The High Definition Leader – Review

High-Definition LeaderThe High-Definition Leader has been on my radar for some time. I held off because I misunderstood the title, By “High-Definition,” I assumed it was another leadership book making the reader guilty for not being more intense in their leadership. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

By “High-Definition” Derwin Gray is making reference to high definition televisions by which you can see every shade of colour. In the same way, churches should reflect every colour of skin.

Some may argue that calling for multi-ethnic congregations is part of the latest politically correct trend. But Gray demonstrates that this is the original plan for the church. The first major struggle for the early church was to move from Jewish to Jewish and Gentile (which included many ethnic groups). Multi-ethnic congregations are part of our biblical DNA.

The High-Definition Leader appealed to me on two levels. Unlike many leadership books, this book includes extensive biblical research and goes beyond surface interpretation. Gray spends a lot of time in Ephesians, demonstrating that a diverse Christian community is not a fringe part of the faith but is core of the gospel.

The other reason that this book grabbed me was that I am a pastor of a multi-ethnic congregation and what Gray preaches is exactly what I’m passionate about. Although our church is doing well, I learned so much about how to be more intentional in celebrating and promoting diversity.

I realize that some pastors and churches are in communities that are not multicultural. They should not pass on The High-Definition Leader, as there are principles that are applicable for ministry in every context.

I can honestly say that The High-Definition Leader is one of the best books I have read that is aimed at Christian leaders. The vision of the church Gray offers is one that is solidly biblical and extremely relative. I kept wanting to shout “amen!”

Every pastor and church leader needs to read this book. Highly recommended!


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C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children

C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis is by far one of my favourite authors and thinkers. His writings were instrumental in my early development as a Christian and they continue to impact me.

When people think of C.S Lewis, they often think of his complex works such as Mere Christianity and Miracles. They are two of my favourites but they don’t give a full picture of who Lewis was.

I have had the chance to read a number of collections of his letters and have really come to appreciate the insight they give us as to who Lewis was. This is especially true of the short little book, C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children.

First, it is amazing that Lewis cared enough to write back to all of these (and this is just a small sample) children who had written to him. You can tell that their letters meant a lot to him and he took it seriously.

But I also find it interesting that he doesn’t just answer their questions, but makes himself vulnerable. Not only does he offer to pray for them, he asks them to pray for him.

The final letter in this collection was typed the day before C.S. Lewis died.

I have met many Christians who long to be an apologist like C.S. Lewis. But what kind of apologist is that? It is not just the kind that could write Mere Christianity and Miracles. It is the kind that could write Letters to Children.

If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, I encourage you to read this short book. It will only take you an hour or two but it will give you valuable insight into this influential Christian thinker.


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Becoming a Welcoming Church – Review

Becoming a Welcoming ChurchI have spent the past year focusing on how to make our church more of a welcoming church. For that reason, I was happy to discover Thom Rainer had written Becoming a Welcoming Church.

This is an excellent book that is extremely practical and based on good research. I was not surprised by anything in the book, but only because I’m a regular listener to his podcast, Rainer on Leadership. But that doesn’t make this book a waste. It is so nice to have all of his research and conclusions compiled in one place.

There are some great nuggets of wisdom in Becoming a Welcoming Church. I will confess that I struggle with his criticism of the welcoming time in a service. Our church is not fake about this and does actively seek out visitors to welcome. But that doesn’t mean Rainer is wrong. He challenges us to look at what we do, not just from how the congregation sees it, but from the perspective of visitors.

One other action item from this book is creating a welcome centre. Rainer gives ideas that even the smallest church can act on. I intend to get something together for our church.

There are plenty of takeaways from this book but the most important things is that it gets congregations and leaders to take how they welcome (or don’t) new people. This is something that we can’t leave to chance. I intend to pass this little book on to my deacons as we seek to become a more welcoming church.

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Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist – Review

NietzscheOne of the most influential philosophers of the 19th century (although not during his lifetime) was Friedrich Nietzsche. I have read a number of his books, and while he has an interesting style, I struggled to get his full meaning.

What I have found helpful is reading Nietzsche: Philosopher, Antichrist by Walter Kaufmann. I felt like I finally had a sense of what Nietzsche was trying to say.

One of the problems with trying to understand Nietzsche was that near the end of his life, his sister took control over his publishing. She had her own agenda and was not gifted enough to understand what her brother was doing. Very often we read Nietzsche through the lens of his sister and this leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.

Kaufmann provides a helpful summary of Nietzsche’s life and thought. He breaks down the major themes and demonstrates what Nietzsche really believed. As a Christian, I especially appreciated the chapter on Christianity and Nietzsche’s complex attitude toward Jesus.

If you are interested in Nietzsche at all, I definitely recommend Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann as your starting point.


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The King James Bible – Review

King James BibleThis is not a review of the actual King James Bible but of the book, The King James Bible: Do You Know the King James Version? by Edward D. Andrews. I should note that I was given a copy of the book by the author for review purposes.

I went into this book assuming that it was about King James Onlyism, the belief that the King James Bible is not only the best translation, but the only appropriate English translation. This was a reasonable assumption, as “KING JAMES VERSION ONLYISM” appears at the top of the book cover. But that is not what the book is really about.

Edward Andrew’s book is really a history of the putting together of a critical Greek New Testament and the history of the English Bible. That is a worthwhile topic, as the Bible is the most important book ever written. Many people have no idea how the English Bible came about.

It is true that Andrews does deal with the Textus Receptus (the Greek New Testament used in the KJV) and the process by which the KJV was translated. He demonstrates how much the KJV relies, not just on the inaccurate TR, but also on the earlier English translations.

But if Andrews is critical of the KJV, he is just as critical of dynamic equivalence translations. In fact, Andrew appreciates the translation philosophy of the KJV more than that of the NIV or many other newer translations.

I do have some issues with this book. I feel like the title of the book is not a very honest description of the contents. I also have much more appreciation for dynamic equivalence translations than Andrews does.

One of the biggest problems is that the book comes across as a series of independent articles rather than as a systematic treatment of the subject. The same stories and the same quotes appear over and over again in each chapter. There is no chronological sequence, as Andrews goes back and forth along the timeline with no obvious logic.

Much of this book is just building the foundation for a different project that Edward Andrews is working on, a new translation called the Updated American Standard Version. There are numerous contributions by Leland Ryken, in which he argues for the English Standard Version as the best translation. Andrews then adds a comment of how much better the UASV is than even the ESV.

The King James Bible (the book, not the translation) has a number of issues. It is far from a perfect book. But you will find some helpful information about the English Bible. He hits all of the big events and most important concepts. You will learn something.

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Two Stories of Everything – Review

Two Stories of EverythingThere is no lack of books comparing Christianity and Islam. While those books are useful, they tend to compare them as competing religions. It is true that both Christianity and Islam are religions, but they are more than that. They both provide a framework for seeing all of reality. This is called a metanarrative.

Duane Alexander Miller has provided a much needed resource with his book, Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityWhile he deals with subjects normally understood as religious, his focus is on how they see all of reality.

The subjects that Miller looks at include creation, anthropology, Israel, Jesus, Muhammad, community, mission and eschatology. Miller is able to provide a fair and balanced overview of how Christianity and Islam look at each of these topics. He acknowledges where they are similar but also demonstrates that there are some significant differences.

Islam is much more than just Christianity with a slightly different Jesus and an additional prophet. Islam actually has a completely different metanarrative. The story that it tells about reality is not the same as that of Christianity.

There are a number of things that I appreciated about Miller’s book. One is that it is both a good introduction to Islam and also a nice summary of the Christian metanarrative. I also liked Miller’s honest and humble perspective. In his conclusion, Miller says, “I hope that I am as critical of Christianity as I am of Islam, and I see the umma doing a number of things correctly that I don’t see the Church, by and large, doing correctly.” (p. 134) Two Stories of Everything is not a polemic against Islam, even though Miller is transparent about his own Christian faith. In addition, each chapter includes reflection questions and there is a handy glossary at the end of the book.

Two Stories of Everything is not a replacement for all other Christian studies of Islam but it is a much needed fresh examination that compares their metanarratives. I definitely recommend the book.


I have an extra copy of Two Stories of Everything that I would like to give away. Comment on this post by May 31, 2018 and I will pick a random person for a free paperback copy of this book. 

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Saving Truth – Review

Saving TruthBased on my own research, as well as conversations with others, I have seen the nature of truth as being one of the most pressing issues of our day. We live in a “post-truth” world that is full of “fake news.” It is because of this that I’m thankful for Abdu Murray’s latest book, Saving Truth.

I have had the opportunity to get to know Abdu a bit, both online and in person. I’m impressed with both his scholarship and his respectful tone. Saving Truth is no exception.

Abdu tackles the issue of truth with clarity and biblical perspective. Christianity is focused on Jesus, who identified himself with truth (John 14:6). If we get the truth wrong, we get everything wrong.

Abdu enters into our culture’s most challenging conversations, including human dignity, sexuality, science and other religions. He brings in both his knowledge of the Bible and his personal experience to expose where truth has gotten fuzzy and what needs to be done about it. Abdu’s past as a convert from Islam gives him a unique perspective.

There is always a danger to be controversial just for the sake of controversy. Abdu avoids this tendency and enters into the conversations with truth, but also love and respect. Every point is made with sincere compassion.

In a world where people no longer know what is true or even if there is truth, Abdu Murray’s Saving Truth is the message that we need.

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Resurrecting Religion – Review

Resurrecting Religion“Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.” How many times have you seen this statement? You may have said it yourself. The problem is that when we look at traditional definitions of religions, such as belief in a God, rituals of worship and theological doctrines, Christianity seems to fit that definition. Christianity may be more than a religion but it is not less.

Greg Paul, founding pastor of the Sanctuary in Toronto, responds to this in Resurrecting ReligionPaul takes issue with the idea that the gospel is salvation from religion and demonstrates that Christianity should be religion at its best.

For those who dislike the idea of religion, there is the problem that James in the New Testament both defines and lifts up religion. Paul’s book is really a study of the epistle of James, a book that has so much wisdom for our current culture.

According to James, religion is not a dry and lifeless legalism, but is a vibrant faith that transforms how we look at God and other people. Paul, illustrates this by sharing stories from his pastoral experience at the Sanctuary. True religion may be messy, but is beautiful.

As a person who has been uncomfortable with attacks on religion, I’m thankful for Greg Paul’s book that instead of rejecting religion, resurrects religion as something worth embracing.

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50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith – Review

As a pastor and Bible teacher, I see one of the most important needs as being greater knowledge of basic Christian theology. We have a small minority who devour theology books and a great majority who have never thought deeply about theology. Thankfully, Gregg Allison has written 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide for Understanding and Teaching Theology.

TheologyIf I had to describe this book in one sentence it would be that Allison has written an introductory systematic theology for laypeople. He hits all of the points a traditional systematic theology would but it can be understood by people who have never attended Bible college or seminary.

As a great of a resource as this for laypeople to read, it has an added value. It is put together in such a way that the material is easy to teach. In fact, each chapter includes not just suggestions for additional reading but also teaching outlines. This material could easily be used in a small group or Sunday school context.

One of the things that I appreciated about the book is that he is respectful toward diversity of interpretation. When there is a difference between Calvinist and Arminian views, he makes notes of it, but does not criticize or demean other perspectives. He is critical of beliefs that land outside of orthodox Christianity but he allows for a big tent within the Christian church.

This is a fantastic resource that I would encourage pastors to look into. I’m considering taking this and turning it into a year long Sunday school course.


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The Trust Protocol – Review

Trust ProtocolIn over twenty years of pastoral ministry, I have discovered that the most important currency in leadership is trust. If you don’t have the people’s trust, you can not do anything. To make things more challenging, trust doesn’t come free.

Mac Richard works through this dynamic in his book, The Trust Protocol. The subtitle highlights the importance: the key to building stronger families, teams and businesses.

What is the Trust Protocol? Richard defines it in this way: “forging credibility through integrity and action.” He continues, “The Trust Protocol calls us to a higher plane of relational responsibility.”

The rest of the books works through how trust is earned and how it is lost. Richard illustrates this principle through many personal stories. Unfortunately, the importance of trust is often learned best after it has been broken.

You will not find an amazing new principle that you had never considered before. But The Trust Protocol will remind you of what you already know about trust and will challenge you to become more intentional when it comes to building trust.

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Seven Shades of Sin – Review

Seven Shades of SinSin. Who wants to hear about sin? Whether we want to hear about it or not, followers of Jesus should take it seriously. Sin is talked about throughout the Old and New Testaments and is reported (although not by that name) everyday on the news.

One summary of common temptations to sin is the seven deadly sins. These seven sins are not found in that list in the Bible, but they are representative of the most common temptations.

For that reason, I’m thankful for Garry Milley’s book, Seven Shades of Sin: Unmasking Temptation. In this book, Garry gives the background of how this list developed and why it is important. He then takes the reader through each of the sins.

Garry is an experienced preacher and teacher. He is able to take theological concepts and translate them for the average reader. Garry provides a biblical description for each of the sins but also illustrates what this looks like based on his local church experience.

Garry is able to demonstrate that this old list of sins is still very applicable to our contemporary context. This book is a timely reminder of the seriousness of sin and would make a good small group study as well as personal reflection.

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Evidence That Demands a Verdict – Review

Evidence That Demands a VerdictOne of the first books on apologetics that I ever read was the original Evidence That Demands a Verdict. That book totally blew me away. I had come out of a number of years as an atheist and still had my skeptical nature. I had assumed that Christianity was only about a blind leap of faith, something I struggled to make. I had no idea that there was actual evidence for the truth of Christianity.

Now many years later, I’m in a different spot. I have had the opportunity spend years studying and researching the evidence. It is from that perspective that I read the new and expanded Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh and Sean McDowell. Josh McDowell has many years of speaking to the truth of Christianity, ministering on the front-lines. His son, Sean is one of the best new apologists on the scene. He is able to blend top notch scholarship with a respectful and humble manner.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this new version of Evidence That Demands a Verdict . It is definitely not like many other books on the market. It relies on extensive quotations more than is appropriate for most books. However, this book is in many ways an apologetics reader, presenting people with some of the best scholarship that is out there. The purpose of the book is not to offer radical new perspectives but to compile what is already out there and present it in an accessible form. In this, the book succeeds nicely.

One of my frustrations is that many apologists equate apologetics with philosophy. I come from more of a historical and biblical perspective than a philosophical one. While Evidence That Demands a Verdict does include some philosophical arguments, it is by far focused on presenting evidence for the reliability of the Bible. I was very pleased with this.

I appreciated that Josh and Dean were very fair in presenting other view points. Often, they would present multiple Christian arguments, just putting them out there for people to discover, without pushing one narrow interpretation. There was a humility to the arguments and acknowledgment that there are some things that we just don’t know.

I will confess that I have sometimes struggled with the title, Evidence That Demands a Verdict . My concern was that it could seem like they were suggesting that all you had to do was look at the evidence and you would have to become a Christian. It was just a matter of plugging in values into the formula and you got the desired outcome.

