Thursday, January 31, 2013

WWYD - Homeless Scenario

One of the most important ways anyone can connect is based on their own personal experience. This phrase captures the essence of compassion: "If you have never been there, you don't know what it's like." ABCNews put together a small cast of actors, one a Good Samaritan, one a homeless man, one a bartender, and many acting as 'customers' in a high heeled bar breakfast joint, and to film some common reactions by customers and people, when a homeless man walks into the bar asking for a sandwich with $20 given by a good samaritan. What then would you do? This video is nearly 9 minutes long but is well worth a watch. The last scene is a moving scene. Don't miss it.

It is a well-made video of how the homeless are treated, and the condescending attitudes so prevalent in society, especially toward the homeless.


Jesus has said:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,f you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40, ESV)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Midweek Meditation >> "Battling Temptations Part 2"

Continuing the prayer of William Barclay with regards to fighting the wiles and temptations of the evil that can grow from within and without.

"O God, our Father, help us to resist the temptations which come to us from outside.
  • Help us to say No to every voice which invites us to leave your way.
  • Help us to resist every seduction which makes sin more attractive.
  • Help us to walk through the world, and yet to keep our garments unspotted from the world.
Help us to be wise enough never to play with fire; never to flirt with temptation; never recklessly to put ourselves into a situation in which it is easy to go wrong; never unthinkingly to develop habits which provide an opportunity for sin.

Grant unto us that grace which will give us the strength and the purity ever to overcome evil and to do the right; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

[William Barclay, A Barclay Prayer Book, Lousville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990, p35]


Monday, January 28, 2013

BookPastor >> "Adventuring Through the Bible"

For this week, I recommend Ray Stedman's book not only because it gives us a great survey of each book of the Bible, it makes one desires to read the Bible more. This review was first published at the Panorama of a Book Saint on November 29th, 2012 here.


TITLE: Adventuring Through the Bible: A Comprehensive Guide to the Entire Bible
AUTHOR: Ray C. Stedman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2012, new enhanced edition, (941 pages).

I have always been a fan of this book. Since its publication of the first edition, this book has been one of my prized references whenever I do any Bible survey classes or teaching curriculum.This new edition presents more publisher initiatives like:
  • new Bible reading plans;
  • additional timelines of major Bible events;
  • Topical lists for study;
  • Discussion guides
  • Personal application questions
  • Maps, images, and many more.
It is essentially an updated look of the original edition without changing much of the late Stedman's content. Part One brings together the series of sermons Stedman had given in the years 1963-1964. It shows readers the goal of the Bible. The purpose is knowing God, our life's purpose, and faith through the good news. From Genesis to Revelation, Stedman leads readers through a panorama of the Old Testament and New Testament, with stories and examples from contemporary life to highlight the relevance to our world. The conviction is that God has spoken in the past as well as in the New Testament present. God is always speaking. The question is, are we listening?

Part Two encourages readers to take the five steps to maturity using the first five books of the Old Testament, or commonly known as the Pentateuch. Genesis represents the beginning of faith, after the fatal act of disobedience by Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden. The essence of Genesis is that man can do nothing without God. Man need God more than the other way round. Exodus represents God's attempt to deliver Israel from slavery. The redemption theme is strong. Leviticus focuses on purity and wholeness, where the laws, the rituals, and the disciplines, are meant to help, not harm the people. Numbers points the reader to see the victory amid the disciplines and the setbacks faced. Deuteronomy wraps up the chronology of the entire redemption plan, with the law the strongest evidence yet of God's love.

Part Three covers the history of Israel and its neighbours through Joshua, Judges, Ruth, l and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, nehemiah, and Esther. One motivation to read and learn from the horrible events, the historical tragedies and sad events, is to make sure that readers do not repeat the mistakes made. It is also to give thanks to God for being the consistent rescuer despite the rebellion of the people.

Part Four introduces the wisdom books. Calling it a "music to live by," it goes through five poetical books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Relationships are not things that can be solved. Sometimes, they need to be expressed through lament, through music, through singing, through poetry. It is the "heart cry of humanity." Above all, the gist is that no matter what, humans can call out to God in purely ordinary human expressions.

