Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Wonder" (DH Lawrence)

DH Lawrence (1885-1930)
"When the wonder has gone out of a man he is dead. When all comes to all, the most precious element in life is wonder. Love is a great emotion and power is power. But both love and power are based on wonder. Plant consciousness, insect consciousness, fish consciousness, animal consciousness, all are related by one permanent element, which we may call the religious element of all life, even in a flea: the sense of wonder. That is our sixth sense. And it is the natural religious sense." (D. H. Lawrence, The Phoenix)

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." (Albert Einstein)

Monday, August 31, 2015

BookPastor >> "How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor" (Mark Yarbrough)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on May 5th, 2015.


TITLE: How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor: A Practical and Entertaining Exploration of the World's Most Famous Book
AUTHOR:  Mark Yarbrough
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Faithwords, 2015, (368 pages).

Have you ever been in Bible studies where people seem to lack a sense of proper interpretation, choosing instead to depend on individual feelings and experiences? What about cases where members seem to talk over the Scripture with personal opinions instead of proper Bible study? At the same time, there are those sessions that appear too difficult for the laymen to grasp, ending up with confusion and frustrations at knowing the text but failing to see the God of the text? Associate Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr Mark Yarbrough, offers this volume to assist Bible studies for folks like you and me. The title of the book appears rather intimidating as readers may harbour negative views of theologians and seminarians as people who talk above the normal head. While people do not want to skip important theological themes, they too do not want to let Bible studies become exercises of subjective opinions and individual fancies.

Yarbrough writes with tremendous empathy of the struggles of the layperson. He uses his coursework to help readers anchor themselves in a "Know It, Work It, and Live It" model. In KNOWING IT, readers will learn the general structure, story, and the substance of the text.

The basic plan for the book is based on the sequence of numbers:
  • Old Testament (5-12-5-5-12)
  • New Testament (4-1-21-1)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "On Prayer"

We need prayer warriors who would gaze at the Face of God instead of being engrossed with the answers to the petitions they make. Far too often, we associate prayer by asking for things whenever we have a need. That type of prayer shows us how little we know God. If we continue to reduce God to only a taskmaster, what kind of a god then are we worshiping?

Learning how to pray well is a test of our love. Do we love God for who He is, or do we love God for what He can give? The difference may be very subtle, but if we truly understand relationships, we will know exactly why that matters. Prayer as relationship has to do more with gazing at the Beauty of God instead of staring at the Bounty of God. Praying well reflects that relationship.


Monday, August 24, 2015

BookPastor >> "We Need to Talk" (Linda Mintle)

Conflicts are always around the corner. This is because people are different and whenever there are differences, there will bound to be conflicts. That is why the best way is not to avoid conflicts but to learn to deal with it constructively. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 19th, 2015.


TITLE: We Need to Talk: How to Successfully Navigate Conflict
AUTHOR: Linda Mintle
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (256 pages).

Conflict is inevitable. Sooner or later, even the most cordial of relationships will encounter rough patches. The fact is that conflicts in themselves are not necessarily bad, especially when we can learn to respond constructively when they occur. In Dr Linda Mintle's words, it is simply summarized in four words: "We Need to Talk," which is exactly the title and the central theme of the book. Called a "relationship doctor," Mintle is a popular speaker, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist, and also chair of the Division of Behavioral Health at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She deals with the topic of conflict sensitively but with firmness. Her three basic assumptions are:

  1. Conflicts are part and parcel of any close relationships;
  2. Under the right conditions, conflicts can help grow relationships;
  3. In unhappy relationships, conflicts can escalate and one needs to learn how to deal with them.

