In Every Job a Parable, John Van Sloten argues that every vocation creates opportunities to know more about God. The author draws on a vast array of different vocations including hairstylists, language translators, and florists to show how God’s characteristics can be seen in the action being performed in those professions. Van Sloten begins in stating that work is God-ordained and is one of the most important arenas in which we can image God. Thus, work is an entryway by which we can more fully understand who God is and how He wants us to reflect His character in our dealings with the world. Moreover, the author describes our vocations as modern-day parables in which God teaches us about Himself using even the most mundane details of our work. Just as when Jesus used many work-based parables to teach his followers about God and His kingdom, the author asserts that God is also doing the same today through our jobs and the jobs of others. For example, in chapter four, Van Sloten describes how sanitation workers, sweepers, homemakers, and cleaners may seem to have unimpressive jobs but he or she is, in a way, participating in God’s work in cleaning up the world and making it new again. In the latter portion of the book, the author discusses how our jobs play a part in God’s grand plan to redeem and recreate our fallen world. Lastly, the author provides some suggestions on how we can be more attentive to receive and learn more about God and ourselves in our daily work and the work of those around us.
I would recommend this book to those who struggle to link their everyday work to God and His purposes. Many Christians often swerve towards the two extremes of either idolizing their careers as their lifelong pursuit or discounting their jobs as merely bringing bread to the table. Van Sloten reminds readers that work is a gift from God to allow us to gain greater knowledge of Him and bring about His redemptive plan. May the Spirit open our spiritual senses to gain greater appreciation of how various aspects of our jobs can lead us to a deeper understanding of God.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a book review.
In Living Life Backward, David Gibson invites readers to examine their lives by considering that death is the inevitable reality that we must all face. Despite this apparently pessimistic outlook, the author argues that the central theme in Ecclesiastes is the call to fully enjoy all the joys of life while keeping in mind that all these pleasures are only bland morsels in comparison to what we will experience in eternity. Gibson summarizes the major ideas presented by the Preacher with four words namely pleasure, pain, perspective, and preparation. Firstly, we need to recognize that we have a good God who created a good world that reflected His goodness but was tarnished by man’s sin. Despite creation being polluted by sin, the pleasures of this life are not completely lost thus we are to readily and thankfully enjoy all God’s gifts in the different facets of life. Secondly, we should not be surprised by the reality of pain as we witness the numerous tensions, brokenness, and setbacks in our fallen world. Although pain is to be expected, we need to learn to place our hope in God who will one day restore and transform all things to and for His glory. Thirdly, all that we undertake should be done with a God-fearing perspective knowing that we are His creatures and all that we come to possess and enjoy are based upon His lavish grace. Lastly, we need be prepared to give account before God when we stand before His throne thus all of life should be taken seriously but not somberly. Each chapter of the book examines a section of Ecclesiastes of which the author succinctly highlights the pertinent parts of the passage that correlate with these four prominent themes.
I eagerly recommend this book to all Christians as the conflicting messages we receive in our contemporary culture are at odds with what the Preacher teaches us. The two prevailing viewpoints in culture aligns closely with the two extremes that Ecclesiastes precisely warns us against. The first is frantically trying to squeeze out all that life offers by pursuing endless workhours, frivolous partying, or innumerable hobbies. The other end of the spectrum is fatalistic pessimism that leads to disinterest and apathy towards all things good that God has placed in our lives. Gibson points out that Ecclesiastes teaches us to take the middle road by focusing our energies on living in the present but with the understanding that everything will quickly pass away and we will face judgement before God. Armed with this perspective, we are released from chasing our insatiable desire for more while energizing us to get up from our beds to appreciate the bountiful pleasures that God has blessed us with. The pleasures of this life are not intended to make us want to live forever in this fallen world but to give us a foretaste of the much greater glories that we will experience in the new heaven and new earth.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.
“But worship is not about us and our particular tastes and preferences. It is about God. He taught His people this truth in the construction of the tabernacle. All this means that we cannot evaluate worship by the standards of the world. We crave entertainment. We have our Facebook pages, our Twitter accounts, our iPods full of our favorite songs, our favorite radio stations on presets in our cars, our email, which we access via our iPhones and Blackberrys, and so on. But God is not a commodity; He is not something to entertain us. He is not just another thing in a long line of things. He says the whole Lord’s Day is His day, and especially when we step into worship, He says, ‘Mine.'”
Daniel Hyde in God in Our Midst
“Real change—real power over seemingly intractable patterns of sin and selfishness—comes when Christ becomes our preeminent love. When that happens, all that pleases and honors him becomes the source of our deepest pleasure, highest aim, and greatest effort. We honor him not merely out of duty and resolve—or to keep our distance from an angry God—but because our greatest delight is pleasing the One we love the most.”