Part Five is the part on the prophetical books. Called the "promises of God," it gives readers a fresh lens to see the major and minor prophets from the eyes of promise. The greatest promise of all, is of course the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus. What is remarkable is that despite the bleak events that Israel had suffered, the exiles, the persecutions, and the endless losing battles, there is a promise of hope in one Saviour.

Part Six begins the survey of the New Testament. It takes a look at the Apocrypha, the gospels and Acts, to show us the person of Jesus Christ. The conviction is that the focus person in both the Old and the New Testament is Jesus Christ. The reason why the Apocrypha has been excluded from the Protestant canon is because it does not fit into the overall theme of the Bible.

Part Seven details the letters of Paul, how the Church is encouraged to hang on to the faith amid the persecutions and the false teachers. The purpose of divine revelation is essentially the transformation of human lives. Stedman affirms Paul's epistles as letters that not only bring together the theological themes of the Bible, but it leads Christians to experience the grace of God in Jesus Christ personally, and with one another in the Christian community.

Part Eight is about "keeping the faith," through Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the letters of John and Jude. Here is when the going gets tough, faith keeps the faithful going. It is a time to encourage the people to be living stones for God, to put faith into action, to live authentically, to stand up for the faith, and to be counted for God.

Part Nine is specially reserved for Revelation. It too brings together the beginning as well as the end, showing readers again that God has revealed Jesus, and will continue to reveal as the end times approach. 

My Thoughts

As with the title of the book, this is about "adventuring" through the ancient Bible, about the Living Word made even more alive in our modern contexts.  Clearly written, coupled with lots of diagrams, illustrations, summary boxes, it encourages readers to want to read the Bible more. One of the strong points in this book is the frequent summaries of different Bible contexts, movemenets, timelines, cultural nuances, and stories. It gives readers additional tools to use when it comes to analyze, to study, and to apply the Word of God. It is useful as a teaching tool to guide new believers and eager students to understand the overall focus of the Bible. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which part of the book is written by Ray Stedman, which by Elaine his wife, or by unnamed individual(s) in the publishing house. For example, since Ray died in 1992, there is no way he had written about the story of 9/11 in the book. Books of this nature can also suffer from reductionistic tendencies. This is the inherent weakness in any attempt to summarize anything.

That said, if this book can drive one to study the Bible more for themselves, it would have worth the price of the book. Stedman says it well. The Bible is an adventure of faith. That is why, adventuring through the Bible is an apt title that will stick. I thank the Lord for this servant, who has given the Christian world a valuable asset to use, in the study of the Bible. With this book in hand, there is no way Bible study can be boring.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Discovery House Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Choose Wisely

As the Chinese New Year season approaches, it is good to start taking stock again what is most important. This little story is simple, but points to a need to learn to choose wisely in life. As I think of Matthew 6:33, it is even more applicable. When we choose Christ, Christ will give everything we need.

Click here or below.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Top Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities in America

This article on ChristianityToday caught my attention today. It is a Top Ten listing of the most "Bible-Minded" cities as well as the least "Bible-Minded" cities. According to Barna statistics, 96 of the largest cities in America are considered in the survey. It generally confirms what is nowadays common knowledge. New England states are secular and least Bible minded. Bible belt states remain strongly Bible-minded. Many states comprise a mixture. According to David Kinnaman, President of Barna, the study reveals the growing diversity of beliefs from city to city. The interpretation of data is also very subjective. For example, the different levels of interpreting "Bible-mindedness" also affects the final results. The way to use the statistics is to look at "tipping points." Say if 20% of the population is the tipping point. It will lead to a positive "Bible-mindedness" to the rest of the city. If less, it will lead to a negative "Bible-mindedness." Bible-mindedness can also be described in terms of ease and casual use of biblical terms in everyday usage. The more "Bible-minded," the more readily acceptable in social conversations. This does not mean that all Bible conversations are attempts at proselytizing. It is basically just the level of acceptance of Bible lingo for that city.

