Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "I Arise Today"

This is an excellent prayer, attributed to St Patrick (389-461).

(Alternate version)


I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Monday, January 27, 2014

BookPastor >> "King's Cross" (Tim Keller)

This book is an exposition on the Gospel of Mark. It puts the pivotal point at Mark 8, which marks the beginning of the end of Jesus' ministry on earth. Read how Keller skillfully weaves in the themes of kingdom, the teachings, and the growing emphasis on the cross, culminating in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Dec 4th, 2011.


TITLE: King's Cross - The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus
AUTHOR: Timothy Keller
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Dutton Press, 2011, (240 pages).

Tim Keller has a gift for words. He has an ability to weave in a keen understanding of Scripture. Backed by word studies in Greek and Hebrew, he brings the nuances of the original gospel contexts alive to the English speaking world. He has a passionate desire to bring God's people closer to Jesus. Brilliantly, he joins the ancient world with contemporary culture, the Hellenistic texts in the light of modern contexts, and holds together the need for relevance without compromising on biblical truths. This book is another example of this masterful teacher and eloquent preacher.

About the Book

Keller chooses the book of Mark to give readers a deeper insight into how Jesus changed the world by entering into the life of the world. The first part of the book deals with Jesus as King. By focusing on the action-packed gospel of Mark, one sees less of Jesus' 'teaching' and more of Jesus' 'doing.' One recognizes Jesus' identity as King over all things (Mark 1-8). In Part Two, Keller points to the need for Jesus to go to the Cross, highlighting the purpose of Jesus' coming (Mark 9-16). This twin focus of identity and purpose constitutes Keller's interpretation of the gospel of Mark. Together, he exhorts us to 'seriously consider the significance' of the life of Jesus in our own lives. Interestingly, Keller calls the Bible as the book that understands us.

The eighteen chapters roughly follows the gospel of Mark. In the 'Dance,' Jesus comes to earth to give us love, inviting us to relationships of love, of what life is all about. He sets an example for us in obeying the call of God the Father even unto death on the cross. In healing people, he shows us that the deeper need is not meeting our perceived needs, but our truest needs: We need God. My favourite chapter is 'The Rest.' Working through the Sabbath passages in Mark, he says that keeping the Sabbath is more than a pause from work, more than mere observance of the Law, more than a mental or physical time off. It is becoming more aware of Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath. He compares two characters in the story 'Chariots of Fire.'
"Harold Adams was weary even when he rested, and Eric Liddell was rested even when he was exerting himself. Why? Because there's a work underneath our work that we really need to rest from. It's the work of self-justification. It's the work that often leads us to take refuge in religion." (43)

"Because the Lord of the Sabbath said, 'It is Finished,' we can rest from religion - forever." (47)
In 'The Power,' Jesus is Lord over all nature, that those who trust in Him will not need to be afraid. At the midpoint of the book, Keller turns to the inevitable: Jesus must die.

Part Two is the way of the Cross. Keller calls Mark 8 as the pivotal chapter because the King is going to the Cross. The glory of life needs to endure the gory of death.  The transfiguration of Christ is a glimpse of the resurrection of Christ. He makes a case for the uniqueness of Jesus when compared to other religions. While Buddhism maintains their center in the Far East, Islam in the Middle East, Christianity has branched outward moving from Jerusalem to Hellenistic centers, to Alexandria, North Africa, Rome, Europe, and the rest of the world. He credits Andrew Wells for observing that Christianity 'is always migrating away from power and wealth' (125). He writes:

"Jesus says, 'My power is always moving away from people who love power and money. My power is always moving toward people who are giving it away, as I did. Where do you want to live?'" (137)

Read this brilliant description of Jesus, that we either have to take Him as He is, or reject Him. We need to decide.

"He is both the rest and the storm, both the victim and the wielder of the flaming sword, and you must accept him or reject him on the basis of both. Either you'll have to kill him or you'll have to crown him. The one thing you can't do is just say, 'What an interesting guy.' " (162)

Of the Communion, Keller says that the Lord's Supper points us to the future with Jesus, a 'small' but 'very real' future (172).  He ends the book by saying that Christ's death is but the beginning of a glorious kingdom to come.

