Epistles of Thomas

July 29, 2010

Chuck Swindoll’s Insights on John review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 9:02
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Charles R. Swindoll, Insight on John. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 9780310284352. BS2615.53.S95.

This is the second volume in Swindoll’s New Testament Insights commentary series. The first was Insights on Romans released last December (0310284309). Today’s review is part of Zondervan’s blog tour and you can read more reviews here.

Swindoll is using his years of preaching and teaching to write a complete New Testament commentary. He is obviously highly respected and qualified to write such an Evangelical commentary. We would expect him to be heavy on application rather than the nitty gritty details of exegesis and light on footnotes and references. This is exactly what we get.

There is a very short introduction (pp10-20) followed by commentary (pp21-363). It includes a few maps, charts, and diagrams. There are many short further information blocks such as “A Brief History of the Ten ‘Lost’ Tribes” (86) and “New Kind of Love” (236). He also includes personal anecdotes called “From My Journal” in which he relates his point regarding the text to his personal experience. The commentary itself is clearly laid out according to the versification and small sections of a verse or two are dealt with in each. Each section ends with a specific application portion. In a sense each section is a commentary sermon.

Obviously we are not expecting a technical, academic commentary so we should not be surprised that Swindoll does not deal with very many “academic” issues. His focus is on the text and applying it to the lives of those in the church. His reading of John is, as expected, traditional and no ground breaking work appears. He certainly deliver in terms of his audience and I think that pastors and lay leaders will find this commentary very helpful. I have already had a request to read it when I am finished with this review and I expect more attention will be given to this commentary than most others published this year.

As Swindoll continues to write this series I believe that his brand recognition combined with quality writing will make this a classic pastoral commentary series in years to come. They have chosen wisely with Romans and John as the first two volumes and you would be wise to have a look at this volume if you are preaching or teaching on John.

AND, a Review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 8:16
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Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 9780310325857. BV600.3.H355.

Zondervan donated this book to my collection in exchange for a review and I am quite thankful they did. It is the second volume in the Exponential series. You can read my review of the first volume here.

The thesis of this book is that the church should be both “gathered” and “scattered.” By this they mean that it should come together for meetings (e.g. church services) and also scatter to the winds through small groups and casual meetings. Through these two means people will be able to experience the fellowship which comes with gathering together while remaining dynamic and in touch with friends in the world.

I think that this volume will be most helpful for those already “in the know” about AND and desire to be gathered and scattered. For those who are not familiar with the concept they should perhaps begin with The Tangible Kingdom (0470188979) which Halter and Smay refer to and which apparently introduces the concept. This volume is still helpful in introducing one to the concept but there are some foundational issues that are breezed over.

The book is passionate about its subject and you can tell that Halter and Smay love the church and have been gifted with a talent for writing. While some churches focus on “gathered” and some on “scattered” the authors demonstrate that it is possible to do both and do them both well. If you are part of a gathered church that finds outreach hard I would recommend this book. If you are part of a scattered church whose members are wondering why they can’t have “regular” church I would also recommend this book. If you are completely happy with your current church then may God bless you and your tribe increase!

April 19, 2010

Help! My Kids Are Hurting review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 19:49
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Marv Penner, Help! My Kids Are Hurting: A Survival Guide to Working with Students in Pain. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. 144pp. 0310267080, 9780310267089. BV4447.P46.

This is a great little introduction to helping teenagers in crisis. It must be noted that this is only an introduction but Penner does provide a list of books, 1-800 numbers and websites for further information and teen assistance.

He first introduces the subject and identifies four styles that youth pastors and others working with hurting teens adopt: hugger, teacher, preacher, and surgeon. He then explains his paradigm which is based on L.O.V.E.: Listening, Offering, Validating, and Eliminating, Empowering, and Expecting. He then provides “rules of referral” for when a worker is out of their depth with a particular situation. This is followed by ten chapters dealing with subjects that most beginning youth workers will find above their ability to deal with. These are eating disorders, suicide, rape, pregnancy, substance abuse, grief and loss, self-injury, family breakdown, pornography and sexual addictions, and depression. Each chapter ends with a list of some further resources. These are not enough to fully deal with a given situation but they are a start and the listing of toll-free hotlines is very useful.

