Monday, September 29, 2014

BookPastor >> "Facing Leviathan" (Mark Sayers)

This review was first published on August 21st, 2014 at Panorama of a Book Saint. 


TITLE: Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm
AUTHOR: Mark Sayers
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (240 pages).

Mark Sayers is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. His "The Road Trip That Changed the World," has become my go-to book for cultural engagement and analysis. Now, this latest book will be my goto book for leadership in our rapidly volatile cultural climate. Using the biblical sea monster described in the Old Testament book of Job, Sayers crafts this leadership guide that shines light on the cultural changes of this age, but penetrates deep into the forces that make or break a leader. Readers will slowly but surely be forced at some point to deal with their own "Leviathans."

Using the French Revolution and Paris as a metaphor, Sayers shows us how a society of power and glamour in 19th Century Paris that looks good on the outside can spawn the rise of a cruel and wicked person like Adolf Hitler. He points out the two popular forms of leadership: Mechanical (Enlightenment values) and Organic (Romanticism values). The former is based on power, task-driven, traditional, conventional, etc, while the latter is based on creativity, radical, relational, spiritual, imaginative, etc. Sayers admits that for the most part of his life, he has tried to evolve from the mechanical to the organic form of leadership.Gradually, he gets swamped by "surprising fruitlessness," "cultural splits," as well as his own bipolar condition, making him even more determined to find out the root cause of it all. He begins by meeting the Leviathan and the dangers of the sea. He observes with much fascination how poets like Jules Verne live out the Mechanical style of leadership while Rimbaud represents the organic form. Both had one thing in common: Both abandoned their Christian faith. Both the cultures of Enlightenment and Romanticism grow out of a "society of the spectacle" where leaders become celebrities; activists become spectators; creators become consumers; focus gives way to distractions; etc. This calls for urgent encounters with the Word of God. The concern is that the worries and distractions of the world can tempt leaders to abandon God's calling and embrace the cultural deceptions of comfort, entertainment, distractions, sensuality, and rising disobedience. Leaders soon forget that obedience to God often means disobedience to self.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Midweek Meditation: On Evangelism

"Consider for a moment if it is not evangelism, but rather late-twentieth-century styles of evangelism that deserve our disdain and avoidance. What if evangelism is one of the things that our world needs most?

After all, most people want to talk about things that really matter -
          their sense of God,
          their experiences of meaning or transcendence,
          their attempts to cope with their own mortality,
          their struggles with guilt and goodness,
          their dreams and hopes and deepest longings.

They want to talk about these things because without them, all that is left in life is -
          re-runs and shopping,
          copulation and digestion,
          earning and savings,
          culminating in estate sales and probate."

(Brian McLaren, More Ready Than You Realize, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p13-14)


Monday, September 22, 2014

BookPastor >> "Finding Spiritual Whitespace" (Bonnie Gray)

What we need most is not more technology, more time, more work, or more stuff. What we need most is space to determine what all these mean and to discern when to do and when NOT to do them. This review was first published on August 1st, 2014 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest
AUTHOR: Bonnie Gray
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2014, (272 pages).

We are all busy. We all have our own things to do. Packed calenders, filled schedules, you name it, we are all stretched to maximize all of our time and to minimize wastage. We have become so proficient in filling up all of our spaces but often paying a heavy price: We do not know how to rest. As Sabbath beckons each week, sometimes, we wonder whether we are able to find a place and means to rest. We need help. we need a way to recuperate from the madness of busyness. In the words of Bonnie Gray, we need to find "spiritual whitespace" which is her way of saying "we need to find a place to rest."

Bonnie Gray has personally heard stories and experienced her own trauma about needing to find spaces to rest when the demands are high and the energy levels are low. With a constant drive to get things done, she allowed the demands of work to dominate, resulting in severe post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Rather than a book that talks about rest from an expert, this book is about one person's journey of recovery from PTSD to restfulness. It comes out of a deep search for newer places of rest. It invites readers to come alongside and share the search process. It is a spiritual journey that breaks new ground for the author and hopefully for readers. More importantly, it reminds us that just because there is a blank space or empty schedule does not mean we need to straightaway fill it up. Some things are meant to be cherished as blank spaces so that it can spur creativity and beauty, not cluttering with work or accumulating stuff. Five "whitespaces" of rest are described.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "On the Paradox and Power of Retreats"

Here is an excerpt from "The Retreat Leader's Manual" that contains powerful lessons on why we go on retreats.


