Monday, August 31, 2015

BookPastor >> "How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor" (Mark Yarbrough)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on May 5th, 2015.


TITLE: How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor: A Practical and Entertaining Exploration of the World's Most Famous Book
AUTHOR:  Mark Yarbrough
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Faithwords, 2015, (368 pages).

Have you ever been in Bible studies where people seem to lack a sense of proper interpretation, choosing instead to depend on individual feelings and experiences? What about cases where members seem to talk over the Scripture with personal opinions instead of proper Bible study? At the same time, there are those sessions that appear too difficult for the laymen to grasp, ending up with confusion and frustrations at knowing the text but failing to see the God of the text? Associate Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr Mark Yarbrough, offers this volume to assist Bible studies for folks like you and me. The title of the book appears rather intimidating as readers may harbour negative views of theologians and seminarians as people who talk above the normal head. While people do not want to skip important theological themes, they too do not want to let Bible studies become exercises of subjective opinions and individual fancies.

Yarbrough writes with tremendous empathy of the struggles of the layperson. He uses his coursework to help readers anchor themselves in a "Know It, Work It, and Live It" model. In KNOWING IT, readers will learn the general structure, story, and the substance of the text.

The basic plan for the book is based on the sequence of numbers:
  • Old Testament (5-12-5-5-12)
  • New Testament (4-1-21-1)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "On Prayer"

We need prayer warriors who would gaze at the Face of God instead of being engrossed with the answers to the petitions they make. Far too often, we associate prayer by asking for things whenever we have a need. That type of prayer shows us how little we know God. If we continue to reduce God to only a taskmaster, what kind of a god then are we worshiping?

Learning how to pray well is a test of our love. Do we love God for who He is, or do we love God for what He can give? The difference may be very subtle, but if we truly understand relationships, we will know exactly why that matters. Prayer as relationship has to do more with gazing at the Beauty of God instead of staring at the Bounty of God. Praying well reflects that relationship.


Monday, August 24, 2015

BookPastor >> "We Need to Talk" (Linda Mintle)

Conflicts are always around the corner. This is because people are different and whenever there are differences, there will bound to be conflicts. That is why the best way is not to avoid conflicts but to learn to deal with it constructively. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 19th, 2015.


TITLE: We Need to Talk: How to Successfully Navigate Conflict
AUTHOR: Linda Mintle
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (256 pages).

Conflict is inevitable. Sooner or later, even the most cordial of relationships will encounter rough patches. The fact is that conflicts in themselves are not necessarily bad, especially when we can learn to respond constructively when they occur. In Dr Linda Mintle's words, it is simply summarized in four words: "We Need to Talk," which is exactly the title and the central theme of the book. Called a "relationship doctor," Mintle is a popular speaker, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist, and also chair of the Division of Behavioral Health at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She deals with the topic of conflict sensitively but with firmness. Her three basic assumptions are:

  1. Conflicts are part and parcel of any close relationships;
  2. Under the right conditions, conflicts can help grow relationships;
  3. In unhappy relationships, conflicts can escalate and one needs to learn how to deal with them.

Conflicts always involve a power struggle and the key is to manage power imbalances as best as possible to balance between emotional needs, personal integrity, people's well-being, and the stress of life. In order to resolve any conflict, trust must be cultivated. Keeping secrets, being unreliable, history of betrayal, are all examples of how trust can be eroded. In order to build trust, show grace with providing second chances on the one hand and to draw boundaries on the other. Learn of Jesus' humility. Cherish differences without having to pander to every wish and fancy. Beware of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse: 1) Criticism; 2) Defensiveness; 3) Contempt; 4) Stonewalling. Anticipate a clash of styles and to learn strategies on how to deal with each. Be realistic with what is solvable and what is not. Like a family, one can disagree but still remember that we are all family. Families must learn to fight fair and to deal justly. There are also gender differences to be aware of. Distinguish the needs behind the desire for sex. One popular belief is that men and women have opposite views of sex and affection. Men puts sex before affection while women sees otherwise. Rather than focusing on these two, Mintle suggests both genders find ways to get validation and love in order to meet both of these needs. Mintle also gives 20 guidelines with regards to social media usage and sex.

