Book Review – Ministries of Mercy, Third Edition: The Call of the Jericho Road (14/10)

Evangelicals are often concerned with getting the gospel right, but they are often not so careful at carefully thinking through the implications of the gospel. One area has had more attention recently is the area of social justice. I have to say being one who attends a church that isn’t too active in the area. I find myself often not think gin about this aspect. Timothy Keller has however persuaded me to think otherwise.

Ministries of Mercy, Third Edition: The Call of the Jericho RoadIn this book, Keller has given me ample reason to consider the implications of what it means to be a christian and a church in out world. In the first section, Keller wants to highlight the magnitude of the problem. He shows how many in America is suffering and lacking in many aspect. As one who does not come from America, I did not find the first chapter to every helpful. However, the rest of the chapters were excellent and helped me visualised similar problems that happens in my own country.

Keller uses the parable of the good Samaritan and makes an excellent case of highlighting the importance of meeting the needs of others. Within the book, I found that Keller gives a very balance approach between meeting the felt needs of people and also meeting their spiritual needs. Keller helps christians think christianly about these issues and helps to see that both aspects are essential to the work of social justice.

In the next section, Keller then helps the christian think through how to implement such measures within the church. I have found this section to be very helpful as well. As one who is convicted by Keller is saying, you might be wondering, how will I be able to implement these in my church? This is where this section comes in. Keller guides readers through the whole process from the start, even before the ministry has started. He highlights the importance of preparing the congregation, looking to God to provide the means of meeting such meets. He helps readers think not only of how to start a particular ministry, but also how to ensure that the ministry continues and grows in the process. One area I liked especially was how Keller talks about what we should do when someone leaves the ministry. This is often an area that is often overlooked or simply ignored. I’m glad that Keller has brought up some pointers on it.

Overall, I have often this book to be an excellent book to read if you’re thinking about how you or the church can grow in the social justice aspect. I’m sure this book will be a good biblical and practical guide for you. Recommended for pastors or ministry leaders serving in this aspect.

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

P.S. I would also recommend Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel by Tim Chester as a companion to this book, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Counter Culture (14/6)

I usually do not like reading books that claims that Christians can change the world/revolutionised  the world. I usually find them too far fetched or too arrogant in their claims. This book however was very different from such books. Although one might think that this book teaches how christians can do great things to change the world, this book does otherwise.

Having seen a receCounterculturent rave on this book, and having read and heard about David Platt previously, I decided to try reading this book although this is a topic I usually skip. I have found that this book does not attempt to tell you what you can do to change the world, this book however will deeply challenge how serious you take the christian faith.

Platt first starts by affirming that the most counterculture thing in the christian faith is the gospel. This I found was a point at has often been skipped over by other christian authors. Often, what is considered to be countercultural is actually the implications of the gospel (you should be…). Platt however sets the picture straight, the most countercultural thing is that God saves us by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and that remains always to be the most counterculture aspect of the christian faith.

Next, Platt raises to the reader’s attention several issues that challenges the christian who are living in comfort. He tackles the issue of poverty, showing how it affects the rest of the world and what we can do to help solve this problem. Time and time again, Platt points out several simple things in life that we take for granted, but these are actually huge problems in various part of the world. He challenges the christians living in modern times to examine our lives and to see how we can fight for what is biblical. Added to his, Platt often gives example of what is happening near the home. His examples do not just consists of stories that happened in a far away land, no, he often gives examples of what is happening within United States.

I have gone away being deeply challenged by this book. I have been challenged not to change the world by doing something big for God, but I have been challenged to change the many aspects of my lives so that I can be countercultural at where I am. I highly encourage all christians to give this book a read, you might be challenged to examine your lives and change your way of live because of it.

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

Book Review – Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down (27/4)

What does an ordinary christian look like? You might think that an ordinary christian looks rather ordinary, lives ordinarily and acts ordinarily. However, If we really live our lives faithful to what Jesus has taught us, our ordinary christian lives, might not be that ordinary at all.

Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside DownTony Merida has written a book to show christians what it means to be an ordinary christian. You might be wondering why Merida should write a book on being “ordinary” as opposed to be being “extraordinary”. But after reading this book, you will find that simply being an ordinary christian makes us extraordinary in the world.

Merida brings to attention five traits that are often overlooked or neglected in our christian walk. This is important as these are the traits that the first christians displayed in when they became christians. This was what made them so different from their non-christian counterpart.

The first trait Merida raised was humility. In a day and age where there is a lot of emphasis on self-promotion, Merida reminds us that humility is really one of the marks of a true christian. Merida shows the readers that unless christians depend fully on God, they will not be able to accomplish anything based not their own efforts.

Following which Merida brings across the remaining 4 traits — hospitality; caring for the orphans; speaking up for the voiceless and showing neighbourly love to the people around us — in the context of social justice. Merida reminds the readers that these are not things that only extraordinary christians do, but these are what christians should have already been doing. Merida shows the readers that the bible teaches these truths and we are far too lax in keeping them. Merida brings the readers through different stories to help the readers visualise the scenes he has seen. This helps the readers understand the situation the world is in, and also highlights the need for us to act and to act fast!

Even though it is clear that we may not be able to eradicate these problems, Merida reminds us that we ought to be christlike in our thoughts, speeches and in actions. I am thankful that Merida has raised these issues for the ordinary christians, and I agree with him that theses are things that the ordinary christians should have been doing, and should continue to be doing.

I hope families and church will read this book and see how they can be doing social justice just through ordinary means, in faithful obedience to our Lord and Saviour.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you are 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 – 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 – Overrated (14/11)

For a book that’s titled ‘Overrated’, it certainty hopes not to live up to it’s title. So does it? I think it’s hard to give a clear answer to it.

overratedEugene Cho has written a great book to challenge the mindset of christians who wishes to change the world, but are not willing to live a life that will truly change the world.  First Cho tackles the idea that we are much more in love of the idea of changing the world/loving justice, than actually doing it. Because in order to truly do that, we would need to pay some cost for it, and frankly, we are not in love enough to do just that. He tackles the problem that far too often christians wants to follow the hype instead of truly wanting to changing the world.

Next, he tackles the problem of shallowness in our era. This chapter is very insightful especially for those who are generally younger. I agree with his observation that, generally youths today are far too shallow and do not even grow in-depth in and at what they’re serving or helping. They’re more inclined to assume that by doing activities these are considered as deep involvement. That is certainly untrue, and if an individual is truly passionate about helping, he/she would most definitely want to know who they’re helping so as to be able to help them in a way that would be most beneficial to them.

Finally, Cho challenges those who do not live up to what they say. This I think is also a valid point that needs to be addressed in our culture. Cho very wisely tells the readers that if they are to commit and to encourage people to join a cause, it is only right and proper for them to lead them not just with words or ideas, but also by their actions.

However, I do see some very fatal flaw with this book. First there is a tremendously lack of the gospel in this book. This book is more about social activism, more about doing, than why you should be doing about what you’re doing. Having said that, I do agree that you do not need to have a huge section that talks about the gospel. But to have this book not even mentioning or clarifying it is a big concern. It kind of assumes the gospel, which is a danger that this book certainty has. Just to show an example this is what Cho says you should bring away from his book “If there’s one thing you take away from this book, I hope it is this: Don’t underestimate what God can do through your life. God has a long and proven history of using foolish and broken people for His glory.  (p.135).

I think the strength of the book is it challenges the mindset of those who are already serving or would like to serve in a cause. However, the weakness is that this book is very shallow in the gospel. Without the proper motivation for social justice, this book may run into the danger of being passionate for a cause, more than being passionate for the gospel. Readers may want to supplement their diet with another book that will ground them in the gospel, something like Tim Chester’s “Good News to the Poor”.

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.