Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Midweek Encouragement: "What Will Matter" (Michael Josephson)

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.


Monday, February 19, 2018

BookPastor >> "The Spirituality of Paul" (Leslie Hardin)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 20th, 2017.

conrade

TITLE: The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life
AUTHOR: Leslie Hardin
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016, (192 pages).

We have all heard of the famous Apostle Paul, how he turned from persecutor to persecuted; from Judaism to Christianity; from Pharisaic behaviour to Christlike follower. He is a theologian, a disciple, and a powerful orator. He is a visionary who has "intense religious" experiences." Much have been written about Paul, his epistles, his history, and the many heroic descriptions of his life. The same however cannot be said about his inner life. What is Pauline spirituality? How is the Apostle's spiritual life? What can we learn from Paul with regard to Christian Spirituality or Spiritual Formation? Is there a way in which we can find out about how Paul lives in the Spirit? Are the epistles in the Bible sufficient for us to understand Paul's spirituality? Compounded by the fact that ancient writers seldom write about themselves, it makes the task of describing Paul's inner life more challenging. Moreover, the purpose of Paul's letters is more about God's will for the Church and for the people he had been called to minister to. In this book, author Leslie Hardin gleans most of his material from Paul's epistles and the book of Acts. The others comprise secondary sources, other scholarly works, and historical evidence. He looks at nine spiritual disciplines before outlining the six marks of Paul's spirituality. These nine disciplines are:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "The Perfect Church" (Mavis Williams)


The Perfect Church

If you should find the perfect church
Without one fault or smear,
For goodness sake! Don't join that church;
You'd spoil the atmosphere. 

If you should find the perfect church
Where all anxieties cease
Then pass it by, lest joining it
You'd mar the masterpiece. 

If you should find the perfect church
Then don't you ever dare,
To tread upon such holy ground;
You'd be a misfit there. 

But since no perfect church exists
Made of imperfect men,
Then let's cease looking for that church
And love the church we're in. 

Of course, it's not a perfect church,
That's simple to discern
But you and I and all of us
Could cause the tide to turn. 

What fools we are to flee our post
In that unfruitful search
To find at last where problems loom
God proudly builds His church. 

So let's keep working in our church
Until the resurrection.
And then we each will join that church
Without an imperfection.

--Mavis Williams

Monday, February 12, 2018

BookPastor >> "Jesus Among Secular Gods" (Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 15th, 2017.

conrade

TITLE: Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ
AUTHOR: Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Faithwords, 2017, (256 pages).

What comes to mind when we think about idols? In the Old Testament, it was about graven images or some physical artefact. In the New Testament, we read about false teachings and deceptive ideologies. One common theme among these idols and false teachings is the way it tries to unravel God's intended purposes, to suggest other ways instead of God's way. This trend continues today under the guise of secular gods. Modern society in the West has become more secular than ever.  The altars are everywhere and comprise both religious as well as non-religious idols. The claims of Christ are not only opposed by the traditional mainstream religions and cults, they are also aggressively pushed back by the secular forces of today. Famous apologist Ravi Zacharias knows it full well, having received a hostile reception on the basis of his stand for Jesus. He shares: "I was a nominal Christian but never gave that much thought, either. Most of my friends were either Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, with a few others of different faiths. I never recall feeling any anger or hostility toward those who believed differently than me, no matter how ludicrous their beliefs may have seemed to me. Nor do I remember ever being on the receiving end of such anger and hostility because I did not have the same belief."


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Wisdom of the Desert 5"

TITLE: The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century (Shambhala Library)
AUTHOR: Thomas Merton

PUBLISHED: Boston, MA: Shambala Publishers, 2004, (128 pages).

Who are the desert fathers? In the fourth century, these people could be found in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Persia. They were people of faith who left their cities so that they could venture into the wilderness to be closer to God and cultivate simple practices of the faith. They strive for purity of hearts. In this series, we will be dealing with hermits rather than cenobites. The selections are based on Thomas Merton's book entitled, "The Wisdom of the Desert."