"On the Day of the Lord - the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue - on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace." (224-5)

Closing Thoughts

Keller has a rare ability to bring ancient texts alive with insights that tantalizes the modern mind. He brings out the message of Mark in a very readable way. I find my heart pulsing with the re-telling of the story of Jesus, Keller-style. Immensely quotable, this book is a treasure house for preachers looking for a few nuggets to cite. It is a resource for Bible teachers on how to communicate ancient truths for contemporary ears. Bible students will like it. Laypersons will love it. One learns not only the Bible but also the art of communicating the Bible. This is certainly worth the price of the book. Some books do a great job in getting people more interested to dig into the Bible more. They make readers hunger for more of Jesus. They create a thirst that longs for the living waters of Christ. This book is one of them.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of a Civil War Soldier"

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
        I was made weak that I might obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
        I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;
        I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
        I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
        I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I have received nothing I asked for, all that I hoped for.
        My prayer is answered.

(Prayer of an unknown civil war veteran)

Monday, January 20, 2014

BookPastor >> "The Plain Man's Book of Prayers" (William Barclay)

TITLE: Plain Mans Book of Prayers
AUTHOR: William Barclay
PUBLISHER: Glasgow, Great Britain, Fontana Books, 1959, (128 pages).

This is one of my favourite prayer books. Written by the esteemed Scottish theologian and scholar, the prayers are aimed at the "plain man" or the layperson. Saying that prayer is the "most natural ability" we can ever have, Barclay understands that it too is something that needs to be taught. He makes the case that:

  • God is more than willing to give, even more than our desire to ask;
  • We need to be honest with God;
  • Be definite in our prayers, especially when it comes to confessing our sins;
  • Without self-examination, there is no real prayer;
  • Prayer is not making use of God, but availing ourselves to be used by God, according to God's wisdom and glory.
Barclay highlights five great divisions of prayer. First, there is the invocation which is the inviting in to "help us realize" that God is already present. We do not invite on the basis of saying God is there. We invite ourselves to be ready before an ever-ready God. Second, there is confession where we pour ourselves out before God, be specific in our sorrys and honest about our sorrows. Third, there is the natural outflow of thanksgiving. This attitude is important because it is a recognition that God has given us so much, and we are only able to be aware of so little. Fourth, there is petition in which we ask God for the basic things we need to live on, our common cares and concerns. In petition, we do not ask God on the basis of what we need. We ask God on the basis of seeking to understand God's will even in the light of our needs. Fifth, there is intercession. In the Christian community, no man is an island. We need one another. In intercession, we stand in solidarity with one another to ask God to help people that we cannot normally help. 

The prayers are then laid out in terms of a full month's prayer; a special Sunday prayer for four consecutive Sundays; prayers for special occasions on the ups and downs of life; and a list of Bible readings that can be read individually as well as communally. Clearly laid out and easy to use, the prayers can be a very helpful resource when designing liturgical readings, giving family prayers, or at prayer meetings.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Alone Yet Not Alone

Joni Eareckson Tada continues to inspire, singing the theme song for the upcoming movie of the same name. The song, "Alone Yet Not Alone," has even been nominated for an Oscar. The words of the hymn support the major themes of comfort, faith and hope.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "An Alzheimer's Request"

This particular posting is a reminder that empathy is preferred, not sympathy. For true caring comes when we are able to empathize with the person we care about. Next time we meet someone with Alzheimer's, try to listen more and talk less. For some of us, who knows. We may be the very people who need others to understand us when we ourselves get Alzheimer's.

An Alzheimer's Request (Poem by Owen Darnell)

Do not ask me to remember
Don't try to make me understand
Let me rest and know you're with me
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I'm confused beyond your concept
I'm sad and sick and lost
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.

Please do not lose your patience with me
Do not scold me or curse or cry
I can't help the way I'm acting
I can't be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you
And the best of me is gone
Please don't fail to stand beside me
And love me till my life is done.


