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Book Review – Eyes to See from Compassion Canada

Eyes to See is a six-week (30 day) study helping the reader – or possibly a small group – to see poverty through the eyes of Christ. Online clips are available for viewing to accompany each week`s theme. Using stories from their global connections through Compassion, the study poignantly and effectively communicates various concepts relating to poverty, social justice, and the Church.

After a short reflection on the day’s topic, each chapter concludes with three Reflection questions, one Action step, and a prayer. Various days reflections include interaction with current literature relating to the topics. Likewise, when one is open to the challenge presented in the book, Spirit-led conviction is probable. Finally, the book does well in making the issues not just personal, but also finds ways for them to be applied in/for a local faith community.

I highly recommend this book for personal study and moreso for a small group study, whether in a home, adult education (eg. Sunday School) class as well as a youth or young adults curriculum.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer in exchange for an unbiased review by Graf-Martin promotions through the Nuts About Books blog review program.

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Book Review – Armed and Dangerous by John Ramirez

Armed DangerousAccording to the publisher John Ramirez is “an internationally known evangelist, author and highly sought-out speaker who has been teaching believers around the world how to defeat the enemy.” Without doubting the sincerity of his faith journey from a satanic background to trusting in Jesus, if this book is any indication of his speaking content, I have serious concerns about what believers are being taught.

While Ramirez includes a healthy dose of Scripture, he regularly uses it out of context and creates new biblical concepts such as the “spirit of Jezebel” from passages. Then in defeating these self-developed evil spirits/demons he describes key prayer points to defeat them. One fears these “prayers” quickly become a script to be rattled off when faced with an opposing evil spirit.

Ramirez is to be commended to his consistent reference to the power and blood of Jesus Christ as the Source of Triumph and victory in defeating the Enemy (and the new demonic spirits). However, the lack of a clear explanation and theology of how Christ’s death has defeated Satan and how the Christian can live in this victory is sorely lacking.

While one can appreciate how an audience could be challenged by his preaching and excited by his passion, the book lacks a coherent framework or ordering of topics making it difficult to follow. Various claims are made regarding the dangers of such activities such as Halloween, reading Tarot cards, and Santeria with very little (if any) supporting documentation or references. He may indeed have a legitimate point for Christians to be properly informed about, but because he lacks any form of argumentation, his treatment of these topics – and the book as a whole – read like one long rant.

I cannot recommend this book and would point a person looking for a book on spiritual warfare or dealing with the demonic to various better resources, both in terms of theology, research, and readability.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer in exchange for an unbiased review by Graf-Martin as part of the Nuts About Books Blog review program.

My Reflections on Climate Change

A few months ago (June 1, 2017), American President Donald Trump’s decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The issue of climate change, the destruction of planet earth by people, and related concerns were once again brought to the forefront. As a proud Canadian and an evangelical Christian, I have a few observations and reflections…

1. Like Trump, I do not believe the Climate Change “industry” and their “research” about the state of the planet, the reasons for it, and its imminent danger. Admittedly, those of us who live in Canada have a lived experience resulting in skepticism about such claims. In other words, when you live in -20 degrees Celsius for 3-6 months of every year, its hard to believe the earth is really “warming”!

2. Whether you agree with his decisions or not (and there are certainly are many to debate), Trump consistently said throughout his presidential campaign that he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement and he has officially done so. You may not like the decision, but he did what he said.

3. Even if one were to accept the climate change data and ascribe to the alleged reasons for its continual increase (use of fossil fuels, coal, gasoline, etc), one has to wonder how changes from the G7 nations will make any significant difference. When one considers the same sources coming out of China (1 billion plus people) and India (an additional one billion people), the contribution of the USA (population soon to hit 330 million), Canada (population just over 36 million) or other G7 nations is barely a drop in the bucket. The G7 dealing with the issue is not really touching the (alleged) source of pollution and climate change. Unless the global community can find a way to convince China and India to deal with their part of the (alleged) problem, any solution is a barely a bandaid.

4. While recognizing that the Christian community, including evangelicals, has largely been opposed, if not silent, on climate change issues, and very few have even been involved in any discussions, now is the time for Christians to present a thoughtful and engaged position. On the one hand, the Christian community needs to stop reading Genesis as a command to “subdue” the earth in which subdue effectively means pillage, plunge, and use-until-its-all gone. Rather, the evangelical church needs to understand “subdue” properly – to steward, nurture, and manage effectively for the good of humanity.

On the other hand, Christians need to be wary in our regret, even embarassment, for past generations of failure to not concede to a new definition of “steward” which effectively becomes worship the earth and anything that grows or lives within or on the planet.

