Smith on Worship as Discipleship

“Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.”

James K. A. Smith in You are What You Love

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Book Review: Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering

BLOG Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering

In Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering, the writers discuss the joys and challenges of embodying living hope which is one of the prominent themes in the first epistle of Peter. The book is a collection of edited transcripts from messages delivered at the Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference in 2016. In addition to these talks, the book also includes an introduction by Juan Sanchez in which he helpfully highlights the Old Testament connections found throughout the epistle. At the end of each chapter, there are several review questions to summarize the main thoughts of each talk along with a Q&A section asking the contributing author to share their respective approach to studying and teaching the specific passage. The first chapter by Kathleen Nielson on 1 Peter 1:1-12 focuses on our identity as elect exiles and how this reality relates to our past, present and future. While we once were sinners dead in our transgressions, we are now redeemed through the blood of Jesus and look forward to the future when we will be glorified with Him. In chapter two, Jen Wilkin examines 1 Peter 1:13-2:3 to lay out the foundations of living in persecution which consists of hoping fully, be holy, fear rightly, and love earnestly. In the next chapter, Carrie Sandom dives into 1 Peter 2:4-10 to draw out the implications of our collective identity in Christ as living stones built upon Jesus as the living cornerstone. In chapter four, Mary Wilson analyzes the two commands found in 1 Peter 2:11-3:12 which is the resist evil and do good in all circles of life may it be civil, professional, or marital.  D.A. Carson takes on chapter five with an exposition of 1 Peter 3:13-4:19 to show how persecution is essential to our gospel witness and sanctification. The last message is by John Piper who delves into 1 Peter 5:1-14 to illustrate the future reward we have in store for us as the motivator in revolutionizing the way we operate in our daily lives in the face of persecution. There is also a concluding chapter which is a transcript of a conversation between Kathleen Nielson and John Piper where they discuss how to study and teach 1 Peter effectively.

I would gladly recommend this short study on 1 Peter to all those who fail see any joy or hope in their present circumstances. The apostle Peter reminds us that when we face life’s trials, we can find comfort in the fact that we have been redeemed by Christ and live resurrected lives empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Persecution and suffering is momentary compared to the eternal inheritance that awaits us when we return to our true home. Thus, Christians are not to live in fear, timidity, or apathy as those who have no hope. Rather, believers have a living hope as a chosen people, royal priesthood, and holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). Although this book would not be categorized as a commentary or Bible study, the insights contained in the chapters are critically important as we face increasingly hostile opposition in the public square. Furthermore, readers who aim to learn more on ways to study the Bible will benefit from the Q&A at the end of each chapter and the concluding conversation between Piper and Nielsen.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

Naselli and Crowley on Conscience and Churches

“The Bible gives clear evidence that God intends the little clashes of culture in your church to get you ready for the really difficult clashes of culture in missions and evangelism. At least, the church is supposed to be that laboratory. There are so many Christians in America that we have the luxury of dividing up into smaller and smaller subsets so that we can be part of a church where members hold very few uncomfortable differences of opinion on matters of conscience. We even enshrine some of those scruples in our bylaws to guarantee unity—or, more accurately, uniformity.”

Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley in Conscience

Book Review: Good and Angry

BLOG Good and Angry

In Good and Angry, David Powlison delves into the topic of anger and how this emotion can be used for God’s glory. Powlison spends several chapters early in the book discussing what anger is and how anger quickly descends into sinful behaviour in our daily interactions. The author asserts that the root of anger lies in our self-seeking ambitions and fleshly desires. The author uses the example of trying to rush to a doctor’s appointment amid a traffic jam as a classic example of how our anger stems from elevating our own needs over the needs of others. Powlison suggests an eight-step process for thinking through one’s situation when feelings of irritableness begin to surface. When we develop a habit of carefully considering our motives and thoughts in these tense moments, we grow in awareness of our own sinfulness and begin the process of subjecting our anger to God. Another critical point that Powlison states is that the best example of good anger can be found in God’s anger as displayed in the Bible. We often try to shy away from Scriptural texts that speak of God’s anger as we are uncomfortable in trying to reconcile His love and anger at the same time. However, Powlison points out that only God can perfectly exhibit anger in a holy, loving manner. Christians need not become emotionless robots when faced with matters of injustice and immorality. Rather, we need to use our Bible and the Holy Spirit’s guidance to harness angry thoughts to be subjected to God’s sovereignty much like how many of the psalmists illustrate in Psalms. The last few chapters address specific questions about anger such as how to deal with deep-seated anger and anger at oneself.

I emphatically recommend this book to everyone who wants to gain a biblical perspective on anger. Based on his extensive counselling experience, Powlison’s treatment of the topic is well-balanced and intriguing. We may think that the stoic Christian has no anger issues at all but Powlison alerts us that displaying no signs of unease when encountering blatant injustice is equally troubling. The author reminds us that anger is not neutral but veer towards good or evil depending on whether we subject our circumstances to God and allow Him to lead us to greater holiness or choose to do whatever is right in our own eyes. Moreover, we need to develop a healthy biblically-informed conscience that steers us towards taking appropriate actions that both glorifies God and loves those around us. Instead of trying to control our angry feelings with our own methods, let us submit our anger to God and allow Him to transform us so that our anger is no longer self-seeking but reflects His holy character.