On the whole this is a great book for those just starting out as a youth pastor or those beginning to volunteer with youth and encountering much more than they bargained for.

March 15, 2010

John Armstrong’s passionate call for oneness in Christ

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 19:38
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John H. Armstrong, Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission is Vital to the Future of the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 9780310321149. BV601.5.A76.

Check out other reviews as John Armstrong tours the blogosphere.

As the subtitle suggests John Armstrong’s book focuses on the unity of the Church. The book is comprised of three sections: past, present, and future with a total of nineteen chapters which are quite manageable. Each chapter is further broken down into clear sections which could be read meditatively. Each chapter concludes with three or four questions for discussion and reflection. J. I. Packer wrote a very strong forward for this book which is readable online.

Armstrong’s thesis is that Jesus intended his body to be one as indicated by his prayer in John 17. He has created a ministry that works toward that end; desiring cooperation between Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox. He writes firmly planted within the United States context and would include Evangelicals among Protestants, including all mainline Protestants. I began this book desiring to see Armstrong succeed in his quest to explain why all Christians need to think about being one and to provide us with practical impetus towards that goal. That is why this book has been very hard for me to review. I want to see Armstrong’s goal but I don’t think that this book will convince those who are sitting on the fence with regards to this issue. It raises more questions than it answers when it comes to dealing with actual churches and actual people within actual confessional groups. I found the third section to be powerful and would recommend that all pastors read it but the first two sections left me in confusion as to method and the foundational basis that we can work from. Let me interact with the book as I encountered it.

First let me say that I was surprised that Armstrong did not say more about his own church background at the beginning of the book. We soon learn that his childhood was spent in an all-white southern church and that they were anti-Roman Catholic, something that he explains coming to grips with. It is also helpful to watch the short video on his website. It becomes clear that the impetus for his ministry stems from his early years of being a zealous defender of “the faith” and an antagonist of Roman Catholicism. Nothing is said about his current church affiliation until page 141 that we learn his denomination is the Reformed Church in America. It is important that we do not prejudge him based on his church but in such a book I do not think we can ignore it.

The first section of this book deals with the past: the biblical and historical basis for Christian unity. Not surprisingly he sees Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as vital to the realisation of this unity. At the heart of this prayer is Jesus’ desire that, “The church will be a visible example of the relational and spiritual unity of the triune God” (44). Armstrong states that in times past he stressed Truth over Unity at the expense of relationship. This statement gets to the heart of his desire to unite the church: “Jesus’ prayer for unity teaches us that even when we disagree on matters of doctrine or practice, we should avoid building barriers between ourselves and other Christians. We must be willing to accept those who are accepted by God and belong to him” (49).

He believes that Christians must have a “core orthodoxy” and “when we have clarity on the essentials, we are free to confidently move forward into a deeper understanding of the church, one that can be lived out in our congregations without fear or the need to condemn or avoid others” (51). The foundational doctrine for unity is love. He distinguishes between three kinds of unity: unanimity, uniformity, and union. He takes the last view which “emphasizes the goal of Jesus’ prayer—to bring all of us into one visible, united church” (56). This is a very admirable goal and one that I think most Christians would agree with.

In the following chapter he makes it clear that union involves two commitments. The first is “to work in every conceivable way to demonstrate and express the God-given spiritual oneness I share with other believers through our union with Christ” (60). The outworking of this is that “I begin by recognizing I am one with them in Christ if they call him Lord (1 Cor 12:3). Armstrong’s second commitment is to not just have union with other individual Christians but have union with other churches –Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. I agree that this is ideal but there is no one Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox church to be in union with. We may view the Roman Catholic church as a single entity but it has at least as many divisions as there are mainline Protestant denominations.

