal component" of religious life. Having said that, while religions generally reflect a social construct and community aspect, there are key differences between culture and religion, like the area of truth claims which are inherently more applicable for the latter rather than the former.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Unoffendable" (Brant Hansen)

TITLE: Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better
AUTHOR: Brant Hansen
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2015, (224 pages).

The word "community" has been thrown around quite a lot by many institutions, social help groups, corporate environments, as well as non-profits throughout the world. While trumpeting the merits of working together, the fact is that as people rush from place to place, and to work from dawn to dusk, tempers can easily flare when things do not meet our expectations. From rude behaviours in the workplace to aggressive drivers at the highways, all it often take is an unexpected event that can easily lit our fuses. For those with short fuses, the result is a terrible emotional outburst that can do a lot of damage. There are road rages and boardroom battles. There are even angry exchanges on social media that if picked up by the mainstream media, turn a petty dispute into an all-out war of words. This is what makes this book an extremely practical one. It is the author's contention that just by giving up our right to be angry is a significant change that can enable us to live better. On the area of "righteous anger," Hansen maintains that it is not supported in Scripture. He writes: "We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices. (More on this in a bit.) And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art." On and on, Hansen advocates peaceful speech, gracious behavior, and a sustained emphasis on self-control, self-restraint, and self-denial. Using examples and teachings from peace rights activists like Dr Martin Luther King Jr, theologians like CS Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastors like Tim Keller, and popular writers like Philip Yancey and Henri Nouwen, Hansen makes his case that there is really nothing for one to lose but everything to gain as far as not being easily offended is concerned.

He deals with the important subject of injustice, while affirming the fact of injustices happening, he advocates that the way ahead is to let our actions be motivated by love. Whether it is tough love or otherwise, it is critical not to let anger have its way, or to let our human emotions take control. Rather, it is to let God work through us by stepping out of inner anger toward fighting injustice not with fighting, but with firm loving. The motives matter a lot. If it is simply a reaction, it may become a wrong trying to correct another wrong, which is wrong in itself. Readers are reminded that behind many angry acts is actually a person whose pride has been hurt.

Being angry is a choice. We can either choose to give in easily to anger to allow it to fly beyond rage, or to exercise self-control by giving up our right to be angry. This is the key message of Christian radio host and author, Brant Hansen. This one change of perspective is the rudder that turns the ship of uncontrolled anger and cultivates an unoffendable spirit. Very readable and tremendously applicable to modern day living, this book speaks about anger from a Christian perspective. In the Bible, we learn "in your anger, do not sin," which means that behind every anger moment is an opportunity for sin to grow. Believers must learn to look beyond the offending event and remember that the person who had hurt us is not the enemy. The enemy is somewhere else trying to make us sin against that brother or a sister, or that person that Jesus had died for. When we gain the bigger perspective of God's love for the world, we will learn to see from God's point of view and to live according to the teachings of Christ. Love your enemies. Pray for them. Love them the way Christ had loved them.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of W Publishing Group, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann, Vol 2" (Walter Brueggemann)

TITLE: The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann, Volume 2
AUTHOR: Walter Brueggemann
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, (304 pages).

