Monday, May 30, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Christian Wallet" (Mike Slaughter)

This review was first published on Jan 15th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience
AUTHOR: Mike Slaughter with Karen Perry Smith
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, (200 pages).

It has been said that money makes the world go round. It is an expression that talks about the way how money has the power to make things happen. Even the Bible has lots to say about money and how we handle wealth. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve both God and Money. If we love God we will serve God. If we love Money, we would be serving Money. That underlines the importance of this book about how Christians are to be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves, in the way that we use money. In this very insightful book about how Christians can use their wealth; in the way they spend; the way they give; and the way they live. Mike Slaughter is Lead Pastor at Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio and author of several books including, “Dare to Dream,” “Change the World,” “Renegade Gospel,” “Upside Living in a Downside Economy,” and “Money Matters.” Now, in this new book, he expands on the area of wealth, money, and how Christians ought to steward this important resource. How we spend money reflects our financial priorities and values. How we live with money reflects our philosophy of life. In fact, money has a way of replacing our faith. Instead of prioritizing our activities with God in mind, many people consciously or unconsciously prioritize everything with money in mind. Slaughter asks some challenging questions about morality and money.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"Where Did God Come From?" (Brilliant Answer from Dr Ken Horvind)

This is a video clip of a question and answer between an evolutionist and a creationist perspectives. Dr Ken Horvind, a popular advocate for the creationist model gives a compelling argument to the question: "Where Did God Come From?"

His last statement is really good: "Your question where did god come from is assuming a limited god and that is your problem. The God that I worship is not limited by time, space, or matter. If I could fit in the infinite God in my 3 pound brain, He would not be worth worshiping that's for certain. So that's the God I worship. Thank you."


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Midweek Meditation: A Prayer Technique (Mark Nepo)

Here is a helpful meditative technique to assist in our prayer as taught by Mark Nepo, a spiritual writer. The seventh step is my addition.

  1. Sit quietly and begin praying, whatever that means to you.
  2. As soon as you find yourself asking for something, stop.
  3. Inhale deeply and begin again.
  4. Begin as many times as necessary until you sink below your problem, your fear, your want to be rescued, and simply pray by listening.
  5. Resist the urge to ask for something. Just listen to your way closer to life.
  6. Ask earnestly for nothing until you feel safe in the miracle you carry by being alive.
  7. Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you with holy love for Jesus.

Monday, May 23, 2016

BookPastor >> "Growing God's Church" (Gary McIntosh)

This review was first published on March 3rd, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Growing God's Church: How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today
AUTHOR: Gary L. McIntosh
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (192 pages).

This is a book about evangelism. It is not just another strategy or a how-to book on how to do evangelism. It is an honest survey of the past methods, a sensitivity to present contexts, and a hopeful outlook toward the future. While the gospel is the same, people and culture change rapidly. The methods of yesterday do not necessarily apply to the contexts of today. If we do not adapt accordingly, not only will the church at large continue to see outflow of young people, she will have trouble attracting new ones. In this very important book, Gary McIntosh, President of the Church Growth Network and Professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology shares from his experience about the need for leaders to adapt. It is not simply adapting for the sake of adapting. Neither is it for the sake of preserving an old institution that is perceived to be increasingly irrelevant. It is for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for souls, and for the flourishing of a world that God has created to be cared for and to be loved. Just to be fair, there are churches already trying to change. Unfortunately, McIntosh observes that their actions are not only ineffective, they unwittingly dilute the gospel. For example, the missional movement. In wanting to become relevant to the social needs of the neighbourhood, some churches have become another charitable organization that are becoming less evangelistic in their practices, rendering them no different from non-Christian charities. Others throw away the historical past and along with is a core identity of the Church. In this book, McIntosh seeks to bring back the essentials to a Church that is increasingly struggling with being relevant and being faithful to the gospel. He begins by modifying Win Arn's extensive 1979 study on church evangelistic strategies. By the late 90s, he starts to notice that many of the conclusions are no longer true. He then conducted a small study of 11 churches; surveyed people's reasons for coming to church; and reported on the findings. This book is a result of that work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "How We Build a Kingdom of Restlessness"

Below is an excerpt from Jan David Hettinga's "Still Restless." Beware!

We articulate a kingdom in these ways, and more:
  • When I earn enough money, I'll feel truly secure.
  • If I marry the right person and we build a home together, I'll be happy.
  • Because I'm smart, and surround myself with brilliant people, I'm significant.
  • My family's prominence in society makes me influential and respected.
  • A great career and growing reputation mark me as somebody important.
  • Winning at whatever I set out to accomplish proves I'm successful.
I kingdom rises up when we hold something tightly in our hands. It could be our ambition, athletic ability, car, career, children, education, home, spouse, or wealth - even a rank or reputation and the influence it garners. 

Perhaps, let me offer a response on what it means to build a kingdom of restfulness. A heart of restfulness would begin with a recognition of biblical wisdom:
  • Money: "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." (Proverbs 30:8)
  • Marriage: "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt 22:30)
  • Significance and Success:

     "4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harema as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 11Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11)


Monday, May 16, 2016

BookPastor >> "Chronological Life Application Bible"

TITLE: Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2012, (2220 pages).

