Book Review – The Secret Life of a Pastor (10/11)

How well do you know your pastor? Do you know what his daily life or spiritual life is like? I guess most of us don’t really know our pastors lives. We don’t really know what they struggle with, we don’t really know what their seminary training entails and we don’t know what their burdens are. Yet out pastors need counsels, advice and support. Michael A. Milton writes this book as an older pastor helping pastors pastorally go through some of these issues.

The Secret Life of a Pastor: (and other intimate letters on ministry)This book focuses on the preparation a pastor go through, the objectives the pastor should achieve and the discipline to care for both their family and the family of God. Milton comes as an experienced pastor and teacher, giving valuable advice to budding pastors. He tell students in seminary that they are to take their training, especially in the learning of original languages seriously. He helps them see that they have been given the privilege to learn something most of his congregation will not have the chance to! This gives them the motivation and correct perspective into their calling and training. Seminary students are not to take these modules as mere academic lessons, rather they are to see that they are being equipped to do what many of their congregation will never have a chance to do.

Next, Milton raise the issue of the daily workings of the church. It would be easy for a pastor to get use to the weekly routine of the workings of the church. It slowly becomes a task that the pastor has to complete. Milton helps pastors see the purpose and value behind some of these routine tasks like infant baptism, expository preaching and ministering. Using his experience, Milton shows reminds pastors that God is working through these means. Their work and labour no matter how mundane is something that God has appointed them to do, they must not lose the wonder of how God is using these means to grow His church.

Lastly, Milton takes readers to see how important it is for them to take care of their own families. He reminds readers that they are not to neglect their families but specially make time and effort to build up their own families.

I have found Milton to be an excellent guide for helping me gain an insider perspective on what a pastor’s life looks like. I think pastors will find his pastoral advice helpful to their life and work. Hopefully this book will help revitalise those who are weary and energise those who are struggling through their ministry.

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

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Book Review – Why I am not an Atheist (1/4)

There are many reasons why I am a christian, and there are also many reasons why others belong to their religions. However, are there reasons for one to be not an atheist? This book says there is.

Why I am not an AtheistWithin this book, 11 reasons were given in this book, each explored in one chapter. These 11 chapters are essentially testimonies given by the 11 persons. Each of them brings with them their experience and their reasons for not being an atheist.

As I read these chapters, I found that the authors do not write exclusively within their own sphere, as I had expected. For example, the biologist in the first chapter approach the reason why he is not an atheist by examining the philosophical basis of science than approaching the topic with biological evidences. Whereas in the 2nd chapter, the university chaplain uses more biological  reasons/evidences to explain why he is not an atheist.

All in all, I found the chapters to be readable, but not terribly a good read. However, I found chapter 11 by Ravi Zacharias to be excellent and certain one of the best chapters within the book. I think readers should really take this book to be a book that shares individual testimonies and reasons why they are not atheist. I have found their own argument to be logical and well argued, though not everyone will agree with their reasons.

I would think that this book would most likely suit those who are agonist or are christians who are studying in the university. they would not only find good reasons why someone is not an atheist, they will also find reasons why someone should (or must) be a christian. Those who are ardent atheist might not necessarily appreciate this book.

Rating: 3.5 / 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

Book Review – Heaven, How I Got Here (26/3)

With the many books about people who has got to heaven and come back, why is there a need for another one? I guess the answer to this question is simply far too many such books are not biblical at all. And here is one that wants readers to be educated and taught about how one really can enter into heaven.

Heaven, How I Got HereColin Smith has written a book covering the perspective of the thief who’s crucified next to Jesus. I must say I’m not a fan of speculative stories especially historical biblical stories, but this book remains to be an exception. This book is not filled with how jesus or how heaven looks like, or what conversions one had with Jesus, rather this is a story that recounts how one entered into heaven.

As the title suggest, this is a short story that recounts how the thief accepted and endure through his crucifixion, at the same time, how he interacted with Jesus and believed in Him. I found the book helpful in how it explains to the readers the heaven is not a place we enter by virtue/merit (as many would believe) but entirely by placing one’s faith in christ. That is essential not just for the terrible sinner, but even for people are civil and mortally upright. Everyone can only enter heaven by faith in Jesus.

