Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Prayer of Erin Lane"

Almighty God,

You created us that we might live in you. 
You rescued us from sin and death,

And made us alive with Christ,

Joined to him as our head 
And to one another as his body. 

Yet we move through the world as if we were alone, 
Forgetting that we are joined to Christ, 

That our life is found in him.

Thinking that we can know and love the Lord
Apart from the fellowship of the Church.
And so our schedules and anxieties swirl around our own 
Self-evaluation and opportunities 

Instead of your call to the Church. 

When we do gather with your people,
We do not bear with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. 
Instead we interact with each other out of fear. 

We allow differences in personality or age,
Culture or education, to obscure the unity of the Spirit.
We fail to believe that you have given gifts to everyone to build up your Church. 

So we envy the talents of others.
We deny your generosity toward us,
Focused on self-doubt rather than grateful service.
And so we fail to see your goodness to the least among us, 
Accustomed to division

And immaturity in your Church,

Instead of seeking to grow up in your love. 

Forgive us, Lord, for sins that divide us 
From one another

And from you.

Grow us up into the knowledge of your Son 
And in submission to him. 


(Erin S. Lane, Lessons in Belonging, IVP, 2016, p167-8)

Monday, December 26, 2016

BookPastor >> "Strong and Weak" (Andy Crouch)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 29th, 2016.


TITLE: Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing
AUTHOR: Andy Crouch
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (192 pages).

What are we meant to be? If where we are now and where we ought to be are so far apart, what's the reason? These two questions dominate the discussion of this book about the paradox of life. The first question deals with our self-understanding while the second talks about the gaps between who we are and where we ought to be. Essentially, it is about great hopes, great regrets, the human condition, and how one can flourish. The author's key thesis is this: "Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak. Flourishing requires us to embrace both authority and vulnerability, both capacity and frailty — even, at least in this broken world, both life and death."

Andy Crouch is executive editor of Christianity Today and has served for ten years as campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. With his keen interest in Christianity and culture, he has previously written books like Culture Making which deals with the Christian in modern culture, and more recently, Playing God which is about the stewardship of power. If "Culture Making" is about the broader engagement of Christians in their existing culture; and "Playing God" about the engagement of Christians in their use of power; this book is about Christians in their personal and honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, with an eye on personal calling and identity.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"It's Christmas Time" - City on a Hill

This is one of the best Christmas songs released not too long ago. It brings together some of the most memorable carols combined with beautiful melodies. You can listen to it here, here, and here.

Lyrics In the city on the hill
Hear the bells chime
Peace on earth good will
Its Christmas time

Glad tidings we will bring
of Christ the new born king
And with the angels sing at Christmas time

Its Christmas time
Its Christmas time
Its Christmas time
Its Christmas time
Its Christmas time

In a town of Bethlehem
See the stars shine
Fall down and worship Him
It's Christmas time
Glad tidings we will bring
of Christ the new born king
And with the angels sing at Christmas time
In exelcis Deo...

In the city on the hill
Hear the bells chime
(Peace on earth)
Peace on earth good will
(Its Christmas time)
Its Christmas time
Glad tidings we will bring
of Christ the new born king
And with the angels sing at Christmas time

Glad tidings we will bring
of Christ the new born king
And with the angels sing at Christmas time

Its Christmas time (10x)

In the city on the hill
Its Christmas time

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 6 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we touched on the the fifth and sixth petitions on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the seventh and eighth petitions.


The Seventh and Eighth Petitions

The seventh petition. "But deliver us from evil." Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, this wretched life is so full of misery and calamity, of danger and uncertainty, so full of malice and faithlessness (as St. Paul says, "The days are evil") that we might rightfully grow weary of life and long for death. But thou, dear Father, knowest our frailty; therefore help us to pass in safety through so much wickedness and villainy; and, when our last hour comes, in thy mercy grant us a blessed departure from this vale of sorrows so that in the face of death we do not become fearful or despondent but in firm faith commit our souls into thy hands. Amen."

Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say "yes" to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, "Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth." That is what Amen means.

Additional Words
You should also know that I do not want you to recite all these words in your prayer. That would make it nothing but idle chatter and prattle, read word for word out of a book as were the rosaries by the laity and the prayers of the priests and monks. Rather do I want your heart to be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts which ought to be comprehended in the Lord's Prayer. These thoughts may be expressed, if your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways and with more words or fewer. I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.

Monday, December 19, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Feast of Christmas" (Joseph F. Kelly)

TITLE: The Feast of Christmas
AUTHOR: Joseph Kelly
PUBLISHER: Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010, (126 pages).

Christmas is just around the corner. Unlike the season of Lent where there is an emphasis on fasting, when it comes to the Advent and Christmastide, feasting is more the nature of the celebrations. With the modern symbols of the Christmas and the commercialization of this meaningful end of the year event invading the Church, even Christians can be confused about the true meaning and symbols of Christmas. What does turkey has to do with Christmas? How does Christmas trees and lighting fit into the picture? Do the Early Church celebrate Christmas at all? What about the Middle Ages? What is the origins of Christmas? How do we make sense of what is religious and what is secular when it comes to the Christmas season? One of the ways to understand this is to look back at history and let the unfolding events of the past guide and teach us on the true meaning of Christmas.

