Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power (3/10)

In what age has man not been obsessed with money, sex and power? Probably none. Which is why this topic will need to be addressed in every age. John Piper has decided to tackle this issue. But he does so in a very even-handled way.

Living in the Light: Money, Sex and PowerFirst Piper wants readers to know that money, sex and power are not three separate issues that needs to be addressed individually. Rather they are issues that come out from the same root: sin.

This then becomes the focal point which Piper then tackles. This is not to say that Piper neglects the three topics mentioned. Rather he does not address them as entirely separate entities.

Piper then combs through the bible and see what the bible has to say about each of these topics. After giving readers a big overview, he then leads readers to see how each of them leads us away from God when we put them in the centre of our lives.

Piper shows readers how sex, money and power leads us to live idolatrous lives and why we should not worship them as gods. Piper then gives readers the correct perspective to view all these  gifts that God has given to us. When God is placed at the centre and sex, power and money in their respective place, God is honoured and man is free to enjoy these goodness that God has given to us.

This will be a good general book for all readers. Primarily, this will apply for those who are starting to work or marry, where these 3 topics will be directly relevant to their lives. For those who are not, this will book will still serve as a helpful guide before you confront these issues in future.

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 – Why Bother With Church? (30/9)

I love this title. This book highlights the thought that many (both christians and non-christians) has towards the church. In my own church, I see and feel that many youths have this apathy towards the church. So should we really bother with the church? What will we really lose if we are not involved in a church?

Why bother with church?Sam Allberry has written a short book to address it. Allberry starts by highlighting that the church doesn’t mean a physical structure or location. In fact church really means a gathering of people. He shows readers that the new testament christians were more concern about the gathering of the believers that the physical building they were at and that we should always keep this in the back of our mind as we talk about the church.

Next, Allberry highlights our need for the church. He shows us how as christians we cannot really divorce our faith from our community. This is what Jesus and the authors of the different New Testament books were concerned about. It is both our need and our service to be within a community to support and encourage and to be supported and encouraged.

Allberry then explains to readers what is a good church. He covers three aspects of the church. First the church is committed to learning from God’s word, next the members are committed to one another and third, the church is committed to worshiping God. Having done so, Allberry also adds a small excursus that talks about how to choose a church and about what baptism and communion is about.

Finally Allberry talks about a church’s governance and how we can be committed to a church despite the difficulties we have. I found this section to be honest and pastorally helpful although Allberry does not provide all the answers to the questions one might have, this is a good small for such a thin book. It leaves readers thinking how they can not be committed to a church if they’re christians. For those who think they’re over with the church, why not pick up this book and reconsider your conclusion? For youths who think church is boring and a waste of time, perhaps this book will be something you can consider as an alternative to what you believe.

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 – Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace (23/9)

Can business be good? Or even godly? Alexander Hill think so and advocates Christians to have just businesses.

Just Business: Christian Ethics for the MarketplaceHill starts the book by discussing crucial topics of his book. Within it, he talks about holiness, justice and law. Hill akin these to a 3-legged stool, all 3 are important to have a christian ethics for business. If one lack of them, there is a possibility that we will have a skewed ethics for business.

Next, he talks about the law, morality and agency. I especially appreciated how Hill talks about what agency is. He informs readers that we are responsible towards the actions we take in the workspace. And this certainly is deeply related to how we hold ourselves at work and how we related to others.

Next, Hill talks about the various topics one will face at a marketplace. I enjoyed how Hill uses many case studies to illustrate the difficulty and complexity of how christians can live out their christian ethics at work. Although Hill does not give us model answers to follow, his discussions on the topic is always enlightening and seeks to explore all aspect of the subject. For someone still very new in the marketplace, I have found this book useful for my own growth in this area. Business owners will find this book especially helpful as Hill also help employers think through some ethical issues within their companies.

Far too often, books target the employees but not the employers. This book helps readers see things from both perspectives. He helps employers see what kinds of ethical dilemmas their employees deal with in their workplace. But also helps employees understand the responsibility and burden the employers have when making ethical decisions.

