Category Archives: Christian books

Eschatological Discipleship–Book Review

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Not a discussion of various end-times beliefs, author Trevin K. Wax focuses his book on eschatology in a much more general sense.  His definition of eschatology includes concepts of life beyond death and everything connected with it — heaven, hell, reincarnation, resurrection, immortality, rebirth, last judgement and more.  It is not limited to Christianity, as other religions and even atheists still have a vision for humanity’s future, and this vision influences the worldview of those who hold it.

The big question Dr. Wax poses is for Christians is, “What time is it?”  or more specifically, “What do I do in light of what time it is?” In other words, if we recognize that our discipleship is influenced by the place we are in (for example a church in China vs. a wealthy U.S. suburb) we should also realize that the way we function as disciples and our God-give task will be shaped by the time in which we live.

He begins by defining the terms eschatology, worldview and discipleship and proceeds to a study of eschatological discipleship in the Old and New Testament and Acts.  Next he discusses some of the worldviews which are “rivals” to Christian eschatology:  the Enlightenment, the sexual revolution and consumerism;  and finally he evaluates a variety of evangelical conceptions of discipleship in view of  Christian eschatology.

I found parts of this book fascinating because it address the “why” of how people think.  Unbelievers often do not “get” the Christian lifestyle because they have an entirely different worldview and understanding of where humanity is headed and what will happen to us as individuals when we die.  Their “faith” is as deeply entrenched as our own, and arguing will usually not change it.  He also explains how even Christians are subtly influenced by the cultural worldviews which surround us.

Verdict:  Very well written and interesting, this book will challenge the average layperson.  Dr. Wax writes in an academic style and uses many technical terms.  He also assumes a knowledge of world history and philosophy not everyone will have.  It’s probably of most interest to Pastors, seminarians and professors of religion.   If you are interested in purchasing this book, you may use the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/eschatological-discipleship

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A Word of Blessing

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According to John Trent in his book, The Blessing, encouraging and loving words are also an important component of blessing.  The Bible speaks over and over about the importance of our words:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11

“if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at ships also;  though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”  James 3:3-5

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” Proverbs 18:21a

The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance by [Trent, John, Smalley, Gary]

Words can help or hurt;  they can guide;  they can change the course of a life.  Yet often, we say the wrong words, or even no words to the people we love and others around us.  Why?  There are many excuses:  We’re busy, we’re tired, we don’t want them to become vain or puffed up, or they already know we appreciate and value them.

How much effort does it take to say, “Good job!”  or “I love you” or “Thank you for all that you do.”  Don’t make excuses;  speak a word of blessing to someone today.

A Touch of Blessing

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I started reading a book by John Trent titled The Blessing.  In it, the author talks about the Biblical tradition of blessing, especially blessing one’s children, what it includes and what it means.  Touch is definitely part of the picture, as you will see below

“Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.’ And he said, ‘Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.’  Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see.  Then Joseph brought them near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them …”Genesis 48:9-10

In the New Testament, Jesus also blessed people with a meaningful touch:

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them;  but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them;  for of such is the kingdom of God …’  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”  Mark 10:13-14, 16

In our church this tradition continues in our practice of Holy Communion:  children too young to receive come forward with their family during the distribution and receive a blessing from the Pastor, who places his hand on their head.

Not surprisingly, touching others — hugging, embracing, giving a pat on the back or the shoulder– is good for us.  From lowering blood pressure and heart rate to increasing immune function and relieving pain, getting touched or doing some touching makes you healthier — not to mention happier and less anxious.

There are many people out there who are not being blessed in this way, but you and I can change that.  It’s a simple way to bless someone.  Give a hug, shake a hand, pat a back.  It’s a blessing.

 

Becoming a Welcoming Church – A Book Review

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This book has a church member taking what could be a difficult journey in realizing – Is church as welcoming as you think?

In the six chapters, the author walks the reader through their church with a fresh eye.  Everything is covered – from the physical appearance, website information and any and all facets of the church are reviewed.

I found several items that I thought were helpful and could implemented in any church without cost or a lot of members needed.

I feel that this book is a good and informative read and has a lot of helpful information for any church.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/becoming-a-welcoming-church-P005796138

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

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Psalms 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.”  They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traveled the road to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine, for the great worship festivals.  Eugene Peterson uses each of these songs to describe a portion of what takes place along the walk of faith, as we travel upward toward God.  The chapter titles include:  Repentance, Worship, Service, Security, Joy, Perseverance, Humility, Community and more.  I love Eugene Peterson!  He never fails to engage and enlighten me.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society / Edition 20

In the updated edition, Peterson uses his modern version of the Psalms, from his translation, The Message.  Many will like this, but I preferred to go back and read from the NIV, as I enjoy the familiarity.  His goal is to encourage people to once more pray the Psalms, as an encouragement to pray all their emotions, good, bad and messy.  We can take it all to God, in fact we must if we want to progress in the Christian life.  According to Peterson we won’t change overnight:  it takes “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This is not a popular idea in our “give it to me now” culture.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

This book was recommended to me in a comment by my friend, Nancy, and I heartily recommend it as well.  It’s not a difficult read, and the chapters could easily be read one per day, as part of a devotional practice.  Has anyone else read this book, or others by Eugene Peterson?  If so, let us know what you think, we’d love to hear.

