About This Blog

Monday, February 29, 2016

"Effective Generational Ministry" (Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg)

TITLE: Effective Generational Ministry: Biblical and Practical Insights for Transforming Church Communities
AUTHOR: Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (282 pages).

How do you build community among the three largest generations in this day and age? What are the cultural and generational differences among them? How do we navigate the complexities and varying expectations across the different generations? To what extent do we allow cultural contexts influence our ministry in churches? In the words of the authors, how can we do effective generational ministry? In a book that strings together various ideas from sociological, spiritual, anthropological, ecclesiological, and other fields of study, Sbanotto and Blomberg have put together years of research and experience to give three key generations some understanding of themselves and of one another. First off, they define the three groups as follows:
  1. Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1964
  2. Generation Xers: Born 1965 - 1981
  3. Millennials: Born 1982 - 2001

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"The Radical Pursuit of Rest" (John Koessler)

TITLE: The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap
AUTHOR: John Koessler
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, (176 pages).

Is the title of this book an oxymoron? How can an active pursuit in itself be restful in the first place? It's like mixing a bottle of restlessness into a bowl called rest. Which will prevail? According to the author, this book about the "radical pursuit" is not so much about activities and techniques but the meaning of rest is "radical" in itself. In other words, to the perennially busy and constantly preoccupied individual, arriving at the restful disposition is already a radical position in itself. For our day and age, it most certainly require us to be "radical" in our pursuit of rest simply because we have lost the art of rest. The author uses nine chapters to explore the range of rest and restlessness. Beginning with faith, he notices how even the Sunday church services are nowhere near the rest that worship requires. Stuck in the hamster wheel of seeking success, Christian activities are full of advice giving, non-stop working, and wearing soldiering ahead just to do religious stuff. Rest needs to be found and the path to reach that state is not through work but divine rest. The way forward is to depend on the one who knows how best to rest: God. God rests because it is the rest of completion and contentment over the day's work. Remember how God says each day is "good?" Rest is a place where God is present. Rest is dependent not on what we have or not done, but completely on what Christ had done at the cross. Probing the notion of Sundays as that supposedly "day of rest," Koessler laments at the lack of uniformity in the practice of the Lord's Day. Far too often, it has been filled with all kinds of activities. Obviously, with the lack of practicing rest on a Sunday, no wonder the rest of the week is packed with lots of restlessness.

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Next Up" (Jonathan Pearson)

TITLE: Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make
AUTHOR: Jonathan Pearson
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (128 pages).

The next generation will rise up faster than most of us can imagine. Young leaders are the future of every society and every nation. With that in mind, it is most necessary to empower them as soon as possible. The path to great leadership must start now. For author and pastor at the Orangeburg campus of Cornerstone Community Church, Jonathan Pearson, part of his desire to make this world a better place before he leaves this earth is translated into eight great shifts in perspectives. While written for the younger leaders in mind, the concepts and ideas proposed can be shared across generations. This is because everybody experience general shifts. The specifics may differ but the need for change is the same. Adaptation is key to survival. The eight shifts are:
  1. From Entitlement to Honor
  2. From Unreliable to Consistent
  3. From Dissension to Cooperation
  4. From Conformity to Integrity
  5. From Pride to Humility
  6. From Passive to Passionate
  7. From Selfishness to Love
  8. From Premature to Patient

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Evangelical Ethics" (John Jefferson Davis)

TITLE: Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, Fourth Edition
AUTHOR: John Jefferson Davis
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, NJ: P and R Publishing, 2015, (400 pages).

We are living in precarious times. As technology advances everywhere, the moral frameworks for decision making continues to keep up. What good is science and technology if they fail to address the holistic benefits of human beings? What good is a piece of technology if it is used to harm others? How can Christians formulate their decision making in the light of modern technological advancements? While there is a general sense of pros and cons for everything, brainstorming does not equal decision making. We need guidance far more than ever. Some of the brightest kids in science and technology are young and inexperienced. Some of the oldest and most experienced people lack the innovation and vitality that the younger generation possess. The question before us is: How do we make sense of the moral decision making in the light of these advancements? For Christians, we need a framework to help us think through the issues wisely and biblically. Yet, even Christians disagree on how to interpret biblical principles for modern issues. Enter this book on "evangelical ethics" which paves the way for evangelicals to think in a tradition they hold. Some of the decision making parameters include:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"A Different Kind of Fast" (Alicia Britt Chole)

TITLE: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.
AUTHOR: Alicia Britt Chole
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2015, (272 pages).

