Tuesday, November 24, 2015

book review: a Lost God in a Lost World

Title: A Lost God in a Lost World
Author: Melvin Tinker
Publisher: Evangelical Press
Date: 2015

"A Lost God in a Lost WorldFrom deception to deliverance: a plea for authentic Christianity."

I wasn't sure what the book was going to be about. And having read it, I think I understand, but it will still leave people some what lost.

Tinker's writing is a little suggish, or maybe I was overly tired when I was reading it. It just didn't seem to flow or connect. 

The book is a series of scriptural expositions, which, while well done, left me wondering how these would be helpful to "a lost world."

My struggle was less with the content, his studies are good, but how does our world find God. He writes that the book is presenting the key truths about 
"the lostness of man, the greatness of God and the glory of the future which will correct much wrong thinking and behavior within the church, and so enable the church to effectively confront the world by holding out the Gospel." He writes his book "to enable Christians to trust 'the God who is there' and his gospel and so enable them to move confidently into the world," (p. 22).
Yes, God's people, have often lost a healthy view of who God is, but it seems to me that Tinker is preaching more to the choir, without helping them understand how to connect and speak into a world that is lost and needs a framework to understand and experience God.

I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. 
I was not required to write a positive review. 
The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 23, 2015

banning the Lord's prayer

The Church of England has produced a 60 second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord's Prayer, said by a variety of people. It’s a well produced film. 

The plan was to show the film before the Christmas screens of the new Star Wars film, as a way to encourage people to think about prayer and to pray. The commercial points to Just Pray.uk

But the powers that be - the distributors have declared that the Lord's Prayer is unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences. 

And so, as expected, indignation from the press, from the Archbishop, from all sorts of people. Debate begin about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.

Atheist, Richard Dawkins, says it should be shown, saying, 
“I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, said he was: 
“flabbergasted that anyone would find this prayer offensive to anybody, including people of no particular religious belief.” 
Ironically, the commercial was scheduled to be screened before the new Star Wars film – which has spawned its own religion with 177,000 claiming Jedi to be their religion in the 2011 British Census.

But maybe there is something else here...

I am not a big fan of enforced religion and prayer. I think it often, as Dawkins says, trivializes prayer and faith. It makes it an add on, something optional, something of little consequence: "would you like a heated steering wheel in your new car?"

When you look at and begin to pray the Lord's prayer (and it is really our prayer as his followers) it is a powerful prayer worthy of being banned by the demigods of consumer commerce.
Our Father in heaven 
Holy is your name 
May your kingdom come soon 
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven 
Give us today the food we need 
And forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us 
And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
74 words (in the above version). 

It takes less than a minute to say it. (It takes a lifetime to pray it.)

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator. 

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

DVD/CD Review: Toronto Mass Choir - Made for Worship

Group: Toronto Mass Choir
Album: Made for Worship
Copyright: 2014 Burke Music Inc

This is not the usual style of music I listen to, but this collection of 19 traditional and contemporary songs on a live DVD/CD set is worth listening to. 

I have heard the Toronto Mass Choir in the past, and they always have a nice tight sound. The mix between uptempo and more reflective songs is nice. My favourites are the reggae influenced ones. 

If this is your kind of music you won't be sorry if you get this one.

This DVD\Cd has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Burke Music in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Review: Hoping Against Hope

Title: Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim
Author: John D. Caputo
Date: 2015
Publisher: Fortress Press

Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim by John D. Caputo is about his journey from a 1950's Catholic altar boy in Philadelphia to philosopher. 
Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim is:
  • part spiritual autobiography
  • part homily on what he calls the "nihilism of grace,"
  • part call for people (believers and nonbelievers) to participate in the "praxis of the kingdom of God,"
  • and his desire to redeem religion and to reinvent religion for the postmodern times.
This is the first book I have read by Caputo, and while the title caught my eye and gave hope for a creative look at postmodernity, I came away with a sense of confusion.

Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim, is dry and bland. Caputo rambles through his life's history interspersing it with some theological reflections that don't always make a great deal of sense.

Caputo writes, "in the proto-religion whose cause I am advancing, the works of mercy are the kingdom of God; the kingdom of God is not a reward (mistos, merces, Matt. 6:1) for doing works of mercy." His understanding of the kingdom is more rooted in his philosophical roots than in an accurate reading of Scripture.

While he does say some helpful things, it often comes across as being disjointed or unconnected. He keeps on using this analogy of finding missing manuscripts with his interpretation of what God really means, or what his understanding of what his non-existent God might say.

disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Elections bring out the worst in people. We live in an atmosphere where Canadian politics is becoming increasing antagonistic. No longer, when we disagree with someone's politics, do we discuss this in a civil manner. Instead, we throw mud and minimize their value as a person.

