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

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Book Review – Did God Really Command Genocide (3/3)

Non-christians have always pointed out that God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful. And that He ordered a genocide to massacre the entire population. So what is the christian’s response towards such a statement?

Did God Really Command GenocidePaul Copan and Matthew Flanagan attempts to answer this thorny question in this book. Copan and Flanagan are no strangers to these questions and has showed that christians does have a very good answers against this questions.

First, Copan and Flanagan helps the readers understand the question at hand, which centers around the Crucial Moral Principle, “It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.” Which Copan and Flanagan distills into 4 clauses :

1 Any act that God commands us to perform is morally permissible.
2 God is the author of the Bible.
3 It is morally impermissible for anyone to commit acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.
4 The author of the Bible commands us to perform acts that violate the Crucial Moral Principle.

Having allowed the reader understand the question at hand, Copan and Flanagan then skilfully moves to explain each of the clause. And how the crux of the question lies mainly in the third and fourth clause.

Having done that, Copan and Flanagan then moves on to discuss about the bible text itself. This, I thought was where the book really excelled. Copan and Flanagan helps the readers to see that what might be read as “every single one”, might not mean literally “every single one”. Indeed, in some passages, the authors of the book (within the bible) mentions that “every single one” was killed, yet the same author would refer to these group of people again later in the book, showing that not literally “everyone single one” was killed. Copan and Flanagan really helps the readers learn these passages in their historical and cultural context.

Having explained the passages, they then move on to ask whether the commands to kill is always wrong. Although that might seem to be quite a simple question, Copan and Flanagan helps us see that, this questions is not as simple as what we think it is. He also highlights that although this action was indeed commanded by God, yet one must remember this are special occasions where He tells His people to act this way. They are certainty to not take that as a convenient excuse to act however they like to.

Lastly, Copan and Flanagan deals with the issue of, will God ask us to do these same actions again? and what if someone says God commands them to kill today, how should we answer? Reading the answers provided in this book at a time where religious extremism has prompt some to kill, shows how this is certainty not how a christian should ever act.

I think college students will find this book very helpful as they try to answer questions regarding this faith. Pastors might want to consult this book if they find themselves preaching through passages where God commends the people to kill “every inhabitants ”. They will find very helpful answers in this book.

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

Book Review – Turning to God: Biblical Conversion in the Modern World (29/12)

When is a person considered a christian? When someone converts! But what really is conversion? More importantly, what does the bible talks about conversion?

Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and SupernaturalDavid Wells writes in this perceptive book, many helpful points on what conversion is. It was surprisingly to know that this book was originally published in 1989, and has now (rightfully) been republished again. In this day and age, conversion has often been termed as “the sinnner’s prayers” or “inviting Jesus into your heart”. Such terminology is not only unhelpful, but reflects a rather shallow understanding of conversion.

Wells shows the readers what conversion is first, he defines it as unique, necessary and supernatural. It is supernatural because only God can convert someone, it is unique because conversion denotes not just a mere change in behaviour, but in allegiances, it is necessary because there has been and will never be anyone who’s born a christian. Next, Wells shows from the bible says about conversion. I found the introduction and the first chapter the best part of the book and would certainly be well worth the money for these two sections.

Next, Wells moves on to talk about insiders and outsiders. In the first chapter, Wells shows how within the bible itself, two types of people are converted, those who are more familiar with the bible (Old Testament teaching), the insiders, and those who are not (outsiders). This then forms the basis of how conversion would look like in each of these two groups.

This two sections would take up most of the book. What is very helpful is that Wells provokes the reader to think about what conversion means in each of the groups. Far too often conversion is a blanket term for anyone who’s coming to be a disciple of Jesus. But conversion necessary means differently for people of different cultures or religion.

Well this will not be easy reading, this will no doubt be a fruitful reading. Wells raises important points for christians to think of. Diligent readers will find this book most helpful.

Ratings: 4.5 / 5

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

Book Review – The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw (12/7)

Books

If you have ever tried to share gospel with an atheist, one of the most frequent argument you will hear raised against the Christian faith is that of the moral argument between God’s benevolence and omnipotence. Often it is argued that if suffering exist, God is either powerless to stop it or God is not as good as who He claims He is, and therefore he is not fit to be worshipped. In light of debunking this argument, Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy sets out to point out what they think is the fatal flaw within this string of argument.9780801016462

Fatal Flaw takes this one argument and elaborates on it, quite extensively. The authors showed the depth of their research by the numerous and sometimes lengthy quotes from the atheist, often quoting from the Four Horseman of atheism (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett) but also Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Dan Barker, just to name a few.

In the first chapter, Geisler and McCoy sets the context of the book and examines briefly the flow and the gist of the book. Thereafter, it’s followed with a 6 chapters analysis of the moral argument, with each chapter flowing from the previous point made. Finally, a ‘summary’ of the points that actually shows how among these actually contradicts what they are argument against. Geisler and McCoy then raised some of the objections against the atheists they answering against and ends with a call for them to examine what they have written about and how this argument is not a good enough for the atheists to reject the christian faith.

Frankly, I feel the book a bit too long,with too many quotations and too repetitive, many a times what was quoted in the beginning of the chapter is quoted again for the end when a summary for the chapter is made. In their defence, I’m sure they are trying to show that they have done their research thoroughly, and have sought to read and understood the argument from the primary text. In reading the quotations they have referred to, I have felt the sting and wrath of the attacks made against the christian faith. But one does wonder if there a more concise way of summarising them could have been more helpful. It was at times a drag to read through all the quotations with seemingly ‘no light coming out of a very (very) long tunnel.

I felt also that the argument was dragged a little too long, and did not answer the question raised very effectively. In fact, i see that the main argument was raised very early in the book and should have been the main thrust of argument rather than using it at times within the book.

More alarmingly, I counted that there was only around 5 books within the bibliography that was remotely close to the topic of apologetics, which is striking for a book that sets out to attempt this task. No doubt, they are trying to put forth a new argument against the atheists, but I’m not quite if this argument is good enough. Would it be better to show why this new method is necessary? Or perhaps a combination of showing the flaws of the argument along with Christianity’s answer against it?

In sum, I think this book would help those who have read the New Atheism deeply or would like to attempt to talk with those who have, but be warned, only those who preserve to the end would be rewarded.

Ratings: 3.5/5

If you’re interested, you can get this book here, and here (free international shipping)

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