Book Review: 42 Seconds

BLOG 42 Seconds

In 42 Seconds, Carl Medearis hopes to encourage Christians to actively use the countless moments in our daily encounters to the fullest potential possible. Based on his observation that Jesus’ conversations as recorded in the gospels average around forty-two seconds, the author argues that we can also take advantage of short exchanges with unbelievers to introduce Jesus to them. The book is comprised of succinct takeaways that Medearis shares from his own experience over the years in his personal life and ministry work. For example, in one chapter, the author encourages readers to step out from their comfort zone and do something bold. To illustrate this, the author describes how he planned to give out a Bible to each member of parliament in a foreign country hostile to the gospel. Even though Medearis ended up being deported, the author surmises that perhaps seeds of the gospel may have been sown due to his actions. Many other less audacious examples of actionable, simple encounters are highlighted throughout the book to help readers become aware of such opportunities to display the good news of the gospel and the glory of Jesus Christ. One major drawback of the book is that the author strays from the main premise in illustrating how to use brief encounters to show Jesus. It seems that the premise itself is somewhat flawed as many Jesus’ conversations were most likely much longer than the forty-two seconds calculated. Indeed, the author’s argument that short encounters can make a significant difference in one’s life is undeniable. However, we also cannot forget that fruitful relationship building takes hours, days, and years to develop. This weakness in the premise can be sensed in the latter parts of the book as the suggestions evolve to becoming rather general advice for being a good Christian witness including matching our actions to what we say and being willing to stand up for what is right when no one else will.

I would recommend this book as a handy guide to ease the awkwardness that many of us feel when trying to talk about Jesus. Although the author’s observations are not uniquely different from what others have written on this topic, Medearis is able to provide a considerable collection of helpful advice especially for introverts. It is easy for us to dismiss ourselves as being ineloquent in our speech, but God does not ask for Christians to be polished public speakers before spreading His gospel. What God does require of us is that we faithfully bear witness to His truth as revealed in His Word in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. Medearis reminds readers that a seemingly insignificant conversation with a cashier in a run-down restaurant on a lonely highway could have eternal significance. Moreover, the Bible commands us to always be ready to give the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). May we no longer hesitate to use every moment of connection we have with others to bring glory to God.

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

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Hyde on the Wrath of God

“Because the spirit of our age is tolerance, we do not meditate on the wrath of God much these days. Our inherent idolatry latches onto this spirit and causes us to want a tame God we can keep on a leash. We want the kind of God who fits on a dashboard, on a bumper sticker, and on a t-shirt. We want a God who is like a toy we can take off the shelf every Sunday and use for our good, only to put Him back on the shelf Monday through Saturday. We want a God who is not present with us at the office as we join in the crowd’s corrupt talk. We want a God who is not with us as we bicker, gossip, and complain with other parents as our kids play at the park. We want a nice God who never confronts our laziness, who never upsets the status quo in our lives, who never tells us that what we are doing is sin. No, it’s not God we want by nature, but our desires; it’s not God we want to serve, but ourselves.”

Daniel Hyde in God in Our Midst

Chapell on Loving God & Self

“When we love God most of all, we are most satisfied when his purposes are most fulfilled in us. We boast in sufferings that promote his glory. We delight in joys that demonstrate his care. We receive without complaint the discipline that conforms us to his likeness and turns us from spiritual harm. We give thanks for the daily bread and special providences that make our lives productive, pleasant, and peaceful. We willingly sacrifice for the sake of magnifying his name. All of these are possible because we love ourselves while loving our God even more than our own lives.”

