Book Review – Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Strategies for Overcoming Bottlenecks in Preaching God’s Word (29/12)

Every preacher who has tried to excel in preaching would probably have felt the immense burden and enormous responsibility to preach faithfully and competently. Many a times, you would find yourself just like Paul who cried out to God, “Who is sufficient for these things”. No doubt some of these struggles come because of bottlenecks that occurs during the preparation of sermons.

Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Strategies for Overcoming Bottlenecks in Preaching God's WordGreg R. Scharf understands the problems face by preachers and wants to help them go through these bottlenecks. Although this is primary a book about resolving these bottlenecks, Scharf does not want to make any assumptions, he starts by making a biblical case for preaching. Having shown that preaching is biblical and necessary, Scharf then tackles 8 of such bottlenecks.

This book would especially be helpful for young budding preachers, since they would soon encounter these bottlenecks in the near future. More experience preachers would quickly identify themselves with the various bottlenecks, but they will go away learning some ways to deal with them. This book is definitely practical for preachers and deals with things that preachers often faces. Though tackling these situations Scharf gently encourages preachers to continue to work on their weaknesses rather than to give up on it.

Personally I was helped by this book, most of the books on preaching do not really deal with this bottlenecks at such a detailed level and I’m thankful that such a book has finally been published. If you’re looking for a book to help you with the  practical issues in preaching, then this is the book for you. Pastors should get this book and review their preaching every year or every two years. I’m sure they will find themselves preaching better and better as the years goes by.

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. You might also be interested to get Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

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Book Review – A Lost God in a Lost World (22/11)

The notion of God has almost certainty been absent in our world, even in some churches. As such christian grow up with a shallow and minute understanding of God. Our understanding of God is certainty far too small. Melvin Tinker wants to use this book to address this issue and help christians grow in their understanding of who God is.

A Lost God in a Lost WorldTinker teaches the readers through 9 beautifully written exposition the different aspect of God. Within the expositions, Tinker lets readers draw deeply from the Word of God while at the same time explaining the bible verses used in his expositions. Tinker also showcases how a sermon can be Christ-centred, or how a teaching in the old testament naturally finds its fulfilment in Christ.

What sets this book apart from others is really how Tinker holds no punches back, and speaks relevantly to people of this age. Tinker highlights the problems of our age, and points out how the bible rebukes us on it. But Tinker does not stop at that. Most importantly, Tinker shows us how our problem has been solved by God Himself, through the person of Jesus Christ. Following which, Tinker brings us to the future world that awaits those who belongs to Him.

I have found this book to be excellently written. I would recommend anyone who wants good exposition on the doctrine of God to read this book. For pastors who want to learn how to give biblical expositions that engages the modern world, you should really give this book a good read. I hope this book will help teach pastors how they can preach biblically in our times and also engage the minds of Christians to see that God has not and will not disappear from our world and our lives, no matter how hard we try.

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here.

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

Book Review – Preaching by the Ear (30/11)

The best preaching is preaching that comes from the heart. That’s what this book is all about, preaching from the heart. Although preaching seems not to have changed much over the years, there has been one fundamental difference between preaching done today and preaching done eons before. And that difference is, the invention of the writing.Preaching by the Ear

Dave McClellan has written a book that helps preachers see the differences between preaching done today and preaching done in Jesus’s time. Essentially this book is a book that will help preachers think critically about our preaching today. McClellan points out many pointers that would have escaped the modern preacher due to the sheer magnitude of the influence of writing to us.

For example, McClellan points out that prior to writing, words, speeches were always considered to be temporary and transient as compared to the written word now, which can be compared, edited, reference long after the “speech” has been spoken.

This has practical applications to preachers who has always been drilled and trained to think about crafting a sermon, by typing or drafting a long “speech” that one has to reads off. McClellan points out that in an era before writing, preaching would have never been done this way, rather preaching would necessarily be extemporaneous. The difference between the two would be evident to the hearers, the one who preaches extemporaneously would not expect the listeners to be able remember every word that was preached and thus come out with hooks to help readers remember the progression and the flow of the speech. “Preaching” a typed sermon, no matter how well written still suffers from the problem that it never sounds like conversations but rather as messages typed out.