Armstrong states that “for the first thousand years of its history, the church universally maintained an interest in unity. However, in 1054, this unity was radically and tragically altered by the East/West split” (62). I appreciate that he wants to ground his call to unity in the early church but this ignores the many divisions in the early church beginning within the New Testament period. The letters of Paul and others directly address these conflicts and unity was only maintained through subservience to apostolic authority and the subsequent appointment of bishops. The fact that in the early centuries many heretics were thrown out of the church, with even bishops being banished, speaks loudly against his contention that division is only a recent phenomenon. He explains in further detail in chapter nine what he means by unity in the early centuries (86ff) but fails to address such events as the expulsion of the Nestorians who were condemned in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus and again in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.

I agree with his statement that “I find it helpful to think of the worldwide church as a large circle. At the centre of this circle is Christ. As people on the outer edge of the circle move inward toward Christ at the center, they grow closer to one another” (64). Notice that this takes an individual approach, not a corporate approach. It also fails to mention that some people are moving away from Christ not towards him.

Thankfully in the second section on the present: restoring unity in the church today, Armstrong begins to answer some of the questions he has created in the first section. He begins the section with a chapter asking how we can restore unity. He opens with quotes from Cyprian and N. T. Wright, the latter of whom said “the doctrine of justification is in fact the great ecumenical doctrine” (76). I find this ironic given how much debate Wright’s book Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision has engendered, particularly between Calvinists and Wright’s Evangelical/Anglican supporters. Armstrong turns to the Apostle’s Creed as his basis for unity, saying “there is plenty in it that offends the sensibilities of modern culture, making it the perfect ancient-future way of establishing fidelity and unity” (78). I have a soft spot for the Apostle’s Creed as I had to memorise it for my first theology class during my undergrad. I have to agree that it is often ignored by churches/denominations to their detriment.

As Armstrong clearly points out in chapter ten the enemy of a united church is sectarianism. By this he means “mutual exclusivity, an exclusivity that thrives where people and groups believe they have a superior claim to truth. Sectarians believe their church/denomination can best ‘represent the body of Christ, to the exclusion or minimization of other genuinely Christian groups’” (92) with a quote from Rex Koivisto, One Lord, One Faith, 14f. Of course this begs us to ask the question of who determines whether a group is genuinely Christians or not. So far we have seen two qualifications: they call Jesus Lord and adhere to the Apostles’ Creed. I unstated presumption is that they also read and understand the Bible in the same way as Armstrong to be confirmed by their adherence to the Apostles’ Creed.

He says that problems arise when we have intellectual certitude that we are right and others are wrong. Essentially he is saying that problems arise when we unnecessarily create dichotomies such as God wills infant baptism or believer’s baptism. E.g. If I practice infant baptism I am right and any other forms of baptism are wrong. This doesn’t even get into other possibilities such as baptism in the name of Jesus is right and Trinitarian baptism is wrong. Armstrong advocates that we resist intellectual certitude and engage with others who are different but not in a postmodern relativistic manner. I hoped that he would expand on his basis for this because it is not enough to “believe,” even the demons do that and tremble with fear; it has to be worked out.

Armstrong has stated two foundations for unity; his certitude that Jesus is Lord and that the Apostles’ Creed conveys Truth but not everyone will understand even these things in the same way. Some would consider Jesus lord but not Lord in an exclusive sense. Others accept the Apostle’s Creed but reject the literality of statements such as “he descended into hell.” Our sectarianism originates in our tendency to maximise non-essentials and minimise essentials but at the end of the day there are lines to be drawn and the question is not whether you will draw them but where. Armstrong admits that “my sectarianism is not entirely gone” but I think he errs when he states that “I daily seem to find new ways of expressing religious pride” (93f). Must we equate exclusivity to Christ with sectarianism and see it as religious pride. Christianity has beliefs that exclude others and Christians can therefore be seen by outsiders as religiously prideful. It is not clear how Armstrong differentiates between those who are eligible and those who are ineligible. Sectarianism is not be helpful when it excludes those whom God includes but it demonstrates clarity of belief. I think of the great religious “sectarians” (fundamentalists, Nestorians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christadelphians, Christian Science, etc.) and it is clear who is included and who is not. Armstrong’s stance seems to include anyone who is not a “sectarian.” What about those individuals and churches who want to be included in the Church but must be excluded because they approve and engage in sinful practices?