That is not what Josh and Sean are trying to do. They do not deny the role of the Holy Spirit or any other aspects of conversion and discipleship. The verdict that is demanded is not necessarily submission to Jesus as Lord. The verdict that is demanded is that the Bible should be taken seriously. Those who reject the Bible are challenged to look at the evidence and to put the Bible back on the table for discussion.

I’m thankful for Josh and Sean McDowell and their addition to modern apologetics with Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I pray that God will use this edition just as he did the original for so many years.

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Gospel Fluency Handbook – Review

Gospel Fluency HandbookThe gospel should be central to the life of every follower of Jesus. But I find that even evangelicals (that label comes from the Greek for gospel) have trouble explaining what the gospel is. They are vaguely aware that it has something to do with believing in Jesus on the cross but that’s about it.

While understanding the gospel is an important first step, we also need to live out the gospel. That is why I’m thankful for the Gospel Fluency Handbook by Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly.

I love the image of fluency. I have learned some vocabulary of French, German and Spanish, but I’m far from fluent in any of them. I would need to immerse myself in those languages, spending time with people who spoke those languages and get to the point that I was thinking in those languages.

The same principle holds true for the gospel. If we are to become fluent in the gospel, we need to do more than just define the word. We need to immerse ourselves in the gospel, to train ourselves to look both inward and outward with gospel eyes.

The Gospel Fluency Handbook is an eight-week study that takes the participant over and over and deeper and deeper into the gospel and what it means.

This is a fantastic resource that would be of tremendous use for any small group.

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Love Thy Body – Review

What are the most controversial issues facing society today? In addition to long-time debates about abortion and casual sex, there is an increase in discussions about euthanasia, as well as an almost total reversal in attitudes toward homosexuality and transgenderism.

Is there anything that ties these issues together other than they get people really upset?

Love Thy BodyNancy Pearcey, in her new book Love Thy Body, brilliantly brings them together under a common idea of how people see the body. Using the work of Francis Schaeffer, Pearcey demonstrates that people have created a two-tiered conception that divides our being, allowing for a dismissal of the role of the body.

An example is that of transgenderism. Gender dysphoria is real and the pain should be addressed. But our society has bought in uncritically that the problem is with the body and not with the feelings. Similar things take place with numerous issues that regularly make our headlines.

This is important for the church to look at because we are partially responsible for where we have come. A form of gnosticism still infects the church, looking at the spirit as good and the body as bad, even the Bible teaches that both are important.

Nancy Pearcey is a remarkably clear thinker who, even if you disagree with her, should make you think. She is able to present the issues in such a way that makes the reader address their own preconceptions.

Although she hits all of the topics most likely to offend, she does not come at them seeking to enrage. In fact, I found that she regularly brought the questions back to real people and that she looks at people immersed in these situations with tremendous compassion. Pearcey not only thinks deeply about the issues, she enters into relationships with the people facing them.

Will Pearcey offend people with this book? Absolutely. But she addresses head on topics that the church needs to look at, no matter how unpopular. Aristotle, speaking of his mentor Plato, said this, “Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.” In Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey demonstrates a dear love for truth.

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Unimaginable – Review

UnimaginableWould our world be better off without Christianity? John Lennon, in his song Imagine, asks us to consider a world without religion and the peace and prosperity that would result. The New Atheism, in much harsher terms, argues that our world would be much better without religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Jeremiah J. Johnston calls us to truly consider what our world would be like without Christianity. Johnston, in addition to be a popular Christian speaker, is a New Testament scholar. In Unimaginable, he paints for us a picture of what the ancient world was like and what the impact of Christianity was. Christianity was a radical innovation when it came to views about poverty, race and gender. Many of the advances that we celebrate today found their origins in the teachings of Jesus.

Johnston moves beyond the ancient world and introduces us to the beginnings of atheism, including the most influential figures that helped shape the skeptical world we live in today. Far from being heroes of freedom, many of these men were deeply flawed and had disturbing beliefs and disappointing lives.

Johnston is able to blend a solid scholarly understanding of both the ancient and modern world with an engaging style that makes his ideas accessible to the average person. He argues persuasively that Christianity has had a positive impact on our world and that it continues to do so.

Criticisms of Christianity are often based more on internet memes than on actual study of the evidence. Jeremiah J. Johnston’s Unimaginable does a great job of addressing the questions in their historical and philosophical context.

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Introducing Practical Theology – Review

Introducing Practical TheologyI consider myself to be relatively well-read when it comes to theology. I at least am aware of the major theologians and have sampled from their teachings. I am also fairly well-read when it comes to Christian ministry, especially in the areas of leadership and preaching.

But when it comes to the overlap of these two areas, something called practical theology, I have less familiarity. Practical theology is also sometimes called pastoral theology. It has unfortunately often been dismissed as not “real” theology. It is a dumbed down version of theology for pastors who don’t have the background in real theology.

This is very far the case. Practical theology is as much real theology as systematic or biblical theology. That is why I enjoyed Introducing Practical Theology by Pete Ward.

The biggest insight I took from the book is the awareness of how little I know about practical theology. Ward surveys Christian thought concerning practical theology, drawing from both conservative and liberal theologians. I was introduced to some ideas that I never considered before.

I really appreciated this introduction and the high level of theological reflection Ward calls his readers to attain to. Reading this book only whetted my appetite for more. I see myself as a pastor-theologian and so this book is very useful to me as I seek to fulfill that role.

I highly recommend Introducing Practical Theology.

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Fusion – Review

FusionOne of the most exciting things for a pastor is seeing new visitors at a worship service. The hope is that they will connect and return. But does this just come down to hope? Or is there something that can be done? This is where Fusion comes in.

Fusion by Nelson Searcy provides a massive amount of good ideas for such a small book. This book scratched exactly where I itch. My desire to do the best I can to help new visitors connect and encourage not only their return, but their integration into the community as well.

I was very impressed with the level of research and how practical the suggestions are. Searcy offers advice based on his own experience and there is plenty for other churches to learn from.

While I won’t duplicate everything presented in the book, there definitely were good ideas that I plan to put into action. I highly recommend Fusion for all pastors and church leaders.


 

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What’s So Confusing About Grace? – Review

What's So Confusing About Grace?Randal Rauser is one of the most intriguing Christian authors that I have read. I have read a number of his books. I will admit that generally my reactions to Rauser’s ideas move back and forth from “he is right on” to “where is he going with this?” His book What’s So Confusing About Grace? is no exception.

I would describe this book as a semi-autobiographical reflection on the nature of the gospel. Much of it follows his life from the decision as a child to be a friend of Jesus into his adulthood.

Rauser inserts a tremendous amount of humour and is not afraid to point fun at some of weird things that the church does and says. It is a very enjoyable read.

I identified with a lot of what he shares is the book, While I was raised in a mainline denomination, I did end up spending a number of years in the Pentecostal church, the same tradition Rauser was raised in. I remember going up for prayer to receive the gifts of tongues and having the evangelist walk away when it didn’t happen. I participated in the rock music burnings.

Reading What’s So Confusing About Grace? I recognized a number of experiences of myself and others I know. Rauser is right on that we have not always articulated the gospel in either a clear or a healthy way.

I really enjoyed his talk about music. Both the reactions against secular music and his attempt to embrace Christian rock. I suspect Rauser and I have similar tastes in music.

While this was not the aim of the book, Rauser also presents on of the best apologetics for being Baptist. He doesn’t try to convert people to the Baptist tradition, but his reasons for being Baptist are the same reasons that I’m Baptist.

I thoroughly enjoyed What’s So Confusing About Grace? If you don’t have a sense of humour, you probably won’t like it. But if you are okay with some acknowledging the silliness of some of the things Christians do, you will like this book.

What’s So Confusing About Grace? is both a fun read and a helpful reflection on the nature of the Christian gospel.


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Thoughts on the Last Battle

Last BattleI recently finished rereading The Chronicles of Narnia with the final battle being The Last Battle. A good book (or series of books) is only as good as its conclusion and The Last Battle is a satisfying conclusion to the Narnia stories.

If The Magicians Nephew is the Genesis of Narnia, The Last Battle is Revelation. It tells the final story of the adventures in Narnia, tying together much that had happened in previous stories.

The story begins with an ape who manipulates a donkey into wearing a lion skin, thus pretending to be Aslan. This is used for the simple purpose of power but it quickly spirals out of control. Not only do the Calormenes get involved, but their god Tash (who seems to be some sort of demon) appears as well.

Jill and Eustace, who had been important parts of the Silver Chair, play an important role. We learn that there are actually seven friends of Narnia, including: Lord Digory, Lady Polly, High King Peter, King Edmund, Lord Eustace, Queen Lucy, and Lady Jill. The saddest part of the story is that Susan is not included, as she had stopped believing in Narnia.

This is definitely the darkest of the Narnia stories and I could see some overlaps with the tone of That Hideous Strength from C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

That is not to say that it is completely dark. The book ends on a very positive note as Aslan appears. The old Narnia is wiped away but a new Narnia, a better Narnia, a more real Narnia is created. Old friends from throught the series make their appearance. It is one of the clearest portrayals of a Christian worldview in the books.

The Last Battle is worth reading for both children and adults. In a world where people are often talking about the end, it is probably one of the better books to learn from.


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Preaching With Cultural Intelligence – Review

Preaching With Cultural IntelligenceAs a pastor of a local church who preaches weekly, I’m always looking to improve my craft. This includes reading books on preaching. But how many ways can someone tell you to find the meaning in a text and communicate it in a relevant and engaging manner? I often fear that I’m just going to read more of the same.

It is for that reason that I really enjoyed Matthew D. Kim’s Preaching With Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons.

Kim is an evangelical who affirms the importance of Scripture and the need to find the original meaning of the text. But he doesn’t stop there. It is very easy to be faithful to the text but not faithful to the nature of our congregations.

The heart of Kim’s idea is something called the homiletical template. This template includes hermeneutics (stage 1), homiletical bridge (stage 2) and homiletics (stage 3). Each of these stages are comprised of components that make up an acronym. These include:

Stage 1: HABIT

Historical, Grammatical and Literary Context
Author’s Cultural Context
Big Idea of the Text
Interpret in Your Context
Theological Presuppositions

Stage 2: BRIDGE

Beliefs
Rituals
Idols
Dreams
God
Experiences

Stage 3: DIALECT

Delivery
Illustrations
Application
Language
Embrace
Content
Trust

Having developed this template, Kim illustrates how this looks in different contexts. He includes how to use it when preaching to different denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations and religions.

One of the things that I loved about this book is that he finds a nice balance between theory and practicality. Kim develops the theory and lays a solid foundation. But then he takes that theory and shows how to use the template for different passages in different contexts.

I can honestly say that Preaching With Cultural Intelligence is one of the best books on preaching that I have ever read. I would recommend it for any pastor who preaches on a regular basis.


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Thoughts on the Silver Chair

Silver ChairLike any series of books, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia vary in quality. Although they are all good, some are better than others. One of my favourites is The Silver Chair.

This story features Eustace Scrubb, a character introduced in the Voyage of The Dawn Treader. Eustace should get the award for most developed character and greatest improvement in maturity. He moves from one of the least likeable to one of the most likeable characters in the stories. Eustace is joined by a school friend named Jill Pole in his adventure in Narnia.

The mission they are on is to find Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian, who had been missing for some years. The elderly King Caspian attempted to use his last strength to find his son. Thankfully, Aslan called in some help with the two earth children.

The adventures in Narnia are generally fun is a similar way but there is something I especially like about this story. Aslan gives Jill some signs to watch for, so that they will be able to make their away and accomplish their mission. These signs soon leave Jill’s mind and they get into all sorts of trouble that never needed to.

What is good about this is that Aslan is able to work through all their mistakes and disobedience. It is really a story of grace and is a tremendous encouragement to children and adults alike.

I need to also say that the scenes with the giants are great. I love how they are invited for dinner but don’t quite understand what (or who) is on the menu.

Puddleglum is another fun character. He is a pessimist, who not only sees the glass half-empty, he sees it as cracked as well. Despite his gloomy outlook, he is brave on the inside and demonstrates heroism exactly when he needs to.

The Silver Chair definitely ranks up there with Lewis’s best. The next Narnia movie to be made with be The Silver Chair. I hope they do it justice.


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People to Be Loved – Review

People to Be LovedI don’t think that there has been any view within our culture that has changed as much in recent decades as that toward homosexuality. When I think back to my youth, homosexuality was not accepted outside the church, much less within. Now not only is homosexuality accepted, I know pastors who have performed same-sex marriages and you can get in legal trouble speaking publicly against homosexuality.

I don’t think that the church has done well in navigating these turbulent waters. I have seen two extremes. One is a response of pure disgust and almost hate toward people who even feel same-sex attraction. The other are those who observe that most homosexuals are very nice people and so biblical passages that seem critical toward homosexual sex need to be either reinterpreted or rejected.

I think both of these approaches are far too shallow. That is why I really appreciated Preston Sprinkle’s People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue.

I suspect Sprinkle has received significant criticism from both sides. Sprinkle has taken a very loving and respectful posture toward people who experience same-sex attraction. He is not afraid to confront homophobic caricatures of the LGBT community. He doesn’t just research homosexuality, he has entered into close relationships with people in the LGBT community. Some people will not like this.

On the other hand, Sprinkle doesn’t reject biblical passages that deal with homosexual sexual activity. His background is in biblical studies, so he comes at it from the perspective of interpreting within the historical and literary context rather than trying to make the passages fit his position. He rightfully, in my opinion, rejects the Sodom story as having anything to do with our attitudes toward homosexuality. However, he also demonstrates that passages written by Paul are not just addressing pederasty or cultic prostitution and that equal and consensual same-sex relationships existed in the ancient world. Some people will not like this.

Ultimately, Sprinkle comes down on the position that sex is meant to be within a married relationship between a male and female. This will bother some affirming Christians but this emerges from his study of Scripture rather than a desire to demean those who experience same-sex attraction.

However, Sprinkle has much to say about the horrible ways that the church has responded to homosexuality. As the title and subtitle express, this is not just an issue, it is about real people who need be loved. Christians must wrestle not just with the morality of homosexual activity but with how we love people who we disagree with.

Whatever side of the debate you fall on, I strongly recommend that you read People to Be Loved. It is the best book on the subject that I have read.


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Good Arguments – Review

Good ArgumentsIs it good to argue? That depends on how you define an argument. If you consider arguing a venting of emotion that just leaves everyone angry, that might not be very helpful. But there is another way to define arguments. Richard A. Holland Jr. and Benjamin K. Forrest in their book, Good Arguments, define arguments this way:

An argument is the process of giving a systematic account of reasons in support of a claim or belief.

That type of argument would seem to be quite useful.

Good Arguments is a book on logic. That might seem boring to many, but this book is far from boring. I have read a number of books on logic and this is one of the best. The authors explain logic in a way that is both clear and interesting.

Why is this book important?

Although the internet has made things easier in terms of communication, much of it is filled with bad arguments. People assert opinions as facts, and even if they provide evidence, the evidence is often less than adequate.

If someone has something good to say, they must be careful in communicating that idea in a convincing way. That is where this book comes in. Whether we are communicating through writing or public speaking, we need to be able to assemble and express a good argument.

