Monday, March 31, 2014

BookPastor >> "Intimacy" (Henri Nouwen)

TITLE: Intimacy
AUTHOR: Henri Nouwen
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1969, (160 pages).

What is the deepest need for a human being? What are most people struggling with? Is there a unifying theme in the questions posed to him from students, teachers, ministers, priests, or fellow believers in general? For Nouwen, this is summed up in one basic question: "How can I find a creative and fulfilling intimacy in my relationship with God and my fellow human beings?"

It is interesting how Nouwen describes the problem first and then connects the need for intimacy with sexuality, prayer, community, and the ministry. Key to the understanding of intimacy is to locate our phases of life in what Nouwen calls, "From Magic to Faith." For the first five years of life, one learns the frustration that life is more than just the subjective self, that we can never have everything we want. Fantasy and illusions are often seen as reality. Going to school between ages 5-12 is a starting point toward a more scientific mindset instead of a religious mindset. At adolescence (12-18), one wonders how the conflicts in life can be explained by religion. The young adult years expose one to the highs and lows of life, with pain and frustration accompanying the lows and joy and ecstasy following the highs. It is hoped that at the adult years, faith will be formed not with creating new realities, but adding new perspectives to the realities we cannot change. In other words, what Nouwen is saying is that intimacy is more about faith rather than magic. For love is about faith, about trusting not manipulating, about forgiving not forsaking, about redemption not revenge. For the essence of intimacy is bathing in a warm pool of safety and security. Nouwen writes:

"It is safe to embrace in vulnerability because we both find ourselves in loving hands. It is safe to be available because someone told us that we stand on solid ground. It is safe to surrender because we will not fall into a dark pit but enter a welcoming home. It is safe to be weak because we are surrounded by a creative strength. To say and live this is a new way of knowing. We are not surrounded by darkness but by light..... If there is a need for a new morality it is the morality which teaches us the fellowship of the weak as a human possibility." (36)

I like the way Nouwen puts it as the "fellowship of the weak." This will facilitate one's entry into intimacy and prayer. Intimacy with God allows one to escape the prison of self-doubt and explore the freedom of God's grace. Nouwen shows us prayers that look to God as:

  • "The clarifying God"
  • "The banned God"
  • "The big buddy God"
  • "The compassionate God"
  • "The beautiful God"
  • "The giving God"
  • "The coming God."

There is a movement of one's perception of who God is as one's faith takes shape. Nouwen also looks at the Pentecostal movement, charting its historical formation, evaluating it from a psychological perspective, and measuring it theologically. While cautious about the link between Pentecostal experiences with true spiritual movements, he urges readers to remain open about the possibility that God can work through religious experiences to bring us to a deeper level of intimacy. Intimacy also requires community. Without community, it is hard to establish dialogue to help deal with any depression. It is hard to share one's life and to carry one another's burdens. With fatigue and discouragement, one plunges into identity crisis. This has special implications for seminarians or people entering into the ministry. Nouwen looks at healthy timing, healthy spacing, and healthy self-understanding as ways in which one can sustain a constructive ministry of faith.

Intimacy is more needed that we think. It is that one chance to establish love with God and with fellow people. Without it, we are left to fend for ourselves as we spiral out of control. The world around us is a dangerous place to be in and we will find it hard to survive on our own. We need God. We need one another. We need spiritual guidance. This book is one more resource to help us gather the importance of prayer, community, faith, and love so that we can enter into intimacy with people who care and to develop in ourselves a capacity to care for others as well. Toward the end of the book, it seems like Nouwen is increasingly disturbed by depression in a seminary setting as well as the declining trust in church and institutions as sources of human support and spiritual guidance. Perhaps, we ought to give the Church more leeway and ourselves more opportunities to be open to God and to the church that God loves. Let me close with the following:

"The churches, in many ways entangled in their own structural problems, often seem hardly ready to respond to this growing need to live a spiritual life. The tragedy is that many find the church more in the way to God than the way to God, and are looking for religious experiences far away from the ecclesiastical institutions. But if we read the signs well, we are on the threshold of a new area of spiritual life, the nature and ramifications of which we can hardly foresee. Hopefully, we will not be distracted by the trivia of churchy family quarrels and overlook the great questions which really matter. Hopefully, we will be sensitive enough to feel the gentle breeze by which God makes his presence known. (1 Kings 19:13)." (150)