Armstrong goes on to define church as a place where the Word of God is preached, the sacraments are administered, mission is engaged, and there is a deep commitment to justice and the poor (106). He explains the nature of the church and then distinguishes the church from the Kingdom of God. In the last chapter concerning the present he deals with the question of the role of tradition. He explains that everyone stands within a tradition, even those who claim to have no tradition but the Bible. He identifies four components of Christian tradition: biblical tradition, tradition in classical Christianity, the role of scripture, and the wisdom of the church fathers. Under his discussion of the role of scripture he explains that he always starts a discussion with a group of minister or priests by asking if they agree with the truths confessed in the Apostles’ Creed. In doing so he discovers those who engage in “destructive theological liberalism and ethical and moral compromise” (125f). I am not sure how adherence to the Apostles’ Creed reveals ethical and moral compromise but it is clear that for Armstrong adherence to the Apostles’ Creed = adherence to biblical mandates.

The third section concerns the future: searching for the true church. As I mentioned in my introduction this section is the strongest of the book and he answers some of the questions we have been left with in the first sections. In the first chapter Armstrong calls for a balance between Truth and unity. “Unity in Christ and the truth must be our pattern. Uniformity is not healthy. But some forms of diversity must be understood as illegitimate too or the church’s mission is adversely harmed” (138f). He finally directly addresses the problem that “one Christian’s ‘nonessential’ is another’s ‘essential’” but has no further answer than that “this is why I have made such a concerted effort to push us back to the Scriptures and the earliest ecumenical creeds. These will not solve everything, but these standards provide a historical context” (139). The difficulty with this is that I do not know of any current divisive issue where both sides do not appeal to their standing in the Bible and the early creeds. We’ve already “weeded out” everyone else by consigning them to “cult” status and even they claim to adhere to the Bible or they would not be “Christian” cults.

As I reflect on this I am reminded of our local Anglican diocese. The bishop supports the marriage and ordination of homosexuals but many local churches have rejected this in the name of Truth and have placed themselves under the authority of another bishop. In response the local diocese took them to court and attempted to take away their church buildings. What a witness and a direct violation of Paul’s command not to take fellow believers to court. A confirmation of Armstrong’s statement that “A disunited church is a direct and public contradiction of the gospel of the kingdom” (154).

As a Christian which Anglican group should I seek to be in union with? Both claim to be under the lordship of Christ and to be expressing love for God and people through the inclusion or exclusion of those who practice homosexuality. I was frustrated that Armstrong never got down to brass tacks and used a case study to show how to discern which beliefs and actions (praxis) remove a church from the sphere of Christ. The fact is we cannot have inclusion with exclusion. That said, both Anglican groups participated in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics More Than Gold campaign. Obviously Christians can work together even if they disagree on certain issues. I think this demonstrates the possibility of what Armstrong is doing. Although doctrinal and practical issues may divide us we can still work together on projects. This seems very pragmatic but it is a beginning.

In this section Armstrong finally made some statements that I think should have come much earlier, perhaps in an introduction. First he states clearly how he defines a Christian: “In defining a Christian, a simple answer works best: A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and follows his teachings” (146). Secondly, he affirms the use of scripture to teach and rebuke: “I believe the Scriptures reveal that godly leaders should expose false teachers, especially if their teaching denies core orthodoxy. (The category of heresy still matters when properly used)” (150f). There is still the weakness of how to discern what it means to “follow his teachings” as per the Anglican story above but conservatives will be heartened to know his beliefs on this. As far as I can see his inclusion boils down to a couple of questions which really need to be flushed out.

