The Ministry of Ordinary Places By Shannan Martin

A review by Anna Jean Marie Bañas, Library Volunteer

Does ministry always mean something grand and unattainable for the ordinary (untrained) person? This question might be more relevant today as we still experience the effects of this pandemic. Several commonplace situations might also be on the table. What if you are just “stuck” at home or live in a small town or village? Or what if the people you encounter are the same kinds of people for some time? What if you are the newcomer?

Finding one’s place and calling in the daily and mundane life of people living in urban and suburban spaces shows that an ordinary person can be “called” and used as an instrument of God.

Finding one’s place and calling in the daily and mundane life of people living in urban and suburban spaces shows that an ordinary person can be “called” and used as an instrument of God. Shannan’s light narrative is easy to follow, and as she walks us through her daily life, events and relationships in her community, we can see how opening one’s mind, heart and life to what God presents right in front of us has far reaching effects as well.

Relatable ways on how one could effectively and easily share God’s love through family, neighbors and other community members through simple deeds and actions are recounted. This further strengthens the truth that one’s mission field need not be far to reap souls for Christ. Shannan arranges her stories into smaller events and themes of daily life which makes for high relatability of the reader. A healthy sprinkle of Scripture reference neatly ties her experiences with Christ’s teaching to His followers. Readers can follow how her little actions lead to increasingly deeper connections with members of her community. They are also shown not to discriminate and devalue the seemingly simple people and events presented to them by God.

Shannan’s voice is of one who has given up her life to serve the Lord in every way possible. Her responses also teach that it takes discernment and training to be attuned to what God calls people out to do. Her heart is on building relationships with those around her, for Christ to be able to work through and in each individual’s lives. This gives another view on how people could further the Kingdom of God in the place where they are currently planted and be effective, nonetheless. All it takes is that willingness to allow God to work through and in their lives. Through all these, God will allow people to grow and develop, placing their roots deeper and allowing them to bloom where they are planted. Highly recommend.

About the Book Reviewer:
Anna Jean currently works from home teaching Korean students online. When times get better, she hopes to return to hiking as she loves the outdoors, and photography also complements this hobby of hers. She also enjoyed the adult education classes offered at church, where you would have seen her plying herself with coffee.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places By Shannan Martin. Thomas Nelson: Nashville c2018. 217 p. ISBN 978-0-7180-7749-5.

The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ

A review by Daisy J. Serrano, Library Member & Contributor

If you think that the Book of Revelation has no value to today’s Christian, Anne Graham Lotz’s book will change your mind. This well-written and informative book is a practical application of the Book of Revelation to daily living. Lotz shares what she learned through her personal study of the book of Revelation – that the true meaning of the revelation of God’s glory is to bring us hope for the present as well as the future. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation after the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision in the penal island of Patmos. He describes the greatest events of all human history that are now being seen on the world in which we live. Most important, St. John wrote it to give hope not only to the early church when Christians were tortured and died for Jesus Christ but also for the present and coming generations who will experience severe distress and challenges in their lives. The Book of Revelation emphasizes the authenticity of Jesus Christ. This book shows you how to have a personal encounter with God and discover the wealth of hope under five different circumstances: when you are depressed, when you are deluded, when you are discouraged, when you are distressed, and when you are defeated. It culminates with the hope that ignites our hearts, the hope for eternal life. Written as stand-alone chapters, each circumstance could also serve as a personal devotional, study guide or workbook for small groups. It is an enjoyable read because it describes the end times in understandable terms. It clearly explains some of the puzzling and complicated symbolism and numbers in the Book of Revelation and emphasizes that God’s boundless love and enduring mercy is the source of real, life-changing hope. A Devotional Guide on the Book of Revelation at the back of the book contains worksheets designed to help you communicate and develop a personal relationship with God. In the process, you may be blessed with the vision of His glory. A must reading for Christians and to those who want to learn and understand more about the end times. Highly recommended.