In theological circles, he is well-known for his works on the Old Testament. Among students, especially those who know him personally, he is well loved. Among laypersons, his sermons continue to impact congregations. Besides being known as an Old Testament theologian, the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary is also known as an eloquent preacher. The first volume of sermons was arranged in a chronological order from the years 1972 to 2009. This second volume is more organized according to the liturgical calendar and the lectionary. Recognized for his classic work, "The Prophetic Imagination," Brueggemann is sometimes referred to as "a prophetic voice in our time." Not only that, he moves listeners from theology to doxology, and inspires people to let the ancient text guide their contemporary living. Four types of "accents" guide Brueggemann. The first is trusting the text for what it says regardless of how we feel. Using the techniques of biblical criticism is not about saying nasty things about the text. It is about respecting the text for what it is saying and trying to understand the text as comprehensively as possible. Brueggemann does it in a manner that is God-centered, historically informed, culturally relevant, and most importantly, faithful to the biblical contexts. Many sermons just touch the surface of the Old Testament texts and contexts, but Brueggemann's do not simply dip in. He plunges into the text like an experienced diver, coming up to the surface not with inexperienced gasps but with steady pacing of analysis and application. The second accent is that of imagination which makes the ancient texts come alive. Calling preaching an art that comprises of "a process of layered imagination," that adds creativity to the preaching and encourages listeners to actively ponder upon the texts for opportunities to apply rather than a distant message without relevance for the presence. Such imagination gives Brueggemann the freedom to wander from the Old Testament to the New Testament, from the Early Church to the contemporary Church, and from the biblical contexts to the spiritual implications of our age. The third accent is about offering an alternative to the present world we have. Like Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which the late John Stott had called "counter cultural," preaching in this third sense is counter to what the world believes in. Lest we continue in worldliness and unbiblical ways, preaching must maintain a call for believers to wake up from any spiritual slumber toward an active faith that elevates Christ above all. The fourth accent is particularly important, for preaching is an "act of utterance and receptive listening" that respects God's rule whether we like it or now. It brings out the truth of the "already" but prepares the hearts of listeners for the "not yet." His sermon on the "antiphon" is an example of how he connects the two together with ease and eloquence, like a musical response to the text.

How prophetic is Brueggemann's sermons? Remembering that contrary to what some people think about prophets being some kind of crystal ball experts that foretell the future, prophets in the Old Testament also do a lot of forthtelling. The latter is about pronouncement of what God had said about the present, to go forth and tell the same story of faith and need to come back to God. It means going forth to point out the ills of society. It means lamenting about the injustice, and also celebrating the good and beautiful. Brueggemann throws a punch at Bishop Spong who questioned the literal meaning of abundance of bread. He accuses both liberals and conservatives for painting themselves as victims for being so stubborn in their ways that they risk becoming "irrelevant" in our society. Instead of politicizing religion, he urges all to come back to an identity of faith and trust in God through compassion, awareness of our need for grace and mercy. He calls upon all to be concerned about the welfare of others instead of being engrossed in wealth matters. He even clarifies the meaning of prophesy and tongues, reminding us that the latter is not about uncontrollable blabbering but a conscious sense of self-control in whether to speak or not to speak in tongues. Righteousness is not about moralistic deeds but "acts of intervention" to ensure fairness, justice, and the overall well-being of any community. Torah in our hearts means an active faith in helping the poor, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged, and not some kind of a moralistic activity that puffs up our heads. He criticizes the world, in particular Christians who have been too caught up with notions of what is a "successful person" and forgot all about the call to be a "righteous" and humble person in Christ.

The sermons are very readable. It should come across more powerfully when spoken over the pulpit. This collection of sermons will benefit those of us who have not had the privilege of Brueggemann coming to our pulpits. Well researched and well delivered, may the book also be well read as one ponders imaginatively about what the Bible speaks then and what it means to us today.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

Friday, June 12, 2015

"1, 2, 3 John" (Karen H. Jobes)

TITLE: 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
AUTHOR: Karen H. Jobes
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (368 pages).

This is the ninth volume in the "Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament" series (ZECNT) from Zondervan. The earlier versions cover the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the book of Acts, the Pauline epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the letter to James. What makes this series useful are the:
  • More extensive Greek exegesis which is particularly helpful for those who have studied Greek
  • Helpful main ideas with each pericope
  • Graphical layouts and tables
  • Contextual connections throughout
  • Exegeting and explanation of the texts
  • Application Ideas
Most unique of all is the reminder throughout that exegesis must come before interpretation. This makes the commentary a very helpful reminder in itself to avoid putting the cart of interpretation/application before the horse of understanding what the text says originally. In this volume, Karen H Jobes, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College helps us to exegete and understand the Greek texts and apply them to practical living. On the one hand, pastors and teachers would like to have a more in-depth treatment of the Bible. There are some commentaries that seem more ready to comment and talk rather than to wait and ponder over the meaning of the text, to let the text speak for itself.  This is no easy task. 