This is an impressive study Bible arranged in chronological order. Based on the New Living Translation of the Bible, it helps us address the following questions:
  • What does the passage really mean?
  • How does it apply to my life?
  • Why does some part of the Bible seem irrelevant today?
  • What do these ancient cultures go to do with now?
  • I love God; but why can't I understand what God is saying to me through the Word?
  • What's going on in the life of these Bible people?
In terms of "application," the Bible is showing us the following.
  • It is not mere knowledge but practical pointers to life's relevance
  • It is something we can put into practice
  • It shows us that what is true in ancient times is also true in contemporary times
  • It comes with an explanation about the texts
  • There is a bridge between the past and the present
  • There is an example of application

Apart from that, the "chronological" part is something quite different from other study bibles. There is a one big story that we can follow along. On every page, there is a header that shows us:
  1. BEGINNINGS: undated to 2100 BC
  2. GOD's CHOSEN FAMILY: 2100 - 1800 BC
  3. BIRTH OF ISRAEL: 1800 - 1406 BC
  4. POSSESSING THE LAND: 1406 - 1050 BC
  5. UNITED MONARCHY: 1050 - 930 BC
  6. SPLINTERED NATION: 930 - 586 BC
  7. EXILE: 586 - 538 BC
  8. RETURN & DIASPORA: 538 - 6 BC
  9. JESUS CHRIST: 6 BC - AD 30
  10. THE CHURCH: AD 30 - Present
As we open up the pages, there is a color marking to show us where we are in the biblical time frame. This is extremely helpful to enable us to locate the dates when we read a particular passage. Often, especially when reading the Old Testament, it is easy to get lost in the details. 

The footnotes are very detailed, with key verses being chosen for additional exposition. Informational plates fill the Bible with lots of interesting stuff that really brings the relevance of biblical knowledge to life. There are clearly marked out maps and tables to show us the details of kingdoms, ruling empires, and comparisons. Other highlights include:
  • A Christian Worker's Resource
  • The Bible Book-By-Book (my favourite); that shows us the blueprint, the megathemes, and a brief overview of the book
  • Dictionary and Concordance
  • Personality Profiles
  • Section Introductions
  • Three types of timelines: 1) Master timeline; 2) Detailed era timelines; 3) Specific dates
There is a lot of information in this study bible to the point that I fear they may become distractions in itself. Thus, let me offer some tips when using this study bible.

First, use it as a supplement with an actual Bible. This ensures that we stay focused on the text first before anything else. Second, after reading the text, use this Bible to establish some contexts such as date, author, and the location of the passage within the big story. Third, let the applications prompt us toward other applications.


Friday, May 13, 2016

An Insightful Look into Stress and Letting Go

This is a story currently circulating widely on the Internet.

A psychologist showed her audience a glass of water. Everyone was expecting she will ask the usual question, “Is the glass half filled or half empty?”

Instead, she asked the question, “How heavy is the glass of water?” 

Her audience started giving her numbers.

None of the numbers were correct. Instead she said, “The actual weight of the glass has no real significance. What does matter is how long I hold the glass.”

“The glass will not weigh too much if I hold it only for a few minutes.”

Misunderstandings in your relationship will not matter much if you immediately address them. Talk about them and commit to come to a win-win solution. Do not be afraid to compromise to make your relationship happy and lasting.

“If I hold it for an hour, I’ll eventually start cramping up in my arm. If I hold it for a whole day, my arm will probably numb up and feel paralyzed.”

If you don’t talk about your issues and avoid each other, you will be causing a strain in your relationship. The stress will soon hurt you and your relationship. If you don’t find a way to relieve yourself of the stress and anxiety in your relationship, admit it or not, it will be in your thoughts. It will be in your waking hours or even in your sleep. Soon the thought and the agony will paralyze you; you will not be able to do anything. It will be like your shadow following you wherever you go; always in your head bugging you.

This is when your relationship crumbles. It will then be impossible to save it.

Remember to let go of whatever stresses you. Remember to deal with your relationship issues immediately. Before going to bed, put away the stress. Talk about your problems and agree to a solution. Don’t carry your glass throughout the evening and into the night. Remember to put down your glass of water.

Here's the video.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "By-Products of Ministry"

This excerpt is taken from Philip Yancey's book, "Church, Why Bother?"

