Book Review: Reset

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In Reset, David Murray wants to help readers slow down and evaluate whether the pace at which they are conducting their life is realistic and sustainable. Murray points out that many Christians, especially pastors, seem to run out of gas much too soon due to numerous areas of stress and pressures in their lives. Recalling his own series of health setbacks, the author advocates a ten-step model to review and make changes to our lives to prevent unhealthy habits from being formed over time. The premise of the book is that God’s grace enables us to live purposefully without having to feel guilty for not doing enough or complacent in that we do nothing. Thus, we need to learn how to recalibrate our lives so that every opportunity is used to live grace-filled, intentional lives to glorify God. For example, Murray encourages readers to pursue a healthy diet and regular exercise to ensure one’s body is fit and well rested. He argues that Christians often view their physical bodies as being much less important than their spiritual health as focusing on the former may seem self-seeking and ungodly. However, the author points out that God created us as embodied souls in which both our physical and spiritual well-being are inextricably tied together in this life and the next. Thus, Murray offers suggestions on how to build up one’s physical fitness such as standing for extended periods of time and enrolling in an exercise program. Although the book is primarily aimed toward pastors and leaders, the applications are helpful for people in all walks of life.

I would gladly recommend this book to Christians looking for a practical handbook with implementable steps on how to re-orient their lives to glorify God. Indeed, we may be able to run at breakneck speed but the Christian life is a race that we not only participate in but need to run well and finish. Murray wants readers to comprehensively review the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of their lives and make the appropriate adjustments accordingly before God places barriers and setbacks to force us to do so. Instead of trying to cram activity into every available time slot in our schedules, we can fall back on God’s grace and receive each moment as being another opportunity to fuel us towards finishing our race well.

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

 

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Miller on Love

“You endure the weight of love by being rooted in God. Your life energy needs to come from God, not the person you are loving. The more difficult the situation, the more you are forced into utter dependence on God. That is the crucible of love, where self-confidence and pride are stripped away, because you simply do not have the power or wisdom or ability in yourself to love.”

Paul Miller in A Loving Life

Book Review: 8 Great Smarts

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In 8 Great Smarts, Kathy Koch identifies eight major areas of intelligence and explains how parents can nurture these smarts in their children. The author shares from her experience as a speaker and teacher on how discovering and growing each of these smarts are critical for utilizing our abilities to our greatest potential. Koch emphasizes that every individual is unique in the combination of smarts that they possess which is a combination of what God has bestowed upon us at birth and the result of how we developed these smarts over time. For example, a child who is talented in music may not necessarily realize his or her full potential if parents do not observe this innate ability at an early age and introduce the child to different types of music or instruments. Moreover, the author reminds readers that it is never too late to work on each smart in order to gain greater aptitude despite her observation that early exposure yields the most enduring results. Nevertheless, the author states that once we identify the smarts that we have, we should also be aware of the benefits and dangers of each smart. For example, someone who is people smart may be a cheerful encourager but that same individual can use charisma to manipulate those around them. As a whole, the book is fairly practical dealing with areas such as possible future careers for each smart along with suggestions such as games and family activities to grow the different smarts in young children.

A caution that I would like to highlight concerning the book’s message is that we may end up becoming overly focused on our children’s smarts and successes which can easily lead to pride and selfish ambition. Also, we need to remind our children that each of us have our unique weaknesses. God may certainly choose to grow us in the areas where we are lacking however He may also be asking us to rely on others who have abilities that are beyond or different from ours to make up for our shortcomings. We are told in the Bible that He has given each of us as members of His body different talents and gifts that are useful for the building up of His kingdom together.

I would recommend this book as a good starting point to discovering the abilities that God has gifted to each of us. Instead of conforming to how most people would define smartness, Koch states that every person is smart in a different way depending on how those smarts have been developed.  I especially appreciate the author’s focus on the spiritual aspect of stewarding one’s smarts. Koch reminds readers that it is of first importance that we use our smarts to edify the church and bring glory to God. Moreover, as parents, we have the responsibility to help our children discover the abilities that God has endowed them with and look for opportunities to grow these smarts accordingly.

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

 

 

Book Review: Killing Us Softly

BLOG Killing Us Softly

In Killing Us Softly, Efrem Smith wants to encourage believers to participate in bringing transformative change to their communities and neighbourhoods. Smith argues that salvation does not stop at the personal level but requires actively engaging and inviting those who are underprivileged and marginalized to experience renewal through Jesus. Moreover, the author calls Christians to challenge the numerous upside-down systems, institutions, and people in society so that the right-side up of the kingdom of heaven can gradually be realized as we wait for Christ’s return. Smith asserts that the first step in doing so is to experience personal renewal through Christ by repenting and putting to death the sinful ways and thoughts that permeate our lives. In specific, Smith focuses heavily on the racial conflicts that have plagued America and believes that Christians can play an important role in reversing the hostility and tensions that divide and hurt because of discrimination.

