Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Love is Risky"

 "To love is to risk not being loved in return
To hope is to risk disappointment.
But risks must be taken because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, sees nothing, has nothing and is nothing.
He cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love and live." (Anonymous)

Indeed, life is a risk. Love is risky. Not to risk is not to live or to love. Jesus loves us. That is why he risks his own life for our sakes.


Monday, September 28, 2015

BookPastor >> "Nonviolent Action" (Ron Sider)

Can we solve world problems without resorting to violence? This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 11th, 2015.


TITLE: Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried
AUTHOR: Ronald J. Sider
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (208 pages).

Must the opposite of violence be a violent counter strike? Is war necessarily a tit-for-tat exchange of bullets and missiles? Can alternative methods like peaceful response be feasible, even possible in the first place? These questions are answered with pacifist conviction by renowned author and professor, Ron Sider, whose previous book, "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" had gripped the hearts of evangelicals many years ago. What that book had done to many Christians in terms of their wealth and giving responsibilities, this latest book will push the limits with regards to peaceful offerings and intentional "nonviolent action." Underlying any "just war" or "pacifist" theory is a philosophy of justification whether war is the key response in the first place. What about peace as the underlying action? For any entrance into war does not mean the consequences are limited on a military scale. There are other damages inflicted on all sides, morally financially, ethically, physically, mentally, and many more as the years go by. Soldiers who survived the wars may end up having scars for life. Unable to get back to the normal life, many become marginalized in society. Such effects must not be underestimated. Rather than to a backward thrust, like the consequences of war as a main justification, Sider in this book leads from the front. He issues a clarion call for all to use nonviolence as THE way forward. Our vocabulary for action must extend beyond war and weapons, violence and vehemence.

He begins with well-known examples of nonviolent actions through the centuries. During the time of Pharaoh, the Hebrew midwives responded to violence through civil disobedience, which saved the life of Moses. Pope Leo I responded to the vicious acts of Attila the Hun with a cross and a papal crown. In central America, peasants and common people overcame the violence of dictators through general strikes. India's Mahatma Gandhi led peaceful protests that rallied millions of citizens to do the same.  America's Martin Luther King Jr did the same with peaceful rallies against racism in the 50-60s. Philippines' "People Power" movement toppled the Marcos regime not with tanks but with people, not with violence but with peace. From America to Asia, Africa to Central America, Europe to the Middle East, examples abound with regards to the practice of nonviolent action that deserves to be taken more seriously. With stories after stories of how peaceful actions lead to the bloodless overthrow of regimes, changes of political forces, and new waves of hope, Sider consistently asserts that there is a better way instead of physical violence and military options. He proposes peacemaker teams that comprise representatives from all sectors. He admonishes the Christian public, especially the "just war" proponents for forgetting that war must always be a last resort. For peaceful actions are more successful than many had thought. Giving statistics and stories to back up his arguments for peace, the next step is to increase the common space for all to work with together. It there is ever to be a war, it must be a war against war.

Peace is a given. Christians are called to be peacemakers in the first place. In fact, the biggest tragedy for many policy makers is not to give peace a bigger piece of the pie. It is the lack of willingness to persevere in non-violent actions that has led to an ease in pushing the war option. Contrary to what some readers may think, Sider is not some hermit calling for people to retreat back into their caves. Rather, he is calling people to arm themselves with determination to fight, with the weapons of love, the passion for peace. He wants more Christians to fight fear with faith, war with peace, and hatred with love. For most of the decisions to go to war, the problem is not only in the decision, but the lack of will in pursuing the peace option. Negotiations can be very complicated. What about violent terrorists that refuse to listen to rationale arguments? What about fanatics who have abandoned reason altogether? What about the warped and wanton evil that are happening around the world that demand a strong response? Will peace be the answer for that?

Personally, I believe Sider's point is not perfect. For there will be cases that war and violence may be the only way to end wars, like the Atomic bomb that accelerated the end of WWII in the Asia Pacific. Ethical problems will continue to rear their heads with regards to some violence in order to bring about peace. While peace should be the primary "weapon" of choice, to abandon the military option would be foolhardy, in an increasingly dangerous and violent world. Like the case of a lion. Without teeth, the lion is easy prey for hyenas.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Favourite Hymns from Various Professions (Funny)

Time for a weekend laugh. 

