Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Marks of a Spiritual Man" Part II (A.W. Tozer)

An Excerpt from "The Very Best of AW Tozer, Baker, 1978, p63-4"

(4) Again, a Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God’s viewpoint. The ability to weigh all things in the divine scale and place the same value upon them as God does is the mark of a Spirit-filled life. God looks at and through at the same time. His gaze does not rest on the surface but penetrates to the true meaning of things. The carnal Christian looks at an object or a situation, but because he does not see through it he is elated or cast down by what he sees. The spiritual man is able to look through things as. God looks and think of them as God thinks. He insists on seeing all things as God sees them even if it humbles him and exposes his ignorance to the point of real pain.

(5) Another desire of the spiritual man is to die right rather than to live wrong. A sure mark of the mature man of God is his nonchalance about living. The earth loving, body-conscious Christian looks upon death with numb terror in his heart. But as he goes onto live in the Spirit he becomes increasingly indifferent to the number of his years here below, but increasingly careful of the kind of life he lives while he is here. He will not purchase a few extra days of life at the cost of compromise or failure. He wants most of all to be right, and he is happy to let God decide how long he shall live. He knows that he can afford to die, now that he is in Christ, but he knows that he cannot afford to do wrong, and this knowledge becomes a gyro- scope to stabilize his thinking and his acting.

(6) The desire to see others advance at his expense is another mark of the spiritual man. He wants to see other Christians above him and is happy when they are promoted and he is overlooked. There is no envy in his heart; when his brethren are honored he is pleased because such is the will of God and that will is his earthly heaven. If God is pleased, he is pleased for that reason, and if it pleases God to exalt another above him he is content to have it so.

(7) The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments. By faith he rises above the tug of earth and the flow of time and learns to think and feel as one who has already left the world and gone to join the innumerable company of angels and the general assembly and church of the First-born which are written in heaven. Such a man would rather be useful than famous and would rather serve than be served.

And all this must be by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him.

Monday, October 26, 2015

BookPastor >> "Introducing World Missions" (A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary McGee)

Missions is not just for missionaries. Everyone has a role to play. This book is a gem of resources, packed with everything people need to know about world missions. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 30th, 2015.


TITLE: Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission)
AUTHOR: A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (336 pages).

Recently, the wife of a modern missionary, Jim Elliot, passed away. She was passionate about missions. She experienced it, spoke, about it, and died with missions very much in her heart. The world has lost another missionary but the work of missions continue. What are contemporary missions? How has it changed over the years? This textbook provides a comprehensive introduction to what world missions is about. Aimed not just at missionaries to be, the authors want to share not only the importance of missions but also to educate more about this important work of the Church. The first of a series of eight books on missions from an evangelical perspective, this book covers a broad overview of:
  • Missions Primer
  • Missions in Scriptures
  • Missions in History
  • Missionary Candidates
  • Being Sent Out and becoming a Sender
  • Missions in the Contemporary World
The eight volumes of the "Encountering Missions" series are:
  1. Introducing World Missions (2004, 2015)
  2. The Changing Face of Missions (2005)
  3. Encountering Missionary Life and Work (2008)
  4. Christianity Encountering World Religions (2009)
  5. Encountering Theology of Mission (2010)
  6. Developing a Strategy for Missions (2013)
  7. Effective Intercultural Communication (2014)
  8. To be confirmed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Marks of a Spiritual Man" Part 1 (A.W. Tozer)

An Excerpt from "The Very Best of AW Tozer, Baker, 1978, p63-4"

(1) First is the desire to be holy rather than happy. The yearning after happiness found so widely among Christians professing a superior degree of sanctity is sufficient proof that such sanctity is not indeed present. The truly spiritual man knows that God will give abundance of joy in His own time, after we have become able to receive it without injury to our souls. But he does not demand it at once. John Wesley said of the members of one of the early Methodist societies that he doubted that they had been made perfect in love because they came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy.