What You Need to Know About Healing: A Physical and Spiritual Guide

A review by Daisy J. Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

What do you do when you are faced with sickness and suffering? Does God continue to heal us today? How do we know God is healing us? Are special people and/or a special process necessary to heal us? Why doesn’t God heal the sick people in my church? An intriguing question on everyone’s mind is whether God continues to heal today. This book answers this question and more. Yes, God can and does heal. But not everyone is healed miraculously, even though we faithfully pray for it. Sala provides an overview of how God brings healing. He goes through the Bible, reviewing the accounts of God healing and providing Scriptures, which affirm God’s power and purpose in healing. He looks at the healing acts of Jesus and those recorded by the early church fathers. Does God heal everyone? God brings healing in different ways as part of His sovereign will to treat you as an individual. Sometimes, He brings instantaneous supernatural healing. There are times He uses the hands of skilled physicians. God may also bring healing though a combination of medical science and His grace in response to fervent prayers in faith. There are also occasions when God allows suffering. It is apparent, Sala writes, “that supernatural healing is not the way God intends to answer all our prayers to be healed.” He looks at Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as pain, weakness and grace. The taste of His presence and goodness transforms pain to purpose. Sala calls this redemptive healing. He explains what the suffering person should do to turn pain and suffering into redemptive healing. Real life accounts of miraculous healings are found throughout the book: healings that are instantaneous, healings that have taken place over periods of time, and instances where healings, as we consider it, did not take place at all. And yet, through it all, “God was there and he was not silent” (Francis Schaeffer). Sala discusses healing as it occurred in the Old and New Testament, in the days after the New Testament, and in the modern times today. He addresses why believers are hesitant to believe God heals today. He also describes the misuse of the gift of healing. Anecdotes of the different ways God may manifest His healing in a person’s life are shared to demonstrate His sovereignty: immediate/ supernatural healing, integrative healing (healing through a physician), redemptive healing (spiritual blessing in the midst of pain) and ultimate healing (through death). God may heal through a combination of medical science and His grace in response to fervent prayer. We may not fully understand the outcomes of healing but God’s character and attributes remain unchanged, even when a man suffers pain. We are reminded that the Great Physician remains compassionate and loving to each one of us, especially when we are hurting. Highly recommended.

JESUS 101: Was God in Error? [part 1]

The President of the Philippines paraphrased his version of the Adam and Eve storyinto his speech, after which he was bluntly colorful in his criticism of God.After he laid out how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the presidentstipulated that God basically set them up for failure. How? By putting in thegarden dangerous elements such as the Serpent and the tree of the knowledge ofgood and evil that would eventually tempt them to sin. Then, there is thecommandment itself. Why would God give such a command? With these questionshanging unanswered, the President concluded with a question, “How can yourationalize a God like that?”

As a believer, I have to at least try to provide an answer.

First, allow me to tackle the president’s criticism aspect on God’s being. This whole episode reminded me of another person who was critical of how God handledthings. His name was Job.

Job was a wealthy man, considered “blameless” and “upright” according to God. One day, the devil came before God where He boasted about Job’s goodness, but the devil argued that Job is good only because God had favored him extravagantly. After some cajoling by the devil, God allowed the devil to put Job to the test to see if after the devil’s torment, Job would turn and curse God. Job passed the first test, when after losing his business to marauders and all ten of his children to a devastating catastrophe; he still blessed God in his prayers. But then the second test was when the devil inflicted upon his body with horrible debilitating skin sores. At first, he seemed to accept his circumstances, but after having a lengthy poetic discourse with whom he thought were his friends, he bemoaned the injustice that God allowed evil people to prosper while he suffered. Job wanted to confront God and complain. Now, it would seem that Job may have gotten the upper hand of the argument, but God had a big lesson for him.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” [Job 38:1-4]

So, what is the lesson for us? I don’t know about you, but if God decides to come to correct me in the midst of a whirlwind, there can only be two logical ways for me to face him, with fear and humility. Why? Fear is easy enough. Anyone capable of controlling the weather is worthy of fearful respect. As the Bible says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…’ [Proverbs 9:10] As to humility, the question that God brought up about where was Job… or that matter, where were I or you… when He laid the earth’s foundation… well, you have to see the logic. It is arrogance for any of us to be critical of God, especially when first you don’t have His power and lack the experiential knowledge of Creation. Fortunately, Job learned his lesson and he was blessed beyond imagining.

Meanwhile, there are many people who still wonder whether God erred and why we are paying for it? We will tackle this in Part 2.

Until then blessings to you,

-Johann Quisumbing

It’s NOT About ME

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor.