Great reminder.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Don't Be Afraid - Inspirational on World Down Syndrome Day

This is a heartwarming video of assurance, for all mothers, in particular those who happened to have a child diagnosed with Down's Syndrome. Last week, March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer as a Stance"

"I’d like to say something a bit different about prayer, and therefore about religion. Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is rather a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence. It is, further, a way of living in awareness of the Presence, even enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows and delights in it." (Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vibernate App for Androids

Vibernate: A Very Practical App
One of the best things about being a parent is to see children growing up and exercising their potential more and more. As a technology geek myself, I do know of a good and practical idea when I see one. This small project is done by a team of University students at the University of British Columbia. They have come up with a really brilliant idea to a common problem. My daughter is one of the members in the team.

Why do you need this app? Well, remember how cell phones can be both a boon as well as a bane? You hate it when it interrupts you or embarrasses you during an important meeting. You also hate it when you fail to pick up an important call because it is on silence mode. VIBERNATE addresses these 2 problems directly.

Problem #1 - Forgetting to Silence One's Phone Before Meeting
The first problem is forgetting to turn off one's cell phone before any important meeting. We all know the irritation that comes when someone else's phone starts screaming out in the middle of a class, interrupting not just our own train of thought but the presenter's program as well. It can be rude and discourteous to all. I remember attending conferences where the organizers will remind attendees to turn off their cell phones. In schools, teachers remind students constantly to silent their phones. The same applies to Church group gatherings, Sunday services, meeting places, and so on. Turning the phone off or switching it to silent mode helps, but only when the meeting is ongoing. What about after the meeting?

Problem #2 - Forgetting to Turn One's Phone Back to Normal Mode After Meeting
This presents us the next problem: When we forget to turn our cell phones ring tones back ON, it leads to missed calls and frustration when people tried to call us in vain. If only we have an app to address both problems. Turning our cells to silent or vibrate mode at the start of the meeting, and automatically turning it back on after the meeting. Enters VIBERNATE, an app that allows us to program the start and end times of each important meeting. Use the app:
  • For school days;
  • When attending lectures
  • On Sundays when you are at Church
  • Important meetings
  • Conferences and Public Events
  • ....
The app works for Android platforms now. It is currently hosted on the project leader's website. If you want to see the rest of the team members, download the app and check out the ABOUT tab. Great job Amelia and team!

If there is popular demand, perhaps the developers can come up with a version for use with IOS, iPhones, and maybe Windows 8 too.


Monday, March 24, 2014

BookPastor >> "Darkness is My Only Companion" (Kathryn Greene-McCreight)

TITLE: Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness
AUTHOR: Kathryn Greene-McCreight
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006, (176 pages).

Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges facing societies today. While there has been huge advancement in medical sciences for medical research and breakthroughs in general, investment in the study and care of mental patients seems lacking. Resources are so scarce that the author of this book, a person with clinical depression, bi-polar disorders, and manic behaviours, had to write her own book. That was because she could not find any material that touches on mental illnesses from a religious perspective, in particular Christianity. How do we medicate mental illnesses? Where is God in all of these? How can we make sense of objectivity, subjectivity, and to know what is real and what is not?

This is made even more challenging as the author herself is a theologian, used to academic objectivity. At the same time, with her own mental and emotional condition, how is she able to consistently express her thoughts in a truthful and coherent way? Amazingly, she did. Written in three parts, Part One chronicles her journey through facing mental illness. It is a very personal one as she hangs on the the promises of Scripture such as Psalm 88 on the one hand, and stares at darkness in the face on the other. He hangs on to the three cords of sanity: "religious (worship and prayer); psychological (psychotherapy); and medical (medication, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization)." In doing so, she invites readers, especially those with quite similar circumstances to walk with her. With deep understanding, she recognizes depression not as a problem to be eradicated but something to be understood first, treated second, and lived with during the process. She struggles with thoughts of death, symptoms of confusion, episodes of emotional swings. Acknowledging the difficult of cultivating friendship with the mentally ill, she says that one of the best things anyone can do is to pray. Not just praying for something, but prayer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Upcoming Movie: "Heaven is For Real"

Here is an early publicity of the upcoming movie, "Heaven is For Real." Based on the book of the same name, it is a dramatization of the story of Colton Burpo, who had an experience of heaven while being momentarily in and out of this world. Without revealing too many details, here is some currently available information on the official website. Resource link here.
Movie that is Moving, Inspiring,
and Down to Earth

Press Release
Based on the Globe and Mail and #1 New York Times bestselling book of the same name, Heaven is For Real brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world.