This is a book of Lenten reflections. Instead of a cold turkey fast of some sort, there is a gradual "decrease" of sorts. Writing from a position of illness and weakness, author Alicia Britt Chole shows us a different kind of fasting, one that demonstrates a slow but sure approach to purifying our hearts. Here, we are urged to set aside 30 minutes to an hour daily so that we can prepare our hearts for an intentional fast from something. Each day, readers are introduced to a particular kind of fast, all for the common goal of softening our heart to be open to the moving of God. We learn that fasting is less about refraining from something and more about surrendering to God. The destination of fasting is not checking off items on our to-do list but that of love. It is not some kind of self-inflicted punishment but  an encouragement of forgiveness. It is about self-awareness that we are already small compared to a big God, and that through praise, we enter into the presence of God in awe and wonder. We learn about the use of light and how unplugging ourselves from modern conveniences ushers us into a more natural pace of life. We appreciate the messiness of faith and not be so worked up over the need to keep our faith tidy and neat. We fast from rushing past sorrow, a legitimate human emotion. We fast from rationalism, isolation, stinginess, and spectatorship. By noticing ordinary things that we can fast from, we are made more aware of the many things we have taken for granted, and to be thankful for what we have and NOT have. In relationships, we fast from criticism and judgmentalism. There is a comprehensiveness that I have not seen before in Lenten devotionals.

Chole is very perceptive and it takes one to know what to fast from. Perhaps, the author's struggle with illness has sharpened her ability to notice the little things in life, both visible and invisible. Each day, there is a Scripture passage, followed by a thoughtful description about a particular aspect of life. A "Reflection" ensues which is then followed by what we can fast for the day. Each day concludes with an opportunity to worship and to praise God.  For a small book of devotions, there is a respectable amount of citations and shared resources.

The author is founding director of Leadership Investment Intensives Inc, a non-profit organization devoted to soul-care to leaders in both the marketplace as well as churches. The multiple endorsements at the beginning of the book should give readers an idea of how revered and respected the author is. The interesting thing about the kind of decrease that Chole advocates is this: There is a strong sense of "Less is more" that as we seek to fast from some aspect of life, strangely, we find that we gain a new perspective, a renewed understanding of God, and a fresh appreciation of the things we have and not have. This is certainly a unique book. Every page oozes wisdom and spiritual guidance. It is a kind of fasting that leaves us not empty but filled. Each day, the author shows us something that we can fast from. It is altogether very manageable but also probes deeply into the things that can so easily entangle us. You would do well to use this book to supplement your Lent.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

Monday, February 22, 2016

"A Joy-Filled Life" (Mo Anderson)

TITLE: A Joy-Filled Life: Lessons from a Tenant Farmer's Daughter...Who Became a CEO
AUTHOR: Mo Anderson
PUBLISHER: Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016, (275 pages).

Rags-to-riches stories are always fascinating ones because they provide hope. If it can happen to them, the possibility for us exist too. Weaving in a lot of her own life's experiences, the author writes honestly about her flight from poverty to her becoming a CEO of Keller Williams Realty in 1995. She is still serving in the company even to this day. Born Imozelle Freda Gregg in 1937, her name "Mo" stuck on since her first day in college. In a book that describes her journey of faith and life's learning lessons, Mo reflects back on her life with gratitude. In spite of the dark times at various aspects of her life, she shares of precious lessons from her family, her friends, and her faith.

From her family, Mo learns the importance of thrift, humility, and hard work. This sets the foundation of her life as she reflects on her family history, her own memories, and cherishing her parents. Her father taught her about the importance of dreams, something that she put into action by dreaming about three things: Marriage, Music, and a house. By daring to dream, she attained the three dreams with passion and purpose. It was her dreams that enabled her to press on despite various setbacks. With the support of her husband, she found her own voice as she sharpens her leadership skills and entrepreneurial abilities. She learns from friends who urge her to do the right thing. One touching moment was her sharing of a competitor named Lillie Mae Tillman, whose uprightness and integrity made Mo wanting to pay it forward. Her faith also grew as she participates in various conferences such as the Ligonier events.

The twenty chapters follow a similar format. First, there is a title that sums up the lesson and a key quotation. Second, she tells her story to give readers the context. Third, she expands on the lessons learned and ends with a "Mo-mentum Builders" that are bullet points for readers to take away. Each chapter can be read on its own. One of the things I appreciate in this book is the gracious acknowledgements of the many people who had helped Mo succeed directly or indirectly. It could be her father's encouragement, her mother's faithfulness, Ravi Zacharias's powerful exhortations, or key learnings from her business and social circles. All in all, relationships matter. The ability to reflect back on previous events and learning from them is also invaluable. There is much honesty in this book which would give readers a certain motivation to try and emulate what Mo had done. For me, that should not be the primary goal. There are three things I would take away from the reading of this book.

