Book Review: The Hum of Angels

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In The Hum of Angels, Scot McKnight hopes to encourage readers to become cognizant of angelic beings in our midst. The author asserts that Protestants have long relegated angels to being a past reality confined to ancient times and are no longer relevant to our modern lives. In examining the biblical narratives on angels along with a variety of extra-biblical and non-biblical sources, McKnight states that angels not only exist but also have several different roles and functions of which the primary one is to express God’s love to humankind. Other duties of angels include judgement, protection, and guidance as shown in the lives of David and Moses. The author states that angels are ministering spirits that point humans to Jesus and His mission thus any supernatural being that does not do so is a false spirit. This is something that Christians may often overlook as our modern minds tend to tune out what seem to be unscientific or bizarre. Indeed, it is wrong to say that angels do not exist and do not have a place in our present day lives. As created beings, angels are commissioned to do God’s work in whatever way He sees fit.

Nevertheless, I find the author’s arguments for how angels function to be somewhat troubling. For example, McKnight describes how angels have roles in redeeming, interceding, and comforting Christians. I would agree that God sent angels to perform these duties sporadically throughout the Bible but as those who have been redeemed by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can we still expect angels to carry out these same duties today? Also, McKnight often quotes sources that are not authoritative such as novels, apocryphal writings, and Jewish literature to support his findings. For sure, the author relies on Scripture as the primary authority but to utilize sources that are largely subjective and unproven would seem weak reinforcements to boost his arguments. Furthermore, given that angels still do exist, McKnight does not tell readers how to act upon this truth in their daily lives. He does hint to prayers for angelic protection as found in the early church literature but given that we have Christ who intercedes on our behalf and the Spirit’s indwelling presence in our hearts; is it appropriate to pray for angels to work in our lives?

I have reservations about recommending this book as its weaknesses may outweigh its strengths. I appreciate that McKnight is writing on a subject that most contemporary evangelical authors would typically avoid. We can confidently affirm that angels are as much a present reality as in biblical times as evidenced by the events detailed in Revelation. Moreover, I agree that angels are currently still carrying out God’s commands to accomplish His will. However, I find McKnight’s evidence of angelic sightings or experiences to be weak and his significant reliance on questionable sources to be disturbing.  In addition, I hesitate to assume that angels take on roles and duties that are explicitly attributed in the Bible to Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: When God Isn’t There

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In When God Isn’t There, David Bowden explores the topic of God’s presence and absence in our lives. The author examines several different angles reminding readers that God’s presence and absence are both necessary and beneficial to us. Bowden first points out that God, by His nature, is ever present and we need not doubt that He is always here. However, in the midst of our most daunting trials and tribulations, God may seem absent so we begin to question not so much His existence but His love. To answer this question, Bowden uses biblical examples such as Abraham, Moses, Job, and Jonah to illustrate how in His absence, we actually experience more of His nearness due to His grace and mercy. For example, Bowden explains how God’s act in imprisoning Jonah in a big fish’s stomach seemed to display His judgement and absence. However, it is through this divine act that Jonah was brought to repentance and greater knowledge of God. In the same way, the author suggests that we may sometimes feel abandoned by God but only find out afterwards that the tribulations were necessary for us to know more of who God is. Bowden also acknowledges that there are limits to what we can experience of God now in our frail, sinful bodies as seen in the tabernacle and temple which separated sinful humans from God. Thus, during times when we stray from Him, we are recipients of God’s grace when we are not exposed to God’s holiness in full force. In His love, God has provided for us through Christ who is ultimate expression of presence as God become man to wash away our sins and clothe us with His righteousness. Moreover, those who put their faith in Christ have the Spirit’s presence in their hearts as evidence of the present and future reality of unceasing presence with God.

I would gladly recommend this book to those who struggle to see how God is present even in life’s darkest nights. Bowden helpfully analyzes several different perspectives in discussing how God’s presence and absence are evidences of God’s love and care. Although we may long to always experience His presence in tangible ways, the author reminds us that He withdraws Himself for our benefit. In addition, we cannot fully experience the complete presence of God until Christ returns where all things will be made new and we can finally see Him face to face with our resurrected bodies. Until then, we must embrace periods of absence knowing that God is never too far off from us due to His abundant grace, love, and mercy.

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

Beeke on Punishment in Parenting

“We have not been given such judicial authority over our children; we have a very different calling as parents, namely, to train and nurture our covenant children. The chastening of sons described in Hebrews 12 contrasts sharply with the judicial punishment of sin in the death of Christ described elsewhere in the same epistle. As parents, we must forsake wrath and even the least idea of taking vengeance on our children. The punishment we administer is intended to do good to them, teaching them to hate sin and flee from it, and training them to love doing what is right. Restoration and renewal are the goals, not retribution and revenge.”