I’m active in the area of apologetics. While this book is not focused on apologetics, many of the principles presented in this book are applicable to the area of apologetics. This is a book that I expect to read a number of times.




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When God Goes to Starbucks – Review

When God Goes to StarbucksApologetics is so much more than philosophical debates with atheist professors. While I appreciate the work that apologists such as William Lane Craig do, most of us will not be involved in such activities.

What about normal people like you and me?

Many of us will spend more time having casual conversations with friends and family about questions of life and faith. The questions we might face are probably different than that faced in a formal debate.

It is for this reason that I enjoyed Paul Copan’s When God Goes to Starbucks. This helpful little book tackles the questions that would most likely come up in normal question.

The format of the book is arranged in terms of responding to slogans. These are slogans related to truth and reality, slogans related to worldviews and slogans related to Christianity.

Although Copan is a talented philosopher, he writes this book for the average person and not the academic. The information he offers is easily accessible. That is not to say that he gives shallow answers, but he does speak in a way that is easy to understand. He also offers suggestions for shallow reading.

As I read this book, I was impressed by both the thoughtfulness of his responses and the relevance of his topics. I highly recommend When God Goes to Starbucks.


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God’s Crime Scene for Kids – Review

Two of the most important hats that I wear are those of a pastor interested in apologetics and of a father of young children. As each year passes, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the overlap between the two. That’s why I’m thankful for J. Warner and Susie Wallace’s God’s Crime Scene for Kids.

I have read the adult version of this and Wallace’s other books and have appreciated how he is able to translate complex topics into language that normal people can understand. Having not read any of his children’s books before, I was curious how he would do it with this book.

I was very pleased with the result. Two of my children love to be read to and so I have a sense of what style they connect with. God’s Crime Scene for Kids very much fits with that style.

The book is not a compilation of apologetic assertions but rather is an engaging story of a mystery that pulls in the reader. As they seek to solve this real mystery, Warner makes the connections between it and the evidence for God. He does it in a very natural way that does not seem forced.

I have read some pretty cheesy Christian children’s books but this is not one of them. Even as an adult, I was pulled into the story and wanted to know how it would end.

I intend to take my children through God’s Crime Scene for Kids. I think they will both find it interesting and be strengthened in their faith.

 

 

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Beren and Luthien – Review

Beren and LuthienIt is amazing that so many decades after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death that he still has “new” books being released. Thankfully, his son Christopher Tolkien has gone through manuscripts and has released material. Christopher expects Beren and Luthien to be his final book.

The story of Luthien and Beren is one of my favourite stories by Tolkien. I’m familiar with it from the Silmarillion. The story takes place long before the events of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. In fact, it takes place at a time when Sauron was not the top bad guy, but was a lieutenant of Morgoth.

The story that I’m familiar with is the love story between Luthien, whose father is an elf and mother is one of the gods, and Beren, who is a human. There are a number of similarities between their love and that of Aragorn and Arwen in Lord of the Rings. Luthien’s father, being against his daughter’s love for a human, gives Beren a quest that is intended to lead to either his refusal or death. He is to retrieve a silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.

It is a great story but I wasn’t sure how it would be made into a full length book. It ended up that Beren and Luthien was not what I expected. Instead of just extending the story, it is a compilation of different versions of the story, demonstrating how the tale evolved in Tolkien’s mind.

In the original version, Beren is not a human but is an elf. He is actually a Noldor, which Tolkien originally called gnomes. Don’t think of a garden gnome, Beren was always meant to be a fearsome warrior. Also, the character that would eventually become Sauron, was originally an evil cat that ruled other evil cats.

In addition to this and the traditional version, the story is also given in verse. Tolkien never finished that version of it but it is neat to read what he did complete.

As a Tolkien fan, I really enjoyed Beren and Luthien. It is worth it for anyone who appreciates Tolkien’s mythology.

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2 Books on Theistic Evolution

I have been doing some research on the intersection of faith and science. This has led me to read on human origins. I would like to talk about two books that I recently read on theistic evolution.

What is theistic evolution? It is also called evolutionary creationsim. It basically is a view that the basic principles of the neo-Darwinian synthesis are accurate in describing the development of life on earth. But in contrast to Darwinians such as Richard Dawkins, these scientists believe that there is a God and that he is involved somehow.

Coming to Peace With ScienceThe first book that I read was Coming to Peace With Science by Darrel R. Falk. I really enjoyed this book. As a non-scientist, many of these books leave me scratching my head. But Falk has a nice style that is easy to understand.

Falk interacts with both young earth creationists and intelligent design theories. While disagreeing with them, he speaks very respectfully of their views.

In this book, Falk provides a convincing argument for an old universe and an old earth. He then switches to arguments for evolution. What I liked about Falk is that he actually speaks about God. While not giving details of what exactly God was doing, either to create first life or start the evolutionary process, he does mention God’s presence being essential.

Language of GodThe second book I read was the Language of God by Francis Collins. Collins is a bit better known than Falk, having been the head of the Human Genome Project.

I suppose it is not quite accurate to say this is a book about theistic evolution. It is really about why Collins, as a scientist and a former atheist, is now a committed Christian.

For Collins, the most convincing arguments are the existence of a life permitting universe, the moral argument and the universal longing for God.

Collins does not look to the beginning of life on earth as evidence for God. While we do not know how it began yet, he sees giving God the credit as being a god-of-the-gaps argument. We may discover how it could have happened naturally and that may later prove an embarrassment for those claiming it was God.

There were things that I liked about Collins’s book. I appreciated his personal story and enjoyed the story of the mapping of the genome and all comes from that.

But there were things that I didn’t like. He does not want to go to the beginning of life or the development of life on earth as reflecting God’s activity. He totally rejects the design argument on the biological side.

However, he accepts similar types of arguments on the cosmological side. He sees the existence of and fine-tuning of the universe as pointing to a Creator. His arguments against biological design could also be used against what he says about cosmological design.

I happen to believe that God is the originator and designer of both, but that’s just me.

While I have no problem with people believing in theistic evolution, I have a few questions.

  • What role did God have in the first life on earth?
  • Was God responsible for it or was it just a “lucky” break that he got to share his universe with other living beings?
  • Why does evolution work?
  • Does evolution need God or does it work just fine by itself?
  • Did God create or design that first life in such a way that it could evolve into all the lifeforms we see?
  • Did God have the goal of humans evolving or was that just the way it happened to be and God just dealt with it?

If you are a theistic evolutionist, I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions.


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Strength to Love – Review

Strength to LoveI don’t normally review old books but I’m making an exception in this case. The book I’m going to talk about was published (as a second printing) in 1968. I can say that is old because that is the year I was born. The book I’m referring to is Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I picked up this book at a used bookstore. I had never read anything by King before and so I thought I would give it a try.

I was blown away!

This was one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. The book is actually a collection of his sermons. I loved it on so many levels.

One was that it was very timely. Unsurprisingly, race relations was one of the major topics. Unfortunately, we still need to hear King’s message as racism is still present with us. In fact, many of the social concerns that King talks about are relevant for today. If there was anything that was dated, it was the concern about nuclear war. Of course that danger could return at anytime.

I also loved Strength to Love as a preacher. I knew that King was a passionate preacher but he was much more. His sermons are intellectually satisfying. He often quotes philosophers, historical figures and classic authors. He is very thoughtful in putting together his arguments. As a preacher, I was challenge to take my preaching up a notch.

Although I have always known King was a preacher, he is often portrayed as more of a social activist. I got the impression from popular sources that he used the Bible just to illustrate the need for social change.

However, in these sermons, he preaches Christ. He makes it clear that it is only by the power of God that anything will get done. In some of his sermons, he reveals how his faith in Christ got him through difficult times.

Strength to Love is a book that I will go back to. I encourage all Christians, and especially pastors, to read this book.

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One Dominion – Review

One DominionThis is an exciting time for Canadians as we celebrate our 150th anniversary. Different organizations are celebrating in different ways. Bible League Canada is celebrating by publishing a book called One Dominion: Celebrating Canada – Prepared for a Purpose.

I really enjoyed this book. Although I consider myself to be an amateur historian, there is much about Canada that I don’t know. This book gives a brief but interesting outline of our history.

Although Canada is considered to be much more secular than our neighbours to the south, Canada does have an influential Christian heritage. This book outlines many of the Christian leaders of the past who continue to impact Canadians.

The book is short, it can be read in half an hour. But the pictures are worth looking at as we celebrate this amazing country. One of the things I have been doing is sharing some of the stories with my children. It can lead to many good conversations on Canada and Christianity.

If you are a Canadian or are interested in Canada, I recommend One Dominion.

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The Tech-Wise Family – Review

Tech-Wise FamilyI remember showing up for a job interview just after I completed my undergraduate degree. The job was related to something I had never heard of before, something called the internet. I had no idea how much that new technology would change everything.

Fast forward a number of decades and I am a father with five children. My children only know a world of technology. Things such as iPhones, iPads, Netflix and YouTube are a part of their everyday experience.

But what should family life look like with the online activity available to us? It is too simplistic to just long for the good old days. We need a deeper reflection on this new aspect of family dynamic. This is exactly what Andy Crouch provides with his book The Tech-Wise Family.

There is so much that I appreciated about this book. I love how he describes his family, not as Amish or even almost Amish, but rather almost almost Amish. Crouch does not seek to banish technology in order to obtain a nostalgic utopia. Technology is part of his life and his family experience. However, Crouch has decided to set the rules rather than letting the technology set the rules.

I liked that keeps his chapter on pornography to the end. It is not that pornography is not a significant issue. It is. But the temptation would be to set up guards against pornography and then anything else goes. The other things that Crouch presents in The Tech-Wise Family are not afterthoughts. They are important and they receive more attention in the book.

My favourite part of the book is the “Crouch Family Reality Check” at the end of each chapter. It would have been very easy for Crouch to write a book that set a high ideal but wasn’t based in reality. Each chapter is about what the Crouch family attempts to do but they conclude with the way things really are. Sometimes they don’t quite hit their goal. For myself, it gave me hope that it is worth trying.

Although The Tech-Wise Family is written from a faith perspective, I believe there is plenty for non-Christians to get from it as well. Technology is too powerful and too intrusive for us to ignore. Healthy families require healthy and reasonable guidelines for how to use technology properly.


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A Fellowship of Differents – Review

A Fellowship of DifferentsIt is common to hear people, both Christian and non-Christian, being critical of the church. The fastest growing religious group are the nones, many of whom reject organized religion because of bad experiences  with churches. Even Christians can be a bit embarrassed by the church.

While I can sympathize we these feelings, as the church has its problems, it doesn’t have to be this way. Despite all our talk of “a personal relationship with Jesus,” God has chosen the church both as the way he acts in the world and the way in which we interact with him.

The church can be a beautiful thing. And this is exactly what Scot McKnight presents in his book, A Fellowship of Differents. McKnight does not try and gloss over the mistakes of the church. But he does present a picture of the way the church could be.

God’s plan for the church is to take people from all backgrounds and to make something that brings him glory. The vision for the church is not uniformity but rather a unity that celebrates diversity.

McKnight is a New Testament scholar and so he is able to provide a solid biblical foundation for what the church should look like. But he is also some one active in and passionate about the church. He provides many examples from real churches of what church could look like.

I strongly recommend that all Christians, pastors and laypeople, read A Fellowship of Differents. It will give you hope that the church can be beautiful again.

 

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C.S. Lewis: Christian Reflections – Review

Christian ReflectionsI’m always looking for some more C.S. Lewis to read. So I was quite happy to read a collection of his essays in the book Christian Reflections.

Many of the chapters in this book were originally talks that he gave to a variety of groups. They are on a number of different topics, although all related to Christianity. They include reflections on culture, science, biblical interpretation, ethics and more.

This book is worth reading, not just for the content of the chapters. It is the style of Lewis that we can learn from. There are two things that readers can get from it. One is his clear thinking and careful examination of each subject he tackles. The other is the way he communicates. Lewis knew he had to do more than just pass on information, he need to connect with his audiences.

If you are a C.S. Lewis fan or are interested in becoming a clearer Christian thinker, I recommend Christian Reflections.

 

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God in My Everything – Review

God in My EverythingIn an interview with Jeff Keady and Jonny Craig of the 200Churches podcast, I asked them what books they recommend. One of those books was God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu. Therefore, I was pretty happy when I got my hands on a copy of this book.

The basic goal of the book is to help the reader develop a rule of life. Such rules have a long Christian history, especially within monastic communities. But you do not need to be a monk or a nun to need a rule.

Ministry within a local church or parachurch ministry can easily lead to burnout. The same can happen to Christian leaders in the business world. Many of the people who are successful in such contexts are able to achieve their goals because of their drive. Unfortunately, it is this same drive that often leads to burnout.

Shigematsu has experience both in the business and church worlds. It is from this experience that he has discovered the blessings of developing a rule of life.

To many people, a rule sounds very legalistic. Images of strict commandments that eliminate all freedom come to mind. This book presents something very different. Shigematsu offers ideas that can be freeing and life-giving.

Shigematsu shares ideas from ancient sources and then contextualizes them into our modern world. He illustrates these principles with examples from his own life as well as others that he is personally acquainted with.

I strongly recommend God in My Everything for every Christian leader, for those in the church and any other context.

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A Place of Healing – Review

A Place of HealingPerhaps one of the first Christian “celebrities” that I ever heard of was Joni Eareckson Tada. She has an amazing story and has accomplished much more than many people without a disability.

However, early in my Christian walk I was involved in a number of Pentecostal churches. While this is not indicative of all (or even most) Pentecostals, there were some that were critical Joni. There was some confusion as to why she just didn’t ask God to heal her. Sure, she had done some great ministry, but God would be much more glorified if she was supernaturally healed. I didn’t know what to think.

Many years later, my theology has developed significantly. This is both through study of the Bible and life circumstances. We have two children with severe autism. Not long after their diagnoses, we had close friends express frustration to us as to why we didn’t just ask God to heal them and be done with it. All we had to do was ask. The truth is that I have asked many time. While we have seen God move in amazing lives in our children’s lives, they have not been healed.

What does this have to do with Joni’s book, A Place of HealingMuch of this book is a reflection on healing, disability and suffering. While it has many years since Joni’s accident and she has come to terms with being a quadriplegic, she now suffers from chronic pain. The question of healing is once more on the table.

This book was lent to me and it sat on a shelf for a while. Although I didn’t fully know what the book was about, it was a timely read because of my own health. I started reading this book after a flare-up of sarcoidosis which includes significant pain. While my pain is nothing compared to what Joni has gone through, reading this book meant a lot.

What I like about this book is that it balances both biblical truth and real life experience. Joni’s writing is neither purely theoretical no experiential. This book is at the cross roads of the gospel and life as it really is.

I really appreciated A Place of Healing, both as one who experiences pain and as a father of two children with disabilities. I found the book to be both inspiring and encouraging. I can see how it would disappoint some people. Life would be less messy if we just asked and were healed every time. But Jesus never claimed that following him would not be messy.


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Revitalize – Review

RevitalizeI received a copy of Revitalize by Andrew M. Davis. I was looking forward to reading this book as I’m very interested in revitalization. I pastor an established church that is just celebrating our 184th anniversary. I long to see new life breathed into our church.

