(Image credit: AFC)
(Image credit: AFC)
” ‘Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter,’ write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. ‘It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become ‘total church.’ ‘ With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.
In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children’s work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.”
Come borrow this book from our Library today!
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“Capitol Hill Baptist Church associate pastor Michael Lawrence contributes to the IXMarks series as he centers on the practical importance of biblical theology to ministry. He begins with an examination of a pastor’s tools of the trade: exegesis and biblical and systematic theology. The book distinguishes between the power of narrative in biblical theology and the power of application in systematic theology, but also emphasizes the importance of their collaboration in ministry.
Having laid the foundation for pastoral ministry, Lawrence uses the three tools to build a biblical theology, telling the entire story of the Bible from five different angles. He puts biblical theology to work in four areas: counseling, missions, caring for the poor, and church/state relations. Rich in application and practical insight, this book will equip pastors and church leaders to think, preach, and do ministry through the framework of biblical theology.”
Come borrow this book from our Library today!
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Book Name: Lit!
Author: Tony Reinke
The title of this book was what first attracted me to this book. At first, I took the title to literally mean that someone or something is “lit up.” Thus my first thought was that the book must be something along the lines of how we should be on fire for Jesus. However, I quickly found that my guess was totally off the mark. This book is intended to be a useful handbook for us as products of today’s consumerist culture which seems to be somewhat opposed to careful, intentional reading of any kind. Reinke’s book serves to be a timely reminder of what reading means, why we should read, and how should we read.The book itself is split into 2 parts; the first titled “A Theology for Books and Reading” and other titled “Some Practical Advice on Book Reading.” In the first part, Reinke examines why readers should read and how Christian readers should approach the art of reading. He starts right at the beginning by introducing what language is and how words can shape one’s imagination, thinking, and life. What makes this part of the book very enjoyable is that Reinke establishes the reasons for reading within a solid theological framework that is focused entirely on God’s Word. This includes the fact that God reveals Himself to us through the written word and that God’s Word is the standard by which we view and discern everything in this world. The author explains the importance of God’s Word by highlighting several biblical narratives and develops a convincing argument towards the importance of reading. Also worth mentioning is that Reinke suggests that Christians should have a balanced diet of different genres including Christian and non-Christian books. Perhaps most of us today typically fall into the extremes of either reading only Christian books or non-Christian books exclusively. Reinke suggests that failing to read widely impairs us from appreciating the nuggets of God’s truth and wisdom that can be buried within both genres.
In the second part, the author provides useful advice on how one can read wisely and appropriately. The practical tips that Reinke gives are easy to follow and integrate into one’s daily routines. For example, he shares how he had always been afraid to write on the margins of books (something I also experience) and how he subsequently overcame that fear. Lastly, what I found especially relevant to me is the last section in which he encourages the reader to explore methods to encourage others to read.
I would definitely recommend this book to new believers and seasoned Christians alike as the art of reading has somewhat diminished both outside and inside the church. Reinke’s style is simple to read yet he embeds much wisdom in the advice that he gives in the book. His willingness to share his personal struggles and habits allow the reader to be carried along easily through the book. My hope is that Lit! will be a blessing to brothers and sisters looking to begin or rekindle their love for reading God’s Word and the words of others whom He has used to convey His Truth.
Book Reviewer: Philip Lau
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以下是我們博客首個中文書評, 謝謝 Vivian Fung 姊妹的分享!
書名: 恩典作王 (The Discipline of Grace)
“首先，要非常謝謝Philip 介紹這本書給我，還有他對我們教會圖書館的用心。這本書不但讓我學會了如何追求聖潔，而且還讓我領悟到我們做基督徒要不斷地向自己傳福音。讀這本書之前，我從來沒有聽過這個做法，卻發現它非常有道理。如果連我們都無法真正的瞭解福音是甚麼，那麼非信徒當然就不會選擇去相信我們的神。另外，這本書讓我看透了很多事情。比方說，我有時候會覺得我比其他的學生“好”。我不抽煙，不喝酒，不說髒話和不會浪費我媽媽的錢。所以有時候在大學見到一些同學會心想：「他們怎麼可以這麼壞？」其實, 我根本沒有資格去批評別人。Jerry Bridges 提醒了我，我和非信徒都是平等的，因為我們都是罪人。
其實我讀這本書的時候真的很感動。Jerry Bridges 不但用他自己的經歷來描述神的恩典和性格，他還善用別人的話語來顯示神的大能。 我發現這本書有太多精彩的地方，我根本無法說完。所以，我在這本書裡面選出我最喜歡的比喻。
Jerry Bridges 說：「我們必須面對兩種的法庭：神在天上的法庭和我們靈內的良知法庭。」”
書評者: Vivian Fung
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A Little Exercise For Young Theologians
Author: Helmut Thielicke
Book Reviewer: Seneca Law
Words of wisdom from Helmut Thielicke, an internationally known theologian and pastor, quoted from his book, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
“It is commonplace we hear, and countless times have ourselves expressed, that theology has to do with life. This being so, it is only natural to begin with a meditation on how things stand with our Christian life in the midst of our course in theology, and how that life fares inside the race track of theological study – and not only fares, but how it can be made deeper, richer and more fruitful.”