Credit: American Bible Society (larger view)

It is interesting to note the term being used, "Bible-minded" rather than to say 'evangelical,' 'Christian,' 'Protestant,' etc. It is less restrictive in terms of profession of faith, and more reflective of how well-known the Bible is in each city. One does not need to be a Christian in order to know parts of the Bible, or Bible stories. Atheists do know parts of the Bible as well. As long as there is a "Bible-minded" situation, it means at least three advantages:

  1. There is a shared story
  2. There is an opportunity to build on what people already know
  3. There is no pressure to force anyone to believe or not believe. After all, whether one knows the Bible or not, is not proselytizing. It is simply Bible knowledge.
Statistics can be fun to look at. It is also intriguing. Safe to say, we need to remember that all statistics are a snapshot in time, influenced by both the population size, as well as the process in collecting the data. Then there is the interpretation. For me, statistics like these are nice to know, but do not diminish the need to share the gospel more widely. It simply gives an indication of what kinds of strategies we can adopt. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Midweek Meditation >> "Battling Temptations Part 1"

This prayer by William Barclay is a good one with regards to fighting the wiles and temptations of the evil that can grow from within and without.

"O God, our Father, help us to resist the temptations which continually attack us.
Help us to resist the temptations which come from within and from our own natures:
  • The temptation to laziness and to too much love of ease and comfort;
  • The temptation to pride and self-conceit and to think of ourselves more highly than we ought;
  • The temptation to put things off until it is too late ever to do them; and to refuse to face the unpleasant things, until it is too late to do anything about them: Help us to resist these, O God.
  • The temptation to despair, and to lose heart and hope;
  • The temptation to lower our standards and to accept things as they are;
  • The temptation to resignedly content with life as it is and ourselves as we are: Help us to resist these, O God.
  • The temptation to let passion and desire have their way;
  • The temptation to trade eternal happiness for the fleeting thrill of some seductive moment;
  • The temptation to moodiness, to irritability, to bad temper;
  • The temptation to criticism, to fault-finding, to thinking the worst of others: Help us to resist these, O God. "
[William Barclay, A Barclay Prayer Book, Lousville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990, p34-35]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Remembering Dr Graham Staines

How does one react when religious extremists kill a husband and two boys in a fire? In Eastern India, on the night of January 22nd, 1999, Hindu extremists set fire to a station wagon where Dr Graham Staines and his two boys, Philip and Timothy, aged 10 and 6 were sleeping. All three died leaving behind Gladys Staines and her daughter, Esther. Working with leprosy patients, the Australian family had been accused of forcefully converting Hindus to be Christians. The tragedy happened in Orissa, known as a place with great anti-Christian sentiments and persecution.

Photo of the Staines family.   Source: NewsCore
For thirty years, the family worked with in a remote village in Orissa. They treated patients. They reached out in love. They let their lives display the love of God through their skills. Think about it. Thirty years. That is a long time. How can anyone forcibly make people convert and take thirty years to do that? As far as I know, anything that requires force has an element of speedy achievement of results. But 30 years? How can the Staines family be forcing people to convert? It boggles my mind.

There is a high price to pay when it comes to mission work. That is why not many of us are in missions. Far too often, Churches pay lip service to the Great Commission or the mission work. They prefer to take the stance to let others do it. They prefer to remain in their comfort zone. They prefer to keep their one talent buried, thinking that they are doing God a favour by preserving their talent safe. We know the rest of the story. In case you are not familiar, read Matthew 25:14-30.

This week is also Missions Fest week in Vancouver. I'll write more tomorrow. For now, let us take a pause to remember Graham Staines, Philip, and Timothy, and give thanks to God for their sacrificial service and example.


Monday, January 21, 2013

BookPastor >> "Grace Notes" (Philip Yancey)

TITLE: Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim
AUTHOR: Philip Yancey
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, (434 pages).

