Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: "Rumors of God"

TITLE: Rumors of God - Experience the kind of Faith you've only heard about
AUTHOR: Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011.

Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You´ve Only Heard AboutThis wonderful book by two very good friends, tells of God's strange but delightful work in people, of an observant spiritual eye noticing the working of the Holy Spirit. It is a story of good news, repeated through the mantra of ‘rumors’ that every Christian ought to hear. Essentially, God is nearer than we think. God is closer than we feel. God is present where we are. The central message of this message is that God is more real than we experience, more present than we feel, and more active than we think. The authors quote CS Lewis’ words in their book as their main theme:

The world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.” (Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson, Rumors of God, Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011, 5)

Coming to life it is! Using seven chapters to convince the mind and to convict the individual heart, one chapter to inspire the spirit of community, and another two toward global justice, environmental concerns and eschatological hope, the book calls us to live out our faith openly and passionately. Before one can do that, one needs to re-focus and re-direct their attention. One reason why many Christians fail to experience God is because they are barking up the wrong tree.

“Society seems to be drifting further and further into secular humanism and we, as Christians, feel powerless to do anything about it. Ironically, the culture grows increasingly more spiritual while the church grows increasingly more practical. No wonder most Americans say they’re not interested in Christianity.” (6)

The book is a clarion call for readers to live out the faith they profess, and to let God turn one from statue into a bold living out of one’s status of being children of light.

My Comments

This book is immensely practical and very inspirational. It is a reminder to us that the gospel is not hearsay. It tells us that it is real and can be even more real, if we let God lead us.

I like the way the authors distinguish mercy and grace through the example of a motorist pulled over by the police. Mercy is about being forgiven the driving offense. Grace goes far beyond forgiveness. Grace is forgiveness and continual giving all rolled into one. (72) Calling forgiveness the central theme in the biblical narrative (81), readers are urged to learn to live humbly through the giving up of their perceived rights, as well as debunking the six myths of forgiveness (90).

The structure of the book reveals the authors' intention. Before one can begin living passionately for God outside, much work needs to start from the inside. I suspect this is the reason why the authors use seven initial chapters to stir up reader’s soul to start noticing God by noticing the rumblings within ourselves. Recognize that we are motionless statues without God. Let Christ give us life, and the Holy Spirit give us vitality to live out that love of God in Christ. The pattern is evident throughout the book.

A lot of space is allocated to describing the Western culture, and readers in the Western world will appreciate the many familiar symbols, consumerism, materialism, and spiritualism.Readers will appreciate the many illustrations and easy to follow cultural references, and how Christians can live biblically amid the worldliness around them. One of my favourite chapters is about living out the gospel in order (chapter 5). In a world where many try to do too many things in too little time, it is easy to misplace our spiritual discernment, and to misinterpret gospel priorities.

There are rumblings of spiritual work in the background. There are ruminations of revival. There are rumors of God. Those of us who are discouraged in our spiritual walk, or who desire spiritual revival, begin with this book, and see how the stories, illustrations, and the good news inspire you to turn rumors into reality.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book: "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs"

TITLE: A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs
EDITED: David W. Bercot
PUBLISHER: Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.
A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs

This is a gem of a find. In one volume, one can browse throw centuries of wisdom and insights from the Church fathers, giving views on theology, faith, beliefs, traditions on all kinds of topics from A-Z. These early Fathers are not displaying their theological prowess to boast their knowledge. Instead, the common emphasis is to explain doctrine and knowledge as clearly and as simply as possible to the layperson. It is a shame if such rich teachings are relegated only to biblical scholars and academic persons. This is why this book is such a welcome to Christian literature.

The early fathers assert that the Christian faith is a simple one. In contrast, modern believers tend to think that faith is complicated, and that only theologians know them. This book is compiled from the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers, a pre-Nicene set of writings by people such as Alexander of Alexandria (d. 328), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), Cyprian (d. 258), Hippolytus (c. 170-236), Ignatius (c. 35-107), Irenaeus (c. 130-200), Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), Tertullian (c. 160-230).

