Monday, February 27, 2017

BookPastor >> "No God But One" (Nabeel Qureshi)

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


TITLE: No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity
AUTHOR: Nabeel Qureshi
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (320 pages).

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Is Allah the same as Jesus? This issue costs a tenured professor her job and puts her seminary at the center of a controversy. For the rest of us, it highlights the confusion behind the differences and the similarities between Christianity and Islam. On the one hand, there is a lot of similarities in the Old Testament with the Quran. On the other hand, there are distinct differences in the theology of the person of God. As a convert from Islam, author and speaker Nabeel Qureshi has a personal interest in this one issue, partly because of his acute background understanding of Islam, and also because of his new found faith in Jesus. Having struggled with the differences between Christianity and Islam in a very personal level, he knows why and how people are confused about the whole matter. This book is his attempt to tell the differences between the two great religions and to investigate who God is. For over a decade, he has struggled with the issue, together with thousands of people he have met caught between the theologies of the two faiths. It is hoped that the book will not only clarify the differences but will enable us to pray more knowledgeably for the people caught between the two faiths.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Lord of the Nations" - Regent College

I remember this song that was first introduced to me back in 2004 when I was attending Regent-College. Somehow, the song sticks and brings back fond memories of the beautiful journey through that little building under the green roof. Maybe, one of these days, I'll do a recording. Until then, the words alone are worth reflecting upon.


O Lord of all the nations
You’ve brought us to this place
You’ve granted us each other
As symbols of Your grace
Like those who walked in darkness
We’ve seen the rising sun
A pilgrim path pursuing a holy quest begun

You purify our passions
You loose the ties that bind
You soften stony spirits
You lighten troubled minds
You enter our emotions
Untangle webs of pain
You touch us with Your finger and we are whole again

Lord be our friend and mentor
Whatever lies ahead
Your love is our refreshment
Your will our daily bread
Until we taste Your glory
Until we are made new
Within each one engender an appetite for You

O all-consuming fire
Come melt these hearts of stone
Lord wrestle with our spirits
Until You reign alone
Disperse us through the nations
Transforming grace to tell
And let this brief sojourning become our Peniel

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Hunger for God" (Sister Wendy)

Duccio's Painting on Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
A Quote from Sister Wendy on Hungering for God

Duccio shows us an image of prayer, of the need and the hunger for God. The apostles have gone into the city to satisfy their hunger. They emerge in a compact bunch, supporting one another, protected from the clear light of His presence by the fortress of the world, their own self-sufficiency.

Their hands are full, they clasp themselves, satisfied hands with the food of this world in their grasp. But the woman stands alone and exposed before Jesus. Her emptiness is seen not only in her hands, but in the most noticeable detail about her, which is the large empty pot on her head. 

She does not hide her poor human emptiness: she exposes it, but the exposing is to Jesus. She is a living symbol of our need for Him. She stands still, an image of the stillness we choose at prayer. But Jesus does not reach out His hand to fill hers. He does not come to her. Jesus sits by the well and asks her to give to Him: her need is met with demand - again, a moving symbol of prayer. God gives Himself, not obviously, not in terms tangible or visible, but in holy contradiction. It is in giving that we receive: we, us. Our prayer may seem all nothingness, all giving, giving of time, of energy, of struggle to be present. 

Jesus may seem to have only asked, not given. But that is how He does give. The woman went away, wholly changed, fed and renewed to her innermost depths. Yet she was given no water, no food. Jesus told her to draw her own water, and He revealed to her the shameful inner truth she carried. Yet this apparently merciless treatment was living water, was life, was communication of God at such intensity that there were no human terms in which the woman could see or judge what had happened to her. But she believed, and the whole city of her personality, her whole self, all she was and could become, believed with her.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p39-41)

Monday, February 20, 2017

BookPastor >> "God Dreams" (Will Mancini)

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


TITLE: God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church's Future
AUTHOR: Will Mancini
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016, (288 pages).