I observe a pattern. When an author has written a number of bestselling books, or if the author himself has gained a fair amount of popularity, publishers will want to continue to milk the author's fame by putting out re-prints of classic portions of the previous works. "Grace Notes" is one of them. It is a collection of writings by the very popular Christian writer, Philip Yancey. Called "Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim," this book is essentially a daily devotional to last an entire year.True enough, the publisher initiates this project to encourage the author to leaf through more than 20 books and articles, written over a span of 30 years, in order to put together 366 pages of readings. Seasonal themes help move the reader along the four seasons of the year. Significant events like 9/11, elections, and memorable dates are considered when the daily reading is considered.

Philip Yancey's writings have long been known to be clear and provocative. These notes, though short are often windows into some of Yancey's scintillating analysis and brilliant insights. Each daily reading begins with an interesting flashback or an observation of ordinary life events. It asks questions. It analyzes ordinary struggles of faith. It raises issues of faith and spirituality. It typically concludes with some form of pointing toward the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  There are at least four ways to use this book. The first way is to read it based on sources, like all the collections from any one particular book. This method allows readers to follow the sub-themes accompanying that book. The second way is by looking at the titles of each day's readings. For example, February 16th's reading of "The Hardship Ladder" offers five short quips on the different approaches to suffering. May 22nd's reading of "Why I Don't Attend a Megachurch" may appeal to people asking questions of small, large, and megachurches.  The third way is essentially to read the book based on the day we read. Of course, there is a fourth way. Straight through.

Whichever way, or ways you choose, some of the articles in this book are bound to trigger a reaction in readers. For those of us who loves Yancey's writings, this book is definitely a collector's item.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

I chance upon this book today when browsing the new books section of the library. This book catches my eye. It is not exactly a new idea, but the observations and the regrets of the dying are worth pondering once again. The author, Bronnie Ware begins the search for meaning in her job. Without qualifications and experience, very few opportunities are available for her. She lands a job in palliative care instead. Here, her life becomes transformed through her listening, her working, and her understanding of the deepest regrets of people who are dying.

Incidentally, dying people often have the ability to concisely and clearly distill all of their life dreams, purposes, observations, and regrets into words. Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as shared by Bronnie Ware.

  1. "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
  2. "I wish I hadn't work so hard."
  3. "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings."
  4. "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."
  5. "I wish I had let myself be happier."

Take the weekend to ponder. I strongly suspect that the top five regrets of the dying may very well be the same top five regrets of the living.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Midweek Meditation >> "Costly Grace"

One of Bonhoeffer's most famous legacies is his book, "The Cost of Discipleship." The way he begins this book blows readers away. Chapter 1 alone is worth the price of the book.

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him." 
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, New York, NY: Macmillan, 1959, p36)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two Articles on Homosexuality

If you frequent social media, you will be familiar with this. Hardly a day goes by without some people or some organization somewhere making a statement or two about homosexuality, gay matters, same-sex marriage, and so on. Today is no different. I like to share two articles. The first is a response by the Evangelical Alliance to Steve Chalke's recent statements about him supporting same-sex marriage. The second is written by a respected environmentalist and faith writer, Wendell Berry. I read  Chalke's article and how he forms a "way of grappling with it and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously" the biblical teaching on homosexuality. His conclusion is the familiar four-letter word: "LOVE." You can read Steve Clifford's rebuttal here. He argues basically against Chalke's flawed understanding of inclusivity. Essentially, being inclusive does not necessarily mean we MUST accept the gay position on homosexuality.

1) Article #1 - Evangelical Alliance Response to Steve Chalke
In response, the first article is a 2012 report on "Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality" published by the Evangelical Alliance in the UK. The full report is available for free for a limited time here. It brings together some of the traditional assertions of faith with regards to Christianity, the Bible, sexuality, and faith.

