Local books: Women’s life writings, God’s Providence, Working Blessedly . . .

This is my fourth local books round-up of 2024, covering 13 newly published books from the local Christian community.

Again there is a range of topics. The write-ups are primarily from Amazon and publisher / author sites.

  • Cynthia Aalders: The Spiritual Lives and Manuscript Cultures of Eighteenth-Century English Women (Oxford University Press)

The Spiritual Lives and Manuscript Cultures of Eighteenth-Century English Women (due out in July) covers the vital and unexplored ways in which women’s life writings acted to undergird, guide and indeed shape religious communities.

Through an exploration of various significant but understudied personal relationships –  including mentorship by older women, spiritual friendship and care for nonbiological children – the book demonstrates the multiple ways in which women were active in writing religious communities.

The book consists of a series of interweaving case studies and focuses on Catherine Talbot (1721-70), Anne Steele (1717-78) and Ann Bolton (1743-1822), and on their literary interactions with friends and family. Considered together, these subjects and sources allow comparison across denominations, for Talbot was Anglican, Steele a Baptist and Bolton a Methodist.

Further, it considers women’s life writings as spiritual legacy; manuscripts were preserved by female friends and family members and continued to be used in religious communities after the death of their authors.

Various strands of enquiry weave through the book: questions of gender and religion, themselves inflected by denomination; themes related to life writings and manuscript cultures; and the interplay between the writer as individual and her relationships and communal affiliations.

Cynthia (Cindy) Aalders is Associate Professor of the History of Christianity and Director of the John Richard Allison Library at Regent College. A graduate of the University of Oxford’s doctoral program in history, she is the author of To Express the Ineffable: The Hymns and Spirituality of Anne Steele and numerous book chapters and articles. She has taught and spoken widely to international audiences on the history of women’s theological and literary contributions to diverse cultures. Her current research explores the religious lives of eighteenth-century children.

  • John Neufeld: In All Things God’s Providence (Tellwell Talent)
  • John Neufeld: Making the Most of Your Salvation (Tellwell Talent)

In All Things God’s Providence: The issue of control is a central question of life. At work, in family, community clubs and schools, with the economy or international politics, the question is, “Is anyone in charge here?” Dr. John Neufeld demonstrates the Bible teaching of God’s providence. We are assured that God’s Hand is upon everything and everyone, without exception.

Dr. John explores God’s sustaining grip through the natural world and human endeavour, in pivotal matters or the seemingly trivial, the things we welcome and those we shun. He teaches the impact of God’s sovereign rule upon our hearts, minds, work, worship, homes and nation. We can live in the confidence that God is unfolding His purpose for time and eternity.

Making the Most of Your Salvation: 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation – the old has passed away . . .” The moment Christ died for our sins we are pronounced ‘not guilty’ in God’s law court. When you understand the depth of your salvation and the powerful benefits available to you within it, not only will you be transformed, but your joy and confidence will be apparent to all!

Many Christians don’t embrace all that is provided for them in Christ, benefits such as our adoption, the Holy Spirit and what so many struggle with, the assurance of our salvation. Dr. John’s new book presents 10 of the incredible benefits that come by way of our salvation for all of God’s people.

Dr. John Neufeld, Bible teacher of Back to the Bible Canada (based in Abbotsford), is well known internationally for his excellence in expositional Bible teaching. He is a graduate of Columbia Bible College (Biblical Studies), the University of Saskatchewan (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (MDiv.) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (DMin). He has served churches in Saskatchewan, California and BC as a church planter and pastor. He was senior pastor at Willingdon Church in Burnaby for 15 years.

  • R. Paul Stevens: Working Blessedly Forever, Vol. 1: The Shape of Marketplace Theology (Cascade Books)

Work, whether from home, in cyberspace, or in a factory or office, occupies a major chunk of our time, energy and soul. Working Blessedly Forever seeks to make sense of our work in the world through adapting the pithy statement of the Puritan William Perkins to define marketplace theology as the “science of working blessedly forever.” It is a science involving investigation, but not just with the head (thought), but also with heart (prayer) and hand (practice).

But it is a science of working. So the book investigates a theology of work undertaken in the light of God’s blessing and purpose. And our work is not just for this life but ‘forever,’ since some of it could last into the new heaven and new earth where, guess what, Scripture says we will work as fully human and resurrected beings.

Stevens gathers his lifetime of research and teaching into this book showing through biblical research and contemporary analysis the meaning of work and human enterprise. It could change your lifestyle, your work style and your soul.

Paul Stevens is professor emeritus of marketplace theology at Regent College, and chairman of the Institute for Marketplace Transformation. He teaches, writes and practices what he writes as a carpenter, a homemaker, a professor and a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. His most recent book among many is The Kingdom of God in Working Clothes: The Marketplace and the Reign of God (Wipf & Stock, 2022).

