Book Review: The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (26/12)

Evangelism has to be one of the most difficult task a christian has to do. I know I find it difficult to initiate a conversion and somehow share the gospel with my friends. Often, there is an unspoken sense of guilt that comes over me when I know I have missed a “golden opportunity”  to share the gospel. This is why I have found this book helpful for myself.

The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth BelievingJonathan K. Dodson anticipates that many have this unspoken burden and wants to lift this burden off their shoulders. Dodson very carefully helps readers think beyond the “golden opportunity” mindset. Rather he encourages christians to use both their lives and speech to be good witness for Jesus. He helps readers see that sharing the gospel can be a process that flows naturally, rather than always having a project or achievement mentality.

Having set the mentality a Christian ought to have about evangelism, Dodson then sets out to highlight what the gospel is. He helps christians see the gospel with new eyes. This sections is especially helpful for those who have been numb to what the gospel means for their lives. While reading these 3 chapters, Dodson hopes to let the gospel be good news once again to his readers.

Having shown the gloriousness of the gospel, Dodson then brings out 5 themes that will allow christians to share the gospel. These themes being common to everyone makes perfect sense why Dodson will want to write on these topics. As I was reading this section, I envisioned myself taking the same approaches in trying to share the gospel to the people around me. This section was helpful in letting me thinking through the various channels I can use to share the gospel. This section also helped me see how the gospel is relevant to my everyday life.

I found the book helpful to those who are new or are already familiar with evangelism. If you find evangelism to be a difficult task, why not give this a read and see if it’ll help you deal with it?

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. You might also be interested to get Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly, I found this book helpful in helping learn and understand how to do evangelism. Get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Martyrs of Malatya (4/10)

How much is Christ worth to you and to your neighbour? That was the thought that constantly came across my mind as I read this book. I love biographies and this books talks about 3 christians who had to pay the ultimate price for their faith and because of their desire to bring the gospel to those who are utterly lost.

Martyrs of MalatyaJames Wright starts by narrating to the readers the life story of the lives of these three christians. All three of them came from very different background. One was from Germany, another was groomed to be a devoted muslim while the last was university student. Yet each of them found Christ in their own time and was called by Him to serve together in the land of Turkey.

Wright gives an inside picture into the life and thoughts of these christians showing how their lives have changed as they slowly opened up themselves to the truth of the Bible. Each of them was slowly but surely transformed by what they have read in the bible. They were finally convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour of the World and follow Him till the end.

Wright also shows very clearly the difficulty of the work that Necati, Uğur and Tilman was involved in. They were not fools, they knew the danger and the courage they needed to be doing this work. Each of them were ready to give their best, their all for the Lord.

As I read this book, I mourn with those who has lost their beloved because of the faith, and I groan with the rest of the world that the lost may finally be turned from their lost state towards Christ. I have been encouraged and challenged by what I’ve read. It was a stark reminder that martyrdom is not just something that happened in the past, but it is something that still happens even today. May the Lord keep us all faithfully to the end and may He come quickly!

Rating: 4.25 / 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. I would recommend Foxe’s Book of Martyrs as an companion to this book too. Get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle

Book Review – Salt, Light and Cities on Hills (1/1)

Happy New Year Guys!

Here’s the book review as promised. Hope you’ll find it useful.

The struggle between social actions and evangelism has been a hotly debated issue that has been discussed repeatedly throughout church history and also recently. One might be incline to think in terms of “which one should the church do more of?”. But as Melvin Tinker shows, both are important.

Salt, Light and Cities on HillsTinker first starts by summarising what has been discussed about this topic in our recent past. Tinker shows clearly how the idea of evangelism with social action has shifted or progressed through the decades, and why these have happened. Next, Tinker then gives in his own opinions on what has happened, giving his criticism on those whom he disagree with and explaining why he agrees to some of the points raised.

Next, Tinker brings the readers to the bible. He first concentrates on the New Testament, working on the two metaphors Jesus used to describe his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount — salt and light. Following which, Tinker then brings the readers into the Old Testament to see how a Jew would have understood these two metaphors with their background and their upbringing. Though I do not agree with that Tinker has raised in this chapter, I do find many helpful pointers that he has raised that helped me reconsidered about my own views too. Following which, Tinker showed how in Acts the believers lived out what it means to be light and salt. Tinker shows clearly that the church did not choose one or the other, instead they did both. However, the preaching of the gospel was always the crux of the disciples, while the social actions was always the “follow up” or implication of the gospel. Lastly, Tinker ends by sharing about his own experience and also how the church can consider about how they can start such a ministry in a blue-collar region.

