Monday, February 29, 2016

BookPastor >> "IF" (Mark Batterson)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Nov 24th, 2015.


TITLE: If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If Possibilities
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (304 pages).

If a word can launch a thousand thoughts, a book can surely create boundless imaginations. Using one word, author and pastor Mark Batterson helps bring us away from the "if only" of past regrets toward the "what if" of future possibilities. Believing on the need to renew the mind and to be filled with good thoughts, Batterson believes that this one word "if" can change our perspective of life. Basing this book on the eight chapter of Romans, which he calls the "Great Eight," he distills ten "ifs" that add up to limitless possibilities. Central to it all is Romans 8:31 which says: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

It is very much Batterson's positive thinking equivalent for his followers. Loosely based on Romans 8, the author distributes 30 chapters of stories, narratives, anecdotes, and tips over four major parts. The first part is about past regrets often denoted by the "if only." If only things were better. If only I had done that. These two words "if only" can usually be mind-crippling. It makes us forget the grace and mercy of God. It makes us feel guilty with self-condemnation. Very quickly, the second part of the book is a defying voice against the impossible circumstances. Instead of being fixated on the things of the flesh, we can choose to focus on the things of the Spirit. We can pledge to dig deeper into God's Word rather than to become distracted by anxieties and cares of the world. We can make a beeline for the Cross. We can choose not to let fears dictate our lives. We can choose to live as children of hope. Part Three tighten the screws of optimism by helping us turn outward to blessing others; to look beyond our self-needs; to bear fruit for Christ; etc. Some of the "what ifs" in this section is particularly powerful. Like:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Video: Simple Reconnecting

This video clip reminds me once again that we do not need to fly our family to far away places or to travel to expensive locations in order to spend time as family. Neither do we need sophisticated equipment or digital gadgets to just remain in touch. The truth is, vacations, equipment, technology, and all that social media jazz are often distractions from the real need: Connection.

Watch this video and see how the initial moments of discomfort and weirdness give way to hugs, kisses, and most importantly, expressing our truest feelings for one another. Family is closer than we think. It is also most economical and effective.

It's a nice video, albeit made by an insurance company.

There's some behind the scenes video here.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Abundance"

This is a meaningful prayer about how we ought to save, to spend, to give, and to live with a conscience. Taken from Mark and Lisa Scandrette's book, "FREE: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most."
I know that I am cared for by an Abundant Provider. 
     I choose to be grateful and trusting. 
I believe I have enough and that what I need 
     will always be provided. 
I choose to be content and generous. 
     I know that my choices matter for myself, for others 
           and for future generations. 
Help me to live consciously and creatively, celebrating 
     signs of your new creation that is present and coming. 
Creator, who made me to seek the greater good of your 
Guide me to use my time, talents and resources 
     to pursue what matters most. 
Teach me to be free, 
     to live without worry, fear or greed in the freedom of your 
Give me my daily bread, as I share with those in need. 
     Thank you for this precious gift of life!1 
Amen and amen. 


Monday, February 22, 2016

BookPastor >> "Chosen" (Walter Brueggemann)

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


TITLE: Chosen?: Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
AUTHOR: Walter Brueggemann
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, (108 pages).

Whenever people think of the Middle East conflict, they would shake their heads as if there will never be any solution to the conflict. It is one of the most, if not the most, difficult problems in this world. For Christians, it is one huge theological puzzle of disagreement. At the heart of the disputes are the questions surrounding the nation of Israel.
  • Who is Israel?
  • Is Israel still God's chosen people?
  • How should evangelicals see the Israel of today?
  • Is there any theological basis to support Israel with military weapons? 
  • What should we make of the relationships between Israel and the Palestinians?
For scholar and theologian, Walter Brueggemann, far more important than political maneuvers for or against Israel is the plight of human rights for Palestinians. It is not right for US lobbying groups to continue to support Israel's bullying tactics by sending them military weapons and at the same time downplaying the human rights of the Palestinians. Worse, it is bad theology to just interpret the Bible as if it is a command to prop up Israel regardless of what she does to her neighbours. For Brueggemann, the well-being of all must be foremost.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "By Faith" (Keith and Kristyn Getty)

This week, let us meditate pleasing God with faith. The song, "By Faith" is by this Irish singing group that has been making waves in evangelical circles with their songs that point attention back to God. The Gettys shared :

"In our own songwriting for the church, we often consider these questions:
Is there a musical vocabulary that might link generations and not separate them? What thoughts were important to believers in the church from generations past? Are the lyrics we sing expressing these overarching themes or dispelling both the challenge and relief that comes when considering the well-trodden path of faith? "


Monday, February 15, 2016

BookPastor >> "Habits for Our Holiness" (Philip Nation)

Spiritual disciplines are meant to help us to practice holiness that God be pleased. It is not some self-serving endeavor to feel better inside. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on November 12th, 2015.


