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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Worn Out by Obedience" (Ron Moore)

TITLE: Worn Out by Obedience: Recovering from Spiritual Fatigue
AUTHOR: Ron Moore
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (208 pages).

There is a difference between man and machine. One does repetitive work well but not the other. There is also one similarity: Both suffer from fatigue over time, albeit in different ways. In fact, while doing good works is noble and great, without rest and renewal, people do get jaded. It is only human. For Christians, it is a calling to do good and to live out the purposes of God as stated in Ephesians 2:10. Perhaps, the key is not in non-stop discharging of ourselves but a healthy rhythm of rest, work, and play. This rhythm is not some cyclical pattern that goes nowhere. It has to be guided toward growth in Christ. That's the key thesis in this book. In other words, the main reason why people are worn out is simply because they have gotten further from the Source of all strength and good deeds: God. For author Ron Moore, this book began as a series of sermons preached at his Church for over 25 years. He calls it "being in Ziglag," a phrase that captures the essence of being lonely and worn out in the wilderness of work. Moreover, a majority of Christians have stalled in their spiritual walk at some point in their lives. How do we deal with it? How can we prepare for it when it comes?

Monday, June 19, 2017

"The Courage to be Protestant" (David F. Wells)

TITLE: The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World
AUTHOR: David F. Wells
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, (240 pages).

The year 2017 is a milestone year for the Protestant movement. Since that momentous 95 theses nailed at the doors of Wittenburg, there has been unprecedented offshoots of Protestantism. Many modern denominations, independents, and non-denominational expressions had their roots in Luther's Reformation. Whether one is an Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, Evangelical-Free, Methodist, etc, it is important to remember the reasons for the 14th Century reformation movement. One of the main challenges to the Church is the impact of culture, something that the author David Wells constantly warns us about. He asserts that the agenda of the Church must always come from the Word of God. Unfortunately, the danger for the modern Church is that they had allowed culture to dictate the agenda. He calls it "sola cultura." He writes:
"In the rhythms of marketing, and the pandering to generational tastes, this agenda is often being lost. The agenda, in fact, is coming from the culture, from its consumers, from the world. In these churches it is sola cultura, not sola Scriptura. Unless evangelicals recover their confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture and their willingness as a result to be different from their culture, their claim that Scripture alone is authoritative will remain empty, and their character will soon be lost."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"When Parenting Isn't Perfect" (Jim Daly with Paul Asay)

TITLE: When Parenting Isn't Perfect
AUTHOR: Jim Daly with Paul Asay
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017, (224 pages).

What is a "normal family?" Is it the one painted by TV shows like the Brady Bunch or My Three Sons? Can a family ever be perfect? We have often asked about why families are not as perfect as they seem, regardless of how hard we try. What if we abandon the search for "why" and focus on "how" to bring about a better family instead of a perfect one? This is where this book comes in. The promise in this book is about helping us deal with "truth and reality" in a manner that embraces our blessings and to empathize with other families struggling to do the same. Imperfection is a key recognition here. Those of us who fail to recognize this will tend to project expectations of perfection onto others. The question "How good is good enough?" is a good diagnostic. The author shares the story of Casey and Doug who despite the best Christian upbringing still ended up getting pregnant outside of marriage. Do we practice "resume virtues" (appreciating good throughout life) or "eulogy virtues" (appreciating good after death). If we emphasize character above achievement, we would most likely practice more of the former. We will never be good enough, so let us not put all our eggs of hope into the basket of earthly achievements. So what do we do when parenting isn't perfect?

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Asking the Right Questions" (Matthew S. Harmon)

TITLE: Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible
AUTHOR: Matthew S. Harmon
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, (144 pages).

While most believers do not dispute the importance of the Bible, many however are uncomfortable about studying the Bible for themselves. Some may think they lack certain theological training. Others may claim to be mere believers who lack guidance. Still there are many who may have been Christians for a long time but for various reasons, are unable to have a personal Bible breakthrough. I have met individuals who had faithfully attended Church for years but still find themselves inadequate in leading a Bible study. Is it for lack of knowledge, lack of courage, or both? Still, there are people who tried to lead but the whole gesture seemed like a case of the blind leading the blind. The Bible is indeed a big book and can be quite intimidating, especially for younger believers. This is where this book comes in. Author and Professor Matt Harmon aims to do the following:
  • How do we figure out the big picture and the important ideas in the passages we read?
  • What is the context of the Bible?
  • What do we look for?
  • What is the Bible all about?
  • How do we ask questions of the Bible?
  • Specifically, what are the four simple questions to help us apply God's Word into our lives?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Old Testament is Dying" (Brent A. Strawn)

TITLE: The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment (Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic)
AUTHOR: Brent A. Strawn
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, (336 pages).

It all began at a Bible class the author was teaching. When asked about Old Testament references to Jesus' words, his class responded with a blank. People might have claimed to believe the Old Testament as canonical scriptures. Unfortunately, their lack of knowledge and interest are disconcerting. For some, they would even say that "Old Testament is dead." Author Brent Strawn lists four 'hard data' reasons why it is not dead but dying. First, many are increasingly religious, yet religiously illiterate. Using a Pew Research Center data, evangelicals and mainline Christians score poorly in their religious knowledge. They are not even familiar with the big stories or details of fundamental truths of the Bible or their historic faith. A majority (over 80%) do not even know about the Reformation! This is disconcerting because such basic things are not even recalled correctly. Not only that, in a secular age where it is becoming unpopular to talk about religion in public circles, even religious people hardly talk about their faith. The second concern is about sermons. Based on collections of best sermons, there is a trend that shows us most preaching focus on the New Testament (four out of five). Not only that, whatever Old Testament texts quoted are not dealt in much detail relative to the New Testament passages. Among Old Testament passages, most popular are the Psalms, Genesis, and Isaiah. There is a general preference for familiar passages too. It comes as no surprise that unfamiliar passages from the Old Testament are taken up by professors or scholars of Old Testament, so-called experts. Strawn has high praise for preachers like Walter Brueggemann who preaches often and brings to life OT passages. Third, the use of hymnody based on Psalms may look encouraging at first. On closer look, the way many hymns had been phrased is a misrepresentation of what the psalms mean in their original contexts. Some writers pick and choose the types of Psalms used and are not familiar with what the Psalms actually mean when taken as a whole. According to research from W. Sibley Towner, contemporary use of the Psalms in hymns tend to be selective and functional. It is more about what works rather than what the Psalms are saying to us today. Being selective of some also means being neglectful of others. Indeed, it is worrying when man tries to take God's Word and manipulates it to mean more of what man wants rather than what God means. Misrepresentation leads to misinterpretation, which in turn will lead to misapplication. Fourth, Strawn examines the Revised Common Lectionary, the supposedly last bastion of hope for a more even coverage of both the Old and New Testaments. He also finds several things wanting and imbalanced in what is supposed to be a balanced work. Some readings are easily omitted by users. Certain weeks are focused on New Testament readings and preachers often for various reasons choose New Testament passages from the lectionary.