Do you agree with the Apostles’ Creed?
Do you understand it the same way I do?
Do you agree that the Bible is God’s only revelation to humanity?
Do you understand the Bible the same way I do?

Another point that needs clarification is when Armstrong refers to the practice of interpreting the Bible allegorically. Of course some parts of the Bible are allegory, for example Paul states in Galatians 4:24 that he is using Abraham’s two wives figuratively/allegorically but to go beyond the authorial intent as many early church fathers did is not acceptable. A cardinal rule of biblical interpretation is that a text cannot mean to us what it could not have meant to its original author. I recently read a chapter from Klaus Bockmuehl regarding how Luther and the other Reformers dealt with Scripture and their relationship to the Roman Catholic church. It is must reading for anyone who wants a brief introduction to how they read the Bible and ended up sectarian. The chapter is “The ‘Great Warning’ of the Protestant Reformers” in the book, Listening to the God Who Speaks (Helmers & Howard,1990), 119-137.

In conclusion, finally, aren’t you glad, Armstrong has written an admirable book that tackles a divisive subject – the lack of oneness in the body of Christ. I wish that all Christians were as concerned about loving their Christian neighbours as they are about proving their fidelity to the Word of God. If this book motivates you to meet with your local Reformed, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Church brethren then his job will have been accomplished. I would love to see a sequel in which he deals with some of the hard ground that needs to be hoed and provides a hermeneutical method by which pastors can know they are being faithful to the Bible whilst embracing Christians with whom they have not been in fellowship with for centuries. This would assuage the fears of “sectarians” such as Armstrong was to be confident that they are in God’s will. Let us walk in the Spirit and make him known by our love! Amen?

Full disclosure: Zondervan provided me with a free Advance Reading Copy for the purpose of writing this blog review and participating in their blog tour and have promised my a final copy of this book and also Ethnic Blends by Mark DeYmaz which I am really looking forward to as it looks at building a healthy multi-ethnic church and is co-written with Harry Li.

January 7, 2010

But is God Mad at You?

I was recently reading a bit from an old David Wilkerson book, I’m Not Mad at God. Wilkerson is famous for his ministry in New York city which is immortalised in The Cross and the Switchblade book and movie.

David R. Wilkerson, I’m Not Mad at God. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1967. 0800780884.

His first chapter in I’m Not Mad at God deals with 1 Cor 9:9, “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” This is a very important verse to him as he makes clear: “The secret of success for every Christian worker is found hidden in this verse. I consider this one of the most important truths the Holy Spirit has opened to me in all my ministry. It revolutionized my life and ministry, and I will never be the same as a result” (11). Wow! That’s some serious language! What is so revolutionary about this verse?

He begins by explaining that “Paraphrased, this verse reads: ‘Thou shalt not bind the mouth of the worker who labors in the harvest.'” He then goes on to explain that this is more than a reminder that God cares for oxen. So far I’ll go along with that. From there he leaps tall buildings to arrive at the idea that “it is so very clear that the Holy Spirit seeks, through the word of wisdom, to lead Christian workers into a state of mind free from all bondage, full of faith and hope” (12). Okay, so where do we go from here? To the end result that, “Nothing is more tragic in my mind than to see a Christian worker who once had God’s hand on his life–to stumble around in fear and indecision because he allowed himself to become muzzled…. It is only a shortsighted view of this truth that suggests Paul is referring to better pay for those who live off the gospel. It is that, but so much more. It is in spiritual things we find the muzzle so devastating” (13). The implication of this, when taken in conjunction with Matthew 25, is that “if Bible statistics hold true, about one-third of God’s servants will stand before the judgment bound and gagged–with no fruit” (15).

