Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where is the Love?

Gulp! When I read this, my stomach cringes.

Source: Facebook Page (adapted from Matthew 25:31-46)


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Praying Away?"

As we continue through the Season of Lent, we are reminded that prayer is a good spiritual exercise. It can also be a spiritual cop-out if our heart is not right. Lent is a good time to remember that sin wreaks havoc on creation and the world that God has created. It is sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. It is sin that brings down the world of work and the works that have been done. As Christians we learn to give thanks in prayer. We also learn to seek God for help in prayer. Mark Batterson makes a distinction between "praying away" from "praying through."

In "praying away, people sees the problem, and despite knowing the good that ought to be done, chooses the path of passivity. They keep everything under wraps and thinking that by prayer, everything bad and nasty will go away. Like an ostrich that pokes its head into the sand upon sensing immediate danger, the sinner tries to "pray away" his wrong by assuming that his prayers are spiritual medicine.  Batterson calls such prayers, "get me out" prayers. He also remarks that most of our prayers tend to be self-seeking prayers for comfort and pleasure, rather than for God's glory.  He reminds us that the primary way that prayers are used is not to change circumstances. It is to change us back toward the image of God more and more.

"Sometimes God delivers us from our problems; sometimes God delivers us through our problems." (Mark Batterson)

So do we simply "pray away" our problems? No. What matters is that God is using our prayers (and our problems) to draw us closer to Him.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Two Founders, Different Memories

One of the most engaging comparisons in the technological world is that of Apple and Microsoft. I remember those days when I was a fan of WordPerfect, and how Microsoft was trying to compete with their relatively new kid, Word. WordPerfect 5.1 at that time was the de-facto standard for word-processing software at that time. How I hated Microsoft for steamrolling over many smaller software companies. In Networking, they rolled over Novell. In spreadsheets, they conquered Lotus 123 with their Excel version. In database, they had Access as a formidable foe. In web browsers, they overwhelmed Netscape and many other startups. Even Apple was not spared as the Apple of old were nowhere near where they are now.

Today, Microsoft is not as popular as the Apple branding. Everywhere you go, iPhones and iPods are common sight. Even in movies, it is common to see a laptop computer that is Apple branded. The iPad continues to dominate the tablet space while the Apple App Store remains the #1 in terms of quantity of applications. The founders of the two companies, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, are well known all over the world. Yet, the popularity of the products and their respective companies do not necessarily mean the same with regards to how well they will be remembered. Truth is, we remember people more than products. We remember charitable people even more.

Recently, Malcolm Gladwell, author of the popular books like, "Blink," "The Tipping Point," and most recently, "The Outliers," has made a striking remark about the memory longevity of the two founders. He says, "In 50 years, people will forget Steve Jobs." He then talks about Bill Gates as one that many more people will remember for years to come. All because of what they are doing with their wealth and their lives. According to Gladwell, he notes the differences in the two men.

  • While Jobs is well known for his Apple products and creativity, Gates will be well known for his contribution toward eradicating the problem of malaria.
  • Jobs promotes himself; Gates helps others;
  • Gates has given more than $2billion toward malaria causes. What about Jobs?
  • ...
Whether Gladwell's predictions will turn out right remains to be seen. Yet, it is a great reminder that things no matter how creative or classy will not last. People's memories will last as long as people are cared for. I remember this phrase that has been shared over and over again.

"People will not remember what you say. However, they will remember how you make them feel."

This is what people ministry is all about. It is not about toys or gadgets that can wow them temporarily. It is about changing lives that will touch them permanently. Touch a life. Make a life. This is much better than the best technological hype.


Monday, February 25, 2013

BookPastor >> "Prayers for Today" (Kurt Bjorklund)

This review was first published at "Panorama of a Book Saint" on December 18th, 2012. I recommend it to you for your devotion and prayer activities.


TITLE: Prayers for Today: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer
AUTHOR: Kurt Bjorklund
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2011, (288 pages).

How do we pray? That most of us know. How do we pray well? Lesser people know. Instead of fumbling around for some creativity, or hurry our prayers through some self-concocted prayers that may seem too superficial, why not learn from the spiritual masters of old? Why not pray with the prayer warriors through the ages? Then, as we learn from the past saints of old, we not only integrate our own prayer concerns, but let our prayer lives be enriched to know God better and to make God known wider. This is exactly what Kurt Bjorklund has done. Subtitled as "A yearlong journey of contemplative prayer," Bjorklund compiles a number of excellent prayers said by the contemplative masters. From contemporary prayer warriors like Andrew Murray, William Temple, Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen, and many others, to ancient creeds like the Apostles' Creed, traditional hymns, Augustine of Hippo, and many more, this book is a treasure chest of prayers to use for all occasions.