Thankfully, with Jobes's experience, expertise, and enthusiasm, we have this volume that looks at the three letters of John in a non-redactional way. It is less of the reading into the text and more of reading out of what the text is saying. She notes that the three letters need to be read in conjunction with the gospel of John. After listing the various existentialist and evangelical approaches, Jobes settles on an approach that lets the gospel of John and the letters inform each other. Rather than to limit the polemics in John to forms of Gnosticism or Christological heresies, Jobes prefer to expand it to a "variety of false beliefs." This allows one to have a broader picture of the challenges and the relevance of 1, 2, 3 John today.

The epistles of John are particularly important because it stresses the importance of knowing God. Jesus is relevant today as well as tomorrow. In Jesus, we have a cornerstone that will stand the test of time. In a world of conflicting ideologies and pluralistic philosophies, the letters form a spiritual anchor for faith. There are major themes emphasized like our attitude toward sin, love as the glue of interpersonal relationships, and other non-polemical views like shepherding believers, and arguing for a correction to what faith in Jesus means. Jobes compares the gospel and the letters frequently, showing us of a common authorship as well as major themes that are repeated. Not only that, the letters project a certain circular or spiral movement, where themes are never forgotten as John moves from one point to another. It is not a step-wise flow of sequential thought but a series of repetition to ensure that readers get the key points. That makes outlining the letters quite a challenging one. The big idea is essentially knowing God via the Word incarnated; knowing God via symbols and metaphors; knowing what God delights and what God hates; knowing the interconnection between knowing and loving; knowing God in relationships; knowing God through right teachings; knowing God through the expression of love for one another; knowing God as God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Each carefully selected passage opens with a "Literary Context" that introduces the location and contexts of the text. It is then followed by a "Main Idea" to declare to the reader where the commentator is at. The "Translation" portion itself is worth the price of the book as Jobes diligently structures the texts according to literary patterns, chiastic arrangements, and key words. The Explanation of the Text offers lots of fodder for thought and analysis. Readers are encouraged to engage the author as much as possible by asking why certain Greek words in that passage were selected in the first place. Reading it reminds me of my Greek teacher who had helped me move the texts from exegesis to devotion. Other highlights include the "In Depth" boxes that offer supplementary material and the "Theology in Application" which is one of my favourites. This commentary is the best one I have found on the epistles of John. It has the scholarship depth and the theological faithfulness. It is readable and practical. I would strongly recommend this as the key commentary to use for any preaching and teaching of the epistles of John.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Nonviolent Action" (Ronald J. Sider)

TITLE: Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried
AUTHOR: Ronald J. Sider
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (208 pages).

Must the opposite of violence be a violent counter strike? Is war necessarily a tit-for-tat exchange of bullets and missiles? Can alternative methods like peaceful response be feasible, even possible in the first place? These questions are answered with pacifist conviction by renowned author and professor, Ron Sider, whose previous book, "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" had gripped the hearts of evangelicals many years ago. What that book had done to many Christians in terms of their wealth and giving responsibilities, this latest book will push the limits with regards to peaceful offerings and intentional "nonviolent action." Underlying any "just war" or "pacifist" theory is a philosophy of justification whether war is the key response in the first place. What about peace as the underlying action? For any entrance into war does not mean the consequences are limited on a military scale. There are other damages inflicted on all sides, morally financially, ethically, physically, mentally, and many more as the years go by. Soldiers who survived the wars may end up having scars for life. Unable to get back to the normal life, many become marginalized in society. Such effects must not be underestimated. Rather than to a backward thrust, like the consequences of war as a main justification, Sider in this book leads from the front. He issues a clarion call for all to use nonviolence as THE way forward. Our vocabulary for action must extend beyond war and weapons, violence and vehemence.

