Monday, September 30, 2013

BookPastor >> "HomeRun" (Travis Thrasher)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on August 10th, 2013.


TITLE: Home Run: A Novel
AUTHOR: Travis Thrasher
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2013, (416 pages).

There is a price for success. For some, public accolades come with private sacrifices. For Cory Brand, he learns first hand that winning consistently at a high level is a great feeling and is often rewarding. The feeling of getting attention with rising fame; the feeling of being mobbed by fans; the feeling of getting easy interviews; and the constant happiness of being given headline news by the mass media. For one who has lived through a terrible childhood, especially in terms of his traumatic relationship with an abusive father, the success he has gained as a top baseball hitter accelerated not only his own career and stardom, it also gives him a bloated ego and a heightened sense of the world owing him a living. By filling an emptying inner self with outer fame and winning games, he realizes at a personal level that success can come at a great price.

Brand’s relationship with baseball begins at an early age. Growing up with an abusive father, he becomes infatuated with trying to make great hits at the balls coming at him. Once his talent was discovered, his rise to stardom is nothing less than spectacular. Just seeing how people cheer him on whenever he hits a homerun is sufficient adrenaline for the day. Unfortunately, one homerun is not enough. As his skills tank, so too his demand for more great runs he had previously experienced. He just loves the stadium cheer. He loves the limelight. He loves it when the whole world centers its attention on one man: Cory Brand. Unfortunately, fame like a narcotic, has its side effects. When the performance on the field fails to match his personal expectations, he finds self-gratification in imagining homeruns and great hits. Out of such a bad patch comes a bad personal call. Without controlling his temper, he lets out his frustration, hurting a young boy, not knowing that that boy is the adopted son of his younger brother, Clay.

As we all know, all it takes is one silly mistake, and people will easily forget the glorious past of the most cherished heroes. All the successful runs and the games won because of Cory Brand are suddenly forgotten. All the great smiles and proud looks are substituted with a Youtube viral video of the badly executed tantrum. For all his achievements, Cory Brand has set himself up for a major downfall. The rest of the book shows how Cory is able to recover and to be reinstated not only as a baseball player in recovery, but a new man, transformed by grace. Piece by piece, the author shows how Cory Brand rebuilds himself as a person; how he starts afresh by coaching junior league baseball; how he recovers from his addictions to alcohol; and how he make amends in his relationships with people, especially with Emma, the woman he ran away from after getting her pregnant with Tyler. 

Now made into a movie, this book is an inspirational that gives readers hope. It also shows us the power of faith and love. Just like Cory Brand, we all deserve a second chance at life. We all need to give one another chance to try again. The author goes much farther. He shows how the protagonist is given opportunities after opportunities, revealing to us in a very insightful way, that that is also how God is treating us. God gives us chances after chances, over and over again. Until we like Cory, get it, fully and perfectly. If you love baseball, this book will be a captivating read. If you do not like baseball, this book will make you want to learn a bit more about the sport. 

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Final Act of Kindness

It's mind-boggling that living at home can be more dangerous than far away in a war zone. Officer Jeremy had who had served two tours in Afghanistan recently returned back to the US. Taking on the job of a police officer in San Diego, he was fatally shot. The media managed to pick up his final act of kindness which is touching. It reminds me that every second we live on earth, can be a second that makes a difference to the lives of people around us. Don't waste it. Watch the video here or click below.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Wait Upon the Lord"

This is one of the most popular songs currently being used in worship times at Christian circles. Based on the beautiful passage in Isa 40:31. You can check the link here.


Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord
As we wait upon the Lord

Our God, You reign for ever
Our hope, Our strong deliverer

You are the everlasting God,
The everlasting God,
You do not faint, You won't grow weary

You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need,
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord...

Monday, September 23, 2013

BookPastor >> "Sunday School That Really Excels" (Steve Parr)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 18th, 2013.


TITLE: Sunday School that Really Excels: Real Life Examples of Churches with Healthy Sunday Schools
AUTHOR: Steve R. Parr
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2013, (208 pages).

