Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Deliver Us From Evil by Don Basham

Deliver Us From Evil: A Pastor’s Reluctant Encounter with the Powers of Darkness
by Don Basham
Chosen Books
US $14.99
ISBN: 978-0-8007-9603-7

Deliver Us From Evil is one of the few first person-memoir modern religious books I like. Really like. It’s about a pastor’s slow and yes very reluctant journey toward understanding that there are demons in the world and that those demons are very actively destroying the lives of believers and non-believers alike.

Fact is, most modern western Christians don’t take the devil seriously and back in 1960 when Pastor Basham’s journey began...very pastors bothered to even ponder the demonic. Belief in the supernatural had been knocked out of them by Christian seminaries and by the culture they lived in; demons were assigned to the Middle Ages and Jesus was thought to be “humoring” the people of His age whenever He mentioned Satan.

But Pastor Basham ended up taking an unplanned journey and many real-life lessons into deliverance, and this book shows the small personal steps and theological advances he took to understand how demons operate.

Basham is not arrogant and doesn’t put himself out as an expert. The book is about spiritual truths but it is also a memoir of his life as a pastor and a mirror of the trials that happen to ministers along the way.

In addition to stories of afflicted formerly-demonized people, Basham also shares what he has discovered about how and why demons affect people and how to battle them. The stories are compelling and the people he describes -- demonized victims, theological opponents, congregations, and colleagues-- all seem like people we know and have met.

Of course the book is a handbook as well. So those who read it will be well-armed in the spiritual warfare battle. Highly recommended.   

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: Real Life, Real Miracles by James L. Garlow & Keith Wall

Real Life, Real Miracles
by James L. Garlow & Keith Wall
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764210742
ISBN-13: 978-0764210747
Christians who believe in a living God who actively works in the lives of his children -- even when those children are not yet looking for him-- will like James L Garlow's and Keith Wall's newest book on miracles, Real Life, Real Miracles.

The book contains real life accounts of miraculous intervention, providences, and coincidences, that could only have been choreographed by a loving God.
The Bible declares, "Thy testimonies are my delight and my counsellors" Psalm 119:24

Judeo-Christianity is a faith built on the stories, anecdotes, tellings and written and oral renditions, of God's involvement in the lives of individual Christians. The Bible is full of these testimonies of God's power, strength, love, and timing as He helps humans at (or before) their times of crisis.

The word "gospel" means "good news." In a world filled with "bad news," those who believe in God must "incline their ears to God's testimonies." Proverbs 22:17. This means that those who trust in God must seek to hear about His power, His truth, and His love. However, believers are warned to discern. Not all supernatural events are from God. Indeed, not all miracles, testimonies, and coincidences are from God. -- Deuteronomy 18:22, Deuteronomy 13:1 And often, books on miracles don't discern between supernatural events performed by God and those performed by other spiritual agencies.

Fortunately, the real life testimonies in this 272 page volume all praise the  Biblical God. Account after account were carefully chosen. In fact, many of the benefits of these miracles turned to God after receiving their healing or miraculous rescue -- some even turning to some kind of ministry.
This book is highly-recommended.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs

The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography is part of the series by the University of Princeton Press called the Lives of Great Religious Books.

Thus, the conception, birth, adaptations, rehabilitations, aging and influential of the book's life is being examined in Alan Jacobs' book.

Few books hold as unique a place in history as The Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican/Episcopal Church. It is at once: a spiritually elegant and beautiful book, heartfelt and insightful in its knowledge of the human heart and deeply honoring of an omnipotent and loving God; a symbol of what English religion; a call to communal celebration and prayer; a historical and a political compromise to Catholic, evangelical Protestant, and changing social demands.

It was born during a time when Protestantism and Catholicism vied for primacy in England.
Those who have lived in the aftermath of some powerful influential movement often are unaware of the traditions they have inherited. In the case of Anglican worship, the Book of Common Prayer changed much.

The prayers, litanies, Scriptures, and directions on how to worship that were place in the first Book of Common Prayer were largely the work of Thomas Cranmer. They represented his hope that educated and uneducated Christians in England should understand the Bible and the doctrines of Christianity.

Alan Jacobs lists many of the doctrinal questions Cranmer and others faced when composing or revising the book. Some of them might seem amusing to modern Protestant Eyes. For instance, Cranmer had to battle the heartfelt belief in the mind of many worshipers that the Lord's Prayer would "work" if it was said in English. The notion of everyone saying the same prayer in English throughout the church was fought against by both the extreme Puritans who thought it reeked of Catholicism and by the Catholic clergy.

Jacobs shows how historical incidents and the birth and death of royalty had a hand in creating, demoting, and revising the Book of Common Prayer. Politics, sectarian concerns, and demotions (with the chance of literally losing one's head) all were in the mix.

Additionally, because of the Act of Uniformity which made it required for all churches, it changed the way the English populace worshipped for many years, as it became more and more equated with England and English traditions.

But it was always an embattled book, representing at various times, "too much Catholicism," "too much Protestantism," too much tradition, too much irreverence toward tradition, too limited in its reach or too inclusive as to be almost wimpy and unclear, an example of the poetic beauty of the English language, or too old-fashioned, incomprehensible, and quaint in its language. It was a thing that symbolized something to be rebelled against or something to be upheld.