For a long time Dr Trogisch could not answer the question of meaning. He went ahead and performed his medical tasks, but he had no answer. Then he conducted an introductory course to train new helpers for the center. At the end of the one-year training period, he asked these young helpers to fill out a survey. Among the questions was this one, "What changes have taken place in your life since you became totally involved with disabled people?" Here is a selection of their answers:
  • For the first time in my life I feel I am doing something really significant.
  • I feel I can now do things I wouldn't have thought myself capable of before.
  • During my time here I have won the affection of Sabine. Having had the opportunity to involve myself with a disabled person, I no longer think of her as disabled at all.
  • I am now more responsive now to human suffering and it arouses in me the desire to help.
  • It's made me question what is really important in life.
  • Work has assumed a new meaning and purpose. I feel I'm needed now.
  • I've learned to be patient and to appreciate even the slightest sign of progress.
  • In observing the disabled, I've discovered myself.
  • I've become more tolerant. My own little problems don't seem so important any longer, and I've learned to accept myself with all my inadequacies. Above all I've learned to appreciate the little pleasures in life, and especially I thank God that he has shown me that love can achieve more than hate or force.
As Dr Trogisch read their responses, he realized with a start the answer to his question. The meaning of the suffering of these children was being worked out in the lives of others, his helpers, who were learning lessons that no sophisticated educational system could teach. Where else could teenagers and college students learn such inestimable lessons as these?

Dr Trogisch has put his finger on a by-product of the church's mission that often gets overlooked. We tend to focus on the objects of ministry: the souls led to Christ, the marriages rescued, the poor fed and housed, the homebound elderly visited, the teenagers challenged. Yet as I read the New Testament, Jesus seems equally interested in what effect ministry is having on the people who are doing the work of ministry themselves.

(Philip Yancey, Church: Why Bother?, Zondervan, 1998, p79-90)

Monday, May 09, 2016

BookPastor >> "Divine Sex" (Jonathan Grant)

TITLE: Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age
AUTHOR: Jonathan Grant
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015, (256 pages).

What comes to mind when we think of the word “sex?” More often than not, we are informed by the culture we live in rather than the gospel. In a hypersexualized age, we are inundated by images from Hollywood and advertisements that depict people as sexual objects. Even the use of language can become so offensive that companies often include a sexual harassment statements in their corporate code of conduct. Sadly, many Christians learn more from the worldly institutions instead of biblical principles. We need a new vision of sex and sexuality based on the Bible. This is where author Jonathan Grant comes in. Calling the area of relationships and sexuality as one of the “biggest challenges” our our time, we need to see the world of sex with two eyes: One human, the other divine.

On the former, Grant probes the reasons why our modern perceptions of sexuality have become so dysfunctional and worldly. Instead of people living out their sexuality out of personal authenticity, tragically, many people have done the reverse by using sex as a way to find themselves. Expressions of sexuality have also been done under the guise of liberal behavior where individual freedoms trumps community needs. In such a climate, modern views of sex are becoming more: 1) Utilitarianistic (using others for self-benefit); 2) Expressivistic (heavy individualism); and 3) Postmodernistic (where exercising freedom is more important than actual freedom). By doing so, we become vulnerable to consumerism, detachment, narcissism, and all kinds of worldliness. Instead of sex as a unique and wholesome human expression, people are using sexuality as a way to find themselves. He is particularly critical of churches that have lost their vision with regard to sexuality and human relationships. As far as Grant is concerned, it is truth that transforms, not expressive sex. For that to happen, we need a new vision of sex that he calls, “Divine sex.” This book is about discussing the following questions:

Friday, May 06, 2016

World's Toughest Job

This is a wonderful video about an online interviews conductor for a position entitled, "Director of Operations." It is also the world's toughest job.



Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "What the Bible Teaches About Worship"

Taken from the Chronological Life Application Study Bible, NLT, page 1619.

  1. Worship is first and foremost an encounter with the living and holy God. (Exodus 3:5)
  2. Worship is only as real as the involvement of those participating. (Lev 7:38)
  3. A true worship experience is often a direct result of preparation for worship. (Num 28:1-2)
  4. Believers should take advantage of every opportunity and praise God. (Ps 81:1-3)
  5. Worship and music go hand in hand. (1 Chronicles 25:1)
  6. Worship is bringing the best believers have to Christ. (Matthew 2:11)
  7. Genuine worship results in submission and to obedience to Jesus. (Matthew 17:5)
  8. Everything done in corporate worship must be beneficial to the worshipers. (1 Cor 14:12)
  9. In worship, everything must be done in harmony and with order. (1 Cor 14:40)

Monday, May 02, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Will of God as a Way of Life" (Jerry Sittser)

TITLE: The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence
AUTHOR: Jerry Sittser
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004, (256 pages).

When there is a book about the will of God, I will read. If it is written by an unknown writer, I may just borrow it from the library. If it is written by my favourite authors, I will usually buy it. This book is one of them.

According to Sittser, this book is about a perspective of the will of God, not a series of steps to attain the holy grail of the experiment called life. Sharing about how he manages to move through the twists and turns of life, the book reveals a lot about how Sittser fumbles through life, and eventually arriving at a clearer understanding of what God's will means for him. In Chapter One, he shares about 3 clues. Firstly, 'we will never know how things will turn out' (20). The second clue is about how suffering and loss dispels his idea of a perfect and nice will of God. The third clue is that the Bible says very little about the future path of God's way, but a present avoidance of anxiety and wrongful presumption. The conventional way of thinking is in terms of finding out that ONE specific will of God for each person. Such a thinking reveals 3 problems.

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