Book Review: The Pastor in a Secular Age

Andrew Root

What does it mean to be a pastor? When ‘secular’ people ask me about my vocation, I often feel lost as to how can I explain and justify the existence of my pastoral work. In our secular age, it seems that we have lost vocabulary, importance and essence of the pastoral ministry.

The Pastor in a Secular Age is written to help us understand and navigate the perplexity murky waters of the pastoral ministry in our secular age. Andrew Root, using the paradigm of Charles Taylor, masterfully explores the question of what does it mean to be a pastor in our secular age? Root attempts to dig the roots of secularism and its impact on the pastoral ministry. He does this by showing us the portraits of pastors throughout the history such as Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and Martin Luther King Jr. etc.

After outlining the problems that secularism presses on the pastoral identity, Root offers an alternative vision for ministry which is less pragmatic and more biblical. He explores the Old testament and draws out helpful principles that can be life-saving in wading in the strong currents of secularism.

This book is for anyone who would like to understand and appreciate the complexity of the pastoral ministry in our secular world. At times, this book can be dense but mostly it is written in such a way that all kinds of audiences can benefit from this work.


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

Book Review: Grace Defined and Defended

grace

Grace is gloriously confusing. There is no question in my mind that grace is one of the most misunderstood concept of our faith. Most misunderstood yet most meaty and profound concept.

Grace defined and defended shines piercing clarity on this often perplexing topic. In this book , Kevin Deyoung expounds on sin, salvation and the sovereignty of God. He does this by giving us a theological tour of an ancient yet profound document called Canons of Dort. Deyoung masterfully uses this historically significant document to articulate, access and apply the doctrine of grace to the modern church. It helps the readers to understand the background as well as underscores what really is on stake. Having read this book, you’ll be encouraged in your walk with God.

This book is written in easy to understand language. Theological/philosophical jargon is kept to a minimum. Consequently, one doesn’t have to be a qualified theologian to read this book. That is to say, this book is for anyone who wants to grow deep in their understanding of grace and glory of God.


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

Book Review: Remaining Faithful in Ministry

How do we remain faithful in ministry? How do we persevere?

This question can be answered by looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. He is the great example of faithfulness in ministry. Paul’s life is a practical demonstration of Christian perseverance in ministry. The apostle has seen suffering, hunger, thirst, persecution and bloodshed. Yet in all this suffering, he remained faithful. How did he do that?

How did Paul remain faithful in ministry? How did he not lose heart? John MacArthur answers these questions for us by drawing out nine principles from a careful study of 2 Corinthians 4. MacArthur is an expositor so he cares little about the shallow pragmatic solutions that the world offers but instead he plunges into the depths of the scriptures to mine pure wisdom from God’s word.

We live in an age that looks down on the office of pastorate. Consequently, pastors are often pressed on every side. Many of them are discouraged and disheartened. This book offers sweet words of comfort to those who are made bitter by worldliness. This resource is like a friend that puts arm around you and gently woos you to be encouraged and persevere through God’s Word.

Are you discouraged or disheartened in ministry? This book is for you.


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

Book Review: Foundations of the Christian Faith

Boice

If you were to ask me, ‘which systematic theology book should I read to encourage me to be in a closer relationship with Jesus and to be built up in the right doctrine?’ No doubt, my strong recommendation would be to read ‘Foundations of the Christian Faith’ by pastor-theologian James Montgomery Boice.

This recommendation is based on two solid reasons.

Firstly, this theologically robust book introduces us to the sturdy pillars of the Christian faith with unambiguous clarity. Boice doesn’t waste any words in guiding us to understand the beauty, complexity, as well as simplicity of Christian doctrine. In other words, Boice steers away from speculative theological/philosophical jargon and presents his material in such a way that it is easily comprehended. With razor-sharp precision, the author has divided the contents of the book into four big sections which masterfully cover the intricate web of systematic doctrine:

  1. The Sovereign God
  2. God the Redeemer
  3. Awakening to God
  4. God and History

So the first reason why I recommend this book is on account of its theologically robust clarity.

The second reason I highly commend this work is its readability. Most systematic theology books are either readable or theologically robust. It’s rare to find a book that is both readable and theologically vigorous. But Boice’s work strikes the right balance. It’s accessible and readable yet without theological thinness.

Given that Boice was a pastor for many years, his work is sprinkled with practical wisdom and pastoral application of biblical doctrine. This quality is rare in the genre of systematic theology because most of the theologians are full time academics who may not have experienced the sensitivities of pastoral work. But Boice’s book is clearly written from a pastoral perspective to help students understand theology in reference to ‘real life’.

This new edition also includes a section-by-section study guide to assist the reader in digesting the content of this book.

Theological robustness and readability make this resource invaluable. All kinds of audiences (lay, pastors, and theologians) can greatly benefit from it. If you are a lay person who wants to grow deeper in your walk with God, this book is for you. If you are a pastor who wants to be re-energised in your ministry, read this book. If you are someone who wants to be spurred on and encouraged in your Christian walk, this book is for you.


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

Book Review: The State of the Evangelical Mind

evangelical

23 years ago Mark A Noll wrote his exceedingly influential ‘The Scandal of the Evangelical mind.’ What was this scandal? Basically that there was no evangelical mind. The scandal was that evangelicals, with all their love for Jesus, appeared to forget that he commanded them to love the Lord with all their mind.

Almost a quarter century since Noll’s clarion call, where does the evangelical mind find itself today? Enter The State of the Evangelical Mind, a collection of essays by Evangelical-esque scholars and ministries practitioners with ‘reflections on the past’ ad ‘prospects for the future.’