He begins with well-known examples of nonviolent actions through the centuries. During the time of Pharaoh, the Hebrew midwives responded to violence through civil disobedience, which saved the life of Moses. Pope Leo I responded to the vicious acts of Attila the Hun with a cross and a papal crown. In central America, peasants and common people overcame the violence of dictators through general strikes. India's Mahatma Gandhi led peaceful protests that rallied millions of citizens to do the same.  America's Martin Luther King Jr did the same with peaceful rallies against racism in the 50-60s. Philippines' "People Power" movement toppled the Marcos regime not with tanks but with people, not with violence but with peace. From America to Asia, Africa to Central America, Europe to the Middle East, examples abound with regards to the practice of nonviolent action that deserves to be taken more seriously. With stories after stories of how peaceful actions lead to the bloodless overthrow of regimes, changes of political forces, and new waves of hope, Sider consistently asserts that there is a better way instead of physical violence and military options. He proposes peacemaker teams that comprise representatives from all sectors. He admonishes the Christian public, especially the "just war" proponents for forgetting that war must always be a last resort. For peaceful actions are more successful than many had thought. Giving statistics and stories to back up his arguments for peace, the next step is to increase the common space for all to work with together. It there is ever to be a war, it must be a war against war.

Peace is a given. Christians are called to be peacemakers in the first place. In fact, the biggest tragedy for many policy makers is not to give peace a bigger piece of the pie. It is the lack of willingness to persevere in non-violent actions that has led to an ease in pushing the war option. Contrary to what some readers may think, Sider is not some hermit calling for people to retreat back into their caves. Rather, he is calling people to arm themselves with determination to fight, with the weapons of love, the passion for peace. He wants more Christians to fight fear with faith, war with peace, and hatred with love. For most of the decisions to go to war, the problem is not only in the decision, but the lack of will in pursuing the peace option. Negotiations can be very complicated. What about violent terrorists that refuse to listen to rationale arguments? What about fanatics who have abandoned reason altogether? What about the warped and wanton evil that are happening around the world that demand a strong response? Will peace be the answer for that?

Personally, I believe Sider's point is not perfect. For there will be cases that war and violence may be the only way to end wars, like the Atomic bomb that accelerated the end of WWII in the Asia Pacific. Ethical problems will continue to rear their heads with regards to some violence in order to bring about peace. While peace should be the primary "weapon" of choice, to abandon the military option would be foolhardy, in an increasingly dangerous and violent world. Like the case of a lion. Without teeth, the lion is easy prey for hyenas.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Brazos Press and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"For the Love of God's Word" (Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson)

TITLE: For the Love of God's Word: An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
AUTHOR: Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015, (448 pages)

Many Christians believe in the importance of studying the Word of God. They love and revere the Bible. They spend hours studying it and do devotions with it. They organize Bible studies to understand more about God. Sometimes, there is a danger of being too subjective by letting our own philosophies and feelings dominate what the biblical texts say and mean. What are the interpretive principles behind understanding and applying the Word of God?

This is an abridged version of an earlier book entitled, "Introduction to Biblical Interpretation." In a nutshell, the authors had earlier proposed a hermeneutical triad that comprises of historical contexts, literary genres, and theological implications (I call it HLT) in their nearly 900 pages length original. This edition is not only simplified but the contents reduced by 50% in order to cater for a less academic audience. From exegetical examples to bibliographical listing, advanced material to technical content, the authors are hoping that the book will benefit more lay readers and general audiences, especially the more eager learner of interpretive methods. With clear outlines and suggestions for learning, each chapter is refreshed to be more reader friendly and easier to reference. At the same time, all biblical interpreters are charged with this one single task: Interpret the sacred text with reverence and accuracy.