Certainly a book that can be read by anyone, young or old, especially so if you are one who’s born in a christian family. Why not read this book this coming Good Friday?

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

Book Review – Spurgeon’s Sorrow

We’ve all been sad, but have it’s another thing to be in sorrow. One well known preacher known to have suffered from extreme sorrow is Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon's SorrowZack Eswine has written a book that not only shows us Spugeon’s experience and struggle with it. Eswine has also written a book to help others understand and visualise what it is like to be undergoing through such sorrows.

First Eswine helps the readers understand what depress is, he writes out in detail, as one who suffers from such depression, and also quotes liberally from Spurgeon, to help us have a grasp of what it is like to be in sorrow. He helps readers who are unfamiliar or unacquainted with depression to see what it is, and how is it difference from merely being sad.

Next, Eswine dispenses advices to those who wishes to help those who are suffering from depression. He practically deals with the questions that often surface in the minds of those who suffer. Eswine deals with these questions by bringing to mind the grace that is offered to all found in the gospel.

Lastly, Eswine gives some light to those who suffers. Eswine understands that it will be a long, tiring and uphill battle to battle against sorrow. But Eswine still help these people to see the purpose and benefits these sorrows bring to their christian life.

I have found this book to really help me understand, in part, what it is like to be under sorrow. These people are certain not just sad, simply advice to tell them to smile more, or be more happy will not do. Only the gospel offers them real hope. And that is what this book is really about. It would be most helpful to those who are currently suffering from depression. You realise that you’re not alone in this, and that God has not given up on you nor has He turned His back on you. Similarly, if you wish to have a glimpse of what depress is like, or hope to know what kind of advice or encourage you can give to one that is suffering. This is the certain one book you have to read.

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

Book Review – Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (23/9)

What does the modern-day, sophisticated church has to do with the reformation of the (not so) ancient past? Well… Plenty! In this book, Carl Trueman contends that the churches today (and tomorrow) about the need to recover the spirit of the reformers.Reformation: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

In the first chapter, Trueman first gives an analyses of the current status of evangelicals. First, he described how the evangelicals have lost the spirit of the reformers, specially he explained why the reformers saw the desperate need for the church in their time to be reformed to the centrality of the Gospel and the Word, their motivation and their goal. Then, Trueman commented on how the contention within the evangelical with regards to worship often only differ merely with the outward form, which in his view, is only embracing the reformers outwardly, but missing the precise point of why the reformers saw — a need for the congregation to have a vernacular worship.

In the next chapter, Trueman looks at the theology of glory — looking at God from man’s  point of view vs theology of the cross — looking at God from Christ’s point of view. This branches out of how Luther himself saw the dichotomy of these two teaching and found the teachings to the Church then to be akin to those of the theology of glory, which thinks that God values what man values. In contrast to that, Luther responded by proclaiming that the church needs to embrace the theology of the Cross.

Trueman then raises two examples that he finds the current evangelical circle need to consider, first regarding suffer, How do we understand and view suffering? Are we unknowingly embracing the theology of glory by our preoccupation to shun away from suffering or to deem suffering as bad or ‘not according to God’s plan’? In the next example, Trueman talks about the definition of a truly successful church. Is the successful church one that entertains and attracts and gauges it’s success by numbers? Or by how faithful the word is being preached? He calls the church to recover what they have lost, to re-embrace the true marks of the ‘successful’ church.

In the next chapter, Trueman then focuses on the centrality word of God and preaching what it does, what it is for, and what the training preachers be. And in the last chapter, He elaborates on the doctrine of assurance, and how we can you find it? Do we base it on our feelings? Emotions? Experience? Or rather on what God has done for us, definitively and absolutely, through Christ Jesus death and resurrection?

