Rejoicing Amidst Great Loss


“17 Though the fig tree does not bud*
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights”.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

What brings people joy? Yesterday, I went fishing and I can tell you it brought me a great deal of joy to catch a fish.

If you were to go out on the streets and ask people ‘what makes you happy?’ I think most of them will say, their bank balance or freedom or good health or relationships gives them the most joy.

Now suppose if someone was to take these things from them, will they continue to be happy or joyful? Probably not. Take their money away, they will be sad, take their health away, they will be sad and so on. This is the way we human beings think.

But our passage shows us another way to think about happiness and joy. God’s word says that even when everything worldly is taken from us, we can still rejoice in God (v17-18) Even when our bank balances are in minus, our freedom is in captivity, our good health is sick, and our relationships are taken from us, still we can rejoice in God.

When this passage was written, God’s people were going through wars and famines, disease, and lack of food, it was a very down time. But the prophet still can say that ‘I will be joyful in God my Savior’

Why is that? How is that possible? How can we rejoice in the midst of loss of freedom, loss of good health and loss of relationships? Our passage tells us the reason, it says, ‘the Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights’. So why can we rejoice even if everything is pear shaped? Why can we rejoice even if everything is pear shaped in our lives. The answer is that the sovereign Lord is our strength. He never leaves or forsakes us. While people may leave us and abandon us, the Lord never leaves by our side. We may lose our health, wealth and freedom, yet the Lord is still with us. He is our strength  and on this unshakeable strength, we can be joyful.

We can be joyful in the fact that  if we trust in Jesus, we are held firmly in the hands of God and nothing can shake us. Later in the Bible we read that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life. Jesus died and rose again and he has gone before us to prepare a place for us. That place is full of joy. We can be joyful because we’ve this beautiful hope that this life is not the end, the Lord will raise us up. Because of this hope, we like the prophet can say ‘The sovereign Lord is our strength’.

How Do We Respond to the NY Late Term Abortion Legislation?


Yesterday was a very sad day as the NY State Senate festively applauded over the passing of the barbaric bill that protects and cuddles late-term abortions. Now a person can get an abortion within twenty-four weeks. Now, the state allows that a child can be brutally murdered even if he is twenty-four weeks old by medical practitioners in the safest place on earth–mother’s womb.

When I first heard about the news, I really felt crushed. I asked myself, why are they doing this? Can’t they see that a child inside the womb is a human being? Can’t they see that murdering any human being is a grave sin against God (Genesis 1:27)? How should we as Christians respond to this evil?

I think there are four things we must keep in mind as we respond to the legalisation of late-term abortions:

1) We Must Mourn Over Our Society

When Jesus beheld Jerusalem and its sin, he wept over it (Luke 19:41-44). Christ himself shed heartbreaking tears because Jerusalem had not recognised him and they turned away from God’s law. Also, prophet Jeremiah bitterly cries over the evil in land. You can feel his tears, ‘my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly’ (Jeremiah 4:19).

Like them, we must mourn over the sin of our society. With Jeremiah, we should wail ‘my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!’ We Christians have the Spirit of God who cries out against all sin. So we must join with the Spirit by mourning over the death warrant of little ones.

2) We Must Resist

In the ancient Roman society, It was a common practice to throw unwanted newborn babies in the streets. These children were often get torn apart by wild animals or die of starvation. When Christianity spread in the Roman world, Christians took these unwanted little ones into their homes and raised them as one of their own children. This is the way Christians have resisted. Resistance with love and mercy.

In our context, this means that doing everything we can (non-violently) to save the lives of little ones in the womb. We can lobby against these laws in public sphere whilst supporting young mums both spiritually and financially so that they won’t think it necessary to abort. We can speak about it from the pulpits, in the homes, in streets with gentleness of Christ. We must use our ever democratic right to persuade people against this great evil. We must be open to adopt some of the unwanted babies.