I like the way the authors begin with the need for humility. This is so important as having knowledge can puff up rather than edify the body. It means learning as being equipped to do good work. It means listening to the text and sharpening our spiritual perception. It also means that we are changed from the inside out. The Hermeneutical Triad is the author's way of helping us submit humbly to God by being respectful of the historical contexts; being sensitive to the literary genres, and being actively engaged with the theological implications of whatever passages we are studying. Each chapter comprises key guidelines for interpretation, key words to notice, and assignments to put what we read into practice. The entry outline helps readers to keep track of where they are going in this abridged but still sizeable volume. I like the simplified description and the brevity of each section. The supporting tables and illustrations drive home the pointers the authors try to make. I appreciate the conclusions accompanying each chapter because it is good pedagogy to summarize and to repeat important points. Overall, this follows the general teaching paradigm:
  • First, I tell you what I am going to say
  • Second, I say it.
  • Third, I summarize what I have said. 
There are less distractions and more focus on putting the HLT interpretive model to practice. This helps any student, layperson, reader, or Bible study leader tremendously in putting limited efforts into maximum effect. For seminarians, professors, preachers, and teachers, this edition is a good introduction for a general audience, but needs to be used in conjunction with the original unabridged version for maximum benefit. That said, the usefulness of this book should not be underestimated. For the HLT interpretive model is a very practical one and should appeal to a wide array of Bible study enthusiasts. One more thing. I love the title. For it is the very reason why we study the Bible and learn from books about Bible interpretation in the first place.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


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

Monday, June 8, 2015

"The End of Me" (Kyle Idleman)

TITLE: The End of Me: Where Your Real Life in Jesus Begins
AUTHOR: Kyle Idleman
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2015, (208 pages).

One of the most profound mysteries of Christianity, often manifested in the words of John Newton's Amazing Grace, is "I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see." In this very gentle and pastorally sensitive book, Kyle Idleman, Teaching Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, tells us upfront that for Christ to reign in us, we must decrease. We must put an end to individual wants in favour of God's desires. When we declare the end of self, it marks the beginning of Christ's work in us. "Jesus became real when I came to the end of me." This is the single idea that reverberates throughout the whole book. Real life begins when our sinful nature ends. The first four chapters deal with what it means to pronounce the "end of me." The next five chapters build upon this as the beginning of the real me.

Part One is based on the first four beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5. He reflects on the poor and marginalized in society, and how a poor community in Paraguay was able to organize an orchestra with recycled and unwanted products. Contrasting a wealthy society with a poor, when Jesus talks about "Blessed are the Poor," it is only when we have nothing more that we can offer of ourselves that we start leaning not on ourselves but on the promises of God.  In "Blessed are they who mourn," the author looks at the way we are so attached to things that the moment we lose them, we mourn and grieve. How can one be happy when one mourns? Is it not cruel or insensitive? The way to understand this beatitude is that, we are most happy when things shrouded in human wisdom come to an end. For Idleman, "mourning is true and focused grief." It is a beginning of true personhood. In "Blessed are the meek," we are reminded about humility and the danger of behaving like the Pharisees during Jesus' days. Are we performing on the basis of one's pride or are we serving humbly regardless of results. "Blessed are the Pure in Heart" is a call for us to be authentic. It is about sincerity that comes out of a pure heart, not full of ourselves but pure in heart.   The author makes a keen observation on social media as well, saying that there is a tendency to show off in social media, to be more concerned about what other people think instead of being our true selves. With purity in heart, with hypocrisy away, we are ready to begin a real life in Christ.

Part Two touches on being strong, smart, and talented, not in our own wisdom or strength, but in God's wisdom and strength. We are most real about ourselves when Christ is most present in our hearts. The chapters are laid out in a series of contrasts. The first contrast is to be empty in order to be filled. With reference to the narrative in 2 Kings 4, we learn about how empty jars can be fully filled. Losing something may not be all bad, for it prepares one to be ready to receive new things. We contrast the nature of spiritual poverty versus physical poverty. We note how the busyness of life prevents us from noticing the beauty of ordinary time. We need to be full of the Spirit rather than full of ourselves. The second contrast is that helplessness is an opportunity for empowerment. Like people more willing to help a person who are out of sorts. There is no pride but humility. Acknowledging our weaknesses is a good start to getting help. The third contrast is about qualification and being chosen. If we were to apply to be a disciple of Jesus, would our educational qualifications and work experiences matter? Or is Jesus looking more for the humble and the teachable? The third contrast is weakness that we may exhibit God's strength. Common weaknesses include pride, insecurity, and self-righteousness. A notable cultural phenomenon is that there are bestsellers that talk about "success" and "strengths" but few talk about failures and  weaknesses. When we submit them before God, we let God turn them upside down into right-side up. Finally, Idleman helps readers to understand what it means to deny ourselves.