Book Review: The Parables of Jesus

BLOG The Parables of Jesus

In The Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice brings clarity to readers on how to understand the different parables Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. The book categorizes the parables based on their subject matter including the kingdom, salvation, wisdom and folly, the Christian life, and judgement. Most of the contents are based on Boice’s sermon notes thus the tone of the author is more homiletical rather than scholarly. At the beginning of each chapter, Boice first begins by using an intriguing illustration to draw the reader’s attention or an analysis of how different commentators or preachers have approached the parable. Next, the author will attempt to dialogue between his own findings and what others have observed from the Scriptural text. At the end of the chapter, Boice ends with an exhortation that centers upon Jesus as the only One in whom we can place our faith and hope in. The author is careful to base his arguments with sound exegesis and hermeneutical principles that guard against veering towards fanciful conjectures or illogical conclusions. Furthermore, Boice employs the use of many relevant examples and illustrations that help clarify the parable’s main theme and implications for the reader.

I would recommend this book to all Christians who want to gain a better grasp on how the parables were used by Jesus to awaken His audience to the spiritual realities around them. This compilation of sermons would be especially helpful to young Christians who have been puzzled or confused by the parables during their reading of the gospels. Indeed, as a genre, parables can be quite challenging as it is often difficult to interpret the original meaning Jesus intended while trying to avoid treating the text as an allegory. Throughout the book, Boice offers convincing arguments by properly interpreting the parable and taking into account the cultural and historical context of the original audience. The author reminds us that although we may look down on the original audience for their weaknesses, we are just as prone to be unbelieving, hard-hearted, and disobedient to God in our own lives. However, when we put our faith in Jesus and rely on His righteousness to carry us each day, we can increasingly grow in godliness and holiness to image Christ in all that we do.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: Night Night, Farm Touch and Feel

BLOG Night Night

In Night Night, Farm Touch and Feel, Amy Parker and Virginia Allyn bring children on an evening tour of the barn as farm animals prepare for bedtime. The pages are vibrantly illustrated with bright colours and attractive touch-and-feel features incorporated into the artwork. The animal characters are drawn in a cartoon style performing their nighttime routines such as taking baths and donning their pyjamas. Each page flip features a specific farm animal may it be cows, cats, or chickens along with a few cute mice sprinkled on every page. There are typically four lines on each page flip with a rhyme and ends with the respective animal sound (e.g. “moo moo” for cows). However, the words may be quite challenging for younger children but would be a wonderful opportunity for parents to read the book out loud as part of the child’s nighttime routine.

I would recommend this book to parents looking to establish a nighttime routine with a fun book full of colourful artwork and interactive touch-and-feel elements. One weakness is that not all the rhyme schemes work out in the book which may be distracting to the reader. Nevertheless, this book would be a fantastic addition to any child’s early library as young kids learn to say good night to God which would hopefully develop into a nighttime prayer and form part of their nighttime routine as they grow older.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

 

 

Book Review: 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today

BLOG 6 Ways the OT Speaks Today

In 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today, Alec Motyer hopes to reinvigorate our passion for the Old Testament by showing how God’s Word is life-giving to God’s people in the past and how it still applies to us today. By focusing on six different perspectives (history, religion, worship, prophecy, wisdom, revelation), Motyer brings readers on a stroll from Genesis to Malachi showing how God makes Himself known to His people and what He requires of them. In each chapter, the author introduces the key theme and how the theme is illustrated widely across the OT. At the end of each section, there are specific Bible passages with commentary to be read throughout the week to solidify what was previously discussed in the main body of the chapter. It would be difficult to summarize all the intriguing points throughout the book; however, some key unifying threads can be identified. Firstly, the author argues that the OT teaches us to have a high view of the sovereignty of God. Motyer points out that nothing is beyond God’s control and He will bring to pass what He has divinely willed. From Israel’s great exodus from Egypt to David’s majestic dynasty to exile in Babylon, it seems that Israel is at the whims of stronger political neighbours but when we step back, we see that God has orchestrated all these happenings to bring about His divine plan. Secondly, Motyer contends that we need to adopt a high view of Scripture as the very words of God. From the time of creation when God spoke the world into existence to prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah who plead for God’s people to listen to His voice, we learn that God’s words have the power to create, destroy, and transform. Nevertheless, we are often rebellious and unwilling to listen and obey His Words even when we have our Bibles readily accessible to us. Thirdly, Motyer encourages us to display true obedience and dependence on God in our daily lives. The sanitary laws in the Pentateuch were not merely good hygiene practices but reminders that we interact with a holy God. Fourthly, God is a God of promises and what He has promised will always be fulfilled. Just as our spiritual forefathers were promised a coming King and Messiah, we can have faith that God will act on His promise that He will have the final victory. Lastly, Motyer reminds us that God is our Kinsman-Redeemer. The OT laws require a close relative to satisfy the debt of their kinsman in need which points to Jesus as the One who stands in our place and pays our debt.

I would gladly recommend this book as a needed reminder of the importance and relevance of the Old Testament. Motyer writes with a pastoral heart and his keen observations are truly theological gems. We often spend much of our devotional time in the New Testament thinking that the Old Testament is no longer applicable or beneficial to our daily lives. Motyer argues that nothing could be further from the truth as what God said to His people then is just as applicable to His people now. With the benefit of having the New Testament, we should come to grow a greater appreciation of the Old Testament as we can see how the law, history, prophecies, wisdom, and promises foreshadow the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and King. If we aim to live for God’s glory, it is imperative for us to be acquainted to the whole Bible as the complete revelation of who God is, what He has done, and what He will do. Moreover, it is not only by reading or listening but also obeying that we come to realize the manifold blessings that are available to those who root themselves in the Bible as the standard and authority of their lives.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.