While there are some very good principles in this book, overall I was disappointed. I need to be fair that Davis and I are coming from very different places theologically (even though we are both Baptists).

I had a hard time getting over one of the first stories that he shares in the book. Early in his career at his current church, the congregation voted for a woman to be on the deacons’ board. Davis strongly disagreed with this and not only did he oppose it, he called his church to repent of the sin of allowing a woman in that type of authoritative leadership.

I have no problem with women in leadership or ministry. I have served on staff with women pastors and the deacons’ board at my current church is half female. I encourage women (and men) to act in the gifts that God has given them. So with his stand against women in ministry being an ongoing theme in the book, I had a hard time.

But it was not just a disagreement about women in ministry that turned me off. In one chapter, he is quite critical of using leadership principles from the business world. Then in the next chapter he positively uses an example from ancient history to illustrate a leadership principle. While I agree that all church leadership should be consistent with biblical values, there is much overlap not just with military leadership (he uses an example from Alexander the Great) but with business leadership as well. Jesus often used principles from the non-religious world to illustrate the way the kingdom of God worked.

I had one last problem with this book. He has a chapter called “Wage War Against Discouragement.” There is plenty of good things in the chapter but I did have a concern. It looks like he is teaching that a leader can overcome depression just by preaching scripture to themselves. While I find the Bible very encouraging and I agree that biblical truth can realign our perspective, there is more to depression. There are many leaders who have clinical depression and they need more than just a study of the Psalms. I suspect that Davis is responding to just the depression that arises from discouragement in ministry but I would have preferred that he acknowledge that there is more to depression than that.

Is Revitalize worth reading? I suspect that pastors who are more conservative than I am will get more out of it. Even with my own disagreements, I did get reminded of some very helpful principles of pastoral leadership. It is not the best book on church leadership I have read but it is not the worst either.

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Forensic Faith – Review

Forensic FaithWhen I was offered an advance review copy of Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace, I didn’t have to think twice about my decision. I have read his first two books: Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene and loved them. I expected the same level of quality for Forensic Faith.

I was not disappointed.

Forensic Faith contains the same strengths of the first two books but without rehashing the same material. Forensic Faith has specific goal and is not just a repackaging of the earlier books.

Forensic Faith is more of an apologetic for apologetics (or perhaps as Warner would say, a case being made for case-making). Warner has noticed, has have many in the apologetics community, that there is opposition to apologetics even within the church. Whether it is an assumption that apologetics is ineffective or a fear that apologetics requires too much intelligence, there is a prejudice against apologetics.

Warner presents a strong case for apologetics with his signature style of using illustrations from his career as a homicide detective.This is really one of Warner’s strengths. I’m convinced that even people who don’t like apologetics will enjoy his books because of the insights he provides from his police career. I’m able to read his books much faster than other books on similar topics because of Warner’s engaging style.

As Warner has preached, we don’t need more million dollar apologists, we need a million one dollar apologists. If we could mobilize the people in our churches to be able to provide the basic case for Christianity, we could have a huge impact on our culture. Forensic Faith is a valuable resource for making this happen. Consider using this book as a study in your church or small group.

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Thoughts on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Voyage of the Dawn TreaderI have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my daughter. We have now read five of the seven books having just completed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Strangely, I have not seen the movie based on it and so I have no idea how close it stayed to the book.

What I can say is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of my favourite books in the series. It is far superior to A Horse and His Boy and is right up there with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Part of it is that Lewis is tapping into the ancient genre of the quest. The story keeps the reader’s attention because we want to know what they will find at the end.

The basic plot is that Edmund and Lucy are staying with their relative Eustace, when they are magically transported to Narnia. There they find King Caspian on his way on the quest to find the lost lords who were friends of his father. Each step of the way becomes more bizarre and more dangerous.

I love the character development of Edmund, Lucy and Caspian. Lewis doesn’t just reuse characters, he develops them shows their growing maturity through their adventures. The real miracle, however, is the change in Eustace. His physical change is a symbol of his spiritual and emotional change.

This book also includes some of the most spiritual and Christian content. Near the end, Aslan tells Lucy that he is in their world but under a different name. That is of course Jesus. If the lion form of Aslan didn’t give it away, the lamb form should have. But it seems to be a surprise to Lucy.

The journey to Aslan’s country has always moved me. Lewis’s description of their journey to the world’s end grabs my imagination and I feel like I’m there. It is almost a spiritual experience to read it.

If you have never read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you really need to. Fiction at its best.


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God Among Sages – Review

God Among SagesI have been enjoying Ken Samples blog and I frequently link to it. He consistently provides good content that is theologically sound. So I was very happy when I was offered a review copy of his new book, God Among Sages.

Two of my interests are that of the historical Jesus and world religions. As a result, God Among Sages is exactly the type of book that I enjoy.

God Among Sages is divided into three parts. The first is an examination of what we know about Jesus. This includes our evidence for his existence, but also the biblical support for his divinity. This part is worth the price for the book alone as a primer in biblical christology.

The second part of the book is an examination of the founders of a number of religious movements, including Krishna, Buddha, Confucius and Muhammad. This was one of my favourite parts of the book. I have read number of books comparing religions, but Samples focuses on a comparison of the founders. One of the first things to be noticed is the far greater and earlier evidence for Jesus than what we have for others.

The final part is a comparison of Christianity with other religions. We live in a multicultural and multi-religious world. We need to be able to live with both integrity and respect with those of other faiths.

Ken Samples provides an excellent overview of how Jesus fits within the religious stage. This book will provide a terrific foundation for both understanding Jesus and understanding other faiths.

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Grace is Greater – Review

Grace is GreaterI need to confess that Grace is Greater is not the kind of book that I’m normally drawn to. I prefer a more theological or exegetical study. Still, Kyle Idleman is a respected name and so I thought I would give it a read.

I began reading Grace is Greater just so I could write the review but I ended up enjoying the book very much. Idleman is a tremendously gifted writer and he presents a fresh look a grace.

There are a number of things that I enjoyed about his writing. One is that he shares from personal experience, including examples that are not particularly flattering. This vulnerability is very powerful. He has also gathered a number of grace-inspired stories that are very moving. A preacher could mine quite a few illustrations from this book.

But Idleman is also extremely funny. I love his sense of humour. Definitely read his footnotes throughout the book. I kept reading them to my wife because they were so funny.

However, this book is not just fun to read. Idleman presents the grace of God in a way that today’s results-oriented church desperately needs to hear. I highly recommend it.

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Meet Generation Z – Review

Meet Generation ZI have been doing research on the Millennial generation, which is generally understood as those born 1980-2000. There has been much written about the Millennials, but the time is here for us to begin to look at the next generation: Generation Z. James Emery White has provided a valuable resource with his book Meet Generation Z.

I was interested in this book for two reasons. One is that White defines Generation Z as those born 1995-2010. This overlaps with common definitions of Millennials and covers a group that I’m interested in for my research. On a different level, I’m interested as my children belong to Generation Z. My five children were born 2001-2008.

I really appreciated this book for a number of reasons. One is that it is based on solid research that really reflects who this generation is. Another is that there is a strong biblical and theological foundation for this book. While purely sociological studies are helpful, White writes this book as a Christian and as a pastor. This makes it very helpful for people in Christian ministry. In addition, White builds on his earlier book Rise of the Nones. The Nones are one of the most misunderstood groups. They are not necessarily (or even often) atheists but are those who do not identify with a specific religious group. The Nones are growing in their important in Generation Z.

I also appreciate the fact that White includes a section on apologetics. Too often Christian leaders dismiss apologetics as being effective for only older generations. The truth is that apologetics is always relevant and the key is to adjust the way we do apologetics with each generation. White provides some practical tips on what apologetics can look like with Generation Z.

I highly recommend Meet Generation Z as a resource for the Church. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand the new generation.

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Marriage and Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger's SyndromeWhat do you think of when you think of autism? Nonverbal children rocking back and forth, perhaps banging their head? Autism includes that but also is so much more. What if I told you that autism includes that engineer, lawyer or stock broker who is married with children?

There once was a diagnosis called Asperger’s Syndrome. It basically was what was known as autism but without the communication deficiencies. That is an over-simplification but it gives you the basic idea. Asperger’s is no longer a diagnosis but is now included under the label of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

People with high functioning autism can be successful in many endeavours, including complex careers. But one of the challenges can be a marriage with a person without autism. Marriage is difficult enough between two people neurologically similar, autism makes things much more complicated.

I recently read the book, Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Asperger’s Syndrome by Eva A. Mendes. I really appreciated this book. One of the things I liked was how she described the partner without autism. Often a person without autism is described as neuro-typical. But as Mendes observes, just because a person does not have autism, does not mean that they are neuro-typical. Instead, Mendes calls a person with autism, non-spectrum (NS).

The majority of relationships between ASD and NS include a male with ASD and a NS female, but there are exceptions. Mendes includes examples from a variety of different relationships, including common law and same-sex relationships. What remains consistent is that the ASD and NS partners are speaking a different language.

Mendes tackles some of the most important issues in neuro-diverse relationships such as emotional intelligence, communication, sex and parenting. Each topic is illustrated by case studies from Mendes’s practice and then is taken deeper with her teaching.

A neuro-diverse relationship can be a challenge for both partners but there is hope. There are ways to strengthen the skills that do not come naturally. It requires hard work by both partners. Basically, just like any other marriage.

If you are in or know someone in a marriage where one person has ASD and the other is NS, I highly recommend this book.


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Teaching the Next Generations – Review

Teaching Next GenerationsTeaching is an integral part of Christian ministry. It takes place in congregations, Bible colleges, seminaries, Christian schools and many other contexts. It would be nice if all one had to do was to present the material and the student was be able to integrate all the imparted information. The truth is that teaching is much more complicated than this.

Terry Linhart has edited a book called Teaching the Next Generations: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching Christian Formation. This is indeed a comprehensive guide as it provides content from twenty-six different authors on all aspects of teaching. Some of the chapters overlap, some build on one another and others provide unique perspectives. The chapters are short but contain a large amount of information.

Each chapter includes reflection questions and a reading list that deepen the learning experience for the reader. This is an essential resource for anyone involved in a teaching ministry. I would especially recommend it for people in Christian education contexts such as children’s and youth ministries. This would also be a good resource for teams to go over, studying each chapter as a group and discussing how Christian education can be improved.

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Missional God, Missional Church – Review

Missional God Missional Church“Missional” is one of the most common buzz words when it comes to contemporary ministry. Most Christians would agree that the church needs to be missional. But what does that even mean? Ross Hastings, in Missional God, Missional Church, seeks to provide a theological foundation for what it means to be missional.

Hastings uses John 20:19-23 as the thread that holds his book together. Hastings provides an ongoing interpretation of this passage to demonstrate the biblical basis for the church to be missional. In this endeavour, Hastings interacts heavily with Karl Barth (and to a lesser extent, Leslie Newbigin and Jonathan Edwards). Although I like Barth, I’m not convinced with his view that Jesus provided atonement for all, something that Hastings holds to as well. The line between this and universalism is too blurry.

The major theological themes that Hastings works with are the Trinity and the incarnation. He demonstrates that God is a missional God and that it is from his nature that the church emerges as a missional church. This book is by no means theologically fluffy. Hastings pulls in some major theological conversation partners and provides some good material for the theologically-minded to wrestle with. This is a good book for those interested in the missional church.

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The Gathering Storm – Review

Gathering StormA number of years ago, I picked up Their Finest Hour, which was the second volume of Winston Churchill’s series on the Second World War. I read it and enjoyed it. More recently, I found copies of the rest of the series and just finished reading the first volume, The Gathering Storm.

I enjoyed this book both as someone interested in military history and as someone involved in leadership. This first volume deals with the situation that was left over from the First World War. Decisions were being made both in Germany and in England that would affect what would happen in the 1930s.

While Hitler began his rearmament secretly, he soon discovered that everyone else had lost their taste for war. The rest of the European nations had lost so much in the first war that they would do anything avoid a second one. This gave Hitler a free reign.

There were numerous times that the allies could have put a stop to Hitler, as his military resources were not quite ready to take on England and France. But taking the route of appeasement, the allies allowed Hitler to rearm and to expand its borders.

Hitler was able to take Austria and Czechoslovakia without almost any opposition. The line that England and France finally agreed on was Poland and Hitler crossed that line as well.

In this book, Churchill gives a behind the scenes account of these early years of the war, including the eventual German invasion of Norway. Many people are unaware of what was taking place in Scandinavia, including the Soviet invasion of Finland. That invasion put England in a difficult spot as they wanted to supports the Finns against the Soviets but also wanted the Soviets an ally against the Germans.

I have no presumptions about this being an impartial history. Churchill was a very opinionated man and had much at stake. Still, it is a fascinating read for anyone interested in military history or politics. There are important leadership lessons found throughout The Gathering Storm. I look forward to reading the third volume.

Second World War

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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War – Review

Hobbit Wardrobe Great WarIf you were to look at my interests, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and military history would be near the top of my list. Therefore, I was quite pleased to come across A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War by Joseph Loconte.

Many people know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have some things in common. Both taught at Oxford, both were Christians, both were part of a literary group called the Inklings and both are known for writing fantasy literature, loved by children and adults alike. What many people do not know is that they both fought in the First World War.

What impact did that conflict have on Lewis and Tolkien? There are definitely nods to Tolkien’s experience in the trenches in his descriptions of Mordor. But there is so much more. Living a century after the events, many do not realize the intellectual shift that took place with this war. Before the war, there was great optimism that human skill and ingenuity could create a heaven on earth. World War One demonstrated that the same knowledge and technology could also create a hell on earth. People, especially in Europe, were confronted unprecedented slaughter.

In this very readable book, Loconte places the war in its cultural and intellectual context. He describes Lewis and Tolkien’s experience in the war but also how a world war shaped their thought world. Lewis and Tolkien reacted to what they had experienced but also what the world had experienced.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War should be required reading for anyone interested in Lewis and Tolkien. This is one of the most interesting books that I have read so far this year.


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The Millennials – Review

MillennialsAs part of my research for my Doctor of Ministry thesis, I’m doing lots of reading on the Millennials. Who are the Millennials? They are those born approximately between 1980 and 2000 and they are sometimes called Generation Y. One of the resources I used was The Millennials by Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer.

One of the things that I appreciated about this father-son book is that it represented two generations: Baby Boomers and Millennials. As a result, it includes attitudes about Millennials but also represents Millennials. In addition, this book reflects detailed research by Lifeway.

Although this book is written by two evangelical Christians, it contains information valuable to everyone interested in this generation. They tackle issues such as relationships, environmentalism, materialism, as well as attitudes toward spirituality.

If you have read sociological treatments of Millennials and walked away wondering what they really said, this book is for you. It is written in an engaging style and includes many real life illustrations.

Churches and leaders cannot afford to be ignorant about the Millennial generation. Although there is an increase in talk about Generation Z, the Millennials are still very important. Effective ministry needs to take into account the specific needs and attributes of each generation.