Wisdom from Abbot Pastor Part IV

"Abbot Pastor said: If a man has done wrong and does not deny it, but says: I did wrong, do not rebuke him, because you will break the resolution of his soul. And if you tell him: Do not be said, brother, but watch it in the future, you stir him up to change his life." (184)

"Do not dwell in a place where you see that others are envious of you, for you will not grow there." (78)

Additional Wisdom  (Not) from this book

How the abbot Pastor wished to deal gently with one of the Lord's little ones. A brother came to the abbot Pastor and said, "I am working hard at the tilling of my land, for I desire to make a feast for the brethren." The abbot Pastor said to him, "Go in peace, my son, you are doing a good work." Then the brother departed joyfully, and laboured yet more that he might add something to the feast he was preparing. But the abbot Anub, who had heard what was said, rebuked Pastor, saying to him, "Do you not fear God, that you have spoken thus to a brother, telling him to make a feast?" The abbot Pastor, being grieved, was silent. After two days, he sent for the brother to whom he had spoken and, Anub being present, said to him, "What was that which you asked me the other day, for my mind was wandering when I answered you?" The brother replied to him, "I told you about the tilling of my field and the harvest of it, and the feast that I was making." The abbot Pastor said to him, "I thought you were speaking of your brother who is still in the world. The making of feasts is no work for a monk."

The brother was bitterly grieved when he heard this, and cried out, "I know no other good work to do, neither am I able to do any other; may I not till my farm for the sake of the brethren?" So saying, he departed. Then the abbot Anub was exceedingly sorry, and said, "My father, grant me your pardon." Pastor said to him, "Behold! I knew from the beginning that the making of feasts was no work for a monk, but according to the capacity of his mind I spoke to him. At least I excited his mind to a work of love. Now he is sad and despairing, and he will make his feast just the same."


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Monday, February 05, 2018

BookPastor >> "Why People Matter" (various contributors)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 8th, 2017.

conrade

TITLE: Why People Matter: A Christian Engagement with Rival Views of Human Significance
AUTHOR: Russell DiSilvestro, David P. Gushee, Amy Laura Hall, John F. Kilner, Gilbert C. Meilaender, Scott B. Rae, and Patrick T. Smith
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, (240 pages).

It is often taken for granted that human lives are sacred. Although the practice of human rights and protections differ from country to country, it is generally accepted that people matter. What is not so clear is the reason behind the laws and policies. With the continuing debate over euthanasia, abortion, planned parenting, the death penalty, genetic engineering, hunger strikes, war, and so on, this is not a simple matter. Opinions differ. Many agree on the importance of people but disagree on how they are implemented. There are differences with regard to understanding 'human dignity,' 'human rights,' 'fair treatment,' and so on. Bringing together five different outlooks, the authors try to see these differences in the hope of helping Christians engage appropriately. It is better to be aware so as not to talk from a position of ignorance. At the same time, we can learn humility in recognizing the diversity of human interactions. If we learn to take the convictions of other people seriously, they are more likely to reciprocate.

The first is utilitarianism where the 'ends justify the means.' Gilbert C. Meilaender examines its proponent Henry Sidgwick, who teaches the purpose of life as to produce the maximum amount of happiness for people. In trying to gain the most good for the masses, he loses the unique distinctiveness of the individual. After all, if happiness for many is more important, what about the individual? Meilaender pushes back on Sidgwick by saying that utilitarianism undermines human individual dignity and we risk usurping the place of God. Gradually, he gives reasons as to why the Christian perspective of community and how it preserves the sanctity of the individual.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Midweek Meditation: "Wisdom of the Desert 4"

TITLE: The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century (Shambhala Library)
AUTHOR: Thomas Merton

PUBLISHED: Boston, MA: Shambala Publishers, 2004, (128 pages).

Who are the desert fathers? In the fourth century, these people could be found in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Persia. They were people of faith who left their cities so that they could venture into the wilderness to be closer to God and cultivate simple practices of the faith. They strive for purity of hearts. In this series, we will be dealing with hermits rather than cenobites. The selections are based on Thomas Merton's book entitled, "The Wisdom of the Desert."


Wisdom from Abbot Pastor Part III

"Abbot Pastor was asked by a certain brother: How should I conduct myself in the place where I live? The elder replied: Be as cautious as a stranger; wherever you may be, do not desire your word to have power before you, and you will have rest." (115)

"Abbot Pastor said: A man must breathe humility and the fear of God just as ceaselessly as he inhales and exhales the air." (116)

"Abbot Pastor said: Any trial whatever that comes to you can be conquered by silence." (122)

"Abbot Pastor said that Abbot John the Dwarf had prayed to the Lord and the Lord had taken away all his passions, so that he became impassible. And in this condition he went to one of the elders and said: You see before you a man who is completely at rest and has no more temptations. The elder said: Go and pray to the Lord to command some struggle to be stirred up in you, for the soul is matured only in battles. And when the temptations started up again he did not pray that the struggle be taken away from him, but only said: Lord, give me strength to get through the fight." (126)

"Abbot Pastor said: Just as bees are driven out by smoke, and their honey is taken away from them, so a life of ease drives out the fear of the Lord from man's soul and takes away all his good works." (138)

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