Bryan Chapell in Unlimited Grace

Book Review: The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down

BLOG The Prayer

In The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down, Albert Mohler helps Christians see how the Lord’s Prayer is revolutionary in all its aspects. This short book examines the prayer as recorded in Matthew 5 where the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In Chapter 1, Mohler laments that prayer has been vastly neglected in modern Christianity and the Lord’s Prayer as the model prayer upheld throughout church history is relegated to careless recitation without careful consideration of its provocative claims. In the next chapter, the author draws attention to what Jesus says before introducing the prayer specifically concerning pride and arrogance in our prayer life. Jesus warns the disciples against using prayer as a tool to achieve our wants or a platform to broadcast our piety. Instead, prayer is a vital means by which the children of God can humbly approach their Father in praise and petition. The book then shifts to discuss the prayer itself with Chapter 3 focusing on how we are to hallow God’s name by making it holy through our praise to Him. Next, Chapter 4 discusses what makes up God’s kingdom and how we are to pray for the establishment of this kingdom against the kingdom of darkness in our present age. The prayer then moves on to address our physical needs and Chapter 5 fleshes out how our prayers for physical food and drink shows that we are embodied souls craving for both physical and spiritual nourishment. In Chapter 6, Mohler dissects how our petition for forgiveness for ourselves and others is an outflow of our understanding of the gospel as we have first received mercy and grace through Christ. Lastly, Chapter 7 highlights how prayer is an essential weapon in our fight against the temptations of Satan and our flesh. The author ends with an epilogue that examines the last part of the prayer which, though not being part of Scripture, reminds us that every prayer is doxological and God-centred bringing praise and glory to the one Triune God.

I would gladly recommend this book to all Christians as we are always students in the school of prayer. If we are careless in our prayer life, our prayers can easily turn into self-seeking instruments of our fleshly desires such as when we rant off a laundry list of personal wants to fulfill our selfish ambitions. To combat this, Mohler argues that the Lord’s Prayer is not simply a helpful template to follow methodically but the best example of what God requires of us as instructed through His Son. Prayer is focusing our minds and hearts on praising God for who He is and yearning for Him to fulfill all that He has promised in His Word concerning His will and kingdom. Moreover, prayer is not a private affair but a corporate one in which we come together with the people of God to call for His providing in our daily physical and spiritual sustenance. Furthermore, we need to ask God for forgiveness for the many ways we sin against Him and grace to forgive those who commit wrongs against us. Lastly, we should be earnestly asking God to display His honour, glory, and power in our lives and those around us. When we pray as Jesus prayed, we are taking part in a revolution to bring about the new heavens and new earth in which we can enjoy God forever in unceasing fellowship.

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

Book Review: Supernatural Power for Everyday People

BLOG Supernatural Power

In Supernatural Power for Everyday People, Jared Wilson challenges Christians to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. Throughout the book, the author illustrates the defeated, powerless living we easily fall into through the story of an imaginary person named Bill. Bill can be described as a typical Sunday Christian whose rhythm of life is blurred in the ebb and flow of urban living and his spirituality is merely another component of his routine. Using Bill’s life as an analogy, Wilson outlines in ten chapters how dramatic transformation is possible when we walk in the Spirit. In chapters one to three, the convicting power and mysterious presence of the Spirit is introduced. We cannot force the Holy Spirit to act in our lives but we need to be ready, aware, and receptive when He opens our hearts and leads our lives. In chapters three to five, Wilson emphasizes the importance of hearing and conversing with the Spirit chiefly through reading Scripture and praying unceasingly. In chapter six, the topic of fasting is discussed as a means of experiencing the blessed fullness and contentment when we abide with the Spirit instead of the flesh. Furthermore, in chapter seven, the author describes how the Spirit counsels us by showering us with love and assurance about our identity in Christ during relational drama especially within the church. In addition, the next chapter delves into how the Spirit speaks comfort to us when we encounter trials and suffering. The ninth chapter revolves around spiritual gifts and how these gifts are intended to be used in serving God and edifying His people. The concluding chapter sums up the entire book by identifying the numerous ways in which the Spirit baptizes us in His power may it be for holiness, ministry, or evangelism. In summary, this book serves as a helpful survey of the vital role that the Holy Spirit plays in our everyday lives by bringing us in constant fellowship with the Father and the Son

I recommend this book to Christians who struggle in experiencing the liberating power of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians succumb to disappointment and despair as the worries and struggles of life distract us from focusing on God’s sovereignty and might. Furthermore, countless Christians slip into spiritual apathy without knowing it as they allow the routines of life supplant the transforming work of the Spirit. Wilson encourages Christians to become acquainted or reacquainted with the third Person of the Trinity as He is the One that Jesus sent to counsel and encourage us as we make our pilgrimage home. Moreover, the Spirit frees us from the entanglement of our fleshly desires and mortifies our sin so that we can live in holiness for His glory. In ignoring the vast spiritual resources attainable through being connected to God’s Spirit, we are denying ourselves of the sweetness and comfort of being in fellowship with God every day.