The general message of this book is two-fold: in the last quarter century, Evangelicals have truly learned to take hold of the riches of the life of the mind with, to quote Noll, ‘unusual discipline of thought accompanied by unusual commitment to the Christian faith (35).’ Additionally, however (with characteristic colour) James Smith states that ‘Nobody can be excited about the “state of the evangelical mind” when 81 percent of white evangelicals voted… for Donald Trump, a lecherous, vicious, small-minded man-child.’ This tension, between a growing community of evangelical academics flourishing in countless disciplines, and the growing political polarization and seeming social and moral mindlessness of many in the evangelical camp, inform the pages of this book. While the authors are at times grieved and sobered by this state of affairs, there is a consist note love and gratitude for this motley community known as evangelicalism, and hope for a future of ever growing conformity to the likeness of Christ.

This slim volume covers a broad but neat collection of topics ranging from the church, to parachurch organizations (particularly student ministry), the Christian university, and the Seminary. Each author brings a unique narrative and set of concerns to the table, combining to make a thought-provoking read. Perhaps the most stimulating of these are the two final summary chapters by James Smith and Mark Galli respectively.

Smith states that ‘in some sense, the best thing for the future of the evangelical mind is to stop imagining there is a distinctly evangelical mind.’ According to Smith evangelicalism does best when it sees itself as a renewal movement ‘that needs to find its fount and future in the broader Christian tradition — even as it is itself a gift to these older traditions.’ This leads to Smith’s main point, which could be put as follows: The state of the evangelical mind will not improve until its ecclesiology does. Basically, Smith calls evangelicals to bring their unique energy and piety into the church where their minds can feed upon the riches of the creeds, confessions, and liturgy of the church catholic.

In contrast, Mark Galli winsomely calls for Evangelicals to bring their quintessential ‘Jesusy’ emphasis, their Christocentric accent, to the life of the mind. In doing so we bring something good, and oh so needed to broader discussions. Galli encourages evangelicals not to give up this precious distinctive, but to press into its depths with the full weight of a truly evangelical mind.

While this book is primarily written for an American audience, many of its insights are eminently valuable for all those seeking to have both hearts that strangely warmed, and minds that are fully engaged. Highly recommended.


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

Book Review: Written To Be Heard

heard

We live in a culture that is obsessed with written ways of learning. Hundreds if not thousands of books and e-books are published everyday designed to communicate information via the medium of reading. Anachronistically, we presume that this is the normal way of learning/formation throughout the world for all centuries. But clearly this is a false assumption. Even today, most of the world uses oral, not written, modes of communication. Ancient stories and valuable histories are passed down throughout the centuries orally. While oral ‘things’ are being converted into written form, we lose an element of their richness in the translation process.

Written to be Heard’ argues that the Bible, particularly the words of the gospels, were meant to be heard, not read. Consequently, when we read instead of hearing, we lose some of the richness and even miss the mark in grasping their key messages due to an unintended medium. This has the potential to lead us into erroneous interpretation.

Paul Borgman and Kelly James Clark attempt to recover and understand the message of each gospel as it would have been received by its original (oral) hearers. They argue that the gospels were oral performances. This method of learning was advantageous and common in preliterate societies. In modern society, this is lost because our mode of understanding is different. On account of this, the authors of this book attempt to analyze with fresh ‘ears’, re-’hearing’ the gospels through the lens of ‘oral performance’.

This book is stimulating. Somethings you won’t agree with and other things you will find compelling. It’s primarily written for an academic audience, but that is not to say that anyone cannot learn much from this book.


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

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

abortion

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: Discipling in a Multicultural World

Fernando



This timely book is a breadth of fresh air. If you want to know what discipleship looks like, slowly read and digest this book.

‘Discipleship’ has become a buzzword of our age. Many speak about the importance of discipleship in our churches but few truly understand the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of discipleship.

With decades of experience in Bible soaked cross-cultural ministry, Ajith Fernando carefully and insightfully sheds light on this often misunderstood topic. Not only does this book clearly steer away from a shallow unbiblical pragmatic approach but it also takes its cues from the strong foundation of God’s inerrant Word.

Fernando successfully teases out God honouring principles from the Bible and helps his readers see how these principles apply in our multicultural world. In other words, he places the Bible next to our newspapers (cultural exegesis) and helps us see challenges and methods of discipleship.

The world that we live in is increasingly multicultural. In addition to broad biblical principles, this book also guides the readers in discipling people from other cultures. Fernando gently encourages his readers to understand foreign concepts like honour, shame, family abandonment, and persecution. Christians would be equipped to better serve brothers and sisters from other cultures by reading this book.

This short book is an easy read. You don’t need to be a theologian to glean its wisdom. Fernando writes with a clarity and charity accessible to all kinds of audiences.


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

Book Review: The Magnificent Journey

Journey

“The Magnificent Journey” is intended to serve as a guide map that can help you on your journey as a pilgrim. It is written to enable you to locate pitfalls and snares as well as joys in the journey of Christian life. It seeks to help us understand what it means to live deeply rooted in the kingdom of God and to apply kingdom virtues in our lives.

So, this book is written for anyone who desires to mature and go deeper in their relationship with Christ.

The book is written in such a way that it is accessible for a broad audience. James Bryan Smith’s writing style is engaging and conversational, using fascinating stories to illustrate his points. Each chapter finishes with an invitation to read the scriptures, be quite, pray, and reflect using rich ancient spiritual practices.

Moreover, the book is super easy to follow. It is divided into two parts. The first part seeks to answer the question: how do we live deeply in the Kingdom of God? The second part helps understand Kingdom virtues and how to live them in day to day life.

This short (180 page) book can be specially helpful for those who have recently embarked on the Christian journey and who want to mature their relationship with Jesus. This book would make a good present for a new Christian.


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