3) We Must Pray

Christians know that the world we live is not just material but also spiritual. The Bible says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, we are fighting against demonic forces that are seeking to harm people who are created in God’s image.

If our battle is against spiritual forces, we can’t merely fight with material resistance. In war no one uses landmines to fight against fighter jets. No matter how many tanks you have, if you don’t have air-power to fight against fighter jets. Tanks and landmines are useless in air-battle. Similarly, we cannot fight spiritual fight without employing spiritual artillery. So it’s essential to pour our hearts to God in prayer.

We must pray for our governments that they will outlaw this evil practice, for parents who are thinking of abortion that they’d find enough support that they’d refrain from this, and for medical practitioners that they’d feel the pain of these little ones in their consciences. Prayer is a strong weapon against our enemies.

4) We Must Long For the Judgement To Come

Judgement day was the great hope of early Christians. They could endure everything because they knew that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and that nothing hides from his eyes. Paul says in one of his discourses, ‘For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed’ (Acts 17:31). That is to say that God will one day judge the whole world. Christians will not fall under judgement because of the blood of Christ but everyone else will see Christ as the just judge.

If there is no final judgement, there’s no punishment or reward for anything. Thus, we can do whatever we please in this life. But the Bible clearly says that there will be final day of judgement and therefore, these little children who are being slaughtered because of NY legislation will see justice. God shows no favouritism. Regardless of who you are, if you have supported this cruel regime, Christ will execute his judgement against you. Even now, the slain little ones cry out, ‘“How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” And we can join their lament and long for God’s judgement to come.

We can respond to this evil by mourning, resisting, praying and longing.

3 Christian Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

Christain books

God speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. No book, no manuscript, no meditation technique can take the place of God’s word. Without it, we starve ourselves.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In other words, nothing can replace the ‘God-breathed’ book. All human wisdom will fall short!

That said, reading books written by Spirit-filled and Bible-saturated people can be invaluable in our walk with God.

Hear these encouraging words from Spurgeon, “The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading.” The one who never reads will never be read. He who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.” That is to say, reading is essential for our mind and soul.

So having outlined the importance of reading. Here’s my top 3 books that I think every Christian ought to slowly read and digest:

1. Desiring God by John Piper

Are Christians meant to be happy? Are we meant to seek joy? Are we to live for pleasure? Why did God create us? This book answers these important questions. I’ve been blessed again and again by slowly reading this book. In it, Piper tells us the secret of Christian life: joy & pleasure in God.

I know of no other book that helps us plunge into the depths of Biblical wisdom with joy. God has used this book as means of Christian maturity in the lives of many Christians (including me).

2. The Cross of Christ by John Stott

We’ve heard again and again, ‘Jesus died for you!’. But what does it actually mean? How is Jesus death relevant to me? Why should I care? If you are wondering about these questions, pick up this book!

Stott opens God’s word for us and clearly explains what Christs’ sacrifice actually means. This will open your eyes to the beauty and the depths of Christ sacrifice.

3. The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett

Do you struggle with your prayer life? Do you feel that sometimes you don’t have any words to speak? If answer to any of these questions is yes, get hold of this book! The Valley of Vision is the collection of puritan prayers that can stir your affections and breathe warmth into your cold heart. In spiritually dry seasons, I use these prayers to awaken my heart.

These three books have been blessing in my life. So, I commend it to you. Have you benefited from these or other Christian books? Please comment on this post and let me know!

Book Review: A Pastoral Rule for Today

As a pastor, I sometimes ask myself, what am I ‘really’ called to do? I do all sorts of things but what is the essence of my ministry? What defines my ministry?

We pastors wear many different hats everyday. We are administrators, graphic designers, social media coordinators, printing machine troubleshooters, property managers, social workers, hospital/school chaplains, professional comforters, preachers and so on.