"Guiding retreats requires trust and faith because retreats are counter-intuitive to so many messages of mainstream consumer culture that seem to have soaked into our very pores. It will likely take encouragement, confidence, and positive support from you to motivate participants to welcome the seeming paradoxes of faith. Some of the unexpected invitations retreats offer are include: receiving by letting go, moving closer by being still, hearing through silence, advancing by retreat, acting on God's behalf by resting, learning community from solitude and strangers, going away to become more present, finding abundance in producing less, embracing yourself by reaching out, listening to the language of nature, leading by being a servant of all, honoring diversity through simplicity, and loving your enemies.

Retreat experiences, these 'places apart to be together,' welcome persons into what long time camp and retreat leader, Ted Witt, calls 'a change of pace, place, and face.' In other words, participants enter an alternative cadence of living, while venturing to less familiar surroundings and leaving behind many roles that give them a sense of predictability and comfort. That is fantastic! Be sensitive and caring, however, while simultaneously simulating chances for positive transformations within the newness and nuances inherent in journeying away.

Retreat experiences ask folks to launch from their harbors into the unknown that characterize any adventure. All this produces powerful potential. As people move through their initial uncertainty, it opens a host of new horizons. Biblical stories are full of persons who encountered God or gained greatly expanded awareness through new situations and excursions. You are part of offering that opportunity!" (Nancy Ferguson and Kevin Witt, The Retreat Leader's Manual, Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 2006, p16-17)

Monday, September 15, 2014

BookPastor >> "When Sorry Isn't Enough"

An apology is more than saying "sorry." It goes much farther than that. Popular author Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas show us at least 5 ways to do it. 

This review was first published on May 30th, 2014 at Panorama of a Book Saint. 


TITLE: When Sorry Isn't Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love
AUTHOR: Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 2013, (176 pages).

No one's perfect. Neither should we behave in such a way as if we expect people to be perfect. Yet, that happens all the time. Even the best of relationships will fall into bad and difficult times, especially when one's loved one is hurt. What if the offense is repeated? What if the expectation is more than a mere apology? Then what should we do?

Previously released under the title, "The Five Love Languages of Apology," Chapman understands the intricate connections needed for going beyond mere sorry. When authentic apology meets understanding among all, we have genuine forgiveness. The authors assert that because "people are incurably moral," not only do they seek to do right, they are inclined to try righting any wrongs. The key is to learn how to do that. The five types of apology are as follows:

  1. "I'm Sorry" - expressing regret
  2. "I was wrong" - accepting responsibility
  3. "How can I make it right?" - Making restitution
  4. "I want to change" - Genuine repentance
  5. "Can you find it in your heart?" - requesting forgiveness.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Prayer on September 11th

Thirteen years ago, the world was gripped with horrifying images of terror and war. We must continue to pray for God's peace to reign on earth. For without God, there can never be any peace.


Lord, this time of the year, we recall with horror the 102 minutes that changed the world we live in. The images are gut-wrenching. They have spawned even more wars since that fateful day. We sometimes wonder why such attacks could ever have been conceived. It boggles us and reminds us once again the deep evil that is occurring around the world. We remember You teaching us to pray for all people, both friends and foes; the loved and unloved. It is hard to pray for our enemies on our own strength. We can only do so from the eyes of Christ who loved the world so much that He died for all.

We pray for those who have been scarred from the aftermaths of the attacks; those suffering from personal loss; PTSD; fear; and various fallouts. Help us to do everything we can to be peacemakers, be bearers of the good news, to declare the coming of the Kingdom of God. An inch of peace is better than no progress at all. A remembrance of hope is better than volumes of despair. A glimpse at Your grace is better than constant fixation on worldly things. Draw us closer to You, that we may draw others closer to the Prince of Peace.

In the Name and the Power of Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Sailing Prayer"

This lovely prayer is attributed to some islands North of Australia. For many of the island dwellers, sailing and fishing form an essential part of their livelihood.

O Jesus,
    Be the canoe that holds me in the sea of life

Be the steer that keeps me straight.
    Be the outrigger that supports me in times of great temptation.

Let Thy Spirit be my sail that carries me through each day.

    Keep my body strong, so that I can paddle steadfastly on,
In the long voyage of life.