Bjorklund sees prayer as a journey through the mountains of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, renewal, and Christlikeness, to the valleys of confession, petition, despair, distress, discouragement. It is also an adventure of navigating through affirmations, wisdom, guidance, and intercession. The "yearlong" for Bjorklund is actually for the five days each week. That makes a total of 260 days of guided prayer, leaving the reader with at least 2 days a week for their own prayers. The way the prayers are arranged flow out of the pattern indicated in the Lord's Prayer.
  • "Our Father, Who is in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name," Prayer of Praise/Adoration
  • "Hallowed be They Name," Prayer of Surrender and Thanksgiving
  • "Thy Kingdom come," Prayer of Affirmation
  • "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," Prayer of thanksgiving         
  • "Give us this day our daily bread," Prayer of Petition and Intercession
  • "Forgive us our debts," Prayer of Confession
  • "as we forgive our debtors," Prayer of Christlike character
  •  "lead us not into temptation," Prayer of Wisdom/Guidance
  • "But deliver us from evil," Prayer of Renewal
The pages are undated and provided in day numbers. This actually frees the reader to begin freely according to one's spiritual journey and maintain a pattern of praying that involves all the different facets of prayer. A typical prayer day comprises of an initial Scripture passage to reflect on. A selected prayer is given with sources cited, followed by a personal "Prayer for Today." The Bible passage helps the reader to be centered on Scripture. The given prayer gives the reader an example to follow. The personal prayer section allows one to personalize the prayer accordingly. The theme given at the top of each page helps readers to choose the kind of prayer, whether it is thanksgiving and adoration, or plain confession and petition. It is a helpful way to help readers focus and keep their prayers on track. Otherwise, there may be a tendency to wander to all kinds of mental places that are unfocused and unspecific. 

I have long been a fan of prayer books. I have treasured prayer books like the "The Oxford Book of Prayer," the "Book of Common Prayer," Andrew Murray's books on prayer, and other treasuries of prayers. The author has helpfully compiled the prayers from themes. With theme-based prayer books, there is always a risk of trying to tell God what we need instead of letting God show us our needs. That said, what is there to prevent the Holy Spirit from moving our hearts to prayer beyond one theme per day? Nothing. May the Spirit guide the reader to pray more richly and passionately through the use of this book.

Highly recommended for Church groups, personal devotions, and of course, during Sunday service.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Press without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Beautiful Video - Befriending a Stranger

This is a beautiful video that brings together total strangers, through a pause during the day. As people opens themselves up, it triggers a response that leads to a beautiful sharing and making new friends. Maybe, we can learn to share more among people, to build relationships without any agenda in mind. Just wanting to reach out and touch a stranger. This world is a much better place with more friends than strangers.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Midweek Meditation: Quiet Life

"Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, ESV) 

Lent is a time to be more reflective of our own lives. We rush about so much that we not only do not have time for loved ones, we do not have time for our own selves. So often, we rush. We try to beat the traffic lights. We aim to be first in line. We struggle to shave off a few seconds off the wait. Like the popular saying, "Penny wise, Pound foolish," many of us tend to be very shrewd when it comes to saving a few seconds, but easily waste away hours doing rather mundane and unimportant stuff. Think of the impatient driver that swerves in and out of traffic just to get ahead of all the traffic. Along comes a traffic police who signals the driver to pull over. Not only is he then given a ticket and a hefty fine, he is late for all his appointments. Is that worth it?

What then are the more important things to take note of? Love. Love your neighbour. Love your brother and sister. Do not just say it. Show it. Do not just think of it. Act upon it. Better to do first and then talk later, than to talk about it first, and end up forgetting to do it. When we want to love, it is important to take care of our inner lives. Make sure it has a quiet center. Give yourself time to rest. Allow space for your heart to commune with God. Make it your ambition to be quiet, and to take notice of the more important things in life.


Monday, February 18, 2013

BookPastor >> "Finding Peace" (Jean Vanier)

TITLE: Finding Peace
AUTHOR: Jean Vanier
PUBLISHER: Toronto, ON: Anansi Press, 2003, (90 pages).

Written after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Jean Vanier takes time to reflect on the nature of human beings, the state of society, and the path forward toward finding peace for mankind. Ironically, just after the US President announced the initiative for building an external shield against external threats, terrorists manipulate missiles in the form of domestic planes to inflict hurt on America. Violence unfortunately begets violence. Hatred breeds hatred. For any aggression, a choice remains: To retaliate, or to seek peace.

In order to assist readers on the road to finding peace, Vanier helps to remove some roadblocks of conflict, fear, barriers that are among us, and within us. He observes the origins of cultural conflicts that seek to dominate others. He laments the sad political conflicts that have split people groups throughout history. He hones in on societal conflict such as rich vs poor, and the strong vs the weak, that is so evident in modern society. There is also the family conflict that happens in our own homes.Then there is the internal conflicts we all experience in varying degrees. Finding peace requires a conscious choice to overcome these conflicts. More importantly, it is possible to let the goodness of finding peace overcome the futility that exists in many places about peacemaking. This needs a change in our mentality and an earnest search and belief that there is a way to peace that transcends cultural, and all kinds of barriers.