The film stars Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® award winning actor Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo, the real-life couple whose son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum) claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth... things he couldn't possibly know. Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event.
'Heaven Is For Real' will be released in select Cineplex theatres across Canada on Easter Weekend, beginning Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

    There is also a series of sermon resources for the 4 weeks leading up to Easter here.

    Trailer link here.

    My review of the book is available here. My review of the film will be published on April 16th, 2014. Watch for it.


    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Accordance Bible 20th Anniversary (1 Day Special)

    I have been an Accordance Bible software user since 2004. Nearly ten years ago, I bought my first Apple Macintosh PowerPC notebook computer. The main reason: Run Accordance Bible software. Since then, no other Bible software have come close to the usability, the depth, and the smooth interfacing of English, Hebrew, and Greek texts. The modules are easy to understand and installation is a breeze. Of course, one needs to get used to the Apple platform. Accordance for me is exquisite, elegant, and technically excellent. Yet, the competition has not stood still. The two chief competitors, Logos Bible Software and Bibleworks begin offering not just the Windows but also the Mac versions too. They bundled lots of other resources (especially English ones) together with the main packages.

    Personally, I was tempted to switch, especially with Logos offering multi-platform licensing in which one license allows users to install both the Windows and the Mac versions. This is the right move, as both the Mac and the Windows platforms are becoming more ubiquitous by the day. It is increasingly common for people to have one platform at home and another at work. I am no different. I am versatile with both platforms. Thus, just when I was about to jump ship to Logos, I realized that Accordance has matched Logos with their multiplatform licensing in which licensed users can install their software on up to 5 personal devices (Mac, Windows, IOS). I stayed and glad I was. Let me list several reasons why.

    1. Great Software: The software is very stable and usable. After a short while of getting to use the menus, the systems, and the way modules are opened and linked, the rest is very intuitive.
    2. Universal Licensing: With my one license, I can use it on both my Windows and Mac systems. IOS versions too! This means I am able to use my Mac at home and Windows in my office.
    3. Purchased Modules (Easy Install): No longer do I have to worry about key codes or software modules purchased long ago. With one login account, users can install from anywhere, anytime.
    4. Chat Support: The staff are friendly and responsive. They have been extremely helpful to iron out some of my queries patiently.
    5. Precise Purchase: One thing I like is the pricing in which I pay for what I use. One of my friends once told me, "Free stuff people will hardly use." It is indeed a waste to pay for stuff which are hardly used, yet occupy precious disk space. So far, all my purchases have been actively used. 
    6. Clergy Discount: I really appreciate every little help offered for full time workers.
    7. Good Software: I am happy that Accordance is now 20 years old. It is important to support good work done by good people.

    Today is another reason to rejoice. The 20-for-$20 is a chance of a lifetime to upgrade one's modules. It is only valid today (March 20th, 2014, ET). Here is the link to the one day special. I'm a happy user.

    Thanks Accordance! And Happy 20th Anniversary!


    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Midweek Meditation: Seven Sacred Steps to a Deeper Devotional Life

    This list of "Seven Sacred Steps" is meant as a guide to shake up our dependence on worldly things, so that we can stir our hearts toward God. That is what a devotional is supposed to do.

    [Dan Wilt, Author, Song Writer, Worship Leader)


    Monday, March 17, 2014

    BookPastor >> "Ego Trip" (Glynn Harrison)

    Have we given too much credit to the self-esteem movement? Have we ever questioned how true the science and statistics are? Perhaps, we have swallowed lock-stock-barrel the data, the prescription, and the overwhelming tsunami of self-centered ego trips.

    This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on January 28th, 2014. 


    TITLE: Ego Trip: Rediscovering Grace in a Culture of Self-Esteem
    AUTHOR: Glynn Harrison
    PUBLISHER:  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (208 pages).

    One of the most intriguing things about our culture is the insatiable appetite for self-help, supplemented by seminars and conferences. Many bookstores have bludgeoning spaces allocated to self-help books. Motivational gurus are kept busy with increasing demand for booster talks and feel-good events. Even the field of leadership is flooded with constant streams of people in expert fields giving advice to executives and working adults who are willing to pay big bucks to attend the conferences. If we do the math, if the books and conferences are effective, would there not be a decrease in the number of people needing help? Instead, what we are seeing is an epidemic of demand which psychiatrist and author Glynn Harrison has coined: "Boosterism."