Many experienced educators know that learning is something more caught than taught. For such a practical topic like creating Sunday Schools that excel, we cannot simply talk about theories and strategies. We need to learn from various real life examples as well as tested methods. Simply put, this book is a book of stories and storytellers, of how different churches put into practice their sense of God's will for their Sunday Schools. Instead of reading the book straight through, and then teaching the concepts to others, the author suggests another approach. Encourage all the leaders to have a copy. Read a chapter or more together. Then gather again to discuss it and apply it if necessary. Seventeen stories from thirteen contributors are put together about Sunday Schools that excel. Sunday school is the Christian Education arm of any Church, from kids to adults.

Thom Rainer talks about the state of the Sunday School today. Backed by years of research and familiarity with the North American Church scene, Rainer emphasises the strong link between Church health and a strong Sunday School. He calls Sunday School an "open group" ministry where anyone can join at any time. SS has become more infused with the need for a "worshipful experience." There is a shift toward missions and ministries. There is also a rising inconsistency in materials being used. Following that snapshot of the current SS climate, readers can then dive into 16 stories of SS excellence.
  1. Normal Church: Josh Hunt shares that normal Church is one that has a growing Sunday School. Through the example of Pastor Roger Radliff, we learn that a growing Sunday School has the elements of a caring leader. There is a vibrant Visitation strategy. Churches with a strong visitation program are double likely to grow.  
  2. Rural Church: Tim Smith shares the example of how Corinth Baptist Church continues to thrive despite being in a rural area, and the majority of the residents earning below the national average household income.  On top of that, there are four major challenges: mindset; long commute; family power structure where a negative leader will mean the whole family not go to Church; perceiving the pastor more like a chaplain rather than a leader. Excelling means to have a clear mission and vision. It means reaching outward as well as inward. It means commitment to a Sunday School strategy. It means leadership. 
  3. Established Ministry: Every Church ministry needs to be re-vitalized from time to time. Ben Pritchett thinks so. Keep working at it is a good reminder.
  4. Small Congregations: J.D Tucker mentions four factors behind thriving SS in small congregations. Strong in evangelism; wide in fellowship; deep in prayer; and broad in welcoming.
  5. Hands-On Missions: Bob Mayfield talks about a rare aspect of SS: Missions. It is the paradigm of missions emphasis that drives the entire SS strategy. It is what members do AFTER the class that makes for a successful SS.
  6. During Crisis: Learn to find God and then find friends, especially during a crisis situation. Each crisis brings about an opportunity for positive change.
  7. Equipping Leaders: David Francis and Gary Jennings talk about equipping leaders through shared vision, regular communications, clear processes, and team work.
  8. Volunteer SS Director: Even 'normal' individuals can excel. Five critical leadership factors are identified. Teachers need to be valued, and known personally. Regular teacher meetings are held. Making guests feel at home is needed. Regular recruitment.  
  9.  Attendance Campaign: Whether the Church is small or large, SS can be an outreach program through 'Friend Days.'  
  10. Declining Church: Stressing the need for the pastor to champion the SS, churches can arrest any decline through promoting the importance of SS. Interestingly, the author indicates that growing churches have growing SS rather than growing numbers in worship services. 
  11. Multicultural: Leaders need to have a multicultural understanding as they try to be as welcoming as possible to all. 
  12. Small Groups: Elmer Towns talk about how SS classes can transition to small groups, like how a weekday group can supplement Sunday group.
  13. Innovative Home Groups:  Tim Smith discusses the traditional SS structure with innovative ideas like home groups. While the SS serves as an initial entry point, the home group cultivates an environment for community and growth. 
  14. Teaching God's Word: Ken Coley affirms the need for excellence in teaching the Word of God. The fruit is in the transformation of believers' lives outside of the classroom. For where there is no change, no teaching or learning is done. Engaging members is key, through knowing the learning styles of each member and tailoring the teaching accordingly.
  15. Examples: Steve Parr gives more glimpses of some SS that excel. One starts care groups within each SS. Another involves the casting and the executing of a clear vision.  
  16. Excelerate: Some best practices are then considered. 
The SS is here to stay. Whether traditional or non-traditional, large or small churches, thriving or declining, there is a way in which SS can excel. The traits are common. Every successful SS has:
  • The pastor as the primary advocate;
  • Training of lay leaders;
  • Elevating SS as key ministry of Church
  • Leadership;
  • Growing relationship among members;
  • Communications and teamwork;
  • Missions
This collection of stories, strategies, best practices is a ready resource for any Sunday School leader, pastor, volunteer director, teacher, or simply an interested member. Filled with so many great ideas and ready illustrations, one can turn to any page and there will be at least one idea to take to our home churches and apply them. That is most important is that many of these ideas and stories are real tested ones. I recommend this resource highly for anyone involved in all things Sunday School, Church School, Education Ministry, or whatever names chosen. Let me close with this very passionate plea.

