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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Third Century Wisdom (Origen)

Alexandrian biblical scholar
& theologian
On the Scriptures
"If we consult the Scriptures about the stock into which we have to be grafted, and the kind of tree it is, we find this text concerning wisdom: She is a tree of life to those who hope in her and put their trust in her, as in their Lord. This tree of life into which we have to be grafted is Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God - Christ who by his death, that unprecedented gift of divine love, became for us a tree of life."

On Human Choice
"The power of choosing between good and evil is within the reach of all."

On Holiness
"Let us have clean hearts ready inside us for the Lord Jesus, so that he will be glad to come in, gratefully accepting the hospitality of those worlds, our hearts; he whose glory and power will endure throughout the ages."

On Prayer
"The physical voice we use in prayer need not be great nor startling; even should we not lift up any great cry or shout, God will yet hear us."

On Loving People
"When Jesus then is with the multitudes, he is not in his house, for the multitudes are outside of the house, and it is an act which springs from his love of men to leave the house and to go away to those who are not able to come to him."

Monday, September 19, 2016

BookPastor >> "Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry" (Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 17th, 2016.


TITLE: Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide (The Gospel Coalition)
AUTHOR: Edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016, (176 pages).

Youth ministry is certainly one of the most crucial ministries in any church. Having it is not just a step of faith. It is investment for the future. The purpose of such a ministry is to help cultivate a sense of discipleship with young people about to enter the adult world. This is especially challenging with the rise of the MTD movement, which teaches people to live a life according to a set of do's and don'ts (moralistic); feel-good self-enrichment activities (Therapeutic); and living as if God is far away (Deism). The core message of this book is about centering youth ministry on the gospel. Through the gospel, every other activity, initiative, and discipleship endeavors are done. Seven major foundations are included here:
  1. The centrality of the gospel: Where theology drives methodology
  2. Discipleship: Where discipleship is the key motif in all youth work.
  3. Expository teaching: The importance of biblical teaching and the ministry of God's Word
  4. Relationships: Connecting with young people.
  5. Community: Helping youths build community in Christ. 
  6. Partnering with Parents: Helping parents be a part of the youth ministry
  7. Generational Integration: Be inclusive when doing church.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Third Century Wisdom (Clement of Alexandria)

On Philosophy
"For philosophy is the study of wisdom, and wisdom is the knowledge of things divine and human; and their causes. Wisdom is therefore queen of philosophy, as philosophy is of preparatory culture. For if philosophy professes control of the tongue, and the belly, and the parts below the belly, it is to be chosen on its own account. But it appears more worthy of respect and pre-eminence, if cultivated for the honour and knowledge of God. "

On the Bible
"As the sun illumines not only the heaven and the whole world, shining on both land and sea; but also sends his rays through windows and small chinks into the furthest recesses of a house; so the Word, poured out everywhere, beholds the smallest actions of human life."

On Hope
"If you do not hope, you will not find out what is beyond your hopes."

On Faithfulness
"The faithful person lives constantly with God; he is always serious and joyful: serious because he remembers God, joyful because he dreams of all the good things that God has given to mankind."

Monday, September 12, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Spirituality of Wine" (Gisela H. Kreglinger)

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


TITLE: The Spirituality of Wine
AUTHOR: Gisela H. Kreglinger
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016, (272 pages).

What is so spiritual about wine? What has wine got to do with the Bible? How do we understand the love-hate relationship with wine in the history of the Church? What is the significance of wine in the Communion and general feasting? What did the Bible say about wine? These and many more are eloquently described in this perceptive book about wine and spirituality. The main purpose of this book is to recover the vision of the Christian life that is able to see God at work in all things, and in this case, in the producing, the processing, the consuming, and the enjoying of wine. It is about paying attention to the beauty of creation instead of thoughtless economic use. It is about connecting the work with the enjoyment; the material with the spiritual; the life-giving conversations over the table. It is tending to the ordinary and to appreciate how the world has been blessed by God.