    The Problem
    Harrison begins the book with a trip back to the age where self-esteem has been played up to young kids. We regularly hear that "Every kid is special." Reality TV shows tell us that "we need to believe in ourselves." We are taught to "think positive" and banish anything that threatens to introduce low self-esteem. Harrison puts it well:
    "The self-esteem movement gripped our imagination because it engaged with this, the deepest and most profound problem of our lives — the struggle for significance and self-worth — and it told us it could fix it."
    With promises, experts, and the timing of the needs of our era, the self-esteem industry has only one way to go: Up. He traces it back to the "father of psychology," Johnny Wilkinson, who first coined, "self-esteem" after bouts of mental health issues. This concept is farther developed by Sigmund Freud who describes the human person in three parts: id (like babies demands), the ego (all things me), the super ego (where one absorbs values and expectations of surroundings). Inferiority complex occurs when the "id" gets overwhelmed by the "super-ego." The "self-esteem" movement essentially deals with trying to build up one's ego to overcome any guilt produced by the "super-ego."

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    They Rise Fast; They Fall Fast Too

    There have been a spate of bad news for megachurches. The largest Church in the world, Yoido Gospel Assembly had their founder and senior pastor convicted due to a financial scandal involving his own son. In Singapore, a number of prominent Church pastors from the highly visible City Harvest Church are embroiled in a tough legal battle regarding criminal breach of trust. The Financial Times reported on the case with a cheeky title: "Fraud trial puts Singapore megachurch in unholy spotlight." In Sweden, influential megachurch pastor, Ulf Ekman on his own website declared recently that he had converted to Roman Catholicism. Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas is also in the spotlight for having $600,000 stolen from their church premises. The bigger the Church, the closer the scrutiny.

    David Yong-Gi Cho is leader of a Church numbering more than a million members. Kong Hee's City Harvest Church has a regular attendance of nearly 20 thousand people. Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church numbers over 43000 attendees each week while Ulf Ekman's Word of Life Church has about 3300 members.

    All of them know each other. All of them are charismatics. All of them are leaders of huge congregations. Most of the setbacks are traced to financial matters. These developments troubled me. Not only are they becoming stumbling blocks to their own people, they are being placed under world attention, with the news media constantly ready to pounce on every little juicy detail of any form of scandals, personal failures, or financial irregularities.

    It is no use to try to blame them or to fire away our dislike of megachurches or big buildings. We need to pray. We need to care. We need to be humble enough to remember that if we are in their shoes, we may not have fared any better.


    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Midweek Meditation: "God Be In My Head"

    God be in my head
            and in my understanding;
    God be in my eyes
            and in my looking;
    God be in my mouth
            and in my speaking;
    God be in my heart
            and in my thinking;
    God be at my end
            and at my departing.

    [Book of Hours, 1514]

    Watch the singing here.

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    BookPastor >> "One Thousand Gifts" (Ann Voskamp)

    This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on January 24th, 2014.


    TITLE: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
    AUTHOR: Ann Voskamp
    PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, (240 pages).

    One word describes this book: Beautiful.  Despite ushering readers through her moment of grief in losing her sister, author Ann Voskamp does not rush to force any recovery toward that conventional "normal" we all seek. Instead, she allows the grief to linger and her emotions to meander through the crevices of her inmost being. She navigates through tears. She probes the fears. She asks the questions about life and finds herself seeing life through paradoxes. How can one live fully in the midst of deadening emptiness? What is the point of living as one observes the effects of dying? Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of sorrow? For Voskamp, the answer is emphatically YES through the practice of "eucharisteo," the Greek word for Thanksgiving. This one word is the key that unlocks a thousand gifts. This one word changes one's perspective of life. This one word reminds us less of what we do not have and more of what we already have. This is exactly what Voskamp describes, starting with items inside her house, familiar images of loved ones, simple things from moonlight to sunlight, simple appreciation of time, and various spiritual reflections to mine the ordinary to uncover the extraordinary gifts God has given. Though the author does not write down the entire list of thousand gifts, by the time she reaches #245, I was sold.