If you are a pastor who have not worked in the marketplace. This will be a helpful book for you to understand the situations your congregation faces everyday. You’ll begin to understand the complexity and nuances that each situation have. This will help you see that there may not be clear answers in every situation, but we many a times we are called to wrestle through these situations prayerfully.

Rating: 4.5 /  5

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

Book Review – Marketplace Christianity: Discovering the Kingdom Purpose of the Marketplace (20/9)

Are you a christians who is currently NOT serving in a full-time ministry, and probably DO NOT feel called to serve in a full-time ministry? Congratulations! You ARE the majority of the christians in church. Far too often, churches do shepherd christian who are serving well in the marketplace. This has to be a failure of the church.

Marketplace Christianity: Discovering the Kingdom Purpose of the MarketplaceThis is a book that seeks to minister to the majority who are serving full-time in the marketplace. As a christian who has started work a year ago, I am thankful that Robert E. Fraser has given much thought to this area. Too often those who excel or enjoy being in the marketplace feel so neglected within their church. But Fraser wants to help them serve God within the market place.

Fraser points out many relevant points that full-time pastors ought to take note.
For example “Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so passionate for Jesus, I just have to go into business”? Why don’t we hear that? Because, without ever saying so, most Christians believe

that a marketplace vocation and passion for Jesus are mutually exclusive”

Too often, if pastors are not careful this impression sticks with the congregation: “The message is that marketplace activities are devoid of spiritual purpose. Christians can best express their love for Jesus, they are told, by coming to church meetings, volunteering with the youth, teaching Sunday school, ushering, greeting and so on.”

However, Fraser also highlights the danger of being suck into the rut of the marketplace. He calls christians to be careful to seek what is eternal and not what is temporal:
“Imagine that the U.S. government announced that at the end of the month green dollars would be worthless, and new red dollars would be our currency. We would be fools to keep green dollars. In the same way, God gives us the opportunity to trade the worthless for the eternal.”

There can be no doubt that is book is written especially for those who are working in the marketplace. Pastors would also be wise to consult this book, especially those who have not had any experience working in the marketplace. This will help you grow in your empathy for your congregation and also to be careful in the way you minister to them.

Rating: 4.5 /  5

If you are 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

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.

Book Review – Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (30/11)

Living as a young christian, I’ve always been taught that christian life is full of passion and zeal for the Lord. However, my life experience has taught me that zeal and passion comes and goes very quickly. I really will not be able to keep myself in the christian faith is that is all to Christianity.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless WorldMichael Horton has observed the same problem in the christian circles and wants to bring believers back to the what the bible has to say about being a disciple of Jesus. His message to christian is quite simple, let us seek the ordinary means of grace in our pursuit of Christ in our christian life.

Horton first sets up the problem with the current teachings of the church at large. He highlights some of their problematic and wrong teaching. For example, he shows how the word ambition, which was previously referred to as a vice but has now change to be something virtuous. More crucially, Horton shows how the church has moved towards a very short-term view of christian discipleship. We have trained up a group of christians who live on passion and instant results. In the long run, they will eventually leave the church. Simply because the church will never be able to outperform the world in such areas.

Having listed out the problems, Horton then moves the readers on to the historic teaching of the church. He helps readers see the importance of the ordinary means that God has already promised and provided — the church, the preaching of the word of God, the Lord supper, and baptism. The christian discipleship process is like the life of a tree, it is not the high-and-lows the trees has in it’s life everyday that makes it big and strong, rather it is the routine daily nurturing of the sun’s ray and rain that slowly makes the tree sturdy.

After reading this book, I’ve had a deeper appreciation of the ordinary means of grace that the Lord has given to us. I have a greater anticipation of what the Lord will do as I gather each week in the church listening to the word and partaking of the Lord Supper. I’m not disheartened or discouraged when I can see no observable change in my zeal or passion because I’m assured that the Lord has promised to use those means to help me grow. The growth may be subtle and minute, but as I grow slowly week by week, I know that God is surely helping me grow slowly, but surely to be more and more like Jesus.

