Monday, August 21, 2017

BookPastor >> "Its Complicated" (Jack Haberer)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 23rd, 2016.

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TITLE: It's Complicated: A Guide to Faithful Decision Making
AUTHOR: Jack Haberer
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, (180 pages).

Seeking God's will is not as simple as saying, "It's all in the Bible." The more sweeping or simplistic a person says, the less satisfying it becomes, especially for earnest seekers. If we are honest with ourselves, we are sometimes guilty of some or all of the following. We give simplistic answers to issues that are inherently complex due to the many different factors and scenarios. Our answers in turn become reductionistic as we cut the real problem down to our size, just because we are unable to appreciate the extent of the real problem. In turn, we betray the trust that others have placed on us. Better to say we don't know or to put down some disclaimers first. In a nutshell, life's issues are often more complex than we think, more ambiguous than our own past experiences, more intricate and impossible to predict. If theory is a pretty portrait, practice will take potshots at it. In this book, pastor and author Jack Haberer aims to do three things. First, he lists the varioius popular questions asked and puts them in a single framework while pointing out the many ambiguities that come with it. He then leads us through a biblical journey of how the various biblical characters hear from God. Finally, he brings us back to our modern era and gives us an interpretive framework for discerning God's will for our times. The two basic questions that face us are:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Spiritual Reading" (Jean-Pierre de Caussade)

Jean-Pierre de Caussade 1675-1751
"If you are to get from it all the good I anticipate, you must not throw yourself greedily upon it or let yourself be drawn on by curiosity as to what comes next. Fix your attention upon what you are reading without thinking about what follows. I recommend you primarily to enter into the helpful and sure truths you will find in this book, by cultivating a taste for them rather than speculating about them. Pause briefly, from time to time, to let these pleasant truths sink deeper into your soul, and allow the Holy Spirit time to work. During these peaceful pauses and quiet waiting, he will engrave these heavenly truths upon your heart. Do it all without stifling your interests or making any violent efforts to avoid reflections. Simply let the truths sink into your heart rather than into your mind." (Jean-Pierre de Caussade)

Monday, August 14, 2017

BookPastor >> "Calling in Today's World" (Kathleen A. Cahalan & Douglas J. Schuurman)

Ever thought about what calling means from other worldviews? Perhaps, this book can give you a better idea. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Oct 18th, 2016.

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TITLE: Calling in Today's World: Voices from Eight Faith Perspectives
EDITORS:  Kathleen A. Cahalan & Douglas J. Schuurman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2016, (238 pages).

What do people in generally think about calling? Is it only something that Christians ask? Surely, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the secularists in society would have their own perspectives too. In fact, according to the editors of this book, many students and colleagues have been asking the same question: "What do other people think about calling?" or "Is there an equivalent concept in your religion or belief?" So they went forth to ask various individuals whether they can contribute to the overall understanding of what calling means according their faith perspective. They found eight! According to Cahalan and Schuurman, their purpose for this book is to help "build a better, more humane world" by establishing bridges of understanding of one another's beliefs. Apart from that, Christians reading this book would be able to revisit their own understanding of what calling means in their own tradition. They can dispel any notion that calling is merely for the ministry or church related endeavors. They can avoid limiting calling to only supernatural matters, but to be inclusive of all matters. They can look at calling more in terms of freedom of choice rather than some strict "blueprint" we have to adhere to. In a conversational approach, each of the eight contributors are given an opportunity to talk about what calling means.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Prayer of Mathe Robin"

"May God take my memory and all it remembers,
Take my heart and all its affections,
Take my intelligence and all its powers;
May they only serve your greatest glory.
Take my will completely,
for always I empty it out in yours.
No longer what I want, O my sweetest Jesus,
but always what you want!
Take me … receive me … direct me.
Guide me! I surrender and abandon myself to you!
I surrender myself to you as a small sacrifice of
Love, of praise and Gratitude, for the Glory of your Holy Name,
for the enjoyment of your Love, the triumph of your Sacred Heart,
and for the perfect fulfillment of your Designs in me and around me." 