This is where this book comes in. Beginning with "Christianity without Christmas," Kelly looks at the tensions throughout history between the religious and secular thought surrounding Christmas. Though most of the Western world had selected December 25th as the day for Christmas, no one really knows exactly how and when that happened. The Russian Orthodox Church chose January 7th as their Christmas Day. The best estimates was that December 25th was chosen sometime in AD335 in Rome with the title "dies natalis Christi" (birth day of Christ). In fact, the early Christians do not pay much attention to Christmas at all. Only the gospels of Matthew and Luke recorded the Christ birth events which Kelly attributes to the anticipation of the world coming to an end quickly at that time. The gospel of Mark bypasses the birth narrative and hurriedly tells of Jesus works and ministry. The reason why Matthew and Luke included the birth narrative is to emphasize the fact that God recognized Jesus as His Son, and that the birth of Christ was a direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Matthew focuses on the similarities between Moses and Jesus on how their lives were in danger at very early age. While Matthew writes to Jews, Luke focuses on Gentiles. Matthew's genealogy traces back to Abraham while Luke goes all the way to Adam. Luke meticulously records the birth narratives both before and after the birth of Christ, which makes the gospel of Luke a favourite Advent sermon choice. The feasting for Christmas is linked to the fabulous feast and spread of the Roman culture, where the secular Romans celebrated the pagan festival called Saturnalia, between Dec 17-23. This involved much eating, drinking, and celebrating. This would influence the way Christmas will be celebrated.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Beautiful Rendition of "All is Well"

This is my favourite Christmas song this year.

All is well all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love's light
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia
All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

All is well all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well

Words: Michael W. Smith

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 5 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we touched on the the third and fourth petitions on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the fifth and sixth petitions.


The Fifth and Sixth Petitions

The fifth petition. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, enter not into judgment against us because no man living is justified before thee. Do not count it against us as a sin that we are so unthankful for thine ineffable goodness, spiritual and physical, or that we stray into sin many times every day, more often than we can know or recognize, Psalm 19. Do not look upon how good or how wicked we have been but only upon the infinite compassion which thou hast bestowed upon us in Christ, thy dear Son. Grant forgiveness also to those who have harmed or wronged us, as we forgive them from our hearts. They inflict the greatest injury upon themselves by arousing thy anger in their actions toward us. We are not helped by their ruin; we would much rather that they be saved with us. Amen." (Anyone who feels unable to forgive, let him ask for grace so that he can forgive; but that belongs in a sermon.)

The sixth petition. "And lead us not into temptation." Say: "O dear Lord, Father and God, keep us fit and alert, eager and diligent in thy word and service, so that we do not become complacent, lazy, and slothful as though we had already achieved everything. In that way the fearful devil cannot fall upon us, surprise us, and deprive us of thy precious word or stir up strife and factions among us and lead us into other sin and disgrace, both spiritually and physically. Rather grant us wisdom and strength through thy spirit that we may valiantly resist him and gain the victory. Amen."

Monday, December 12, 2016

BookPastor >> "How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth" (Christopher J.H. Wright)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 16th, 2016.


TITLE: How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth
AUTHOR: Christopher J.H. Wright
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (288 pages).

Christians who believe in the authority of the Bible will have no problem about the importance of the Old Testament. However, when it comes to communicating the truths and the nuances of the biblical texts for the general audience, it becomes more challenging because of the ancient contexts, the archaic languages used, and how it is relevant for contemporary cultures. Author Christopher Wright has seen it all. He knows how infrequent preachers use the Old Testament for their Sunday sermons. Even those who teach prefer to use the New Testament as it involves less work for the teacher and less intense for the students. Yet, the difficulty should not be the reason for not studying the Old Testament. Despite the title of the book, there is a progression of why first before the how. This is important.

Part One of the book is about the WHY we need to preach and teach the Old Testament. Part Two reveals the HOW.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Five of My Favourite Songs from the 70s

Here are some of my favourite songs from the 70s.

1) Gilbert O'Sullivan: "Clair"

2) Bee Gees: "How Deep is Your Love"

3) James Taylor: "You've Got a Friend"

4) Roberta Flack: "Killing Me Softly"

5) Carpenters: "Yesterday Once More"


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 4 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we covered the second petition of Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the third and fourth petitions.


The Third and Fourth Petitions

The third petition. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, thou knowest that the world, if it cannot destroy thy name or root out thy kingdom, is busy day and night with wicked tricks and schemes, strange conspiracies and intrigue, huddling together in secret counsel, giving mutual encouragement and support, raging and threatening and going about with every evil intention to destroy thy name, word, kingdom, and children. Therefore, dear Lord, God and Father, convert them and defend us. Convert those who have yet to acknowledge thy good will that they with us and we with them may obey thy will and for thy sake gladly, patiently, and joyously bear every evil, cross, and adversity, and thereby acknowledge, test, and experience thy benign, gracious, and perfect will. But defend us against those who in their rage, fury, hate, threats, and evil desires do not cease to do us harm. Make their wicked schemes, tricks, and devices to come to nothing so that these may be turned against them, as we sing in Psalm 7 .""

The fourth petition. "Give us this day our daily bread." Say: "Dear Lord, God and Father, grant us thy blessing also in this temporal and physical life. Graciously grant us blessed peace. Protect us against war and disorder. Grant to our dear emperor fortune and success against his enemies. Grant him wisdom and understanding to rule over his earthly kingdom in peace and prosperity. Grant to all kings, princes, and rulers good counsel and the will to preserve their domains and their subjects in tranquility and justice. Especially aid and guide our dear prince N., under whose protection and shelter thou dost maintain us, so that he may be protected against all harm and reign blessedly, secure from evil tongues and disloyal people. Grant to all his subjects grace to serve him loyally and obediently. Grant to every estate-townsman or farmer-to be diligent and to display charity and loyalty toward each other. Give us favorable weather and good harvest. I commend to thee my house and property, wife and child. Grant that I may manage them well, supporting and educating them as a Christian should. Defend us against the Destroyer and all his wicked angels who would do us harm and mischief in this life. Amen."