First, relationships undergird the entire learning process. As the saying goes, no man is an island. Mo had the privilege of working with many different people. She did not succeed on her own. She needed others to guide her, to give her a warm piece of advice, and the encouragement when she most needed.

Second, there is a relentless passion to persevere. While some readers may fast-forward to the highlights of the book, I would urge such readers to take time to sit with Mo through the low periods of her life. Things in life seldom come with a silver spoon. Risks are needed. Getting out of the comfort zone is often necessary. No pain no gain, so goes the saying.

Third, do not underestimate faith. Mo has a faith that empowered her to do many things. Faith is not about believing without doing anything. It is about belief that builds trust even as we are working out our various responsibilities.

This is one of the best books on clear and honest leadership. It is indeed a "Joy-Filled Life" that emanates through the pages of a well-reflected life.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Midnight Jesus" (Jamie Blaine)

TITLE: Midnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide . . .
AUTHOR: Jamie Blaine
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (298 pages).

What do you get when you put a licensed psychotherapist, a crisis interventionist, and a creative believer together? The long answer is lots of stories. The short answer is this book: "Midnight Jesus." With wit and humor, boldness and honesty, author Jamie Blaine tells it as it is, that we live in a broken world. The trouble is, the establishment have largely failed to recognize how broken it is. We are too comfortable with clean-cut faith or comfortably-dressed Christianity. Many prefer to do evangelism on their own terms rather than going to the rough places where people dwell in. Defying convention, Blaine tells of his personal encounters with people of all kinds in mental hospitals, megachurches, miscellaneous joints, and messy situations in which grace is allowed to fill the broken hearts. Even when he feels inadequate or unprepared for what is to come, his desire to want to listen to people keeps his adrenaline pumping. His honest curiosity helps people to lower their guard. Sometimes, he encounters cynics and disgruntled people but he keeps at it in good faith, not because of who he is but because of the grace of God.

He learn about dealing with alcoholics where the common wisdom is to include buying them some alcohol when they have withdrawal symptoms. He meets lots of people who are bipolar, schizophrenic, manic-depressive, sexually and drug addicted, and so on, even trying to bring some of them to church. He tells several stories of his time with the megachurches, and his meetings with various preachers. One such meeting was a preacher who showed up at the psych ward, drunk and desperate. It made him ponder about the kinds of people God sent Jesus to die for. He reflects on how Jesus' first disciples are not exactly the cream of the crop. He got hired by a megachurch to work in the crisis counseling department where his main task was to listen and not judge. There was even a time where he was jailed for creating a ruckus to blow off steam and stress.

The author is multi-talented and has worked in different environments that few people dared to venture into. Not only is he a licensed psychotherapist, he is also an avid skater and creative writer, having contributed articles for Salon, OnFaith, and so on. He is also a music enthusiast, writing for publications like Bass Guitar, Drummer UK, and Ultimate Classic Rock.

This is a unique book of stories from unique places. The situations described range from bizarre meetings to hilarious moments. The common theme is a listener who is interested to let people be who they are without the need for pretense. I read this book wrapped with marvel and curiosity because Blaine is doing something that very few Christians dared to even think about doing. Far too often, I've heard Christians talk about helping the poor, the marginalized, the down, and the almost out. In this book, I see it all put into action. In fact, the stories are already testimonies of how Blaine shines for Jesus as a listening ear rather than a judgmental finger. This is something Christians need to do more and more. Perhaps, the one best thing we can learn from the experiences of Blaine is this: Be a better and more honest listener.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Spiritual Companioning" (Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, & Marcus G. Smucker)

TITLE: Spiritual Companioning: A Guide to Protestant Theology and Practice
AUTHOR: Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, & Marcus G. Smucker
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (186 pages).

Every believer wants to grow but not all of them know how. While Church attendance is important, going to Church alone does not necessarily make one a growing Christian. We all need spiritual growth. We need to make disciples and obey the commandments of God. According to the authors, we need spiritual direction. As many of the resources available out there are of Roman Catholic origin, this book offers spiritual direction from a Protestant orientation, that draws from the riches of tradition and evangelical spirituality. In this book, spiritual companioning means "a way of accompanying others in intentional relationships of prayerful reflection and conversation that help them notice God's presence and calling in their personal lives, local communities, and the world."