Neither false understanding of the Christian responsibility for the earth reflects the full teaching of Scripture.

I welcome your interaction with these reflections.

 

 

Book Review – Raising Men Not Boys by Mike Fabarez

Add another good resource to the list of books available for Christian parents seeking to raise their boys to be God-fearing young men. The clear purpose of the book is to explain biblical principles and illustrate various ways they can be lived out by parents as they seek to shepherd  sons into mature godly men in the 21st century.

In the introduction, Fabarez is clear (pp. 14-15) to recognize some of the ideas he suggests are simply applications of the way their family has sought to live out the biblical truths and principles. He recognizes some of the specifics covered are biblical and others are simply his interpretation and extrapolation of important areas of life and encourages the reader to consider the respective levels of importance in following the ideas.

In terms of strengths, there are many. First, the author covers all the key areas of raising a boy from infancy to early adulthood. In doing so, there are plenty of practical examples of how a biblical principle works out in practice. Fabarez included various “What About That…” sections within the book that were beneficial and helpful in dealing with sidebar topics related to the topic of the chapter. Fabarez also dealt with potentially touchy or awkward subjects with a good mix of sensitivity and reality (eg. single moms raising boys). Each chapter contained clear section markings and the topics were discussed logically. Thus, the book was easy to follow and a joy to read, without becoming  monotonous or repetitive.

There is little to offer by way of criticism for this book. Fabarez achieved his stated purpose. As noted in the introduction, parents should seek other sources of input and wisdom as their son matures. Likewise, while other parenting books may be foundational to reading a book like this (or complementary), this is one I will keep on my shelf, and gladly recommend to students or families with boys.

Note: This book was provided to the author by Moody Publishers in exchange for an unbiased reviews.

Living with a disability

I had the privilege of sharing a guest lecture at Ambrose University (Calgary, AB) on Social Problems related to Disability on Wednesday, October 4. In light of the topic, I wanted to post a link to past blogs I have written relating to disability.

Watch for more on the topic of living with a disability in the future!

Hearing a Person’s Story

Teaching a Marriage & Family Life course again at Prairie Colleges this Fall has reminded me again of the importance of hearing each person’s story. While there are commonalities among any group of people that draw them together, every student has a unique personal history, a unique family background, and a unique faith journey.

I have written before about the importance or recognizing everyone has a story, and of being a good listener, but a teacher must work to hear each person’s story in order to understand why they approach a subject/discipline in a given manner.

While many students in a Christian college/university come from homes where they learn of faith since they were born, other students have come to faith from no religious background and some from other faith backgrounds. Those individual have to learn (or re-learn) a whole new language in the discipline of theology and biblical studies.

Similarly, while many come from a two-parent family where father and mother are still happily married, this is not the only experience of students entering a “Marriage & Family Life” class with. Some come from single parent homes, others have experienced the breakup of their parents’ marriage, and still others have different combinations and permutations. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to take those varied backgrounds and help them not only process their own family experience, but be able to share their respective backgrounds with others, allowing those with different life stories to learn empathy so they can grow serve alongside individuals who hold different assumptions and expectations, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not-so-knowingly.

It is truly a privilege to teach college students and to learn with them!

Book Review – Redeeming the Feminine Soul by Julie Roys

Having just started teaching another section of Marriage & Family Life at Prairie Colleges, Julie Roys new book Redeeming the Feminine Soul was a timely arrival. One of the key topics we discuss in this course is what makes a male “masculine” and what makes a woman “feminine”? Is it just their anatomy or is there something deeper in God’s design?

Roys’ shares her journey as a tomboy growing up in evangelical Christian circles and the blessings and challenges of those contexts. With authenticity and vulnerability, she draws on a range of resources – social, psychological, and historical as well as Roman Catholic and “secular” to develop a strong case for the soul of femininity that is biblically consistent and personally and “corporately” (ie for the 21st century church) practice-able. (And it was understandable to this male reader!)

A couple chapters in the middle of the book (Chapter 7 on gender construction and confusion and Chapter 8 on redemptive suffering) seemed to be tangential to the main purpose of her book. While it was clear how they logically connected to the previous chapters, they did not really contribute to her purpose of exploring and explaining the heart of femininity.

However, overall the book is thoughtful and challenging. While one may not agree with all Roys’ advocates for, the arguments and evidence she presents leaves one hard pressed to come to alternate conclusions.

The book does presume some familiarity with biblical ideas and concepts and would make a useful textbook in a course dealing with gender and sexuality issues, especially at a faith-based post-secondary institution. While obviously of direct relevance to female readers, it is accessible and understandable for all.

Note: This book was provided to the author free of charge by Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

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