Monday, December 05, 2016

BookPastor >> "Answering Jihad" (Nabeel Qureshi)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 14th, 2016.


TITLE: Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
AUTHOR: Nabeel Qureshi
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (176 pages).

What does it mean to say that Islam is a religion of peace? Is this understanding the same for both Western and the Middle-Eastern minds? What is Jihad? How does a religion cause a person to become radicalized? What is the meaning of Islam and its origins?

Spurred by the rising anxiety of terrorism from Islamic radicals and the confusion surrounding religious truth and ideology, Nabeel Qureshi shares honestly and passionately about what Islam stands for, what Jihad essentially means, and how we can respond or relate to Muslims. Qureshi is a former Muslim who when young, was very pious about all things Islam. He has previously shared about his conversion from Islam to Christianity in a book entitled, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus."

Some of the clarifications he have made in the book include his study, experience, and analysis of the history of Islam and the teachings of the Quran.
  1. The Western understanding of Islam as a religion of peace is different from the Muslim's understanding of peace. Islam means "surrender," a peace that comes only after all the enemies of Islam have surrendered. Violence may be necessary in order to bring about such peace. 
  2. The word 'Jihad' means 'struggle,' and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam. While the word sometimes is used in the Quran in a spiritual sense, it more often than not refers to a physical struggle for a spiritual goal.
  3. Each time anyone attempts to go back to the origins of the Islamic faith, violence is part and parcel of the struggle in the faith. A vast majority of Muslims have not bothered to go back to the roots of the religion. In order to understand the Islamic religion, one must also understand the contexts of the religion. 
  4. The history of the prophet Muhammad is replete with violence; both offensive and defensive forms of jihad. (Example, in Quran 9:29, there is a command to fight Jews and Christians because of belief, not aggression)
  5. "Sharia" literally means "path to water" but the interpretations of Shariah law varies tremendously due to "abrogation" where there are verses the some say are no longer relevant but others insist on its relevance.
  6. The expansion of Islam involves the use of the "sword" whether directly or indirectly.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Five of my Favourite Male-Band Songs

I thought I would put together a list of five of my top favourite songs by male-bands.

1) Savage Garden: "I Knew I Loved You."

2) Take That: "Back For Good"

3) One Direction: "Night Changes"

4) Backstreet Boys: "I Want It That Way"

5) Boyz II Men: "End of the Road"


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 3 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we started on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the second petition.


The Second Petition - "Thy kingdom come." 

Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, thou seest how worldly wisdom and reason not only profane thy name and ascribe the honor due to thee to lies and to the devil, but how they also take the power, might, wealth and glory which thou hast given them on earth for ruling the world and thus serving thee, and use it in their own ambition to oppose thy kingdom. 

They are many and mighty; they plague and hinder the tiny flock of thy kingdom who are weak, despised, and few. They will not tolerate thy flock on earth and think that by plaguing them they render a great and godly service to thee. 

Dear Lord, God and Father, convert them and defend us. Convert those who are still to become children and members of thy kingdom so that they with us and we with them may serve thee in thy kingdom in true faith and unfeigned love and that from thy kingdom which has begun, we may enter into thy eternal kingdom. 

Defend us against those who will not turn away their might and power from the destruction of thy kingdom so that when they are east down from their thrones and humbled, they will have to cease from their efforts. Amen."

Monday, November 28, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Heart of Revelation" (J. Scott Duvall)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 13th, 2016.


TITLE: The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible's Final Book
AUTHOR: J. Scott Duvall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (224 pages).

The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament. Filled with metaphors, images, and symbols, it is also one of the most challenging books of the Bible to interpret. What is Revelation all about? Why is it in the Bible? Who are the original audiences? What are the circumstances surrounding its writing? These questions continue to be asked through the centuries, even today. In fact, interest in this last book of the Bible remains very high. Many scholars and theologians have written on it. Many pastors and preachers have preached it over the pulpit. Many teachers have debated and shared the various perspectives for eager students. Still, the fascination remains.
  • What are the seals of the scrolls?
  • How do we understand the 144000 saved?
  • The horses, the wars, and the dragons, what do they all mean?
Author and professor, J. Scott Duvall is Professor of New Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He shows us that there are three ways to reading Revelation. The first way is to read it once and then leave Revelation alone. The second way is to be obsessed by it to the point that one becomes paranoid about all things last days. He recommends the third way, which is to read in context, the understand the themes, and to practice the present with care to avoid the extremes of the two earlier ways. He points out ten themes to understand Revelation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 2 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we started on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the first petition.


The First Petition:
O Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward thee or to pray. But because thou hast commanded us all to pray and hast promised to hear us and through thy dear Son Jesus Christ hast taught us both how and what to pray, I come to thee in obedience to thy word, trusting in thy gracious promise. I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ together with all thy saints and Christians on earth as he has taught us: Our Father who art, etc., through the whole prayer, word for word.  
Then repeat one part or as much as you wish, perhaps the first petition: "Hallowed be thy name," and say: "Yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallowed be thy name, both in us and throughout the whole world. Destroy and root out the abominations, idolatry, and heresy of the Turk, the pope, and all false teachers and fanatics who wrongly use thy name and in scandalous ways take it in vain and horribly blaspheme it. They insistently boast that they teach thy word and the laws of the church, though they really use the devil's deceit and trickery in thy name to wretchedly seduce many poor souls throughout the world, even killing and shedding much innocent blood, and in such persecution they believe that they render thee a divine service.

Dear Lord God, convert and restrain. Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Restrain those who are unwilling to be converted so that they be forced to cease from misusing, defiling, and dishonoring thy holy name and from misleading the poor people. Amen."