Vision is an integral part of Church. Mission is an outflow of the vision. Both go together but how can we make the process more effective and clear? Without clarity, how can any organization know where to go and how to motivate their members to fulfill the objectives? What is the purpose of its existence? Many people know the importance but lack the necessary tools and processes to clarify their vision and mission. Based on more than 15 years of experience, more than 500 churches, and over 10000 hours of work with church team facilitation, author Will Mancini makes vision sharpening as a key priority in this book. He lists three benefits for reading this book.
  1. Leading meaningfully
  2. Inspiring the community
  3. Focusing on God's vision
By honing on clarifying our Church's vision and direction, Mancini believes that Church Identity; Church Direction; and Church Story can be connected as one. The six parts of the book are:
  1. Restart the Conversation: of vision and dreams
  2. Discover Visionary Planning: visualizing the future
  3. Find Your Future: Adopt templates toward fulfilling the goals
  4. Focus Your Long-Term Vision: 
  5. Execute Your Short-Term Vision
  6. Lead with Freedom: personalizing the vision
(From Will Mancini's "God Dreams" Overview)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Why Do We Pray?" (Sister Wendy on Prayer)

A Quote from Sister Wendy on Prayer

I hope the famous Jesuit (St Patrick) did know, because the simplicity of prayer, its sheer, terrifying uncomplicatedness, seems to be the last thing most of us either know, or want to know. It is not difficult to intellectualize on prayer. Like love, beauty, and motherhood, it quickly sets our eloquence aflow. It is not difficult, but it is perfectly futile. In fact, those glowing pages on prayer are worse than futile; they can be positively harmful. Writing about prayer, reading about prayer, talking about prayer, thinking about prayer, longing for prayer and wrapping myself more and more in these great cloudy sublimities can make me feel so aware of the spiritual—anything rather than actually praying. What am I doing but erecting a screen behind which I can safely maintain my self-esteem and hide away from God?

Ask yourself: what do I really want when I pray? Do you want to be possessed by God? Or to put the same question more honestly, do you want to want it? Then you have it. The one point Jesus stressed and repeated and brought up again is, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will grant it to you.” His insistence on faith and perseverance are surely other ways of saying the same thing: you must really want it, it must engross you. Wants that are passing, faint emotional desires that you do not press with burning conviction, these are things that you do not ask “in Jesus’ name;” how could you? But what you really want, “with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” that Jesus pledges himself to see that you are granted. He is not talking only, probably not even primarily, of prayer of petition, but of prayer. When you set yourself down to pray, what do you want? If you want God to take possession of you, than you are praying. That is all prayer is.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p33-4)

Monday, February 13, 2017

BookPastor >> "Dr Karyn's Guide to the Teen Years" (Karyn Gordon)

TITLE: Dr Karyns Guide To The Teen Years
AUTHOR: Karyn Gordon
PUBLISHER: Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2008, (320 pages).

This is a parenting guide for all interested in connecting with teenagers. Based on her experience with talking to over 200 thousand high school students across Canada, Dr Karyn Gordon has summarized her "inside-out" parenting approach to help us along. She lists the six keys to parenting teens as:

  1. Keeping the Big Picture in mind at all times
  2. Acknowledging and adjusting our parenting attitudes
  3. Understanding and communicating emotions
  4. Building our child's self-esteem
  5. Communicating effectively
  6. Establishing boundaries and providing structure.
First off is the big picture understanding. Key to all of these is the awareness of "inside-out" versus "outside-in" parenting. The latter basically focuses on what is developing inside the teens rather than what they teens are doing outside. This includes observing the reasons why they are doing what they are doing; the motivation; the sensitivity to their feelings; and the readiness to talk. Character development is more important than mere achievements. This means learning to identify positive traits and helping their self-esteem. Communications are important but right communications are even more important. Between authority and influence, teens respect the latter. Learn about the importance of their peers and friends. Choose to connect more than to control. Check to see which of the three kinds of learning they do best. Are they visual or are they more kinesthetic (learning by doing)? Or are they more auditory? Learn to focus more on learning styles and understanding their relationships.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Midweek Meditation: Sister Wendy on Prayer

A Quote from Sister Wendy on Prayer

Prayer does not depend on your natural capacity. What does depend upon your natural capacity is the kind of prayer, because it will be your prayer. But prayer itself is as simple as conversation between friends. No one would dare write a book on how husband and wife are to talk to each other - what topics are appropriate, what tone should be used - because obviously every marriage is different and goes through different phases. One of the responsibilities of any close relationship is that each person has to take seriously his or her need to talk, share, discuss ad love. And this need will continually be changing. In prayer the relationship is between God and ourselves. God is always the same, but each of us is completely different.

