Book Review: Life in Community

BLOG Life in Community

In Life in Community, Dustin Willis urges Christians to recover the identity of the church as a transformed community on mission. The author points out that as we have been saved through faith in Christ, we are now family members that are joined to live life together and spread the gospel message to those around us. Willis first establishes the foundation of why living in community is important and how the mercy we receive from God becomes the glue that keeps believers together. The author argues that the most effective way to convert unbelievers is to cultivate gospel-infused communities that attract and invite others to come see the precious treasure that we bear within us. The majority of the book then goes on to discuss the many different aspects of living life together such as speaking truth in love, bearing suffering together, and honouring one another. The author uses examples from history, his family, and his church to illustrate the powerful effects of what the gospel can do to not only redeem and transform individuals but entire communities when the people of God come together to live life together through the Spirit. The book is brisk and the author’s writing style is fairly engaging with many real-life examples that allow the reader to see how this could take place in their own communities. Each chapter ends with several questions to recap the material and help the reader think more deeply about the points made. At the end of the book, there is a group study guide that provides opportunity for a group of believers to discuss and contemplate how to put the lesson material in action.

I would recommend all Christians to read this book as it is crucial to have a biblical understanding of what a gospel-transformed community should look like. Without a biblically informed perspective on the local church, we can easily fall into a twisted, selfish view of how the church should serve our own needs. One danger is treating the church as a private members club where we meet together on club days to have fun and talk about life. The other mindset is to view church as a spiritual drop-in clinic where we come in for our weekly dose of spiritual adrenaline. This book however reminds Christians that the church is the family of God formed through the mercy of God, the precious blood of Christ, and the transforming power of the Spirit. Willis makes a crucial point that the church does not exist for our enjoyment but for the glory of God and to fulfill His mission. Thus, when we encourage, love, and care for one another with God’s love, we attract others to come and savour the grace and mercy found in the gospel message.

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

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Hamilton on Christ and the Cross

“God responded to Satan’s pride with the humility of Jesus. God answered the rebellion of Satan with the obedience of Jesus. All the misery and rage of Satan is overwhelmed by the grace and love of Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). That cross is the plot’s great twist: the long awaited hero came, and he was not only rejected but killed. Killed dead. Put in the tomb. Then hope rose from the dead. The death of Christ was not his defeat but his conquest. God judged sin, condemned it, and Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for it. Through the judgment that fell on Jesus, God saves all who will trust in him. The demands of justice satisfied by the death of the Son, the Father shows mercy to those who repent and believe. Jesus died to give abundant life (John 10:10), to complete joy (John 15:11).”

James Hamilton Jr. in What is Biblical Theology?

Book Review: A Neglected Grace

In A Neglected Grace, Jason Helopoulos writes on the importance of reviving the practice of family worship in the Christian home. In our busy lives, we tend to push off family worship either as being archaic or superfluous. However, the author argues that we are missing a valuable means of grace by which God and His Word can impact all the member of the family. Helopoulos begins by establishing the reasons for which family worship is edifying to the Christian family. Although the Bible does not explicitly outline what family worship looks like, there are many commands and examples in Scripture that calls for spiritual instruction to take place in the home. Furthermore, the author draws out the numerous benefits of family worship which include increasing in the knowledge of Scripture, strengthening familial bonds, and raising up godly children. Moreover, Helopoulos makes it a point to encourage readers to begin or restart family worship with small steps focusing on prayer, Scripture, and singing as the key elements to family worship.  The appendix contains many helpful resources including samples of catechisms, worship structures, and readings that could be adapted to one’s family worship.

I am happy to recommend this book to the countless fathers and mothers who either have not started family worship or have become disappointed in their attempts. This book is a great reminder and encouragement for me as I repeatedly fail to incorporate family worship on a consistent basis in our home.  I appreciate how Helopoulos reiterates several times that family worship is a means of grace and not a burden on our backs. No one would doubt that family worship is vital to the spiritual life of the family and especially to the next generation. However, we often fail may it be due to lack of time, resources, or determination. Nevertheless, Helopoulos encourages parents, especially fathers, to not give up on family worship as a precious means of grace to experience a deeper spiritual life together as a family unit.

Stokes on Value and Meaning

“The cosmos is profoundly personal. It’s a place where the highest value turns out to be placed on relationships. God calls us to a relationship of mutual love. In fact, God himself is a relationship among (divine) persons, according to the doctrine of the Trinity. It is only in the proper relation to these persons that we find value and meaning that are ultimately satisfying.”

Mitch Stokes in How to Be an Atheist

 

Book Review: Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk

In Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk, Brad Hambrick hopes to aid Christians in developing genuine friendships with those inside and outside of the church experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA). Hambrick first tackles the many shortcomings that he believes Christians often commit in our attempt to communicate our beliefs. One such issue that the author observes is how we turn the conversation into arguments or debates in which one side or the other must win. However, Hambrick argues that Christians should be intent on forming fruitful friendships so that both sides can candidly voice their opinions without the feelings of guilt, shame, or disappointment. To do this, Hambrick suggests a helpful framework in understanding the differences between SSA, gay identity (GI), and homosexual behaviour (HB). The author contends that feelings of SSA by themselves are not unlike thoughts that we have when tempted towards pornography and stealing. Instead of immediately condemning all who exhibit SSA as sinners, we are to establish safe relationships where we encounter the individual as a person to care for and not a problem to fix. Another point that Hambrick raises is that churches need to rethink their approach in ministering to those with struggles of which SSA is one that is not often discussed. Many times, our strategies gravitate towards either putting them into support groups or ignoring the challenges that the struggler is facing. On the contrary, Hambrick insists that churches should be genuine, caring communities where we genuinely engage in a person’s history, interests, and passions instead of solely focusing on their weaknesses as problems to be rectified. Of course, the author does not downplay every sinner’s need for the gospel but he highlights the importance of creating a welcoming and nurturing environment in which those with SSA can openly discuss their struggles. The last part of the book is very practical and outlines useful approaches that Christians can take when conducting conversations with Christians and non-Christians who experience SSA.

I would recommend this book to Christians in all walks of life as this topic is highly relevant to our times. With the rapidly changing views society has towards gender and sexuality, many Christians are at a loss in how to lovingly caring for those who struggle with SSA while maintaining our beliefs. We have often dealt with these issues by either taking an argumentative stance or choosing to remain silent. Hambrick encourages Christians to boldly stand for what the Bible teaches while being gentle, caring, and sincere to believers and non-believers alike. This book enabled me to gain valuable knowledge and ideas on how to engage in constructive conversations instead of simply avoiding sensitive issues for the sake of not appearing offensive or argumentative. All Christians, regardless of our different struggles, have been saved by Christ who died for us so that we can die to sin and be alive to God. Instead of trying to win the debate every single time, let us aim to build friendships that are genuine and nurturing while also proclaiming the gospel truth to all, including ourselves, who need it.

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