Monday, November 21, 2016

BookPastor >> "Rare Leadership" (Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 5th, 2016.


TITLE: Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits For Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead
AUTHOR: Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

Another book on leadership? How rare is "rare?" Is there some new thing that we do not know? These questions may be on the minds of some readers who find the words, "leadership" more and more jaded these days. It has been said that most 'new' ideas are not really new, just a new rehash of some old idea. While the idea is not new, the book reminds us of the important traits of leadership. Yet, it is important enough to merit a reminder because of three reasons. Leadership is lacking in many areas; Leadership is always needed in all areas. Leadership is also constantly renewed. What may have piqued some readers is the use of the word 'rare.' The word "RARE" here is used more as an acronym rather than an adjective. It is the conviction of the authors that four "uncommon habits" are related to emotional intelligence, which in turn will draw out the best in people through a "dramatic increase in trust, joy, and engagement."
  • R - Return to Joy (gladness of togetherness)
  • A - Act like yourself (identity)
  • R - Remain Relational (belonging)
  • E - Endure Hardship (let hard times unite the people)

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Old Classic: "This Guy's In Love" (Herb Alpert)

This is an old classic. Still so pleasurable listening after all these years.

Other links here and here.


You see this guy, this guy's in love with you
Yes I'm in love who looks at you the way I do
When you smile I can tell we know each other very

How can I show you I'm glad I got to know you 'cause
I've heard some talk they say you think I'm fine
This guy's in love and what I'd do to make you mine
Tell me now is it so don't let me be the last to

My hands are shakin' don't let my heart keep
Breaking 'cause
I need your love, I want your love
Say you're in love, and you'll be my girl, if not
I'll just die

Tell me now is it so don't let me be the last to
My hands are shakin' don't let my heart keep
Breaking 'cause
I need your love, I want your love
Say you're in love, and you'll be my girl, if not
I'll just die


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 1 (Martin Luther)

One of Martin Luther's most memorable writings was his letter to his barber and good friend, Peter Beskendorf who asked him this question: "How do I pray?" So in Spring of 1535, he wrote this classic entitled, "A Simple Way to Pray." I will share excerpts from it for the next few weeks.


I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, "Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that." Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day. 

It may well be that you may have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer and a proverb, "He who works faithfully prays twice." This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise. 
On the other hand it is also true that the work of an unbeliever is outright cursing and so he who works faithlessly curses twice. While he does his work his thoughts are occupied with a neglect of God and violation of his law, how to take advantage of his neighbor, how to steal from him and defraud him. What else can such thoughts be but out and out curses against God and man, which makes one's work and effort a double curse by which a man curses himself. In the end they are beggars and bunglers. It is of such continual prayer that Christ says in Luke 11, "Pray without ceasing," because one must unceasingly guard against sin and wrong-doing, something one cannot do unless one fears God and keeps his commandment in mind, as Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is he who meditates upon his law day and night." 
Yet we must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and list-less toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.

Monday, November 14, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Listening Life" (Adam S. McHugh)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 8th, 2016.


TITLE: The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
AUTHOR: Adam S. McHugh
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (224 pages).

Attentiveness is a much needed quality these days. In a culture where distracted driving is occurring more often than drunk driving, people tend to be talking more and listening less. Welcome to an age of distraction and self-seeking endeavors. According to Adam McHugh, "listening comes first" even before we were born. McHugh, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church USA is also spiritual director, speaker, and retreat leader. His first book, "Introverts in the Church" talks about the plight of introverts trying to find their place in churches that tend to appeal more to extroverts. This second book of his attempts to contrast the need for listening in a highly talkative world. Why listen? That is because listening is the foundational discipline for what it means to be human. It is the first step of discipleship. It helps us avoid grabbing too much sound space from others. It prepares us with a disposition to receive instructions from God rather than to tell God what God already knew. For preachers, listening comes before preaching. In this very perceptive book, McHugh provides some challenging questions:
  • If we learn to listen first, how will that impact our relationships?
  • If we discipline ourselves to listen to God first, how will our relationship with God become?
  • What if our default position in anything is listening?
  • What will happen if we learn to listen first with our ears rather than to move our lips?
  • What about listening to our inner selves?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Prophetic Prayer" (Mark Batterson)

In our fifth part of the Circle Maker prayer series, we arrive at prophetic praying.

"In 1960, an evangelist named R.W.Shamback preached a revival in Washington, DC for church planters Fred and Charlotte Hall. Without them even knowing, Shambach laid hands on the Academy Theatre and prayed that God would give it to them. That prayer was answered in 1962 when the People's Church purchased that old theater and turned it into a place of worship. They faithfully served God and the community there for forty-nine years.

Shambach also prayed what I believe was a prophetic prayer over that theater. As he laid hands on that building, he bound it for God's glory: 'May this place always be used for God's glory.'

That prophetic prayer resurfaced one day over lunch. Michael said he knew that prayer was the reason that the nightclub deal fell through. He also knew that we were the fulfillment of that prayer. I knew it too.

It's hard to describe the feeling when you know that a fifty-year-old prayer is being answered and you're right in the middle of the miracle. Shambach's prayer was a binding prayer that sealed the theater for God's glory forever. Like a time-capsule, it was opened and answered fifty years later.

Every prayer is a time capsule. You never know when or where or how God is going to answer it, but He will answer it. There is no expiration date, and there are no exceptions. God answers prayer. Period. We don't always see it or understand it, but God always answers."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p202)

Monday, November 07, 2016

BookPastor >> "Core Christianity" (Michael Horton)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 2nd, 2016.