  • Matthew Steem & Wayne Northey, editors: The Scholar-Gypsy: Thrownness, Memoricide & the Great Tradition (St. Macrina Press)

Upon Dr. Ron Dart’s retirement in 2023 from a long teaching career at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, friends suggested doing a Festschrift in his honour – not uncommon for a retiring academic.

Ron wanted something different though: a ‘Liber Amicorum‘ – A Book of Friends. So, as if to a banquet, we asked him to send out the invitations. But in this case, it was a potluck, with the guests providing all the main courses. And what a feast! Thus was this two-volume work born: a veritable smorgasbord of delectables for heart, mind and soul.

In it readers will find, interwoven with the overarching grand theme of friendship – a lost art in our pathologically individualistic Western world – reflections on art, poetry, politics, Christianity, justice, peace, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, The Beats, Simone Weil, George Grant, George Herbert, German Pietism, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Evelyn Underhill, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Islam, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Swift, liberalism/conservativism, High/Red Tories of North America, The Great Tradition, mountaineering, Ancient Greek Wisdom, Israel-Palestine tragedy, environmentalism, pedagogy, mentoring, the apophatic and cataphatic ways of knowing God, contemplation, theology, philosophy, modernity/post-modernity, etc. – all themes in Dr. Dart’s voluminous writings (over 40 books), academic courses and more!

Wayne Northey retired as Director of Man-to-Man / Woman-to-Woman Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in BC in 2014. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of, and writer about, Restorative Justice since 1974. Matthew Steem edits Radix Magazine and has written for a wide range of publications.

  • Phil Wagler: Live Your AssignmentBeing Christ’s Ambassador in 7 Spheres of Life (Castle Quay Books)

A Christian is sent out as an ambassador of Christ. But where? And for what purpose? Live Your Assignment unpacks God’s highest purpose for the Christian life, which is much more radical and transformative than living a comfortable, spiritual life.

This book echoes some of the work of Os Guinness’s The Call, and challenges us, as disciples of Jesus, to further awaken ourselves to the tasks as representatives of God himself, and ministers of reconciliation.

Phil presents God-given assignments in seven key spheres of life; the self, creation, household, fellowship, city, nation and world. It is through these assignments, which God gives to all those who love him, that God is filling the universe with his glory.

Phil Wagler is Global Director of World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace & Reconciliation Network and Global Liaison of Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He is graduate of Emmanuel Bible College, Tyndale Seminary and the Arrow Leadership Program and has served in pastoral, mission agency and educational leadership. Phil was for several years Senior Associate Pastor of Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey; he and his family now live in Kelowna. He also wrote Kingdom Culture:  Growing the Missional Church.

  • Tina Friesen: From a Distance (independently published)

Greta Calder is struggling to become a successful artist. Her grandmother passed away and Greta will inherit a sum of money when she turns 25, in three years. But meanwhile she must make ends meet.

She encountered a handsome man interested in her art at the Portland, Maine summer Art in the Park show but she didn’t get his name. Could her new boss’s son be the same man? It’s been over a year and he was wearing a hat and sunglasses so it’s difficult to tell. But any man she meets will have to include her daughter in his plans.

Paul Winthrop is recovering from a break-up and a broken femur suffered in a car accident. He decides to take some time off work and head back to school to get his graduate degree and avoid being around for his ex-fiance’s December wedding.

Meanwhile he keeps looking for art by Margaret C., an artist he met a year ago at Art in the Park. If only she hadn’t been wearing those annoyingly large sunglasses and a hat, he might recognize her again.

Tina Friesen grew up in Manitoba, but she and her husband started a church in Duncan, taught at a Bible school in the Philippines and served as pastors back in Manitoba. They completed degrees at Pacific Life Bible College and she carried on at ACTS Seminaries. Tina has written another book and is working on a memoir.

  • April Yamasaki: This Ordinary, Extraordinary Life: Cycle B Sermons Based on the Gospel Lessons for Pentecost Through Proper 16 (CSS Publishing)

Experience an extraordinary faith journey in This Ordinary Extraordinary Life by April Yamasaki. These captivating sermons rooted in Gospel lessons for the first half of Season after Pentecost will help you embrace the transformative power of Jesus amidst life’s challenges.

In this invaluable resource, Yamasaki challenges conventional thinking and invites you to embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers. Through insightful sermons, she encourages you to find nourishment in Jesus, re-evaluate your motives and experience the profound work of Christ. Prepare to be captivated by the untamed love of Jesus, unlocking the extraordinary potential hidden within the ordinary.

Sermons titles include: Through Storm and Calm with Jesus; God of the Possible and Impossible; Eating and Drinking by Faith; Family, Work and Rest.

April Yamasaki has 25 years of experience in pastoral ministry, currently serving as resident author with Valley CrossWay Church, a liturgical worship community in Abbotsford. She is also editor for the devotional magazine Rejoice!, writes on spiritual growth and Christian living and speaks widely in churches and other ministry settings. This is her fourth collection of sermons for CSS Publishing. Her other books include Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal and Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength. She has two websites, AprilYamasaki.com and WhenYouWorkfortheChurch.com.