This book is certainty one I will recommend for any christian, especially if you think the christian life is only about being zealous to God. I hope you will see that the bible’s teaching is certainly not about zeal but about growing sustainably in the word of God. We need no other source nor do we need anything to zest it up.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

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

Book Review – Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (27/11)

If I had a choice on one pastor I would have in my life, I would definitely choose John Newton. At first glance you might be wondering why I would choose the author of Amazing Grace as the pastor of my choice. Most Christians only know his dramatic life testimony, but you might not know how pastoral Newton became as he served his congregation in St Mary Woolnoth.

Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life)Tony Reinke first starts with a brief introduction to John Newton, highlights the major milestone in the life of Newton. This sets the picture and context to people who are new to the life of Newton. After the quick overview into the life of Newton, Reinke wants christians to see the importance of looking to Christ. I like the fact that Newton helped christians see the importance of looking to Jesus, with an emphasis on the word ‘looking’, keeping a continuous focused graze on Jesus throughout the christian life. This keeps christians focus on what Christ has done when we’re dealing with our indwelling sin or with our insecurity.

Having laid this foundation, Reinke then moves on to the topic of christian living, he helps us see the advice that Newton gave to his correspondences and how his advice is still good pastoral advice to us today. Newton gave very sensible and sensitive advice to those suffering from trials or those struggling with indwelling sins. Newton often helps his readers see the ‘benefits’ that such trials or indwelling sins brings to our christian life. For example, in dealing with trials Newton writes, ‘When these serious trials interrupt our lives, we “run simply and immediately to our all-sufficient Friend, feel our dependence, and cry in good earnest for help.” But when all is well, when life seems peaceful and prosperous, and when the difficulties in life are small, then “we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and strength, as if in such slight matters we could make shift without him.”’. Living in a day and age where suffering seems strange, undesirable and quickly avoided or alleviated, this advice comes like a fresh breeze and encouragement to endure through our trials patiently.

I’ve also found Newton’s advice to young and old christian extremely helpful. In a series of 3 letters, Newton addresses the young and new born christian, those who are in adolescence and those who have been a christian for a long time. I have found Newton to be a master of the human heart and of the christian life. He highlights points that readers will identify with in their lives and he also points out the dangers they will face and areas that they should be especially watchful for. At all times, Newton gives the slight nudge of encouragement to the christian to keep their focus on Christ and to live evermore so in dependence on the love of God, the compassion of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a pastor, or if you are thinking of going into the pastoral ministry, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for you. You will first be cared for pastorally and then learn to care for your congregation pastorally. For those who are doing any form of mentoring or counselling or even if you’re going dry in your christian life, read this book and let Pastor Newton give you some of his counsel. Personally I’ve been helped by the advice of this seasoned pastor and hope one day to be as pastoral in the way I interact with my congregation in future.

Rating: 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

P.S. As a add-on I would also recommend Letters of John Newton. They will surely minister to you and help you be able to give wise pastoral advice to others. Get it here and here (free international shipping).

Book Review – Modesty: More Than a Change of Clothes (12/11)

You will be hard press to find books written on modesty. You will be even more hard press to find a book that talks not just about outward modesty, but also inward modesty. Right now I think this is one of the best book out there on the topic of modesty.

Modesty: More Than a Change of ClothesMartha Peace and Kent Keller teams up for this book. Each brings their perspective into the issue. Although this book is written primarily for ladies, Keller helps the ladies understand the struggles man faces with immodest dressing. This gives an idea to the ladies about how modesty matters to men who are striving to stay pure.

First the book drives at an important point, they want the readers to understand that modesty has to be an inward change and attitude. The heart needs to embrace modesty inside out before we move to talk about what or what not to wear. Next, Keller helps readers understand the difference between man and women. I appreciate how Keller bring out several examples which I felt was aptly and accurately described. I find myself nodding and agreeing to most of the points that were raised and wondered why no one has written as clearly as he has regarding this issue.

Next the authors examine the old and new testaments regarding the theology of clothing. One of the key teaching Peace and Keller examines is why clothes are even necessary in the first place. This bring us all the way back to Genesis, where God is the one who clothes us, God is the one who defines modesty for us. At the New testament section, Peace and Keller drives back to the central point of the modesty of the heart. As I read this book, I was very thankful the authors decided to go back to this point repeatedly. This is what will make the book useful and applicable despite the frequent fashion changes over time. No matter how fashion has changed, if the desire to be modest comes from the heart and guided by the teaching of the Bible, then it can be applied at any time.

