Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Second Century Wisdom (Polycarp)

Polycarp (AD 69-155)
Refusal to Deny Christ
"For eighty-six years have I been Christ's servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"

"Leave me as I am, the one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails."

On Idolatry
"If anyone does not refrain from the love of money, he will be defiled by idolatry and so be judged as if he were one of the heathen."

"Beware of greed and remain pure and just. Restrain yourself from every vice. He who cannot restrain himself, how will he be able to teach others restraint?"

On Prayer
"Keep looking forward in prayer, and persevering in fasting; beseeching in supplications the all-seeing God to lead us away from temptation."

If you are interested in an article about the martyrdom of Polycarp, click here.


Monday, August 29, 2016

BookPastor >> "Flourishing" (Miroslav Volf)

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


TITLE: Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World
AUTHOR: Miroslav Volf
PUBLISHER: New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016, (304 pages).

Religions and globalizations have been around for a long time. Both have interacted and have influenced each other. In turn, they have affected all areas of our lives in varying degrees. The purpose of this book is to examine this relationship and offer reasons for faith in this increasingly complex world. The religions included in this book are primarily Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. For globalization, the author leads us through the various revolutions and the history of globalization. Coming from a background that was overwhelmingly Catholic and Orthodox, with a Muslim minority, the author is keenly aware of the complex relationships among the religions and the way globalization has impacted them. More importantly, the globalization model that we know in our time, is but a "moment in the grand arc of history" between creation and the new creation. He contrasts that with the two coming of Christ. The first is how Christ came into the world and dwelt among us. The second is a future-bound coming of Christ. In this light, Volf is particularly aware of opinions that are humanistic and non-religious, especially those that are calling for the abolition of religion altogether. Addressing this, in order for the world to flourish way further down the future road, religions are part of the solution and not part of the problem. This is Volf's conviction, and the book's chapters all argue in favour of this. For true flourishing, we have to deal with the age old commandment of God, to love God and to love our neighbour. While he offers a Christian perspective, he also argues that the other religions have more reasons to support his proposal. Using six formal and common features of world religions, he paints a vision of a future where religious thought can contribute to the flourishing of the world. Some key pointers are:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Second Century Wisdom (Justin Martyr)

Christian Apologist (AD 100-165)
On Sunday Worship
"We hold this gathering on Sunday, since this is the first day on which God, by making a transformation of darkness and chaos, made the universe, and on the same day Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead."

"Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing, and cymbals, etc. Whence the use of such instruments, and other things fit for children, is laid aside and plain singing only retained."

On Conquering the Flesh
"To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty."

On Being Peacemakers
"We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies."

"We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us."

On the Different Sides of Atheism
"Thus we are called atheists. And we admit that in respect of such supposed gods we are atheists; but not in regard to the most true God, the Father of righteousness."

"We are not atheists, for we worship the Creator of the Universe with the word of prayer and thanksgiving."

On the Tongue
"By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians find out the diseases of the body, and philosophers the diseases of the mind."


Monday, August 22, 2016

BookPastor >> "Effective Generational Ministry" (Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg)

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


TITLE: Effective Generational Ministry: Biblical and Practical Insights for Transforming Church Communities
AUTHOR: Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (282 pages).

How do you build community among the three largest generations in this day and age? What are the cultural and generational differences among them? How do we navigate the complexities and varying expectations across the different generations? To what extent do we allow cultural contexts influence our ministry in churches? In the words of the authors, how can we do effective generational ministry? In a book that strings together various ideas from sociological, spiritual, anthropological, ecclesiological, and other fields of study, Sbanotto and Blomberg have put together years of research and experience to give three key generations some understanding of themselves and of one another. First off, they define the three groups as follows:
  1. Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1964
  2. Generation Xers: Born 1965 - 1981
  3. Millennials: Born 1982 - 2001

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Second Century Wisdom (Ignatius of Antioch)

St Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-c.108)
"There is only one physician, a physician who is at once fleshly and spiritual, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true life in death, born of Mary and of God, first passable then impassable, Jesus Christ our Lord."

"I am God's wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may appear as pure bread."

"I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is our desire."

"Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas, but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ. So pray that I may never fall into the trap of impressing people with clever speech, but instead I may learn to speak with humility, desiring only to impress people with Christ himself."

"Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which He aims is prevented by the unity of your faith."

Monday, August 15, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Radical Pursuit of Rest" (John Koessler)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Feb 27th, 2016.


TITLE: The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap
AUTHOR: John Koessler
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, (176 pages).

Is the title of this book an oxymoron? How can an active pursuit in itself be restful in the first place? It's like mixing a bottle of restlessness into a bowl called rest. Which will prevail? According to the author, this book about the "radical pursuit" is not so much about activities and techniques but the meaning of rest is "radical" in itself. In other words, to the perennially busy and constantly preoccupied individual, arriving at the restful disposition is already a radical position in itself. For our day and age, it most certainly require us to be "radical" in our pursuit of rest simply because we have lost the art of rest. The author uses nine chapters to explore the range of rest and restlessness. Beginning with faith, he notices how even the Sunday church services are nowhere near the rest that worship requires. Stuck in the hamster wheel of seeking success, Christian activities are full of advice giving, non-stop working, and wearing soldiering ahead just to do religious stuff. Rest needs to be found and the path to reach that state is not through work but divine rest. The way forward is to depend on the one who knows how best to rest: God. God rests because it is the rest of completion and contentment over the day's work. Remember how God says each day is "good?" Rest is a place where God is present. Rest is dependent not on what we have or not done, but completely on what Christ had done at the cross. Probing the notion of Sundays as that supposedly "day of rest," Koessler laments at the lack of uniformity in the practice of the Lord's Day. Far too often, it has been filled with all kinds of activities. Obviously, with the lack of practicing rest on a Sunday, no wonder the rest of the week is packed with lots of restlessness.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Second Century Wisdom (The Shepherd of Hermas)