    There are many spiritual lessons in the book. What makes this book special is not how it tells us what to do, but how it invites us to tell ourselves what we ought to do. Like the reflection on time in which God has given us. Have we thought about how we can give this time in dedication back to God? Is that not how love continues to flourish and flow? After all, money stuck with one person cannot be used to benefit others until it moves and circulates around society. For if we learn to practise giving and freely receiving, and learning to pass it on, thanksgiving will be like the fresh flow of living waters that can flow unimpeded from streams to river; from rivers to seas; from seas to oceans. God evaporates them to the clouds and rains them down on the mountain and the land. Tied closely with Thanksgiving is Grace, which Voskamp spends time describing, deliberating, and disbursing grace. With each step of thanksgiving and the dance of grace, one gradually enters into a space that allows a profound anticipation of the Presence of God. As rush disappears, God appears. One learns trust. One cultivates wakefulness to the things of God. One gives thanks.

    As Voskamp begins with moments of grief, she ends with claims of joy. Most of all, she has reminded us once again that a thousand gifts are available for anyone of us, if we are willing to use the keys of "eucharisteo" and grace. Voskamp has given us a gift. How we receive it and use it is very much up to us.

    This is definitely a book to treasure and to keep. It is definitely worth more than a thousand gifts.

    Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

    Friday, March 07, 2014

    Running the Race

    The Christian life has sometimes been likened to a race. It is how we run that matters. This reminds me of a favourite song a few years back that speaks about this. There is a Youtube video here.

    By Dallas Holm
    I'm running the race, I'm running the race to win
    I'm running the race, I'm running the race to win
    Sometimes I felt like giving up and falling down within
    But I'm still running the race, I'm running the race to win
    I started walking before I could run
    I slowly moved from place to place
    But I got stronger day after day
    And now I'm running in the race
    Repeat Chorus
    It's almost over, the end is in sight
    I'll cross the finish line by grace
    It's gone so quickly, and still it seems
    That I have always run this race.
    Repeat Chorus


    Thursday, March 06, 2014

    Regent College Pastors Conference 2014

    This is a publicity for the annual Regent College Pastor's Conference. The theme this year is "Transformation the Gospel Way." As usual, there are lots of marketing about the topics, the speakers this year, and the attractions of just coming away to a place called "under the green roof." That said, I ponder again why anyone ought to consider attending the conference. After all, is it just another conference?

    Admittedly, sometimes I feel that there are way too many conferences. Maybe I have attended one too many myself. I remember going for every pastors conference during my four years at Regent. That said, there are three reasons why leaders and pastors in particular ought to consider going.

    First, there is the opportunity to network and to know other pastors and workers in the ministry. Many pastors minister alone in different ways. It is an opportunity to take a break from the routine and to mingle with like-minded people working the field, on the same cause. I find this very life giving just to hear stories of different pastors in their ups and downs of ministry work. While there are complaints, there is also gratitude, showing us the reality of working among God's imperfect people. Pastors need friends and spiritual colleagues to be encouraged too. At the same time, they can learn from one another, and to go back to an environment in which they are able to reach out to each other and form new friendship networks.

    Second, pastors need encouragement. The single biggest barrier to joy in the ministry is discouragement. It is only a matter of time for any one pastor to face this monster drainer of joy and zest for ministry. Self-care is critical for any healthy minister. The pastor's conference is one such opportunity where pastors will find out that they are not alone in their struggles.

    Third, pastors come together in like-minded worship. Personally, I feel that is the highlight of the whole conference. While the conference markets the popular speakers, the interesting topics, and the gospel focus, it is the worship that humbles all of us to acknowledge that it is God's ministry and God will certainly provide and take care of His Church. I remember how the group of pastors and leaders pack the chapel and to bring the whole house down with unison in singing, in praying, and in loud praising. The very participation in this atmosphere is worth the price of the entire conference.

    Dates: May 6th to 9th, 2014 (Tuesday to Friday)
    Schedule: Details available here
    Place: Regent College, Vancouver, BC
    Cost: $340 until Friday March 14th. (After which it will be $380 per person).
    Speakers: Mark Buchanan, Mariam Kamell, Rikk Watts, Ross Hastings, Rod Wilson, Jonathan Wilson, Soohwan Park, and Kevin Boonstra.

    Go if you can. Bring a friend too.


    Wednesday, March 05, 2014

    Midweek Meditation: "Ash Wednesday 2014"

    Today marks the beginning of Ash Wednesday which is the traditional start of the Season of Lent, which is the traditional 40-days of reflecting on Christ's journey to the Cross. The end of the 40 days begins Holy Week, as Christians remember Jesus entering Jerusalem that fateful week.