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God Enters Stage Left – Review

God Enters Stage LeftAbout a year ago, I was given a copy of Tim Day’s God Enters Stage Left. I finally got an opportunity to read it. The basic idea of the book is that we need an understanding of the big story that is found in the Bible. There is a plot that begins somewhere and goes in a certain direction. Day takes the reader through the story of the Bible, introducing the major characters and pointing out the plot twists.

The book is a very helpful guide to reading the Bible, especially for new believers. It could easily be used for a Bible study or discipleship class. Pastors could also use it as a preaching series to help their congregation get the big idea. The book is out of print, but you can get copies from Amazon for a little as $0.01!

Having said that, I had one problem with the book. Day holds up religion as the problem and Jesus as the solution to religion. This is not surprising as Day is a former senior pastor at The Meeting House. Bruxy Cavey, from the same church, wrote a popular book called The End of the Religion.

I would argue that Christianity is a religion, but religion done right. Excluding Christianity from religion requires a very select definition of religion and one that is not the natural understanding of the term. Not only that, I don’t see religion as an obstacle to knowing God as being the theme of the Bible. Pitting Christianity against religion is a popular idea, but one that I would consider inaccurate.

Despite this, the book is helpful in many ways.

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The Mission of the Church – Review

Mission of the ChurchI think that most Christians would agree that the church should be missional. But what does that even mean? Is it about evangelism or social justice or both? Does missional activity happen in the church building or in the community or both? If you have been wrestling with these questions, you might enjoy The Mission of the Church edited by Craig Ott.

The Mission of the Church has the subtitle of Five Views in Conversation. The five views are Stephen Bevans (Roman Catholic), Darrell Guder (mainline), Ruth Padilla DeBorst (Latin American evangelical), Edward Rommen (Orthodox) and Ed Setzer (North American evangelical). In general I enjoy the five views style of books. I did like this book, but there was not as much disagreement as you would expect. There was a tremendous amount of overlap in positions. It was almost disappointing.

If you are interested in what it means to be missional, this is a great resource. The authors discuss issues as what the Trinity means for the mission of the church and the definition of Missio Dei. The interactions are very respectful and the different perspectives do help fill in questions people might have about a missional church.

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New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes – Review

New Testament Development of Old Testament ThemesIn the second century, there was a religious teacher named Marcion who tried to put together a New Testament devoid of any references to the Old Testament. Ultimately, it was a futile attempt as the New Testament is rooted in the Old Testament. Jesus was the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament and who preached messages full of Old Testament verses and imagery.

I find the way the New Testament uses the Old Testament to be quite fascinating. There are some more recent books on this topic, but a good older work is New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes by F.F. Bruce. This book is made up of lectures Bruce gave at Fuller Seminary back in 1968.

In the book, Bruce digs into such topics as the kingdom of God, the Son of Man, the Davidic Messiah, the Suffering Servant and more. Reading this book will give you a greater appreciation of how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. It will help you read both the Old and New Testaments from a fresh perspective.

Bruce brings the clarity of his New Testament scholarship into this wider biblical study. He wrestles with his contemporary Old Testament scholars. This book is well worth reading for anyone who wants a better appreciation of the Bible.

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Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche – Review

Examined LivesPart of my personal research is about deepening my understanding of philosophy. I do this by reading books on philosophy in general, books by some of the most prominent philosophers and books that tell the story of these philosophers. I have just finished reading Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller.

Half the fun of reading these types of books is to see who they will include in their list of philosophers. Every list is different, with a few names appearing in most. Miller chose to include in his list:

  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Diogenes
  • Aristotle
  • Seneca
  • Augustine
  • Montaigne
  • Descartes
  • Rousseau
  • Kant
  • Emerson
  • Nietzsche

I was more familiar with some more than others. I have read a fair bit about Plato and Aristotle, but almost nothing about Montaigne and Emerson. However, I found that even with those philosophers that I had read about, I still learned something new in each chapter. I really appreciated the biographical sketches that Miller provides. Philosophy books can be boring, even books about the history of philosophy, but Miller has a very readable style. He traces certain themes throughout the chapters. Even though each philosopher is different, ancient and modern, Christian and atheist, there are some similarities. I found myself looking forward to each chapter and what I would learn next.

If you are looking for a good introduction to the major philosophers, Examined Lives is probably the best book that I have read on this theme.

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Transcending Proof – Review

Transcending ProofThe first foreword I have ever written for a book was for DonMcIntoh’s Transcending Proof. While it is an honour to be asked, I am not attention-seeking enough to let my name go on anything. I would not have written this unless I believed in what Don was writing.

I recently received a paperback version of the book and had the opportunity to reread it without the pressure of making mental notes of what I would say in the foreword. As I read it, my thought was that I was glad that I agreed to endorse the book. It is a well written piece of apologetics.

Don McIntosh is a thoughtful writer who truly wrestles with the subjects that he tackles. Don’s aim is not to just give a simple defence, but rather to examine critiques of Christianity in a intellectually honest manner.

One of the things that I really appreciated about the book is the wide range of topics that he writes on. Chapters in this book look at everything from philosophy to archaeology to Gnosticism and more. Reading this book will not make you an expert in every subject but it is a very helpful sampling of the state of apologetics today. If you are looking for an area of apologetics to specialize in, this book will give you some good options.

Transcending Proof is a good example of the type of apologetics material that we need. It is both intellectually rigorous and accessible to those who are not experts. I highly recommend this book.

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Watching TV Religiously – Review

Sometimes when people ask me if I have seen a certain show, I reply “I don’t watch TV because I’m a Christian.” I’m being completely sarcastic, as there have been many shows that I have enjoyed immensely. My sarcasm is a reflection of how some Christians (rightly or wrongly) avoid TV as being worldly.

Watching TV ReligiouslyThe church certainly has had a long and confusing relationship. Everything from boycotting to attempting to impose Christian values to producing Christian content. That is why, I very much enjoyed reading Watching TV Religiously by Kutter Callaway and Dean Batali.

This was such a good book and I was never bored with it. The first half of the book is about TV in general. It looks at how TV began, its evolution and the nuts and bolts of how an episode is written. Examples are taken from TV’s entire history, going back to shows such as the Honeymooners and the Mary Tyler Moore Show to Lost and the Game of Thrones.

The second half of the book begins to introduce concepts of theology and ethics. Traditionally, Christians have judged shows on the big three (sex, violence, language). While not ignoring those aspects, the authors go deeper by looking at both the aesthetics and worldviews being presented.

While some of the TV shows I was largely unfamiliar with, there were many that I had watched. This book helped me to see those stories in a new light. If nothing else, the book helps viewers to watch more thoughtfully.

If you have an interest in television and theology, I highly recommend Watching TV Religiously.

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Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – Review

One of my favourite books is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Too many people see The Hobbit as simply the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, a source for some interesting background information. We need to remember that The Lord of the Rings was the sequel and that it was written only because of the popularity of The Hobbit. The Hobbit is an amazing book and would still be even if The Lord of the Rings had never been written.

HobbitIf you really want to appreciate The Hobbit, I highly recommend Corey Olsen’s Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Olsen, also known as the Tolkien Professor, is a fantastic resource for all things Tolkien (see this post). He has written a very helpful introduction to The Hobbit.

One of the things that I appreciate about this book is that he does not try to interpret The Hobbit through the lens of The Lord of the Rings or other Tolkien writings. He does mention them when there are interesting connections but he looks at this book with the information that the first readers would have had.

I also appreciated observations he makes about various versions of The Hobbit. Many people do not realize that what we read today is not exactly the same as the first edition. Tolkien rewrote some of the sections, especially concerning Gollum, to bring it more into line with where The Lord of the Rings took the story.

Olsen has a very good understanding of Tolkien and he is able to highlight themes that are easy for the average reader to understand. Reading this book will help you to appreciate The Hobbit more than ever.

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IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament – Review

New TestamentThere are tons of good biblical resources out there, but only a few that I would recommend for everyone. One of those would be The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig Keener.

Keener is one of the bright stars of evangelical biblical scholars. I have not been disappointed by any book I have ready by him and this one was no exception. Keener has both a devout faith and excellent scholarly credentials.

This book is basically a one volume commentary on the entire New Testament. But instead of trying to explain what every verse means, it provides contextual background to the passages, to help the reader interpret. Keener shares information about Judaism, Greco-Roman culture and other relevant data that shed light on the New Testament and its world.

I originally bought this book for a course I was teaching on the background of the Bible. I would highly recommend it for students and preachers.

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Thoughts on The Horse and His Boy

Horse and His BoyI have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my youngest daughter. I have decided to read them in chronological order rather than publication. So we read the Horse and His Boy third, even though it was the fifth one published. That is because it takes place during the events of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

I read all of the books years ago, but I find that I have forgotten much. However, of the three books that I have re-read, the Horse and His Boy is so far my least favourite. That is not to say it is a bad story or that I didn’t enjoy it. C.S. Lewis, even at his worst, is still brilliant.

I would say that I enjoyed it less than the others because it feels the least like a Narnian book. Much of it takes place outside of the country of Narnia and the main characters are not from England. In many ways, it feels like a non-Narnia story inserted into the Narnian world. Sort of like what Tolkien did with Tom Bombadil.

One of the things that I found strange is the presence of the human cultures. During the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Witch seemed surprised to discover humans. You don’t get the sense that the Witch would encounter other humans from the south. The humans in Prince Caspian make more sense because it takes place many years after the defeat of the Witch.

That is not to say I didn’t like the book. It was enjoyable and I found the characters quite interesting. I’m glad I read it, even if it didn’t feel very Narnian.

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Unapologetic – Review

UnapologeticDespite what Francis Spufford claims, Unapologetic is an apologetic work. The subtitle gives it away: “Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense.” It is simply an apologetic on the emotional level rather than the intellectual level. I badly wanted to like this book since I agree with the author’s premise.

But I didn’t.

To be fair, this book was not written for me and so it should surprise no one that I didn’t care for it. I would guess that this book was written for the post-Christian, who sees Christianity as at best Irrelevant and at worst dangerous. I hope that such skeptics would get something positive out of the book.

What didn’t I like?

For one thing, there was far too much profanity. I’m not a prude when it comes to language. I was an army chaplain for a few years and have heard it all. But in a book arguing for Christianity, it was distracting. There was not just a bit of profanity, nor was it mild. He drops the F-bomb quite a few times. I guess the author was hoping that would help skeptics take it more seriously.

He also makes some pretty sweeping statements about Christianity, which in fact are more about his group within the Church of England. For example, he states that Christians have given up on the concept of hell and only a few fanatics still believe in it. While there has been some development in the understanding of hell, many evangelicals and pentecostals (which make up a huge segment of the Christian church), still believe in hell.

There were some good things in the book. I did enjoy his chapter on Jesus. In fact, at times he does some pretty good traditional apologetics, especially when dealing with the non-canonical gospels.

However, in general I was pretty disappointed with the book. Spufford is a talented author, but this book was not for me (which Spufford would probably agree). I doubt I would recommend it to anyone except the most radical skeptic who needed something to shock them into considering Christianity.

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stickyfaith

One of the fears of many Christian parents is that their children, who they raise in the church, will end up walking away from the faith. Statistics show that many of the teens who are active in youth group disappear during the college years. This is something that neither parents nor the church can ignore.

Kara Powell and Chap Clark have provided a helpful resource with their book, stickyfaith. Both Powell and Clark have experience in youth ministry and parenting. They have been researching trends for years and they present practical suggestions that have emerged from that research.

One of the things suggested is something we are trying to implement in our church, which is integrating young people into the main life of the church. Instead of segregating children and teens until they are adults, there may be ways to include them. This does not have to mean the end of Sunday school or youth group, but it may change how that looks.

Traditionally, it has been recommended that there be a child-adult ratio of five to one, that is one adult for every five children. Powell and Clark recommend flipping that ratio so that it is five adults for every one child. This does not mean that churches have to radically increase the number of formal volunteers but it does mean that relationships between adults and children need to be encouraged.

I really enjoyed stickfaith and I recommend for all Christian parents and church leaders.

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Leading Change

Leading ChangeOne of the most important and yet difficult aspects of leadership is guiding an organization through change. I sometimes joke with my church, “We don’t mind change as long as it’s the same kind of change we have always had.” The truth is that some change is required for an organization, including a church, to survive.

The definitive book on this subject is Leading Change by John Kotter. This book is not written from a Christian perspective and it does not deal specifically with churches. All of the examples in the book are from the business world. And yet pastors and other church leaders have found that the principles that Kotter presents are effective in guiding churches through change.

Kotter offers the following eight stage process for creating major change:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition
  3. Developing a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the change vision
  5. Empowering broad-based action
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Some might ask if it is appropriate for churches to borrow leadership principles from the business world. When I look at the New Testament, I see Jesus and Paul borrowing from “non-religious” occupations to illustrate spiritual truths. There is no real divide between sacred and secular, that is a modern concept. In addition, I believe all truth is God’s truth. If these principles are true, they are not true only for the business world.

If you are a pastor or church leader, I highly recommend you read John Kotter’s Leading Change.

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Reviewing Leadership

Reviewing LeadershipI have read quite a few books on leadership and will continue to invest in this area of knowledge. However, Reviewing Leadership by Bernice M. Ledbetter, Robert J. Banks and David C. Greenhalgh fills in a gap that I have not seen in other leadership books.

This is not a “how to” book for becoming a good leader. In fact it does not put forth a leadership strategy as the recommended way. Instead, this book puts all of the other leadership books into their larger context.

The authors look at the history of leadership studies and its struggle to become its own discipline. Since many of the readers will be Christian, they look at faith-based concepts of leadership. However, they don’t just describe Christian approaches. Remember, this book is about looking at the big picture and the authors place Christian approaches in the larger context of faith-based leadership. For example, they do a good job of explaining how Stephen Covey’s Mormon faith informed his leadership teaching, even when he did not discuss Mormonism in his books.

As I read Reviewing Leadership, I could see the connections between concepts that I had never seen before. I recommend this book for all those involved in Christian leadership as it will help you see leadership from a new perspective.

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The Universe Next Door

Universe Next DoorOne of the most important topics that we can study is that of worldviews. We all have a worldview, the question is how well do we understand our own and that of others? An excellent resource on this topic is The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire.

This is one of the best books that I have read on worldviews. In the book, Sire looks at the following basic questions:

  1. What is prime reality⏤the really real?
  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
  3. What is a human being?
  4. What happens to a person at death?
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
  6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?
  8. What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?

Each of these questions are applied to the following worldviews:

  • Theism
  • Deism
  • Naturalism
  • Nihilism
  • Existentialism
  • Monism
  • New Age Spirituality
  • Postmodernism
  • Islamic Theism (This chapter is written by Winfried Corduan)

The result is, as the subtitle suggests, a basic worldview catalog. Sire writes with an engaging style that is easy to understand and is also based on extensive research. After going through this book, the reader will have a solid understanding of the major worldviews and will be in a much better position to engage them. I highly recommend The Universe Next Door.


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Kingdom Conspiracy – Review

Kingdom ConspiracyThe kingdom of God is arguably the most important topic in the Gospels. It definitely was the core of Jesus’ preaching. But what is the kingdom of God? Scot McKnight tackles this important topic in his book, Kingdom Conspiracy.