(2) A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life, even if it means that he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss. Such a man prays, “Hallowed be Thy name,” and silently adds, “at any cost to me, Lord.” He lives for God’s honor by a kind of spiritual reflex. Every choice involving the glory of God is for him already made before it presents itself. He does not need to debate the matter with his own heart; there is nothing to debate. The glory of God is necessary to him; he gasps for it as a suffocating man gasps for air.

(3) The spiritual man wants to carry his cross. Many Christians accept adversity or tribulation with a sigh and call it their cross, forgetting that such things come alike to saint and sinner. The cross is that extra adversity that comes to us as a result of our obedience to Christ. This cross is not forced upon us; we voluntarily take it up with full knowledge of the consequences. We choose to obey Christ and by so doing choose to carry the cross. Carrying a cross means to be attached to the person of Christ, committed to His lordship and obedient to the commandments of Christ. The man who is so attached, so committed, so obedient is a spiritual man.

Monday, October 19, 2015

BookPastor >> "God's Battle Plan for the Mind" (David W. Saxton)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 2nd, 2015.


TITLE: God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation
AUTHOR: David W. Saxton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015, (142 pages).

There are people who manage to take time to look at the Bible but not read it. Using the metaphor of looking and smelling food without eating it, a Christian life without meditation is like superficial reading of the Word without actually understanding it. David Saxton, senior pastor of Hardingville Bible Church in Gloucester County, New Jersey believes that modern Christianity is in trouble because "it has become thoughtless, superficial, and self-absorbed." Using the Word of God and the necessity of experience with God, this book focuses on Christian meditation, what it is, what it is not, how to meditate, the reasons for meditation, and anything related to this spiritual practice.

Saxton has brought a into sharp focus the very antidote we need for our spiritual lives. On the outside, believers are bombarded by worldly distractions and daily struggles. On the inside, they are threatened by fear, worries, and common anxieties. In such an unstable spiritual state, personal devotions and Bible reading have become cursory browsing. They spring to action on their own strength instead of depending on the Spirit to lead us through the Word of God. That is why Saxton is convinced that the battle is first and foremost for the mind. Meditation is that giant anchor to keep us from flailing thoughts and anxious behaviours. In contrast to days of old where people were hungry for a personal Bible, today's generation is spoilt for choices of many versions, translations, and electronic options. They have everything, many free choices as well. The trouble is, they are not really studying or reading it as much. If this is the case, what more about meditation?

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Smile After Two Tragedies (Jaden Hayes Shows the Way)

Jaden Hayes is no ordinary boy. He is also no ordinary orphan. At the age of four, his father died. Two years later, his mum died in her sleep. Any orphan would have been devastated. Yet, Jaden does the unexpected. As he got sick and tired of sadness and people looking down whenever they saw him, he decided to embark on a campaign of "Toys for Smiles." This moving video shows the power of the human spirit.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "What Does it Mean to Care?" (Henri Nouwen)

"What does it mean to care? Let me start by saying that the word care has become a very ambivalent word. When someone says: “I will take care of him!” it is more likely an announcement of an impending attack than of a tender compassion. And besides this ambivalence, the word care is most often used in a negative way. “Do you want coffee or tea?” “I don’t care.” “Do you want to stay home or go to a movie?” “I don’t care.” “Do you want to walk or go by car?” “I don’t care.” This indifference toward choices in life has become commonplace. And often it seems that not to care has become more acceptable than to care, and a carefree life-style more attractive than a careful one.

Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. The word “care” finds its roots in the Gothic “Kara” which means lament. The basic meaning of care is: to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with. I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the have’s toward the have-not’s. And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone’s pain before doing something about it.

Still, when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares." (Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2004, p25-6)

Monday, October 12, 2015

BookPastor >> "Counter Culture" (David Platt)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 18th, 2015.


TITLE: Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography
AUTHOR: David Platt
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015, (288 pages).