My Thoughts: Chalke's earnest desire to bring some closure to the event is already destined to fail. In fact, he is doing to homosexuality what Rob Bell has done for Hell in Love Wins. The track taken by Rob Bell is to find a way to seriously grapple with the cruelty of hell that led him to dilute the reality of hell. Likewise, Chalke in trying to make peace with the homosexuality perspective has put himself on the wrong side of compromise. There is a way to love without compromising our own convictions with regards to traditional marriage. Chalke's way is love with compromise. That said, I think it is not a good idea to force anybody's hand as learning to grapple takes time. Perhaps, there is some position more acceptable to all sometime in the future. For the moment, refrain from condemning anyone.

The article by the Evangelical Alliance (UK) is a helpful document for leaders to understand and to revisit what the central tenets of traditional faith say. What it is trying to do is to walk a fine balance with the attitude of "welcoming but not affirming" gay marriage. There are some useful tips in it.

2) Article #2 - Wendell Berry's Statement on Gay Marriage
I came across another writeup today, this time by Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer, whose article, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer" has some people accusing him of being anti-technology. His article on gay marriage risks himself being accused of supporting homosexuality. Wendell Berry admits that he rarely comments on this matter. He argues not on the basis of whether same-sex marriage per se is wrong but that denying same-sex couples their rights is in itself wrong. Moreover, Berry argues that there are other matters more serious than homosexual deviations. What he is particularly indignant about is that there are some quarters that try to marginalize various groups simply on the basis of homosexual status. He calls, "condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred."

My Thoughts: Thinking of Wendell Berry's article on gay marriage, I think he has a point that argues for 'rights' and not whether homosexuality is right or wrong. It is the fight for a freedom of choice that he is harping on. In other words, no one must take the moral high ground to enforce people to believe what they do not want to believe. That is what freedom of religion and freedom of expression is all about. I concur, but I want also to add that this freedom must apply to all. Evangelicals have the right to defend and to uphold traditional marriage, even as gay activists insist upon their rights to some same-sex unions.

I look forward to the day when believers on Christ can speak their convictions without being labeled haters of some groups, bigots of some beliefs, or intolerants of various kinds. Those who believe in free speech must respect that. For example, when a person says he believes in traditional marriage, that does not necessarily mean he hates the rest. The same needs to be applied the other way too, that when a homosexual couple asserts their rights to gay marriage, those who oppose this position must not condemn them for their choices. It is a democracy after all. Do not play God. You can state your convictions. You can argue passionately for it. You can also disagree with the homosexual position. That does not mean you can call them names, condemn them, or brand them devilish. Only God has the right and authority to call anyone anything and anyhow.


Monday, January 14, 2013

BookPastor >> "How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens"

How do we read the Bible through Jesus' lens? This book shows us how. This review was first published at "Panorama of a Book Saint" on October 5th, 2012.


TITLE: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
AUTHOR: Michael Williams
PUBLISHER:  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (288 pages).

This book contains one basic premise: Every book in the Bible points us to Christ. Some more direct, others less, but all do point to this central figure. As a member of the NIV translation committee, Williams has the privilege of looking through the Bible in depth, through the lens of scholarship and translation devices. Called a "guide to Christ-focused reading of Scripture," this how-to book covers all 66 books of the Bible on the basis of John 5:39, "These are the very Scriptures that testify about me." There are several advantages in adopting this mode of reading.
  • Unity: It connects both the Old and New Testaments into one big narrative;
  • Eternity in Christ: It keeps readers focused on God's eternal plan through one Person in Christ;
  • Focus: It prevents us from being distracted by contexts in each Bible that can appear out of place, even causing us to wonder why it is there in the first place;
  • Revelation: It increases our appreciation of how the Holy Spirit has revealed God to us through the ages.

How is this done? Williams adopt a consistent four step process. First, he presents the overarching theme of each book, just like most Bible introductory courses. Only when we see the big picture, we can make sense of how Jesus reads the Scriptures during His time. Second, he leads readers through a journey called "The Jesus Lens" to discover the person of Jesus in the Old Testament, and how it is elaborated in the New Testament. This is the main dish. Third, he affirms the revelation of God's Word in Christ and makes a call for readers to learn Christlikeness, through "Contemporary Implications." Four, several "Hook Questions" are provided for readers to do more research and study, for discussion and indepth thining. Williams has provided a link that provides multimedia resources for each biblical book. It is worth taking a look, but users need to register online before it can be used.