"A church can have more than one priority. On the other hand, if you have a dozen priorities you might as well have none. Vibrant churches usually have three to five key priorities and Sunday school or their small group strategy is clearly communicated as one of them. Can you have six or seven priorities? You can, but the others become more and more diluted and ultimately devalued. Your Sunday school ministry must be elevated as one of the churches priorities through the pastor’s preaching, pastor’s verbal affirmation, the affirmation of the staff in larger congregations, through written communication, through calendaring, and through commitment as a key priority." (Steve R Parr, p195)

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sharing Resources: Mission

This split screen short film captures two worlds and slowly meshes them into one. It is very well made and more importantly puts in a very important message about how those of us who live in the prosperous countries can play a part to bring some goodness and healing to the less privileged societies of the world.

With regards to missions, the key to revival and missions is to personally for the haves to experience what it means to live in the world of the have-nots.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Touching Testimony on Christian Love

What is Christian hospitality? It is simply sharing the love of God with people who come among us. It is receiving them as a fellow brother or a sister who may be visiting. It is caring for a fellow human being, just like Jesus cares for strangers. This video begins with some shocking video footage of how some Muslims were taught to infiltrate and to overthrow the anti-Muslim regimes, especially the US. He was sent to the US to do "cultural Jihad" to try to change America from inside. Moving to the Bible Belt in the US, he considers himself the "sword of Islam" and to raise a group of cultural jihadists to change the US from the inside. Instead, God touches Kamal Saleem with an unexpected source: Christian love. He came to Christ.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Midweek Meditation: Are You Too Busy?

For this midweek meditation, I like to invite us to reflect on the following twelve questions to diagnose ourselves. The list is taken from Tim Chester's book, "The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness." I like us to ask ourselves this question: Are we too busy for our own good?

  1. Do you check work emails and phone messages at home?
  2. Has anyone said to you: “I didn’t want to trouble you because I know how busy you are”?
  3. Do your family and friends complain about not getting time with you?
  4. If tomorrow evening was unexpectedly freed up, would you use it to work or do a household chore?
  5. Do you often feel tired during the day, neck and shoulders aching?
  6. Do you often exceed the speed limit while driving?
  7. Do you have enough time to pray?
  8. Do you have a hobby in which you are actively involved?
  9. Do you eat together as a family or household at least once a day?
If you mainly answered ‘yes’ to questions 1-6 and ‘no’ to questions 7-9, you may have a busyness problem.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Touching Short Film: Giving Without Expecting Returns

Of late, the Thais have been doing incredible short commercials that touch the human heart. With a gripping story as a lead, the commercial usually teaches a message meaningful for life. In this commercial, we notice the power of giving lies not in protecting one's assets but in encouraging investments in others, especially young lives. For one never knows what will happen in the future. Best of all, giving without expecting anything in return is probably one of the best demonstrations of love in action. For Christians, we are not exactly giving without expecting anything in return. We have already received the abundant blessings and promises in Christ. When Christians give, we give in earnest hope that what we do will please God more.

Watch this commercial here or click below.


Monday, September 16, 2013

BookPastor >> "A Concise Guide to Biblical Prophecy" (Stan Guthrie)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 30th, 2013.


TITLE: Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy, A: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know
AUTHOR: Stan Guthrie
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013, (176 pages).

We read a lot about people predicting the future. Movies like 2012 predict the end of the world according to an ancient Mayan prophecy. Others use the Bible as a way to predict a doomsday scenario. For example, Harold Camping has even led his followers to sell all they have and prepare for the worst. Even a typical Church member will be left mystified by what exactly is biblical prophecy. So what is Bible prophecy? According to Stan Guthrie, it means at least three things. First, it is a statement by God and from God. The prophecy can come through people such as prophets, but the fact remains is that the words and prophecy is divine from above, and does not originate from men or the mouths of men. Second, all prophecies find its origin from God through Scripture, and all prophecies in Scripture point and ends in Christ. That is why some people, like the author makes an explicit distinction in the words "Bible prophecy" so that people will know. Third, each prophecy is but a pointer to the whole. It is not meant to be taken in itself as the complete fulfillment of isolated prophecies. In other words, each prophecy is a part of the whole.