McKnight observes two ways of looking at the spectrum that he cleverly calls the skinny jeans and the pleated pants views. Skinny jeans people (the younger generation) see the kingdom as being primarily about acts of justice. Pleated pants (the older generation) see the kingdom in spiritual terms, such as salvation.

McKnight confronts some of the common understandings of the kingdom. For example, he rejects the idea that anything that is consistent with God’s will (such as feeding the hungry, caring for the poor) is included in the kingdom. Such good deeds are admirable and should be encouraged, but they are not the kingdom.

McKnight also rejects the idea that the church and the kingdom are separate categories. Many would see the church and the kingdom as overlapping but different. McKnight argues that the kingdom is the church and the church is the kingdom. Only when something is done as the activity of the church, can it be described as kingdom activity.

McKnight brings together solid New Testament research with a passion for church ministry. The result is a book that is of value to pastors and Bible students. If the kingdom of God was so centrally important to Jesus, we dare not ignore it. Kingdom Conspiracy is a tremendous resource for reflection on the nature of the kingdom of God.


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Pauline Christology

Pauline ChristologyWas Jesus divine? Was the divinity of Jesus a later invention of the church? What did Paul, our earliest Christian writer, say about Jesus? I can think of no better resource to answer these questions than Gordon Fee’s Pauline Christology.

I have read Fee’s earlier book, God’s Empowering Presence, where Fee looked at every mention of the Spirit by Paul. That was an amazing book. In Pauline Christology, Fee does the same thing for Jesus.

When we think of Jesus as divine, the two passages that often come up are Philippians 2 and Colossians 1. Those are important passages but there is so much more. Fee demonstrates convincingly that Paul’s high christology permeates all of his letters. For example, Paul repeatedly describes Jesus accomplishing what the God of the Old Testament was prophesied to do. Paul’s use of Lord for Jesus was not just a term of respect, but as a statement of Jesus’ divinity.

Pauline Christology, is an essential resource for those interested in biblical studies and also those involved in Christian apologetics.

I recently gave a lecture that touched on the divinity of Jesus, you can listen to it below.

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A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics

Little Primer on Humble ApologeticsAs a part of my research for my DMin thesis, I recently read James Sire’s A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics. I really didn’t have any expectations going into it but I ended up loving this book. Sire, who was a student of Francis Schaeffer, brings not only an intellectual understanding of the topic, but practical experience from working with university students.

I particularly liked Sire’s definition of apologetics:

Christian apologetics lays before the watching world such a winsome embodiment of Christian faith that for any and all who are willing to observe there will be an intellectually and emotionally credible witness to its fundamental truth.

That is good stuff! That is the kind of definition that should break down much of the opposition to apologetics in many of our churches.

Sire does a fantastic job of setting up the biblical basis for apologetics. He also takes the reader through both the value and the limits of apologetics. By providing a realistic view of apologetics and its role, Sire demonstrates the type of context in which apologetics can be effective.

Sire gives brief summaries of various apologetics arguments, but that is not the purpose of the book. Instead, Sire offers suggested reading for those who want to go deeper.

This is a great little introduction to apologetics that should be used widely.

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God is Great, God is Good

God is Great God is GoodOne of the major challenges to the Church in recent years has been the New Atheism. The New Atheists do not have new arguments, but they do have a new aggressiveness and a new level of visibility with their media savviness. It is in response to this that William Lane Craig and Chad Meister edited, God is Great, God is Good.

The strength of this book is both the wide variety of topics and the quality of authors providing essays. The contributors to this volume are really a who’s who of the apologetics world. As with any compilation, the chapters are of varying quality, but there definitely are some excellent essays. I found the ones by Alister McGrath, Paul Copan, John Polkinghorne and Gary Habermas to be particularly good.

If you are concerned with the New Atheism and are looking for a resource, God is Great, God is Good will likely provide what you need.

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Who Moved My Pulpit?

Who Moved My PulpitOne of my favourite podcasts is Rainer on Leadership and Thom Rainer’s blog posts that I share seem to get a lot of engagement. So I was looking forward to finally reading one of his books.

The book I chose is his latest, Who Moved My Pulpit? I love that this book is a reply to a real email from a real pastor. The book is a study in the leading of change in the church, something that is close to the heart of most pastors.

This book is incredibly practical. It is not a theory-only resource. Any pastor, even with no formal leadership training, can take the principles here and apply them in their context.

The heart of the book is the roadmap for leading change:

  1. Stop and Pray
  2. Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency
  3. Build an Eager Coalition
  4. Become a Voice and Vision of Hope
  5. Deal with People Issues
  6. Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus
  7. Pick Low-Hanging Fruit
  8. Implement and Consolidate Change

Rainer illustrates every step of the process with real life experiences. The reader is confronted with situations that ring true to what many pastors experience. Both positive and negative attempts at change are presented.

Rainer writes with an engaging style and this book is something that could be shared widely with the leadership of the church. Each chapter concludes with reflection questions.

One of the things that I appreciate about Rainer is that he writes for a wide variety of contexts. This resource is not just aimed at megachurch pastors with a paid staff of twenty leaders. The principles he offers are very applicable to my situation as a solo pastor of congregation of less than a hundred people.

Who Moved My Pulpit? is a fantastic resource and it is something I plan to revisit over and over again in my ministry.

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Positively Powerless

Positively PowerlessThere is power in positive thinking. Or is there? And what do we really mean by that? Is the power of positive thinking just a harmless fad?

L.L. Martin, in her book Positively Powerless, looks at this popular but so misunderstood movement. In this book, Martin looks at the historical background of the movement and reveals that it is much bigger than some people just trying to stay positive. It goes back to the New Thought movement of the nineteenth century that birthed many sects including Christian Science. It has become even more popular in recent years and it has heavily influenced the prosperity gospel.

If you are like me, you will likely ask yourself, “What is wrong with positive thinking?” After all, we have all been around positive people and negative people and there is no contest as to who we would prefer to be around. Martin is not preaching a message of negativity by any means.

By the power of positive thinking, something very specific is meant. This is the belief that we can influence our circumstances by our positive thoughts. For example, in the prosperity gospel, people will speak of the “positive confession.” Keep speaking words of wealth and eventually your bank account will come into line.

Martin seeks to provide a biblical alternative that is realistic. Humans are both created in the image of God and are fallen creatures. We live between the times and that means we experience both good and bad things. What we should be seeking is God’s will and not just a happy and easy life.

Positively Powerless is a helpful resource that will make it impossible for you to see many of the common phrases and attitudes of our culture the same way again.

I recently had a conversation with L.L. Martin on my podcast. Have a listen:

You can also find L.L. Martin’s blog here.

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Becoming a Disciple Making Church

Become a Disciple Making ChurchI have heard much about the author, Neil T. Anderson, and have had his books Bondage Breaker and Victory Over Darkness recommended to me. While I haven’t read those books, I did have the opportunity to read his newest book, Becoming a Disciple Making Church. As someone very interested in discipleship, I was eager to read it.

My first concern was the subtitle: “A Proven Method for Growing Spiritually Mature Christians.” Claims of a “proven method” make me suspicious, as life in general and the Christian life in particular is much more than plugging into a formula.

Overall, I was quite disappointed with this book. First of all, despite the title, the book is not about discipleship. The book is about Anderson’s system for dealing with mental health and relationship issues. That is not to say these things are unrelated to discipleship, but I would never have guessed from the content of the book that he was trying to focus on discipleship.

In reality, the book is a full length advertisement for his Freedom in Christ program. While I have not gone through his program, I do have concerns. He really attempts to diminish the value of medication and counselling in dealing with mental health issues. He seems to suggest that if those who suffer with mental illness repented and realized who they were in Christ, that they would be free from mental illness. I’m all for reflecting on our identity in Christ, but I don’t see how that will heal a person of mental illness any more than would of a physical illness.

I also had some concerns about the way he uses Scripture. Here is one exchange that takes place in the book.

After sharing her story she said, “God promised prosperity and good health in 3 John 2. Why isn’t that happening?” I said, “You should finish the verse⏤’just as your soul prospers.'”

While I’m glad that Anderson corrects the woman, his correction is all wrong. Third John 2 not a promise of God for prosperity and health. It is a standard letter greeting by John that he offers to his readers. It is simply a statement of good will from one person to another.

I would have to say that I cannot recommend this book as a book on discipleship, and I especially would not recommend it for those struggling with mental illness.

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Unparalleled

UnparalleledHave you ever been in the position where your faith has come up in conversation and the person responded with, “That’s interesting, I’m spiritual but not religious”? They might make some sweeping comment about all beliefs being the same. In that moment, you have the choice of whether to let the conversation die or to challenge the person’s shallow understanding of faith.

Jared Wilson, in his Unparalleled, presents readers with an apologetic of why Christianity is unique and deserves to be taken seriously. The book is not on Christian apologetics, although there are apologetic arguments within it, but is rather a simple presentation of the unique claims of Christianity.

Wilson tackles some of the most controversial subjects that come up. Discussing whether Christians believe in the same God as Jews and Christians, he does not take the easy way out with superficial anti-Muslim rhetoric. Rather he takes the more difficult road of contrasting the Jewish and Christian understanding of God, something that many in the Allah debate refuse to do.

Wilson looks at the essential teachings of Christianity and shows that they are nothing like what other religions offer. He gives a good explanation of the Trinity as well as a balanced look at humanity that includes both the image of God and the brokenness of sin. Wilson presents the radical message of salvation by grace and the life-giving miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. These things can be found no where else. They are literally unparalleled.

Wilson writes in a very conversational style that is filled with stories of his own experiences. This is not a book for scholars, but is a resource that is aimed for the average person who needs to be able to articulate what is different about Christianity. It is also something that would be appropriate for a seeker to read. People are free to reject Christianity, but they need to know what it is that they are rejecting. Unparalleled will give the reader the truth of what Christianity offers.

 

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Five Views on Apologetics

Five Views on ApologeticsOne of my favourite series of books are the four/five views books. I love the format that allows the reader to both get a number of perspectives on a theological issue as well as to observe the conversation between the scholars. A valuable part of this series is Five Views on Apologetics, edited by Steven B. Cowan.

In this volume, William Lane Craig presents the classical method, which uses two steps. The first step is to present evidence for God’s existence through natural theology and then to narrow the argument down to the truth of Christianity with historical evidence.

While Gary Habermas does not reject the value of natural theology, his evidential method prefers the one step approach. Habermas focuses on the historical evidence, and he is known especially for his minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul Feinberg presents the cumulative method, a method that has much in common with classical and evidential apologetics. This is also a one step method, but one that is more flexible in that it presents whatever is needed for the situation. It does not seek to prove a conclusive case for the truth of Christianity but by piling on evidence, hopes to demonstrate that Christianity is more likely true than not.

The first three methods are fairly similiar and things don’t really begin to diverge until John Frame’s presuppositional method. Presuppositionalism basically requires that the apologist demonstrate that even the conversation requires that we presuppose the truth of Christianity. I was particularly interested in learning about this because some of the descriptions I have heard about presuppositionalism have been pretty weak. I thought Frame gave a good presentation and his version seems more open to apologetic evidences than some others.

Kelly James Clark concludes with reformed epistemology. Reformed epistemology argues that evidence is not required to demonstrate the existence of God. We can accept the existence of God as being properly basic, the way we accept the truth of many other things in our life without evidence.

The interplay between the scholars was quite interesting, with some disagreements being more heated than others. I thought that Habermas had the most irenic spirit in interacting with the others, but there was something to learn from all of them.

In case you are wondering where I landed in terms of these categories, I would have to say that cumulative method makes the most sense to me. Still, there are things that can be taken from all five methods.

If you are interested in apologetics, I would say that Five Views on Apologetics should be mandatory reading.


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The Princess and the Goblin

Princess and the GoblinI am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis, and so I pay attention when I hear about the authors that most influenced him. One of those authors is George MacDonald. MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish author, poet and pastor. He is known for his fantasy literature and even mentored Lewis Carroll.

I recently had the opportunity to read his book, The Princess and the Goblin. It is a story about a young princess named Irene, who has a great great grandmother, that only she can see. She encounters a miner’s son named Curdie, who is extremely brave and responsible for his age. Both of them are drawn into the mysterious and sinister plans of a race of goblins that live under the mountain.

I absolutely loved the story. I could sense the similarities to Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, but even more to Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Not only was the story a lot of fun, but there was some interesting reflections on faith. Irene gets frustrated that Curdie can’t see her grandmother and the way her grandmother responds, gives some helpful insight into the faith journey of many people. I could see how MacDonald played a role in Lewis’s faith journey.

If you are looking for a good story that you can read to your children, but one that is interesting for the adult, I recommend The Princess and the Goblin.


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C.S. Lewis: A Life

C.S. LewisBy far the greatest influence on me, both as a Christian and as an apologist is C.S. Lewis. I was fortunate to discover him very early on in my Christian walk and he has helped to shape my thinking in many ways.

I have been doing research recently on Lewis, reading both his works and books about him. One of the books that came my way was C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath. Having read a number of books about Lewis, I wasn’t sure what McGrath would have to add. I’m glad that didn’t stop me.

This was one of the best books that I have read about C.S. Lewis. McGrath has so thoroughly researched Lewis that I now feel like I knew almost nothing before reading this book. McGrath really interacts with the historical and literary material, fleshing out what many fans consider a familiar story.

Some may struggle with certain aspects of the book. While McGrath obviously has tremendous respect for Lewis, this book is not designed as hero worship. McGrath presents a Lewis who is no saint, but who experienced God in the midst of his own weaknesses and struggles. Lewis’s relationship with Mrs. Moore and Joy Davidson are presented as being very complex and at points, disturbing. This need not tarnish Lewis, as the reader can appreciate him as a real human being, who is not so different from us.

McGrath’s writing style makes the book easy to read and it is filled with photos that help bring the reader into Lewis’s experiences. I particularly appreciated McGrath’s depth of exploring Lewis’s relationship with Tolkien. Numerous questions that I always had about Lewis, were answered in this book.

If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, I highly recommend that pick up a copy of C.S. Lewis: A Life. Although I have not read it (yet), you might also want to consider McGrath’s The Intellectual World of C.S. Lewis.

 

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Reaching Millennials

Reaching MillennialsI will admit that I approached David Stark’s new book, Reaching Millennials, with a bit of caution. It all came down to the subtitle: Proven Methods for Engaging a Young Generation. I am always hesitant with such grand claims that make it look like you can insert ministry into a formula and get the desired results.

It ended up that my fears were unfounded and that I really enjoyed the book. The book is divided into two sections: Mindset and Methodology.

The first section on mindset looks at what the Church should focus on. These include:

  • Define yourself by what you’re for and not what you’re against.
  • Build bridges to ideas outside of Christianity, and find as much common ground as possible.
  • Stick to the essentials of the faith and allow for diversity on anything else where Christians disagree.
  • Limit the requirements to engage with the faith to the very small list (4) in Acts 15.
  • Focus on the thirsts, hurts, and journeys rather than what is wrong with the individual.