Favourite Hymns of Different Professions
The Dentist's Hymn ... Crown Him With Many Crowns
The Weatherman's Hymn ... There Shall Be Showers Of Blessing
The Contractor's Hymn ... The Church's One Foundation
The Tailor's Hymn ... Holy, Holy, Holy
The Golfer's Hymn ... There Is A Green Hill Far Away
The Politician's Hymn ... Standing On The Promises
The Optometrist's Hymn ... Open My Eyes That I May See
The IRS Agent's Hymn ... I Surrender All
The Gossip's Hymn ... Pass It On
The Electrician's Hymn ... Send The Light
The Shopper's Hymn ... In The Sweet By and By
The Realtor's Hymn ... I've Got A Mansion Just Over The Hilltop
The Pilot's Hymn ... I'll Fly Away
The Paramedic's Hymn ... Revive Us Again
The Judge's Hymn ... Almost Persuaded
The Psychiatrist's Hymn ... Just A Little Talk With Jesus
The Architect's Hymn ... How Firm A Foundation
The Credit Card Telemarketer's Hymn ... A Charge To Keep I Have
The Zoo Keeper's Hymn ... All Creatures Of Our God And King
The Postal Worker's Hymn ... So Send I You
The Waiter's Hymn ... Fill My Cup, Lord
The Gardener's Hymn ... Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming
The Lifeguard's Hymn ... Rescue The Perishing
The Criminal's Hymn ... Search Me, O God
The Baker's Hymn ... When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder
The Shoe Repairer's Hymn ... It Is Well With My Soul
The Travel Agent's Hymn ... Anywhere With Jesus
The Geologist's Hymn ... Rock Of Ages
The Hematologist's Hymn ... Are You Washed In The Blood?
The Men's Wear Clerk's Hymn ... Blest Be The Tie
The Umpire's Hymn ... I Need No Other Argument
The Librarian's Hymn ... Whispering Hope

(Credit: Sparkpeople,com )

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer is Not Overcoming God's Reluctance" (Julian of Norwich)

Julian of Norwich
"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of his willingness. This is our Lord's will, ... that our prayer and our trust be, alike, large.

For if we do not trust as much as we pray, we fail in full worship to our Lord in our prayer;
and also we hinder and hurt ourselves.

The reason is that we do not know truly that our Lord is the ground from which our prayer springs;
nor do we know that it is given us by his grace and his love.

If we knew this, it would make us trust to have of our Lord's gifts all that we desire.

For I am sure that no man asks mercy and grace with sincerity, without mercy and grace being given to him first."

(Julian of Norwich, English Anchoress, 1342-1416)

Monday, September 21, 2015

BookPastor >> "I Will" (Thom S. Rainer)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 29th, 2015.


TITLE: I Will: Nine Habits of the Outwardly Focused Christian
AUTHOR: Thom S. Rainer
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2015, (128 pages).

The author of "I Am a Church Member" has done it again. In that book, he talks about six implications of what it means to be a Church member. In this latest book, he has decided to move from inside the Church to what a Christian can (or will) do outside the Church. It contains what the author calls "nine traits of outwardly focused Christian." Thom Rainer then sets the tone early in the book to encourage readers to move from a "I Want" Church member to a "I Will" disciple. Beginning with a list of "Top Nine Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests," he helps readers to see that a "I Want" mentality represents an inward focused Christian while a "I Will" means an outwardly focused Christian. It is also an opportunity for Rainer to move from the previous focus on attitude in membership matters to a new purpose in right actions.

The first trait is a "I Will Move" which represents a resolve that right actions must follow from right attitudes. Right attitude means unifying, sacrificial serving, praying, and rejoicing Church member. Right actions mean putting all of these into tangible deeds.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "God's Calling" (Elisabeth Elliot)

"We need never ask the question, 'How do I know I'm called?' We ought to ask, 'How do I know I am not called?' We are required to take the risk, move, trust God, make a beginning. This is what Jesus always asked of those who came to Him for help of any kind. Sometimes He asked them to state their case ('What do you want Me to do?'), to affirm their desire ('Do you want to be healed?'), and often to do something positive ('Stretch out your hand') before He could do His work. There had to be evidence of faith, some kind of beginning on their part. The first baby step of faith is followed by a daily walk of obedience, and it is as we continue with Him in His Word that we are assured that we were, in fact, called and have nothing to fear. (Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Revell, 2006, p19)

Monday, September 14, 2015

BookPastor >> "Unoffendable" (Brant Hansen)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 17th, 2015.


TITLE: Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better
AUTHOR: Brant Hansen
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2015, (224 pages).

The word "community" has been thrown around quite a lot by many institutions, social help groups, corporate environments, as well as non-profits throughout the world. While trumpeting the merits of working together, the fact is that as people rush from place to place, and to work from dawn to dusk, tempers can easily flare when things do not meet our expectations. From rude behaviours in the workplace to aggressive drivers at the highways, all it often take is an unexpected event that can easily lit our fuses. For those with short fuses, the result is a terrible emotional outburst that can do a lot of damage. There are road rages and boardroom battles. There are even angry exchanges on social media that if picked up by the mainstream media, turn a petty dispute into an all-out war of words. This is what makes this book an extremely practical one. It is the author's contention that just by giving up our right to be angry is a significant change that can enable us to live better. On the area of "righteous anger," Hansen maintains that it is not supported in Scripture. He writes: "We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices. (More on this in a bit.) And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art." On and on, Hansen advocates peaceful speech, gracious behavior, and a sustained emphasis on self-control, self-restraint, and self-denial. Using examples and teachings from peace rights activists like Dr Martin Luther King Jr, theologians like CS Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastors like Tim Keller, and popular writers like Philip Yancey and Henri Nouwen, Hansen makes his case that there is really nothing for one to lose but everything to gain as far as not being easily offended is concerned.