"Remove every evil desire and clothe yourself with good and holy desire. For it you are clothed with good desire, you will hate evil desire and bridle it as you please." (The Shepherd of Hermas)

"Hold fast to simplicity of heart and innocence. Yes, be as babes who do not know the wickedness that destroys grown people's lives." (The Shepherd of Hermas)

"Those who are rich in this world cannot be made useful for the Lord unless their riches have been cut out of them. (The Shepherd of Hermas)

"7. When, therefore, the rich man reaches out to the poor those things which he lacks, the poor man prays to the Lord for the rich. And God grants to the rich man all good things because the poor man is rich is prayer, and his requests have great power with the Lord. 8. Then the rich man ministers all things to the poor, because he perceives that he is heard by the Lord, and he more willingly and without doubting affords him what he needs, and takes care that nothing be lacking to him.
9. And the poor man gives thanks to the Lord for the rich, because they both do their work from the Lord.
10. With men therefore, the elm is not thought to give any fruit; but they do not know or understand that by being added to the vine, the vine bears a double increase, both for itself and for the elm.
11. Likewise, the prayers of the poor to bless the rich are heard by the Lord; so their riches are increased, because they minister to the poor of their wealth. Therefore they both are made partakers of each other's good works."

Monday, August 08, 2016

BookPastor >> "Spiritual Companioning" (Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, & Marcus G. Smucker)

This review was first published on Feb 19th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Spiritual Companioning: A Guide to Protestant Theology and Practice
AUTHOR: Angela H. Reed, Richard R. Osmer, & Marcus G. Smucker
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (186 pages).

Every believer wants to grow but not all of them know how. While Church attendance is important, going to Church alone does not necessarily make one a growing Christian. We all need spiritual growth. We need to make disciples and obey the commandments of God. According to the authors, we need spiritual direction. As many of the resources available out there are of Roman Catholic origin, this book offers spiritual direction from a Protestant orientation, that draws from the riches of tradition and evangelical spirituality. In this book, spiritual companioning means "a way of accompanying others in intentional relationships of prayerful reflection and conversation that help them notice God's presence and calling in their personal lives, local communities, and the world."

Like any good scholar, the authors give us a working definition of terms that can be commonly misunderstood or used too interchangeably. Terms such as:
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Spiritual Guidance
  • Spiritual Direction
  • Spiritual Friendship
  • Spiritual Practice

Friday, August 05, 2016

Margaret Gordon's Top 12 Tips of Parenting Teens

I found this list of 12 tips very enlightening. The following is taken from Karyn Gordon's Guide to the Teen Years.

  1. Accept the uniqueness of each of your teens.
  2. Be willing to admit your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness if you have hurt your teen.
  3. Spend time with each teen; play with them, get to know their likes and dislikes.
  4. Help them when you are asked but don't take over! Give them space to develop their own gifts.
  5. Affirm them, focus on their good qualities, praise them for effort and work well done.
  6. Teach them to be truthful.
  7. Set realistic boundaries and rules, but be flexible.
  8. Be consistent with your boundaries and rules (this is not always easy but it is important)
  9. Be authentic, be real! Kids can tell right away if we are phonies.
  10. Teach them to be responsible for their own things like jobs, money and school work.
  11. Love them unconditionally; be patient, kind, accepting of who they are as people; separate who they are from what they do.
  12. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL what you preach and teach. For example, don't tell them to tell the truth and then ask them to lie for you on the phone. 
(From: Karyn Gordon's Guide to the Teen Years, HarperCollins, 2008, p57)


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Second Century Wisdom (Irenaeus)

Irenaeus (130-202)
"The glory of God is the human person fully alive."

"For where the Church is there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace."

"Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself."

"It was the ground God cursed, not Adam."

"Jesus Christ, in His infinite love, has become what we are, in order that He may make us entirely what He is."

"In the beginning God fashioned Adam, not because He had need of human beings, but so that He might have beings on whom to bestow His benefits."

"As long as any one has the means of doing good to his neighbours, and does not do so, he shall be reckoned as stranger to the love of the Lord."

Monday, August 01, 2016

BookPastor >> "Evangelical Ethics" (John Jefferson Davis)

This review was first published on Feb 24th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, Fourth Edition
AUTHOR: John Jefferson Davis
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, NJ: P and R Publishing, 2015, (400 pages).

We are living in precarious times. As technology advances everywhere, the moral frameworks for decision making continues to keep up. What good is science and technology if they fail to address the holistic benefits of human beings? What good is a piece of technology if it is used to harm others? How can Christians formulate their decision making in the light of modern technological advancements? While there is a general sense of pros and cons for everything, brainstorming does not equal decision making. We need guidance far more than ever. Some of the brightest kids in science and technology are young and inexperienced. Some of the oldest and most experienced people lack the innovation and vitality that the younger generation possess. The question before us is: How do we make sense of the moral decision making in the light of these advancements? For Christians, we need a framework to help us think through the issues wisely and biblically. Yet, even Christians disagree on how to interpret biblical principles for modern issues. Enter this book on "evangelical ethics" which paves the way for evangelicals to think in a tradition they hold. Some of the decision making parameters include:

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