Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Counsels on Discernment 3" (Meister Eckhart)

Continuing our series of meditation about counsels for discernment by the German mystic, Meister Eckhart, we look at why it is so difficult for some of us to discern God's will. It comes down to the very basic call of God to us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and to follow Jesus.

Eckhart (1260-1328)

TITLE: Meister Eckhart: Selections from His Essential Writings (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics)
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harper-One, 2005, (166 pages).

"Of people who have not denied themselves and are full of their own will"

People say: ‘O Lord, how much I wish that I stood as well with God, that I had as much devotion and peace in God as others have, I wish that it were so with me!’ Or, ‘I should like to be poor,’ or else, ‘Things will never go right for me till I am in this place or that, or till I act one way or another. I must go and live in a strange land, or in a hermitage, or in a cloister’.

In fact, this is all about yourself, and nothing else at all. This is just self-will, only you do not know it or it does not seem so to you. There is never any trouble that starts in you that does not come from your own will, whether people see this or not. We can think what we like, that a man ought to shun one thing or pursue another – places and people and ways of life and environments and undertakings – that is not the trouble, such ways of life or such matters are not what impedes you. It is what you are in these things that causes the trouble, because in them you do not govern yourself as you should.

Therefore, make a start with yourself, and abandon yourself. Truly, if you do not begin by getting away from yourself, wherever you run to, you will find obstacles and trouble wherever it may be. People who seek peace in external things – be it in places or ways of life or people or activities or solitude or poverty or degradation – however great such a thing may be or whatever it may be, still it is all nothing and gives no peace. People who seek in that way are doing it all wrong; the further they wander, the less they will find what they are seeking. They go around like someone who has lost his way; the further he goes, the more lost he is. Then what ought he to do? He ought to begin by forsaking himself, because then he has forsaken everything. Truly, if a man renounced a kingdom or the whole world but held on to himself, he would not have renounced anything. What is more, if a man renounces himself, whatever else he retains, riches or honours or whatever it may be, he has forsaken everything.

About what Saint Peter said: ‘See, Lord, we have forsaken everything’ (Matt. 19:27) – and all he had forsaken was just a net and his little boat – there is a saint who says: ‘If anyone willingly gives up something little, that is not all which he has given up, but he has forsaken everything which worldly men can gain and what they can even long for; for whoever has renounced his own will and himself has renounced everything, as truly as if he had possessed it as his own, to dispose of as he would’. For what you choose not to long for, you have wholly forsaken and renounced for the love of God. That is why our Lord said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Matt. 5:3), that is, in the will. And no one ought to be in doubt about this; if there were a better form of living, our Lord would have said so, as he also said: ‘Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself’ (Matt. 16:24), as a beginning; everything depends on that. Take a look at yourself, and whenever you find yourself, deny yourself. That is the best of all." (4-6)

Monday, May 21, 2018

BookPastor >> "God Among Sages" (Kenneth Richard Samples)

This review was published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 5th, 2017.


TITLE: God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
AUTHOR: Kenneth Richard Samples
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (288 pages).

Who is Jesus? Is he simply another religious leader like those of the other major religions of the world? Who does he claim he is? Is he God? This book sets out the facts and compares the various philosophies, religions, worldviews in this world of pluralistic thinking and beliefs. Author Kenneth Richard Samples asserts that Jesus is matchless throughout history in terms of his self-understanding; his identity; his way of life and consistency in teaching. Part One essentially deals with what Jesus talks about himself. Part Two deals with the lives and accomplishments of four major religions and then each is compared with Jesus. The four major religious leaders are Krishna (Hinduism); Buddha (Buddhism); Confucius (Confucionism); and Muhammad (Islam). Part Three goes beyond these four religions to cover a bigger sphere of the world's perspective on Jesus. This includes the different types of pluralistic beliefs; tolerance/intolerance; inclusivism/exclusivism; and many more. Simply put, this book is about understanding who the Person if Jesus is both to Christians, other religions, and the world at large. Though not all perspectives are covered, the selected ones represent a large proportion of the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Counsels on Discernment 2" (Meister Eckhart)

Continuing our series of meditation about counsels for discernment by the German mystic, Meister Eckhart, we look at the place of prayer. In the middle ages, one of the focuses of prayer is union with God. This is one of Eckhart's distinctive teachings. In prayer, we seek not the gifts but the Giver. As we read the writings, one of the thoughts that come to mind is about the beatitude, what it means to be poor in spirit.


Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

TITLE: Meister Eckhart: Selections from His Essential Writings (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics)
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harper-One, 2005, (166 pages).

Of the most powerful prayer, and of the highest work of all

The most powerful prayer, and almost the strongest of all to obtain everything, and the most honourable of all works, is that which proceeds from an empty spirit. The emptier the spirit, the more is the prayer and the work mighty, worthy, profitable, praiseworthy and perfect. The empty spirit can do everything.

What is an empty spirit?

An empty spirit is one that is confused by nothing, attached to nothing, has not attached its best to any fixed way of acting, and has no concern whatever in anything for its own gain, for it is all sunk deep down into God’s dearest will, and has forsaken its own. A man can never perform any work, however, humble, without it gaining strength and power from this.