Joel Beeke in Parenting by God’s Promises

Book Review: Humble Roots

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In Humble Roots, Hannah Anderson discusses the path to humility for the weary, downtrodden Christian. The premise of the book is that humility is rooted in recognizing our inadequacy in the presence of our all-powerful God. Anderson argues that regardless of how highly we think of ourselves, we are only dust and vapour that depend on Christ as the source of our life. It is the sufficiency of Christ who took on the ultimate act of humility through His incarnation that relieves us from the anxieties and worries of our lives. In each chapter, the author uses a different plant analogy to illustrate how our many attempts to control our lives originate from the pride, deceit, and sinfulness that is deep within our hearts. For example, Anderson describes how vine plants in France struggled immensely against phylloxera which originated from America. These insects killed off the French vines which had no immunity against these foreign invaders. The solution was to graft the French vine branches to the roots of American vine plants allowing the former to acquire protection against the insects and became fruitful again. Using this analogy, the author states that we also need to be grafted to Christ as the vine that gives us new life. Without His power to sustain us, our efforts to be productive will eventually wither from life’s trials and temptations. Besides the intriguing content, I also enjoyed Anderson’s fluid writing style and choice use of words along with her personal examples which helped make the material accessible and relatable.

I recommend this book to all Christians as humility is a virtue that all of us can learn more of. The irony lies in that the harder one tries to be humble, the harder it is to be genuinely humble. Anderson points out that our efforts to be humble are often a cloaked form of the pride that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. When we submit our inadequacies and insecurities to Jesus, the perfect God-man, we can find true rest that frees us from the yoke of pride. Thus, the best way to learn humility is to focus on Christ as He exhibited perfect obedience to the Father. Being humble is not simply imitating Jesus using our own strength as this would push us towards pride again; we find true humility when we cling on to Christ Himself. May we find our rest and peace in Him who bore our sins and weaknesses thereby giving us freedom from trying to do everything ourselves.

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

 

 

Book Review: Enjoy

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In Enjoy, Trillia Newbell hopes to help readers realize that the many nuances of life can all be enjoyed for the glory of God. Newbell asserts that God has graciously placed in each of our lives numerous opportunities, things, and people of which we can freely enjoy. Although the Fall has significantly twisted the ability for us to appreciate and experience the pure pleasure that existed when God created the world, we can still receive these blessings with thanksgiving, gratitude, and joy. Throughout the chapters, Newbell discusses many different aspects of everyday life including relationships, art, work, marriage, music, rest, possessions, food, and creation. In each of these areas, the author highlights how we can turn what seems to be mundane into opportunities to capture a glimpse of God’s beauty and magnificence in what He has placed in our lives. For example, in one chapter, she argues for a renewed appreciation of food as a gift that God gives us to enjoy both individually and corporately. Combinations of different flavours and cooking styles allow us to appreciate the creativity of God and the diversity of His creation. Meals enjoyed in the context of family and friends help foster loving bonds and lasting relationships. Moreover, the Communion meal we partake as members of God’s household remind us that Christ is the eternal bread and wine which saves us. Thus, the food we eat in the present is not only for sustenance and pleasure but is also a foretaste of the wedding banquet that we will participate in when the Groom returns to wed His bride. Throughout the book, the author is cautious to steer away from prescribing instructions so as not to inadvertently promote legalism when one should simply be enjoying what God has given. However, Newbell does provide a set of suggestions at the end of each chapter to help readers being to look for ways to view life with a transformed perspective that focuses on both the small joys of the present and the grand joy we will experience in the future. At the end of the book are discussion questions pertaining to each chapter which would be of use to those engaging in group study.

I would recommend this book to those who struggle to find joy in the lull of the routine activities and occurrences in life. Newbell reminds readers that God’s manifold blessings are signposts that point to Him as the ultimate Giver and Source of all good things. Thus, instead of unmitigated indulgence or frugal abstinence, God calls us to take hold of and experience the beautiful things and people that He has placed in our lives in the present. While doing so however, we are to keep our eyes fixed on the eternal blessings that we will one day receive when Christ returns. What I find most compelling about Newbell’s book is the call to slowly and thoughtfully savour the goodness that God graciously showers upon us. When we allow these ordinary occurrences to slip through, we lose crucial opportunities to receive, relish, and praise God for the grace and love He lavishes upon us.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.