Book Review: Asking the Right Questions

BLOG Asking the Right Questions

In Asking the Right Questions, Matthew Harmon introduces a series of thoughtful questions that help Christians understand and apply God’s Word. The author first argues that familiarity with the entire biblical metanarrative is crucial for Christians to rightly appreciate how a particular passage fits into God’s redemption plan. Moreover, Harmon insists that all reading of Scripture should be Christ-centered and approached with an emphasis of how the gospel gives us hope in response to the effects of the Fall. Harmon’s method can be summarized in eight questions. The four foundational questions focus on what we learn about God and people and how to relate to them. The four application questions revolve around what God wants us to think/understand, believe, desire, and do. In addition, the book includes three helpful appendixes including tips for those who teach the Bible to small and large groups and a brief introduction to reading different genres within the Bible. Although the ideas that Harmon presents are relatively simple, the suggestions are accessible first steps to engage Scripture in a reflective, systematic manner. However, the author also rightfully points out that we can only understand Scripture when we humbly ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text and apply the truths to our hearts and minds.

I would recommend this book to all Christians and especially those who feel challenged in reading the Bible daily. Many new believers feel daunted by the task and often become discouraged early on resulting in a stunted spiritual life. Harmon argues that a good starting point for believers is to read the Bible and ask appropriate questions to help bring out the riches of the biblical text. Furthermore, we must have eager, humble hearts that asks for the Spirit’s guidance as we seek His wisdom and truth which leads to repentance and faith. Christians, regardless of how long they have been converted, are commanded to be immersed in God’s Word and this book is a wonderful resource for those looking for a place to begin. Those who aim to mature in their faith should strive to access more advanced resources on biblical interpretation and hermeneutics that will further refine and expand their ability to comprehend and integrate Scriptural truth into their lives.

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

Book Review: How Does Sanctification Work?

BLOG How does Sanctification Work

In How Does Sanctification Work?, David Powlison examines the topic of sanctification and its practical outworking in the Christian life. Powlison points out that sanctification is described as having past, present, and future tenses in the Christian walk of faith. We know that Christ has accomplished salvation for us and made us acceptable to God at a distinct point in history and we know we will be made perfectly holy when He returns. However, how should we aim to grow in our sanctification as we live out our everyday lives? Powlison argues that sanctification is much less a defined process but involves a combination of five factors: God Himself, His Word, wise counsel of others, circumstances, and our own heart to shape us into a deeper relationship with Him and others around us. Thus, sanctification is not a process that we can actively manage or force but a gradual progression in understanding how God is working in our lives through various means. Another vital point that the author makes is that we often subscribe to one-dimensional, generic responses to those who seek our help in discussing their progress in sanctification. However, Powlison warns that dispensing one-liners carelessly is rarely helpful and may even lead to greater confusion in trying to ascertain how God is moving in our lives. Instead, Powlison argues that when we allow ourselves to be shaped by Scripture and the Spirit, we can be more aware and in-tune with how God is working in our lives and those around us. The author devotes much of the material to examining moments in his own life and those around him to show how God uses ordinary moments to bring about greater spiritual maturity.

I would gladly recommend this book to Christians who have become discouraged in their pursuit of sanctification. We often try to grow in our holiness by committing to a list of spiritual disciplines or focusing on a bunch of scriptural truths to fuel our efforts. Powlison does not discount the need for fostering godly habits and cleaving to God’s Word but he suggests that sanctification is a complex process in which we are growing towards greater childlike love for God and generous love for others. To do so, we need to be thoroughly familiar with the Bible and how to appropriately apply biblical truths to our current circumstances. Furthermore, when we are looking to counsel a fellow believer, we need to learn the art of dispensing wise advice customized to the specific individual’s situation instead of haphazardly giving out advice without careful thought.

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

Book Review: My Jesus Bible

BLOG My Jesus Bible

In My Jesus Bible, young children are invited to follow the story of Jesus from His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Each of the chapters are brightly illustrated with great attention to detail. Moreover, each story remains largely faithful to the biblical text with slight adjustments to tailor the material towards the target audience (ages three to five) such as using the word “helpers” instead of “disciples.” The stories highlight critical points in Jesus’ life such as His temptation in the desert, His baptism by John the Baptist, and His first recorded miracle at Cana. However, there are two weakness that I noticed while reading the book. Firstly, the chapters do not include the specific biblical references pertaining to the respective narrative. Knowing where to find the story can help children draw the connection that the story is found in the Bible and not merely a fictional tale. The second weakness is that the gospel message seems to be somewhat muted as the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross is not made clear. For young readers being introduced to the gospel, it is an opportune time to bring up the concept of sin as children may end up quite confused as to why Jesus had to die in the first place if He was so kind and loving to those around Him.