Vanier touches on some of the relationship barriers among people. We need to distinguish the importance of people over and beyond the accumulation of things. We must recognize that love in itself is a risk that is worth taking. Forgiveness remains a key that unlocks the most difficult of relationships. In doing so, not only do we experience freedom, we are freed to pursue peace with vigour. Finally, he deals with the internal barriers such as deceptive forms of happiness and temporal peace, and a need to find the source of peace that is outside of our own selves.

Using his L'Arche ministry as an example, Vanier shows readers that it is entirely possible for people to live in peace in spite of differences and weaknesses. He ends his book with a remarkable declaration that peace does not come in the absence of violence and conflicts. Instead, peace comes when people like you and I, seeking constantly to live at peace with others, and with ourselves. I love these words, which I will leave with you.
"Our world is a place of violence and fear, a place where many hide behind walls of individualism, comfort, and security, frightened of looking at reality, unable to discern who they really are. Since September 11, 2001, many are also hiding behind prejudices and fear, stigmatizing those of other cultures. And perhaps in our times the darkness will grow darker, more towers and certitudes will crumble, and stock exchanges will wobble again before more of us truly begin to search for new ways of living, new ways of peace.

The world will not, of course, change overnight. But the gravity of our times, the fear of war, terrorism, and all forms of violence are inciting many men and women to search for a new way of life. Many have seen through the shallowness of material prosperity and are discovering that they can be an active part of peacekeeping.

If you and I seek today to live peace, to be peacemakers, to help create communities of peace, it is not just to seek success. If we find peace, live and work for peace, even if we see no tangible results, we can become fully human beings, walking together on the road of kindness, compassion, and peace. New hope is born." (81-2)

I like this book for its clarity and incisive look at the human condition. It is an honest attempt to help readers find peace in this crazy and violence world. The key to all peace is actually something closer to home. It needs to be cultivated in our hearts first. We need to learn to find security and love. After all, hurt people hurt people. Loved people love people. There is no simpler way to understand peace and love.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Book Potpourri

With much gratitude to the publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, here are 4 books that merit a brief mention. Many people do not really have the time to read many books. In fact, reviews are often needed to help people to decide whether they ought to read the book, or even buy it. I have been blessed by many Christian publishers who have continually provided me some of the best books on leadership resources, Bible interpretation, Christian living, and many others. Here are four books that I have obtained in 2012, which I will do a brief review. The books are indeed so good that they merit a longer review.

Today, I'll make a short mention on my thoughts about the books. Here goes.


#1 - "Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time "
Author: Noel Brewer Yeatts
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 2012, (176 pages)

Good works that flow out of the Good Word in the heart. Doing good to the world one person at a time. Reaching a larger world regardless of how small or how limited one is. All it matters is a big heart and willing hands. This is exactly what Noel Brewer Yeatts has done. This book is about changing the world, beginning with changing the hearts of anyone who wants to do some good in the world. The primary audience is essentially the rich West, but the scope can be easily enlarged to include other groups. Containing many stories of faith and trust, success and disappointments, Yeatts encourages us not to look at the problem, be discouraged and then do nothing. Instead, she urges us to look at what is possible, be encouraged, and then do something, even if it means just one life or one small situation at a time. Three thoughts come to mind as I marvel at the resilience and the industry of Yeatts. First, we are not responsible to solve all the problems of the whole world, just part of it. Second, we are not meant to help everybody in the world, just who we can reach. Third, we are not responsible for the ills of the world, but we are responsible if we do not do anything about it. If any of these thoughts can be planted in the reader, this book will have done its job. I'm sure readers will be moved. It is a fitting reminder that while we are not responsible for solving all the problems of the world, we are responsible for those things that we can do something about.

My Amazon Review links for "Awake."

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review.

#2 - "No Matter the Cost"
Author: Vance Brown
Publisher: Minnesota, MN: Bethany House Publisher, 2012, (208 pages).

Stand up and fight for things that matter. Let hope awaken the potential in your heart. This is the crux of this book, written to exhort men to rise up, take courage, to live well and bring hope. It begins with a call to listen to the King. Instead of living lives of quiet desperation, men are called to live out their potential in great expectation. Using the Lord's Prayer as a framework, Vance Brown sends waves after waves of powerful messages of encouragement for the weary, exhortation for the perplexed, and enthusiasm for the energized. With God as our redeeming Light, God as our constant Guide, and as our Great God, men do not need to linger around as helpless lambs of doubt but mighty lions of faith. If you read this book, do not expect to sit back and relax. Instead, be ready to get up and take action!