From here, McClellan proposed how to help preachers preach extemporaneously, he emphasis the importance of being marinated in the word of God, not just because one has to preach on the text in the coming week, but rather the preacher ought always be found thoroughly soaked in the Word of God. Next, he also helps preachers make the task of preaching easier by showing them that the burden of what and how to preach it, never lies on the preach, rather it rests on the Word of the Lord, and preachers just have to preach what it was originally preaching about. Finally, he advises preachers with a technique to help preachers slowly be able to preach and link the sermon in a way that preachers can eventually to be able to preach without notes.

This is unlike any preaching books I’ve read so far, and it has been very insightful and has made me aware to be a more “verbal” preacher and to preach in such a way that would really sound like preaching. McClellan also redeems the problem of how should I preach this or that, by simply letting the text speak for itself. A very helpful and insightful book for preachers, and should be recommended for preachers young or old.

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.

Here’s a introduction on the book by the author.

Book Review – Invitation to James (22/11)

The book of James has often been considered the “proverbs” of new testament since it contains many short sayings. However, is there an overarching topic/theme within this book?Invitation to James

Yes, there is, and that is tightly connected to the context of the letter. Sunukjian aims to show that and does a brilliant job at it. In this book, Sunukjian really helps the reader to be in the context that James was written in, he is able to help readers see and feel the times when christians were persecuted, yet he is able to do it without boring the audience.

As with every book in this series, Sunukjian gives the readers a big overview of the whole book, and from it breaks it down into the different chapters. He repeatedly helps the readers see this overview several times within the different chapters so the readers do not miss either the trees or the forest. Next, he begins every sermons with an introduction, make not mistakes, Sunukjian does an excellent job for introductions and would be a good book for preachers to learn how to do excellent introductions to their sermons. Following which he moves on to the main teaching of the passage. This is does very carefully with one eye in the original context, and other eye with modern application.


Although this will not be a commentary that readers will want to reference for exegetical purpose, it is a good series to read as sermons on the various passages. The sermons handles the passage well and is a model for preachers to be clear in their preaching.

Recommended for preachers, or lay christians who want to read fine preaching on the book of James. You will not be disappointed.

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 – Invitation to Philippians (22/11)

Philippians have often been called the letter of rejoices, Paul in this letter uses the word rejoices several times. But do you know what circumstances Paul was in as he pen this letter? Well, he was in prison, and might have died at any moment after meeting the Caesar.Invitation to Philippians

Sunukjian in this book helps the readers to see and feel how Paul might have felt as he felt this letter to the Philippians. Sunukjian begins by giving the readers a general overview of the whole epistle of Philippians which he will always refer to as he preaches through Philippians. This is very helpful as he allows the reader to see how every single piece “fits” together in the big picture.

In every sermon, Sunukjian will always begin with an introduction. This is one of the strength of the book, he uses good and extended introductions, for preachers who are poor in this area, this is one of the books that might help your preaching. Next, he will move on to the main teaching of the passage. This is another strength of the book, Sunukjian explains the passages with much clarity, allowing young (whether in age or in christian age) readers to be able to grasp the meaning of the bible text.

However, Sunukjian does not explains the “whats” and “hows” of his sermons, and thus the reader has to do the (hard)work himself to find it out, though Sunukjian is so clear that it would easy for anyone to find them out through reading them.

This will be a good book for preachers, or for christians who wants to understand the book of Philippians in it’s context, yet in an easy to read and understand format.

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 – Invitation to the Book of Jacob (22/11)

Invitation to the Life of JacobJacob is a character full of mystery, chief among which is the question why did God decide to give His blessing to the one who acts so deceitfully? Yet as Donald Sunukjian suggests it’s really a picture of us too.

Sunukjian in this book sets out to the readers a series of sermons based on the life of Jacob, from Genesis. It is essentially his sermons on this passages. Sunukjian does not spend much time discussing what he does, or why he does certain things, rather Sunukjian allows the readers to see how he brings across the message to his audience and allow his readers to see the fruit of his labour.

The sermons inside are clear, and expository, that is, they explain the bible text. Sunukjian would always begin the book with a general overview of the passages he will cover. Thereafter for every sermon he will begin with an introduction, and his introductions are alway very varied, not only use one kind of introduction for every sermon. Next, he will move on to the main teaching and also have a few applications within his teaching.