We are living in a culture where popular opinion speaks louder than truth. So says pastor and author of this new book about countering the cultural forces and principalities of today. Without guidance, many Christians are unwittingly letting their silence be a sign of weakness that they are indifferent to the major social issues of today. In fact, Platt takes to task those Christians who are lopsided in their lobbying, shouting on some issues but ignoring other equally if not more important matters. Sometimes, when Christians are being slammed by non-Christians for taking a biblical stand, the rest of the Christian community remain largely silent for fear of being slammed as well. In preferring to take a nonchalant posture, one asks where then is Christian conviction? Where is the courage to speak up? Where is the compassion to work through those victims of social injustice?

The nine issues highlighted are poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, persecution, abortion, orphans, and pornography. On Poverty, Platt was shocked to see the seriousness of cholera, and other debilitating diseases that the poor were unable to get treatment due to the lack of money. Contrast that with the wealthy part of the world that seems to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor. The gospel is clear. We are called to do our part to distribute and share the wealth we have with those in need, and not to hoard it for our own consumption. For God, through Jesus has been extravagant in his time and care for the poor and needy. Why are we not following Christ's example? We are then called to live simply, give sacrificially, help constructively, and invest eternally. On Abortion, we need to avoid seeing it as a political issue but a biblical one. For life is sacred. Platt calls abortion a modern holocaust where 42 million unborn babies are terminated each year. He claims that abortion is an "affront to God's sole and sovereign authority" as Creator. Who gives man the right to kill? How can we terminate the creation of God in such a manner? Who gives us the right to determine which baby to live and which to die? He tackles some popular objections like free choice, privacy, and selfish motives.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
"O God, early in the morning I cry to You.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on You:

I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;

I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me...

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before You and before me.

Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your Name be praised." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945)

Monday, October 05, 2015

BookPastor >> "Lectio Divina" (Enzo Bianchi)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 1st, 2015.


TITLE: Lectio Divina: From God's Word to Our Lives (Voices from the Monastery)
AUTHOR: Enzo Bianchi
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2015, (128 pages).

We have many books on theology and Christian living. What about how to read the Bible devotionally? According to the Enzo Bianchi, a Catholic layperson who founded a monastic community in Italy, he believes that reading the Bible well is the central part of discipleship. The author is founder of the Bose Community, an ecumenical monastic community of 80 brothers and sisters in Magnano, Italy.

We need to be caught up in Bible reading. We need to be absorbed by the Word. We need to commune with God in the Word. Writing from his experience with a group of believers to surround their whole lives around the Word of God, Bianchi's overriding passion is to encounter Christ as he reads the Word of God. This is the method of lectio divina which helps us avoid some of the pitfalls of humanistic reading. Pitfalls such as:
  • Reading for simple emotional experience
  • Rigid fundamentalism that keeps the letter but ignores the spirit of the letter
  • Ignoring the traditions and histories of the Word
  • Using the Word of God as a polemic or literary weapon against one another
Set in two parts, Part One of the book is "Bible and Spirit" which is about entering the rooms in the Bible with the Holy Spirit holding the keys to usher us in. The third century Church father, Origen explains it as "Scriptura sui ipsius interpres" (Scripture is its own interpreter).This means that the Bible is a unity that does not contract itself. It also means the Spirit teaches us. The Bible is not merely an objective document to analyze and study. It is a subjective living Word that puts us as the object as willing servants and God as the Person revealed to us. We read in faith, desiring the truth instead of impatiently demanding answers to our needs. The Bible calls us to be personally involved in the Word instead of an impersonal stance to see things from a distance. We need to be open to what the Bible is saying and be open to what the Bible is not saying. It needs to be read, studied, and understood in the Spirit. Bianchi is also aware of how the Bible can be read in an "overly spiritualized, allegorical, literal, or fundamentalist" manner. The way to avoid that is to keep the Bible central in liturgy, preaching, theology, and Christian living, not just Bible study time. He advocates "spiritual exegesis" which is an approach to the Bible that believes God is found in the Word. It goes beyond methods or mere applications. It engages the whole person that the reading of the Word results in a transforming of one's life. Spiritual reading means reading the Bible as a single book on Christ. I like what Hans Urs von Balthasar's comment about the four senses of Scripture:
The four senses of scripture are celebrating a hidden resurrection in today’s theology. The literal sense appears to be analogous to the historical-critical approach, the spiritual sense to the kerygmatic, the tropological to the existential, and the anagogical to the eschatological.
The first sense is the literal sense which is how we exegete the Word, do word studies, and practice sound interpretation. The second sense is the spiritual in which we move to the tune of the Holy Spirit helping us to interpret and understand the meaning and significance of the Word for us today. The third sense is the tropological which is the moral interpretation of the story. Some would use the word allegorical to describe it. The fourth sense is anagogical which is to read Scripture with the view of the future coming Kingdom of God. Thus, reading the Bible transcends time as it embraces all the past, the present, and the future. Read the Bible over and over again until we are connected to God in love and adoration. We understand the Bible according to how we live it. Reading it involves two more elements: life of the Church and what it means to be human. The trouble with people is that they hardly read the Word and then complain about the lack of God's presence when we are in trouble. He connects the Bible as sacramental with the Eucharist as Christ's presence. In all, there is a stress on unity and the community of God.