Monday, January 13, 2014

BookPastor >> "The Vanishing Evangelical" (Calvin Miller)

This review was first published on December 13th, 2013 at Panorama of a Book Saint. conrade

TITLE: Vanishing Evangelical, The: Saving the Church from Its Own Success by Restoring What Really Matters
AUTHOR: Calvin Miller
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013, (242 pages).

The problem with modern evangelicalism is that it has adapted too readily with the culture and for some, they have adopted the culture, lock, stock, and barrel. Instead of evangelicals shaping the world, the culture is shaping the evangelical world. Making eight distinct observations of what exactly is happening to the evangelical world, the late Professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham Alabama, has written a plea for evangelicals to wake up and do something before the evangelical landscape vanishes forever. Miller asks two broad questions:
  1. Who are Evangelicals?
  2. Who are the sources?

Of the many definitions of evangelicalism (note: NOT 'evangelism'), Miller opts for one from "Got Questions Ministries" which stresses the point about "personal relationship," rebirth, and beliefs associated with these. He makes observations of other definitions such as one that is being "bound up in conservative theology," and one that exists at two levels: "mystique" and "activistic." He also cites other evangelical definitions from Carl F.H Henry and George Marsden. It is evident that Miller tries to be as all-encompassing as possible. On sources, Miler credits three major influences: Jacques Barzun's take on how culture has influenced the West; and Philip Jenkins's rather gloomy prediction of Christianity's dying days; and Thomas Friedman's take on how the world is changing. From here, Miller lets off an entire barrage of bad news for evangelicalism of today, before pointing out some glimmer of hope.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind"

This majestic hymn talks about how Big God is and how small we are. In seeking forgiveness, we receive the Big Heart of God, for in Jesus, there is perfect calm, comfort, and care. Written by John G. Whittier (1807-1892), this hymn is a beautiful accompaniment to worship and coming to resting in God's warm embrace.

Whittier is an American Quaker, who believes that God is best worshiped in quiet contemplation and reflection. It is a song that is hauntingly magnificent and rises up and lowers down in expectancy of capturing a glimpse of God's comforting presence.

Download the pdf here.

*** WORDS ***
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise;
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee;
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace;
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm;
O still, small voice of calm.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Testimony of Frances Yip

There has been a spate of testimonies from Hong Kong based, or previously connected to the Hong Kong entertainment circles. This is a recent one, recorded on September 8th, 2013, at the Calvary Convention Center in Kuala Lumpur. It comes with a touching testimony of how in Christ, she took time off to care for her wheel-chair bound husband, how a baby grandchild was miraculously healed, and what Christ had meant to her. Tracing her early beginnings as a school girl in a convent, and ending with a rousing rendition of a popular song written by a Hong Kong Pastor, the testimony is nearly 30 minutes long but is worth watching.



Monday, January 06, 2014

BookPastor >> "How To Be Rich" (Andy Stanley)

This review was first published on Dec 24th, 2013 at Panorama of a Book Saint. 


TITLE: How to Be Rich: It's Not What You Have. It's What You Do With What You Have.
AUTHOR: Andy Stanley
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (160 pages).

We don't need more money or stuff. We need more heart! This is the essence of the book. It focuses on 1 Timothy 6:18 which says: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." Paraphrasing this, Senior pastor of North Point Community Church and bestselling author Andy Stanley, says that being rich is not about what we own or possess, but what we do with what we have in our possession. Although the book is titled in an enticing manner, the content is basically one of giving, sharing, and caring for others, using whatever resources we have to bless another person. It is more about being rich rather than making more money. What Stanley aims to convince readers is that we are already rich beyond measure. For that matter, we cannot read this book on the basis of wanting to get more money or more stuff. We need to cultivate an attitude of noticing others who need more from us.

There were two reasons that got Stanley fired up to share this message. Firstly, the culture around constantly tries to tell people that they need to get more and more, when in fact, most of us are already rich beyond measure. Secondly, many Christians simply do not know how to behave as richly blessed people. He uses this message to challenge his own congregation at one time to give away $1.5 million dollars to a needy cause, with the entire amount dedicated to the cause. The congregations pooled together $5.2 million and gave every single cent away.