The reader will find the conveniently collected insights so refreshing, that one learns to appreciate the teachings of the early fathers more.

Great book for reference.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Rare Eugene Peterson Interview

Thanks to Douglas Todd, a Regent alum, a reporter from the Vancouver Sun (thanks Tim for this), this rare interview was given by Eugene Peterson that show us how much we need to be reminded about kingdom living, especially for many of us in a world of noise, distractions, materialism, and godlessness. The clip and the interview appears rather short, but is long in terms of spiritual insight. I first met Eugene Peterson in 2005. He walks slowly, unhurried and unharried. What is most memorable is the way he looks at me, and patiently pays attention to what I am saying (or not saying). As his host, I cannot help but feel that he has hosted me instead, by showing what it means to pay attention to people. Great man.

Check out the clip below, and hear how Peterson talks about his personal life, his giving away of the riches that come with his bestselling books, and his take on the megachurches, the prosperity gospel, and other modern jazzy churches. In contrast, he expresses hope that the supposedly shrinking traditional churches are 'doing the right thing.'


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Discipline of Representing Jesus

Currently, I am going through Lee Strobel's and Mark Mittelberg's book called "The Unexpected Adventure." (you can read my review here). There are many brilliant ideas about how to come out of our personal comfort zones, to share our lives to represent Christ wholesomely. Today's reflection comes out of Day 20 Adventure entitled: "Representing Jesus."

I am especially moved by one letter in the book written by Maggie.

Do you know, do you understand 
that you represent Jesus to me?

Do you know, do you understand 
that when you treat me with gentleness,
it raises the question in my mind
that maybe He is gentle, too.
Maybe He isn't someone
who laughs when I am hurt.

Do you know, do you understand 
that when you listen to my questions
and you don't laugh,
I think, "What if Jesus is interested in me, too?"

Do you know, do you understand 
that when I hear you talk about arguments
and conflict and scars from your past,
I think, "Maybe I am just a regular person
instead of a bad, no good little girl
who deserves abuse."

If you care,
I think maybe He cares - 
and then there's this flame of hope
that burns inside of me
and for a while I am afraid to breathe
because it might go out.

Do you know, do you understand 
that your words are His words?
Your face is His face
to someone like me?

Please, be who you say you are,
Please God, don't let me be another trick.
Please let this be real.

Do you know, do you understand 
that you represent Jesus to me?

(quoted in Strobel et al, The Unexpected Adventure, Zondervan, p135-6)

When she wrote the letter and gave it to the pastor, it was just a few days after she had given her life to Christ. When asked why did she believed in Jesus, Margie replied:

"Well, I just met a whole bunch of people who were like Jesus to me." (p137)

Wow! No theological debates. No big time witness. No mass displays of Church power. Just a whole bunch of people. It is simply the power of caring and witness as authentic believers in Christ. When Jesus says:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

Simple. If we can practice this, imagine how the good news can spread? Let's continue to shine for Christ, by representing Jesus to one another, and to people around us. It is possible, with God's help. Let me further encourage you my readers, that we are able to love, because Jesus first loved us.

Thought: "The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." (Victor Hugo)


Monday, August 01, 2011

Called to Lead (Great reminder for men!)

This song is an appropriate reminder that men, as head of the households, need to take responsibility to lead. Performed by the band SANCTUS REAL, this is my current favourite. Called "Lead Me" For Christian believers, it is a further reminder that we lead only as we let God lead our lives first.

Songwriters: Matthew Hammitt;Jason Ingram;Christopher James Rohman

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames, I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling, but on the inside

Oh, I can hear her saying

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're independent, but on the inside

Oh, I can hear them saying

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh Father, show me the way
To lead them

Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me 'cause I can't do this alone

See the story behind the song here.


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