I found the summary of the history of social actions and evangelism, and the discussion on what it means to be salt and light to be cogent and thought-provoking. I enjoyed this book a lot, though I’m not very well read in this area, I think the strength of this book is how Tinker tries to think about this topic as biblically as he can.

Albeit it would be worth considering if the two words — salt and light — would really be a good basis to think about social action and evangelism, Tinker helps readers think what these two words would actually mean. This is where the book excels, it shows the readers what the bible has to say about it. Pastors or those involved in church evangelism ministry should be challenge to read this book especially if they want to stay think biblically about what the bible has to say about social action. I’m sure you’ll benefit from the pointers raised in this book.

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

Book Review – What Christians Can Learn From Other Religions (25/12)

There are some books I hate to review. Some are books I disagree with, the other are books that are very badly written, whether theologically or just plain bad. I hate to review these books because these review will hurt the authors and the publishers, but reviews exists for a reason – to help potential buyers discern whether to buy a certain book. So it is with this intention in mind that I pen this review.

What Christians Can Learn From Other ReligionsFirst, let me say what is good about this book. I like how the book decided to cover a whole spectrum of religions. I’m quite certain most readers will not be well-versed with at least some of the religions mentioned in this book. Philip Wogaman, handles the religion with tact and thoroughly, he does not skip over the surface but interacts with the different faiths carefully. Wogaman also reminds christians that when comparing or studying other religions, we must be careful not to compare the best of our faith to the worst of their faith. This often is one of the weakness of evangelical christians, Wogaman should be applauded to point this out to us.

Similarly, I found the chapters on Islam and Hinduism very well written compared to some of the other materials that one might find usually. However, this is not to say that this book is not without fault.

Wogaman firstly does not trust the reliability of the gospels by saying that “there is more than a little doubt whether Jesus himself ever uttered those words.” (p. 1). Next, Wogaman thinks that Jesus is not the only way to God, this can be found in his own summary at the end of the book “The Christian view of Christ as the way to God can be interpreted through the love of Christ as a manifestation of the love of God, so that love—not exclusive adherence to Christianity—is the way to God. That love is also to be found in other religions.” (p. 126).

Similarly, there are even more troubling things that one can find in this book. In the section where Wogaman talks how Muslim finds it hard to accept that Jesus is God, he talks about how Jesus ‘claims’ not to be God.  Wogaman uses Mark 10:17-18 (“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”) to substantiate his point.  Next, he writes that “Christians can continue to believe that Jesus was a very good man and that his goodness is a decisive clue to the nature of God. I certainly do. But the point is that Jesus clearly was not claiming to be God!” (p. 35).

Next, he makes his point explicit by adding this “Muslims similarly are entitled to believe that Muhammad was a very good man… But Muhammad also did not claim to be God. There remains a difference between the two religious traditions, for Christians believe that God was expressed in and through Christ… But the point to be gained is that while God was expressed in and through Christ, Christ was not, himself, God.” (p. 35). Maybe the author meant that Christians do not worship Jesus as the Father, that I wholeheartedly agree. But the passage is so poorly worded that it might meant something theologically flawed. It might mean that Jesus is not fully God. That will never be accepted in any evangelical church.

This is where I find this book such a mixed bag. Quite ironically, I do not think the author even represents the best of christianity. And if that is so, should I therefore trust the author to teach me about other faiths? I find myself wary to believe everything that is written by the author.

I think this book can only be recommended for those who are discerning. Those who are able to shift the wheats from the tares. It is sad that such a book has to receive this review. I was honestly looking forward to gaining valuable insights from this book, but I went away wanting. Perhaps someone else will fill this gap that still lingers even after reading this book.

Rating: 2.5 / 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 – Invitational Ministry: Move Your Church From Membership to Discipleship (18/11)

Stay in a church long enough and you will find out that one of the most common way people evangelise to their friends or family is through invitation to their church. So how can one utilise this and help the church grow?

Invitational Ministry: Move Your Church From Membership to DiscipleshipLaurene Beth Bowers has written a very helpful book to help pastors and ministry leaders think through about their own invitational ministry, and how they can continue to help this ministry grow. First Bowers tackles the idea that is pervasive in church all around, that the church needs to “take care” of themselves before they can reach out to others.

Bowers then moves to show what she means by invitational ministry, first she shows the differences between evangelism and invitational ministry, she shows how invitational ministry involves not only the people you intent to reach out to, it also involves the person who is doing the reaching out. The benefit of invitational ministry is that it takes into consideration both groups of people.