We ought to pray so powerfully that we should like to put our every member and strength, our two eyes and ears, mouth, heart and all our senses to work; and we should not give up until we find that we wish to be one with Him who is present to us and whom we entreat, namely God. (4)

Monday, May 14, 2018

BookPastor >> "Becoming Curious" (Casey Tygrett)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 23rd, 2017. 


TITLE: Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions
AUTHOR: Casey Tygrett
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017, (192 pages).

An elderly once said: "The older I get, I realize I don't have more answers. I have more questions." As our world increasingly gets more complex, questions have become the norm. Whether it is new technology or novel ways to doing the same thing, we need to keep learning, especially when more individuals are empowered to be creative and innovative. There are many different purposes of questions. The main use in this book is about cultivating and practicing the gift of curiosity. It is learning to comb the mass array of choices and information glut to pinpoint the necessary from the rest. Questions can sharpen our focus. It helps us ponder whether the status quo is worth preserving or not. These are "curious questions." Following that, author Casey Tygrett leads us through various ways in which we can put into practice such "curious questions"; what they are; how they look like; when to use them; and how it affects relationships; how it introduces tension especially when dealing with areas in our lives we are afraid to ask. Some tips for asking good questions include:
  • Being specific
  • Being clear about different uses of imperative and invitation statements
  • Being repetitive using different words and phrases
  • Being bold about uncertainly
  • Being humble
  • Practicing "quaestio divina" or divine questioning
  • ...

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Counsels on Discernment 1" (Meister Eckhart)

One of the most sought-after topics is discernment. What do I do with my life? What is my calling? How do I seek God for my decision making? Starting this week, we will be working through a series of counsels about discernment from the German mystic and spiritual writer, Meister Eckhart.


Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

TITLE: Meister Eckhart: Selections from His Essential Writings (HarperCollins Spiritual Classics)
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harper-One, 2005, (166 pages).

About True Obedience

True and perfect obedience is a virtue above all virtues, and no work is so great that it can be achieved or done without this virtue; and however little and however humble a work may be, it is done to greater profit in true obedience, be it saying Mass, hearing it, praying, contemplating or whatever else you can think of.  But take as humble a work as you like, whatever it may be, true obedience makes it finer and better for you.  Obedience always produces the best of everything in everything.  Truly, obedience never perturbs, never fails, whatever one is doing, in anything that comes from true obedience, for obedience neglects nothing that is good.  Obedience need never be troubled, for it lacks no good thing.


In true obedience there should be no trace of ‘I want it so, or so,’ or ‘I want this or that,’ but there should be a pure going out from what is yours.  And therefore in the best of all prayers that a man can pray, there should not be ‘Give me this virtue, or that way of life,’ but ‘Lord, give me nothing but what you will, and do, Lord, whatever and however you will in every way.’  That is superior to the first way of praying as the heavens are above the earth.  And when one has concluded that prayer, one has prayed well, for then one has in true obedience wholly entered into God.  And just as true obedience should have no ‘I want it so,’ so also one should not hear from obedience ‘I do not want,’ because ‘I do not want’ is a sure poison of all obedience.  That is what Saint Augustine says: ‘God’s faithful servant has no desire for people to say or to give to him, or what he likes to hear or see, for his first and his greatest aim is to hear what is most pleasing to God.’ (3)

Monday, May 07, 2018

BookPastor >> "Asking the Right Questions" (Matthew S. Harmon)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 6th, 2017.


TITLE: Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible
AUTHOR: Matthew S. Harmon
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, (144 pages).

While most believers do not dispute the importance of the Bible, many however are uncomfortable about studying the Bible for themselves. Some may think they lack certain theological training. Others may claim to be mere believers who lack guidance. Still there are many who may have been Christians for a long time but for various reasons, are unable to have a personal Bible breakthrough. I have met individuals who had faithfully attended Church for years but still find themselves inadequate in leading a Bible study. Is it for lack of knowledge, lack of courage, or both? Still, there are people who tried to lead but the whole gesture seemed like a case of the blind leading the blind. The Bible is indeed a big book and can be quite intimidating, especially for younger believers. This is where this book comes in. Author and Professor Matt Harmon aims to do the following:
  • How do we figure out the big picture and the important ideas in the passages we read?
  • What is the context of the Bible?
  • What do we look for?
  • What is the Bible all about?
  • How do we ask questions of the Bible?
  • Specifically, what are the four simple questions to help us apply God's Word into our lives?

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Midweek Encouragement: "Hymns vs Choruses" (Barry Liesch)

Many of us have heard this time and again. Should we sing more hymns or contemporary music? Take time to read the excerpt from Barry Liesch's "The New Worship," which gives an interesting take on worship below.

Dianne Bowker, a scholar who is interested in how worship, theology, and the arts interface, cautions against falling into the trap of musical chauvinism, and her concern intersects with the spirit of these verses. "Musical chauvinism," she maintains, "consists of thinking of one's preferred style more highly than what we ought to. (See Rom 12:3).

Since I've spent so much time talking about hymns in this chapter, you may think I'm saying that hymns are better. Not really. I'm arguing for diversity, musically and textually. Hymns do some things better, and choruses do some things better, as the chart below suggests.

(Barry Liesch, The New Worship, Baker Books, 2001, p29)

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