Conflicts always involve a power struggle and the key is to manage power imbalances as best as possible to balance between emotional needs, personal integrity, people's well-being, and the stress of life. In order to resolve any conflict, trust must be cultivated. Keeping secrets, being unreliable, history of betrayal, are all examples of how trust can be eroded. In order to build trust, show grace with providing second chances on the one hand and to draw boundaries on the other. Learn of Jesus' humility. Cherish differences without having to pander to every wish and fancy. Beware of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse: 1) Criticism; 2) Defensiveness; 3) Contempt; 4) Stonewalling. Anticipate a clash of styles and to learn strategies on how to deal with each. Be realistic with what is solvable and what is not. Like a family, one can disagree but still remember that we are all family. Families must learn to fight fair and to deal justly. There are also gender differences to be aware of. Distinguish the needs behind the desire for sex. One popular belief is that men and women have opposite views of sex and affection. Men puts sex before affection while women sees otherwise. Rather than focusing on these two, Mintle suggests both genders find ways to get validation and love in order to meet both of these needs. Mintle also gives 20 guidelines with regards to social media usage and sex.

Conflict styles also vary. Mintle pays special attention to difficult people that provokes high conflict levels. "High conflict" personalities tend to be too emotional about issues and often see things in black and white. Due to their rigid mental styles, they can become manipulative when they do not get things their way. They tend to yell and lose their tempers. They need help in controlling their anger and enabling lots of forgiveness. Use the serenity prayer as a guide.

With lots of practical tips, this book essentially helps us to clear the decks without dismissing the most difficult players. We learn to recognize the different kinds of styles and the various approaches to deal with conflicts. Sometimes it is good to minimize conflicts. Other times, it is best to deal with the situation at hand. With a positive outlook, confidence and humility need to be used simultaneously. The chapter on "Dealing with Difficult People" alone is worth the price of the book. Mintle has given us a powerful resource on how to live together with well-being of all in mind. Perhaps, for those of us who want to do something about everyday conflicts but don't know how, we need to pick up this book, learn from it, and to be equipped on how best to calm down and to promote a constructive dialogue. For Jesus' sake.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Going to School on a Wire"

Many of us living in developed countries have it all easy. Some of us walk to school. Others have parents to drive them. Many take the bus or public transit. For people living in rural areas, they do not have all these modern luxuries. Living amid splendid mountains and gushing rivers, going to school may take hours. The journey there can even be a matter of life and death. In a rural community in Nepal, about 200 children goes to school daily by crossing a "wire bridge." In order to cross the river, they would need to bring along a special sling rope strong enough to carry their weight and a roller to go across from one end to the other. Many have lost their fingers.

This video is quite troubling. On the one hand, it can remind us to be thankful for the convenience we have. On the other hand, we may start to ask: What can we do? It is a moment to pray, to think, and to ask God what we can do.

Kids on a Wire from World Report Viewfinder on Vimeo.
In rural Nepal, these children literally have to do a high-wire act, just to get to school.

Writer/Director: Keshab Pandey

Monday, August 17, 2015

BookPastor >> "Blessed" (Kate Bowler)

TITLE: Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
AUTHOR: Kate Bowler
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013, (352 pages).

When you see names like Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, EW Kenyon, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and others, what comes to mind? That's right. It's the Prosperity Gospel! In a 352 paged book filled with research data, interviews, observations, citations from publications, and personal encounters, Bowler has put together a landmark resource for anyone interested about the history, the sociological, the cultural shifts, and the religious practices of the megastars of Christianity: The prosperity gospel megachurches. In this fascinating study of the American Prosperity Gospel movement, Bowler takes a closer look at what the prosperity gospel is all about. She studies the origins of the Word of Faith movement and how it manages to attract millions of people to believe that money, health, and good fortunes can be divinely obtained. She describes the prosperity gospel advocates and founders. She lists the different facets of prosperity gospel. In this first major study of its kind, Kate Bowler, an Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School also seeks to find out the history of the movement; the major figures and features of the 20th Century prosperity movement in America; how the prosperity movement transforms a traditionally self-denial community into a triumphant culture; and the unifying themes among the proponents of prosperity gospel. Prosperity can be classified as hard and soft; hard meaning immediate results while soft means something more long-term.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Discernment" (Teresa of Avila)

St Teresa of Avila is one of the most respected spiritual woman in Christendom. A woman of prayer and considered a saint in the Catholic Church, she is most well known for her book on prayer, entitled, "The Interior Castle" which is a treatise on the different rooms of prayer.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
(Picture Credit: The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors)


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