Bryan Chapell in Unlimited Grace
In How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets, Peter Gentry hopes to help readers learn how to appreciate biblical prophetic literature as intended by the biblical authors. The author’s main premise is that we often employ a Western perspective to interpret the Bible in a logical manner which inadvertently leads us to draw erroneous conclusions on what the text is saying. Instead, Gentry advises that we should become acquainted with the Eastern background, culture, and language that the biblical authors were immersed in so that we can appropriately comprehend what is trying to be conveyed not only in the individual words but also the literary form of the original text. Instead of being a step-by-step handbook or a scholarly textbook, the book is a short collection of specific topics that the author believes would be instrumental to help readers grasp the basic elements of his suggested approach. The first two chapters involve using a redemptive-historical lens in reading the prophets that centers upon the covenants that God established with mankind that points to the future restoration of all things through Christ. Chapter 3 concerns the repetitive nature of Hebrew literature that serves as the key underlying literary structure in various genres in the Bible but especially prominent in the prophets. Chapter 4 considers the relationship between the oracles concerning foreign nations and how these prophecies connect with God’s grand plan of redemption and restoration. The last three chapters deal with specific issues in understanding future predictions including the use of types and antitypes, apocalyptic language, and short-term/long-term fulfillment of prophecies. The book concludes with an appendix that examines the literary structure of Revelation as a fitting case study to tie in the ideas presented throughout the chapters.
I would gladly recommend this book to all those who struggle in reading the biblical prophets. Although the topic may be relatively dry for most readers, the author is able to keep the concepts simple and illustrations concise so that a wide audience can appreciate the helpful pointers and illustrative examples presented. I concur with Gentry that many contemporary Christians use a Western, post-Enlightenment perspective in reading the Bible that ends up extinguishing the literary beauty and wisdom of God’s written revelation. Moreover, I would argue that in addition to equipping ourselves with the right tools to study Scripture, we need to also foster a love for reading the entire counsel of God with joy, marvel, and expectation as His Word is the primary means by which we can taste and see that the Lord is good.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.
In Never Settle for Normal, Jonathan Parnell hopes to help readers find the answer to the deep longings in their hearts for joy, happiness, and glory. Parnell argues that in our contemporary culture, many of us often settle for a laid-back, normal life without considering how our lives are destined to be much more meaningful and glorious. The author argues that every human being is in search for something to fill the emptiness in their hearts. Parnell outlines the story of creation, fall, and redemption as found in Scripture to establish how we can find true satisfaction and pure joy in Christ alone. In the beginning, God made humans to be His vice-regents to image Him and rule the world thereby spreading His glory to the ends of the earth. However, Adam and Eve sinned against God and the destructive effects of the Fall has fractured our lives even till today. Nevertheless, in His grace, God has sent His Son as the substitutionary sacrifice who takes on our sins and redeems us from the grips of sin, Satan, and death. Those who put their faith in Christ receive the Holy Spirit who applies Christ’s benefits to us forever and allows us to experience joy, peace, and comfort now and in eternity. Assuming the author is writing to evangelize to non-believers, the strength of the book lies in the engaging, story-telling style that the author uses to evoke the affections of the reader. However, a weakness that I identify in using this book as an apologetic tool is that the arguments presented is based on the presupposition that Christianity is true so those who do not hold the same belief may not feel sufficiently persuaded to reach the same conclusions in such a short book. On the other hand, for Christian readers, there are many helpful points and analogies that can be adopted and utilized when sharing the gospel to non-believers. I especially appreciate the epilogue in which the author emphasizes two essential elements of being found in Christ namely obedience to His commands and participation in the local church.
I would recommend this book as an useful resource to provide a quick overview of the Christian answer to the meaning of life. Parnell uses an unobtrusive writing style along with simple language that allows those unfamiliar with Christianity to follow easily. However, the book does assume its readers have some basic knowledge of the Bible so it would be best to be read together with a Christian friend or with an open Bible. Parnell urges those who are apathetic in life to shake off their indifference and realize the wondrous joy and glory available to all those who are united with Christ. Those who are already found in Jesus should be careful not to fall into sloth or complacency and realize that beholding the glories and excellencies of Christ is an unceasing act of worship that continues even in eternity.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.
In God Bless My School, Hannah Hall and Steve Whtilow bring young children on a journey through a day at school. The book begins from waking up and preparing for school to ending with free play in the school playground to conclude the day. Each page is brightly illustrated with cute animals that range from giraffes to porcupines. In addition, the words are in large print of four lines with a rhyme in the second and fourth line that makes the concepts fun and easy to understand. Moreover, the book itself is made of durable cardboard material which is handy for small fingers learning to turn the page on their favourite books. The only drawback that I notice is that God is seldom mentioned throughout the book. Given that the book is from a Christian publisher and the purpose is to help quell anxious feelings of young ones, it would seem appropriate to have more references to God and how He is present at school.
I would recommend this book for young kids getting ready for their first day at daycare or preschool. As many children become anxious or scared when the first day of school comes around, parents can help ease the nervousness by showing kids that school is an enjoyable place to learn and play with friends. Parents may not be able to be with their kids while they are at school but knowing that God is always there is crucial to helping young ones transition smoothly into an unfamiliar environment and learn about God’s abiding presence.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.