Monday, June 29, 2015

BookPastor >> "Spiritual Friendship" (Wesley Hill)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian
AUTHOR: Wesley Hill
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (160 pages).

Must all relationships be sexual in one way or another? Is there a place for celibacy in the modern debate over homosexuality? Can there be genuine friendships without any sexual connotations?More importantly, is there a place for friendship in spite of one's sexual orientation? According to Wesley Hill who is celibate and also gay, the answer is yes. In this book about spiritual friendship, Hill attempts to show us that friendship is "the freest, the least constrained, the least fixed and determined, of all human loves" and "entirely voluntary, uncoerced, and unencumbered by any sense of duty or debt."  He believes that friendship must stand alone and above all kinds of opinions or prejudices. He sees Simon bearing Jesus' cross as "an icon of friendship." He separates the idea of sexual attraction from the development of true spiritual friendship. Having done that, he moves toward distilling the essence of spiritual friendship based on acceptance, grace, and love. Hill believes that the gospel says "No" to same-sex relationships but "Yes" to spiritual friendship that is not necessarily sexual in any way. This sets him on a path to finding out love as a celibate and spiritual friendship without sexual implications.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Radical Hospitality" A Video

A friend of mine shared this powerful video done by a Regent Alum. It is a reminder once again that practicing radical hospitality is a very Christian thing. The Greek word for hospitality is "philoxenia" which is translated as "loving the stranger."


Monday, June 22, 2015

BookPastor >> "Let Your Life Speak"

TITLE: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
AUTHOR: Parker J. Palmer
PUBLISHER: San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000, (120 pages).

This book is one of those that deserves to be read over and over again. Some friends I know read it each year. It is a beautiful book written by an educator, a professor, a practitioner, a listener of hearts, and one that forces us to engage ourselves in the process of reading the life of the author. It comprises six essays about weaving one's personal search for meaning, calling, and significance.

Chapter 1 starts appropriately with listening. Against a silence-averse culture that takes comfort (even pride) in speaking first, Palmer helps us calibrate our inner lives with what is happening outside of us. Vocation comes from a Latin word for "voice" which gives us a clue that listening is key to understanding calling. Far too often, we go for conferences, seminars, and various teaching courses to try and learn something from external sources, without recognizing that we too can learn from within ourselves. The tragedy is that we listen so much to the outside that we fail to legitimately listen to what is inside us. We need to learn to listen. We need to discern. We need to respect the beauty of silence.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Desiring What God Wants"

This is a beautiful quote from St Anselm:

"My light, you see my conscience, because 'Lord, before you is all my desire', and if my soul wills any good, you gave it to me.

Lord, if what you inspire is good, or rather because it is good, that I should want to love you,
give me what you have made me want:
grant that I may attain to love you as much as you command...

Perfect what you have begun and
grant me what you have made me long for,
not according to my deserts, but out of your kindness that came first to me."

(Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109)

Scene from Rainbow Lake, AB

Monday, June 15, 2015

BookPastor >> "Prepare" (J. Paul Nyquist)

This review was first published on March 13th, 2015 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture
AUTHOR: J. Paul Nyquist
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (224 pages).

A couple of years ago at a national conference for Christian leaders, someone mentioned that the biggest challenge for churches in North America is the desire to remain in the comfort zone and the unwillingness to bear the cross of suffering. I concur with increasing alarm. Just like the Early Church in Acts 1:8 that was called to reach out in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the outer parts of the region, it takes the Holy Spirit to scatter the people of God through persecution (Acts 8:1). People has said that Acts 8:1 happened because the disciples failed to obey Acts 1:8. It may take more research and study to prove that but the point is this: Persecution does enable witness. In modern day America and in many parts of the West, persecution and hostile forces are banging at the doors of churches, Christian communities, and anyone witnessing in the Name of Christ. How do everyday Christians respond to intimidation? How can believers live in an increasingly skeptical and hostile culture? What can we do to continue to be light in the darkness of worldly forces? Welcome to the new reality.

According to Paul Nyquist, President of Moody Bible Institute, persecution is not just physical. It includes anything that inflicts pain, mental pressure, or any measure of force to force Christians to retreat from their positions. The author defines it as: "persecution is the societal marginalization of believers with a view to eliminating their voice and influence." It attacks Christians in the five areas: private, family, community, national, and church. If their goal is to silence or to eliminate, what ought to be our response? Nyquist helps us along by studying persecution passages in the Bible, and how they can relate to our hostile environment.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Joke: "Why Men Can't Win"

Scene from "The Proposal"
If you work too hard, there is never any time for her.
      If you don't work enough, you're a good-for-nothing bum.
      If she has a boring repetitive job with low pay, it's exploitation.
      If you have a boring repetitive job with low pay, you should get off your butt and find something better.
      If you get a promotion ahead of her, it's favoritism.
      If she gets a job ahead of you, it's equal opportunity.
      If you mention how nice she looks, it's sexual harassment.
      If you keep quiet, it's male indifference.
      If you cry, you're a wimp.
      If you don't, you're insensitive.
      If you make a decision without consulting her, you're a chauvinist.
      If she makes a decision without consulting you, she's a liberated woman.
      If you ask her to do something she doesn't enjoy, that's domination.
      If she asks you, it's a favor.
      If you try to keep yourself in shape, you're vain.
      If you don't, you're a slob.
      If you buy her flowers, you're after something.
      If you don't, you're not thoughtful.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Signs of Another World"

Without the light, how can we see the beauty of God's creation? Without light, how can we see where we are walking? The human condition is such that light is a necessary salvation in a world covered with darkness. What if the beauty we behold on this earth is only a glimpse of what is to come? What if the light that we have is only a small glimmer of the glory in God's kingdom? What if when we walk in the light, we not only flee from darkness outside, we grow the light inside us? What if the things we see are signs of another world?