Bowers is honest to point out that some churches may only intend to work on the invitational ministry just so to increase their number of attendees or just so that the offering may increase. This is a real issue and Bowers do give some good insights into how to handle with this issue. Bowers talks about practical issues like defeatist mindset that members might have, or about churches that invests low energy into invitational ministries but unrealistically expects big results from them.

She also gives good ideas on how to help church generate ideas, and gives excellent suggestions on how to deal with this issue. She also suggests a new method of selecting and managing teams planning for events. Though I’ve yet to tried it, I do have my suspicion on whether it might actually help in the planning process.

This book is also not without its’ weakness. First, it seems as though that Bowers is more concern about how to phrase and train church members on how to answers potential questions that people may ask (i.e. their intentions to invite them, etc..) rather than addressing the heart issue of why the members are not evangelising. Bowers also suggests that churches may take a sabbatical from formal worship service.

This book will help readers think about invitational ministry in churches. Bowers offers many tips and good suggestions to think and use, but is lacking in doctrinal depth.

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 – Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (28/10)

What is one thing that Christians often find most difficult to do? I have a sneaky suspicion that evangelism would be one of the top few. So why is evangelism so difficult? Many reasons could be brought up, but the more important question is how we can remedy this situation.

Here is where this book comes in. Mack Stiles has authored a helpful book to revitalise evangelism for christians.Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus

Stiles first starts by addressing an all too common notion people have about evangelism and conversion — altar calls. He proposes to the readers to discard their pre-notion on such things and seek to see what the bible actually says about evangelism. Here, he also explains the what, how and why of evangelism. His definition of evangelism, and a rather simple one, is ‘Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.’

And with that he guides readers through what evangelism is. Stiles very helpfully points out that evangelism can never ever happen without the means of words, and hence the first verb in his definition, ’teaching’. Next, he explains what ‘gospel’ is. Showing readers how sometimes we have a too small/large view of the gospel.

In the next chapter, Stiles moves on to the communal aspect side of evangelism. Yes we are each called to evangelise, but we need to evangelise as a church as well. So he talks about how the members must be clear about the priorities they each have. The ministers of the church must stay focus on the proclamation of the Word and not be boggled down with other good or even excellent things. However, the members (christians) must live out the implications of the gospel. this means although the pastor is not championing such causes.  This is not an excuse to not do anything at all! He takes this principle from Acts 6:2-4, where the church saw and distinguishes between the priorities of the apostles and the needs of the windows. Faithful christians were appointed to administer the important task of meeting the needs of the widows rather than having the apostles administering the tasks.

Lastly, Stiles talks about how things would work in a day-to-day context. He gets right down to business and raises important pointers that pastors, ministry leaders need to be concern about, things like how we are never to assume that the church understands the gospel, or assumes that everyone in the church are christians. He has also left words of encouragement to those who are trying or have tried to evangelise. Stiles shows us that he like us, sometimes do not and are not able to present the gospel as how we should. Yet we must not stop, we must continue to improve and preach the Word to others around us. He assures us the God is at work even though it may not seem to be so at times. He remains us to not focus on ourselves, but on God even at times when we are weary or are even tempted to give us.

Within this book, Stiles has also added an appendix which he has a short explanation of what the gospel message is. It’s a relatively short one (a page and a half) which will be helpful for most readers, even those who are at a lost of not knowing what to share with others.

Yes, evangelism is difficult, but all christians are called to share the gospel. This book would therefore be suitable for those who are very new but want to learn, and also for those who have been a christian for some time, and have kinda given up on sharing the gospel. Hopefully this book will help you take the first step to evangelising once again.

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 – Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith (3/10)

If you have listened in to any debate between an atheist with a christian, often times the debates centred around the ‘notia’ aspect (knowledge), while that is not the only way to try to convert others to Christianity, that might be the most publicised way to do so. So what other ways can a faithful christian try to do? Scores of books on apologetics have tried to fill in this gap but too many a times, they too are leaning too much into the ‘notia’ aspect too. Letters to an Atheist

Which is why I think, this book ought to the read by those who wants to do just that. If you have heard about the author (if you don’t, google/wiki it), Peter Kreeft, you would have know that he is a professor of philosophy which might terrify some, and perhaps makes the rest of us wonder whether or not we should even attempt to read this book. But have no fear, it’s not as difficult as you expect.