In Kreglinger's words, Part One is the "sustenance" and Part Two is "sustainability." The five chapters in "Sustenance" go back to the biblical significance of wine; the history of the perceptions of wine in the Church; the use of wine in the Lord's Supper; how wine is used in feasting; and the way wine can help us pay attention to life in general. There are lots of references to wine in the Bible. According to scholars, there are 810 occurrences of "wine" in the Old Testament, and 169 occurrences in the New Testament. In the Ancient Near East, wine is considered one of the three most important food groups; the other being bread and olive oil. From the Bible, we see wine being received as a gift. From the history of the Church, wine has been a source of controversy. With the second century suspicions over the connection between wine and vice, many had to defend the use of wine provided it does not lead to drunkenness. In fact, in the twelfth century, the biggest producers of wine were the monasteries! During and after the Reformation, many monasteries were closed and wine production curtailed. People like Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli all had to come out to affirm wine as a gift rather than a source of vice. In terms of the use of wine in the Communion ritual, the controversial became more theological as different parties debated on the status of wine and Christ. Yet, understanding it properly will push Gnosticism out the door. Wine can bring communities together through pleasure and enjoyment. It can also help cultivate our attentiveness in engaging our various senses.

In Part Two, Kreglinger brings us back from a nostalgic past into the contemporary reality. She presents us with a challenge to make a choice on the subject of wine, insisting that there is no "neutral ground." She interviews individual vintners who are also practicing theologians to learn how their faith had shaped their wine making endeavors, such as enjoyment and community engagement. She learns about how caring for the soils and the land is essential for good grapes. The scope of experience from the interviewees is breath-taking. There are reflections from both the Old and New World Wine countries. The interesting point is not the difference between them but the similarity they have in wanting their wine to represent the best of the land and their identities. At some point, readers will realize that appreciating wine is not about achieving some tangible objectives but more about lingering in wonder and gratitude. For wine making is a craft that can be mysterious in many ways. Learning to enjoy wine need not be any different. Wine making is also not a stagnant exercise. There is tremendous opportunity to be creative not only in production but also in creativity. The chapter on "Technology, Spirituality, and Wine" is a must read for those of us interested in the intersection of work, faith, and technology. Kreglinger cautions on some of the damaging aspects of globalization such as "homogenization of taste" which can unwittingly eliminate the uniqueness of each type of wine. Toward the end, readers find themselves back to the garden metaphor where God is the gardener and the Church is the vineyard. Gradually, we are reminded that in our world of consumption, we are equally called to be producers. Sustainability is not about non-stop consumption but a respectful rhythm of producing, consuming, recycling, and redeeming.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Midweek Meditation: Third Century Wisdom (Tertullian)

On Making a Living
"The usual complaint is, 'I have no other way to make a living.' The harsh reply can be, 'Do you have to live?'"

On Marriage
“How beautiful, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit.

They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake God’s banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations.

They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.”

On the Creator Behind the Creation
"The world was made up of all kinds of good things, and gives sufficient indication of the great good in store for the one for whom all these was provided."

The Church
"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

On Truth
"You can't undo anything you've already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And then let God do the rest."

Monday, September 05, 2016

BookPastor >> "Lead Vertically" (Craig Johnson)

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


TITLE: Lead Vertically: Inspire People to Volunteer and Build Great Teams that Last
AUTHOR: Craig Johnson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010, (224 pages).

Dream big. Walk tall. Lead vertical. In an inspiring book on how to lead teams, author Craig Johnson brings together his wealth of knowledge and experience about what it means to lead with inspiration. Just like the verse in Ps 61:2, where David prayed to the LORD to lead him to the rock that is higher, Johnson believes that vertical leading is about letting God help us take the ministry to a higher level in God's perspective. Leading vertically is looking up to God to lead from God's perspective, and leading people toward God in the hope that they too can do the same.

Vertical leadership begins with God. It is not just about recognizing the best people but also the best in people. It is cultivating the childlikeness in each person and to impact that person positively even as that person seems to be deep in their trenches. There is a strong belief that God is doing something amazing in the person's life. This means not just planting but knowing how to plant. One inspires others by being a model of hope, building on dreams, and learning constructive criticism that builds up instead of tearing down. It is remembering that the goal for all its importance must always be secondary. The person(s) concerned must be primary.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Video: The Story of You (A DNA Journey)

In a world of extremism and discriminations based on race and ethnicity, people often forget how they are more related than they think. In this video, 67 people were first asked about who they like and who they dislike. Subsequently, they were invited to take a DNA journey to discover who they are. Watch how their personal opinions of other races crumble when they see the results of their DNA journey.


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