But if we are everything, then what are we really? Because of such diversity of tasks, our view of ministry can become blurry and muddy. We can lose the sight of the crux of our glorious call. We can ask ourselves ‘Well, what am I meant to be doing’?

If you are asking these or similar questions, this book is a gem! Like an excellent tour guide, this book takes us on a journey to the ancient history. It gently guides us through ancient ways to pastoral ministry and on the way, it helps us to uncover and glean wisdom from ancient pastoral rules. The hope is that as we look at these ancient pastoral rules, we will come to see their true value in our contemporary world.

This book builds on the lives and work of figures such as Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, and Bonhoeffer and using their insights, offers a contemporary rule for today that is momentously advantageous for pastors.

This books needs to be read and re-read!

I thank InterVarsity Press for providing me with an advance copy.

Book Review: Write Better

book cover

Reviewing a book entitled Write Better A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality admittedly feels like a strangely overwhelming and incongruent task. If a young and unpublished writer has any business dealing with a lifelong editor’s wisdom it should be in having their book review my writing rather than letting my writing review their book! And yet I write anyway — and in this seeming paradox lies the heart of Andrew T. Le Peau’s work: for all its hard, slow, long work, writing is worth it, so here’s how to do it better.

As a writer, teacher, speaker, theologian, and editor with over three decades of experience Le Peau brings a rich and nuanced collection of tools to the table. This slather of experience works itself into the books three sections: (1) the craft of writing, (2) the art of writing, and (3) the spirituality of writing. The first focuses primarily on the nuts and bolts of getting words on paper: fitting structure, persuasion, drama, and creative and concrete practices for breaking the bonds of writer’s block. All this and rewriting… and rewriting, and oh, some more rewriting.

The second delves into the slightly more messy art of writing, covering rules to know and (at times) to break, guidelines for metaphor and when less is more. This section moves the reader towards a sense that writing is more than imbibing rules. It needs a person behind it, a person grounded in Christ. And thus we arrive at the last section, where writing is set forth as both spiritual gift and spiritual discipline. Here the various threads that have permeated Le Peau’s work pull together. All throughout the reader senses that writing is not a mere neutral task; it necessarily involves spiritual and moral realities. Whether it’s the ethics of plagiarism, of representing your material with truthfulness and integrity, or the reality of being an authority and being under an authority in writing, writing is a moral and a spiritual practice. And thus, it is not one to be taken lightly. And yet, for all Le Peau’s sobriety one comes away from Write Better longing to do just that, to write better. The book’s tone remains consistent: for all the possible pitfalls, writing is worthwhile and necessary. It is good.

The appendixes on creating a platform, working with editors and publishers, self- publishing, and copyright are worth the whole book for their insight into what, at least for an outsider, is a terrifying and mysterious world. And yet the choice to place them as appendixes is particularly helpful, for it appears to say, “You can’t worry about these things, till you get the most important parts right.” As such this book is a supremely useful addition to the bookshelf of anyone desiring to get those ‘most important parts’ right: the craft, art, and spirituality of writing.

I thank InterVarsity Press for providing me with an advance copy.

Book Review: Surprised by Paradox


Human beings long for a system of thought that can give clear-cut answers to our painful existential problems. Sometimes, we make our worldviews to be like a tight mathematical syntax which given a particular input, provides a particular output such as 1+1=2.

But we know in our human experience that life is much more complex and beautiful than simplistic mathematical equations. And If this is the case with human life, how much more is this true of our faith in the Godhead who not only created us mysterious beings but also this beautiful world which is full of beauty.

In Surprised by Paradox, Jen Pollock Michel wants to help us see that our faith has some room for mystery. This might make some Christians uneasy. But its worth mentioning that Michel doesn’t say that we don’t have any certainties in Christian faith but rather that while there are certainties in our faith, at the heart of the Christian story is also paradox.