The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God. What will God do? He will take possession of is. That He should do this is the whole purpose of life. We know we belong to God; we know too, if we are honest, that almost despite ourselves, we keep a deathly hold on our own autonomy. We are willing, in fact very ready, to pay God lip service (just as we are ready to talk prayer rather than to pray), because waving God as banner keeps our conscience quiet. But really to belong to God is another matter. It means having nothing left for ourselves, always bound to the will of Another, no sense of interior success to comfort us, living in the painful acknowledgement of being 'unprofitable servants.'

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p37-8)

Monday, February 06, 2017

BookPastor >> "For a New Generation" (Lee Kricher)

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


TITLE: For a New Generation: A Practical Guide for Revitalizing Your Church
AUTHOR: Lee Kricher
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (176 pages).

If you are reading this book, there is a good chance that you come from or know of churches trying to address the aging problem. Churches all over the world are constantly being challenged toward leadership renewal, engaging the young, and replacing the old. People don’t live forever and there will be a time in which the baton needs to be handed to the next generation. Provided there is a next generation. Are you doing enough to reach the next generation? Are we doing both church planting as well as church revitalization? Can we put in place a strategy to enable a church toward ‘perpetual church revitalization?’

For senior pastor of Amplify Church, it means developing a new generation church that has “attendees whose average age is at least as young as the average age of the community in which the church exists.” For Amplify Church that was founded in the late 1970s, by 2003 they had such a sharp decline that the less than 200 people in the church could hardly afford its monthly mortgage payment. They even needed to make arrangement with a bank to service only its interest! Most alarming was the rising average age of the congregation. By refocusing their efforts on becoming a new generation church, the numbers not only reversed but the church grew to an average weekly attendance of 1400 people. More encouraging is the average age of the congregation hovers under 35. This book is about the journey of Amplify Church, and how it takes a declining situation and turns it around to be a vibrant new generation church. It comprises five strategies:
  1. Adopt a New Mindset
  2. Identify the Essentials
  3. Reduce the Distractions
  4. Elevate Your Standards
  5. Build a Mentoring Culture

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Midweek Meditation: Sister Wendy on Silence in Prayer

A Quote from Sister Wendy on Silence in Prayer

There is a tendency today for people to say, with greater or less distress, that they have no time for prayer. What they mean is, that they do not have a peaceful hour, or two peaceful half hours, or even three peaceful twenty minutes. If that is the day God has given them, then He awaits their praying hearts under precisely these conditions. They are testing conditions, surely, but never impossible. Most of us can manage a ten-minute silence. It may have to be in the lavatory, or the bath, or the car, or standing at the station, or when the baby's just gone to sleep. But for most people it is possible. If you can spend it sitting quietly, I rejoice for you. But this concentrated time when you try to put aside all else and simply be there for God is the proof, as it were, of your desire to pray.

Take these times, poor crumbs of minutes, though they be, and give yourself to God in them. You will not be able to feel prayerful in them, but that is beside the point. You pray for God's sake, you are there for Him to look on you, to love you, to take His holy pleasure in you. What can it matter whether you feel any of this or get any comfort from it? We should be misers in prayer, scraping up these flinders of time and holding them out trustfully to the Father. But we should also watch out for the longer stretches we may be missing because we do not want to see them. Many things that are pleasant and profitable - television programs, books, conversations - may have to be sacrificed at times. But you will make this and any other sacrifice if you hunger and thirst for God to possess you, and this is my whole point. There is time enough for what matters supremely to us, and there always will be.

(Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Wendy on Prayer, NY: Harmony Books, 2006, p45-6)

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