Conflict styles also vary. Mintle pays special attention to difficult people that provokes high conflict levels. "High conflict" personalities tend to be too emotional about issues and often see things in black and white. Due to their rigid mental styles, they can become manipulative when they do not get things their way. They tend to yell and lose their tempers. They need help in controlling their anger and enabling lots of forgiveness. Use the serenity prayer as a guide.

With lots of practical tips, this book essentially helps us to clear the decks without dismissing the most difficult players. We learn to recognize the different kinds of styles and the various approaches to deal with conflicts. Sometimes it is good to minimize conflicts. Other times, it is best to deal with the situation at hand. With a positive outlook, confidence and humility need to be used simultaneously. The chapter on "Dealing with Difficult People" alone is worth the price of the book. Mintle has given us a powerful resource on how to live together with well-being of all in mind. Perhaps, for those of us who want to do something about everyday conflicts but don't know how, we need to pick up this book, learn from it, and to be equipped on how best to calm down and to promote a constructive dialogue. For Jesus' sake.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Going to School on a Wire"

Many of us living in developed countries have it all easy. Some of us walk to school. Others have parents to drive them. Many take the bus or public transit. For people living in rural areas, they do not have all these modern luxuries. Living amid splendid mountains and gushing rivers, going to school may take hours. The journey there can even be a matter of life and death. In a rural community in Nepal, about 200 children goes to school daily by crossing a "wire bridge." In order to cross the river, they would need to bring along a special sling rope strong enough to carry their weight and a roller to go across from one end to the other. Many have lost their fingers.

This video is quite troubling. On the one hand, it can remind us to be thankful for the convenience we have. On the other hand, we may start to ask: What can we do? It is a moment to pray, to think, and to ask God what we can do.

Kids on a Wire from World Report Viewfinder on Vimeo.
In rural Nepal, these children literally have to do a high-wire act, just to get to school.

Writer/Director: Keshab Pandey

Monday, August 17, 2015

BookPastor >> "Blessed" (Kate Bowler)

TITLE: Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
AUTHOR: Kate Bowler
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013, (352 pages).

When you see names like Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, EW Kenyon, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and others, what comes to mind? That's right. It's the Prosperity Gospel! In a 352 paged book filled with research data, interviews, observations, citations from publications, and personal encounters, Bowler has put together a landmark resource for anyone interested about the history, the sociological, the cultural shifts, and the religious practices of the megastars of Christianity: The prosperity gospel megachurches. In this fascinating study of the American Prosperity Gospel movement, Bowler takes a closer look at what the prosperity gospel is all about. She studies the origins of the Word of Faith movement and how it manages to attract millions of people to believe that money, health, and good fortunes can be divinely obtained. She describes the prosperity gospel advocates and founders. She lists the different facets of prosperity gospel. In this first major study of its kind, Kate Bowler, an Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School also seeks to find out the history of the movement; the major figures and features of the 20th Century prosperity movement in America; how the prosperity movement transforms a traditionally self-denial community into a triumphant culture; and the unifying themes among the proponents of prosperity gospel. Prosperity can be classified as hard and soft; hard meaning immediate results while soft means something more long-term.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Discernment" (Teresa of Avila)

St Teresa of Avila is one of the most respected spiritual woman in Christendom. A woman of prayer and considered a saint in the Catholic Church, she is most well known for her book on prayer, entitled, "The Interior Castle" which is a treatise on the different rooms of prayer.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
(Picture Credit: The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors)


Monday, August 10, 2015

BookPastor >> "Shifting Stats"

Is Canada so secular that churches are no longer making any difference? This book contains 40 stories that refute this. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on May 4th, 2015.


TITLE: Shifting Stats Shaking The Church: 40 Canadian Churches Respond
AUTHOR: Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller
PUBLISHER: Mississauga, ON, World Vision Canada, 2015, (241 pages).