TITLE: Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
AUTHOR: Michael Horton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

The story that we believe will determine our responses to events in life. This is the core message of the book. Also known as worldview, author and professor Michael Horton puts it simply as the story we believe in our hearts. For Christians, Horton believes that the story is the Christian story. We understand it by proper doctrine; by living in Jesus; by having reason informed by faith; and the fundamental Christian living determined by the 4Ds.
  1. Drama: The biblical narrative
  2. Doctrine: What the drama means
  3. Doxology: Praising God with grateful hearts
  4. Discipleship: Fruit of love and good works
Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He has also authored several theology textbooks, one of which is Pilgrim Theology. Comparatively speaking, this book is a distilled version for lay readers. It is written with the ordinary church goer in mind. Selecting ten core doctrines, Horton writes in a more direct, conversational, and popular style. Where there is a need to describe in theological terms, the author makes it a point to separately define and explain it, which is useful for those of us unfamiliar with the more demanding words used in theology. The ten doctrines are:
  1. The Deity of Jesus
  2. The Trinity
  3. God
  4. Sin
  5. Old Testament Promise
  6. Salvation
  7. The Gospel
  8. Jesus Christ
  9. The End Times
  10. Witnessing for God

Friday, November 04, 2016

Video: "What's Your Worldview?"

This is an interesting video clip that asks: "What's Your Worldview?"


If you are unsure of your worldview, why not take a quiz here?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "The Third Circle-Think Long" (Mark Batterson)

We move to the third circle of Batterson's exhortation: Think Long. We live in a world of technology that boasts of speed, efficiency, and quick results. This is one reason why praying is particularly challenging in this day and age. Like planting a tree, we need to remember that faith and spirituality is not a sprint but a marathon. Praying is planting seeds of faith.

"Even when we die, our prayers don't. Each prayer takes on a life, an eternal life, of its own. I know this because of the moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has reminded me that the prayers of my grandparents are being answered in my life right now. Their prayers outlive them.

Prayer is the inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave. Honi the circle maker didn't just pray the prayer that saved a feneration; his perennial prayers were answered in the next generation too. His grandson, Abba Hilkiah, inherited the prayer legacy his grandfather left. During droughts, Israel came to his doorstep, and Hilkiah would go up to his rooftop to pray for rain, just as his grandfather had done.

When we pray, our prayers exit our own reality of space and time. They have no time or space restrictions because the God who answers them exist outside of the space and time He created. You never know when His timeless answer will reenter the atmosphere of our lives, and that should fill us with holy anticipation. Never underestimate His ability to show up anytime, anyplace, anyhow. He has infinite answers to our finite prayers. He answers them more than once. He answers them forever. The problem, of course, is that we want immediate results. Forever is fine, but we want answers instantly.


On the Swedish island Visingsö, there is a mysterious forest of oak trees; mysterious because oak trees aren’t indigenous to the island, and its origin was unknown for more than a century. Then in 1980, the Swedish Navy received a letter from the Forestry Department reporting that their requested ship lumber was ready. The Navy didn’t even know it had ordered any lumber. After a little historical research, it was discovered that in 1829, the Swedish Parliament, recognizing that it takes oak trees 150 years to mature and anticipating a shortage of lumber at the turn of the twenty-first century, ordered that 20,000 oak trees be planted on Visingsö and protected for the Navy.

That is thinking long.

For the record, the lone objector was the Bishop of Strängnäs. He didn’t doubt that there would still be wars to fight at the end of the twentieth century, but he was the only one who anticipated that ships might be built of other materials by then."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p134-5)

Monday, October 31, 2016

BookPastor >> "For the Glory of God" (Daniel I. Block)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Oct 23rd, 2014.


TITLE: For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship
AUTHOR: Daniel I. Block
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014, (432 pages).

What comes to mind when we think about worship? I suppose many of us would be thinking of music styles, Church services, and of course the age-old distinction between traditional vs contemporary songs debate. Edith Humphrey criticizes the modern rendition of worship in five ways. They are 1) too much about feelings; 2) too human-centered; 3) too lacking in the focus on the Word of God; 4) too emotional and experiential oriented; 5) too market-driven. Author and Professor of Wheaton College agrees and this book not only expands on what Humphrey had written, but focuses on recovering the biblical understanding of worship. The writing of this book was inspired by the basic question: "What does God think of what we are doing?" Christians ought to do that too.

The Format
The book comprises 13 chapters, all arranged topically. Broadly speaking, the first three chapters set forth three fundamental questions:
  1. What is worship according to the Scriptures?
  2. Who is the object of true worship?
  3. Whose worship is acceptable to God?
Two chapters are dedicated to how worship can be practiced in daily work and family life. This is followed by four chapters that deal with ordinances, the use of the Word, prayer, and music in worship. The last three chapters work on the drama, the design, the theology, and the role of leaders to cultivate genuine worship. These 13 chapters provide at least 13 different ways in which biblical worship can be understood and practiced. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "The Second Circle-Pray Hard" (Mark Batterson)

Following last week's first circle, we move to the second circle of Batterson's exhortation: Pray Hard.

"The parable of the persistent widow is one of the most pixilated pictures of prayer in Scripture. It shows us what praying hard looks like: knocking until your knuckles are raw, crying out until your voice is lost, pleading through until your teats run dry. Praying hard is praying through. And if you pray through, God will come through. But it will be God's will, God's way.

The phrase used to describe the widow's persistence, 'she is wearing me out,' is boxing terminology. Praying hard is going twelve rounds with God. A heavyweight prayer bout with God Almighty can be excruciating and exhausting, but that is how the greatest prayer victories are won. Praying hard is more than words; it's blood, sweat, and tears. Praying hard is two-dimensional: praying like it depends on God, and working like it depends on you. It's praying until God answers, no matter how long it takes. It's doing whatever it takes to show God you're serious.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and there is no more desperate act than praying hard. There comes a moment when you need to throw caution to the wind and draw a circle in the sand. There comes a moment when you need to defy protocol, drop to your knees, and pray for the impossible. There comes a moment when you need to muster every ounce of faith you have and call down rain from heaven. For the persistent widow, this was that moment.