P.S. Check out the archives for another Peterson book I reviewed, Eat This Book.

Being a Christian: How Jesus Redeems All of Life – Book Review

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Being a Christian, by Jason K. Allen, is a good book to read if you are a new Christian or just wanting to know what Christianity is all about. He will take you through all the different areas in life and will show how the Gospel impacts every part.  He starts with the personal and then moves on to Marriage, Family, Time, Money and Work.  It’s a very easy read and has scripture throughout.

This would be a good book to have handy when helping new Christians in their walk, so even if you’ve been a Christian for awhile, this book would be a good one to add to your library.

Mr. Allen is the President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is one of the youngest presidents in all of American higher education.  He has written several other books and has a website, jasonkallen.com,  with a blog and podcasts.

For more information or to purchase this book, go to the following link:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/being-a-christian

Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen & Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review

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Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author and teacher.  Offering spiritual direction was a regular part of his life.  In this posthumous book, two of his students use notes from his course in spiritual direction as well as some of his unpublished writing to outline Nouwen’s thoughts on the spiritual life.  At the end of each chapter, you will find questions and exercises for journaling and reflection.

Spiritual Direction by [Nouwen, Henri J. M.]

Spiritual direction is full of questions:

  • Where do I begin?
  • Where have I been and where am I going?
  • What is prayer?
  • Who is God for me?

According to Nouwen, we must develop “ears to hear” God.  This is difficult because it requires leaving empty spaces in our lives so that God can come in.  That can be frightening and unsettling to most of us who are accustomed to filling every moment up with something “useful.”  Nouwen goes on to say:

“But even stronger than our fear of the empty space is our fear of actually hearing the voice of God!  We know that our God is a jealous God who knows there is no other cure for our restlessness and deafness but finding our home in God.  We know that God’s mercy is a severe mercy that does not coddle or spoil but cuts to the heart of where truth resides.  And although we are unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we are not so sure that we want to go in the direction God might call us to go…”

This book is a wonderful introduction to the idea of spiritual direction, and the exercises, suggestions and questions it offers are a good starting point for anyone interested in going deeper.

PS. You can purchase a Kindle edition from Amazon for only 1.99!

The 365-Day Storybook Bible

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Not a complete Bible,  Joy Melissa Jensen retells many well-known stories of the Bible in 365 brief sections.  It is an attractive book with thick, glossy pages and colorful illustrations.  Each reading lists the Biblical reference for the story, which is helpful for adults who may want to review the actual Scripture prior to sharing the lesson with a child.  There is also an index at the beginning, so that a particular story can be readily found.  It could be an excellent tool for starting the habit of a daily devotional reading with your child.  There is a page at the end of the book with a few thought questions, additional reading and activities.  More of this would have been a welcome addition.

Information about the book states the age range as 4-10.  Although the stories are short, some of the vocabulary is better suited for the top of the range.  Parents or teachers using it with younger students should be prepared to offer simple explanations for some of the words and concepts.

Interested in ordering this book?  Click on the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-365-day-storybook-bible-padded

Talks On The Song of Songs — Book Review

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Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French abbot and reformer, was a founder of the Cistercian monastic order.  He spent 18 years writing sermons which served as a commentary on the Song of Songs.  He died before completing an exposition of  the entire book. He only made it through the third verse of Chapter 3 in 86 sermons!  Bernard saw the bride in Song of Songs as a representative of both the individual soul and the entire Church;  The Bridegroom is, of course, Christ. The book became for him, an allegory of the spiritual life, and more personally his own life with God.

This book is not easy reading, and not for everyone.  The copy I have is edited and modernized by Bernard Bangley and is still slow going.  I used it as a devotional years ago, reading one small section carefully each day.   Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning:

You have studied, denied yourself, and meditated constantly for a long time.  I am sure you are prepared for a diet of solid spiritual food.  The Song of Songs is tasty bread.  Let’s break it and enjoy a substantial meal.

The Song of Songs is a book we don’t often study or spend time with.  You might give this book a try and find it well worth the effort.

SPURGEON JOURNAL – A Review

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If the fine black leather cover with Spurgeon’s signature wasn’t enough, the colorful, paisley designed spine just adds icing to the cake.  That’s right I am writing this review about a book of somewhat blank pages.  Journals are not created equal, this one would look right at home on any library shelf or your coffee table.  Sprinkled throughout these pages at the bottom are quotes and verses that inspired Mr. Spurgeon’s sermons, and the best part is that the inspiration is tied to the sermon number, so that if you wanted to you could research what the inspiration led him to.

This is a 144 page, lined on acid free paper, blank journal that has a place at the top for a date.  Now it may seem like a journal is just a book of blank pages, and why do I need a fancy looking one, but I must say that this is an absolutely beautiful book.

For those of you serious about your journaling, this is a must have.

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/spurgeon-journal-P005801147