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Friday, April 21, 2017

"This Changes Everything" (Jaquelle Crowe)

TITLE: This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years
AUTHOR: Jaquelle Crowe
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2017, (160 pages).

Very often, people would think that only bearded individuals with white hair are the authors who could come up with wise words and reliable reading. We might presume that only adults are qualified to talk about adult matters. For things of theology and Christian living, we might even reserve the domain for scholars, theologians, great preachers, or popular pastors. This is one reason why this book defies such old paradigms. Written by a gifted 19 year old girl who simply has this pure love for Jesus, this personal journal of Jaquelle Crowe makes it a refreshing contribution to the way God can work through all individuals, including teenagers. Writing with herself and the teen in mind, she focuses on eight core themes with regard to how the gospel can transform the teen years. In Identity, she reflects on the Apostle Paul's life changing transformation in which he treasures Christ; devalues everything else; having faith in Christ alone; knowing Jesus; willing to suffer for Him; and becoming like Jesus. The gospel changes her life through this identity in Christ. Live for Jesus. On Story, Crowe begins with a description of her first movie, starring herself! Gradually, she confesses that it is only significant when she sees it being connected to the larger story.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"The Arts and the Christian Imagination" (Clyde S. Kilby)

TITLE: The Arts and the Christian Imagination: Essays on Art, Literature, and Aesthetics (Mount Tabor Books)
AUTHOR: Clyde S. Kilby
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016, (336 pages).

Throughout history, the integration of art, literature, philosophy, and theology is still a fascinating work in progress. As the saying goes, "A picture speaks a thousand words," what about imagination? What about letting a work of art express a thought that can be nuanced better with a picture, a diagram, or an image? A good piece of writing can heighten interest. A good piece of art can certainly move beyond words. Call it vision or imagination. It takes more than words or spoken language to capture the beauty of creation. As Helen Keller once wrote: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." I believe art and imagination could orientate us in that direction. With Clyde's work and accomplishments as the focus, this book has been published by Marion E. Wade Center to introduce to us the thoughts and convictions behind the late Clyde Kilby. The writings are from Kilby, combed from both previously published and unpublished works. Each introduction has been made by those familiar with Clyde's thinking and writing. This book is the first of two that looks at art from a historical and cultural context. The second volume focuses more on Clyde's interactions with the works of CS Lewis and JRRR Tolkien, entitled: "A Well of Wonder: Essays on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings." All the introductions are written by William Dyrness. Keith Call does the heavy lifting of collecting and organizing the materials. These series of articles probes many issues. Here is a sample of some:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Welcome to College" (Jonathan Morrow)

TITLE: Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey
AUTHOR: Jonathan Morrow
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publishers, 2017, (416 pages).

Entering college for the first time is probably one of the most exciting time for young people. It could also be one of the most challenging and stressful periods. For Christians, there is another challenge: How to keep, let alone grow one's faith? The college environment is a place where many worldviews clash in a climate where there are more questions than answers. If untested, the unsuspecting believer might be unprepared for the onslaught of perspectives that threaten to derail their beliefs. What if there is a guide to help college bound kids prepare themselves? This is where this book comes in. There is no need to fear the challenges that are to come. Even in the midst of the many intellectual assaults, adequately trained believers would not just survive but thrive in the hostile filled secular environments. The author gives three initial pieces of wisdom to kickstart the discussion:
  1. We are not alone
  2. With freedom comes responsibility
  3. Don't take ourselves too seriously

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"This is Our Time" (Trevin Wax)

TITLE: This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel
AUTHOR: Trevin Wax
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2017, (240 pages).

One of the most common questions asked by Church-goers is about how they can live out their Christian witness in the world. How can they engage culture? How can they convey Christian hope to the world? What can they do about the modern challenges that culture presents? Answer: Now.

Now means seeing challenges as springboards of opportunities to let the gospel be the difference. It means knowing the difference between the gospel story and the world stories. It means recognizing our heart's deepest longing for truth. It means telling the difference between the lie and the light. Even as we do that, we need to be careful of two extremes. The first is the over-zealous 'lie-detector Christians' who focus all their energies on exposing lies and forgetting about the longing in the hearts of people. The second is the 'complimentary Christians' who simply play nice without appropriate confrontation against falsehood. Trevin Wax aims for the middle ground and shows us with eight examples on how to avoid being judgmental and too liberal.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Grace is Greater" (Kyle Idleman)

TITLE: Grace Is Greater: God's Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story
AUTHOR: Kyle Idleman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (193 pages).

