I am starting a new monthly feature of my blog, called “Book Notes”. Each month I will write some brief notes on the books that I have read during the previous month. My goal is to share with others what I have been reading and thinking about in hopes that perhaps someone else will discover a new book that will be interesting and helpful to them as well.
Last year I spent too much time on Facebook, scrolling the newsfeed, reading interesting yet non-essential articles, and engaging in discussion and debate with other Facebookers (only some of whom are actual friends). I don’t think that that was the best use of my time. For 2016, I have decided to drastically scale back on my Facebook usage. I figured out that if I eliminate (as much as possible) my internet usage in the evening, I can spend an hour or more reading each night after the kids go to bed. If I add in time spent reading on the Bangkok sky train and listening to audiobooks as I drive, I hope to dedicate a lot of time to reading this year.
About a month ago, around New Year’s 2016, I read Tim Challies’s “100 Book Challenge” to read 100 books in 2016. That seemed a bit too much for me but I have decided to try to read 50 books this year, or about 1 book per week. Of course, there are no merit badges just for finishing books, but I think that reading whole books will give me much more information and food for thought than reading short blog articles that I happen to find online. Hopefully, all this reading will help me be better equipped to teach my students at Bangkok Bible Seminary and to write Facebook and blog posts on missions, church, and theology. It is sometimes tempting to abandon social media all together, but I can’t bring myself to pull the plug. I still see too many benefits. However, I have decided to change my approach to social media. I will spend less time online and more time reading books and creating meaningful content to post and share, rather than just reacting and responding to whatever shows up in my newsfeed.
So, without further ado, here are my book notes on what I have finished reading in January 2016. Hopefully you’ll find a book that you’d like to read.
A New Apostolic Reformation?
I’ve only recently started to be aware of the movement that proponent Peter Wanger has dubbed the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR) and I found this book valuable as an orientation to the movement. The author’s describe the various beliefs, practices, and terminology (i.e. buzz words and phrases) that are associated this movement and compare them to other views (both traditional Pentecostal and evangelical), and to the Bible.
I appreciated the authors' interaction with primary sources (especially the writing of Peter Wagner and Bill Hamon), and their constant reminder that the New Apostolic Reformation (or NAR) is a not a denomination, organization, or a cult with defined governance, doctrine, and practice. Rather, it is a movement with a range of beliefs and practices. This is important to note because there are people who would associate themselves with some NAR beliefs and distinctives and not others. The book is laid out methodically with clear headings and references, so you can see where the authors got their information.
This might be the first book I have ever read about exercise but it was helpful because I found out that I was probably running the wrong way last year, which contributed to feeling overly fatigued heading into the new year. The premise of the book is that you should do 80% of your runs at low-intensity, and only 20% at moderate-to-high intensity. The author fleshes this out with exercise research, history, practical advice, etc.
John Sung, My Teacher
Personal biography of John Sung, the influential Chinese evangelist from the 1930s. It is written by Timothy Tow, a former seminary instructor from Singapore who was converted in during a John Sung revival campaign as a boy. The book gives the life story of Sung in a conversational, personal narrative. I use the word “personal” because it was written by someone who thought extremely highly of Sung and wrote as such. It is very impressive to read about Sung’s intense devotion to God and evangelism, but his eccentricities and blatant neglect of his family are brushed over very quickly. Lots to admire in Sung, but he is certainly not a role model of a balanced Christian life. All the same, this was a very good, enjoyable read with lots of food for thought for living the Christian life.
Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Enjoy Your Life?
The author stays on topic in addressing the question in the subtitle, coming back to it again and again, and giving a definite (yet non-formulaic) answer at the end. He provides helpful diagnostic questions in the last chapter to assist the reader live in the tension between giving attention to this world (creation) and giving attention to spiritual matters (redemption). Creation and redemption are inter-connected and if you err on one side or the other, you either fall into Platonic dualism (spiritual good, physical bad) or worldliness (concerns of this world are all that matter).
The Way Thais Lead: Face as Social Capital
This was an excellent, well-written book with lots of insight about the different types of "face" that Thai people (especially leaders) strive for... and fear losing. The author draws out the implication for relationships between leaders and followers, and drives towards a conclusion that presents an alternative indigenous way of leadership in Thai culture that flies in the face of less noble (but more common) alternatives. The author got his Ph.D from Fuller Seminary, but this book is very obviously for a general audience, so he stops short of offering any biblical or theological reflection on the topic of face and Thai leadership. All the same, this was a very engaging book with lots of colorful quotes from Thai leaders. It gives a good framework for understanding what is happening all around you in everyday social interactions. It is a must-read if you live in Thailand.