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

Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service (Theologians on the Christian Life) (26/3)

For anyone who is a reformed or Van Tillian fan, Herman Bavinck would be one person you would highly respect. However the 4 volume Reformed Dogmatics may be a bit too intimidating for someone who wants to know what Bavinck has to teach to Christians. There is now one introduction to the works of Bavinck that aims to serve the laity.

Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful ServiceJohn Bolt, the translator of the 4 volume Reformed Dogmatics has written this book to let christian readers know what Bavinck has to say about christian living. Bolt starts by telling the readers Bavinck’s theological foundation for the christian life. In this section, Bolt elaborates on what it means to be created in God’s image and more importantly, what union with Christ means for the christian. Bolt highlights and shows why Bavinck thought this doctrine is foundational to the christian life.

Next, Bolt moves to show what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what a christian worldview is. This section really is a bridge to the applicational section which comes next. Bolt shows how Bavinck used his theological might to think deeply about issues that are fundamental to the christian life. Bolt shows what Bavinck thought about the value and bible’s teaching on marriage and family and vacation. Bolt also highlights what Bavinck’s thought on the society from a macro-perspective.

What is valuable in this book is how Bolt shows the historical context of the times Bavinck lives in. As we are often reminded, history does not occur in a vacuum, Bolt shows the significance of Bavinck in the way he critiques his society and the liberal christians in the Netherlands. Similarly, Bolt highlights areas where Bavinck differs from Abraham Kuyper. This gives the readers a wholesome picture that sometimes even the titans of the Dutch Reformed church had issues they didn’t agree with. Bolt also ends with the translation the only sermon we currently have from Bavinck. I have to say, I think it was a great idea by Bolt and the editors to have included this sermon in this book.

I have gained much from reading this book, this has given me a much deeper appreciation of Bavinck not only as a theologian, but as a churchman, as a pastor and and a public theologian. This book is certainly recommended for any Reformed christians or for anyone who is interested in knowing more about Herman Bavinck.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested you can get a copy 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 – We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong (21/2)

There comes a time where courageous people has to stand up against what is wrong, no matter what the consequence. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. think homosexuality and same-sex marriage is one example of such issues that Christians have to stand up against.

We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and WrongMohler wishes to show historically what has led to this shift in our culture. Mohler does this first by pointing readers to 60s and 70s — the sexual revolution. Mohler then traces through it highlights the various shifts that cumulates in what has happened in our generation finally — the call for equality in same-sex marriages. What Mohler does in this book is to honestly bring to light the agendas of the LGBT community. He quotes their strategies and plans and shows how they have achieved what they have today.

Mohler also very courageously talks about his own change in some stance over the years. Mohler  is rightly to be credited for how he has humbly stated, in writing what he has wrongly held that homosexuality is a choice, and that they have the ability to choose their orientation. Mohler has now believes that they may not have the ability to choose, but there still remains a responsibility for us to not to follow our sinful inclinations. Here is a lengthy quote from this book what on he said about this issue:

“We must also recognize that we have sinned against homosexuals by speaking carelessly about the true nature of their sin. I indict myself here. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, as a young theologian I was invited to speak at a conference of evangelical leaders and thinkers as the movement toward gay liberation was first taking organized shape. At that time, evangelicals were sure the element of choice was the central issue behind the sinfulness of homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle. Thus, we felt the moral and theological obligation to deny the notion of a homosexual “orientation” and to insist that homosexuality was, in every case, freely chosen without regard to any predisposition. For this, I must apologize to the homosexual community, including a host of Christians who have struggled to be biblically faithful even as they have struggled with same-sex orientation.

In a fallen world, every single human being who has achieved puberty is a sexual sinner. Every single one of us has a pattern of sexual attraction, arousal, and interest that we cannot truly say we ourselves have chosen. Eventually, erotic interest comes into our awareness, and, as most adolescents can testify, it comes without any warning or explanation. I now know that a more mature, faithful, and consistent biblical understanding of human sexuality affirms that the fall has so impacted human existence that every single one of us has, to one degree or another, a fallen sexual orientation. Most Christians testify that their fallen sexual orientation is directed toward the opposite sex. Still, no Christian with a heterosexual pattern of sexual interest is free from sin or free from uninvited erotic impulses, interests, and thoughts.

Nevertheless, these uninvited thoughts do not acquit us. The Bible makes clear that we are always responsible for our sinful acts, even condemning us for our sinful thoughts.”

Mohler ends by highlighting some issues that Christians and churches have to think about in handling this issue. I thought this section was especially thought-provoking and will help christians think hard about it. Mohler also ends by answering some of the questions raised regarding the christian’s stance towards homosexuality. Regardless of whether you agree with the observations and conclusion of Mohler, you will find helpful materials on the movement and planning of how the homosexual movement has come to where it is today.

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

P.S. If you’re interested in the what the bible has to say about homosexuality, I recommend What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – From the Pen of Pastor Paul (17/2)

Making the Word of God understand and applicable is one of the key responsibility of a preacher. One way for preachers to improve in this area is to listen or read good preaching. Daniel R. Hyde has written a commentary on the book of Thessalonians that will help pastors in this aspect.

From the Pen of Pastor PaulThis is not a typical commentary, Hyde doesn’t start off the commentary with a detailed discussion on the authorship, providence and theology of the letter. Rather Hyde dives right into the text and starts his preaching immediately after the preface. Astute readers will be able to see how Hyde uses his resources in his sermon. This will help budding preachers understand the value and how much of the commentary he should quoting in their preaching.

Preachers who prefers preaching sermons on a few verses each time will like this commentary by Hyde. Hyde mostly preachings on 3-4 verses for each sermon, and each of his sermons is always peppered with applications thoroughly. Preachers will find this helpful for this own devotional reading and for their preparation.

Given that I have previously reviewed another similar commentary by Richard D. Phillips, it would be helpful to give readers a quickly comparison between the two. In my opinion, the one by Phillips is certainly more exegetical, whereas the one by Hyde is more homiletical. In terms of the breakdown of verses, both are comparable. If I have to choose only one, I would choose Philips over Hyde simply because the I like the whole series of commentaries thus far. Pastors can be assured that they will be well served by both commentaries no matter which they choose.

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

P.S. As an alternative, the commentary by Phillips is also one that you might to consult. Get it here and here (free international shipping).

Book Review – The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for Exegesis (16/2)

For someone who is illiterate on Hebrew yet have access to resources on Logos, I often console myself that these expensively resources are investments that will reap it’s rewards in the future when I finally master the language. This was the case until I found this book.

The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for ExegesisMichael Williams has written this book to help those who are very new to Hebrew and who has access to resources on bible software. Within the book, Williams explains and teaches some of the grammatical issues of the Hebrew language. As he does it, Williams shows the readers examples of how this affects the exegesis of a passage in the bible. I found this very helpful. This helps the readers to see immediately the importance and application of what they have just learnt.

However, as one who does not know Hebrew, I cannot say that I understood everything within the book. This book does require you to have some basic knowledge of Hebrew. I foresee myself using this as a quick reference guide the next time I’m studying Hebrew. This small and quick guide will surely be helpful to those who at least have some basic understanding of Hebrew and access to great bible study resources.

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

P.S. A really good beginner’s guide will be English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew, get it here and here (free international shipping).