My Amazon Review links for "No Matter the Cost."

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Bethany House Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

#3 - "Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church's Voice in the Face of Death "
Author: Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012, (220 pages).

Many books talk about the Christian life and how we can live better. There is even a popular genre of books called "Christian Living." However, there are very few books that talk about death and dying. Stick a label called "Christian Dying" on the bookstore shelves, and there will perhaps be very few readers or buyers of such books. This reflects the problem of the Church at large. We prefer to talk more about life and less about death. We focus our attention on living rather than the dying. As a result, we become experts about living, and very ignorant about dying. The authors in this book seek to bring back a renewed focus on death and the dying. In doing so, the authors believe that Christians will be better prepared to cope with this eventual end. After all, we will all die one day. The more we understand death and dying, we more we are able to care for people who are dying and to care for ourselves when our turn comes.

Ten stories of dying pastors give readers a glimpse of the tragic reality of how many congregations are lost when their pastors are dying. In writing this book, the authors hope to counter the empty secular dimension with a full Christian narrative of death, redemption, resurrection, and glory. They anchor the thinking of death and dying on the Person of Christ who faces death fearlessly and faithfully. We have a renewed understanding that we too have died in Christ, and will rise with Christ on the last day. They provide seven wise words and seven examples of what to say to those who are dying. They urge more preaching on death and dying. They propose a TABLE initiative to help Christians and the Church talk more constructively about the whole matter without fear.

I am deeply grateful for this book because it shines light into a dark place where few people dare to tread. It speaks into the needs of people who struggle with the questions of death and dying. Above all, as it helps the Church recover her voice for speaking hope to the dying, it also illuminates ways in which pastors, preachers, leaders, and concerned believers can participate in the ministry of caring for the dying. Well written and researched, intelligent and practical, this book is a strongly recommended reference book for all in Christian ministry and leadership. As much as we all want to live well, we need also to learn what it means to die well. This book provides much wisdom and guidance.

My Amazon Review links for "Speaking of Dying."

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Brazos Press in exchange for an honest review.

#4 - "Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views"

Author: Walter Wink, David Powlison, Gregory Boyd, C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012, (230 pages).

Spiritual warfare means different things to different people. Some underplay its significance, while others hype up its importance. Even scholars and theologians are not able to agree. Instead of trying to pit one another in order to find out who is right or wrong, this book brings together four diverse but important perspectives of spiritual warfare. Walter Wink advocates the "World Systems Model," where if there are institutions and world systems that have been taken over by evil forces and principalities, the Christian is to name them, unmask them, and "engage them." David Powlison promotes the "Classical Model" where spiritual warfare is centered on fighting the flesh. Through Christian disciplines of prayer, evangelism, spiritual growth, one automatically fights the sinful desires of the flesh. The third model is the "Ground-Level Deliverance Model" which is described by Gregory Boyd as the need to deal with personal demons that requires exorcism, but raises the question of whether Christians can be demonized in the first place. Finally, Peter C. Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood helms the view of "Strategic Level Deliverance" where spiritual warfare is of a territorial and cosmic dimension.

Like iron sharpening iron, these four views are ably argued for and against by the different writers. It highlights issues that bring clarity to the original propositions, adds in important nuances to the understanding of spiritual warfare, and maintains a healthy respect for persons who agree or disagree. While I am tempted to say that the biggest beneficiaries for this book are the contributors themselves, readers are in for a treat as they are invited to listen in to the conversations and to be reminded that spiritual warfare is real, wide-ranging, and deeply mystifying too. Readers ought not to be distracted by the different views and opinions of the authors and editors. Instead, readers can acknowledge the variety of differences based on contexts, understanding of differences, and an awareness of how each perspective deals with spiritual warfare. There is nothing to lose when we learn from others. There is everything to gain when we are humble to acknowledge that together, we are stronger. This book shows us the way on how Christians may differ in views, but united in their stance against principalities and powers of evil. In Christ we stand. This is perhaps one of the best books, if not the best book on comparing spiritual warfare perspectives.

My Amazon Review links for "Understanding Spiritual Warfare - Four Views."

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Good Deeds for Lent 2013"

This particular plan has been circulated quite widely on the Internet. I am not sure of the source, so if anyone knows the source, please inform me so that I can credit it accordingly. You can download the pdf here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Ash Wednesday"

Today is Ash Wednesday. This week, we will be meditating on this prayer by William Barclay, an Ash Wednesday prayer. We begin the Season of Lent today.

O God, Creator and Father of all, we know that your love is over every creature whom your hands have made. We know that your only wish is not to destroy but to save, not to condemn but to forgive. And we know that, if we would receive your forgiveness, the only thing that we can bring, and the only thing that we need to bring, to you is the penitent and the contrite heart. Save us from everything which would hinder us from having a godly sorrow for our sins.

