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Book Review: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

IMG_4483The Transforming Power of the Gospel is a book written by Jerry Bridges. Bridges was an author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators.

In the book, Jerry Bridges aims at helping readers to become more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Sharing his own story in the journey of becoming more like Christ, Jerry shows the two extremes that Christians tend to fall into. On one extreme, one assumes that we could live the Christian life by moral willpower: “Just read the Bible and do as it says”, it is said, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit. One doesn’t realize how the internal fighting between the flesh and the Spirit wearies them. After being so wearied out, many give up on themselves and despair. On the other extreme is a passive approach to spiritual transformation where it is said: “let go and let God’’. This approach teaches that you can do nothing for your transformation but trust in Jesus. Soon this turns out to be discouraging as there is no evident change in a Christian’s life.

In light of this, based on a careful study of the Scriptures, the writer teaches on dependent responsibility. The book is basically divided into two. The first part he labors to show how the gospel is the foundation and motivation for spiritual transformation. In the second part he helps us understand how the gospel through the Holy Spirit brings transformation to believers. Jerry Bridges gives a very clear outlay of the gospel throughout the book. He follows a systematic approach starting with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. He helps us understand how serious God’s holiness is and why His wrath is necessary. Jerry shows how sin is not just a mistake but an active rebellion to God. Sin is an utter despising of God’s law. Once we understand how pervasive our sinful nature is, it is easy to get discouraged, he writes. The gospel keeps us from discouragement as we see how continually we come short in obedience, from self-righteousness because the gospel is only for sinners and finally, the gospel is the great motivator for pursuing spiritual transformation.

The good news of the gospel is not that we are not so bad: the good news is that God, through Christ, has dealt with our badness. Knowing this truth is the solution to a performance -based relationship with God that tends to either go toward self-righteousness or continual sense of guilt. A daily embracing of the gospel reminds us that the moment we trusted in Christ alone, we were declared right with God because He gave us the state of Christ which is complete righteousness. This means we are never more or less righteous regardless of our performance. In fact, believers are as righteous in our standing with God as we will be in heaven.

The grace of God in achieving a forever-righteous standing with Him through Jesus motivates the believer to be more like Jesus. The security in knowing that our standing with God is not affected by our performance keeps us from getting discouraged from our failures. Even after we are aware of this security we still rely on the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin, create good desires in us and create change. The way we connect to the power of the Holy Spirit is by faith – renouncing any confidence in our own willpower and relying entirely on the Holy Spirit to empower us. Jerry shows how the Holy Spirit uses spiritual disciplines (which he calls instruments of grace) to conform us to the image of Christ.

I would recommend this book to every believer. The book covers a very important aspect of Christian life; transformation. It shows how the power of the gospel equips us for holy living. It is divided in small chapters that are easy to follow and it could be done as an individual or small group setting. It has really helped me to grasp what the gospel means and how it empowers me to be more Christ-like.

This book review has been written by Lillian Wambui who was an apprentice last year serving at Medical Missions Africa. She’s now an alumna. 

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Book review – “God’s Big Picture: Tracing the story line of the Bible.”

This book has been written by Vaughan Roberts who is a founder member of 9:38 and is on the leadership team of the Proclamation Trust.

I had always struggled with thoughts that the Old Testament is outdated and God's Big Pictureirrelevant to a 21st Century Christian. I thought that there is no need to read the Old Testament and even if I was reading I would only choose passages that looked appealing and leave the rest. Even when trying to understand I could see myself in those passages, for example in 1 Samuel 17 I could easily see myself as the David in the passage! By doing this I was wrong in at least three ways: a) I missed the big point the passage is talking about, b) I totally missed out the author’s intended purpose – why that passage is included in the Bible and c) I failed to see where I am in the Bible’s story line and how that part contributes to the main story of the Bible. I have learnt this from God’s Big Picture which has come in handy in enhancing my understanding of the Bible. As the title suggests God’s Big Picture is a book that helps readers to trace the story line of the Bible.

The author says ‘My aim is to provide all Christians, from the new convert to the mature believer, with an overview of the whole Bible that will help them see how different parts fit together.’ He aims to help us find our way around the Bible and to see how various parts of the Bible hold together and point us to Jesus. This was helpful for me first to learn that the Bible is fundamentally one book and this completely changed how I read the Bible – reading it as a whole and not just sections independently. Whenever I open to read I should be able to know where I stand in the story line of the Bible – what has come before and where I am going. Secondly this helped me to appreciate the fact that the Bible is not about me – I am not the David! Ultimately the Bible is one book, written by one ultimate Author – God, with one theme Jesus Christ and the salvation God accomplishes through him.