Reading the Bible involves listening as well for the Bible is dialogical and relational. We listen to God and sense God listening to us. Obedience is listening in faith. Listening in faith means learning to move from letter to spirit, to let the Spirit guide our understanding of the ancient texts to the practice of modern living. Soon, Bianchi launches into the four levels of lectio divina.
  1. Historical-Literary level (lectio)
  2. Glimpsing Christ (meditatio)
  3. Dialogue that engages and interacts (oratio)
  4. Seeing God face to face (contemplatio)
Part Two of the Book deals with Lectio Divina in the Church. It is an interpretive trip down historical lane. We note how the Old Testament books interpret each other. We learn about the Jewish midrashic as well as the Church Fathers' use of allegorical methods. Different eras tend to focus on different senses of Scripture at any one time. Some good tips are as follows:
"Lectio divina, whether by ourselves or in community, requires a context of faith and prayer. We start in silence, confessing our faith that the Lord is speaking to us today through the biblical page. We invoke the Holy Spirit and open ourselves in humility to his action, because insight into the text is a Spirit-led event, not an intellectual pursuit." (90)
One chapter is dedicated to the foundations and practices of lectio divina and two chapters on the challenges of doing lectio divina. We learn about setting aside time and space intentionally, to enter into a place of solitude and silence. We cultivate our listening skills and discernment. We go through the exercises of lectio, oratio, meditatio, and contemplatio. Though brief, it offers readers a quick glimpse into what the exercises entail. Sometimes, brevity is golden as we can be quick to jump into the Word rather than to plow through pages and pages of instructions that can easily numb our enthusiasm.  Other practical tips include:
  • Daily reading of the Word
  • Planting God's Word in the hearts of people
  • Avoid the temptations of extremes
So What?

In some societies, reading is fast becoming a lost discipline. This is particularly so for an increasingly digital generation where people skim web pages instead of reading; browsing instead of meditating; and clicking various apps and links instead of beholding the Word before us. The medium we use is important and can affect the way we do lectio divina. We need to learn the four senses of Scripture simply because the Word of God cannot be hemmed into any one dimension. Just as we know that the Bible has many genres, so too we need to be sensitive to the Word in their original contexts. At the same time, the Spirit of God can lead us to discern what it means then and for us now. 

When I started to read this book, I thought it was a book that is about the practice of lectio divina. Instead, it is a book that lays the foundations of what Scripture is about first. It then shows us reading the Bible has to be done God's way, not human methods. Sometimes, an overly sola scriptura mindset risks reading the Word in humanistic ways. We need to go back to the sources, and be willing to be led by the Spirit to teach us as we participate humbly as a community of God.

If the book can have more examples and illustrations on various passages of Scripture, it would be wonderful.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

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