She labours to help the readers understand that Christ Jesus bids us to embrace ‘and’ rather than ‘either and or’ paradigm. For her, the Son of God encourages us to abandon the polarities that we often tightly hold on to. For instance, she underscores that the reality of the incarnation (the beautiful paradox of God and human), body and spirit, heaven and earth, grace and law, life and death, suffering and joy compell us to hold onto tensions rather than easily resolving them by embracing simplistic synthesis.

The hope is that by clinging to paradoxes, our worship will deepen and we will come to see God not as an object that needs to be dissected but as the one who is complex, beautiful, and inexpressibly indescribable and worthy of our worship

In essence, Michel wants to help us enlarge our categories to include some room for mystery.

I thank IVP for providing me with a complementary copy of this book.

Book Review: Priscilla


Any careful reader of the New Testament would have noticed that Priscilla is one of the important figures in the early church. Her name is scattered throughout the NT writings especially amongst Pauline corpus.

But who is she? Do we know anything else about her? Many of us know her as the spouse of Aquila, Paul’s fellow-worker, or the woman who with her husband explained the essential elements of the faith to Apollos. But does this do justice to her whole story? Is there more that we might know, if so, what?

Ben Witherington takes on this challenge head-on to fill the gaps in the story of Priscilla by marrying excellent scholarship with imaginative storytelling. Witherington is known for his insight into the NT world. Thus, he is uniquely qualified for this task.

This work, Priscilla, is a historical fiction. In it, Priscilla looks back over her life and calls to mind the times of infancy of church. Through her flashbacks, we see her journeying to Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome. Moreover, she narrates to us her story of partnership with St Paul.

This storytelling genre makes the NT world come alive to modern readers. Reading this book is like watching a beautiful documentary that gently guides us and speaks to us on gut level. This book creatively and cleverly teaches history, cultural phenomenons, structures of society and the early church in an unconventional form of storytelling.

Readers will greatly benefit from vivid storytelling that is mixed with excellent scholarship

The God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World


Imagine a book that’s part analytic theology, part trauma theory, part deep pastoral engagement, part Trinitarian theology, part gothic novel, and you might begin to skim the surface of the essence of Scott Harrower’s excellent book, The God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World. In a world filled with horrors and the traumas that they engender, Harrower seeks to understand how the Trinitarian God is at work healing shattered image-bears through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the Church.  

However, before addressing head-on the aching reality of horrors, this book begins by seeking to understand them first against the background of Shalom – the wholesome state that God created and intended for his image bearers in the very beginning, centered on and in perfect, personal relationship with the Triune God. This Edenic state was broken when humanity committed ‘ontological transgression – transgressing into being like God’ (p. 20).

Such transgression opened the door for the harrowing of horrors – a reality that Harrower provides an incredibly clear taxonomy for understanding, centering on the concept of horror being a movement from life towards death. This reality of the transgression of death into the realm of life leads to the experience of trauma, breaking image-bears in their creative, relational, and moral functions. A state from which there may be no recovery. This leaves trauma-survivors with theological, existential, and anthropological problems – blocking their ability to truly live into their identity as image-bearers.

How does the Triune God speak into this reality? He does through his ‘consciousness as he relates to and interacts with individual and corporate human minds/souls for the sake of forming beliefs and concepts that are true and helpful to them’ (62).

God reveals himself in this way largely through narrative – as the narrative of Scripture meets and works its way into our own narratives of trauma and redemption, and as we experience ‘shared attention’ with God – looking through his perspective together with him: ‘For readers of the Bible who want to know God, shared attention involves the reader and God being strongly aware of one another as they cooperate in reading a text together’ (63).

This meets a focus of trauma recovery methods, namely, a focus upon narrative, and in particular the practice of undertaking ‘trauma readings’ of texts. Harrower employs this method to masterful extent in his gothic-horror reading of Matthew’s gospel, both as an exercise in empathy for those who have suffered trauma, but also in order to push a trauma reading to its final (hopeless) end, thus revealing its limitations for trauma recovery. What other choices, then, do we have that both take the horror of trauma seriously in all its aching reality and pursue hope? Enter the blessed reading.