According to Hugh Ross, about 2000 of the 2500 prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled. Another 500 are still awaiting eventual fulfillment. Guthrie maintains that it is only God who knows what the true exact numbers are. In a way, Guthrie also says that the precise number does not matter. What matters is that all of them point to Christ, and will glorify God eventually and fully. Choosing "60 predictions" Guthrie also claims that these need to be the ones "everyone should know."

The first eleven chosen prophecies are on the chosen state of Israel. Prophecies that have come through in Israel being a blessing to the nations; its struggles through history; its judgments meted out due to disobedience; and how the Gentiles are grafted back to the new Israel. In Jesus, the blessings are shared widely and more perfectly. In Jesus, the struggles are made real in a person. In Jesus, the world is saved.

The second set of prophecies cover the nations of Egypt, Nineveh, Syria, Tyre, Edom, Philistia, Ammon, Moab, Babylon, and many of the nations surrounding Israel. It shows how God is at work in the famine of Egypt, using Israel to save Egypt from calamity. The stories of Nebuchadnezzar amazingly detail the providence and protection of God on Israel despite the chosen state being exiled in a foreign land. Through it all, the central thread is that God protects Israel both within as well as without.

The third set of prophecies cover the royalties of David leading up to the Son of Man in Jesus. What Guthrie tries to show is that the early prophecies of Genesis 49:10 of a coming great king, finds fulfillment in the birth of Christ.

The next three sets of prophecies cover the birth, the life and ministry, and the death and resurrection of the Son of God in Jesus. Here is where the bulk of the prophesies see clear fruit. Many of the gospels bear testimony to the Old Testament fulfillment, with Jesus himself bearing witness.

The last two sets of prophecies are about the Church and the end times. With the Church comes the Great Commission and the great outpouring of the Spirit on the people of God. It is proclaiming far and wide the great fulfillment of the prophecy in Christ.

The last section will probably be of great interest to many readers. There is a reference to the Second Coming of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth, and how the future looks like. Broadly speaking, the message is since no one knows exactly when the last day will be, the best we can do is to be faithful and to live our lives readying to see Christ at anytime. Guthrie ends with a declaration that in Christ, the prophecies have been fulfilled, and in Christ, all other prophecies will also be fulfilled.

He closes the book with some basic principles of interpretation and contextual reading; as well as a listing of some popular schools of thought with regards to prophecy and interpretation.

So What?

Guthrie maintains a consistent focus on the Person of Christ throughout the book. He has done this with both the Old and the New Testaments with a sharp Christological focus. If in doubt, focus on Christ. Right from the start, know that in Christ all will be fulfilled. In a way, readers will feel as if there is nothing really new in this book. Some may be thinking: As long as people know that all fulfillment is in Christ, then why read the book?

I think there are three reasons to buy this book. The first reason is knowledge. I know of Christians who are basically reluctant to talk about prophecies lest they be associated with doomsday prophets or false teachers such as Harold Camping, whose predictions tend to harbour on the extreme views of the end times. At the same time, there are believers who feel that many of these things are not profitable for them as no one can actually know when the end times will be. Having said that, prophecy is something that is important for all believers to know. Even if one does not feel a need to learn about prophecy, what if someone else likes to know more? Are we going to just roll our eyes and ignore these questions? Learning more about prophecy will give us some handle on how to approach the topic, even if it is an elementary understanding.

The second reason is witness. This comes together with the passion for right teaching. If we do not learn how to understand prophecy properly in the first place, we will not be helpful witnesses at all. Just like the prophets of old have testified to a coming Messiah, we too as disciples of Christ are to proclaim the Name of Jesus as the Saviour of the world. This is not just a job for people with the title of prophets. This is a responsibility for all believers.

The third reason is the methodology. Personally, I would have preferred the "Different approaches to Interpreting Prophecy" to have more coverage in the main part of the book, rather than being sidelined all the way to the end. That said, I can understand why Guthrie decides that the best place for that is at the Appendix. His methodology is simple and written for the layperson. With the single focus on Christ, readers will have a good start on learning how to read and how to link the different narratives, prophetical writings as well as New Testament works together. This methodology is most helpful and clear, though it may not satisfy those who are more scholarly and desires more "meat" in terms of archaelogical works and research.