Resource Link
The world is changing, and changing fast. As the people of God continues to live in the world, remembering that they are not of the world, it is still important to remember the unique witness churches have for God. In spite of shifting sands and changing environments, the Church must learn to stay the course in proclaiming Jesus everywhere she goes. Amid the struggles, there are successes. Amid the good happenings, there are challenging moments. Whatever the circumstances, churches will do well to know the contexts of the ministries they are in. Beginning with a startling foreword that paints the unique times of Canadian culture and religious climate, faith journalists Patricia Paddey and Karen Stiller were commissioned by World Vision Canada to help tell the stories of Churches in Canada that are making a difference in their neighbourhoods, how they are contributing to society, and the unique roles they play. The forty churches in this study range from churches as small as 15 to as large as 3500+. Based on stories shared at "World Vision's 2014 Shifting Stats Church Leaders Forum," the forty stories span every Canadian province and territory, multi-ethnic and multi-denominational settings, both rural and urban centers, covering churches of different sizes. The stories focus on creative adaptations and ministry initiatives that are sensitive to immigration patterns, changes in family, youth, volunteer work, and other important aspects of Canadian society. From Victoria BC, we read of how Emmanuel Baptist Church open their doors and hearts to students at the University of Victoria, with welcoming hospitality, warm meals, and friendship. Providing dinners, space, as well as free Wi-Fi, the initiative has become so popular that students even say that the thing they miss about leaving school eventually is the time with EBC. From Fredericton, New Brunswick, we read of Smythe Street Cathedral reaches kids through a leadership camp called "Camp Lead" that goes beyond mere Vacation Bible School, and empower kids toward real-life interactions and contributions to community. By training young children and youths about the potential of changing the world, readers are given a fresh does of how to engage the young. From Mississauga, Ontario, Gateway Church welcomes new immigrants through a 25000 square foot community center that not only meets for weekly worship but also provides various forms of programs to help integrate new immigrants to Canadian society. It has also received government funding as it helps contribute positively to Canada. Emmanuel Mennonite Mission Church (EMCC) based in Altona, Southern Manitoba adopts a "tapping shoulders" approach in reaching out the newcomers such as new immigrants. Through their ESL programs and a welcoming community, they begin with building friendships. They also use the shoulder tapping strategy to enlist volunteers for the outreach programs. What is needed it genuine interest both ways.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Four Principles of Forgiveness"

Why do we find it hard to forgive? Based on 1 Corinthians 13:5 which reminds us that love does not keep record of wrongs, it is a helpful biblical principle to be disciplined in NOT bringing up the offense in the future. True forgiveness means we learn to move on without letting the past become a hindrance.

This is a helpful list of four promises taken from Ken Sande's book, "The Peacemaker."

1) "I will not dwell on this incident."
2) "I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you."
3) "I will not talk to others about this incident."
4) "I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship."

[Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004, p209]

Monday, August 03, 2015

BookPastor >> "Praying With Paul" (DA Carson)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on May 7th, 2015.


TITLE: Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
AUTHOR: D. A. Carson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014, (216 pages)

Think of the epistles of Paul and what comes to mind? You may see Romans as a book with deep theological underpinnings or Galatians as a letter which focuses on law and grace. Maybe Ephesians is about the Armour of God and Colossians about Christology. Perhaps there are some of us who see Thessalonians as a warning about the end times and Timothy as instructions from an elder to a junior. What about using the Pauline Epistles as a way to pray? More specifically, what about letting the letters of Paul reform the way we pray? With this book, we learn to avoid the frenetic tendency of using the Bible to run programs, to plan preaching schedules, or to structure Bible study sessions using the letters of Paul. What about letting Paul inform us in terms of knowing God more personally and devotionally? What about letting Paul shape our own theology of prayer? Indeed, the most pressing need in the Church is more praying.

After setting forth eight lessons from the school of prayer, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School examines several Paul's letters to highlight some ways we can learn to pray. In 2 Thessalonians1:3-12, readers learn about the framework of prayer of thanksgiving in spite of trials and tribulations. Instead, persistence in prayer is linked to the promise that believers will be vindicated and those who persecute them will be judged. The goal of Paul's prayer is about glorifying God. The basis of prayer is via the grace of God. We learn how Paul prays for others. We sense Paul's deep passion for the people he wrote to.

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