In a series of letters, Kreeft corresponds with Michael, an atheist, trying to have a ‘debate’ about each others’ faith. Though Michael is a fictional character, it is by no means an ‘artificial’ debate. Within this book, Kreeft approaches the topic with rigour (what I term as hard [or technical]  philosophical approach) but that is not the focus of the book, far more often, Kreeft approaches the topics using what I call the soft (or laymen) philosophical approach, for example, Kreeft uses the beauty and desire as argument/pointers for the existence of God. Sure, some will find this a little difficult to digest, but Kreeft has consciously (and deliberately) left out the most technical and difficult bits so as to make this book more accessible for the masses.

What is more, included in the last section of the book Kreeft answers against some of the questions often raised against christianity such as hell, the problem of evil, the harm religion has done in history and others. I found this section exceptionally helpful and had it not been included it would have made the book a lot less helpful.  Although these questions are not tackled in length by Kreeft, he answers them succinctly and to the point. Some might want to see this portion expanded more, but this was not the purpose of the book and should be sufficient for most.

So if you’re thinking of reaching out to the atheists around you with some meaningful conversations, do give this book a read, it’ll help you to be able to have good time conversing with them, checking each others’ presuppositions and its effect on our day-to-day living.

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 – Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (18/7)

I thought for a muslim to convert to Christianity was hard, I just didn’t know it was that hard… Even for a muslim who live in the land of the free. That’s my initial thought when I was about 3/4 through the book, truly every conversion is only possible because God is working in the hearts of man (Matt 19:26)

Nabeel Qureshi recounts his story of how he converted in this book. The strengths of this book are numerous.81swODYRoyL

First, it is very engaging, each chapter is relatively short, and it does not hit the readers to too many technical terms at one go (although the first few chapters do seem to contain a little more).

Second, Qureshi chooses not to use only english within the book, inside Qureshi decides to use the actual Arabic words or Urdu words (I think?) within the biography. This is good because it actually puts you into his setting, and you really get to slight feel how it is like to be a muslim in his world.

Thirdly, many of the stories were very personal and very moving, for every muslim as he himself explains within the book has A LOT of respect for the prophet Muhammad and very obedience to Allah. But many a time as he slowly discovers the truth of his belief, he often has a knee jerk reaction against these accusations. Slowly, bit by bit…. part and parcel of his world crumbles down. It is indeed hard for us to enter into the kingdom of God (Matt 7:13-14).

Fourthly, Qureshi shows very clearly what we as christians need to do if we want to reach out to them. Far too often, those who want or who has converted over just find themselves literally alone in a brave new world. Christianity used to be known for their hospitality, what has happened to us? There is a great need for us to recover this.

Lastly, this book is able to explain much of the religion of Islam to readers who are very new to it. It does not just gives you the bare bones which others have often tried to do, nor does it gives you a detailed exposition to everything within Islam, it does equip you with a reasonable amount of the Islamic religion to allow you to have meaningful conversions with other muslims.

Highly recommended if you would like to ‘feel’ what’s it’s like for a muslim to convert to christianity, or if you want to have a reader’s friendly start to knowing more about the Islamic religion.

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 – What’s Your Worldview (15/7)

This is a really good book. Not only is it concise, informative, and well written, it’s actually quite fun to read it! Anderson was done something that few authors have done — a book that’s for everyone. This is literally such a book, no matter what worldview you may hold, you will find this book helpful and informative.

WhatsYourWorldviewThe concept of the book is very simple, make a decision at every section and at the end of it all, you will find out what worldview you have. At the ‘end’ of each route, you will have a summary of the worldview and also a quick evaluation of its strength and weakness of the particular worldview.

Anderson should be praised for the comprehensive scope of the number of worldviews covered, each and every summary Anderson almost always points out succinctly some of the problems of each worldview.

This is a great book for christians who wants to share with people of other faiths (or with no particular faiths). This would help the christian have a brief understanding of what others believe, and also what are some things that the Christian can ask in response to what they believe. Sure these are not silver-bullet questions, but I do think they are able to good conversion starters. It would also be good christians to give to non-christians who wants to know what kind a worldview he has, and whether he is able to live consistent with his belief.

Rating: 4.75/5

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

Here’s a video (unrelated to the book) that explains what a worldview is.

Free in July (11/7)

Here are some deals that free for the month of July.

Logos – For July, Logos is giving out ‘The Righteousness of Faith according to Luther’ by Hans J. Iwand.

Christian Audio – This month ‘Lion of Babylon’ by Davis Bunn is free. It’s a Christian fiction book.

Ligonier – ‘Jesus the Evangelist: Learning to Share the Gospel from the Book of John‘ is free for this month. This is a good book to read if you want to see how Jesus does evangelism in the gospel of John

Desiring God – T.H.L Parker’s  biography of John Calvin (only for 10th July)

I’ll add more if I see more deals for this month, so do check back often!