Book Review – Spreading the Feast: Instruction and Meditations for Ministry at the Lord’s Table (18/8)

As a Christian who attends a brethren church, one of the things I appreciate the most is that we partake the Lord Supper weekly. I am reminded weekly of my need for Christ and His gracious love towards me. Yet, many a times, my understanding of the Lord Supper remains ever so shallow.

Spreading the Feast: Instruction and Meditations for Ministry at the Lord's TableSeeing this book, I was eager to see how this will help me grow in this area. Howard Griffith has written this book to help christians and pastors have a deeper understanding of the Lord supper whenever they partake of it.

The book is divide in 2 parts. The first explains the significant and theology of the Lord supper. The 2nd acts mainly as meditations on the Lord supper. These can be taken as topical sermons on the Lord supper. Two of them focus on the fulfilment aspect of the Lord Supper, The other on the application of union of Christ

So who is the book for? I would think this book is meant primarily for lay christians who wants a deeper and clearer understanding of the Lord Supper. The 3 mediations will prove to be especially helpful for christians to see the continuity of the bible. For pastors though, I would not recommend this to be a book for you to get. You will probably need a book that gives you more meat for the theology of the Lord Supper. Other resources will be able to better meet your needs.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, Fourth Edition (15/8)

As a Christian, I’ve always liked John Frame’s definition of theology — “the application of the whole Bible to the whole of human life.” A case in point, this book by John Jefferson Davis is one of those that seeks to apply the word of God to all areas of our life.

Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, Fourth EditionWithin this book, Davis tackles 13 contemporary topics. Some of the topics includes the usual like reproductive technologies, divorce and remarriages, abortions, etc… As a pastor these will be topics that one day you need to discuss or wrestle with with your congregation.

Unlike most books, Davis does not give readers a direct answer to their questions. Rather, David wants the readers to examine the questions historically, biblical and applicationally. He takes readers through the historical trends of each topics, then he examines the relevant pages of the bible and makes his observations and interpretation clear to his readers. Next, he comes to the topic at hand and gives his thoughts on it. Throughout the book, I felt that Davis was able to present the topics and his thoughts clearly, but not impose his conclusions onto the readers. I was clearly given the opportunity to think through the topic myself and come to a conclusion based on what I thought was biblical.

Pastors, especially those living in the united states will benefit most from this book since this was written from that perspective, and primarily for christians living in those settings. However, this book can still be useful for pastors living elsewhere as they provide clear starting points for pastors who are beginning to think about these issues.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Augustine on the Christian Life (7/8)

Other than Paul, Augustine is probably the most influential theologian of the Christian faith. For such a titan it would be valuable to know what he has to say about the christian life. This is what Gerald Bray has done in this book.

Augustine on the Christian LifeBray takes a look at the life of Augustine moving from him as a believer, then a teacher and finally as a pastor. Bray first gives a quick overview and introduction to the life of Augustine. For anyone who is new to him, Bray’s introduction will definitely be a helpful of him/her.

After the short introduction, Bray moves on to Augustine as believer. In this section, Bray deals mainly about Augustine as a christian, he focuses the discussion very much on his autobiography, the Confessions. He touches on three big topics on this section, his devotional life, his lifestyle and his life of faith.

In the next section, Bray then talk about Augustine as the teacher. He touches on three main topics here, first, he talks about what Augustine believed about the bible, how Augustine envisioned Christ in all of scripture and what the bible says about the end of man.

The next section will be one that will be of interest to pastors. Bray talks about what Augustine did as a pastor/bishop. He talks about what Augustine believed about preaching and how he served his congregation at his church. He uncovers many thought about Augustine as the pastor of the church how he sympathises with the congregation who has to sit in humid and warm conditions and listen for more than an hour on what he has preached. This was certainly one of the best part of the book, I have not met any who has talked about this area in the life of Augustine.

As I was reading this book, one of the things at was quite jarring for me was how there wasn’t many sub-sections. This certainly took some time to adjust, but as I read on, I adjusted the Bray’s brilliant writing style. This book is one that pastors should certainly read. I have found that too many books have targeted Augustine as the theologian but not many has offered the pastoral side to readers. This book fills this gap.