While we don't know what injustice took place, we do know that the persistent widow wouldn't take no for an answer. That's what made her a circle maker."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p81-82)

Monday, October 24, 2016

BookPastor >> "Living God's Word" (J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Nov 24th 2012.


TITLE: Living God's Word: Discovering Our Place in the Great Story of Scripture
AUTHOR:  J. Scott Duvall and  J. Daniel Hays
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (320 pages).

We learn best from stories because stories shape our thinking and our living. If we can find God in the story, and subsequently see our place in the story, we are in for an exciting time of learning and living. This is the premise of this book. For those of us who loves to "walk" through the Bible and see the big story, this book helps us to do just that. Through their teaching experience at Bible schools, the authors encounter two major problems. Firstly, students are not sure how the stories in the Bible fit in the overall Story. Secondly, students need help on how to read the Bible for themselves. Riding on the success of their first book, "Grasping God's Word," Duvall and Hays have come up with a complementary edition that focuses on the overall story of the Bible. The earlier book was written to enable readers to read, to interpret, and to apply the teachings of the Bible. This new book is intended for readers to survey the whole Bible, and to enable readers to discover the riches of the Bible for themselves. Using the letter C as an alliteration device, the authors comb the 66 books of the Bible to tell the story in 20 chapters. The first half tells the great story of God's creation leading all the way to the final and perfect Redemption of the world. Beginning with creation, there is the unfortunate fall of man. God enters the picture again with a redemption plan, to redeem Israel through the Abrahamic call. Israel fails terribly and soon, God enters the picture with a relationship with the people through the Mosaic covenant and the commandments. Israel fails miserably again despite their conquests and their requests for a king. As Israel crumbles and goes into captivity, despite the multiple warnings given by prophets and priests, kings and soothsayers, God's people continue their rebellion, and the Old Testament ends without much good news as far as the Israelite behaviour is concerned. This is followed by a chapter that describes the time of silence. I find this chapter very illuminating as it stands between the first and the second testaments, in a neither beginning or end state. Readers are left pondering "What happened?" as they reflect on the Old Testament events. They are also left to grapple with the next questions:

  • What does it all mean?
  • What is going to happen next?
  • Is there hope?

Enters God again in the New Testament. The New Testament is broadly described in three segments: Christ, Church, and Consummation. Like creation, God is the Initiator again. Man cannot save himself. God can. By sending Christ, to enter our world, to teach the world, and to be crucified and sacrificed for the sake of the world. After His resurrection, Christ commissions his disciples to continue the mission. He promises the Holy Spirit who will lead the Church to do great things for God, in distributing the salvation message. The Consummation represents a happy ending to a great story. Each chapter begins with a hook to get the reader interested. There are stories like toddler and the electrical outlets, spiders in a truck, a wedding vow, Superman's cape, and many more to grab the attention of the contemporary reader. The reader is then urged to read or listen to a few key passages of the Scriptures that describe the story more explicitly. The contexts, the characters, and the contents are introduced, followed by some basic themes.

My Thoughts

There is an intentional story-telling emphasis in the whole book. In order to tell the story of stories, one needs to be utterly familiar with the whole Bible. This is where the authors shine in their comprehension and their familiarity with modern learners. Like good teachers, they give readers a clear overview of the book. I love the way they put the chapter headings so concisely. Reflecting on the chapter title alone already gives us a good idea where the authors are heading. For me, it is a powerful learning key. The twenty learning keys are like handrails to guide readers through all 66 books of the Bible. They all lead toward a great climax of the story. They all build upon previously established steps or story endings. They all progress in a direction. While the authors do not give an individual book-by-book approach, they provide a thought-by-thought progression that makes great story-telling. In fact, preachers can also use the book as material for 20 sermons too. The frameworks are excellent ways to tell stories and to bring out the biblical themes clearly. I like the many summaries that we need reminding from time to time. For example, the summary of the Ten Commandments, the maps of Palestine and Israel to give readers an idea of the contexts of the land, the comparison of narratives in Kings as well as Chronicles, and many more. The blue-boxed out summaries are refreshing and make for great Powerpoint slides. The bibliography at the end of each chapter is intentionally short so as not to make research too intimidating.

That said, there are some weaknesses in the approach taken by Duvall and Hays. Let me mention three. First, there is some amount of straitjacketing going on. Everytime we use a alliteration device, we try to force our story to reflect the C-word we choose. It is one thing to let the Bible inform the story. It is yet another to let a certain interpretation inform how one reads the Bible. For this reason, I recommend the book for beginner to moderate level readers. Those who are trained theologically will know that there are many more nuances associated with each of the 66 books. While the story flow is true, we cannot presume that these are the only stories worth telling. Second, there is some reductionism going on? Why only 20 chapters? Perhaps, brevity is a concern. Maybe, the book is designed more for popular reading. That said, it is important to remember that this is the authors' way of communicating truth in a readable manner. In fact, there can be 30 chapters or even 40 chapters, depending on how we want to frame our story. It is a reminder that the book is a summary, and readers are to remember that summaries do result in some reductionism. If readers understand that, it is ok. Third, this book in itself is already an interpretation of the Bible story.  For readers who are keen to do inductive studies, this book is not for you. Supplement this book with others. However, if the book can encourage Bible literacy, to motivate readers to read the Bible with more enthusiasm, it is still a very good thing.

