Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (2013)

Gospel-Centered Teaching: 
Showing Christ in All the Scripture (2013) 
by Trevin Wax

I bought this valuable book from the Hill Book Fair for only RM3. It is a short little book and easy to read but worth all the effort. Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, has written easy-to-understand guide to what it means to be focused on Christ in our teaching. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that Jesus is the foundation of the church and we must take care how we build upon this foundation. As Bible teacher, I’m concerned that every sharing and Bible Study must be founded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that it’s Jesus who changes lives, and the goal of our Bible Study is to continually reintroduce people to him.

I was challenged when I read the first chapter when the author writes that the biggest problem with Christians today is Biblical literacy. “It’s an epidemic,” he said. I understand this issue very well. He also points out another issue, namely, that we have “a closed-off group of biblical junkies who view Bible Study as their ‘fix’ for the week.” And sometime we can have “people who can win a game of Bible trivia, but who don’t look very much like Jesus.” We want to ‘go deeper’ we said but that also is not the answer, for the demons “got their theology down (James 2), but are devils still.” The question is not so much of “What’s missing?” (though methods and problem solving are important) but rather the question is – “Who’s missing?” The answer, of course, is Jesus. When we ask the right question, “Who’s missing?” from our sharing/teaching, we’ll embark on a quest to find Jesus in all the Scripture.

As I prepare Bible studies in the future (and you too), I ought to ask myself these 3 questions by Travin Wax: #1 How does this topic or passage fit into the Big Story of Scripture?; #2 What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing this topic or passage?; and #3 How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission? If I can answer these questions rightly, I can be sure that I’m teaching a Gospel-centered teaching and Christ-focused Bible Study. I recommend this book to every preacher, small group leader, Sunday school facilitator and Bible Study teacher. This book is an excellent guide for us to understand how to teach the Bible with Christ as our focus, the gospel as our centre and the entire Bible as one big story about Jesus.

This book is divided into 5 chapters:
  1. Something’s Missing
  2. Back to Basics
  3. Connect the Dots and Tell the Story
  4. Ground Your Application in the Gospel
  5. Overflow with Passion for God’s Mission

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Book Review: Messy: How To Be Creative and Resilient in A Tidy-Minded World (2016)

Messy: How To Be Creative and Resilient in A Tidy-Minded World (2016) 
by Tim Harford

My office table is always messy. Unclean cup, big volume books, empty bottle, crumpled paper, sugar container and – as I write this – there is a mysterious liquid soap on my table! There is a well-valued idiom: “cleanliness is next to godliness.” I agree. I make sure my clothes that I wear are clean. I wrapped my books so that it will not get wet or dirt. I will not wear socks more than 3 days. But as for my office table, notebook, calendar and file documents, messy is the right word to describe it. When I read that Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, two of my heroes, both had messy workspaces, I’m glad. Einstein famously pointing out that, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Good question.

I bought this book Messy at BookXcess Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya for only RM19.90 (MPH bookstore will cost you RM79.90). I love the cover design and any book with a word ‘creativity’ in it attract my attention. Tim Harford writing this book to celebrate the benefits that messiness has in our lives. Drawing from research in neuroscience, psychology and social science, Tim shows that “if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world.” What make this book interesting (though I think it can be shorter) is that it is very convincing because there are lot of real life examples, as well as scientific information on why it's true. Tim encourages messiness because it can lead us to productivity and creative thinking. “We are often succumb to the temptation of a tidy-minded approach,” writes Tim, “went we would be better served by embracing a degree of mess.” 

The author organized his book into nine categories: Creativity, Collaboration, Workplaces, Improvisation, Winning, Incentives, Automation, Resilience, and Life. Tim Harford writes, “Often we are so seduced by the blandishments of tidiness that we fail to appreciate the virtues of the messy - the untidy, unquantified, uncoordinated, improvised, imperfect, incoherent, crude, cluttered, random, ambiguous, vague, difficult, diverse or even dirty. The scripted speech misreads the energy of the room; the careful commander is disorientated by a more impetuous opponent; the writer is serendipitously inspired by a random distraction; the quantified targets create perverse incentives; the workers in the tidy office feel helpless and demotivated; a disruptive outsider aggravates the team but brings a fresh new insight. The worker with the messy inbox ultimately gets more done; we find a soulmate when we ignore the website questionnaires; the kids running loose in the wasteland not only have fun and learn more skills, but also - counter-intuitively - have fewer accidents.” 

Life is a beautiful mess. 
You can make it more beautiful by embracing its. 
If you don’t, you’ll mess it up J

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Book Review: The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream (1993) by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream (1993) 
by Paulo Coelho

Anthony Robbins, one of my favourite speakers and authors, writes, “A remarkable tale about the most magical of all journeys: the quest to fulfil one’s destiny. I recommend The Alchemist to anyone who is passionately committed to claiming the life of their dreams – today.” Agree! I simply love this novel, a fable Co
elho said, about following your dreams or Personal Legends. A poetic book. You may or may not agree with Coelho’s philosophy but it is nonetheless “a tale that comforts our hearts as much as our souls.” As Christ follower, Coelho’s theology (or should I say, spirituality?) – though he is a Brazilian Catholic – shouldn’t be taken seriously or at least questionable. New age beliefs and syncretism (especially the mix of Christianity and Islam beliefs) are obvious in his writings. Once I identified that, I can read this book with excitement and caution. 

The Alchemist is centred on Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, who has a dream about finding treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. An old man claiming to be a mysterious king by the name of Melchizedek advise him to pursue it, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation and when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” With hope, dream and courage of an adventurer, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangier in Africa. Along the way, he faced troubles and helps, doubts and reassurances, delays and encouragements, failures and successes, mysteries and love. He also encountered with a 200-year-old alchemist who can read the Emerald Tablet, who own the Elixir of Life that can cure any kind of decease and the Philosophy’s Stone that can turn any material into gold. The alchemist guide and lead Santiago in his journey and so he finally can understand and see the Soul of the World and know how to read omens. As I read this book, it’s not so much about ‘Can Santiago finds his treasure?’ but ‘Where his treasure really is?’ It’s about the journey, learning experience and self-realisation. 

To achieve or to have the courage to confront our own dreams, Paulo Coelho in the introduction said there are four main obstacles: First, “we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible”; Secondly, “if we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love… we know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream”; Thirdly, “once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path”; and finally,the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives… this is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.” 

Read this book! Steal it if you must 

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