Monday, September 08, 2014

BookPastor >> "Basil of Caesarea"

There are many things we can learn of the lives of the Early Church fathers. Do you know that Basil of Caesarea played a major role in the formation of creeds like the Nicene Creed? This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 9th, 2014.


TITLE: Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact (Biography)
AUTHOR: Marvin Jones
PUBLISHER: Ross-shire, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2014, (434 pages).

During the late fourth century, one man dared to stand against the Emperor Valens. Refusing to work with Arian bishops over theological grounds, this man confronted the political establishment with courage and eloquent scholarship. The period was the early years of Christendom in Europe. The man was Basil of Caesaria (329-379 AD). In a land that has the Church and State increasingly integrated, the fight includes theological battles. One such fight was Orthodox Christianity vs the rising influence of Arianism. As one of the famous Cappadocian Fathers, (the other being Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, and Gregory of Nazianzus), Basil led the fight which led to the gathering of the Council of Nicea, and the formation of the Nicene Creed, which is a particular emphasis to re-affirm the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Basil's Theological Impact
While many were unable to withstand the onslaught of Arianism and Alexendrianism, Orthodox Christianity had the Cappadocian Fathers to thank for. Of all the challenges, Arianism was perhaps the most formidable. Serious doubts were cast on the divinity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and ultimately on the Trinity. Basil of Caesarea, together with a few others were also tempted to just avoid the controversies of the day, and to spring toward an ascetic lifestyle, to get away from the world. After all, it is easy to run away, and troublesome to fight the Arians. Fortunately, Basil chose to fight the huge heresy, moving from a "homoiousian theologian" to the orthodox "homoousian" theologian. The former argues that Jesus is "similar to or like" the Father, while the latter insists that Jesus is of the "same substance" as God the Father.In doing so, Basil began a tough journey to unify the Eastern and Western Church. Other theological battles include the fight against Sabellianism (modalism that effectively denies the Orthodox Trinity position); Anomoeans (that the Son was a different substance than the Father); and his most well-known contribution: "On the Holy Spirit."

Friday, September 05, 2014

Resource Guide to Effective Evangelism

This is a resource guide to effective evangelism, courtesy of Power to Change. Download it here.

It is a neat little handbook that begins with an overall understanding of a typical conversion process. Five stages are listed.
  1. Trusts a Christian
  2. Becomes Curious
  3. Opens up to Change
  4. Seeks after God
  5. Enters the Kingdom
It is simply a guide and we ought to keep it that way. Every person comes to Christ under very unique settings. The purpose of the overview is simply a guide to understand the different stages. By putting it in the different stages, the producers are then able to incorporate essential materials and resources for each. Download it and study it for yourself.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "What Does It Mean to Serve?"

Here is a paraphrased version of Mother Teresa's teaching on prayer, faith, love, and service to the poor.

If we pray, we will believe
If we believe, we will love
If we love, we will serve. 
Only then can we put our love for God
Into living action through service of Christ
In the distressing disguise of the poor.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Monday, September 01, 2014

BookPastor >> "A Well-Worn Path" (Dan Wilt)

TITLE: A Well-Worn Path: Thirty-One Daily Reflections for the Worshipping Heart
AUTHOR: Dan Wilt
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2013, (70 pages).

This is a 31-days of reflections that are simple, brief, and very profound. Ideal for meditation, it helps us to rest, to pause from the busyness of life, and to orientate our hearts and minds toward worshiping God. Written by an author and worship leader, he has many wise words and insights for not only worship leaders but also for anyone desiring to grow deeper in worship. This book contains 31 daily snippets of life, faith, and spirituality. Each day begins on a clear page with only a Bible verse printed. In many devotionals, many publishers have squeezed in as much as possible to ensure that whatever white space on the page would be filled. Not this devotional. It is plainly and simply one short Bible passage for readers to take, read, meditate, and allow the Word to draw them in. The next page gives a brief title and description followed by a prayer.

What makes this devotional really pleasant is the simplicity of it all. It helps one to focus on the Word. It helps one to pause and not rush to complete the devotion. Instead, it is written in an inviting manner that readers are free to read as slow as they want to, or as speedy as they like. Chances are, anyone doing the latter would be going through the passage a second time. Given the way that the devotional can draw one in, it is very likely that this book about a "well-worn path" can easily become a well-worn out book.

Great stuff.


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