This is a good place to begin, to examine my own spiritual life before proceeding to study. Theology informs practice. How do I link the knowledge of my head to the desires of my heart and eventually the work of my hands and feet?
“Under a considerable display of the apparatus of exegetical science and surrounded by the air of the initiated, he produces paralyzing and unhappy trivialities, and the inner muscular strength of a lively young Christian is horribly squeezed to death in a formal armour of abstract ideas.”
Thielicke raises an example of a theological student who upon returning to his home church, is critical of a Bible study led by his “unlearned” friend. Such behaviour and injections of his “superior knowledge” and other challenges quickly drown out any hint of lively, free flowing discussion. Yikes, sounds like something I would do or maybe have done.
“Theological thinking can and ought to grip a man like a passion. But passionate devotion means a way of thinking and speaking which all too consistently is borrowed from the circles in which a person has just been moving.”
Haha, I ought to be careful with my excessive use of Christianese.
“Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. It is self-giving. It boasteth not itself, but humbleth itself. This conflict is precisely the disease of theologians.”
And I am constantly plagued. Jesus, our Healer, is the perfect resolution of this conflict, the coexistence of perfect love by grace and eternal truth.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
“In just the same way that every research method is determined by its subject, we must also take seriously the fact that the ‘subject’ of theology, Jesus Christ, can only be regarded rightly if we are ready to meet Him on the plane where He is active, that is, within the Christian church. Only the Son knows who the Father is; only the servant knows who the Lord is.”
Regarding the knowledge that God bestows to me by grace, the fruit of that gift will be evident in the edification of the local church, or wherever God calls me to serve.
“…every theological effort is bound up with the act of faith itself.”
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
So we proceed blindly? I don’t think so.
In my opinion, theological work is not for purposes of proof. For how can the finite created grasp the infinite nature of Creator God? Yet God promises that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. (Jeremiah 29:13) The use of scientific methods in theology does not eradicate the faith we should have in God and His promise of revelation, as He wills. Thus, every theological effort is bound up with the act of faith itself.
“My plea is simply this: every theological idea which makes an impression upon you must be regarded as a challenge to your faith. Do not assume as a matter of course that you believe whatever impresses you theologically and enlightens you intellectually.”
Wow. How many times do I just accept theological ideas on the weak basis of my own intellectual fascination? Have I regarded them in equal light as the spoken word of God? My inability to sense pain and pressure from the impression of these ideas is a tragedy.
“How all-important it is that a vigorous spiritual life, in close association with the Holy Scriptures and in the midst of the Christian community, be maintained as a background to theological work.”
“But it is all the more important to insist constantly and almost monotonously that a person who pursues theological courses is spiritually sick unless he reads the Bible uncommonly often and makes the most of opportunities by which, in preaching and Bible classes, that cornerstone is made visible.”
Haha, hardcore much? No such thing in God’s eyes. You are either hot or cold and I pray that I stay out of the lukewarm danger zone, lest Jesus spit me out of his mouth. This is God’s first and greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
How did I miss that? The motivation of my theological studies and intellectual endeavours should be my love for God, because He first loved me. This little exercise is only the beginning, a small step in a life devoted to bring glory to Jesus Christ.
(Image Credit: Eerdmans)
The Higher Christian Life
Author: William Edwin Boardman
Book Reviewer: Seneca Law
It is not difficult to discover the main premise of The Higher Christian Life because throughout the book, the author William Boardman is persistent inconveying the message of full trust and full salvation in Jesus Christ. He expressses the much needed message, or perhaps reminderfor many, that “as faith is the all-inclusive condition of salvation, fulltrust expresses the sole condition of full salvation.” Simply put, Jesus only is the Way and faith alone is the means. But the author presses a furtehrpoint, and that is the necessity for believers to experience a “secondconversion”, not implying the need for a second regeneration per se, butthe need to embark on the journey of sanctification. This is what the titlerefers to, a higher life attained after conversion.