If there is any critique, I will say that the title of the book sounds rather bold. What makes the author so sure that these 60 prophecies are what people should know? Why only 60? While it is concise, there are also times in which after having my appetite whetted, the chapter ends. It makes me feel like the book is a mere devotional at times. However, if you have no idea what prophecy is all about, maybe, this book is a good starting point.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brief Discipleship Moment - Wake Up Call

"Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6)

This well-known verse tells of Peter who gives not out of his own abundance but out of God's abundance. When approached by a beggar looking for handouts, Peter sees through the real need of the man crippled from birth. Instead of offering something that is temporal, he points all attention to Christ, the Giver of Everlasting Life. 

(Picture Credit:
This incident is also a discipleship moment. It is now a cliché that people like to use, saying things like: "It's not easy," or "Sometimes it is very difficult," or "I'm not perfect" to excuse themselves from moving forward in the call to discipleship. Like the beggar who asks for what he thinks he needs (money), instead of what he truly needs (legs), some of us ask for God to give us something first (our expectations) before we act in faith (God's expectation).  Just observe the following.

  • A says, "It's not easy to pray" and stops praying, waiting for some unknown feeling in the future.
  • B says, "Sometimes it is very difficult to read the Bible" and stops reading the Bible, waiting for some expert professor to teach before B does anything. Trouble is, each *expert* teacher only raises the bar higher to make one even more inadequate.
  • C says, "I'm not perfect enough, or inadequate to lead" and steps away from responsibility, hoping that others will pick up the slack.

In all these cases, if Peter is still around, he will probably be saying to:
  • A: "Super-duper prayers and eloquent sayings I have none, but in the Name of Jesus, pray."
  • B: "Expert reading and classy exposition of the Bible I have none, but in the Name of Jesus, read the Bible."
  • C: "Perfect leadership and skills I have none, but in the Name of Jesus, lead."
Discipleship is not about doing things well or making the perfect cut the first time. Discipleship is about learning how to do things well, and to attempt the perfect cut in the Name of Christ. Each time we pray, read the Bible, or lead, we do so in faith. 

One more thing. When it comes to discipleship, we need to remember that it is not about us making ourselves relevant to the world. It is about us learning to be reverent to the Lord. We seek to pattern ourselves not after the habits of the world, but the holiness of God.

"Many Christians have what we might call a "cultural holiness". They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God." (Jerry Bridges)

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Monkey See; Monkey Do

This video ought to wake parents up. Negative-wise, be careful not to let our bad behaviour becomes a bad influence on our children. Positive-wise, if we take care to live in a manner that honours God, our children will also learn by observing us. It reminds me once again that it is often not what we say, but what we do that leaves in our children the deepest impressions.

  1. Do you read your Bible regularly? 
  2. Do you pray often? 
  3. Do you share the gospel? 
  4. Do you gather regularly with believers in Christ? 
  5. Do you love God as much as you love people?


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prayer for Peace - Beginning with Ourselves

Today is Sept 11. We are reminded of that fateful day back in 2001, where terrorists attacked the United States and our lives in many ways have been affected. From travel to security measures, from suspicions to preventative wars on terrorism in different parts of the world, many have felt that the world instead of growing safer has become even more dangerous by the day. Today is a Day of Prayer for many people. This week's Midweek Meditation will be on prayer for peace, beginning with ourselves. Let the following prayer of St Francis of Assisi be your guide. Watch a beautiful rendition of the prayer here.

May there be peace on earth. We can all play a part, beginning with ourselves. conrade

Monday, September 09, 2013

BookPastor >> "Help Thanks Wow" (Anne Lamott)

TITLE: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
AUTHOR: Anne Lamott
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2012, (106 pages).

One of the most challenging tasks for writers is to be able to condense many years of experience into as few words as possible. Whether it is a student writing a research paper under a few hundred words; a pastor preparing a sermon to come under 30 minutes; or a writer who has lots to say but very little space to describe it; writing something short, sweet, and succinct is no easy feat. Anne Lamott has this gift of writing short and impactful pieces. This latest book is no different. Compressing her past 25 years of both praying as well as learning about prayer, she summarizes the three essential prayers of life using a single word for each type.