(Marthe Robin, 1902-1981)


Monday, August 07, 2017

BookPastor >> "Word by Word" (Marilyn McEntyre)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Sep 5th, 2016.

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TITLE: Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice
AUTHOR: Marilyn McEntyre
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2016, (224 pages).

As the title suggests, this book is a patient meditation on the Word using ordinary words as entry points into the spiritual practice of meditation. Words are ways in which we describe our inner longings accurately and clearly. Readers are invited to do the same using single words used in "seven different ways and seven different phrases." This is following the ancient practice of 'lectio divina' which enables us to let the power of a single word usher us into the beauty of the Word of God. Used together with centering prayer, not only does it aids our meditations, it helps us in our prayers. The purpose of it all is to slow down our hectic pace in order to keep in step with our natural speed. In a world of multitasking and distractions, these verbs used are samples for us to be creative about our own set of words. Using her own morning Scripture readings, McEntyre shares with readers her method of spiritual reading. Using verbs to guide each chapter, she lists seven ways per verb (one per day) to practice letting the words train our minds. Readers get to listen in our how the author practices the daily routines. With reflections from the Bible, she meanders through a wide range of experiences and illustrations. We learn about prayerful listening. We receive with an eye to bless. We let God's work of creation lead us toward enjoyment. We let go of control so as to appreciate God's sense of timing and direction. We watch God's timing and accept God's way of grace. We resist the ways of the world's seductions and intentionally build in good spiritual habits. We learn to be still so as to develop a sense of clarity in us. We follow the nudging of God, something which is increasingly difficult in a world of distractions. As readers approach the end of the book, it is hoped that there is a pattern that readers can learn of, so as to develop their own set of verbs to be used likewise.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Midweek Meditation: "Nouwen on Discernment 5" (Exercises)

TITLE: Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

Exercises for Deeper Discernment


  1. Discernment is about seeing, knowing, and being known. Do you want to be seen by God? Do you want to be truly known, with all your inner thoughts and outer activities laid out before an all-seeing, all-knowing God? Write a personal letter to God openly and honestly looking at the areas of life you are not sure you want God to investigate. Of course, God knows these things already. This is an exercise for you to see what areas of your life you might want to keep private. Once you identify them, pray that God will help you see yourself (and these tender areas) fully as God sees you.
  2. People who are "reborn from above" (John 3:7) are those who seek to do what is pleasing to the Spirit of God. Make a list of all the activities and desires of your heart that you believe are pleasing to God. Try to write a poem or hymn of praise or gratitude for all God's goodness that overflows into your life.
  3. Define your spiritual community. Who is allowed to know you and hold you accountable? If you have identified people who know you at a soul level, take a moment to write them a note of thanks for their role in your life. If you did not identify persons who have free range in your life to lift you up and encourage you, begin to pray about who to cultivate as a spiritual companion and how to do it. Discernment performed alone often can become delusion. We need each other.
  4. What shared practices (meditation, prayer, songs, Eucharist, silence, service in the world) are your most natural pathways to listening to God in your daily life? Reflect on the times when you discerned God's presence. What were you doing? Where were you? What insight might these reflections give you about your need for sacred time and sacred space?

(Henri Nouwen, on "Embracing the Practice in Solitude and Community" in Discernment, New York: NY, HarperOne, 2013, 18-19)

Monday, July 31, 2017

BookPastor >> "Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches" (Editors: D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider)

Ever thought about the last days? What does the Bible teach?

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

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TITLE: Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches
EDITORS: D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015, (528 pages).

What is the Second Coming about? Is the Doctrine of the Future better left to the future? What has Eschatology got to do with our present life? What does it mean when people say God's Kingdom is coming? Is Revelation primarily about telling the future?

This book that comprises a series of articles on Eschatology in the past, present, and future has been published to honour the life and work of Professor Craig Blaising on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Currently a provost with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Blaising has served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2005. The many articles written in this book have been written to reflect the same way Blaising has approached Scriptures: contextually; biblically; theologically; and practically with an eye on ministry work. As past students, editors Bingham and Kreider have come together with 29 other contributors to revere the Scriptures the same way Blaising has done.


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