Isn’t God saddened that something written so plainly by Paul regarding his personal situation and the opposition he faced has been spiritualised into being muzzled from producing fruit for the kingdom of God? There’s nothing heretical in what Wilkerson is suggesting but do we really need to go there from this verse? This book was published in 1967 but it sounds more like a postmodern reader’s commentary than a exegetically derived application of the text. Am I the only one who has a problem with seeing this as being what “I consider [to be] one of the most important truths the Holy Spirit has opened to me in all my ministry.”?

I have no problem with Holy Spirit informing a person about a problem in their lives using any scripture at all but when we make our interpretation normative for that text I have concerns. 1 Cor 9:11 seems to prevent Wilkerson’s interpretation: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” Paul’s conclusion must shape our conclusion if we are to be true to Scripture. He concludes this section with the statement, “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not misuse my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” Paul certainly won’t be muzzled in preaching the gospel – it is what he lives for! Even if he is a muzzled ox, not receiving any food and other material benefits from them, he will continue to preach the gospel because that in itself is his reward.

December 30, 2009

Jesus for President review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 15:54
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Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 568pp. 0310278422, 9780310278429. BR526.C567.

This book which is in the youth library is a sequel of sorts to The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. The Irresistible Revolution was recommended to me by Helen and Mike and although I have been unable to read that book when Chris recommended Jesus for President I decided to read it and watch the tour DVD. I heard that Claiborne was speaking at Urbana yesterday so it seems fitting to review this book today.

As they state in the introduction, this is a book to “provoke the Christian political imagination.” To that end they begin with a selective survey of the Bible beginning with the Old Testament. Considerable time is spent looking at Jesus, not surprisingly. Jesus is represented as a pacifist facing off against the Roman Empire. Similarly, Christians today face off against the American Empire. This book is very USA-centric, focusing on American foreign policy and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, although they do attack nationalism as a concept: “Maybe it’s time for Christians all over the world to lay down the flags of their nations and together raise the banner of God. The Christian icon is…a slaughtered lamb” (197).

The main focus of attention is the US military with economic policy coming a close second. I find it ironic that Zondervan, owned by one of the world’s richest men, has published this book declaring that everyone should live in simplicity and share their wealth. Their pacifism and anti-war rhetoric is also ironic given that all 175 of Murdoch’s papers ran editorials in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I wonder how Claiborne and Haw feel about that.

Whether or not you agree with Claiborne and Haw this book is required reading for anyone involved in ministry among young adults or concerned with the place of the church in American society.

I was also introduced to Mark Twain’s poem The War Prayer. It was written in response to American military intervention in the Philippines but wasn’t published until 1916 (Twain died in 1910).

Tired of Do-List Christianity? review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 14:47
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Scott Morton, Tired of Do-List Christianity?: Debunking the Misconceptions That Hold Back Spiritual Growth and Steal Your Joy. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006. 189pp. 1576837963, 9781576837962. BV4501.3.M6743.

Today’s book was donated to the BAC library by Aunt Joan. It was written by a long-time veteran of The Navigators. Morton was 60 years old when he wrote this book but you wouldn’t guess he’s that old by the contemporary style he employs. Not to say that older folks don’t write well but usually their use of language and illustrations gives them away. What is apparent is that Morton comes from the high pressure business world.

Morton discuses 38 misconceptions about spiritual growth in ten sections: spiritual disciplines, temptation, personal ministry, emotional health, your schedule, relationships, family expectations, your body, generally accepted rules, and integrity issues. Most of the time he is right (write) on the money although reader’s reactions will depend on their own personalities and experiences. One doesn’t need to read this book from front to back but can pick sections as random and find something useful. The chapters are quite short and easily readable in a few minutes.

Best of all you can currently buy this from Amazon.com for $1.96!! Pick up a few copies, eh.

December 11, 2009

Quotes of the Day and review

Filed under: Missions,Pastoral,Review — Thomas @ 11:34
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“The spiritual temperature in many of our churches is so low right now that a new believer has to become a backslider to feel at home” (167).