In closing, I shall leave readers with one closing statement that I felt was a good summary of this book.
“Augustine died in the knowledge that a few days later the barbarians would enter Hippo, which they were besieging at the time, and he must have feared that his life’s work would go up in flames. Things did not turn out quite as badly as that, but there was to be no lasting legacy of his labors in Hippo—no great basilica with his name carved into it, no academic chair dedicated to his memory, not even a park bench with a plaque saying that his estate had paid for it. To the naked eye there was nothing. Yet as we know, what must have appeared then as a fairly insignificant ministry in a provincial town became the most productive life of any theologian in the Western world. Generations of Christians who would never go anywhere near Hippo would read what Augustine wrote in the hot and dusty chambers that were his earthly dwelling place, and would marvel at his gifts and intellect. More than that, they would be moved, as we still are, by his passion for Christ, and would go away from his writings more determined than ever to walk in the way mapped out for them by God.”

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library) (19/4)

1 & 2 Chronicles is not a book that you will often hear preached expositionally. Part of the reason, I think, is how the book starts with 9 chapters of genealogies! Pastors will definitely not want to attempt to preach through these chapters expositionally.

Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library)Preachers can now reach out to a helpful commentary on the 1 & 2 Chronicles. Eugene Merrill has written a new commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, a book that has been neglected by commentators for quite some time.

As with every commentary, Merrill starts with the introductory matters and then moves on to the actual commentary of the text. As one who has not studied 1 & 2 Chronicles, I found this introduction helpful in understand the main themes. Through his introduction I am also kept abreast on what has been discussed in the academic circles. Preachers who are not familiar with 1 & 2 Chronicles will find the introduction helpful for their preparatory work.

Merrill uses the NIV text as reference for his commentary, but he always shows his exegesis based on the Hebrew text. Merrill keeps references to the original language to a minimum which will be helpful to preachers who are not that conversant in Hebrew. I personally do not know Hebrew, but I still find the commentary helpful to me

Given that the technical commentaries on 1 & 2 Chronicles has not been as forthcoming as some other old testament book. This commentary will be a helpful addition to the current array of commentaries on 1 & 2 Chronicles.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (15/4)

Are you a young budding pastor? Or going to be one soon? Then perhaps you should strongly consider getting this book in preparation for your ministry. Jason Helopoulos writes as an older pastor giving sound advices to young and budding pastors. Helopoulos writes in short and succinct chapters each with a clear focus that can allow readers to read them along side the daily devotion.

The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of MinistryIn the first section Helopoulos deals with an important area that all pastors have to undergo, their calling. He explains what a calling is, and is not, and how one should discern his calling. He also deals with the practical issue of how to choose a candidate pastor as a church elder. From that Helopoulos moves to explain the different roles a pastor play. He pulls out the important points of what is required from a youth pastor, or what is necessary for an assistant pastor. I found this helpful as most books on pastoral usually focuses on being the solo or senior pastor’s role.

Next, Helopoulos gets down to the daily ministry of pastors. He gives helpful and practical advices to pastors, giving them reminders and encouragement along the way. This section will be helpful for any pastors. At times pastors will need some aligning from their work and this will be a good reminder for them.

Thereafter Helopoulos talks about the pitfalls young pastors usually fall for. This is also another section that isn’t covered much by other books. This section will raise many points that young pastors should take special note. This will help them start well in their ministry.

Laslty, Helopoulos talks about the joy serving the Lord as pastors. He ends of the book with a great encouragement to pastors. Although pastoral can be tough, draining and demanding, Helopoulos reminds readers that they are the ones who has been given the privilege to serve God in a full-time capacity and supported financially for it!

All in all, this is an excellent book for those who are starting out in their pastoral ministry. Older pastors will not doubt find section 2 very helpful for your work too, but this book really seeks to serve the young budding pastors.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (11/4)

Are you a pastor? If you are, do you know your role well? Will you be able to find good reference materials on how to do your job well? Pastors will now be able to find excellent help in this book. As an experience pastor, R. Kent Hughes wants to pastors young and old with their ministries and has put all of these into this book.