He deals with the important subject of injustice, while affirming the fact of injustices happening, he advocates that the way ahead is to let our actions be motivated by love. Whether it is tough love or otherwise, it is critical not to let anger have its way, or to let our human emotions take control. Rather, it is to let God work through us by stepping out of inner anger toward fighting injustice not with fighting, but with firm loving. The motives matter a lot. If it is simply a reaction, it may become a wrong trying to correct another wrong, which is wrong in itself. Readers are reminded that behind many angry acts is actually a person whose pride has been hurt.

Being angry is a choice. We can either choose to give in easily to anger to allow it to fly beyond rage, or to exercise self-control by giving up our right to be angry. This is the key message of Christian radio host and author, Brant Hansen. This one change of perspective is the rudder that turns the ship of uncontrolled anger and cultivates an unoffendable spirit. Very readable and tremendously applicable to modern day living, this book speaks about anger from a Christian perspective. In the Bible, we learn "in your anger, do not sin," which means that behind every anger moment is an opportunity for sin to grow. Believers must learn to look beyond the offending event and remember that the person who had hurt us is not the enemy. The enemy is somewhere else trying to make us sin against that brother or a sister, or that person that Jesus had died for. When we gain the bigger perspective of God's love for the world, we will learn to see from God's point of view and to live according to the teachings of Christ. Love your enemies. Pray for them. Love them the way Christ had loved them.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of W Publishing Group, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Chewing on the Goodness of God" (Anselm of Canterbury)

St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
"Christian soul, soul raised from sad death, soul redeemed from miserable slavery and set free by the Blood of God, rouse your mind; dwell upon your resurrection from the dead, and ponder well the history of your redemption and your liberation. Consider where the strength of your salvation comes from, and what it is. Employ yourself in musing on it, delight yourself in contemplating it; shake off your sloth, do violence to your heart, bend your whole mind to it; taste the goodness of your Redeemer, burn with love for your Savior. Chew the honeycomb of his words, suck their flavor, which is more pleasing than honey, swallow their health-giving sweetness. Chew by thinking, suck by understanding, swallow by loving and rejoicing. Be happy in chewing, be grateful in sucking, delight in swallowing." (Anselm of Canterbury)


Monday, September 07, 2015

BookPastor >> "Truly Free" (Robert Morris)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 29th, 2015.


TITLE: Truly Free: Breaking the Snares That So Easily Entangle
AUTHOR: Robert Morris
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (240 pages).

Freedom is much touted and cherished in the West. From the Declaration of Independence to the enshrinement of freedom in anthems, oaths, and pledges, we may have from time to time be guilty in taking our common freedoms for granted. In fact, we may enslaved more than we are aware of. When Christ came to set us free, we will be free. Unless we become deceived, distracted, discouraged, or depressed. According to lead pastor and author, Robert Morris, for one to be truly free, discipleship and deliverance must go hand in hand. He laments the fact that Christians who are supposed to be living in freedom are unfortunately living in enslavement and snares to several temptations. In a series of what looked like three-point sermons that make up the chapters of this book, Morris begins by systematically using the biblical principles and teachings of Scripture to remind us that freedom in Christ means following Christ and being delivered from the trickery of the evil one and the temptations of the world, and the vulnerabilities of the flesh Dispelling two popular myths, he draws from the wisdom of CS Lewis who wrote in the popular book, The Screwtape Letters:

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them."

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Movie Review: "War Room"

TITLE: WAR ROOM: Prayer is a Powerful Weapon
DIRECTOR: Kendrick Brothers

The movie "Flywheel" is about a man submitting to the Lordship of Christ for his career and his faith. "Fireproof" is how we can submit our marriages to God and allow Him to save our relationships. "Courageous" is a call to fathers to step up in their responsibilities to their wives and children. In this fifth installment of movies from the Kendrick brothers, we have a movie that combines the best themes from Flywheel, Fireproof, and Courageous, into one film, plus prayer: "War Room." If there is one phrase to describe this movie, it is a call to be more on our knees and less on our self-efforts. It is a call to pray, to recognize that behind every argument, every dispute, every quarrel, every relationship problem is an enemy that is lurking somewhere, wanting to deceive, dis-empower, distract, and destroy us. For a community, it is a clarion call to all believers to take up one another's arms, fall down on our knees and pray. For the individual it is a personal invitation to create our favourite rooms in our houses: the prayer closet.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "Wonder" (DH Lawrence)

DH Lawrence (1885-1930)
"When the wonder has gone out of a man he is dead. When all comes to all, the most precious element in life is wonder. Love is a great emotion and power is power. But both love and power are based on wonder. Plant consciousness, insect consciousness, fish consciousness, animal consciousness, all are related by one permanent element, which we may call the religious element of all life, even in a flea: the sense of wonder. That is our sixth sense. And it is the natural religious sense." (D. H. Lawrence, The Phoenix)

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." (Albert Einstein)

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