The first is "Help" which can be intercessions for people, praying for leaders, friends, loved ones, the self, and so on. It grows from an awareness that we are "so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little." Called the "three most terrible truths of our existence," it becomes easier to acknowledge a higher power, and for Christians, that is God. After all, if we think we can do it ourselves, why bother to ask for help? I love this.

"Praying 'Help' means that we ask that Something give us the courage to stop in our tracks, right where we are, and turn our fixation away from the Gordian knot of our problems."

The second essential prayer is giving thanks. It is easier to give thanks for good things happening to us or our loved ones than bad events or circumstances that hit us cold. Thankfulness comes from a greater revelation of truth that comes with the positive or negative event. How can we give thanks when a friend falls seriously ill? What about bad news? What can we give thanks about when someone we love gets terminal cancer? Can we give thanks when the sole breadwinner of the family loses his job? The key thing is to manage our emotions. Through gratitude, we guide our hearts toward godly behaviour and holy thinking. It is a behavioral modifier as well as a mind-shifter. It pulls us away from the gravity of self-obsession toward the sanctity of God's presence. One example is her easy irritation with wind. After praying for help, and be ready to consider an alternative view, she starts to see that winds can clear away the haze and smoky particles in the air to reveal sharp and crisp images of the natural world. In a way, the wind can blow away any smog of unhappiness. Thankfulness can do precisely that too.

The third kind of essential prayer is the acknowledgement and recognition of beauty: Wow! The three letter word is described in what is uniquely Lamott style. Beginning briefly with the Scottish etymology of the word, she notices how "wow" is weaved into children's poetry, everyday conversations, exclamations of spectacular sights, and in particular, the wonders and beauty of nature that evokes much amazement. "Wow" and "awe" has much in common.

Although the book is about three essential prayers, there is a fourth that gets slipped in toward the end: Amen. This is a prayer of acceptance and trust that God will do what He needs to do. In fact, this one word demonstrates a confidence not in our prayers, but in the power and person of God. 

So What?

What I really appreciate is Lamott's insight about prayer being turning attention away from self and toward God. If asking for help and giving thanks is a greater awareness of God near us, wow is that deeper assurance that God is present everywhere. This is one of the clearest and easiest to read prayer books that talk about intercession and petition; gratitude and thanksgiving; wonder and amazement. Keeping things simple, the three different kinds of prayer are eloquently summarized in one word which makes it really easy for laypersons to remember. The remembrance of one word can trigger off a flurry of memories and thoughts.

The conclusion of all praying activities is this: "It changes me." CS Lewis has said it. Oswald Chambers has said it. Now, Lamott affirms it. When all else fails, there is prayer for help. There are opportunities to give thanks. There are plenty of ways to say "wow." There is that quiet assurance that causes us to squeak in an Amen. Prayer is indeed less about us, but more about turning our eyes on Jesus, and to tune our entire disposition toward Christlikeness.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

"The Mystery of Faith" - Worship Shapes Believing

When I first heard this song, I am moved by the spectrum of theological truths it manages to touch on. Newly released from the album, "The Mystery of Faith," this song centers on the life, the suffering, the death, the risen, and the Second Coming of Christ. There are themes of faith, communion, forgiveness of sins, redemption, Christology, Eschatology, the coming Kingdom, the hope and glory of Christ. Thanks to Glenn Packiam whose story of the song can be found here. Key to the motivation to writing this song is this: "The way we worship becomes the way we believe, which in turn becomes the way we live."

I like the way the writing of the song is based on the theological creeds, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the thoughtfulness of letting an attitude of worship to shape our faith. This is one example of a good worship song that is anchored on deep theological truths. Just for today, you can download the MP3 free here.

Your body was given
For all the broken of the world
Now by Your wounds we are made whole

Your blood was spilled for us
This is the hope of guilty souls
Now from Your hands forgiveness flows

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again
This is the mystery
of faith that we proclaim

Your Spirit now fills us
With You, we've come from death to life
We are Your Body, one in Christ

We wait for Your coming
The Hope of Glory will descend
And bring a Kingdom without end 
We proclaim....

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again
This is the mystery
of faith that we proclaim

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again
This is the mystery
of faith that we proclaim

Let it rise.. Let it rise... with one voice we sing...