The format of the book is easy as the author has divided the book into eight sections which are easy to remember and shows God’s unfolding plan to restore His kingdom. I love the way Vaughan brings out his arguments. The flow of thoughts is amazing with good connectivity from one chapter to the other without losing focus of his main purpose. At the end of every chapter there’s a relevant Bible study useful to help one grasp what they have learnt in the chapter.

This book will not make you an expert in all the details of Scripture but it helps readers to see the big picture of the Bible. It has helped me to get the gospel right by reading the Bible in context – not seeing myself in Scriptures but seeing Jesus Christ, not possessing Old Testament blessings and promises rather seeing the One who the promises point to and who fulfills them. This has also helped me in my teaching of the Bible to the youth.

For every Christian to correctly handle the Word of God – reading it correctly, rightly applying it and teaching it to others correctly – we need to know that the Bible is a story about God’s plan of Salvation through His Son Jesus Christ and be able to know how various parts point to this. I recommend this book to every Christian to understand God’s word and His plan of redemption.

This book review has been written by Kevin Moses. Kevin a January apprentice , was based in Deliverance Church, Mombasa and served with the young people as well as other duties in the church. He is now doing his 2nd year placed at Grace Baptist, Machakos.

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Apprentice: Serving in Isiolo

Ephraim Kironji

Ephraim teaching a group of women of a Self-help group

My name is Ephraim. I come from Rironi, a village in Limuru where there is chilly and cold temperatures throughout the year. On the other hand, Isiolo is hot and warm throughout the year which was a totally new environment to me. It never crossed my mind that at any one time I would come to this land to serve the Lord. Majority of the people here are Borana and speak the Borana language. Even with the language barrier, I praise God to have been able to interact with a lot with them and to learn a few words in Borana.

Back in campus, I desired to find a Christian Organization to learn more about God and serve Him. Praise God that I came across iServe Africa. It is now 10 months since joining the apprenticeship programme; it has been a worthwhile time learning so many things concerning faithful Bible teaching and serving.

Being two apprentices at the placement has helped ease the work load greatly. I also met three other staff who have made my time here enjoyable and fruitful. We work as a team in a community based organization by the name ‘Oasis of Hope Initiative’. I am involved in the school mentorship programs which aim at mentoring students in schools. Several times I have worked with the Women Self Help Groups in teaching them on several topics. I am also involved in translating our English training manuals to Kiswahili which is quite involving. Sometimes I help in preparing annual plans, writing project proposals for soliciting funds as well as writing mission reports whenever we plan and conduct missions to the unreached people groups.

In serving the women and young people, I have come to realize how much every one of us is in dire need of the gospel every day. I had not realized how sinful I am until this training. The Lord has been helping me to work with different people with a lot of patience and love. Most of those we target here at my placement are Muslims. O that they may know Jesus Christ the true living God for the forgiveness of their sins! I will forever be grateful to iServe for allowing me to have this cross-cultural experience among the Borana people group.

Through the training in the apprenticeship programme I have come to know that my faith is safe and secure in Christ Jesus unlike earlier when I lived a life of fear and insecurity that my faith may fail. I can now confidently say that I am born again. I have come to know of whom I have believed in and know that it was through the amazing grace of God that I came to faith. My desire is to be involved in gospel ministry forever. For that reason, I am seeking more training with iServe. It is my prayer to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Ephraim Kironji is one of our apprentices serving in Isiolo. Isiolo is a County in the former Eastern province of Kenya. It is mostly arid or semi-arid.

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Book Review: Show Them Jesus

I have been brought up in a Pentecostal church and happened to be entitled ‘teacher Morris’ because I was teaching Sunday school in my local church. At that time I thought that children need to be taught Christian behavior, ‘churchy’ experiences and being able to master Bible stories so that they can live a good life which is what is happening in many churches. It is after I joined apprenticeship program at iServe Africa that I came across this book titled “Show them Jesus”.

Some things that inspired me to read the book is the statements that children quit church in college level because they learnt much about Christian behavior and churchy experiences which didn’t really change them. They never saw Jesus so strikingly that he becomes their one and greatest Love. They were never convinced that Jesus is better – a zillion times better than anything and everything else.

Show Them Jesus‘Show them Jesus’ is a book written by Jack Klumpenhower. Jack is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus in churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world. This background has made Jack to speak into detail about teaching the gospel to kids.

Jack explains why kids really, really need us and the point is that we are called to teach the good news – all Jesus is and all he has done by his life, death and resurrection.

He says, ‘We need to learn to teach the good news to the kids and they need to understand that Jesus Christ did not bring religion but good news. That when we talk about news is not what you do – it’s what someone else has done that affects you. The good news mean that you relate to God based on what Jesus has done for you not what you have done to prove yourself worthy. Many times we have been giving children good advice instead of the good news. Eventually, kids will tire of our advice, no matter how good it might be and many will leave the church. Others will live decent church lives but without any fire for Christ which is equally as dangerous.’

