Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Seeking More of God" (Henry Alford)

Henry Alford (1810-1871)

O Lord, give us more charity, more self-denial, more likeness to thee. 
Teach us to sacrifice our comforts to others, and our likings for the sake of doing good. 
Make us kindly in thought, gentle in word, generous in deed. 
Teach us that it is better to give than to receive, better to forget ourselves than to put ourselves forward, better to minister than to be ministered unto. 

And to thee, the God of love, be all glory and praise, now and forever.


Monday, June 19, 2017

BookPastor >> "Impossible People" (Os Guinness)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 26th, 2016.


TITLE: Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization
AUTHOR: Os Guinness
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, (240 pages).

When Os Guinness writes, it is always a challenge not simply to sit down and read but to rise up and do something. Filled with biblical conviction and a faithful desire to be obedient to God's calling, Guinness harnesses his years of experience and knowledge of our culture to raise a battle cry for Christians to take their stand. There are four major challenges not only to the Christian faith but to Western civilization. First, the challenge of being weakened. The Judeo-Christian faith has been weakened and overrun by secularism and modernity. Second, the challenge of internal splits which has two post-Christian forces that threaten to move society toward nihilism on one side and extreme humanism on the other side. Third, the challenge of two major external forces. With a weakened Christian perspective, Western civilization becomes more vulnerable to aggressive secularism and radical Islam. Fourth, the need for courage and bold witness in the light of such obstacles. Can Christians rise up to these challenges?

Guinness compares this present challenging age to the first three centuries clash with the Caesars and the sixteenth Century threats from the Ottomans. He coins the "four infamous S factors" as Secularism; Secularization; Separationism; and Statism. In order to survive against the grand showdown, we need to take a leaf from history. Be reminded about how Daniel and his friends stood up against the idolatry of Nebuchadnezzar; how the early Christians would rather die than deny their faith; and how Athanasius fought the heretics of old. The tragedy of many mainstream WWII German Christians is how easily they cave in to the political ambitions of Hitler. Will the West today commit a similar error of omission? Instead of reforming from within, many are becoming more accepting of the outside world, even compromising their biblical principles.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "A Prayer for Forgiveness" BCP

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. 

We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. 

We have offended against Your holy laws. 

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; 

and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is nothing good in us. 

O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. 

Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. 

Restore those who are penitent; according to Your promises declared unto men in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of His name. Amen 

(Book of Common Prayer)

Monday, June 12, 2017

BookPastor >> "What Christians Ought to Believe" (Michael F. Bird)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on July 8th, 2016.


TITLE: What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles' Creed
AUTHOR: Michael F. Bird
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (240 pages).

Wonderful! A book of theological truths based on the Apostles Creed. Theology is more important than what the average Church goer may think. Rather than plowing through thick volumes of theological textbooks on systematic theology, or buy individual books on various theological topics, we have in our hands a book that expounds on the essence of the history, the core theological issues, and the crucial doctrines every Christian ought to know. The Apostles Creed is an excellent choice because it is still the most unifying creed for all (if not most) Christian communities. The Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals, Non-Denominationals, Bible, Independents, and many others are pretty united when it comes to this ancient creed. Even fringe groups will very likely profess the same creed with certain disclaimers. Whether one agrees with the creed fully or not, the scope of coverage is wide enough to give the Church a pretty decent theological syllabus. Author and New Testament Professor Michael Bird has done exactly that and has written this book for the masses.

He begins by making a case for the Apostles Creed as an important syllabus for beginners. Not only is it biblical, it gives us a basic summary of what the Early Church held, what traditions are, and how they inform our theological education. Creeds are part of the way God has used to teach us. From the Old and New Testaments, we get the life of Jesus, the Apostolic teachings, the Rule of Faith, and the Creeds. Creeds are used in worship; in promoting unity and fellowship with other believers; in reminding us about our faith. They also form a key part of our devotional lives. The rest of the book deals with a particular part of the creed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Four Responsive Calls to Worship"

Starting this week, I will be sharing a few responsive prayers that we can use for each Sunday of the Church year. Here are some calls to worship.