If I can use my own learning acronym for this book, it will be F.U.L.L.
  1. Finding the story (Discovery)
  2. Understanding the story (Delight)
  3. Learning the story (Deepen)
  4. Living the story. (Do)
This book helps us to do that very well. I recommend this book for the beginner student, as well as the layperson wanting to read the Bible from the eyes of story telling. If you have read "Grasping God's Word," you will love this book too.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "The First Circle - Dream Big" (Mark Batterson)

Following the introduction last week, we move to the first circle of Batterson's exhortation: Dream Big.

"Drawing prayer circles often feels foolish. And the bigger the circle you draw the more foolish you'll feel. But if you aren't willing to step out of the boat, you'll never walk on water. If you aren't willing to circle the city, the wall will never fall. And if you aren't willing to follow the star, you'll miss out on the greatest adventure of your life.

In order to experience a miracle, you have to take a risk. And one of the most difficult types of risk to take is risking your reputation. Honi already had a reputation as a rainmaker, but he was willing to risk his reputation by praying for rain one more time. Honi took the risk - and the rest is history.

The greatest chapters in history always begin with risk, and the same is true with the chapters of your life. If you're unwilling to risk your reputation, you'll never build the boat like Noah or get out of the boat like Peter. You cannot build God's reputation if you aren't willing to risk yours. There comes a moment when you need to make the call or make the move. Circle makers are risk takers. 

Moses had learned this lesson well: If you don't take the risk, you forfeit the miracle."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p46)

Monday, October 17, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Future of Our Faith" (Ron Sider and Ben Lowe)

This review was published on March 31st, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church
AUTHOR: Ronald J. Sider and Ben Lowe
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2016, (240 pages).

We have all heard of the generation gap. Between the old and the young, there are differences in opinion, perspectives, and ideas. Put them altogether under one roof and we are in for some inter-generational challenges on many different issues. Whether it is about old, hanging on to traditional and proven ideas, or about the young, eager to try new methods and innovative projects, in order to help all get along, there need to be a wider sphere of understanding of each other. Every generation will have their own set of challenges. Each generation will have lessons to be shared with the others. Two of the best things that two generations can do for each other are to educate each other graciously and to engage each other constructively. In this book, we see nine different scenarios of of engagement and honest sharing of opinions from a Baby-Boomer generation and a Millennial. Billed as an inter-generational dialogue on eight critical issues, authors Ronald Sider and Ben Lowe share the same common faith and passion for the Church. The issues may be important but it is the learning of how each generation approach the same issue that is even more important. With greater understanding comes lesser tensions. With greater willingness to learn from each other means sharing resources so as to lay the groundwork for blessing the generations of the future.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Before the Computer...

Before the computer

An application was for employment
A program was a TV show
A cursor used profanity
A keyboard was a piano!

Memory was something that you lost with age
A CD was a bank account!
And if you had a broken disk,
It would hurt when you found out!

Compress was something you did to garbage
Not something you did to a file
And if you unzipped anything in public
You'd be in jail for awhile!

Log on was adding wood to a fire
Hard drive was a long trip on the road
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
And a backup happened to your commode!

Cut--you did with a pocket knife
Paste you did with glue
A web was a spider's home
And a virus was the flu!

I guess I'll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head
I hear nobody's been killed in a computer crash
But when it happens they wish they were dead!

Source: Unknown

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "The Circle Maker"

In the book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson shows us the way to pray without ceasing. Using the circling metaphor, he seeks to encourage us to circle ourselves with prayer, constant prayer. Based on the first-century Jewish sage, Honi, whose faith was expressed in fervent prayer, he describes three types of circles. For the next five weeks, we will be dealing with the topic of prayer according to the Circle Maker.

"God has determined that certain expressions of His power will only be exercised in response to prayer. Simply put, God won't do it unless you pray for it. We have not because we ask not, or maybe I should say, we have not because we circle not. The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.

Now here's the good news: If you do pray, all bets are off. You can live with holy anticipation because you never know how or when or where God is going to answer, but I promise you this: He will answer. And His answers are not limited by your requests. We pray out of our ignorance, but God answers out of His omniscience. We pray out of our impotence, but God answers out of His omnipotence. God has the ability to answer the prayers we should have prayed but lacked the knowledge or ability to even ask." (Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p16-7)

Monday, October 10, 2016

BookPastor >> "Four Views on Hell"

This review was first published on March 26th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
AUTHOR: Preston Sprinkle, Denny Burk, John G. Stackhouse Jr., Robin Perry, and Jerry Walls
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (224 pages).

The topic of hell and eternal damnation has been a controversial topic recently. Since Rob Bell's Love Wins, which is essentially a book that not only rejects the existence of eternal hell but advocates the position of universalism, many Christians are caught in a bind about what exactly does the Bible teach about hell. A number of outspoke critics railed against Bell. A popular Christian pastor, Francis Chan was so upset about Bell's universalist approach that he responded with Erasing Hell. The chief editor of ChristianityToday publication wrote God Wins to counter Bell's ideas. While these books appeal at a popular readers' level, there are some people who would like a more in-depth treatment of the topic of hell, damnation, and eternal suffering. Enters this book which is part of Zondervan's Counterpoints series. Four different perspectives are provided not simply for readers to pick-and-choose but to be understood and to learn from. If not everybody have the whole truth, surely, together, we can all draw a bigger picture that we can learn from. Each view comes with three responses. The main purpose of this book is to lay out the different views of hell for the purpose of instruction and illumination, so that there will be bridges of understanding of all sides. This book is not new. The first edition was published in 1996 with the literal view (John F. Walvoord), the metaphorical view (William Crockett), the conditional view (Clark H. Pinnock), and the purgatorial view (Zachary J. Hayes). This second edition has been updated with four new contributors.