“The average Christian spends more money on dog food and lawn care than for the cause of God’s kingdom because he has completely taken his life and finances away from the living God’s hand” (195).

OUCH – I hope your church doesn’t sound like this but unfortunately the stinging remarks that Yohannan makes in this book are all too true in the experience of many Christians. Perhaps women should be thankful that he doesn’t use inclusive language! I would question his basic premise that this is a problem that only the North American church grapples with. I know that churches planted by native missionaries also deal with sin and its consequences in their church. I read his most famous book, Revolution in World Missions some years ago and was curious to see if he would focus on that theme in this book as well. The main emphasis of his organisation, Gospel for Asia, is that western Christians should stay at home and donate money so that native (mostly Indian) missionaries can accomplish more for the same cost. That theme is also present in this book as can been seen from this quote:

“Re-evaluate the efficiency of your current missionary programs, especially those which support American missionaries or social services. Realize that most mission efforts which rely on American staff—or provide social services—are no longer effective” (159).

After reading Revolution in World Missions I was left wondering what western Christians are supposed to do if God calls them to be missionaries (or agents for social change). He does seems to allow a place for American missionaries in this book as can be seen from these statements:

“God may ask you to throw away your furniture, give up your education and career, abandon your business and inheritance, leave family and friends. He may ask you to drive an old car, wear out-of-fashion clothes from a swap shop, give up romance and plans for marriage, go to the foreign mission field, or move into an inner city slum” (173-74).

“For my wife an me, even before our children were born, it was our continuous prayer every day for God to save their souls and call them to be missionaries” (194).

Perhaps he only means that westerners can go overseas if they compliment his vision of supporting native missionaries, but the possibility remains open. On the whole this book is quite challenging and must cause us to examine our lives and ministries to ensure that they are fully honouring to God and not just to western cultural expectations. My only quibble is with Yohannan’s emphatic statements that supporting native missionaries is God’s only plan for reaching the rest of the world. He doesn’t talk about supporting missionaries to unreached people groups but rather supporting native missionaries, as if that is the only way it can be done.

October 14, 2009

Kingdoms: A Biblical Epic

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 19:24
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kingdomsPerhaps the most popular category of books in the BAC library are graphic novels. They are flying on and off the shelves but I was lucky enough to find all five volumes of Kingdoms: A Biblical Epic on the shelf this week. This series is written by Ben Avery and edited by Bud Rogers. Lamp Post Publications put it together and it is published by Zondervan under their Z Graphic Novels line. Five volumes are in the BAC library and a sixth has been published so far with more on the way. These graphic novels cover the history of Israel from the time of the kings through the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.

Unlike some other “manga-style” Bibles the story line does not follow the biblical text word for word but uses literary license. This is necessary given the amount of ground to cover and when important events and prophecies are related the text is faithful. Although not to be used as a child’s only Bible these are an attractive way to get kids to read the Bible and cover large portions of the Old Testament story. When they find it interesting and have further questions encourage them to read through the whole account in a more traditional Bible. Happy reading!

They can be found in the BAC library under 220.9 AVE or at your local library under PN6727.A945.

Dragons in Our Midst

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 19:03
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midstAnother new series that has been recently added to the BAC library is Dragons in Our Midst by Bryan Davis. There are four volumes in this series and they can be found under FIC DAV or in your public library under PZ7.B285557.

This series follows the adventures of Billy Bannister and Bonnie Silver, a pair of high school students who are half human and half dragon. Billy has been called into the adventure of a lifetime with serious consequences for himself and all those around him. The series is strongly written and although the second volume bogs down a bit it is well worth reading all the way to the end of volume four. Those who really like the series can continue on with the story in Oracles of Fire, a subsequent four book series.

This series is published by Living Ink Books, an imprint of AMG Publishers. Pick them up with ISBNs 9780899571706, 9780899571713, 9780899571720, 9780899571737.

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