Essentially, this is a call for the reform-ed (i.e. Protestant) to re-examine the importance of the Reformation and recover the spirit of Reformers. Although this may be a thin book, it does pack a punch and Trueman gives many points for the evangelical to consider how far we are away from the reformers, and to recover from it before it’s too late for us. Recommended for all church leaders and preachers who wishes to be faithful to what God’s Word say.

Rating: 4 / 5

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

Book Review – God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History (22/7)

Who likes history? Honestly, I think not many will thrilled at this particular topic. However, Brain Cosby has attempted to make church history something interesting to the kids/youths with this book.

God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History

First Cosby defends the need for us to know our history well, the common adage ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ has proven to be true numerous time. But christians has an even more important reason to know our history well. We each come from a particular denomination and they have existed for a particular reason, it would be wise for us to know why. Secondly, history is really His-Story. When we know about our history we can rejoice what God has done, and trust in what he will do in the future.

Cosby then explains and teaching church history chronological, starting from the very first church! Those that are started in the apostolic times and working across the centuries and millennium, Cosby brings out the ‘big players’ during the particular eras. No particular person was given extra attention, though John Calvin did received slightly more attention.

What Cosby did excellently in this book is how he approach the topic on ‘Crusades’, this is a dark history in the church’s history but Cosby does not sweep things under the rag, he slowly tease out the issue, and explains how christians can answer those who questioned the atrocities committed by the church.

Cosby did give more content in this book to the reformation and those reformation era, which was covered in greater depth than the eras before that.

This is a relatively easy book to read too, it can easily be finished in a few sitting, however since it is published by CF4kids, I do question at what age is it especially pitch at? I feel that kids that are younger (12 and below) would most likely not read this book, and unless for teens who are deeply interested in this topics, the rest might not be engaged enough in this book to read it through. However, this remains to be a good primer for those who wants a quick, brief, succinct introduction to church history (even for adults!). You might be surprised at how much you’ll actually learn from this thin book. [Update: It’s meant for teens 14-16!]

One tiny complain for this book, a little too much self-promotion of the previous books the author has written (no I don’t dislike the author!). But maybe also include references to other books by other authors too.

Rating: 3.75/5

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

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

Here’s the book trailer.

Book Review – Preaching: Simple Teaching on Simple Preaching (2/6)

Books

Alec Motyer sets out in this very small but useful book to help preachers or would be preachers to have a good grasp of what preaching is like and should be. Don’t expect to find anything fancy here, it’s the usual steps that you will find in most books on preaching.

PreachingHowever, this book does set the tone in the beginning that preaching is HARD work. And no preaching does not just “come out”. Good preaching comes when you work hard at trying to understand the text, finding/thinking of relevant application and presenting it in a clear and memorable way.

Motyer slowly guides the reader along as though we took at peek at him preparing his sermon in the study. Motyer first reminds us that our sermons must always be driven by the Bible (text) and nothing else. The preacher’s job is first and foremost to explain what the text mean.

He then reminds us that the focus of the bible is Christ, and that we ought to be christ-centered in our preaching also. He also shows us how should not moralise (especially) the Old Testament characters.

Motyer teaches us really simple steps while preparing the sermon. First read the text, then note down the important phrases or points within the passage, next using a concordance find the meaning of some of these words (especially those you’re struggling to understand). Following which you work on the structure of the text, the presentation and application.

What the could be improved in this book could be to add some exercises that a person could do at the end of every chapter. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a theoretical book, it does contain many useful and helpful outlines on various passages done by the author himself. But, I do think that doing the exercises at the end would really drive the point home. This however, is just a minor issue within the book. It’s still is very practical and helpful to any preacher.

This really is a small and easy book, it’ll be a good refresher course for preachers who have been preaching for some time. There is always a danger of slowly changing our sermons so that we can have a “better response”. This book would help remain them the main scope of preaching, and also to encourage them to remain the course. Second, this would be a good primer for anyone who is intending to preach, no technical terms are used, and chapters are small and easily digestible. Added inside is also some reading plans that churches could use to help the congregation mediate on relevant text before coming on a sunday to hear the word of God preached.

Rating: 3.75/5

Get yours here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.