I would recommend this small book that chronologically retells the story of Jesus in an abbreviated manner while maintaining the integrity of the Scriptural text. The pages contain attractive pictures and the book itself is made of sturdy cardboard material that enables toddlers to turn the pages easily. Moreover, this resource provides a suitable foundation for kids to become familiar with Jesus and His story as they eventually move on to read lengthier children Bibles. As mentioned above, the significant drawback though is that human depravity was not emphasized sufficiently which may impair young children’s initial grasp of the gospel message.

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

Tripp on Inability in Parenting

“Inability doesn’t mean that God has made a massive mistake by giving you children, that somehow he’s gotten the wrong address and your children would be better off elsewhere. Rather than your inability being in the way of God’s plan, it is part of his plan. He knows that parents who admit that they are inadequate and run to God make the best parents. You see, he doesn’t ask you to be able; he asks you to be willing. If you are willing, he will meet you in your weakness and change you, and as he changes you, he will work good things through you into the hearts and lives of your children.”

Paul Tripp in Parenting

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire

BLOG As Kingfishers Catch Fire

In As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson hopes to help us achieve greater congruence between what is preached on Sunday and how we live our lives on the other six days. The book is a collection of sermons preached over a span of nearly three decades while Peterson was pastor of his congregation in Maryland. The sermons are grouped into seven parts that focus on the biblical books written by Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John. Peterson emphasizes repeatedly that we need to look intentionally beneath the superficial realities of our daily work, routines, and tasks to perceive how God is using the most minute details to transform us into the image of Christ. Although the text and message of each sermon is unique, the underlying theme focuses on how the creative, powerful Word of God opens our eyes to see how God moves in and through our lives. Furthermore, we are not merely audience members watching His grand narrative unfold but active participants in joining God as He transforms, recreates, and renews all things through His Son. Instead of passively receiving God’s Word in the pews, the author invites us to use Scripture as the prism by which we can see life properly in God’s perspective. Even though these are past sermons that include dated references and allusions, the keen observations and applications are just as relevant to Christians today.

I would recommend this book to those who struggle to link the glorious truths of God’s Word to the ordinariness of our daily lives. We often succumb to the temptation to divorce what goes on during Sunday mornings with the activities in the rest of our lives. As such, we fail to realize the power of the Bible and how its truths enliven us to experience the beauty and joy of following Jesus. Peterson urges us to allow our worship, may it be through song, word, and sacrament, to infiltrate every part of our daily thought, word, and deed. As a seasoned pastor and scholar, Peterson masterfully identifies the crucial linkages between Scripture and life enabling us to see how even the arduous tasks we face each day can become opportunities to taste and see the grace and love of God.

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: The Life of the Church

BLOG The Life of the Church

In The Life of the Church, Joe Thorn concludes his three-book series on the church as the redeemed people of God by discussing what biblical church life should look like. The first two books examined the heart of the church as found in the gospel and the marks of the church in its ordinances and practices. In this book, Thorn focuses on three aspects of church life which he summarizes as the table, the pulpit, and the square. The table is the gathering of church members in settings other than Sunday worship may it be in a small group on a Friday evening or a group of families having a BBQ cookout on a Saturday afternoon. The author argues that these small, often informal, meetings throughout the week allows Christians to obey the commands in the Bible to love and build each other up. The pulpit represents the formal gathering of church members on Sunday to worship God through song, prayer, preaching, giving, and blessing. Thorn rightly emphasizes that all worship should be offered through faith (spirit) and Scripture (truth). The Word is central to the worship of God so all things that we do should be faithful to the Bible instead of taking after the leadership’s or congregation’s personal tastes. Lastly, the square concerns how the church corporately and its members individually reach out to its surrounding community to bring renewal, restoration, and hope through the gospel. There are many opportunities available for believers to become the salt and light that attracts nonbelievers to the truth of Christ such as sharing the gospel at a coffeeshop or displaying God’s mercy while serving at the local soup kitchen.

I would recommend this book along with its two companion books to all those who seek a biblical understanding of the church. In many churches today, the focus and goal has shifted to utilizing all the congregation’s resources and efforts to become seeker sensitive and culturally relevant instead of being focused on God and His Word. Thorn skillfully distills the doctrine of the church to the most basic level so that all believers can benefit from the material. Moreover, the author writes with a pastoral heart that beats with a passion to show God’s glory through His people. Without compromising the essential truths of the Bible, Thorn provides clear, helpful insights and advice on how churches ought to recover the heart, character, and life of the body of Christ.

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