Allan Handysides, Peter Landless, Kathleen Kuntaraf, and Fred Hardinge. Softcover, 240 pages, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Health Ministries Department, 2012, US$14.99. Reviewed by David R. Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health and African and African-American Studies, Harvard University.
This book is worth purchasing simply for the breathtaking pictures. Each page provides stunning photographs that reflect the diversity of our planet in terms of both people and places. This coffee-table book, however, provides much, much more. Written by four health professionals who serve in the General Conference Health Ministries Department, CELEBRATIONS is packed with timely and practical scientifically valid strategies to improve health.
CELEBRATIONS is an acronym for key principles that provide a broad vision of health. Readers familiar with the eight laws of health will recognize several of them (exercise, liquid, rest, air, temperance, and nutrition). But scientific information is also presented on factors that we often don’t think of as key drivers of health, such as choices, the environment, belief, integrity, optimism, and social support. The chapter on the role of the environment, for example, argues that environmental awareness is relevant to the maintenance of good health. Issues discussed include overpopulation, deforestation, sustainable agriculture/food distribution, energy conservation, air and water pollution, and domestic and agricultural waste. Surprisingly, this chapter does not include a discussion of the multiple ways in which plant-based diets offer benefits to the environment.
The chapter on choices is excellent in providing the long-lasting consequences of our decisions. It recognizes that choices can be affected by contextual factors and indicates that stress and emotion can affect individual decision-making. Research indicates that most individuals will do things that they would not normally do if placed in a compelling situation. Accordingly, it’s important for Christians to learn to pay attention to situational cues and contexts of vulnerability and to avoid them, to the extent possible. In addition, many people live in conditions that impose severe limits on good choices; therefore, promoting health also requires us to pay greater attention to policies that create opportunities to facilitate healthful choices and initiatives that remove barriers to healthful living. Much can be done to create a culture supportive of good health in our homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Every effort should be made to make the healthful choice, the easy choice.
CELEBRATIONS is filled with detailed practical advice. For example, the chapter on exercise provides tips on selecting proper training shoes. Also important to note is that the many health recommendations in CELEBRATIONS are credible. The authors routinely present official evidence-based guidelines from reputable professional organizations. Moreover, to maximize the practical value of the book, each chapter ends with a life-application section, which provides questions for individual reflection and practical application, as well as for group discussion. A spiritual focus is a golden thread that runs through each chapter.
CELEBRATIONS is a book that people will have a hard time putting down, and is an invaluable resource that can move each reader along the path to more healthful living.
Two major reference tools have recently been published that every Adventist should have at hand to answer Bible questions. What the Bible Says About . . . was written by veteran evangelist Mark Finley. It contains 32 studies that cover all the doctrines of Adventist faith. It uses the classic question-and-answer approach with Bible texts to address each question.
The second book, Always Prepared: Answers to Questions About Our Faith, provides responses to often-debated questions in the contemporary context: How reliable is the Bible? How can miracles be possible? Are there moral absolutes? A total of 20 such topics are carefully examined, each by a different Bible scholar. Humberto Rasi and Nancy Vyhmeister, both of whom have distinguished careers in Adventist higher education, edited the collection.
Pacific Press published both volumes, which are available through your local Adventist Book Center or at www.adventistbookcenter.com.
Former Adventist military chaplain Dick Stenbakken has produced two resources that could help your church reach out to men, which is a particular need in most congregations.
The Centurion develops the story of the Roman officer who was in charge of the crucifixion and a witness to the resurrection of Christ. It asks men to imagine what difference this experience might have made in the centurion’s life. Each chapter has discussion questions.
The Armor of God is an eight-part DVD series exploring what Paul means when he urges in Ephesians 6 to “put on the full armor of God.” Discussion panelists include well-known speakers Shawn Boonstra, Roscoe Howard, Dick Duerksen, and Rich Carlson. There are also downloadable discussion sheets.
Published by Pacific Press, you can purchase these materials through your Adventist Book Center or directly from the author at www.dick stenbakken.com.
A growing number of Adventists are training and organizing to respond with practical help, in Christ’s name, to major disasters. First Response: Change Your World Through Acts of Love, by David Canther, is the story of ACTS World Relief, a disaster response team that goes to such places as Haiti after the earthquake and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
This book includes much practical information on helping devastated communities as well as some of the most helpful material I have ever seen on dealing with the spiritual questions and needs that arise in the wake of disaster. You can get a copy from major online booksellers.
How can we grow? That is one of the most pressing questions for almost all pastors and congregations in North America. Three new books address this question with specific, doable answers:
The Big Four: Secrets of a Thriving Church Family, by Joseph Kidder (Review and Herald Publishing Association), describes empowering leadership, passionate spirituality, active members, and the worship experience as key factors. It includes discussion tools to help you assess your local situation.
How to Grow an Adventist Church,by Russell Burrill (HART Resource Center), is the culmination of the author’s long career as an effective public evangelist and trainer of pastor-evangelists. He discusses natural church development, classic church growth theory as it applies to Adventist churches, friendship evangelism, and includes a chapter specifically on how to relate to newcomers who show up at your church.
As Jesus Did It, by José Cortés (Xulon Press), describes the approach to small-group evangelism being used successfully in the New Jersey Conference, where the author is president. It provides a useful description of the methods used in immigrant churches, which are growing much faster than the average church in North America.
The first two books are available through your Adventist Book Center; the third, by Cortés, can be purchased at www.xulonpress.com.