Like the word 'love,' 'grace' has also become a much touted word in the Christian community. If familiarity breeds contempt, overuse breeds apathy, even sarcasm. As I pick up this book, I wonder what else is there to talk about grace? Are there things still left unsaid? Philip Yancey has famously described grace as follows: "Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less." Jonathan Edwards declares: "Grace is but Glory begun, and Glory is but Grace perfected." The famous hymn writer, John Newton puts it beautifully: "I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am." So what can author and pastor Kyle Idleman add to the overwhelming topic of grace? He begins by challenging us to see it as a new word. Using Hebrews 12:15 as the anchor verse, Idleman declares that the lack of grace is spiritually poisonous. Not practicing grace is toxicity in action. Yet when we adopt a life of grace, the rewards are immense. The three key focuses in this book is that grace is greater than our mistakes; our hurts; and our circumstances.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Meet Generation Z" (James Emery White)

TITLE: Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World
AUTHOR: James Emery White
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (224 pages).

We have heard of the various terms to describe the various generations. The Baby Boomers are those born between the years 1940s-1960s; the Generation X (born in the 70s-80s); and Millennials (born in the 80s-90s). Generation Z are the newest and youngest group, which is the focus of the latest book from prolific writer and pastor, James Emery White. He calls this generation the "First truly post-Christian Generation." They will make up to 25% of the entire US population and will play a major role in shaping the culture that is to come. This book focuses on what this generation is, its origins, its characteristics, and the need for the Church to re-think her approaches to engaging and interacting with this rising generation. This generation comprises a rising number of formerly churched people, aka, post-Christian. The key thesis of this book is that we need to understand the upcoming culture and its trend in order to reach them meaningfully. It is meant to complement White's two earlier books, Serious Times and The Rise of the Nones. The former is a wake-up call to the Church to rethink more seriously its approaches to an increasingly pluralistic, secular, privatized, relativistic, hedonistic, and narcissistic culture. The latter focuses more on the post-Christians group of people. This book continues the path of helping Church think more effectively about reaching this post-Christian culture and people. White describes some of the signs of this 'seventh age.'

Monday, April 3, 2017

"Your Next 24 Hours" (Hal Donaldson with Kirk Noonan)

TITLE: Your Next 24 Hours: One Day of Kindness Can Change Everything
AUTHOR: Hal Donaldson with Kirk Noonan
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (176 pages).

Who would not like to change the world? Imagine for 24 hours, we would challenge ourselves with the following questions: "What if we were led by kindness and took our eyes off ourselves and focused on the needs of others? What difference could we really make?" This is exactly what the author had done way back in 1984. It was a life-changing experiment that begins with himself. It culminates in the setting up of a global humanitarian relief organization called "Convoy of Hope."  One good thought can lead to a good initiative. One act of kindness can spur another toward kindness to others. One decision to take our eyes off ourselves can launch a new movement of selflessness. Learning to help and to serve others can prove to be a very transformative and satisfying inside. For the author himself has been touched by someone who served his family willingly and sacrificially. The story of Hal Donaldson's family begins tragically with a knock on the door on that fateful August day of 1969. His parents had been in a car that was hit head-on by a drunk driver. His father died and his mum suffered serious injuries. They were then cared for selflessly by another family. Out of the tragedy of ashes rose a determination to be a force to change the world for the better. In one word, this book is about "kindness." It is about how it is not random but intentional; not haphazard but consistent; and definitely not selfishly but sacrificially. It is a humble act with a willing smile.

There is the story of Paul Walker of Fast and Furious fame, helping to buy a wedding ring for a returning soldier. We read of Kate Winslet of Titanic fame working to inspire girls in their self-esteem. Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame also takes time to visit sick children at a local hospital in between promotional appearances for films. Even the act of listening can be a manifestation of kindness. From Mother Teresa to Audrey Hepburn; Bill Gates to reality TV stars; Nelson Mandela to popular sports personality; Donaldson combs society with an eye for kindness, believing that if everyone takes just 24 hours to be conscious of people around them, and to be kind to them, the world will be a much better place than it is today, any day. Filled with stories from famous people about them doing kind deeds, this book not only gives readers a chance to look at their lives from their acts of kindness, but also encourages us to do the same in our own creative ways. Each of the chapters contain five tips for practicing kindness. The beauty of this book is that people do not need to be famous in order to be a star. We can all be stars to light up the world in the hearts of all people. Kindness is not a difficult thing as long as we are able to turn attention away from ourselves. The hurdle of selfdom is the single biggest barrier to us learning to live a more meaningful life. Here are some of the meaningful words from the book.


  • "Fulfillment doesn't come from exceeding others; it comes from elevating others.
  • Through your kindness, you can change your home, workplace, school, and community. 
  • There [is] nothing inherently wrong with wealth and stardom as long as you [don’t] use them to serve only yourself.
  • You become famous for kindness by investing your currency and being consistently selfless and caring.
  • Personal achievement brings temporary satisfaction; helping others achieve their dreams yields lasting fulfillment.
  • The more love you have for yourself, the more love you have to give away.
  • Make it a routine to look at your reflection and say, “I love the person God made me.”  
  • Kindness is simply helping others by doing what you can with what you have.  

Hal Donaldson is president and co-founder of Convoy of Hope.  He is a graduate of San Jose State University and Bethany University with degrees in Journalism and Biblical Studies. Kirk Noonan also works at Convoy of Hope as vice-president of creative communications.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.