Lastly, the authors gives the gospel hope for those who might have been immodest. The authors direct the readers to Christ the Saviour who has bled and died for the immodest, to make them clean and modest.

I find this book very helpful to those who are motoring teenagers. The book is not very long with short chapters. Parents may also want to read this with their daughters to help ground them with a biblical understanding of modesty. Guys may not find this book as helpful as the girls, but pastors should give this book a read so they know what books to direct their youths to if they are interested to read up on this topic.

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 – Becoming Worldly Saints (25/8)

Can a christian have the best of both world? Michael Wittmer says yes! And he makes a strong case for it within this book.

Becoming Worldly SaintsFar too often, christians think that they have to choose between either enjoying the world or serving Jesus wholeheartedly, Wittmer however shows us that this either/or dichotomy is false. Wittmer does this by giving Christian the meta-narrative of the whole bible in 4 acts, creation, life, fall and redemption.

Within creation, Wittmer helps us see the purpose of creation. He talks about what it means to be created in God’s image, what is man’s purpose here on earth and also why everything we do here on earth matters to God. Wittmer reminds the readers that we are not to have a platonic understanding of the world — to see fleshly/physical things as “lower” than spiritual things. Instead, Wittmer points out that both are created by God, and can be used to glorify Him, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what is physical. What is wrong is the sin that is in the world and that is in us. Which is what he brings out in the next section.

Wittmer then brings the readers to what the fall is, and it’s effect on creation. Thereafter, he brings the readers to the redemption plan of God. Within this section, Wittmer then talks about what it means to live in a fallen world for christians. He talks about how christians are called to be int he world but not of the world and what it means for us to be “redeeming” the creation world that we live in. Within this, he also talks about the 2 kingdom perspective and the Kuyperian kingdom perspective. He shows the issues between the two perspectives and then proposes his own alternative view that sits between the two. Personally, I found this section most enlightening and enjoyable. I have not read much about both of these kingdom perspectives but Wittmer has given me a good concise introduction to it and has whet my appetite for it.

Overall, I found this book talks not only about theological issues, but at the same time brings about practical implications and applications into the reader’s life. I have found the thesis of the book refreshing and thought-provoking. If you are a christian who wants to live a faithful christian life in this day and age, I encourage you to give this book a read.

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 – Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity (13/8)

When I read the gospels, one of the things I most enjoy reading is how Jesus often rebuts his questioners with a stumbling question. Seeing how this book deals with questions that Jesus raises, I eagerly took it up and read it. And I have to say I come away from this book having benefitted much from what Israel Wayne has written.

Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets HumanityWayne first talks about one of the few paradoxes a christian has to live with: Is Jesus omniscience? He tackles the problem in a easily understandable manner and lists out why certain options are wrong or right. Next Wayne then goes on to the various questions that are raised by Jesus within the bible.

In the midst of tackling these questions, Wayne uses these questions to teach doctrinal lessons to the readers. For example in the chapter on John 8, where the adulterous woman was brought to Jesus. Wayne first tackles some of the historical knowledge of what usually happens when someone is accused of committing adultery. Next, he presents some problems within this situation, and how Jesus resolves the issue and forgiving the women. Yet, this forgiveness has to come at a great cost. He brings the readers to how Jesus is able to declare that our sins for forgiven — He took on our punishment. God has made him who knew no sin to be sin. Here he ends off beautifully with this question which I would like to quote to show you how he ends this chapter:

“Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we hear His words addressed to us: “Has no one condemned you?” We receive our answer in the words of Scripture.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1–2; KJV).”

Wayne writes in a humorous and engaging manner while at the same time letting the readers interact with the words of Jesus in each of the chapter. I highly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend this book to anyone who is new to the christian faith to read it. Pastors who are interested to grow their youth groups in doctrinal studies can also use this book as a platform to discuss about the points raised in each chapter.

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