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.

The LEGO Principle: The Power of Connecting to God and One Another

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor.

How do you make a disciple? Connect people to God? Evangelize? Discipleship is relationship and when you approach a disciple through the lens of relationship, that is, connecting with God and connecting with one another, it will be easy. Discipleship is the core of ministry. The two most important commandments of all time are Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus made it clear to His listeners that life is all about relationships – a relationship between God and man, and a relationship with one another/fellowman. How is this related to a Lego piece? Regardless of the shape, color, or size of a Lego piece, each piece is designed to connect to one another at the top and at the bottom. Likewise, you can connect to the top with God and to the bottom with others. Thus, being a disciple and making disciples are both simultaneously possible. We all may have different personalities and yet, share something in common – the love of God and love for God. As a bonus, you will know how to find joy, fulfillment, and God’s blessings along the way. This book is neither a preachy nor an overly theological book. It is filled with engaging, real life stories from the author’s own life – including both serious and hilarious anecdotes about his three sons as well as great insights from his wife. This book reveals that “making disciples” can and should be both natural and doable as opposed to burdensome and impossible. This leaves us without an excuse for failing to make a disciple. A key point expressed by the author is that connecting to others in a crossgenerational manner is essential in discipleship. It is important that the older generation ensures that the next generation hears about the mighty acts of God, love, obey, and praise God. With his outside perspective and the Bible, the older person can help untangle some of the younger generation’s thinking about God, life, and how they fit into it. Highly recommended reading.

Christ + City: Why the Greatest Need of the City Is the Greatest News of All

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

What are the questions being asked by churches in the face of rapid global urbanization? Why are we seeing an emphasis and a focus toward urban ministry? Is our view of cities simplistic? Will the urban generation rise up to the challenge of spreading the gospel in the cities? Will our proclamation of King Jesus serve to unite Christians? This well-written thoroughly Biblical book provides the answers to these questions and more. It highlights God’s special love for cities. It espouses that a new generation of Christians who are passionate about seeing the kingdom of God everywhere will take root and flourish. They will thrive in some of the darkest, yet most strategic places on earth. This book is divided into four parts: 1) Foundations of City Understanding, 2) God’s Heart for the City – How Cities Change, 3) Issues in City Living – Learning to Thrive in the City, and 4) Strategic Principles and Actions – Reaching the City. This book inspires the reader to be part of what God is doing in cities. It covers a wide spectrum of topics ranging from ambition and sex to ethnicity and children. All these are added together with Biblical insight and 21st century relevance. In this Gospel-centered book, Dennis combines the faithful exposition of central Biblical texts with wise pastoral guidance. His goal is to help people who love, work, serve and worship in urban communities to honor God’s redeeming purposes for the city. Is our view of the city simplistic? Is it overly positive or overly negative? Dennis helps us answer these questions with clear Biblical discussions and straightforward applications. This will encourage us to have Godly aspirations and zeal for the Gospel. In Christ + City, he calls the church not to an Exodus (out of the city) but to a Gospel -driven Eisodus (back into the city). His years of experience, knowledge of the modern city, and the writings of urban philosophers allows him to give us a book that is radically Biblical, prophetic, and visionary. This book contains the essential strategy for world evangelization as an answer to the cry of global urban Christians. They desire a radical, Gospel-centered Christianity to spread from city to city and to unreached areas beyond. Highly recommended.

The Prayer God Longs For

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

What is the proper way to pray? What should I do when it seems God does not answer my prayers? How can I be sure I am praying according to God’s will? Must I persistently pray until my prayer is answered? What is the prayer God longs for? The breath of spiritual life is prayer (p. 10). Prayer is vital if we desire to have a personal relationship with God because it is the best way to communicate with God. The specific prayer God wants to hear us pray is the prayer taught by Jesus to His disciples, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). White provides an analytical look at the world’s most famous prayer by taking it line by line, and consider the meaning behind it. He explains to us why we address our prayer to God (“Our Father”) and not to a triune Being, Lord Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit. Yet, he emphasizes that prayer is still deeply Trinitarian in nature, we pray to God the Father in Heaven in the name of the Son and through the Holy Spirit. He explains why our prayers to God should have similar structure or format. What should we pray for? We have been directed to pray for our past (forgiveness), our present (bread), and our future (temptation and evil). He answers questions that are often in our mind. White considers the Lord’s Prayer as presented in two movements: first, the focus on God himself – His name, kingdom, character and will. The second movement focuses on our needs: daily sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance. Why do we pray for our daily needs and spiritual sustenance when God already knows we have those needs? When we pray for our daily bread, we are coming to God to say that we be given today the insight and patience we need, the sensitivity and commitment for our relationships, the money, knowledge and strength we need in the spirit of daily dependence, not demand. We are encouraged to pray to God when we have problems overwhelming us, face pressures that seem insurmountable, or too busy to pray. He reminds us never to forget to pray to Abba who longs to give the desires of our heart, according to God’s will. Allow the Lord’s Prayer to guide your conversation with God. Read it also as a meditation on prayer. White reminds us that when we confess and pray for forgiveness of our sins (God, forgive me for all my sins), we are confessing specific sins by identifying them and seeking forgiveness for them. There must be true repentance when we seek forgiveness of our sins. This book does not say anything about whether we should stand, sit, kneel or lie down when we pray; it does not mention the best time or day to pray, much less a direction to face. Jesus does not care what we should wear. Read the book and find out other questions about prayer, which White adequately answered using scriptures. Highly recommended.