Are you wrapped up on your personal ambitions and goals such that your entire life revolves around you being number one in the workplace? That your aspiration to make a name for yourself takes precedence over spending time with God and your family? What happens when you continue to feel inadequate in spite of achieving your goal? What will you do when you realize that maintaining your goal requires more than 90% commitment to your work to the detriment of family and personal time? This book truly reflects its title, “It’s Not About Me”. If you have been wrapped up in your own struggles, read this book to remind you that God created us to bring other people back to Christ. Whatever we are going through has a purpose, which is discussed in detail in this book. This book is full of Biblical teachings which are easy to read, and provide us a fresh perspective on how to live for and be with Christ. It challenges us to model the life of Christ when we realize that we exist to live for God and not for ourselves. God plays a central role in the Bible, in our lives, in our work, and everything else. The keen insights on how to live a Christ-centered life make us more loving to others and lessen our focus on ourselves, especially on things that do not directly affect us. As we become less self-centered, God begins to play a more important role in our lives. We will no longer fear evil – indeed if God is for us, who can be against us. Joy, love, fulfillment, abundance, and holiness begin to fill our lives. This book allows us to view the Christian walk with a new perspective. Regardless of your life’s situation or circumstances, when we lay aside our personal goals and ambition and instead focus on God’s light to shine on us one day at a time, our spiritual understanding of God is strengthened. Does God love us? Behold the answer on the cross. However, since we live in a “me” centered culture, it may be difficult to accept that only God is to be honored and glorified, regardless of your life’s situation and circumstances. This book explains how the Bible (God’s Word) continues to be the single whole authoritative source for our lives. It reminds us that our life is about God and how He plans to use us for His glory. How sweet it will be to hear Jesus saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. A Study Guide found at the back of the book presents questionnaires for each of the 14 chapters. The questions are further subdivided into Beholding and Reflecting questions. Highly recommended.

Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

Does God speak to us today? How do I discern whether it is really His voice? What are the practical guidelines on how to listen to God’s voice? What if God wants to have that kind of a conversational relationship with us? What if God wants to give us guidance on specific areas of our life? This book acknowledges that God continues to speak to His people today and provides us a practical guide on how to listen and hear God’s voice. It brings clarity and Christ-centered wisdom to the matter and encourages all believers to live a life talking with God. Hearing God is about having a conversational relationship with God to seek guidance for very specific circumstances in our lives. Although the Bible is full of the wisdom of God and all the principles by which God wants us to live, the Bible cannot provide us specific answers on whom we should marry, the career to pursue, how many kids to have, and other areas where we could use guidance. This book connects many spiritual principles together. The first half of the book is mostly a defense of the idea that God continues to speak to His people. The second half of the book is a practical guide to hearing God. Why should God speak to us? Willard relates how most people find the idea of God speaking to us strange. However, when God speaks, He communicates with us. He expresses his mind, His character and his purposes. Moreover, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The Bible is also God’s Words for us. Since we live in a world where exchange of thoughts and ideas are frequent and prevalent, it is quite easy to forget to spend time with God. Start now to talk with God until it becomes a daily habit. How do we know what we hear is not from Satan? The Bible is full of God’s wisdom that we never contradicted, even if the cultural aspects may be by-passed at times. Hearing God hopes to prove to us that we can surely count on the Holy Spirit (the still small voice) to speak to us whenever it is appropriate. It is thus important for us to cultivate a close, personal relationship with God and to rely on His divine guidance. God has given us His infallible Word, the Bible. All we need to know for life and godliness, and even how to make the most important decisions in our lives are found here. Spend time with the Bible. Highly recommended.

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

Prodigals are often thought of as teenage boys when in reality, prodigals are not limited in gender, race, age, or color. Prodigals share one or two things in common: they spend money recklessly or leaves home and behaves abominably, but eventually, they repent and return home. However, some people believe that the prodigals’ uncontrolled actions do not happen in just one day nor because they don’t love us. Something happened in their lives that made them hate themselves and resort to drugs. Those who wait for the return of a loved prodigal are reassured by Bible stories, especially on God’s sovereignty, just like Bill Graham. Well known missionaries Bill and Ruth Graham raised and disciplined their children in love instead of spoiling them with bribes or gifts. And yet, when their son was a teenager, he got hooked in alcohol and drugs, eventually leaving home. Throughout this difficult period, Ruth kept on praying for him and encouraged everyone to pray with faith and thanksgiving for their wayward child. She learned to spend time worshipping God for who and what He is. She shared her heart with those who love someone who had gone astray. The mothers may not know where their prodigal children are but Ruth reassured them that God knows where they are and shall restore the prodigal child to his family at the right time. She also learned that “worship and worry cannot live in the same heart: they are mutually exclusive’’ (p.40). A mother wrote that her son has continuously been away for over 10 years now but he has never been considered a lost man by God. God knows where the son is at any moment. Another mother with a wayward child wrote that the book helped her pray with faith for her prodigal son. She never felt alone in her fear and grief. Before she finished reading the book, her prodigal son returned together with his girlfriend. This honest and down-to-earth book brings hope, encouragement and comfort to the parent with a wayward child. There is indeed a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Note: The name of Bill and Ruth Graham’s son was not mentioned in this book for his privacy and protection. In 1994, Bill Graham talked to his son about the direction of his life in 1994. Soon after, his son decided to be born again after reading the 3rd chapter of the gospel of John. He prayed for the attendees at the Republican National Conventions in 1996 and 2000. Highly Recommended.