"For the Christian, our present world contains clues and signs to another world - a world which we can begin to experience now, but will only know in all its fulness at the end of things. God created the world with these signs and markers already in place." (Alister McGrath, The Unknown God, Eerdmans, 1999, p40)


Monday, June 08, 2015

BookPastor >> "The Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land"

Thinking of visiting the Holy Land? Not sure what to expect? Feeling inadequate about tour guides? Perhaps, this book can fill in the gap. This review was first published on February 4th, 2015 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land
AUTHOR: Charles H. Dyer and Gregory A. Hatteberg
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2014, (272 pages).

There are many reasons why books get re-published or revised. Whether it is demand related, or updating required, books that are constantly relevant will always be sought after. This is one such book. As interest in Israel and the Middle East increases, and as more people travel to the Holy Land, whether tourists or pilgrims, people go to sandy deserts, ancient monuments, and massive landscapes for a reason: to know the history and to have personally encountered how the people of old lived in that valuable estate often referred to in the Bible. For many, a visit there is a life changing experience. While some information can be shared by tour guides and experts on the way, it is always a valuable resource to have a book that gives us an A-to-Z synopsis of what to see and what to expect. For touring the Holy Land is not like touring manmade theme parks or massive nature parks. It requires preparation. It demands physical walks and exercises. It needs a planned itinerary. In some cases, groups of believers would depend on some seminary professor or an experienced Bible teacher to guide them through the terrains. This book supplements such trips, and in some cases, can be a self-help guide for the independent traveler.

Written with the traveler in mind, Dyer and Hatteberg, both seminarians at Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary respectively compile their knowledge and expertise into a handy guide. One of their key concerns is how many travelers mix up modern expectations when they traverse the land full of ancient history. Thus, they take time to explain the contexts, to give some safety tips as well as packing details, getting visas (mainly for US citizens), things to pack and not to pack, as well as reference links to various sites of interest. For the Christian, knowing that there is no better way to prepare than to read the Bible, the authors put together a convenient Bible reading plan over four weeks that take us from Genesis to Revelation. Two sets of schedules are made.

  1. For Preparing to Travel to Israel, Egypt and Jordan, Greece and Turkey
  2. For Spiritual Preparation as a Group 

The passages are carefully selected to help travelers appreciate the contexts behind the lands they are about to visit. With the tour guide, plus the biblical contexts, travelers would be well equipped to learn even more when they see the actual lands coming to life before them. There are many maps to help us along. The alphabetical listing helps us refer to the guide conveniently. Every page contains generous spaces to allow travelers to record down observations, thoughts, and reflections on what they have seen. The last section of the book demonstrates the authors' conviction that every traveler would be touched and changed by a trip to the Holy Land. With several blank pages called "tour notes" to preserve their trip, readers and travelers can record down their thoughts in the same book, making it personal and archived for future reference.

The pictures in the book bring to life the ordinary lives of people living there. In one book, one becomes more familiar with the history, the contexts, the people, how ancient cultures look like, and what we can do to appreciate them even more. As tours to the Holy Land continue to pick up, this book is set to be one valuable resource for travelers to have. In order to learn well, one needs to prepare well. Anyone wanting to make a trip to Israel and the biblical lands, this book is a must have.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Attachment"

"Our desires have become attached to things that are little more than shadows, when they are meant to be attached to something which cannot decay or disappoint." (Alister McGrath, The Unknown God, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999, p32)

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Monday, June 01, 2015

BookPastor >> "From the Garden to the City" (John Dyer)

TITLE: From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology
AUTHOR: John Dyer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011, (192 pages).

Technology is here to stay. How do we live with it? Do we embrace it? Can we shun it? Is it good or bad? Is technology neutral? These questions help frame the increasingly complex world of technology and culture. Right from the beginning, John Dyer, Director of Web Development at Dallas Theological Seminary shares how he was motivated to write this book based on his professor's remarkable comment: "One of the most dangerous things you can believe in this world is that technology is neutral." That sets him on a path to find out more about theology and technology. Seeing how little information out there about redemption of technology, he read widely. He researched and recorded his reflections on his blog called, "Don't Eat the Fruit." Subsequently, this little initiative moved from brain to blog, and from blog to book.

Using a model that parallels the four-fold biblical story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, he puts forth his own technological parallel of Reflection - Rebellion - Redemption - Restoration. Dyer reminds us that technology is a large encompassing word that includes washing machines, light bulbs, televisions, ball-point pens, lighting, cars, and many more. It is so present everywhere that our generation has a lot more in common than our predecessors many years back. Technology historians will claim that the recent 500 years have been phenomenally influenced by the printing press. Since the 15th Century, the printed text has been the main change driver. It is only recently where the text has moved from print to digital. Dyer writes,

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