In a sense, there are two beginnings in this book. The first part is about beginning to put an end to self-efforts and self-oriented lifestyles. The second part is the beginning of putting Christ as Lord over all. Written in a very accessible manner, Idleman's clear thinking and examples cut away any theological jargon to enable one to focus on what it means to die to self, to take up our cross, and to follow after Jesus. How we begin is important. It is to let ourselves decrease while God increase in us. It is a call for us to embark upon a life in Christ without us being a drag to ourselves. If we truly love God and claim to follow after Jesus, this book is a laser beam that can burn away the cancerous cells of self, so that our true persons can grow and flourish in Christ.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"40 Days in the Man Cave" (Todd Stahl)

TITLE: 40 Days in the Man Cave: Men's Devotional
AUTHOR: Todd Stahl
PUBLISHER: Winnipeg, MB: Word Alive Press, 2015, (96 pages).

Too busy? Spaced Out? No time for any leisure? Wanting to find a place to chill out but can't? If you belong to that category of men who are constantly on the run but unable to find a place to rest, this book may very well be a safety float for people drowning in an ocean of responsibilities and anxieties. Using the popular 40-days method to inculcate focus and intentional doing of the same discipline, Todd Stahl has written this devotional for men to experience what Jesus had experienced during his quiet time with God. For Jesus, time with God means time alone in a quiet secluded place away from people. For Stahl, it is a metaphorical mancave where one can squirrel away from the world into a place to refresh, to recharge, and to be renewed from the inside out. It is not just an escape from the world. It is a retreat in order to have a more meaningful and purposeful work out there. With forty brief devotions based on a biblical verse, Stahl helps readers to refocus their minds on God's Word. He shares simple examples on the day to day problems in this world and how we need to learn to exchange doubt with faith, uncertainty with assurance, irritation with patience, enslavement with the past to liberation for the future.

There is encouragement in the pages of this book geared particularly to men in positions of leadership. Stepping back to a mancave is not some cowardly act, but a sensible breather in order to catch a fresh perspective of the whole situation. With God's Word as a guide, the encouragement is always God-centered but human-sensitive. Toward the end of each chapter, there are a few biblical verses for further reflection. It is tempting for one to simply skip this, which is why I suspect the main devotional is intentionally kept brief. A devotional should not be too lengthy or theologically heavy. It needs to be simple and to inspire one to pray and to seek God more. At the end of the 40 days, it is hoped that the reader would have cultivated a regular time-out and to be more independently assured to do his own devotion, hopefully with regular reading of the Bible.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Word Alive Press and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Searching for Sunday" (Rachel Held Evans)

TITLE: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
AUTHOR: Rachel Held Evans
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (270 pages).

Faith is never static. It needs to be nuanced accordingly as what the Spirit is leading us to, not according to subjective contexts. More importantly, it cannot depart from the biblical text otherwise it is not rooted on solid ground.  Standing in the gap of heaven and earth, we often aspire to heavenly goodness while at the same time, perspire in our earthly land. Trying to make sense of faith while on earth is a journey. Some of us brush it aside as there are more "important" things to do, like putting food on the table. Others treat it so rigidly that not going to church appears like a sign of backsliding.  Popular blogger and speaker, Rachel Held Evans tries to describe her own spiritual journey in such a way as to reflect the genuine desire to search for God. In this book, "Searching for Sunday" is less about the "club" we are seeking to belong in, but a kind of "current" that mirrors a search for a "Sunday resurrection." Using the seven sacraments universally accepted by various church traditions, Evans tries to express sacramental truths rather than mere sacraments or sacramentalism.