Although I enjoyed reading his sermons, I do find his one of his sermons a rather odd-ball (No. 6, A Good Thing The Right Way) This was pretty much a modernised reenactment of the bible text, which I personally disagree with, but Sunukjian does bring his point clearly across.

Having said that, I find this sermon help for preachers or lay christians, not as a commentary but really has someone else’s sermon (think e.g. Spurgeon’s sermon) you should not expect to find guides or hooks to follow or explaining why these are done. If you’re looking for a place to start reading sermons on Jacob, this is a good place to start.

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.

Book Review – Songs of a Suffering King (10/10)

One of the hardest things for a preacher to do is to find Christ in all of Scripture. This difficulty lies not in the text itself, but in the preachers themselves. As we are reminded from the story of what happened when Jesus walked with the disciples to Emmaus in Luke 24. We see how Jesus had no difficulty in trying to explain how all of scripture concerns him rather it was the disciples who were slow of heart!

Songs of a Suffering KingThe Psalms, in my opinion are one the of the most overlooked books in this aspect. John Fesko has written an excellent book to cover this gap. In this book, Fesko shows the readers exactly what the Psalms are: Songs. Next, Fesko is always careful to exegete the passage in it’s original context and bringing out it’s application from there. Finally, Fesko brings out Christ, not by force but naturally from the text. This is where Fesko really excels in this book. He is able to help readers see how each of the Psalm, from Psalm 1 to 8, is directly link to Jesus!

So within each of the chapters, Fesko expounds of the psalm faithfully and biblically. Although personally I not agree with the flow proposed by Fesko from Psalm 1 to 8, I do see that Fesko is able to link each of them from to the another and each from the context of David, and then to Jesus. Fesko should be applauded from his valiant effort! This is no easy feat to say the least. One can only lament that Fesko has not continued for the next 142 psalm. I highly recommend and anticipate Fesko to carry on this series so the whole of the psalms would be covered. And I recommend pastors to give this a thorough read, see how each and every psalm can preached in context and also be connected to Christ. One of the clearest books on how Christ can be seen in the psalms so far in the market currently, this is truly Christ-centred preaching at its’ finest.

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 – Biblical Portraits of Creation (11/9)

It used to be that Genesis was a really simple, straightforward book to study, no big controversies maybe other than the JEDP documentary hypothesis (and if the pastor doesn’t want to talk about it, it’s still relatively fine). Now however, the tide has turned. It’s one of the few books of the books that has been contested and even contested fiercely within the Christian and evangelical circles. Due to that, books that have appear on the shelves on Genesis have sometimes gone rather technical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for such books. But it has created a barrier that Genesis is a difficult to study, when in reality it shouldn’t.Biblical Portraits of Creation

Although this is not a book on Genesis, it is however a book centred on creation, it might seem strange and indeed felt a little weird when I first started to read them. However, the authors’ intention for this book is to ensure the church is not so lob-sided that we stay away from it due to the current controversies regarding it. And I agree there has been a lack of teaching on Genesis meant for the layman.

This book is really a series of sermons each expounding on one portion of passage with regards to creation. Overall I felt that the passages selected had a great spread, although sometimes we might only be able to think of 2 to 4 bible passages that are linked to creation, Walter Kaiser and Dorington Little are able to use some not-so-familiar passages to deliver on this topic. This is to be commended, they have helped me to that creation is not just a few passages linked only to creation, but the bible has many more passages that talks about it!

Having said that, I do have to say that there was one particular chapter that I thought didn’t fit in this book, and that was about the genealogy of Jesus, sure, I’m aware that the greek word comes from genesis, yet, I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to make that point in this book.

Overall, I felt that the sermons by Little was slightly better, Kaiser’ ones were sometimes more technical and had more pointers and sub-pointers. However, located at the appendix is an essay by Kaiser, and that is a superb article! I felt that particular piece should be well worth the price of the book. You really ought to read it. Kaiser and Little have also very wisely added in discussion questions for each and every chapter, anticipating, in fact encouraging readers to use them in conjunction with their sermons.