Save us, O God,      
     From the blindness, which is not even aware that it is sinning;     
     From the pride, which cannot admit that it is wrong;     
     From the self-will, which can see nothing but its own way;     
     From the self-righteousness, which can see no flaw within itself;     
     From the callousness, which has sinned so often that it has ceased to care;     
     From the defiance, which is not even sorry for its sins;      
     From the evasion, which always puts the blame on someone or something else;     
     From the heart so hardened, that it cannot repent.

Give us at all times,     
     Eyes which are open to our faults;     
     A conscience which is sensitive and quick to warn;     
     a heart that cannot sin in peace, but is moved to regret and remorse.

So grant that being truly penitent we may be truly forgiven, so that we may find that your love is great enough to cover all of his sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (William Barclay in Prayers for the Christian Year, p46-47)

Monday, February 11, 2013

BookPastor >> "Shrewd" (Rick Lawrence)

The famous words of Jesus, to live as people wise as serpents, but innocent as doves, is the key truth that is expounded upon in this book. First published in  November 6th, 2012 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus
AUTHOR: Rick Lawrence
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2012, (270 pages).

How did whole regimes that are powerful militarily and mighty politically still fall, like what happened recently in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and some countries in the Middle East Arab Spring revolution? How is it possible that the strong gets defeated by the weaker ones? How is it that one gentle listener is able to tame a wild and angry horse? All of this is due to one factor: Shrewdness.

This entire book is an exposition on the famous words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, that disciples of Christ are to be "shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Arguing that like Jesus who constantly practices shrewdness, disciples are urged to do the same. Examining shrewdness from many angles, Rick Lawrence provides many different nuances of what shrewdness is.
  • It is the right force, at the right time, at the right place;
  • It is a 4-step manner that comprises firstly a thorough understanding of certain processes or cultures; secondly an identification of a key point of leverage; thirdly a watchful applying of this leverage; and fourthly a repeating of this cycle until the matter is resolved in one's favour.
  • It is learning to be shrewd but not evil like the devil.
  • It is to be practised with innocence like freedom from guilt. In other words, shrewdness and innocence are to be PAIRED.
  • It is about learning to pay attention to the necessary, that will then come across through three habits. First, the habit of learning to ask one more question. Second, the habit of thinking like Sherlock Holmes of attention to necessary details and insightful deductions. Third, the habit of perseverance.
  • Learning to tango with the enemy and using the oblique way of persuading others to see our points of view. 
  • and many more.
These and others are then used to create a portrait of one having an MSL "degree": Masters in Shrewd Living. Lawrence argues that shrewd people bring life and freedom to the world, and change the world, even the strongest opposition. From Paul to the life of CS Lewis, and other examples, Lawrence puts forth his proposition that Jesus' every interaction with people represents "shrewd living." He talks about the benefits of being shrewd and at the same time the need to be as innocent as doves. He takes time to warn readers about the powers of the dark side, that we all live under the shadow of the snake. If we are not careful enough, we adopt the heart of the wolf, which is manipulative, deceptive, and evil. For all the clever strategies we can devise, if there is no innocence of the heart with regards to evil and sin, we may destroy not just ourselves and hurt the people we try to help. Thankfully, Lawrence also provides a positive look at what living as doves means.  It essentially means delivering goodness continually. This can be done through six angles of leverage, called the Elegant Levers.

The Lever of Humility is about emptying oneself in service for others, which is a powerful weapon against arrogance, self-inflation, and pride. The Lever of Blunt cuts through all the noise and frivolous details, and uses the right force at the right place, and at the right time. The Lever of Beauty displays goodness as sacrificial acts of service for others, releasing the fragrance of grace. The Lever of Pursuit is about "shameless persistence" to surprise with an unexpected question, to be specific about one big thing, and to ask intently for a personal response. All of these are acts of pursuing that key goal, to love others as we have been loved by God. The Lever of Laughter is about using humour as a "context changer," sometimes to disarm tense situations, poke holes in the defenses of others, and to help people relax. The Lever of Generosity is about giving and giving, that whatever we gain, we have an intention to eventually give it away.These levers are ways in which we can all be both shrewd and innocent.

My Thoughts

This is a remarkable book about one of Jesus' most quoted instructions to his disciples. I have seldom come across such an expanded treatment of the topic about the double imperative. Lawrence is able to grab the attention of readers with the many stories and illustrations he use. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter set the stage for the chapter. The systematic way in which Lawrence explains shrewdness and innocence individually, and then makes the case that they are to be practised together. At times, I do sense some of the actions suggested border on manipulation strategies, especially the part about trying to find ways to peel through the defenses of others. Only when the strategy is paired with the motivation and the final goal can it be justified as shrewd behaviour and innocence. I think one of the biggest struggles among many Christians is that they are not able to distinguish shrewd from cunning, foolishness from innocence. Thankfully, this book shows the way, that to be innocent does not mean that we cannot be tough. It also means that to be shrewd does not mean that we are crafty with an evil bent. Put together, with love as an all abiding way of life, we can truly learn to become Masters of Shrewd Living.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


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

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Trust and Obey"

Our meditation for this midweek is from the words of the famous hymn, "Trust and Obey."