Section one of his book that comprises of the first five chapters Jack answers the question “Why teach the good news?” He has given the following answers: Because Jesus is everything we need, the good news is like nothing else, the good news is for church kids too, the good news changes hard hearts, the good news is the Bible’s theme song.

Section two that comprises of the last six chapters he talks of ‘How to Teach the Good News’ in this session he has discussed the following: ‘How to teach the good news from the Old Testament, how to teach the good news from the new testament, taking the good news beyond lesson time, taking the good news into all of life, living the good news through prayer, and making the good news your great hope.

He concludes the book by giving twelve answers to the objection that teaching God’s free grace to children leads to lax obedience and states that those who love God’s grace also love to obey him.

‘Show them Jesus’ is a book that I would read every now and then as it has changed my perspective on teaching the gospel to kids; that it’s not about leaving the kids with lessons about behavior but instead showing them Jesus. I recommend it to all who are involved with children at church and at home and would like to learn on how best to teach them the gospel.

Bryan Chapell, one of those who recommends the book says “we want kids to know about Jesus, but we leave them with lessons about behavior and they leave the church as soon as possible. Here’s book that sweetly, masterfully, and powerfully tells us what the gospel really is and how it can really change a child’s life and eternity.”

This book review has been written by Morris Ndoro a January-December apprentice placed at ACK St Luke’s Diocese of Butere. Morris helps in the church as well as teaching God’s Word in schools nearby.

 

 

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Book Review: Gaining the World, Losing the Soul

“Gaining the World, Losing the Soul: How the prosperity gospel distorts the good news” is a book written by three authors: Maura M, Mbugua K and Piper J.

The authors aim to show the harm prosperity gospel has had on the true gospel; how it gaining the worldhas robbed, distorted, corrupted, sugarcoated and misinterpreted the true meaning of the gospel. It has reduced God to the level of a mere sugar daddy.

The introduction defines the prosperity gospel saying that it refers to the preaching that declares that Christ came to offer us salvation from sickness, poverty and all earthly sufferings and not “merely” salvation. The prosperity gospel carries with it four distortions that are distantly different from the true gospel: it offers a smaller God, it distorts man’s greatest need, empties the gospel of its power and it robs God of his glory.

Maura gives a comparison between the true and false gospel. He uses the example of Cain and Seth. Cain chose to focus on false earthly prosperity and Seth focused on calling on the Lord and looked to an eternal and heavenly city. True prosperity is enjoyed by those who focus on God. Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is because the prosperity gospel encourages us to think that the definition of well being and God’s blessing is wealth and it lures the wealthy into a sense of complacency. It leads to an illusion of self sufficiency. Mbugua states that the prosperity gospel comes about because of misinterpretation of the bible. Prosperity preachers decide what Scripture means to their merit.

Mbugua outlines the true meaning of the true gospel. Firstly that the true gospel is the gospel life of Christ’s life on earth which is identified by suffering. Just as he suffered so his followers will suffer for his sake. The books shows that despite the suffering and trial of sharing the true gospel we have the hope of the blessings of the true gospel – eternity through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The mostly targeted audience as stated by Mbugua in the introduction part is: the preachers of the prosperity gospel and those that have fallen prey of it. The book also appeals to all Christians who know the true gospel to be able to boldly speak against false teachings.

The book has helped me to clearly see that true prosperity is enjoyed by those whose focus is God and that true prosperity is rejoicing in my sufferings since the supremacy of Christ is manifested in my suffering. Material things are not bad but if we are living for material prosperity then we are building our houses on sand. Christ suffered and if the master suffered, I as a servant should expect nothing less.

The gospel is about God’s love for us and the heart of the gospel is Christ himself – his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. To understand the cross is to understand the true gospel. True prosperity is preaching the crucified Christ. Prosperity preaching leads people away from Christ but there is hope as Jesus tells the wealthy Laodicea Church in Revelation. Repentance is the only hope left. Christ came for all!

This book has really helped me a lot in clearly differentiating the true gospel from the false gospel. I highly recommend this book to every believer and everyone seeking to know the truth in a time when there are so many preachers preaching so many things.

This book review has been written by Alice Mutheu, a January apprentice serving in Karen Community Church helping with children’s ministry. 

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Book Review:  How to Read the Bible for All its Worth

How to Read the Bible for All its Worth is written by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. Gordon is a professor of New Testament at Regent College and Stuart a professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The purpose of this book is to help the reader become a better Bible interpreter. The authorsHow to read the Bible focus on good interpretation of the text, what the text originally meant (exegesis) and to hear that same meaning in the variety of our own day (hermeneutics). Exegesis is a historical task laying distinction of books according to time and culture of the author and his readers, geographical background, political arenas while hermeneutics seeks to display the relevance of the text in the current century.