Alleluia, Alleluia
Thanks be to our God
Alleluia, Alleluia
Thanks be to our God.

Alleluia, Alleluia
Praise be to our God

Alleluia, Alleluia
Praise be to our God.

Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again
This is the mystery
of faith that we proclaim.

Glenn Packiam and Jennie Lee Riddle
© 2013 Integrity Worship Music/ASCAP & Integrity's Praise! Music/BMI (adm at CCLI # 6256764
The Youtube version is available here.


Monday, September 02, 2013

BookPastor >> "The Complete Evangelism Guidebook"

TITLE:Complete Evangelism Guidebook, The: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ
AUTHOR: Dann Stadler
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013, (208 pages).

Want to do evangelism and not know how? Is there more than one way to evangelize? Of course, but what are they? What about a book of best practices from different gurus or experts conveniently arranged for one to learn from? Enters the "Complete Evangelism Guidebook" which covers a range of evangelism opportunities, cultures, methodologies, all based upon the central call of Jesus in the Great Commission. The key idea in the book is that sharing the gospel is not difficult. All it takes for anyone who wants to evangelize is to have a personal relationship with Jesus. It's that simple.

Structure of the Book

Part One is about "Sharing Your Faith" through defining, demonstrating, declaring, and defending your faith. Luis Palau reminds all of us that faith needs to be cultivated constantly with the believer asking, "Who is the object of our faith?" Timothy George talks about the six erroneous ways that kept people away from the true faith. Rick Marshall reminds us once again that Christianity is less about a religion but more about a relationship with Jesus. Steve Sjogren insists that in evangelism, one needs to show the faith before telling. Well known researcher of trends, George Barna gives his take on how relevant evangelism still is today. Rick Warren maintains the importance of using our life testimony as a critical part of the evangelism message. Mike Silva shows readers some everyday illustrations on how easy it is to share Christ in our daily lives. Realizing that there are often obstacles that require defending the faith, six other contributors share some ways with regards to apologetics.

If Part One of the book contains more general questions about the faith, Part Two asks the more specific questions. The section on "relationship groups" tackle issues with sharing the gospel to family, friends, co-workers, couples, neighbours, classmates, or even total strangers. Many ideas are highlighted, such as impromptu writing of letters or emails to friends; building bridges with our neighbours; living Christlike at home; or just find creative connecting points with total strangers. By "age groups," the way evangelism can be done also varies. Whether it is to senior adults, baby boomers, youths, or children, the key is to know our audience as specifically as possible so that we can share the gospel as specifically and relevant as possible. The section about "Vocation" is very interesting. People in the arts will appreciate the sharing of lives and their arts as a shared experience, meaning the way is through uncovering and revealing, rather than mere telling. People in atheletics are results-driven and will respect others who have accomplished well.  In business, we can take our faith to work through intentional relationship and honest work. In education, there is a worldview battle going on, with respect and care not to proselytize openly, something to be learned. The section on other religious beliefs is also very informative. From other religions like Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and others, to the New Age spiritualities, we learn of the different ways to handle objections, misunderstandings, or mere skepticism. Knowing the potholes to avoid and the opportunities available is critical to having a good sharing. Thom Rainer makes the collection complete by reaching out to people in Churches too, maintaining that not all Church goers are automatically Christians. Other sections cover race, life situations, and sexual orientations, making this book a very comprehensive coverage all within a 400 page book.

So What?

This is a reference or guidebook for anyone desiring to know more about how to evangelize in a pluralistic society. If you are looking for ideas, desiring to ignite your spiritual passion for evangelism, or simply wanting to learn how to share the gospel, this book is a good way to start. With more than 70 short articles, there will be something that will strike a chord in any reader's mind and heart. Readers may find certain articles more practical or useful than others. Whatever it is, the articles have been neatly arranged so that readers can quickly locate what they want to know. Having said that, while it is not necessary to read this book from cover to cover, it is highly possible that we may require more than one article in order to craft our own evangelistic message. Sometimes, we may even need to combine the different ideas in the different sections. For example, how do we share the gospel to someone of a different religion, working in a different company, or staying at a different neighbourhood? Or what do we say to someone with a different sexual orientation, where they have already judged us as bigots more than believers in Christ? One thing is for sure. Read this book with lots of care. Put the ideas into practice with lots of prayer. That is the way to use this book.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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