Beginning with a stunning story of how Sir William Gull correctly diagnosed Anorexia nervosa, the "most puzzling diseases of the 20th Century," Stanley makes the point that we already have what we need to do good in this world. All we need is to learn to observe the outside, and to be aware of the treasure we already have inside, and to apply them for the good of others. In doing so, we learn what being rich is all about. In contrast to the unsatisfying nature of getting more and more, yet feeling less and less contented, readers are urged to consider the counter mentality. For being rich is not about getting but about giving. This requires training and constant honing. Being rich is one thing. Practicing it is another. Stanley notes how the possession of wealth without learning how to make use of them is downright unhealthy. It causes us to long for more stuff. It makes us bloated. It gives us a false impression that life is basically designed around the collection of more money or more stuff. Moreover, it can give one a mistaken belief that once we get all the money we want, we have attained self-sufficiency and the holy grail of happiness. No way!

Being rich means learning NOT to trust in riches. It means learning to arrest the "endless desires" for stuff, that will subsequently bring about non-stop worries and fears. After all, the more we have, very often, the more we worry. At the same time, the more things we have, the more we lose sight of the purpose of having them. This is a gem indeed and reminds us in a crazy shopping frenzy to ask ourselves why we are buying what we are buying.  One way of dealing with our wealth is to find ways to "get rid of it" purposefully and with appropriate stewardship principles, lest it finds its way to our hearts. Stanley suggests three Ps for us to learn about planning.

  1. PRIORITY GIVING - where generous giving is to take priority over procrastination of any giving.
  2. PERCENTAGE GIVING - where we avoid giving out of our excesses but giving out of whatever we have.
  3. PROGRESSIVE GIVING - We learn to increase our giving progressively.
Not only will we learn to counter the negative effects of hoarding wealth, we develop the positive effects of using wealth for the good of people and for the glory of God. 

My Thoughts

This is a wonderful book that reminds us about the perils of wealth in keeping and holding. At the same time, it shows us the pearls of generous giving, and that in giving, not only can we bless more people, we also benefit by growing a big heart and glorifying our great God. This is certainly one of the best messages to come from the popular author Andy Stanley. Stanley is increasingly becoming one of my favourite authors, for his sheer way of understanding the modern culture around us, and the biblical way to counter the negative effects of the world. The topic of wealth and riches is given an extensive treatment within a relatively short book. Compared to a weightier volume that I reviewed recently, Stanley's book is targeted more at the layperson and the average Western Christian consumer at large.

Each year at Christmas, we all rush to buy gifts and many of us are influenced by the glitzy sales and offers around us. While it is good to make more money and to buy stuff, we need 1 Timothy 6:18 to be louder than any sales pitch, sharper than any sales cuts, and greater than any big offers. In learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the things we already have, we learn to focus more on what God wants and less on what man wants. Through our wealth and riches, or whatever we now have, invest and make good use of them. All of us have 1, 30, 500, or 1000 units of talents. Use them faithfully, and in God's perfect timing, He will multiply them, and to bless more people. Surely, in some special way, the blessings will come back to touch lives, including ours. Consider this book a great Christmas reminder that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. That we all may live.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

On Sportsmanship

In any hotly contested game, we must always learn to honour and respect our competitors. We honour them for helping to lift the quality of the game. We respect them to keep ourselves humble. Winning at any cost will lead to dishonouring the game, disrespecting the competition, and ultimately the destruction of sportsmanship. After all, we would rather see a good game between two really good teams, instead of one-sided affairs or unsporting bullies. Like some would say: "Win with style, Lose with style." The score may not favour us, but classiness will favour all.

(Picture Credit: cookie6)

Yes, it is important to win. However, do not let winning overwhelm us until we forget that underneath the game of sports, we are all the same. We are all human.


Friday, January 03, 2014

How to Spend $25000?

We have seen movie trailers on TV, in cinemas, on Youtube, and other places. These trailers do cost quite a lot of money to make. For 20th Century Fox corporation, they decided to ask Casey Neistat
$25000 to make a short movie trailer to show the concept "Living your dreams." He decided instead of spending the money on his own personal ventures, he flew to the Philippines to spend every penny there. The result is this amazing, creative, and compassionate move.


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