My Thoughts

Meant more as a brief guide rather than a full-blown commentary, the book fulfills its purpose by giving readers a brief snapshot of how the Bible can be understood better through the eyes of Jesus. Unique in its kind, it makes the reading of the whole Bible very purposeful and insightful. However, some biblical theologians or inductive readers may not like the way the book straitjackets readers at the onset, to be given the answer of "Jesus" immediately even before reading the book for themselves. In fact, some who prefer to let the Bible interpret or speak for itself may not take kindly to Williams's approach. For example, in the titles of every chapter, there is already an interpretation done for readers, "Separation for Blessing" in Genesis, "Life Purpose" in Ecclesiastes, "Torah Fulfillment" in Matthew, and "Working Faith" in James, seems to over-simplify the particular book. Up to some point, readers may suspect that they are hemmed in to this perspective when they read the Bible.

Having said that, the key way to use this book is as a supplement to our conventional ways of studying the Bible. We can supplement our inductive studies with this Jesus' lens. We can let this book bring additional (not the only) insight to our research. For me, the book is easy to read but a little too brief to do any justification for a really meaty study. I can understand the limitations. That is why the additional resource link will be helpful for such persons. In fact, with the hook questions at the end of each chapter, this book can also be a Bible study material! For me, the big advantage comes with those books that are relatively less read in the Church, like the minor prophets, Song of Solomon, Numbers, etc.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


 This book review is based on a book borrowed from the local library.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Exciting Miniseries on THE BIBLE

There is a new 10-part miniseries that dramatize the entire Holy Bible from Genesis to Revelation that is coming soon. Starting March 3rd, 2013 on History Channel, each Sunday, the production by Mark Burnett (remember Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, Shark Tank, and many other reality shows?) and Roma Downey goes on air for two hours, culminating with Revelation on Easter Sunday (March 31st, 2013). Snippets of the movie will make the Bible come alive dramatically. It should prove to be a great treat for those of us who have read through the entire Bible. Watch for this. Below is a trailer.

The episodes are scheduled as follow, with two episodes per week.
  1. The Beginning – Noah, Abraham thru Jacob, Israel begins
  2. The Exodus – Pharaoh, Moses, Red Sea and Ten Commandments
  3. The Homeland – Joshua, Samson, Judges, David & Goliath
  4. The Kingdom – David, Saul, Solomon
  5. The Survival – Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Jews return to Jerusalem
  6. The Revolution – Roman, birth of Christ, John the Baptist, Jesus and Peter
  7. The Mission – Pharisees, Jesus, miracles, Disciples
  8. The Betrayal – Last supper, Judas, Peter’s Denial
  9. The Passion – Nicodemus, Caiaphas, Pilate, Crucifixion, Resurrection
  10. The Courage – Jesus returns, Holy Spirit comes, Disciples die, John survives death, exiled to Patmos, Revelation 
For more information, click here, here, and here.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship"

If there is ever one phrase to sum up Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic book, it will be this. "When Christ calls a man, he bids hum come and die."

Here is a great video put together with snippets of memorable words by the late German pastor, martyr, brother, and friend.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Midweek Meditation - One Thing

The Psalmist says,
"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." (Ps 27:4)

As we move into 2013, what is the one thing you like to ask of God? Maybe, you can pray with me the following?