The Triune God seeks mind-to-mind communion with his image bearers and is through this capable of restoring their perspective – taking it from trauma to blessed. Harrower demonstrates this through a ‘blessed’ reading of the Gospel of Matthew, particularly noting how Matthew’s gospel, from the blessed perspective given by the Triune God, provides paths that may enable a survivor to regain safety, story, and community.  This continual use of the modal may throughout the book in regard to recovery stands out as wise and helpful in its ability to both hold fast to the real grounds for hope that survivors have for recovery through the work of the Triune God, but also remain realistic about the gutting extent to which trauma maims God’s beloved image bearers, and thus not be too quick to rush to triumphal solutions.

This book is one of the most stretching books I’ve read in the last year – academically, emotionally, pastorally, and creatively. I found myself having to think till my head ached about issues related to the problem of evil. At times I laughed with geeky delight at the working in of literary gothic-horror themes, even while being impressed at just how ‘fitting’ they were for the discussion. At least once I needed to put the book down to cry and pray through horrors that have touched my life and lives of those I love. So I warn you, this book may not be an easy read, but (my goodness!) it’s a good one. Highly recommended for pastors, theologians, practitioners working with trauma survivors, and anyone seeking to understand and live into the story of the triune God’s work of restoring Shalom to his shattered image-bearers.

I thank Lexham press for sending me an advance copy of this book

Book Review: Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament

Knowing God

As I sit here glancing over my Christian Standard Bible, one sad thing is starkly clear: too many people ignore the first 866 pages of the Bible (Old Testament) and primarily take their residence in the later 254 pages of the Bible. It is sad and hermeneutically disastrous. I will be as bold as to say that the New Testament cannot be rightly understood unless we understand the Old Testament. Consequently, Jesus cannot be properly understood if we hesitate pitching our tent in the Old Testament.

Christopher J. H. Wright has written Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament to encourage us to pitch our tents in the Old Testament on our journey to the great city of the New Testament. He wants us to see Jesus not as a random mixture of Gospel stories but as the Messiah who is soaked and deeply rooted in the Old Testament. In essence, Wright advocates against the butchery and severing of Jesus’ story from its historical Jewish context. He wants us to see Jesus as He saw himself to be. Particularly, Wright wants us to see Jesus as the divine Son who is sent by God the Father and empowered by God the Spirit to fulfil the mission that God commissioned Israel to do. Additionally, Wright wants his readers to really comprehend the radical continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament and to steer away from the simplistic ‘proof-text’ approach to the Old Testament. It is much needed book for our context.

This second edition builds up on the previous edition. New material include a new chapter on the divinity of Jesus. Further, questions and exercises are added to help the curious minds.

Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament is written for general audience but scholars can also take advantage of this meaty book. Language used is not jargony or complicated. Thus, a lay-person can easily understand and digest the material.

Highly recommeded!

I thank IVP Academic for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Exegetical Gems From Biblical Greek


Serious students of the Bible often invest a great deal of time and energy in learning and holding on to the Biblical languages. Resources which assist students of the New Testament to retain and apply their Biblical Greek are sought after. Merkle’s Exegetical Gems aims to be such a resource. The book summarizes thirty-five Greek grammatical issues and seeks to describe their significance for New Testament interpretation by exploring key texts.

I found Merkle’s offering useful in its concise descriptions and explanations of these grammatical issues more than as a source of ‘exegetical gems’. He briefly explores alternative interpretations of various texts and details the grammatical options before stating his interpretive conclusion. However, the key deciding point is most frequently decided by context more than grammar. This is as it should be but is less supportive of the driving thesis behind the book.

The texts he explores represent a diverse set of passages from the Gospels (mainly Matthew), Pauline epistles and Hebrews. Some key texts explored include:

-Romans 5:1 ‘since we have been justified through faith, we have (or let us have) peace with God’.