    I can point you to a free resource by here. It is a colourful 48-page daily reflection by some popular figures in the Christian world.

    Note the Season of Lent as follows:
    • Ash Wednesday - March 5th, 2014
    • Maundy Thursday - April 17th, 2014
    • Good Friday - April 18th, 2014
    • Easter Sunday - April 20th, 2014


    Monday, March 03, 2014

    BookPastor >> "Attentive to God" (Charles M. Wood and Ellen Blue)

    TITLE: Attentive to God: Thinking Theologically in Ministry
    AUTHORS: Charles M. Wood and Ellen Blue
    PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008, (138 pages).

    Theology is about being attentive to God, to others, and to ourselves. That is what thinking theologically is all about. Combining their expertise, knowledge, and experience about many aspects of "knowing," "doing," and "being," two seasoned professors and practitioners of Christian ministry come together to offer us a powerful resource for the practice of Christian ministry. The "knowing" gets the ball rolling. The "doing" comes from the authenticity of the "being" and the awareness of all three working together in an integrated fashion is the task of all theologians, Christian thinkers and ministers. From a philosophical angle, the authors begin with Isaiah Berlin's famous phrase: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." After comparing the fox's attention to details and its fascination to details (vision), with the hedgehog's focus on one big thing (discernment), they conclude that we all need a combination of both. Thus, Wood and Blue weave together a multi-threaded perspectives and integrate them under one whole. Working in many triads, they see attentiveness as being God-centered, companions-sensitivity, and self-awareness. They view Wesleyan quartet (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience) through three conditions of authenticity, truth, and "fittingness." They consider Martin Luther's classical three aspects of theological study (oratio, meditatio, tentatio) as a "central organizing insight." One should not let details cloud out one's care for individuals. Neither should one carelessly sacrifice individuals for the sake of the big picture. There is also the three kinds of responses that exemplify Church Ministry: Word, Sacrament, and Order. The "Word" seeks to determine the truth and how the truth can be shown forth. The "Sacrament" seeks to overcome faults so as to bring about reconciliation in Christ. The "Order" looks to bring about the most benefit for people in the light of the redeeming work of God. With that, the authors come up with two sets of triad questions. The first set is a practical set with the student being an outside observer. The second is more personal with the self being an active participant.

    Practical Triad of Questions
    1. What is going on in this situation?
    2. How is God involved in what is going on?
    3. What is a fitting response to what is going on?

    Personal Triad of Questions

    1. What is going on with you as you consider this situation?
    2. How is God involved in what is going on with you in this process?
    3. How might you respond to what is going on with you?

    They put these questions to 19 case studies, believing that while the cases are fictional, they are remarkably similar to several real cases in their ministry encounters. Such a method is a way of believing that life happens when we are making other plans. There is the case of Henry the homeless man whose presence outside a Redeemer Church is splitting up the Board's opinions on what to do. There is the example of a couple who wanted so badly to have their child go through infant baptism even when they are agnostic. The practice of putting money on the rails after Communion is also another case that pits pastor against leaders. Other interesting cases include estate and building logistics; questions about God's Will; relationships with Church members; and even offering a gay man a room in Church are examples of how the most ordinary decisions can become extremely complex.

    The various case studies allow readers to put into practice both triad of questions. What will they do as a distant observer? What would they do if they are direct participants of the case studies. Being attentive to God means putting into practice the love of God and neighbour. It means learning to live with the constraints of today with the promises of tomorrow. It means that having all the right answers is not the point. It is in working through the best process with the understanding that it is God who is in control. Obedience to God is primary. Following human principles is secondary. Let me close with this thoughtful paragraph.

    "What informs our attentiveness? What shapes our capacity for attending to God, and guides us when we are in particular need of guidance? In keeping with Christian conviction, we should say at the outset that it is ultimately God who does so - that our learning and practice of theology, along with everything else that is good in our lives, has to do with our participation by grace in the life of the triune God, and with our being brought to understand things in the life of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit who is at work in us and all creation. When we speak of more proximate resources, these themselves must finally be understood in their God-relatedness, as means by which God is at work on and in and through us." (9)

    For the authors, "theological discernment" is about asking the question, "Where is the Lord?" While that may be way too brief for those of us with more sophisticated requirements, it marks a good start to our path of thinking theologically in ministry.

    Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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