TITLE: Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out
AUTHOR: Philip Nation
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (192 pages).

We have books on spiritual disciplines that help us grow our spiritual lives. We have many resources on contemplation and meditation to cultivate a deeper level of holiness and spirituality. We have discipleship programs to enable individuals to develop their Christian lives. The sad truth is this: Many of our programs are more man-cantered than God-centered. The purpose of spiritual disciplines is not about us becoming more 'spiritual' as opposed to worldly, but more godly as becoming more like God. Author Philip Nation provides several reasons why we need disciplines.
  • Not an end in themselves but tools for God to hold us
  • Learning to serve rather than to be served
  • Greater intimacy with God
  • Loving God and loving people
  • Becoming a witness for Christ

Monday, February 08, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Volunteer Church" (Leith Anderson and Jill Fox)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on November 6th, 2015.  It is clearly one of the best books on servanthood and how to encourage the laity to serve willingly and passionately.


TITLE: The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness
AUTHOR: Leith Anderson and Jill Fox
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (160 pages).

Every member is a servant in the Kingdom of God. For the Church is not a building made of bricks and stones. It is a Body of Christ made of people serving God and one another in the love of Christ. Volunteerism is in. Compulsory work is out. This is particularly so in a ministry that requires us to put our faith into action. If there is any group of people who deserves more encouragement and praise, it would be the group of people who willingly offer to serve at their own time and own resources. Weekly, they work without official pay. They do their best despite not having the best tools or training. In fact, the best form of leadership development is to increase the level of volunteerism in any organization. A Church grows not on the basis of attendance numbers but volunteer numbers. The challenge for any church is not only to encourage the volunteer numbers, but to increase the cheer among all. This book is written for three groups of people.
  1. For leaders exhausted by lack of volunteers
  2. For volunteers wanting to have more to join them
  3. For ministry staff wanting to train and to cultivate a culture of volunteerism

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Praying Through Hard Times"

I asked God to take away my pride and God said, "No."
He said it was not for Him to take it away, but for me to give it up.

I asked God to heal my disease and God said, "No."
He said, "Your spirit is whole, your body is only temporary.
Through your afflictions you will learn to help others who also suffer."

I asked God to grant me patience and God said, "No."
He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn't granted; it's earned.

I asked God to give me happiness and God said, "No."
He said that He gives blessings; happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain and God said, "No."
He said, "Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
and brings you closer to me."

I asked God to make my spirit grow and God said, "No."
He said that I must grow on my own,
but He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me and God said, "Yes."
He said, "I gave my only Son who died for you.
You will be in heaven someday because you believe."

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me and God said,
"Ah...Finally you understand..."

- Unknown

Monday, February 01, 2016

BookPastor >> "Just Show Up" (Kara Tippetts)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on November 4th, 2015.


TITLE: Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together
AUTHOR: Kara Tippetts
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2015, (192 pages).

This book begins with a somber greeting: "Hi. My name is Kara Tippetts, and I may not be alive when you read this book. I hope so, but I don’t know. That decision is in the hands of the Author of my life—His name is Jesus. I trust Him with every ounce of who I am."

With these words, Tippetts begins this book with hope, that even when she does not know what to do, what to say, or what to answer, just showing up is already a blessing in itself. It is also a step of humility to come as we are to say: "I'm here. I may not have the answers, but I'm here." With "Just Show Up" as her principle of perseverance through the ups and downs, and especially the suffering moments of life, cancer patient Tippetts shows us what perseverance means amid the pains and sorrows of life. Tippetts died on March 22, 2015, but not without touching the lives of many. Through this book, her life continues to influence many even after her death. Written with Jill Lynn Buteyn, author of inspirational novel, Falling for Texas, this book is an honest down to earth retelling of the struggles through the tough times of life by simply walking together and being present for each other.

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