Although I appreciate Smith’s passion for urban renewal and caring for those who are oppressed, I have some reservations on how he frames the gospel message throughout the book. Smith describes the gospel as being the good news that Christ came to empower those who are marginalized. It seems then that Smith is advocating for a version of the social gospel which emphasizes social justice as Christ’s primary mission in His incarnation, death, and resurrection. Without a doubt, Jesus came to heal the sick and dwell with those that are poor and destitute. However, it is important to note that Jesus did not begin a social revolution to empower the underprivileged and restore social justice. Rather, Jesus pointed toward heart change through the work of the Holy Spirit which results in repentance and faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord. Even in what we refer to as the Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to follow all He commanded but there is no mention of social justice. I do agree that Christians are bound by the Bible’s commands to perform good works and uphold justice but we also must acknowledge that Christ came not for social liberation but to free us from the power of Satan, sin, and death. We should not turn a deaf ear to calls for justice and mercy but we recognize that true restoration is found in Jesus and would only be fully realized when He returns and all tears, pain, and death will be wiped away.

I would recommend this book with reservation for Christians who want to be challenged to step out of their comfort zones to witness to a progressively sinful world. Smith encourages readers to carry the burdens of those who are suffering, encourage those who are downcast, and motivate those who need opportunities to reorient their priorities. Instead of being self-satisfied and complacent, Smith urges readers to reverse the distortions of society and promote the right-side up ways of God’s kingdom. All these points are good and noble as I agree that Christians should be involved in expressing the love of Christ to proclaim the gospel. However, Jesus does not ask us to merely bring in social change but to point people to their deepest need which is salvation through Him. It is only when we have transformed hearts that we can bring cultural and societal renewal to our communities. Moreover, we need to set our eyes firmly on the hope for total restoration of all things when Jesus comes to set all things right-side up forever.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: Gospel Fluency

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In Gospel Fluency, Jeff Vanderstelt invites readers to become so acquainted with the gospel that all we do, say, and think centres upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. The author uses learning a language as a metaphor, the author states that it takes knowledge, wisdom, and practice in order for Christians to be comfortable living and sharing the good news that the Bible conveys. Vanderstelt focuses the first half of the book on outlining the overarching story of the Bible along with major themes to show that Jesus is the One who is to save and redeem us from Satan, sin, and death. The latter part deals with practical aspects of how we are to speak the good news to ourselves first and then to others around us so that Jesus is front and centre in all our conversations and actions. One example is by drawing a tree and its roots as a tool to analyze a particular area in our life whether we believe in God’s truths or the lies that Satan accuses us with. When we bear bad fruit such as excessive anxiousness and worry, we are rejecting the root biblical truth that God is the King of Kings who is omnipotent to fulfill all our needs. Thus, we need to turn in repentance and embrace the fact that Christ presently has authority over all things and nothing we encounter is out of His sovereignty. As such, we will then begin to bear good fruit such as patience and faithfulness when we encounter events that keep us awake at night. The author also uses numerous examples from his church community and personal relationships to illustrate how we can practically show others that Jesus is the ultimate answer to every weakness and deficiency we may experience in life.

I would gladly recommend this book to both Christians and unbelievers alike as the gospel is good news for all. For those who have not received Christ as Saviour and Lord, Vanderstelt’s book offers a concise yet comprehensive presentation of the gospel. For those who have put their faith in Christ, the author states that we are, in a sense, still in the process of being saved. This process is dictated by the Holy Spirit who is actively working in our hearts and transforming us to reflect Christ in all aspects of life. Salvation is more than just inheriting eternal life after death; we also possess all things that have been conquered by Christ through his earthly life, death, and resurrection. Furthermore, we need to tell others of the hope we have in Jesus by pointing to Him as the One who enables us to live an abundant and blessed life in the present and future.

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

Naselli on Calibrating One’s Conscience

“As you come to understand God’s will more and more, you must do the hard work of continually adding rules to your conscience that God’s Word says should be there and continually weeding out rules from your conscience that should not be there. This will take your entire life, but you have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to help you. God is the only Lord of your conscience.”

Andrew Naselli in Conscience