The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry Hughes starts first by teaching readers the biblical understanding of the worship service and highlighting the different components of a service. Next, he talks about some annual and special services and gives readers plenty of examples that they can refer and even utilise in this own churches.

Next, Hughes spends time talking about the important of public prayer. Although prayer is a topic that many books have been written about. Public prayer is not one that has been covered much. Given that pastors will find themselves often leading the congregation in prayer, this will be section that will be immensely important and practical for pastors. Hughes also has a section on the music and lyrics of songs used in a worship service. Hughes gives practical advice to pastors so they are able to navigate through the worship wars, yet be able to understand what the lyrics of a songs is supposed to do.

Lastly, Hughes also covers other important aspects such as counselling and hospital visitation. Pastors who are new to this may sometimes feel helpless when there is not one to guide them. This book by Hughes will then supplement this gap.

Pastors, young or old will find this book helpful. For young pastors this will be a helpful material to give some breadth and depth to the understanding of the ministry of the church. For older pastors, this will be a good reference material and also a good guide for you as you re-examine and evaluate your own ministry. Hopefully this book will help pastors grow and mature in the way they minister to their congregation.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (7/4)

It appears that atheism and secularism is on the rise today. At times it even appears that atheism is the rising ‘religion’. So is atheism without fault? Nancy Pearcey doesn’t think so and this book is about what she thinks are flaws the atheism worldview has.

Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God SubstitutesPearcey starts with a story. A story of how the typical christian youth who grows up in a Christian environment finds himself giving up his faith at an evangelical college. Pearcey then tells her story of how she, an atheist became a christian. Pearcey wants to share with the readers some of the thoughts she had as someone who was searching for the truth. Herein are the 5 principles that Pearcey will elaborate in more detail in the chapters ahead.

Pearcey first starts by identifying the most fundamental problem of atheism. And that is the problem of idolatry. Pearcey shows how even the atheist who cries out against the idea of God, makes a god in their own image and likeness. Pearcey shows the readers how the bible has already clearly shown us this in Romans 1.

Having identified the idol of atheism, Pearcey then teaches readers the implications of just beliefs. More importantly, Pearcey lets readers know that a deviation away from God’s idea of humanity or this world inadvertently brings about harmful and destructive behaviours. For example, if we believe that human is simply a product of evolution, then when we declare we love somebody, it can be nothing more than dopamine flooding our caudate nucleus. It may feel significant to us, but it is really nothing more than a bunch of neurotransmitters flooding our neuroreceptors. Any deviation from God leaves us with a beliefs that makes us less than we actually are.

The next principles Pearcey introduces is whether such beliefs contradicts anything we know about the world. This can be clearly seen when atheists say things like mortality or conscience is not objectively real, but the world will be much better if we live as if it was objectively real. In essence, no one can live our their belief to the fullest. This is also linked to the fourth principle, which looks at whether a belief is self-contradictory or not. This is most clearly seen in relativism, where everything is relative, but the statement itself. Lastly, since no belief can be self-standing, there will always be things they will need to “borrow” from the christian faith. This sums up the 5 flaws of atheism.

This book is most useful for high-school or college level youths. This will really them to think through about their faith and also about what atheism really is about. This will help them think critically about atheism and help them see their faith in a new light. Pearcey bring the burden of proof onto the atheist and ask them to show christians how their belief is able to stand up on it’s own and at the same time shows how the christian faith is able to meet all of the test. Recommended reading for almost all christians, since we have often raised of the rise of the nones.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series) (4/4)

The gospel of Mark may be the shortest gospel, but you will not believe how much one is able to discover and understand from the gospel of Mark.

A Theology of Mark's Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series)David E. Garland has written a definitive book on the theology of the gospel of Mark. Garland starts with an elaborate introduction to the gospel of Mark. He covers the historical framework of the theology of Mark and also the literary nature of Mark’s gospel. This introduction takes close to 25% of the book and will be a value resource for anyone doing research on the book of Mark.