In summary, if you want to have a book that speaks particular on the topic of creation, yet not too technical, this is the book to go. You’ll be able to learn not just biblical teachings from them, but also pick up some relevant application points along the way.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

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

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

Book Review – Models for Biblical Preaching (3/7)

Books

Well this isn’t exactly a book on how to do expository preaching, it is a book that shows you how an expository sermon should look like. What’s more, all the sermons in this book is on the old testament!9780801049378

Having just recently read the ‘Biblical Preaching’ by Haddon Robinson (an excellent book, I must add), I was very much eager to read this “follow up” book. Altogether there was 11 sermons inside. each from a different passage and genre.

I felt that the distribution of the genres and books were thought out and planned, no major genre were left out. The authors did not choose easy passages not did they used those frequently used passages, and a short commentary about the sermon itself was given each of them was presented.

What I felt was good about this book were the inclusion of the interview and commentary after each sermon. This really helps preachers old and new to see how others have been doing this work and also their tips and advice to preachers who have to preach to their congregation week after week.

Although not all the passages chosen were frequently used/seen, some of them were the more common ones that can easily be found elsewhere. And while each and every single contributors were students of Haddon Robinson and applied the skills as mentioned is his books on preaching, a more detailed study on each and every sermon would be more helpful. Understandably, based on the number of sermons included in this volume this would have made the task of reading a little repetitive. But since these are “models” maybe a more careful study on some or a few of them would be of more help to the reader.

Furthermore, would it be necessary for this book to be printed? I’m not sure about that. With more and more whole series on expository preaching (e.g. Preaching the Word, Reformed Expository Commentary, Mentor Expository Commentary, etc…) Would I have benefited more from them or from this book? Granted that these other series might not all use Robinson’s model, but with an average of 2-3 sermons for each genre, would that be sufficient? And without a detailed analysis of how the sermons reflects the model, would this book really help me if I’m trying to learn and utilise the model?

Don’t get me wrong, the sermons included in this book are good and deserves to be read by preachers. They would encourage you to stay on the course and help you see that preaching good sermons is something that can be accomplished, but I’m not certain whether this book would spur preachers to preach the Old Testament more or would have had the necessary tools to do that apart from the passages shown within the book.

Rating: 3.25/5

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 – Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (1/7)

Books

If you have dipped into a few preaching books on expository preaching, you would no doubt be referred on multiple times to Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching. So it was with great joy and anticipation when I found that I can finally read this book.

Biblical PreachingRobinson first begins the book by making a case and defense for expository preaching. Though it was certainty not the most water-tight argument for expository, it does the job sufficiently. I have no doubts no readers who picked this book would rather have this book begin by making a lengthy defense for expository preaching. Robinson however does make show why expository is important and what is, and is not expository preaching. Too often the term ‘expository preaching’ is abuse by preachers and writers to an extent that almost any kind of preaching can be termed as expository preaching, Robinson refuses to do that and states clearly what he is teaching and advocating. His definition can be summarise as ‘communicating biblical concepts…. through proper exegesis… with the Spirit’s help in the preacher’s life and applying it to the hearers’

Robinson then takes the readers step by step through what can be commonly found in other expository preaching books. Deriving the main idea from texts, building an outline, asking functional questions (this section is very good), making good application, things to take note during preaching, how to introduce the audience to the text and how to conclude it.

I found the section on functional questions was very helpful, basically, there are 3 kinds of questions you might have to answer in every sermon, explaining, proving or applying it. This section really plays an important role in preaching, after all, what else could you do in preaching other than addressing these 3 questions?

Along the way, Robinson gives the reader tips and advice on what younger preachers can learn to do early on in their lives (e.g. having an index for illustrations for future use). At each step, Robinson guides the readers slowly, showing the necessity of each of these steps and their importance.

What I found was most helpful was the student exercises included at the back of the book, these I think really help drive the point home each time after I finished reading the chapter. I highly recommended and advice future readers to do each exercise after you have finished reading that particular chapter. The exercises help to recap and also illustrates Robinson’s point. Many a times, while doing the exercises, I find myself having light bulbs lighting in my head, due to the lucidity of these exercises.

Finally, Robinson brings the readers through one sermon he’s prepared and shows the reader how each and every part of the sermon is based on what he has taught us in the sermon. It was a great idea to include this is and really does bring the flesh onto the skeleton that he’s been teaching about.

All in all, this is an excellent book on preaching, though, I’m a little sad that no word was said about topical preaching, this really is a minor drawback. It would be good to include some advice for preachers who might want/have to preach occasionally a topical sermon, but still remain a committed expository expositor.

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.