Through The Eyes Of A Lion

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

Why does God allow suffering? Are tragedies and other life’s challenges inevitable part of our journey in life? Are we supposed to find meaning in tragedy and rationalize why it happened to us? Why should the godly people suffer more than anyone else? Where is God when we really need Him? Her parents called her Lenya Lion with her ferocious personality and thick, long hair like a lion. Her unexpected death five days before Christmas after an asthma attack devastated her parents. Her father, Pastor Levi Lusko, wrote this book to teach us how to look beyond the grief, how to hurt with hope, and look at the things we cannot see but will last forever. It is an amazing testimony on faith, hope and love, and how to live each day with hope because Jesus rose again. It was both a painful and cathartic experience for Levi to write about love, life, death, and God. Their faith strengthened the family, drawing them closer during the painful time after her death. The insights he gained from this tragedy will both inspire and challenge you. Ask Jesus to turn off the dark (sins) in your heart and be transformed from the inside out. The book talks about the way he handled his trials. His journey to set up a church in Montana was against the advice of his friends but he felt he would be disobedient to God if he did not preach the gospel there. Looking back, it was easy to see the fingerprints of God as He unfolded his plan to bless him and the Fresh Life Church. By seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, his church is blessed a thousand fold (Mt 6:33). This book changes old acronyms to something else for believers. For example, “Rest in Peace” or RIP over a grave takes a new meaning as “Raised in Power”. This book is not only for those who have lost a loved one but for all who have suffered some loss and are now walking without God beside them. It is also for those who feel truly happy and fulfilled in their lives to prepare them for the inevitable challenges that will come their way. Highly recommended.

Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe

A review by Daisy Serrano, Library Member and Contributor

Are you willing to suffer and live for Jesus? Would you retain your faith even if it meant losing your life? Are you experiencing frustration in your faith? Is your life centered on following Jesus and nothing else? Are you on fire for Jesus? Muslim converts in Africa, Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries have answered “Yes” to these questions knowing the cost to themselves and their loved ones: persecution, torture and sometimes death. They deemed it an honor to have been chosen by the Lord to spread His Word. This book relates true stories of survivors who underwent tremendous suffering for their desire and willingness to spread the Word. They endured the unendurable by clinging to Christ in the midst of their brutal persecution. Every miracle, every answered prayer, every miraculous escape, each torture session and (for some) painful death was an everyday reality for them as new Christians. Yet, they persevered and shared the gospel joyfully and prayerfully with those who had no hope within the Muslim faith. They chose faith over survival in spite of the terrifying circumstances. Persecuted believers see Jesus Christ reaching down to the hurting, the desperate, the forgotten, and all those who suffered. Jesus is also reaching down to us when we are affected by the pervasive evil in the world and when there are attacks on Christians online or in print media. Killing believers has not stopped people from believing the Gospel. Rather, killing believers has emboldened them in their walk with the Lord, accelerating the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church. May our faith in Jesus in the free world be as strong as these persecuted believers.

Church: Why Bother? My Personal Pilgrimage

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

Surveys show more people claimed to be believers than those who attend church regularly. Believers who find the worship services boring and indifferent raised a few questions: Is church really necessary for a believing Christian? Isn’t it enough to read the Bible and know Jesus more? What can I get from church? Philip Yancey’s book centers on this blunt and simple question: Why bother with church? He relates his reflections and experiences on his Christian pilgrimage away from and back to church. He left the fundamentalist church in Georgia because he disagreed with the sermons and felt the church kept him away from Christ by its strict rules. His exposure to the broader world led to his disenchantment with the church. He only returned to church when he began concentrating on his own spirituality and accepted the church family with its imperfections. Yancey urges us to look up, look around, look outward, and look inward to gain a new perspective: see church instead of merely tolerating it. He learned to love the church, which made it easier for him to return. Yancey provides a biblical overview of the purpose of the Church today and why we should be involved in it. He confessed that when he abandoned church, he suffered. His faith began to fade and he became unlovable. Church has filled in me a need that could not be met in any other way (p. 23). This paved the way for a renewed love for God’s church by seeing its true purpose: Christianity is not a purely intellectual, internal faith. It can only be lived in a community (p.23). There are many lessons to learn in this book. Rather than going to church services wondering how they will minister to us, we should go to services to worship God. We should ask ourselves, “How did God view my worship?” rather than the self-centered, “I did not get anything out of that church service.” It is often said that the church is the community of believers. Scott Peck believes that peace would come more naturally if the leaders of hostile states first learn to live in a community, and then work on resolving their conflicts. It is not the other way around: get together and hammer out the peace agreement, and then learn to try and live in peace. The church is a place where people around you are different – socially, financially, professionally, and in preferred worship styles. Thus, on the surface, we have little in common. However, our common commitment to Jesus Christ transcends our differences, giving us much in common. Highly recommended for personal reading as well as group discussions.