For the rest of the book, Garland then traces different themes through the gospel of Mark. This will be a section that pastors will find helpful as they preach through Mark. Pastor who are interested to showcase a certain topic within the gospel of Mark will find this section especially helpful. I especially like the chapter where Garland covers the secrecy motif in the gospel of Mark. I must say this is one of the questions I always have when reading through the gospels, why Jesus do not want some to proclaim his identity to the masses. I found Garland especially enlightening in this area and have been helped by his in-depth research on the gospel of Mark.

This book is certainly not a walk in the park, and most will probably not buy a copy of this book. But if you are currently researching on the gospel of Mark, or intends to do serious research work on the gospel of Mark you really should consider this book. You will be able to find many gems and treasures within this book. Garland has published a great reference material on the gospel of Mark that will benefit many in the years to come.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (1/4)

John Frame has written a masterpiece with this work. When I think of a book on philosophy, exciting is rarely used to describe it. Yet, I have to say, I was truly exciting to received this book for reviewing. I’ve been helped by Frame’s writing in the past and was pleasantly surprised when I saw this book coming out soon after his systematic theology textbook was out. How does John Frame manages to write so much so fast?

A History of Western Philosophy and TheologyI’ve yet to completed this book, but so far based on whatever I’ve read. I’m glad to say this book is a book that any beginners in philosophy can use. Frame takes the readers through the various philosophies and philosophers of the different ages. He explores what they teach and more importantly, examines what the bible has to say about their philosophies. The first chapter by frame is excellent and ought to be a required reading for any christian taking philosophy. He examines and defines the terms he will use within the book, and introduces the distinctive presuppositional apologetics perspective to the readers. He explains to the readers that different between the christian and non-christian understanding of philosophies.

Having done that, Frame then guides the readers along starting with the greek philosophy. What i found extremely helpful was how Frame covers some philosophers that are not often covered in other textbooks. This includes the early church fathers and the recent christian philosophers. Being a christian philosophy book, Frame certainly focuses on the christians philosophers. But Frame also interacts with the big guns of philosophy, such as Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.

Readers will also be pleased to know that this book complements the RTS course on philosophy taught by Frame, which is available free online. Frame has given christians a good alternative textbook on philosophy, albeit it can be skewed towards the christian side. It is still an excellent textbook for anyone who wants to hear the christian perspective on philosophy. This book is certainly worth the price you pay for it. Recommend for any christian who is interested in philosophy and also for pastors who have people in their congregation who studies philosophies in college. You will find help in this book.

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. As an alternative, Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought is a good one book that covers general philosophical thoughts. Get it here and here (free international shipping).

Wittenberg vs. Geneva: A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that Divide (29/3)

Are you a reformed christian? If so maybe you need to take a look at this book. What Brian W. Thomas tries to do in this book is to let the reformed faith goes head to head with the Lutheran teachings. Thomas takes up 6 topics which he then compares against each other. Although Thomas is quick to acknowledge that he is a Lutheran, he does not tries to put up a straw man argument against the reformed faith.

Wittenberg vs. Geneva: A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that DivideThomas first takes up the topic of atonement. He argues that particular atonement is not taught by the bible, rather he believes that the bible teaches universal atonement and universal grace. Thomas then shows how he arrive at his belief by highlighting the verses that teaches his position. He also interacts with reformed theologians such as R. C. Sproul, Louis Berkhof and John Murray. Within each chapter he shows why he disagrees with the theologians and informs readers his understanding of the verses he brings up.

Thomas does this in like manner for the different topics, not being shy to ask questions about the reformed position. In this process, Thomas tries to break down the reform faith and show the deficiencies of the reformed faith. Being a Lutheran, Thomas similar will then make the case for the Lutheran faith. He shows how Lutheranism is able to stand up to the points he raised in the book and how it is more faithful to the bible.

Readers may not need to agree with every point that Thomas raises. But reformed readers will be able to see their understanding challenged in this book. I remain unconvinced by Thomas, but I appreciate him writing this book in the attempt to generate conversations between the Reformed and the Lutherans.

So are you firm in your reformed faith? Do you know how and why you should defend your reformed faith? If so, then maybe it’ll be a good time to give this book a read. You’ll begin to see how your understanding of the reformed faith can be challenged and hopefully that will spur you to be more careful to dig deeply in the word of God to examine if what you believe truly comes and is according to the word of God.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review