The second part looks at the methodology to reach millennials. Stark does not point to just one way but gives options that can be adapted to specific contexts. These revolve around the ideas of partnering with outsiders, outsider targeted services, caring and serving in the community, and internal ministries opened to outsiders.

Stark writes with a very clear and understandable style. One does not need a seminary education to comprehend the concepts in this book. My first thought was that this was a good book for pastors to share with their leaders.

If you are looking for a resource for understanding the millennial generation and creating ideas for outreach, I recommend David Stark’s Reaching Millennials.

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The God Who is There

God Who is ThereAlthough I have read widely in the area of apologetics, I must confess that I have not read much by Francis Schaeffer. I finally had the opportunity to read one of his classics, The God Who is There.

I really did enjoy the book. Even though I’m much more of an evidentialist than a presuppositionalist, there is something attractive about the presupposotional apologetics that Schaeffer presents. Of course Schaeffer’s presuppositional apologetics was not as “pure” as his teacher Cornelius Van Til liked.

Schaeffer emphasizes the importance of dealing with the truth issue before talking about anything else. What is the nature of truth? If the seeker sees truth as something that can be decided for oneself, further conversation becomes problematic. Schaeffer encourages the Christian to “take the roof off,” that is to help the skeptic to see the logical conclusion of their worldview.

Schaeffer also speaks to the importance of God working in concrete ways in space and time. The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are not symbols but events that took place in history.

The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are not symbols but events that took place in history. Click To Tweet

One of the things that I appreciate about Schaeffer, as intelligent as he was, is that his apologetics was never just theory. His apologetic method was developed in real conversations with people. Schaeffer, while not giving up on the truth aspect of evangelism, reminds readers about the importance of demonstrating love. Treating people with respect and care gives us the opportunity to speak into their lives. Schaeffer lived this out in his ministry.

Although The God Who is There was written in 1968 (the year I was born!), it is remarkably timeless. Some of the specific theological innovations that he was concerned about have changed, but the responses have not. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend you do.

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Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy – Review

Ultimate QuestionsI believe that some knowledge of philosophy is important for everyone. It is especially important for those interested in apologetics. That is not to say you have to be a philosopher to be an apologists, but the more you know about the basic concepts, the better.

I recently read a nice little introduction to philosophy called Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy written by Nils Ch. Rauhut. I quite enjoyed this book. It is written with the beginner in mind and makes no assumptions about previous philosophical knowledge.

The topics in the book include logic, epistemology, free will, personal identity, mind/body problem, existence of God and ethics. Rauhut presents the major theories for each of these areas and gives suggested reading for further study. Every theory is presented with strengths and weaknesses, giving the reader the opportunity to work through their own beliefs,

This is not a book on Christian philosophy. Some of the ideas presented on the existence of God will raise some red flags for apologists. Still, I think that Rauhut is fair in his presentation and that the book is helpful for Christians.

If you are looking for a nice introduction for those just starting to think about philosophy, this is a good choice.

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The Future of Our Faith

Future of Our FaithOne of my favourite Christian thinkers is Ron Sider. I took a course with him during my doctoral studies and I even had the privilege of interviewing him while I was the associate editor at Faith Today.

I recently finished reading his new book, co-authored with Ben Lowe, The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church. In this book, each author presents a concern or question for the other generation and then that author has the opportunity to respond.

Sider and Lowe tackle some of the most difficult issues facing the Church today. They look at topics such as evangelism, creation-care, homosexuality, marriage and more. By having two generations look at each topic, the reader is presented with a well rounded discussion of the issues.

As a pastor, I was drawn into their conversation and excited about where the Church is going. Shallow responses will no longer do. Christians are wrestling with the challenges of ministry in new ways. The things discussed in this book are important for churches and leaders who are seeking to reach the younger generation. While the Gospel never changes, the way we present the Gospel needs to be appropriate to our audience.

I highly recommend The Future of Our Faith, especially for other pastors and church leaders.

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The Great Philosophers: From Socrates to Turing

Great PhilosophersOne of my current areas of study is in philosophy. I’m strong in biblical studies but never have had the chance to formally study philosophy. So I have been picking up books on philosophy to rectify this deficit. One of those books is The Great Philosophers: From Socrates to Turing.

Each chapter of the book is written by a philosopher about one of the great philosophers. It is an interesting list in that it is missing Aristotle but includes Alan Turing. This is part of what I liked about it in that it did not just repeat the material of the other philosophy introductions that I have been reading.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The Great Philosophers in one volume: the widely acclaimed series on the greatest philosophers by specialists writing for the general reader. The Great Philosophers brings together in one volume and in chronological order the best from our hugely successful series: Anthony Gottlieb on Socrates; Bernard Williams on Plato; John Cottingham on Descartes; Roger Scruton on Spinoza; David Berman on Berkeley; Anthony Quinton on Hume; Terry Eagleton on Marx; Ray Monk on Russell; Jonathan Ree on Heidegger; Peter Hacker on Wittgenstein; Frederic Raphael on Popper Andrew Hodges on Turing.

The book is out of print but you can get a used copy from Amazon at a very low price ($0.98 last time I checked). It is worth reading for a better understanding of philosophy.

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Living Forward

Living ForwardI recently had the opportunity to read Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. I listen to Michael Hyatt’s podcast and I appreciate his mission to help people live more intentionally.

The basic idea of the book is that people need to be aware of what they value, where they want to be and how they are going to get there. The solution to this is to develop a life plan.

Hyatt and Harkavy present a good argument for why a life plan is good and they show readers step by step how to make it happen. They share plenty of real life stories from their own experiences and from others. They present a compelling case.

The book is very practical and has everything you would need to put together a life plan. In addition they provide some free resources at the book website.

Although Living Forward is published by a Christian publisher, there is not much that is uniquely Christian. Any person could use the information here and not feel that religion was being pushed.

There are two concerns that I can see some readers having about Living Forward.

The first is about the role of God. The book can sound like all things are in our control. In truth, the authors acknowledge that life can be unpredictable and that the life plan should be adjusted. In terms of making plans, the Bible does not stop us from trying to make the best of our life by good planning. We are simply warned that all of our plans are to be seen in the light of God’s will and that we need to be ready to adjust to what God is doing. This life plan can be used in such a way.

The other concern is that the authors can make living intentionally sound so easy. As I listen to Hyatt’s podcast and read his blog posts, it seems like intentional life choices are easy for him. I suspect that it might come easier to Hyatt than to others (at least me), but that does not take away the value of the teaching. We can make good choices. We can set goals and work toward them. It won’t necessarily be easy but even the effort can make a positive change in our life.

I recommend Living Forward for people in any area of life.

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Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis

C.S. LewisWhat do you think of when you think of C.S. Lewis? If you are anything like me, you think of Lewis the intellectual. Lewis was brilliant at everything he did, from English literature to rational apologetics.

But what about C.S. Lewis the mystic?

Many of us would never even think about the mystical in Lewis’s writings and yet that is exactly what David C. Downing does in Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis.

In this book, Downing is able to demonstrate that Lewis was indeed influenced by mysticism and that he was appreciated by some  contemporary mystical thinkers and writers. Downing takes the reader through the specific mystics that Lewis was influenced by, thus giving us a short introduction to mysticism in general. Downing also shows us where mysticism appears in Lewis, especially in the Space Trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia.

What I really appreciated about this book is that it is not a blanket stamp of approval on all mysticism. Downing touches on the differences between Christian mysticism and mysticism in other faith traditions. Downing also reveals that Lewis was discerning in his own agreement with mysticism, not being afraid to say when certain mystical writers went too far.

As a fan of C.S. Lewis, I really enjoyed Into the Region of Awe as it gave me a fresh look at a familiar Christian. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Lewis.

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Effective Generational Ministry

Effective Generational MinistryChurches need to reach people with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. But how do we do that? The Gospel does not change but whether Christians like it or not, different people respond to different types of ministry. That is where Effective Generational Ministry by Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg comes in.

The average church is likely made up of some combination of baby boomers, GenXers and millennials. Attempting to force all three generations into one box is not effective. If churches are reaching out to specific generation, it is important to learn about who they are and what motivates them.

Effective Generational Ministry is a great resource for understanding these generations and finding ideas for effective ministry. What is fresh in this book is the diversity of perspectives. Sbanotto (a GenXer) writes from a sociological view and Craig Blomberg (a baby boomer) writes from a New Testament view. Together they give helpful insight into each of the generations.

I recommend Effective Generational Ministry for all pastors and church leaders.

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Emergence: Labelled Autistic

It is one thing to hear an expert talk about autism, it is another to hear a person with autism talk about autism. This is one of the reasons that people are drawn to Temple Grandin. She is able to give insight that is so helpful in having a sense of what autism is like.

A good place to start is Temple’s book, Emergence: Labelled Autism. While not a full autobiography, Temple shares in this book her experiences growing up with autism. What is helpful in this book is that she describes what she was doing on the outside and at the same time what she was feeling on the inside.

Another thing that I appreciate about the book is that it really represents her personality. If you have seen interviews with Temple, that is very much how she writes this book.

One word of caution. In general, it is not a good idea to apply knowledge of one person with autism on another person as everyone is different. This is especially true for Temple, as she is an exceptional person.

Having said that, I do recommend Emergence: Labelled Autistic.

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C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer

C.S. Lewis Francis SchaefferIf one wanted to name the most influential apologists of the twentieth century, both C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer would be near the top of the list. If these two men have had an impact on you, you might be happy to hear that there is book that discusses both of them. Scott R. Burson and Jerry L. Walls wrote some years ago a book called C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time.

In this book, the authors provide helpful biographical information and set these apologists in their cultural and historical setting. They do a great job of comparing and contrasting these men. While they have some things in common, there are other areas where they are very different (e.g. Reformed vs Arminian).

The authors take a look at some specific theological topics such as inerrancy, foreknowledge, epistemology and so on. To do so, they piece together ideas from a wide variety of writings and presentations. This study helps the reader to see the bigger picture of where they were coming from.

Having read this book, I have grown in respect for both men. I also found that reading this book provided great inspiration to strive for excellence in apologetics ministry. I highly recommend this book.

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Miracles

MiraclesClose to twenty-five years ago I was a brand new Christian. I had come out of nominal Christianity, atheism and finally generic theism. I was (and am) still a skeptic at heart but wanted to grow in my faith. One of the first Christian books that I read was Miracles by C.S. Lewis. I didn’t know that it was considered apologetics, I only knew that Lewis was tackling the questions I had.

This past week I reread Miracles and enjoyed it even more. Most people think of Mere Christianity as Lewis’ most important book, but I think Miracles is good contender. They should both be mandatory reading for all Christians.

Lewis does a fantastic job of challenging the idea of naturalism. He does not argue against nature and science but rather demonstrates that miracles only make sense because of the laws of nature. He begins, not by arguing for Christian theism, but for the possibility of the supernatural in general.

Lewis does get to Christianity and focuses on three types of miracles. One is the great miracle, the miracle that happened only once: the incarnation. This is Lewis at his best. He also talks about two kinds of miracles that Jesus performed, miracles of the old and new creation. The former are things like multiply food or turning water into wine. The latter would include bringing back from death.

Miracles is not a book that people should be intimidated to read. Lewis has such a wonderful writing style that he can present complex concepts in readable form. I highly recommend this book.

 

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Growing God’s Church

Growing God's ChurchAll Christians should be interested in seeing the Church grow and people come to faith in Jesus. A helpful resource in this conversation is Growing God’s Church: How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today by Gary L. McIntosh. The book is divided into three parts: Church Today, Faith Today and Evangelism Today.

The first section deals with the biblical and theological background for the church. It was interesting to read as the author emphasizes areas that I currently do not. I see social justice and acts of service as important, not just in partnership with evangelism. I also try to focus on the kingdom of God more than the Church. McIntosh goes in a different direction and that is good as I need the balance. However, I would suggest that there is more that needs to be said about the relationship of the Church to the kingdom. We probably shouldn’t be trying to choose between the two.

The second section deals with research that the author had performed in relation to some older research. The role of family in people coming to Christ is very significant and cannot be overlooked. There are some interesting trends as well with regard to the role of the pastor.

The final section brings it all together with practical suggestions for churches and pastors. McIntosh writes this book not just out of sociological interest but for the purposes of helping churches become more effective in evangelism.

Growing God’s Church is a short but important book for pastors and church leaders to read.

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Surprised by Joy

Surprised by JoyAs part of my current research on C.S. Lewis, I recently read his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. It is an important book for understanding Lewis but it is not what many people would expect.

If you are looking for a riveting story of a horrible sinner wrestling with God until finally being conquered by the Spirit, you will not find it here. At least not explicitly. Although the book was written in response to people’s requests to hear how he left atheism, Surprised by Joy does not read like the typical Christian testimony.

The book is really the story of Lewis from childhood to his conversion, but without a tremendous amount of focus on religion. He does talk about praying for his sick mother and the atheism of one of his teachers, but there is not a lot more than that.

That is not to say that I was disappointed with the book. As a fan of Lewis, I am happy to learn as much about him as I can, religious or not. But I also appreciated his story in that all of his experiences were relevant, even when not directly reflecting on God. I found that reading this book has helped to give insight into his other writings.

If you want to learn more about C.S. Lewis, I recommend Surprised by Joy. If you want a different take on his conversion, you should read his Pilgrim’s Regress.

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Azusa Street – Review

Azusa StreetOne of the most important events in early Pentecostalism was the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in the early twentieth century. If one wants to understand the origins of Pentecostalism, Azusa Street needs to be taken into account.

One of our important sources is Azusa Street written by Frank Bartleman. Bartleman was a witness to and a participant of the Azusa Street revival. Reading this book, one gets a sense of what was happening in churches at that time. Although emerging from some of the holiness movements, not all holiness people wanted this type of revival.

You will not find an unbiased account from Bartleman. Although he was a journalist, he wrote for holiness publications to try and promote the revivals.

In some ways the title of his book is misleading. You might think this is an account of the Azusa Street revival. In reality it is an account of Frank Bartleman’s revival ministry that sometimes overlapped with Azusa Street. Only a small portion of his book deals with Azusa Street or William Seymour, the preacher most associated with Azusa.

One of the interesting aspects of this book is that Bartleman argues that people were getting too stuck on doctrine and theology. Ironically, Bartleman eventually fell into the error of Jesus Only or Oneness Pentecostalism.

Still it is an interesting read, especially for those seeking to understand the origins of Pentecostalism.

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A Vision for Preaching

Now that I am back in pastoral ministry, I am doing some more reading in the area of preaching. One of the books that came my way was A Vision for Preaching: Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry by Abraham Kuruvilla.

Kuruvilla organizes this book around his definition of preaching, which is:

Biblical preaching, by a leader of the church, in a gathering of Christians for worship, is the communication of the thrust of a pericope of Scripture discerned by theological exegesis, and of its application to that specific body of believers, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God—all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Vision for PreachingEach chapter of the book takes on a different part of this definition. This length definition allows the author to touch on a number of important subjects.

However, this strict definition may lead to some questions and even disagreements. For example, Kuruvilla argues that preaching must be done by an ordained pastor. Even a lay minister, if they are not ordained, is disqualified by the author. I disagree with this even if I do think that generally and ideally it is appropriate for an ordained pastor to preach.