Lord, it is a New Year, a new start, a new opportunity to put the past aside, to consider the future, and to live out the present. Help me to seek You more dearly. Help me to see You more clearly. Help me to share about You more passionately. Show me the one life that You can touch through me. Show me the one thought that You can encourage in me. Show me the one action that You can empower me to do. Show me the one friend that You like me to call this year, this month, this week, or today. Show me the one part of Scripture that You like me to memorize. Show me the one family member that I can reach out to. Show me the one book that I should be reading or meditating upon. Show me the one special way this year on how I can be more faithful to You, to be more fruitful for You, and to be more freely Yours. In the Power and Name of Your Son, Jesus we ask. Amen.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"How Do We Read the Bible?" (NT Wright)

How do we read the Bible? Thoroughly, regularly, and patiently to discover the full sweep of Scripture. According the NT Wright, the Bible is not meant to be read in bits and pieces. Many of us have cut the Bible down to piece size, and we become unable to see the big picture at all. Here is an excellent video clip on Wright's take of how to read the Holy Bible.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Monday, January 07, 2013

BookPastor >> "Special Intentions" (Claire Coleman)

In any culture that is self-serving, self-seeking, and self-supplying, there will be a constant asking of "What's in it for me?" That is not the way to build a caring and sharing society. In order to break the kingdom of self that revolves everything around self, we need a big does of other-centered actions. If you are looking to break your cycle of self, why not consider picking up this book? This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on September 1st, 2012.


TITLE: Special Intentions: Remembering Others in Personal Prayer
AUTHOR: Claire Coleman
PUBLISHER: Bloomingdon, IN: Westbow Press, 2012, (226 pages).

Big hearts come in small prayers. Gracious hearts go out to others more than self. The dual pronged approach laces this unique book on prayers for others. In a delightful display of Philippians 2:4 in action, Coleman puts her prayers into writing, her care for others in praying, and her love for God through caring and sharing for a world in need.

This is not a book of prayers. Neither is it about prayer or how to pray. It is about keeping others in our thoughts, and in our care. It is about remembering the oft ignored, and caring for others. As sinful people, we all have a tendency toward selfishness, toward self-seeking endeavors. This book seeks to buck this trend intentionally. Instead of "good intentions," the title of the book is geared toward seeing people as unique and precious. The front paints a very meaningful reflecting of needs as best as we can. The more we can observe with our various senses of the needs around us, the better we can pray. The little drop of water at the end of the leaf resembles a tear drop. For me, it means authenticity and a deepening connection with the people being prayed for. I love this image.

There are reflections of life and of prayers about loving one another. There is an empathetic ear toward listening for the burdens for others. There is a growing awareness of gratitude and an encouragement to persevere when the times are tough. Coleman remembers the very public figures like politicians, the law-enforcement officers, the public servants, to the very private moments with personal friends. She observes buildings and structures with gratitude. She echoes the cries of people in dire straits. She prays over the ups and downs of people from different walks of life. She even covers the emotional turmoil over the dying of pet animals. From people in hospices and hospitals, to busy executives in the office, from the school classrooms to prisoners in a lonely cell, Coleman's capacity to think deeply and care widely is amazing. It takes an observant eye to see beyond the obvious. It takes a meditative heart to pray continually. Above all, it demonstrates a love for people, the way that God loves people. Thank God for authors like Claire Coleman, who shows us through "Special Intentions," that it is not only possible to love beyond ourselves and our own needs, it is a delight and a privilege to do so.

The biggest benefit in reading this book is to learn from Coleman a very unique way of plumbing human needs and emotions beyond the superficial layer of a Hi-Bye society. It will cause us to pause our busyness, and to remember a higher cause for good. For Christians, this cause will always be love. Use this book for group prayers. Use it for personal praying. Not only will it be a small step to make the world a better place, it is a big step to grow our inner hearts to be a more loving grace.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by the author and Maryglenn McCombs book publicist without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Free NLT Study Bible Download

The New Living Translation is one of my favourite thought-for-thought translations. Sometimes, I call it a paraphrase, or an idea-for-idea translation. For people who like a modern rendition of the ancient Scriptures, and still faithful to the original meaning, this translation is hard to beat. In fact, for anyone intending to read through the Bible, or want to embark on an intensive 1-year, 2-year, or 3-years, Read-Through-The-Bible project, I highly recommend the NLT.

This month, Tyndale and have teamed up to offer a FREE download of the best selling "Life Application Study Bible NLT" here. Yes, that's free! I think it is a time-limited download, so hurry and go there to get the offer.