  • John W. Martens and Paul V. Niskanen, editors: The Transcendent Mystery of God’s Word: A Critical Synthesis of Antioch and Alexandria (Saint Paul Seminary Press)

This book is not about patristic reception of the Bible in Antioch and Alexandria, but the need to bring together in critical synthesis historical biblical methods that seek to understand the literal sense in all of its fullness and also incorporate methods of interpretation that take seriously the biblical texts as revelatory of God’s word for our salvation.

‘Antioch’ and ‘Alexandria’ are representative in this book of interpretive stances that pay attention to historical context, change and development and are open to transcendence in order to offer the salvific power of Scripture to readers in our own day.

John W. Martens, PhD, is professor of theology and director of the Centre for Christian Engagement at St. Mark’s College at the University of British Columbia. He is a general editor of the newly published Liturgy and Life Study Bible (Liturgical Press, 2023). Paul V. Niskanen, PhD, is professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

  • Ron Unruh: Like the Morning Sun: A Personal and Family Spiritual Portrait (independently published)

Descendants of Mennonite immigrants from South Russia to the Canadian Prairies will find Like the Morning Sun a charmingly informative read. The author, 81 year old Ron Unruh, initially sought to leave a record of his life and ancestors for his siblings, children and grandchildren.

A commonality exists between his family story and thousands of others rooted in the same socio-religious heritage. The Unruh, Loewen, Doerksen, Fast and Willems lineages in this book represent the broader Mennonite community.

They are heirs to theology emerging from the Protestant Reformation, particularly the convictions of Anabaptist believers known as Mennonites. Settling in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, these family histories embody lessons of devotion, tenacity and faithfulness, transcending Ron Unruh’s personal narrative.

Like the Morning Sun serves as a rich historical resource, exploring the enduring commitment of Mennonites to faithfulness despite challenges with state churches, other faith traditions and political leaders from 1500 – 1900 AD. The subtitle, ‘A Personal and Family Spiritual Portrait,’ reflects the notable pursuit of 10 generations of five families who exemplified the inspirational truth of Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Ron Unruh wrote: “My ambition to be a graphic artist was displaced 57 years ago by a plan to study theology and to engage in altruistic service. Art became my pastime as visual images conceded to word pictures. I acquired Master’s and Doctoral degrees along the way. A career consisting of 34 years as a pastor and six years as a denominational executive concluded in ‘08. My faith and principles remain firm as I paint and write.”

  • Harold Munn: Faith in Doubt: How My Dog Made Me an Atheist and Atheism Made Me a Priest: An Experiment in Faith (Friesen Press)

What happens when an atheist and a believer find themselves next door neighbours? What happens when religion finds itself in a culture of science and secularism? Could they hold hands? Could they fall in love?

Faith in Doubt claims that churches speak about faith and God only from within the world view of an ancient culture – as foreign to modern people as Latin. No wonder there is a precipitous decline in church attendance.

Harold Munn proposes that churches start a conversation with secularism by learning to speak of faith and God from within the assumptions of modern secular culture. Faith in Doubt explains how.

Rev. Dr. Harold Munn, BA, MDiv, DMin, DD, lives on the campus of UBC with his wife of 50 years. He has led congregations ranging from tiny churches in Canada’s far north to All Saints’ Cathedral in Edmonton. He has lived in, or in close proximity to, many cross-cultural contexts – teaching science in East Africa; with miners in northern BC; with oppressed women in Edmonton’s inner city; with First Nations villages in the Yukon and on Vancouver Island; in Victoria addressing homelessness, addictions and mental health issues; and in prisons outside Vancouver. He has been active in movements opposing nuclear war, supporting social justice and urging action to address climate collapse.

  • Uli Chi: The Wise Leader (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Though we are overwhelmed with information, we often struggle to find true wisdom. Yet those leading or mentoring others, whether in business or in spiritual life, must rely on wisdom’s guidance to lead with purpose and meaning. With decades of leadership experience in business, nonprofits and Christian higher education, Uli Chi helps readers build this foundational virtue.

Looking to Scripture as well as art and literature, Chi illuminates the nature of wisdom as fundamentally relational and other-centred. In the context of leadership, biblical wisdom shows us the importance of wielding power with humility. Chi also provides a framework for the formation of character and vision in the lifelong journey of gaining wisdom.

Full of substantive and practical reflections, The Wise Leader both forms young leaders and teaches experienced leaders how to pass on the torch meaningfully.

Uli Chi serves as board chair of the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health System. He is vice chair and senior fellow at the De Pree Center and a fellow at the Center for Faithful Business at Seattle Pacific University. He serves on the faculty for Regent College’s MA in leadership, theology and society.

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