Kuruvilla also argues that preaching should be done in the church to a group of believers. This raises the question of the role of evangelistic preaching, which is often but not always done outside a church building.

Despite these concerns, A Vision for Preaching is a thought provoking presentation of the nature of preaching and will be a benefit to pastors and those interesting ministry.

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The Zombie Survival Guide

Although I was never into zombies as a teenager, I was finally infected in my 40s (see what I did there?). It all started with watching the first season of the Walking Dead. I think it was the Voodoo aspect of zombies that turned me off. Having more of a scientific origin makes it more interesting, at least for me.

Zombie Survival GuideI am now a huge fan of the Walking Dead and I really enjoyed the World War Z movie as well. While I haven’t read the World War Z book yet, I did have an opportunity to read Max Brooks’ earlier book, The Zombie Survival Guide.

This book is written in a serious way as if zombies actually exist. The author gives advice on how to survive zombie outbreaks of various sizes. There are lists of equipment, weapons and suggestions for different places to make a stand. There are actually some pretty good survival tips in it.

The second half of the book is a history of zombie outbreaks from ancient times to the present. These are very short accounts, often just a couple of paragraphs, of zombie attacks all over the world and at different times in history. Sometimes the attacks are related and sometimes they are isolated. Brooks does a great job of describing the outbreaks in their historical and cultural contexts. I loved this part of the book. You can’t lose when you combine history and zombies!

I really enjoyed The Zombie Survival Guide and I look forward to eventually reading World War Z.

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C.S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands

C.S. LewisI have been doing some research into the life and writings of C.S. Lewis and one of the books that I came across was C.S. Lewis: Lightbearer in the Shadowlands, edited by Angus Menuge. The focus of the book is the evangelistic vision of Lewis.

It is an older book, coming out a few years after the Shadowlands movie about C.S. Lewis came out. In fact the first chapter responds to the movie, points out the errors but also notes how it increased interest in Lewis as well as playing a role in some people’s faith journey.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • The Motivation: The Influence and Potential of Lewis’s Evangelism
  • The Explanation: Why Was Lewis Such an Effective Evangelist?
  • The Technique: Making Christianity Plausible
  • The Argument: Defending the Faith

Each chapter is written by a scholar who knows Lewis’s work well and able to draw relevant conclusions for the church today. I found the book to very readable and it strengthened my already strong interest in Lewis.

Unfortunately the book is now out of print, but that also means you can get a copy at a reasonable price. If your are interested in C.S. Lewis, I highly recommend this book.

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Pretending to Be Normal – Review

Pretending to Be Normal

What is it like to have autism? It is one thing to observe behaviours from the outside, it is another to get a firsthand account from someone about what it is like on the inside.

One of the best books I have read on this is Pretending to Be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey. In this book, the author describes her experiences as person with Asperger’s Syndrome who did not get officially diagnosed later in life.

Asperger’s is no longer a diagnosis and is now considered high functioning autism. Willey shares what she thinks about this change of terminology. Spoiler alert: She doesn’t like it.

Willey’s story is of a woman who knew she was different but didn’t know why she was different. It was not until her daughter was diagnosed that she had a label for why she felt the way she did.

The book is a fantastic read that really helps neuro-typicals understand the sensory issues that a person with autism experiences. When a person with autism “acts out” it is not a random behaviour, it is always because something has triggered it. This book will give you ideas about that meltdown triggers you witness.

I highly recommend Pretending to Be Normal for people who have or people who care for those with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism.

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The IVP Background Bible Commentary: Old Testament

Every preacher and Bible student is told, “A text without a context becomes a pretext.” That context can be the verses surrounding the passage but it should also be the cultural context.

Bible BackgroundOne of the best resources available is The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthew and Mark W. Chavalas.

This commentary puts the Old Testament into its cultural and religious setting. Passages come alive as we see what similar things were happening in contemporary Egypt or Mesopotamia. Obscure practices suddenly become clear.

One of the interesting theories deals with the numbers in the Old Testament. The authors suggest that the word translated thousand does not necessarily mean 1000 individuals but may mean a division. While we cannot know this for sure, it is worth considering.

I used this book as a text for a Bible college course I taught and I was very satisfied with it.

I highly recommend The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament for all students of the Bible. It especially is useful for preachers.

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Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics

Moral ChoicesI am teaching a course next month on Christian Ethics at Tyndale University College. The first step in teaching a course on any subject is to choose a textbook. I went with Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics by Scott B. Rae.

I discovered this book by asking others who have either taught or studied ethics and Rae’s book received high recommendations. But obviously I needed to read it myself.

I was very much pleased with Moral Choices. Rae starts out by introducing ethics and discussing the various ethical systems that are available. He includes sidebars on the various philosophers and ethicists who have influenced each of these systems.

The largest portion of the book looks at contemporary ethical issues. These include (but are not limited to) abortion, reproductive technology, cloning, euthanasia, capital punishment, sexual ethics, war and economics. I felt that Rae did an excellent job in presenting these issues in a fair and clear manner. Rae does not set straw-man arguments but presents the reasons for certain decisions even if he disagrees with them.

In addition to the information found in each chapter, there are many discussion questions and case studies that make this material easy to teach. If you are a teacher looking for a textbook on Christian ethics, I strongly recommend Scott Rae’s Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. (USA) (Canada)

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Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: Five Views

Youth MinistryHaving been a youth pastor for the first five years of my ministry, I am still very interested in youth ministry. I will confess that I had no idea of what I was doing. I tried to teach the Bible, have some fun and care for the teens. You would have to ask them how that worked.

I recently received a copy of Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: Five Views. I will say that I love the four/five views books. It is a great format to introduce readers to a variety of perspectives.

The five views in this book include:

  • Greg Stier presents a gospel advancing view of youth ministry. He argues that there should be an evangelistic focus.
  • Brian Cosby presents a reformed view of youth ministry. This view looks to the sovereignty of God that trumps all trendy programs.
  • Chap Clark presents the adoption view of youth ministry. This is a focus of creating family relationships within the church through multiple connections.
  • Fernando Arzola presents an ecclesial view of youth ministry. While not presenting a specific youth model, this view looks at how ecclesiology can inform youth ministry.
  • Ron Hunter presents the D6 view of youth ministry. D6 comes from Deuteronomy 6 and the role that parents to have in raising children in the faith.

Each of the chapters were very different and yet I found there was something that could be taken from each of them. The interactions between the authors were both thoughtful and respectful.

If you are involved in or are interested in youth ministry, I strongly recommend Youth Ministry in the 21st Century: Five Views. (USA) (Canada)

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The Martian

MartianA friend of mine recommended that I read Andy Weir’s The Martian. From the name I was not sure what it was going to be about. Was it science fiction about an alien life form on Mars? It ends up that it is science fiction, in that it is fiction and deals greatly with science, but it is a realistic story about a human being’s fight for survival.

The story is about an astronaut named Mark Watney who is accidentally left on Mars while the rest of the crew presumes that he is dead. Watney goes on to find any means possible to survive until the next Mars landing (which is a long time away).

Much of the book is in the form of log entries by Watney. This helps the reader to really get a sense of what Watney is going through, both in the good and the bad. Weir is an effective writer in communicating the thoughts and feelings of not just Watney, but his crew and those on Earth attempting to save him.

How good is this book? Not only could I barely put it down, I was totally stressed out! When a chapter ended with a dangerous accident or unforeseen circumstances, I had to know what was going to happen next. I will confess that at certain parts I even got goosebumps. This does not normally happen.

For those who have no tolerance for profanity, you will not like the book. There is some swearing. I wouldn’t call it gratuitous profanity, rather it is the way many people speak when traumatic events take place. I was not offended by it. It is not a religious book after all.

However, reading as a person of faith, there was something that did stand out. Once people find out that Watney is still alive, they are willing to do anything to bring him home. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent and lives are put in danger. What I saw in this story was the infinite value of a human life. If only we could act on the value of people here on Earth.

I highly recommend Andy Weir’s The Martian. You do not have to be into science fiction. If you enjoyed movies like Apollo 13 and Gravity, you will love this book. It is probably one of the most enjoyable novels I have ever read.

Purchase The Martian. (USA) (Canada)

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Paul for Everyone: Pastoral Epistles

Paul for Everyone Pastoral EpistlesI had mixed feelings about picking up a copy from N.T. Wright’s Paul for Everyone series. On one hand, I generally stay away from devotional type commentaries. On the other hand, N.T. Wright is one of my favourite New Testament scholars.

I ended up purchasing his volume on the pastoral epistles because of a potential course for me to teach. I was extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

It helps that I really like the pastoral epistles. They touch on everything from Christian ethics to how to respond to false teachers. The letters to Timothy and Titus deserve more attention than they normally receive from Christians.

Is Wright’s book a commentary? Yes and no. He touches on the main features of each passage but does not overwhelm the reader with details. The focus is on illustrating what Paul is teaching by sharing stories from today’s context. Storytelling could easily become fluffy but everything that Wright says is built on a solid scholarly foundation.

Who would this book be good for? I think any Christian could benefit from it. It would be good for new Christians or for Christians with little or no biblical grounding. But it would also be very appropriate for pastors. Wright’s comments provide great fodder for preaching.

I recommend that you get a copy of Paul for Everyone: Pastoral Epistles. (USA) (Canada)

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Leading Me

In the past decade and a half, there have been a tremendous amount of books written on leadership, some better than others. It is a good thing that people are interested in growing as leaders. But there is an aspect of leadership that is often overlooked or at best is left as a footnote.

We cannot be good leaders if we are not leading ourselves.

Leading MeSteve Brown, president of Arrow Leadership, has written the book that leaders need to read. At the time I am writing this review, there are a number of high profile Christian leaders who have made very bad decisions. They were not leading themselves well. Steve Brown’s book, Leading Me, contains the principles that they and the rest of need to apply to our life.

The heart of the book are what Steve Brown describes as key practices:

  1. Growing Your Vision
  2. Identifying Bungees
  3. Keeping Connected
  4. Taking Care of Me
  5. Leveraging Your Impact
  6. Managing Your Time
  7. Dealing With Dandelions
  8. Finding Traction Through Training

While I would love to unpack each of these practices, I would rather that you read the book. I will say that as someone who has been in a number of leadership positions, including pastoral ministry, they all ring true. Each of the practices are common sense, but they are things that many leaders neglect under the excuse of being too busy.

A word about Steve Brown as an author. I have known Steve for a long time and I know that what he writes comes from his heart. In fact, he shares many personal stories that reveal that this is more than just leadership trivia. Steve is able to blend his considerable knowledge about leadership with a presentation that is very authentic and readable. You do not need a degree in leadership to benefit from this book.

I highly recommend Leading Me for all Christian leaders.

Purchase Leading Me from Amazon (USA) (Canada)

Listen to my interview with Steve about this book here.

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The Historical Jesus: Five Views

At the beginning of twentieth century, Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. In this book (which I highly recommend), Schweitzer guides the reader through the post-enlightenment attempts of (mostly German) scholars to peel back legend and church tradition to get to the real or historical Jesus. What Schweitzer reports on is usually called the first quest for the historical Jesus. But this quest continues on in different forms and exists today.

Historical JesusThe Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, gives a good snapshot of where the quest is at today. If you are not familiar with the five (or four) views books, they are a very helpful resource. A number of scholars from different perspectives are invited to write on a certain subject. In addition to writing their own chapter, they also have the opportunity to comment on each other’s chapters. I recommend you pick up as many in this series as you can get.

In this book, the scholars include Robert Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James Dunn and Darrell Bock. I find it very interesting that the Jesus Myth Theory has become important enough to be included in such a study.

I really enjoyed this book. Even reading the chapters by scholars I disagreed with (Price and Crossan) was a good learning experience. I personally lean toward the positions of Dunn and Bock, but also appreciated the insights of Johnson.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in New Testament studies or apologetics. It is an extremely valuable resource. If you don’t have your copy yet, make sure to get it.

You can purchase The Historical Jesus: Five Views from Amazon (USA) (Canada).

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Tarzan of the Apes

TarzanDo you know the story of Tarzan? Do you really? If all you know is from Disney’s animated movie, then you really don’t. For example, did you know that Clayton in that movie was actually Tarzan’s cousin?

For some time I have wanted to read Tarzan of the Apes as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I absolutely loved it. It goes into detail about Tarzan’s parents and his relationships with the apes. You find out why Tarzan is called “King of the Apes,” why he is clean shaven, where that knife came from and why he wears a loin cloth.

It was the best Tarzan story that I have ever read. It really kept my attentions. I will admit there are some rather negative attitudes toward blacks in the story. Despite this, it is a good story that easily keeps one’s attention. And by the way, the relationship between Tarzan and Jane at the end of the story is not what you expect.

Take the time and read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. (USA) (Canada)

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Tragedy at Dieppe

My favourite military historian is Mark Zuelke. It helps that he writes on Canadian military history and I am in the Canadian army.

Tragedy at DieppeI recently had the chance to read his book, Tragedy at Dieppe: Operation Jubilee. The title gives away the direction that this important military operation went.

The raid on Dieppe took place on August 19, 1942. The context behind the raid was pressure from the Soviet Union to open up a second front in addition to pressure from the United States to have some of their troops see action.

The response to this pressure was an attack on occupied France from Britain. This attack was largely undertaken by Canadian troops, although there were British commandos and American rangers participating as well.

In many ways, the raid was doomed from the beginning. It had already been planned and cancelled and then restarted after the pressure for having a major raid in 1942 grew. There were plenty of planning problems, errors in research and inadequate support.

Despite this, the Canadian troops fought bravely and gave the Germans a good fight. Still, bravery could not save a doomed mission. Many troops were rescued from the beach, although many others were killed or taken prisoner. As an army chaplain, I appreciated the part played by Padre John Foote in helping the wounded and ministering to the captured. (I hope to have a blog post on that specific story for you.)

Zuelke did another fantastic job with this volume. He does a tremendous job of combining official historical records, regimental diaries and personal accounts from veterans. This is the third book that I have read by Zuelke and I intend to read every volume in the series.

If you are interested in WWII history in general or Canadian military history in particular, I highly recommend Tragedy at Dieppe.

Purchase Tragedy at Dieppe from Amazon: (Canada) (USA)

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Boundaries

BoundariesRecently, while I was away at a retreat, I had the opportunity to read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. This book has been out for a long time and I have heard lots about it, but never got around to reading it.

I will confess that I have had my trouble with saying ‘no’ to requests. It was worse when I was younger but I know that I still say ‘yes’ a little too often.

But this is not about just saying yes or no. There are different contexts in which we live. We have work, school, church and family. All of them scream for our attention, time and energy. There is no way we can give them all that they want.

This is what the book is really about. We cannot survive without boundaries.

What I really liked about the book is that it does not sugarcoat life. The fact is that some people will be angry when we put up boundaries. There will be consequences. But the consequences will not be as bad as leaving ourselves without boundaries. It is also likely that people will adapt when healthier life choices are being made.

The book provides plenty of examples and practical suggestions for creating boundaries in your life.

If you have never read it, I recommend you pick up a copy of Boundaries. It will be relevant to every area of your life. Purchase it in the USA or Canada.

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