Reading the history of the Book of Common Prayer is to come face to face again with the great work of the Protestant Reformers, but it also shows the work (great or otherwise, depending on the current reader's traditional leanings) of later Reformers who revised the book.

Alan Jacobs does a great job in showing the times and personnages that have influenced subsequent revisions of the book or who have battled the book's influence.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Review: Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family’s Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption

  • Print Length: 341 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0849947561
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 22, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Christian Publishing

Vinh Chung with Tim Downs
Foreword by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

Lately, I’ve noticed something quite interesting in my reading of spiritual memoirs and it’s this. Quite a few modern memoirs published by Christian publishers deal with Christianity only as a side issue.  In fact, while I’ve learned much modern history from Christian memoirs, I sometimes feel that the explorations of the memoirist’s spirituality were a bit lacking. I sometimes think this happens because of the ghostwriter or writer the story is written “with.”  

“Where the Wind Leads” is such a memoir. Honestly, back in college and high school in the 70’s, I knew the ins and outs of World War II and quite a bit about World War I but I had no knowledge about how the Korean War or the Vietnam War started.

Anyone wishing to understand the regional politics of Asia, especially South East Asia, from the thirties through the seventies should definitely read this memoir. not only does it show the politics of those decades but it details much of the culture as well. This history is told through the family history of the Chungs -- their marriages, financial rise, fall, rise, fall, and rise, their survival through tribal, political, and ideological conflicts, and of course their lives as refugees and victims -- and profiteers-- during war.

The story goes through three generations, with the mothers being portrayed as strong survivors even while life or their position as women caused them to be victims of their husbands, their society, in-laws, and soldiers. There are also moments of Providence and incredible kindness as well, including one instance which becomes a seed that helped the family become Christians. There are small powerful moments when the mother and the father connect to God their Creator. But on the whole, this is not a spiritual memoir.

Perhaps I’m a bit jaded but I did find myself wondering how much of the parents’ and grandparent’s history was true. The first part of the memoir is basically heard second-hand so I found myself taking the story about the evil jealous first wife (and the noble second wife) and the conniving poor mistress with more than a grain of salt. One is also aware throughout that this is the history of the fall of rich people. . .so of course, paragraphs about their kindness toward their workers is also suspect. I know most Christians tend to take these stories at face value but I get very cynical. Whether those stories were embellished or sanitized to make the author’s female ancestors more noble than they are doesn’t matter, the first part of the memoir is in my opinion the best. Descriptions of the daily life in Vietnamese Villages and the depiction of survival in a war-torn country make the book a must for both fans of war memoir and Asian twentieth century history.     

I’m never sure about how much writing is done in memoirs by those who write “with” the main characters in a memoir. I found the writing style of the book typical of Christian non-fiction. For better or worse, it felt too familiar even though it was well-written. I didn’t feel I was hearing an authentic voice but someone who used the typical stylings of American non-fiction to tell a very extraordinary story.  I also got to learn a lot about World Vision International and their noble work with refugees.

Some books are Christian in passing; conversion, spirituality, and relationship with God being only a side-dish. Where the Wind Leads is like that. It is primarily a family history and personal memoir. And it is secondarily a tribute to the work of World Vision.  

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Review: Prayers that get results by Tom Brown

There have been many books written on prayer, The riches of prayer are seemingly unsearchable because these books vary as if all are showing a particular notch on the side of a coin. Whether the book on prayer comes from the perspective of God or the type of prayer, of spontaneous or of traditional prayer, of coroporate or of personal prayer, there always seems to be more to learn about prayer.

Prayers That Get Results, the new book by Tom Brown has a promising title. Indeed many books on prayer promise some kind of prayer or a deeper revelation of the work of Christ's salvation or a closer walk with God.

Brown's book is simple and clear: there are many kinds of prayer and Christians must be aware of the kind of prayer they are praying.

He lists and differentiates the different types of prayers one finds in the Christian Bible. The several kinds and distinctions of prayers are as follows:

The Prayer of Faith -- a prayer that trusts in the revealed will of God. It is prayed when one knows that God has declared that He wants exactly what you want. This would mean for example praying for the healing of the sick. Such a prayer can really only be prayed in full faith if one believes God has wants His people healed. Thus, a clear knowledge and belief in the wealth of God's grace and the fullness of the gospel is required.

Prayer of Petition -- this is the prayer one prays when one is not sure that God's will and one's will are the same. Praying for a house or a certain car or even for a particular woman to marry falls into this category.
Prayer of Submission -- this is the prayer that is prayed when God's will and one's own will are in opposition. Like Christ's prayer in the Garden, it is a "not thy will but mine be done" kind of prayer. It is the prayer which accepts and obeys God.

The Prayer of Intercession -- this is the prayer one prays when one's will and God's will are the same but a third person (the person being interceded for) may not wish to be prayed for. Prayers for the salvation of someone's soul or for someone to leave an adulterous lover and return to a spouse would fall into this category.

There are other prayers as well: The prayer of release, the prayer of agreement, the prayer of binding and loosing, the prayer of deliverance, for instance.  The main focus is to understand the Bible and to understand how to approach God and how to approach the prayer.

The book is accessible and well-written. It contains many examples from the author's own life of how these prayers have worked.

Blog Archive