Professor Fee Gordon discusses matters on choosing translation. Which translation should one go for and study from? Should we opt for a version because we like it, it’s readable or it was recommended by a woman or man of God? The challenge is the transfer of words and ideas from one language to another; looking at the original language, receptor language and the historical distance existing between the original language in matters of words and their meanings, grammar and culture. The writers have written a whole chapter to guide their readers on different translations.

Furthermore, the book all through has described how to read all the books of the Bible with a clear understanding on the given guidelines, illustrated with examples and pitfalls to avoid what isn’t in the Bible. A good example is with the narratives; individual Old Testament narratives are not intended to teach moral lessons. The purpose is to tell what God did in the history of Israel, not to offer moral examples of right or wrong behavior. The story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis doesn’t portray negative results of parenthood favoritism; rather it serves to tell us how Abraham’s family line was carried on through Jacob and not Esau. And the book of Ruth isn’t a love story; it’s the story of God’s kindness played out in the lives of 3 people who are the central characters!

What’s not in the Bible shouldn’t then be forced. As we read and meditate on Scriptures, faithfulness to the scriptures is vital to give room for the Spirit to illuminate the text and speak to you. It’s time we evaluate the sermons we preach and the songs we sing whether they are scriptural or not.

This book has helped me in understanding how to read the Bible and interpret it correctly. I, therefore, recommend this book to all people who would want their hearts and minds drawn to God through his inspired word with no expectation that everything in the Bible applies as instructions for their own individual lives.

This book review has been written by Delvin Rutto. Delvin is a first-year apprentice placed at Mwangaza Children’s Home in Kilifi County. 

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Book Review -Counterfeit Gods

Counterfeit Gods is a book written by Timothy Keller. Tim is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Counterfeit Gods talks about the empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the OnlyCounterfeit Gods Hope that matters. It focuses on the idols we (human beings) have in our hearts that hinder us from acknowledging God as the only person who can give us the satisfaction we yearn for, and not just that but it further gives detailed information on how to identify, uproot and replace these idols.

The author defines an idol as anything more important to a person than God, anything that absorbs his/her heart and imagination more than God, anything one seeks to give him/her what only God can give.

Tim uses illustrations of a number of characters in the Bible who had hidden idols in their lives before they discerned, identified, uprooted and replaced them with the one true God. He talks of Jacob, describing his life as empty. He never had his father’s love, ran away from home to avoid his brother’s wrath, he certainly had no sense of God’s love and care. Then he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and all the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed on Rachel (his idol).

He talks of Naaman, whose success, wealth and power, hindered him from believing Elisha’s instruction to go and dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, and how it took the intervention of his servant for him to be convinced. He further talks of Zacchaeus whose idol was greed and money, and Nebuchadnezzar who idolized status and power. Finally, he talks about Jonah who beheld the love for his own nation and failed to have compassion on the people of Nineveh.

How do we identify idols in our lives?

‘Your religion is what you do with your solitude’ said Archbishop William Temple. In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there’s nothing else demanding your attention. What do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart? Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money. Jesus said, ‘’ where your treasure is, there is your heart also.’’ Mathew 6:21.

What stood out for me in the book was chapter 6 where Tim dwells on the story of Jonah and the mission given to him by God and how his story connects to Christ. Jonah had to leave his comfort zone and his safety to go to Nineveh where he could face rejection and death. On the other hand, Christ left His comfort in heaven and actually died on the cross. Jonah was thrown in a terrible storm by sailors and the sea became calm, in the same way when the disciples woke Jesus up during a terrible storm, he calmed the sea.

The only difference is that whereas Jonah was merely thrown into the sea and later rescued by a fish, Jesus on the cross, however, was thrown into the ultimate storm – facing the divine justice and punishment that we deserve for our wrongdoing.

He says, ‘When I struggle with my idols I think of Jesus, voluntarily bowing his head into that ultimate storm, taking it on frontally, for me.’ While we may be wondering on where to draw the line of loving the good things we have like family, jobs, spouses, pleasure and so on, Tim says, ‘the solution is not to love good things less, but to love the Best thing more.’

I highly recommend this book to every Christian. It will help us discern, identify, uproot and replace the idols in their lives, with the only one – God who can satisfy their cravings. Counterfeit Gods points to Scripture to help root them out, turns to the Cross to find forgiveness and points to the gospel as the power to find ultimate freedom from them.

Anna Daisy Ojera has written this book review. Anna Daisy is an apprentice based in GracePoint Church, Kikuyu where she helps in the children’s ministry.