Remember that the format is in EPUB format, so you will need a suitable eReader or an application that helps you to read that. Remember, if you have a computer, the one with lots of RAM definitely helps.



Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Invitation"

This prayer is an invitation for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Pray the words slowly, but intentionally. Pray with holy expectation that God will do a wonderful work through you. Written by Jack Hayford, founder pastor of Church on the Way, the prayer does not end with an "Amen," but an invitation for our prayers to be open to the Holy Spirit.

A Prayer of Invitation to the Holy Spirit 
Dear Lord Jesus, I thank You and praise You for Your great love and faithfulness to me. My heart is filled with joy whenever I think of the great gift of salvation You have so freely given to me. And I humbly glorify You, Lord Jesus, for You have forgiven me all my sins and brought me to the Father.

Now I come in obedience to Your call.

I want to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I do not come because I am worthy of myself, but because You have invited me to come. Because You have washed me from my sins, I thank You that You have made the vessel of my life a worthy one to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

I want to be overflowed with Your life, Your love and Your power, Lord Jesus. I want to show forth Your grace, Your words, Your goodness, and Your gifts to everyone I can.

And so with simply, childlike faith, I ask You, Lord, to fill me with the Holy Spirit. I open all of myself to You to receive all of Yourself in me.

I love You, Lord, and I lift up my voice in praise to You. I welcome Your might and Your miracles to be manifested in me for Your glory and unto Your praise.

(Jack Hayford, The Secrets of Intercessory Prayer, Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 2009, p166)


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Free Resources for Bible Reading (2013)

All over the world, people are wishing one another Happy New Year. It is the same year after year. Sometimes, I wonder what has happened to the year just ended. Has that been a happy year? Why are there some who seems more relieved than happy? Maybe, we have gotten it all wrong. Happiness is a condition that is utterly dependent on circumstances, feelings, and things temporal and fleeting. If that is the case, are we barking up the wrong tree of life in our relentless pursuit and wishes of 'Happy New Year?'

Psalm 119:105
(Picture Credit:
For Christians, 'happy' is not the goal. Holiness is. One of the best ways to kick-off a new year is to begin a schedule of Bible reading that is consistent, purposeful, and disciplined. In order to provide some help, I list below some resources that you can get for FREE. Yes, that's free for you to use, in your personal and private capacity.

A) Free 1 Year Through the New Testament Schedule (DOWNLOAD)

I have put together a schedule that we can use to guide us through the New Testament and Isaiah in 1 year. Filled with pockets of 'catch-up' time, it gives us days in which we can either catch up on our missed reading days, or to read ahead if we anticipate periods of busy moments. The important thing is consistency. You can refer to my post about more Bible reading schedules here.

B) Free NIV Bible Downloads (IOS, Android, and others)

At least two sources are available for free Bible downloads. As the New International Version translation of the Bible is still the most popular edition, it has not been easy to find free downloads. From today till January 21st, 2013, Zondervan through their BibleGateway app, and through their Youversion software have made available the NIV to be downloaded for free.

Remember that for the Youversion software, you need to download the Youversion software first. After that, from within the software, select "BIBLE" and a list of Bible versions will pop up. Finally, remember that in case you do not have WiFi connection, you need what we call an OFFLINE version. This is where you need to download the offline version onto your mobile device. Once that is done, you will be able to read the Bible at any time, even when you do not have a WiFi connection. 

C) Online Bibles

If you have constant Internet connection, you may simply want to read the Bible online. Here are some online Bible editions you can use for your daily reading.

Paraphrase Bibles (Modern everyday language)

  • The MESSAGE (link)
  • New Living Translation (link)
Dynamic Equivalent (Balanced translation between literal and paraphrase)

  • New International Version 2011 (link)
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible (link)
  • NIV 1984 - most popular NIV by far (link)

Literal Translations (as close to the original languages as possible)

  • New American Standard Bible (link)
  • English Standard Version (link)
  • New Revised Standard Version (link)
  • King James Version (link)
Let us make this year a Holy New Year!


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