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

Book Review: The City of God and the Goal of Creation

BLOG The City of God

In The City of God and the Goal of Creation, T. Desmond Alexander maps out the trajectory from Eden to the New Jerusalem to show how God is establishing a city in which His people will dwell with Him forever. The author highlights important clues beginning in the creation story where God creates a garden with the expectation that mankind will be fruitful and multiply over the entire earth. However, due to sin, all of creation becomes cursed and the first couple is banned from Eden. The first mention of city is found in the tower of Babel in which the God-given ability to construct cities is mired by the sin of pride and treachery. Instead of upholding the rule of God, the people gather together to build a city using their own wisdom to challenge God’s authority. Next, the biblical narrative shifts to the center upon the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of whom God chooses to continue His plan to bless the whole earth. As the Israelite nation takes form, Eden is brought into their midst through the tabernacle and later the temple in its design and construction. Moreover, God establishes Jerusalem, Mount Zion, and David as the holy city, mountain, and dynasty in which all nations and peoples can come to recognize the God of Israel as being the one true God. Nevertheless, the kings after David disobey God resulting in the kingdom being destroyed by pagan nations with emphasis on Babylon as being the prime archenemy against God’s people. Despite this, the prophets declare that God’s divine plan to create a holy city continues in the exiled people with the eventual rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem. However, the rebuilt entities are diminished shadows of the original structures and as the New Testament begins, we see that God no longer dwells in physical buildings but in the church through the Holy Spirit. Jesus, as the Son of God, takes on flesh and dwells among His people pointing repeatedly to the heavenly city that will be brought down to earth when He returns to establish His kingdom. Finally, in Revelation, the apostle John describe the vision he sees of the New Jerusalem which is much grander than any earthly city could ever be that will house all those saved by the blood of the Lamb.

I gladly recommend this book to all Christians as it offers an intriguing perspective of how God’s redemptive plan revolves around the concept of city. In our current culture, there seems to be somewhat of a disdain for urban living which is often characterized by crime, stress, and congestion. However, Alexander points out however that God has always intended to transform the world from a garden to a great city where all who put their faith in Jesus can live with God forever. The author states that our current mission as pilgrims heading home is to diligently build up His kingdom through His church as we prepare to enter the New Jerusalem when Christ returns.

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

 

Book Review: Talking About God

BLOG Talking

In Talking About God, Steve and Cheri Saccone invites readers to tune in to six intriguing conversations that illustrate the joys and challenges of conversing with unbelievers on spiritual matters. The authors mention at the start of the book that many spiritual discussions go awry when we fail to truly listen to those we are talking to. We may be quick to dismiss any doubts without hearing the reasons, offer unhelpful advice without considering the other person’s views, or force our own beliefs without addressing underlying issues. In the six chapters, the authors relay the thoughts and emotions going through their minds as they try to help the other party see God working in each person’s unique circumstances. Instead of dissecting each conversation, I will present several observations that I found helpful. Firstly, despite each encounter being completely unique to the individual, the common thread is a thirst for something deeper to satisfy the longing in each person’s soul. When we talk to unbelievers we need to help them realize this thirst and understand that it is only the good news of Jesus Christ that can quench this thirst. Another point is that each conversation we have with unbelievers moves us either closer or farther away from showing how God is present in their lives. This reminds us to be alert and mindful in how we present the Christian worldview to others at all times may it be in our words or actions. Moreover, except in one of the recorded conversations, every dialogue is in the context of a blossoming friendship between the author and the other party which was developed over many previous encounters and interactions gradually building up trust and openness. Thus, we should be prepared to invest in the lives of unbelievers over days, months, and years instead of hurriedly requesting for a profession of faith in a first meeting. Lastly, the authors repeatedly remind readers that it is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of unbelievers to realize their need for Christ. This also means that we need to pray for the Spirit to give us wisdom to say life-giving words of comfort, encouragement, and counsel at the appropriate moment.

I would recommend this book to all Christians who want to learn how to engage others in authentic, respectful conversations about the Christian faith. For many of us, it would seem much easier to simply invite someone to Sunday worship or a Bible study rather than actively trying to know the person and share the gospel on a personal level. Nevertheless, the stories in this book show that God often uses brief, unplanned chats between friends as instruments of His grace. Moreover, when these opportunities do come, we need to be prepared to share the hope we have in Jesus rather than inadvertently watering down the gospel or sidestepping tough issues in attempt to be agreeable. This book serves as a timely reminder that God uses even the most ordinary conversations and friendships to bring glory to His name.

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