Like any good scholar, the authors give us a working definition of terms that can be commonly misunderstood or used too interchangeably. Terms such as:
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Spiritual Guidance
  • Spiritual Direction
  • Spiritual Friendship
  • Spiritual Practice

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Discipleship That Fits" (Bobby William Harrington and Alex Absalom)

TITLE: Discipleship That Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow
AUTHOR: Bobby William Harrington and Alex Absalom
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (240 pages).

When buying clothes, we look for those that fit the wearers. When hiring people, we usually talk about whether we get the right person for the right job. Even in churches that are hiring staff, we are passionate about finding the right fit. In a world of increasing personalization and customization, the idea of fit matches very well with modern society. Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom have extended the idea of 'fit' to discipleship. They are convinced that the primary command of the Great Commission is to make disciples. Without discipleship, churches risk getting converts without depth, believers without passion, and people without purpose. For Harrington, discipleship is about the process of turning believers into followers of Jesus in every way. For Absalom, a disciple is an "intentional learner from Jesus." The authors highlight the presence of three common sets of behaviour in churches. The "bounded set" is about churches that tend to focus on the boundary to determine who is in and who is out. Such a set tends to be too discriminative and fails to build community with people different from us. The "fuzzy set" type runs to the other extreme where there are no distinctions, leading to a confused state. The "centered set" has all persons in the community united in one goal.

The two key questions for discipleship are:

1) What is Jesus saying?
2) What am I doing in response?

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Frequency" (Robert Morris)

TITLE: Frequency: Tune In. Hear God.
AUTHOR: Robert Morris
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2016, (240 pages).

This book is essentially about hearing God. We live in a busy world, full of activities and all kinds of attractions. In a technological world, many of us are easily distracted by beeps on the phone; random postings on social media; prompts on the emails; and moving images on the computer. Even the very sight of the latest digital gizmos would make us momentarily move away from our actual work. As people burn through schedules and deadlines, invariably, sooner or later, they would ask questions like: "What is it all for? Why am I doing what I am doing? What is the purpose of my life? Where is God? Am I out of sync with the leading of the Holy Spirit?" The key to knowing God and hearing God's voice is not some syllabi, model answers, or

Questions about calling, discernment, spiritual clarity, and purpose are all too commonly asked. However, answers are not so forthcoming. The reason is because answers from God are not delivered on a silver platter of self-generated templates but learned through the gradual development of a relationship between God and us. In this book, Robert Morris shows us that if we want to know ourselves better, we need to know God. We need to take time and intentionality to get to know God as a Person. We can hear God through Scripture. We can also hear God through the Holy Spirit. Both will never contradict one another. Following this, we are reminded of the beauty of being sheep, that hearing God is not distant or difficult. In fact, it is part of being God's children where we would easily recognize God's voice. As His sheep, we would instantly recognize God's voice. It all lies in that personal relationship with God. It is about our identity in God. It is that total awareness that we are all like sheep needing a Shepherd. Based on John 10, Morris shares:
  1. We have an innate ability to hear God
  2. Our ability to hear God is learned
  3. We can mature in our ability to hear God

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Preaching the Whole Counsel of God" (Julius J. Kim)

TITLE: Preaching the Whole Counsel of God: Design and Deliver Gospel-Centered Sermons
AUTHOR: Julius J. Kim
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (240 pages).

There are lots of preaching going on every week everywhere. Due to the many different theories and philosophies surrounding the ministry of preaching, very often, it is not easy to distinguish what is true preaching of the whole counsel of God. Some expound the Bible well but fail to connect with contemporary relevance. Others connect so well that they fail to emphasize the relevance of the gospel to life. Some believe that content is everything while others insist on the method of delivery. Not only that, preaching is also about the audience. Do we preach until it hurts or do we maintain a level of feel-good healing posture? This book is important for the simple fact that good preaching means reestablishing a renewed confidence in the Word of God for all of life. The basic question in this book is this: What constitutes the whole counsel of God?

As far as author Julius Kim is concerned, there are four parts to this. Preaching must begin with the author's discovery of the truth; progressing to discerning the truth; designing the message; and finally delivering the text.
  1. The herald must discover the truth of the text according to the human author.
  2. The herald must discern Christ in the text according to the Divine Author.
  3. The herald must design a sermon that is true, good, and beautiful.
  4. The herald must deliver the sermon for attention, retention, integration, and transformation.

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?