Friday, October 07, 2016

The Language of Nature

Amazing fungi. What we lack is the communication needed to understand the intelligence in life.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Fourth Century Wisdom (Ambrose, Bishop of Milan)

On Christ
"When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak of peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ."

On Riches and Possessions
"Riches are the beginning of all vices, because they make us capable of carrying out even our most vicious desires."

"To renounce riches is the beginning and sustaining of virtues."

On the Virtuous Quality Expected of Clergy
"One of the duties of fortitude is to keep the weak from receiving injury; another, to check the wrong motions of our own souls; a third, both to disregard humiliations, and to do what is right with an even mind. All these clearly ought to be fulfilled by all Christians, and especially by the clergy."

On Fasting
"Do not limit the benefit of fasting to abstinence from good, for a true fast means refraining from evil. Loose every unjust bond, put away your resentment against your neighbour, forgive him his offences. Do not let your fasting lead to wrangling and strife. You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother, you abstain from wine, but note from insults. So all the labour of your fast is useless."

On Holding the Tongue
"Bind up thy words that they run not riot, and grow wanton, and gather up sins for themselves in too much talking. Let them be rather confined, and held back within their own banks. An overflowing river quickly gathers mud."

"Let no word pass your lips in vain, no meaningless word be uttered."

Monday, October 03, 2016

BookPastor >> "After the Boxes are Unpacked" (Susan Miller)

This review was first published on March 22nd, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: After the Boxes Are Unpacked
AUTHOR: Susan Miller
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016, (272 pages).

Moving is very much a part of our lives. Whether we are children of missionaries or working adults, there are many different reasons why we move. People move when they have a new job, a new house, or a new baby. People also move when they need to be closer to their aging parents, or other concerns. Apart from the stress of having to finalize details of our new postings, jobs, or changes in a family situation, there are the logistics to contend with. There is the budget to be careful of. There is the many decisions to be made about what to pack, what to give away, and what to discard. According to the US Census Bureau, over 35.9 million people move each year, among which are 18.3 million women. The author is an experienced "mover," having relocated at least 14 times in her life, and being uprooted from her comfort zones frequently. She was married for 45 years to her husband before his passing in 2009.  Called "America's Moving Coach," Susan Miller has founded an organization called "Just Moved Ministry" to help uprooted women deal with the stresses of moving. First published in 1995, this book is into its 21st printing which speaks of the relevance and help that the book has offered to many people. In this updated edition, Miller includes many of her personal reflections about how life had been after Bill. She has a lot more future-oriented language which sums up her longing to be together with her loved ones for eternity. The three emotional phases for readers on the move are:

  1. Let Go
  2. Start Over
  3. Move Forward 

Friday, September 30, 2016

How Small We Are | How Great God Is

This is how the universe looks like from a satellite zooming out from earth to sky; and from sky to the depths of space. It reminds me of how great God is. Watch video here.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Third Century Wisdom (Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage)

On Baptism
"Let us, then who in baptism have both died and been buried in respect to the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things that are Christ's."

On True Safety
"No one is strong in his own strength, but he is safe by the grace and mercy of God."

On Faith and Doubt
"When I had drunk the Spirit from heaven, and the second birth had restored me so as to make a new man of me, then at once in an amazing way my doubts began to be resolved, doors that had been closed to me opened, dark places became light, and what before had seemed difficult now seemed easy to me."

On Unity
"The sacrament of unity, this bond of peace inseparable and indivisible, is indicated when in the gospel the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ was not divided at all or rent, but they cast lots for the raiment of Christ, to see who should put on Christ for clothing."

"He who rends and divides the church of Christ cannot possess the clothing of Christ."

Monday, September 26, 2016

BookPastor >> "Thumbprint in the Sand" (Luci Shaw)

This review was first published on March 18th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace
AUTHOR: Luci Shaw
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (205 pages).

Luci Shaw is a gift to the literary world. Not only is she a master with words, she has a keen eye to observe ordinary things and to let them bounce off reflections of life. She reflects on the coffee mug and how it is used as a symbol of family and hospitality. From within the small world of the coffee cup, she zooms out to the big wide world, anchoring her thoughts from 36000 feet in the airplane and looking at the world God had created. Meandering through "God's graphics," she leaves through photographs, observations, histories, past civilizations, and lands back to earth, having caught a glimpse from God's perspective. From the Pacific Northwest, she is reminded of God's creation and natural wonder, appreciating people, acknowledging beauty, and admiring rocks! Her silent retreat at the monastery is probably one of her secrets in training her powers of observation. More importantly, it speaks of her innermost desire to be closer to God. Here, Shaw's theological engine kicks in. She integrates philosophy with spirituality. She activates the words of her literary friends like Annie Dillard, Madeleine L'Engle, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Eugene Peterson. She includes one of her favourite art journals, Image, and reflects on them equally well, showing us that one does not need to be physically present at any particular place to learn to appreciate natural beauty. For it is not the actual place alone that can trigger one's sense of wonder. It is the admiring heart that paints the world with colour. From theology, we come back to Shaw's TV set. She connects the TV programs with one's sense of identity. From DNA to thumbprints, forensic analysis to police investigations, we are reminded of a world larger than mere crime triggered investigations. Shaw links the physics of the world with the creation of life. Moving in and out from the world of words to the real world, and back again, it can be a challenge to try to capture and to predict where Shaw is going next. My advice: Don't bother. Just enjoy. If you can pace with her, by all means do so. Better to pace it at your own speed. This is not about getting the most out of this book. It is about allowing the best of us to appreciate the best of God's world, seen through the eyes of Shaw.

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