Verse 1:
When we walk with the Lord
        D            G
In the light of His Word
        C         G           D
What a glory He sheds on our way
While we do His good will
       D           G
He abides with us still
And with all who will
G      D    G
Trust and obey

D          G
Trust and obey
            E        Am
For there's no other way
      D/F#      G/B
To be happy in Jesus
        C     D    G
But to trust and obey

Verse 4:
But we never can prove
       D             G
The delights of His love
      C          G         D
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows
         D        G
And the joy He bestows
Are for them who will
G       D   G
Trust and obey


Verse 5:
Then in fellowship sweet
         D          G
We will sit at His feet
         C            G
Or we'll walk by His side
In the way
What He says we will do
          D          G
Where He sends we will go
       C          G    D    G
Never fear only trust and obey


Here is a Youtube rendition. conrade

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Don't Kid Ourselves

Don't kid ourselves. This video clip is worth watching as it shows us how often we deceive ourselves with superlative positives on ourselves. This is worse when it is the the honest truth. Watch this clip that is well acted and eloquently spoken to wake ourselves up from any arrogant slumber. Warning: Language alert!

It is good to remind ourselves what Max DePree once famously puts it, that:

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant."

For a longer clip of this famous scene from HBO's Newsroom, click here. conrade

Monday, February 04, 2013

BookPastor >> "The Secrets of Intercessory Prayer" (Jack Hayford)

This review was first published in "Panorama of a Book Saint" on December 7th, 2012. I recommend this book for those of us wanting to learn the what, the how, the why, and the who we are to pray for. There are lots of examples and steps to take to kick start our prayer lives of intercession.


TITLE: Secrets of Intercessory Prayer, The: Unleashing God's Power in the Lives of Those You Love
AUTHOR: Jack Hayford
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 2009, (176 pages).

Prayer is not simply asking for things. Prayer is a relationship. Prayer is not a one-way street where we ask, and God gives. It is a multifaceted expression of desiring God's will be done not just in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. Enters intercessory prayer and Jack Hayford's take on what it takes to be good intercessors. Calling it "secrets," Hayford shares passionately about praying for others, out of his deep biblical knowledge (he is a chancellor of King's University, LA) and his extensive pastoral ministry (he is founding pastor of Church on the Way).

Hayford shows readers that prayer is a partnership with God to pray well for other people. In prayer, we confront the brokenness and ask for wholeness. We ask God to bless people in a world of war and curses. We pray for those we love. We pray too for our enemies. We pray for God's healing to be done in a world splintered by the Fall of Man. What humans fail to do (good works), God does it through and through in restoration and healing. The motivation to pray is that God can do anything in His will and Name.

The chief secret of intercessory prayer is restored relationships. We pray against the spirit of division and separation, against deception, evil, and sinfulness. We learn to see how there are things man can do, and there are things only God can do. Prayer is about distinguishing the difference. Intercessory prayer is not simply about benefits for others. There are three promises we receive as well.

  1. Promise that God will work mightily in and through our household  
  2. Promise that our children will come into the Kingdom
  3. Promise of potential being fulfilled in God's time.
There are also "secrets" for reaching people. Such as praying for the path of biblical winsomeness, that we let our own lives be so transparent and unpretentious that others be won for God. We pray for wisdom in reaching older children, in better understanding of them, better listening ear, better consistency, better trust-building, better communications, and more. There are also tips for younger children and our relatives. Hayford lists four principles for us to be aware in our witness.
  1. Prayer is spiritual warfare for souls
  2. Prayer is asking God for wisdom in our conduct
  3. Prayer is asking God to guide our speaking
  4. Prayer is asking God to teach us sensibility and sensitivity in winning people for God.

Prayer is also comforting people. It is opportunity to trust God more. It also deals with tough situations when we do not feel like praying, or when we are to pray for people we dislike. There is also a section that teaches us two ways on how to pray without ceasing. The first way is to pray or learn to pray in EVERY situation. The second way is to sing. It is this second way that is most distinctive of Hayford, who himself has written hundreds, if not thousands of choruses. The book concludes with several helpful sample prayers.