The volume is separated into three parts: What is Is, How Attained, andProgress and Power. The author’s choice of expamples outside of the Bible is agood way of introducing freshness to the reader and could perhaps shed newlight on something that they may be familiar with. In the life of MartinLuther, we see that he had the full assurance of justification by faith, thatJesus died on the cross for his sins and he was declared righteous, with hissins freely forgiven. The converted know that they cannot attain salvation byworks, and as Paul wrote to the Romans, “the just shall live byfaith” in Jesus. Yet Lutehr did not have the joy of full salvation becausehe “had not yet learned to take Jesus for his sanctification.”Eventually, Luther understood the meaning of Romans 1:17, that “the justshall live by faith”, be kept alive by faith, sanctified, made holy onlyby faith in Jesus. Sanctification is not by works, just as justification is notby works. This realization is what the author refers to as “secondconversion”, not that the person did not receive sanctification already,but evidently, there is a deeper understanding, a more complete picture, andthat is salvation attained to the fullest. Boardman explains that “a senseof abosolute dependence upon Christ for holiness of heart and life, just as forforgiveness of sin is the sum and substance of the soul’s attainment.
For the rest of the book, Boardman explains in detail the answer to thequestion of how this higher Christian life is attained: Faith. This should notbe a surprise to us. Since faith is the condition for justification, it followsthat faith is also the condition for sanctification, the higher life afterconversion. Boardman continues to emphasize that for salvation at any stage ordegree, Jesus alone is the Way and faith alone is the means. The author thenenters into a part about the progress of the higher Christian life, so that thereader is not misled into thinking that a perfect Christian life can beattained on earth. The basic belief is that sanctification is a continualprocess, not of our own works, but through faith in Jesus.
A few shortcomings were found. First, the book was written in 1858 andalthough its message of full trust in Jesus is applicable and relevant in anyage, the style of language that the book is written in maybe not be appealingto our modern generation. Further, the book is rather lengthy and containsexamples that may not be completely relevant today. It is still interesting toread about heroes of the faith from the past, but their effectiveness isquestioned, especially when the lives of those mentioned contain similarexperiences used to bring out a common point, which is seemingly a bitredundant. Although difficult terms are explained, this book maybe not besuitable for new believers. It is more useful for believers who are looking togrow deeper in Christ, with the intent of pursuing the higher Christian life.
Nonetheless,the author’s dedication to his thesis is admired. He stresses that our work isto witness for Jesus to the ends of the earth. We are not alone in this for weare not preaching a dead or absent Saviour, but we are telling the story of theOne who is risen, who in all power and glory, is ever-present with us until the end of the age. The message is clear; abide in Jesus, who is the door to salvation and the Way ofsalvation. Without him, we have nothing. Apart from him, there is no other.
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Life Application Bible Study Series: Hebrews
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Book Reviewer: Philip Lau
This is the current Bible Study material used by our University College small group and Timothy fellowship. The book is simply broken down into two different parts: 1) New Living Translation Bible along with commentary; 2) Study questions for personal or group study.
This series has been around for many years and went through several editions so it proves to be a valuable resource for Christians everywhere. The commentary is straight-forward and goes through the passage thoroughly. There are also many helpful graphs and illustrations to complement the material presented. In regards to the Study Questions, most of them are flexible to allow the group leader to expand discussion topics. There are also additional questions that delves deeper into the passage.
On the other hand, this Series does give the reader/participant a rushed feeling as it tries to cover Hebrews in 13 chapters. Those of us who have read the book of Hebrews know that this task is quite daunting as Hebrews is saturated with systematic theology and historical roots. The discussion questions also tend to be quite repetitive and may require the reader/leader to dig deeper to find the spiritual truths in Hebrews.
All in all, the Life Application Bible Study Series – Hebrews is a great book for starters in personal Bible study and is ideal for pre-teens/young adults who want to get a broad overview of the book of Hebrews.
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As summer is approaching, many of us will no doubt be reading some new books or material in our spare time! The Library Ministry always welcomes reviews from our congregation and will post these reviews on this blog for others to read and enjoy! If you have read a good book, listened to an amazing praise CD, or visited a reflective website or blog, feel free to write a short review for us so that others can share the joys of digging into God’s Word and Truth in a myriad of ways! Please send all reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org! Once approved, the review will appear on our blog!