For Epiphany:
Leader: You are here for us, O God;
All: You give us security in an uncertain world.
Leader: You encourage us to sing new songs
All: You joyfully set us free to worship You
Leader: You challenge us as we go on the journey of life
All: It is Your gracious love that leads us on the paths of righteousness
Leader: You lead us in worshiping You in Spirit and in Truth.
All: We will worship You in Spirit and in Truth

For Pentecost Sunday
Leader:Holy Spirit, come among us!
All: Inspire our worship, and strengthen our faith
Leader:Holy Spirit, lead and guide us
All: Direct our worship, and sharpen our focus
Leader: Holy Spirit, draw us nearer to God
All: We will worship and sing praises unto God
Leader: Holy Spirit work in us
All: That we may lift up the Name of Jesus, to glorify the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Trinity Sunday
Leader: Gracious God, You are Creator of the Universe; Giver of all Things; and Source of all life
All: We want to worship You
Leader: Jesus Christ the Son is the chosen One to reign forever more
All: We will reign with Him in accordance to Your Word
Leader: Holy Spirit, inspire us to worship and praise You
All: We will worship You in Spirit and in Truth.

Any Sunday
Leader: Our Heavenly Father is God of Love
All: We praise our Heavenly Father for His great and mighty Love
Leader: Our Lord Jesus Christ is our Shepherd and the Light of our salvation
All: We praise our Lord Jesus for guiding us and showing us the way
Leader: Our Comforter and Counselor, the Holy Spirit is dwelling among us
All:  We praise the Holy Spirit for living in us, for walking with us, and dwelling among us.
Leader: Let us worship the Triune God together
All: We will worship the Divine Triune God.

Feel free to use these calls to worship. Just credit it back to this site.


Monday, June 05, 2017

BookPastor >> "The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life" (Colin S. Smith)

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


TITLE: The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life: Finding Freedom in God's Commands
AUTHOR: Colin S. Smith
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (208 pages).

The Beatles sing the classic song "All you need is love" as some kind of a catchall solution for the world's problems. "Make Love Not War" is another of those clever cliches to remind people not to fight. Often, such phrases are simplistic darts flung into a sea of relentless splashing waves. Who can adequately capture the essence of the world's problems? Only the Creator of all creation can do that. From the beginning of time, God has known what the world's struggles are and would be. He has given all mankind the Law not to enslave us but to liberate us. One of the most powerful ways that we are enslaved is when we give in to wrong desires, sinful ways, and revel in activities that we tend to blame on 'human nature.' We are not as 'innocent' as we think. We are also not as perfect as we would like to be. Just as the meaning of sin is to 'miss the mark,' sin makes us think off the mark when we look at ourselves, our own capabilities, and our own understanding. The great writer, George Orwell, once wrote that "Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." There are many things people do not want to hear. That is why they struggle. The Ten Commandments given in the Old Testament remain very relevant today. There are laws in every society against the ills of theft, of murder, of adultery, of perjury, and so on. While the first few commandments to worship God and honour God's Name have become diminished in secular environments, it still presents a struggle at a deeply spiritual level. The truth is, whenever there is tension, where there is a direct pushback against what God says, there will be a struggle. This is Smith's attempt to paraphrase the Ten Commandments in the light of real world struggles, how we combat one or more of these temptations on daily basis. The Ten Struggles as described by Smith are:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Gratitude" (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)

How to we cultivate more gratitude? Perhaps, the following spiritual exercises can help.

  1. Begin a gratitude journal by keeping a record of the 'abundances' God has given you. Next to each abundance write what it means to you to have a God who interacts and intervenes in your life. Notice what you have been given that you did not deserve. What you you want to say to God about these things?
  2. End every day by saying thank you to God for at least one thing. Then tell God what that one thing meant for you.
  3. Write a letter of thanks to someone who has touched your life in the past year, the past month, the past week.
  4. Get a current hardship firmly in mind. How do you feel about the hardship? Tell the truth to God. Where is the evidence of God's presence in this hardship? Is there anything you can be thankful for? If you cannot find God in your hardship, spend some time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. What does he want to tell you?
  5. What sorts of things tend to encourage you in thankfulness? Praise songs? Worship? Time spent with friends? Giving and receiving presents? Plan ways of incorporating the things that encourage thankfulness into your life on a regular basis.
  6. Hold a thank-you party. Invite the people you want to honor with a thank you.
  7. Create a thank-you scrapbook. Besides photos and pictures, write your prayers of thanksgiving.
  8. Notice your tendency to make comparisons that result in feelings of dissatisfaction or entitlement. Practice abstaining from comparative statements about what you don't have. Instead give thanks for what you do have.
(page 31)

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