My Thoughts

This book has been written in a way to encourage minimal analysis and maximum participation. Prayer is not an academic exercise but a practical endeavor. The chapters are kept short and the points succinct so that readers will find it easy to read and eager to follow. The illustrations and the stories in the book come out of Hayford's ministry exposure. They are wide-ranging, pastoral, and highly aware that prayer is not just about things in the world, but involves the spiritual realms. With practical steps, users know straightaway what to do about intercessory prayers. With encouraging words, readers are motivated to pray because intercessory prayers benefit not only others, but also ourselves. With gentleness, intercessory prayers bring about restoration of relationships and healing in the Name and Power of God. Regardless of our situation, there is a prayer waiting to be said, a longing to be heard, and a war to be fought. When Christians pray more and more, victory becomes more evident in the lives of believers.

The downside of this book is perhaps the title. Previously published as "Praying for those you love," the book's title has taken it on a self-help direction. Is there any "secret" in the first place? Why will something good be secretive in the first place? One danger of such a title is also the perception that this book is a magical how-to book that can unlock the mysteries of prayer. That is farthest from the truth. Hayford is simply providing a resource to equip believers and to encourage believers to pray more intently and more frequently. When one prays more and more, intercessory becomes less of a "secret" but more of a revelation of God in the lives of others and ourselves. Here is my suggestion for a better title. "Praying God's Will Be Done Through Intercessory Prayer," with the subtitles that include "for God, for others and for ourselves."

This is a very readable book. More importantly, it is an important prayer resource for all.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Chosen Books and Graf-Martin Communications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Book Giveaway - "Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart"

How do you really know that you are saved? Are you assured of your salvation? What about backsliding or people who used to believe? These and many more are tackled in this book. Pastor J.D Greear's new book, "Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart" takes a renewed look at assurance of salvation, conversion, backsliding, once-saved-always-saved, and many questions pertaining to what it means to ask Jesus into our hearts. Filled with multiple endorsements by many Christian leaders, theologians, pastors, and teachers, this book tackles head on the many questions of doubt and faith with regards to salvation. Don't let the title of the book fool you. It is basically to provoke your thinking.

Thanks to an arrangement with B&H Publishing and A Group Marketing, YAPDATES - A SPIRITUAL ODYSSEY is pleased to offer a book giveaway from now to February 15th, 2013. Please read the instructions below for more details.



Here are the guidelines to enter the draw.
  1. In order to participate and enter the draw, just make a comment on why you want to read this book, on this post with your name and email address. (Alternatively, you can email me your name and contact at yapdates @
  2. Your address will only be used for the purpose of this book giveaway.
  3. The draw will be held on Friday, 15 February 2012, 12pm Pacific time.
  4. This offer is valid only to addresses in Canada and the continental United States. 
  5. If selected, I will email you a confirmation.
  6. All decision made will be final.
This book giveaway is made possible by A Group Marketing and B&H Publishing House.

Remember. If you want to participate, just make any comment about why you like to have this book.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Moving CNY Commercial - 2013

Next week is the Lunar New Year. This video shows us the importance of family, the generation gap, and the little ways two generations miss each other in the daily routines of life. As the special day arrives next week, take a moment to cherish your loved ones. This video clip may be a commercial, but it reminds me of my own family in so many personal ways. Don't just take a tissue. Give a hug. Make a call. Sit a little longer at the dinner table and simply learn to "waste" time by not rushing off to do things. See the video here or below.



Friday, February 01, 2013

Survival or Revival? (Revival Praying: H.O.P.E)

How is your prayer life? What do you usually pray about? When you go to a prayer gathering, what are the kind of things people pray about? These questions are dealt with in this article, which makes a case for a renewed understanding of prayers. Prayer is less of asking for things, but more of building up a relationship with God. In praying, we let God be God, and let God show us our true need. St Francis of Assisi recognizes this human flaw, and recommends the following:

"When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing - nothing." (Saint Francis of Assisi)

James 4:3 warns us: "And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong--you want only what will give you pleasure."

A) Survival Praying
In many churches, whenever there is a prayer meeting, chances are, it will be some kind of a survival-related prayer. In my years as a Christian, nearly every prayer meeting is filled with requests for some personal issues or some form of intercession. If there is a major illness by someone, or an emergency requests, the numbers go up. If there is a major exam coming up, panicking students shoot prayer requests in droves. In times of danger or uncertainty, prayers gush forth as if God does not already know. I call these "survival prayers."
  • My mother is very sick, please pray for healing.
  • My exam is near, please pray for my Math paper
  • My son's leg is injured, please pray that he will get well soon
  • Our Church is struggling with leadership matters, so please pray that God will raise up leaders.
  • "Lord, please give me ___________" ; "God, please provide us _______________..."
  • ....
Sometimes we do come before God saying things to God as if God is not aware of our needs.  Just looking at the prayer requests that come through a Church's website, practically all of them are asking for something. A job, more money, mending a relationship, recovering from depression, dealing with particular emotional needs, spiritual needs, and so on. There are very few, even none, that talks about holiness, or about revival. All of them touches upon some earthly survival matter. Sometimes I wonder, some Christians come to God in prayer only when they have problems. Other times, where are they when God is waiting?

