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Monday, August 21, 2017

"Sacred Mundane" (Kari Patterson)

TITLE: Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy
AUTHOR: Kari Patterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publishers, 2017, (216 pages).

Stress is very much a part of our lifestyle. For many of us, the question is not whether there is stress or not. It is a question of how much and how we can manage it. Conventional wisdom would teach us that stress is less about the pressures imposed on us but our responses. What about the spiritual perspective of life? What about how we can live free and flourish well? Are we too caught up with the temporal that we fail to take notice of the eternal? Perhaps, we are thinking that we need a retreat to some faraway place in order to find some sanctity in our busy lives. What if we don't have to? What if we can live sacred lives not only in the present but in our daily mundane lives? As far as author Kari Patterson is concerned, not only can we bring a fresh perspective of the mundane, we can be empowered not in doing but in becoming. It is in recognizing that God is interested in all of our lives, not just Sundays or special moments. Moments such as Naaman despite being a leper was mightily used by God show us that hangups limit our potential by hijacking our identity. This recognition will set us free toward finding freedom, purpose, and joy in God. We are invited to live unstuck in order to live out the calling we are created to be.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Play the Man" (Mark Batterson)

TITLE: Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (224 pages).

There was a time in which people were talking about what it means to be a man. Not anymore. Now, many are more interested in pandering to cultural expectations, elevating human rights, and blurring the lines between tradition sexuality. With more confusing philosophies and conflicting opinions about gender matters, the meaning of manhood, womanhood, or other variants of sexuality no longer commands the same level of interest as before. For author and pastor Mark Batterson, he fears that modern culture has not only forgotten what it means to be a man, it has lost it. It has become  a literal 'no man's land' where people do not know who they are anymore. Batterson presses the cultural reset button to go back to the Bible. Using powerful stories of the early century martyrs as a springboard toward spiritual conviction and biblical principles, he advocates the seven virtues of true manhood. Men as fathers are to disciple their children, not the youth pastors. They are not merely to pile up "resume virtues" just to make a living. Instead, they are called to leave behind "eulogy virtues" to make a life, starting with their own. True manhood wins the heart of God. Batterson shows the way with the seven virtues. First, it is about "tough love." They are tough on bullies and injustice, but soft when it comes to compassion and care for the vulnerable. They take up the cross and will stand up for the truth. Real man do cry. The second virtue is about "childlike wonder" in which he deals with the root meaning of the Greek word for "disciple" which is a learner. Childlikeness means having a curious capacity to learn; being wowed by the beauty and wonder of God; and to recognize one is small in a very large world. The third virtue of a man is "will power" in which one learns to take responsibility for his actions. He also responds in righteous living and able to resist temptations. He keeps his integrity intact. The fourth virtue is "raw passion" where one is urged not to be spectators but participants in life. He walks in faith instead of dwelling in doubt. He fights apathy. He resists lust. He is more focused on meeting his wife's needs rather than self. Fifth, a real man would display "true grit" who does not shy away from challenges but to persevere with a belief at conquering himself, heart, mind, and soul. He is resilient and does not easily settle.  The sixth virtue is "clear vision" where he has a specific focus and vision about what he want to do in life. He takes regular retreats to take stock of his life and lives forward in a balanced manner. Finally, there is the virtue of "moral courage," something that is most needed in our troubled times. He speaks out against evil. He models himself for the young to see. He is bold to confess sins and thrives in the kingdom.

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Spiritual Discipleship" (J. Oswald Sanders)

TITLE: Spiritual Discipleship: Principles of Following Christ for Every Believer (Sanders Spiritual Growth Series)
AUTHOR: J. Oswald Sanders
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (240 pages).

In the New Testament, the word "Christian" occurs three times; "believers" only twice; but the word "disciple" appears 269 times. Shouldn't that make us sit up about the importance of discipleship? The Greek word for disciple is also called "learner." It is both about the learner and how he is following after Jesus. For author J Oswald Sanders, famous for his book "Spiritual Leadership," he raises the bar to go beyond mechanics of discipleship toward the standards of discipleship. This is what makes this book shine as a needed bar to determine what is discipleship and what it looks like. Sanders uses the beatitudes to describe the ideal disciple. Calling it the "four passive personal qualities" and the "four active social qualities," the ideal disciple must manifest all eight of them. In a no-holds-barred exhortation on courage and conviction, he lissts the three main conditions of discipleship:

  1. Unrivaled love for God (the heart)
  2. Unceasing Cross-bearing for Christ (the conduct)
  3. Unreserved Surrender to God (the personal possession).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Movies are Prayers" (Joshua P. Larsen)

TITLE: Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings
AUTHOR: Joshua P. Larsen
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017, (208 pages).

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, global box office revenue for films released in 2016 reached $38.6 billion and $11.4 billion in US/Canada markets. The numbers continue to grow especially with the rising popularity of online streaming mechanisms and more affordable data plans. Movies too are increasingly being used as a platform for self-expression and a general reflection of cultural nuances. Author Josh Larsen believes that movies are actually prayers in disguise. This may seem surprising for some people. After all, aren't prayers something religious that are covered only in Christian films or Church-based activities? How can movies in secular society be considered prayers? The key belief is that underneath the various movies expressions, if we look carefully enough, we can find the deep yearnings of the human heart expressed in various aspects of the movie. By combining film criticism and theological reflection, we get what Larsen calls: "Movies are Prayers."

Without ignoring the profit-making nature of movie making, the hype that surrounds huge stars, and the rotten tomato ratings, Larsen helps us probe inside, dig deep, float up, and reveals how movies contain many different forms of prayers. Taking a leaf from the psalms, prayers are essentially the different expressions of the human longing for a relationship with the divine. No matter how we may try to hide it, prayers are something so natural in us that they will come out of us sooner or later in life. In this book, we learn about how movies are increasingly popular platforms to bare the longings of the human soul. We learn of nine different such longings:

  1. Prayers as Praise
  2. Prayers of Yearning
  3. Prayers of Lament
  4. Prayers of Anger
  5. Prayers of Confession
  6. Prayers of Reconciliation
  7. Prayers of Obedience
  8. Prayers of Meditation and Contemplation
  9. Prayers as Journey