-Ephesians 5:21-22 ‘Submit(ing) to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Here Merkle argues that Αἱ γυναῖκες (Wives), in verse 22, although nominative is to be read as a vocative, and this is indicative of the beginning of a new section. This was an interesting argument, but I found myself convinced that both paragraphs which follow the ὑποτασσόμενοι of 5:21, one addressing Αἱ γυναῖκες and the next addressing Οἱ ἄνδρες (plus others which follow, e.g. Τὰ τέκνα, Καὶ οἱ πατέρες) also refer backward as well as forward.

-1 Timothy 3:6 ‘He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil’ explores the genitive τοῦ διαβόλου (as subjective or objective).

-John 1:1 where he explores why the Word ὁ λόγος has the article and θεὸς is anarthrous, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

-Matthew 16:24 where an understanding of verbal aspect is explored. This verse contains two aorist imperatives (ἀπαρνέομαι and αἴρω) and one present imperative (ἀκολουθέω). Merkle argues that interpretations which argue from the verb tense-forms that Jesus is teaching that we must decisively come to the point where we deny ourselves and take up our cross and then keep following Jesus (continuous discipleship) are not based on a right understanding of verbal aspect.

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek may prove a particularly useful resource for the Biblical Greek classroom with its concise explanations of various dimensions of the language and its interpretation and the key examples from key New Testament texts.

I thank the publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Embracing Contemplation


Evangelicals are very suspicious of contemplation. Many view it as an infiltration of Buddhism or New Age fuzzy spirituality into the church. So, they have remained uncomfortable and awkward about ancient contemplative practices. On account of this dismissal, many evangelical circles have found themselves experiencing spiritual poverty and incompleteness.

Embracing Contemplation seeks to address this issue. This book convincingly argues that evangelicals need to recover the lost treasures of their own tradition. John Calvin, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley had much to contribute on contemplation. Not only did they write extensively about this topic but also their lives were full of contemplative practices.

For these evangelical fathers, one of the crucial applications of Galatians 5:25 was to lead a life that promotes contemplation and spiritual formation. This work encourages, challenges, and spurs evangelicals to mine the spiritual gold from the scriptures and glance through the pages of Christian history to explore what it means to live ‘by the Spirit’.

Grounded in the word of God and the Church Fathers, this book attempts to keep the conversation going in order to recover the long forgotten practice of contemplation.

The editors, John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel, gather 13 different essays from 13 different spiritual formation scholars. This is a great strength because the various voices bring diverse perspectives that give specificity and richness to the conversation. Each contribution is unique and invaluable.

The essays are written in everyday non-lofty and non-academic language. Philosophical and theological jargon is kept to minimum, which is a great strength. All sorts of people can make use of this book. You don’t have to be a theologian or a philosopher to understand this work. It is simply accessible, readable, and timely for the evangelical world.

I thank IVP publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Leadership in Christian Perspective


Much needed book!

This book marries and intermingles the best of leadership theory with the best of biblical exegesis. Often leadership books are written from exclusively pragmatic notions that lead some Christians to be suspicious of the leadership theory project as a whole. In contrast, this book clearly steers away from any pragmatic notions. Instead, two sound scholars, one leadership theorist and another biblical exegete have joined forces to guide us and help us understand the leadership theory in light of the Biblical imperatives.

Justin Irving and Mark Strauss bring these two disciplines in conversation to each other. In the light of the scriptures, they explore different models of leadership such as transformational leadership, authentic leadership and servant leadership and helpfully evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each theory.

The book is simply divided in ‘nine empowering practices’ that is exceptionally helpful for all kinds of audiences. Both students and teachers can glean wisdom from this work.

Leadership in Christian Perspective is for anyone who is interested in understanding leadership and leadership theories from Christian perspective.

I thank Baker Academic for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.