As long as we are all fixated on survival matters, we will be locked into a mode of survival praying. If our prayer routine comprises mainly asking God for stuff, we reduce God to a spiritual dispenser of answers. We treat our prayers as magical keys to unlock the spiritual treasures the Holy Spirit can give. We treat God as a heavenly Santa Claus. As long as we remain in this mode, we will never really grow out of survival praying.

B) Revival Praying

For many churches, in fact, more than 90% of them have more than 90% of the prayers centered around needs. Very few actually pray for revival or for some form of spiritual awakening. Put it this way, it is hard to awaken a sleepy soul. Most of the time, when one is in pain, one will then pray very hard. At other times, the soul gravitates toward wanting to do things according to one's comfort level. Revival praying is essentially learning to live beyond our own needs, beyond asking for physical needs of people around us, and beyond the four walls of our churches, and organizations we represent. Revival praying focuses more on God's will rather than man's perpetual need for comfort or for meeting of some need. Revival praying demands more out of self and even more out from God. Here are some examples of revival praying and prayers.

  • "Expect Great Things from God, Attempt Great Things for God" (William Carey)
  • "Give me Scotland else I die!" (John Knox)
  • "Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down." (John Wesley)
  • “You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God...This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame.” (William Booth)
  • “It is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people; as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37. and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (see Zechariah 12:10).” (Jonathan Edwards) 
Indeed, when we pray the Lord's prayer, that "Thy kingdom come," we are also praying "Thy will be done." When we pray for revival, we are offering up ourselves as ready to obey God, instead of ordering God to be ready to obey us. Let me suggest four ways toward Revival Praying.

C) Revival Praying: H.O.P.E

I use the word "HOPE" as an acronym for what it takes to undertake revival praying instead of being locked into a circular form of survival praying. First, HOLINESS pleases God. Every person who has a desire for revival or a spiritual awakening must determine in themselves to be holy for God is holy. They pray in a way as to ask Go for help to be a holy person. Holiness is definitely God's will for our lives. See how the Scriptures affirm this.

  • "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. " (Romans 6:19)
  • "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24) 
  • "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) 
A people with a key desire to want to be holy, is immediately fodder for revival. God is pleased when His people call upon Him to be more holy according to the Lord's choosing. Surely, if there is any prayer request to want to be holy for the Lord, the Lord will cherish and take pleasure.

Second, OBEDIENCE is more important than sacrifice. We can burn midnight oil pleading to God for mercy on our needs, or intercede for some others with regards to some dire straits situation. Yet, it is the obedience to the Word of God that is more important than the sacrifice of hours we put into spiritual work. There is no substitute for obedience. Just like praying. We all know that prayer is important, but how much do we actually pray through the day? Knowing prayer is one thing. Actually praying is another. Oswald Chambers has said, "Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work." If that is the case, it is less important to talk about prayer and more important to actually pray. Prayer is obedience. The hymn of John H Sammis says it very well.

"When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

Third, renewed PREACHING is a mark of revival. Far too many sermons and messages center around giving good advice. What we need is red-hot preaching that presents Christ as the center, as the Person, as the highlight of every meeting, every gathering, and every Christian occasion. If we do not preach Christ, then what are we doing? Pray for your preachers. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move. Look at how the passion of Paul has been re-ignite by the Holy Spirit even when he was under arrest in Acts 26.

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" Paul replied, "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.' (Acts 26:28-29) "

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in the beginning of his book, "The Cost of Discipleship."

"Revival of church life always brings in its train a richer understanding of the Scriptures. Behind all the slogans and catchwords of ecclesiastical controversy, necessary though they are, there arises a more determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all, for Jesus Christ himself." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Preach the Word in season and out of season. That is a key part of revival. Pray for your preachers. Pray for the preaching every Sunday. Pray that the Spirit moves among the people as Christ is preached.

Finally, EVANGELISM is a mark of revival. There is no greater proof of one's reawakening than the desire to share the gospel with all. Look at the early Church. The numbers grow tremendously with each proclamation of the Gospel. The book of Acts records many being added to the church when the preaching of the Word is done and when the gospel is shared throughout the regions.
"God uses people. God uses people to perform His work. He does not send angels. Angels weep over it, but God does not use angels to accomplish His purposes. He uses burdened broken-hearted weeping men and women." (David Wilkerson)

Let us awaken ourselves to a renewed journey to holiness. Let us gird up and be ready to obey what the Bible is teaching us. Let us pray for our preachers, that they will preach Christ passionately and that the Word of God take root in the lives of all who hear the Word. Let us go forth to evangelize with our testimony of what Christ has done in our lives.

May revival praying take hold of more churches. For the sake of the Kingdom of God.


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