  1. Baptism - Church telling us how we are beloved
  2. Confessions - Church telling us how we are broken
  3. Holy Orders - Church telling us we are commissioned
  4. Communion - Church feeds us
  5. Confirmation - Church welcomes us
  6. Anointing of the Sick - Church anoints us
  7. Marriage - How the Church unites us.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"It's Not Who You Know. It's Who You Are" (Pat Williams)

TITLE: It's Not Who You Know, It's Who You Are: Life Lessons from Winners
AUTHOR: Pat Williams
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2015, (224 pages)

For sports fans, especially NBA basketball fans, the name Pat Williams will be very familiar. He is most known for helping the Philadelphia 76ers win the NBA in 1983 as well as the creation of Orlando Magic basketball team. With his stature and fame, he has become a motivational speaker with both corporate audiences as well as charity events. Recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame,  he is also a published author focusing on leadership and motivation. This book is one of his many books that talk about his own encounters and learning from famous people he had met. There are more than 150 personalities in the book from all walks of life. In sports, he writes about his learning from fellow NBA coaches as well as superstars like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. He also pays attention to the little positive things people do, like the little things Victor Oladipo did when he was not playing. He shares about the powerful corporate bigwigs like Sam Walton of Walmart, Walt Disney, Michael Eisner, Howard Schultz, and many more. There are politicians like John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, evangelists such as Billy Graham, singers like Sandi Patti, Barry Manilow, and Amy Grant. Hollywood stars and TV personalities like Oprah Winfrey, Louis Armstrong, and other motivational speakers and authors such as John Maxwell,  evangelicals like Warren Wiersbe, James Dobson, and Bill Bright. The list is long and reads like a Who's Who of friends and acquaintances of the author.

Williams calls it "life lessons from winners." About 1-3 pages are allocated for each person which keeps the description brief and to the point. Most of the stories are observations from the author's first person perspective or thoughts triggered by some quotable phrases. Not much context is given to why individuals had said what they said.  It is more like the author trying to take positive lessons from each encounter. There are many stories about passion where Williams urges readers to go with their guts to let the passions move them to accomplish what they really want. Very often, the summary of the lesson is captured by the title. Some of the notable ones are:
  • Keep doing what you love
  • Committed to Excellence
  • A Leader Takes Bold Stands
  • I'd Rather Live the Adventure
  • Leadership is Service to Others
  • Take Care of your Troops
  • ...
If you are a sports fan and want to learn life lessons from the sports personalities, this book is a no-brainer. If you love stories, there are many from different highly regarded personalities. If you want something short and to the point, this book fits the bill. Easy to read, but a little too brief for some, those who do not have time to read a thick book will surely find some gems here with whatever limited time they have.

Rating: 3.5 stars of 5.


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

Monday, June 1, 2015

"A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible" (Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis)

TITLE: A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible: Learning to Read Scripture's Story
AUTHOR: Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (176 pages).

The Bible has 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. Spanning many centuries over different eras, the Bible has been the base of religious faith for three major monotheistic religions. Is it really possible to summarize the voluminous Bible into one compact guide? Just the thought of it will be challenging already. With so many different genres and rich teachings within, anyone attempting to squeeze the Bible into one book will be looking at an impossible task. Some compromises have to be made. For editors Wall and Nienhuis, the purpose is to present an introduction so that their students can be introduced to what Bible reading entails. The method is to adopt the storytelling approach by considering large chunks of the Bible at one go. There are altogether ten contributors to this volume, all of them from Seattle Pacific University. The big chunks are:
  • Beginning (Genesis - Deuteronomy)
  • Israel (Joshua - Esther)
  • Poetry (Job - Song of Songs)
  • Prophetic Witnesses (Isaiah - Malachi)
  • Between the Testaments
  • The Four Gospels (Matthew - John)
  • The Church (Acts and Letters)
  • Conclusion (Revelation)