Can I say this loud and clear:
There is no way that a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus can do that.
We are called to be people of grace. Which includes being gracious with our words. Recognizing every person as being created in the image and likeness of God (no matter what their politics). Recognizing that that image and likeness is flawed or broken in every person (including me). And so anytime we denigrate someone, we are making a comment on God's character and workmanship.

In a perfect democracy, minority parliaments work well, because parties and politicians have to work together. In our current environment, minority governments simply mean very little will get done and in 1-2 years we will have another election. Parliamentary reform is hardly on the agenda, because our political parties are so entrenched in an adversarial system. But none of that gives us an excuse to tear down an individual.

So what do you do on Monday, 19 October 2015 (if you haven't already voted).
1. Pray: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV) says:
“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 
We need to always be praying for our nation, our leaders - and during elections, all the candidates and voters – that Canada would be a nation that “exalts righteousness”. (Proverbs 14:34) 
We need to Pray for a government that would:
  • create strong families and marriages;
  • protect the vulnerable including children, youth, those living in poverty, those exploited, the unborn, seniors, and those living with disabilities;
  • share our blessings with the world in the way of foreign relief, peace-keeping, development work, and welcoming refugees fleeing persecution and violence.

2. Get Informed
It's not too late... check out the sites of the parties running in your riding. You probably won't find a party that reflects all your views - if you do, it probably means you are not really thinking seriously about the issues :-).

3. Vote
Get out and vote. Do it often (actually you better not do that!).

4. Be Gracious.
No matter who win. Be gracious. And pray for your MP, our Prime Minister and our country.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Review: The Entitlement Cure

title: The Entitlement Cure: Finding success in doing hard things the right way
author: John Townsend
publisher: Zondervan
date: 2015

Dr John Townsend is probably best known for his work with Dr Henry Cloud on Boundaries. His latest book (released this week) is The Entitlement Cure

The Entitlement is an easy read in the sense that it is well written, the flow of Dr Townsend's thinking is easy to follow. It's a practical book. At the end of each chapter are 3 skill development questions or reflections to work through.

Townsend writes:
Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatmentEntitlement is: The man who thinks he is above all the rules. The woman who feels mistreated and needs others to make it up to her.
p.19, italics in the text

Entitlement will have most of these characteristics:
1. An attitude of being special...
2. An attitude of being owed, of deserving something...

3. A refusal to accept responsibility...
4. A denial of one's impact on others...

While I was jotting down notes for this review, i went next door to The Mariposa Market to pick up some cookies for an event at OCC. As I came out, there in the clearly marked no parking zone leading to the door, was a large Cadillac. At the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, I know someone who regularly mishandles their money and is often short at the end of the month and will say to me "You need to do something about it." Both are examples of entitlement. You probably know people, or at least know of people, who fit the definition. Townsend rightly says, "We all have attitudes of entitlement, to some extent... it's an unfortunate part of being human... part of... fall from grace" (p.35).

Much of The Entitlement Cure addresses people in business environments and family contexts.

One of Townsend's key thoughts is the change from "I deserve" to "I am responsible." [chapter 8] He writes "Ultimately, the Hard Way (The habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome) is God's way. It is how he runs the world, expresses his own values, and makes choices that affect us. I'm personally glad he does!” 

Townsend calls the choices one must make to be free from an entitlement attitude the Hard Way, which he links to the easy way of the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30). "The way of entitlement... begins and ends with narcissism" (p.272). But while Townsend says this, I wished he would have developed a little bit more, those who the very demanding.

The concluding chapter outlines 
"a progression: Entitlement gives way to law, and then law gives way to grace. The self-absorbed person finally comes face-to-face with the reality that he is not God... This truth brings a lot of pain. So then he moves to try another tactic: He tries to be very, very good, and do things very, very well... But ultimately this tactic fails, too, as all our works do.
At that point, he is ready for God's Hard Way - the path that says we are all failures, that we all have to admit those failures and take responsibility for them. And then having faced the intolerable, we come face to face with grace."

p.272-273, italics in the text
In conclusion, a helpful read for anyone who works with people who exhibit entitlement tendencies and want to come alongside and help. 

I received this book free from the publisher.
I was not required to write a positive review.
The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

the religion of WWRA

One of the emerging "religions" or faiths or worldviews in our culture is WWRA: Who We Really Are. Rick Hiemstra, EFC's [Evangelical Fellowship of Canada] Director of Research, says in the recent edition of Canada Watch:
there is a new and fairly aggressive civil religion. I call it ‘WYRA’ which is short for “Who You Really Are.” The central problem for our culture is not that you’re separated from God, but that you lack the knowledge of your true identity. Our culture preaches that when we discover who we really are, we will discover a super hero or someone who is perfect. Christians say who you really are is a sinner and that you need to be changed from who you really are into the image of Christ. This is the heart of the conflict that we’re experiencing with our culture.
And so questions about justice and what's right and wrong are answered with: "right or wrong is based mostly on what I feel." This emerging civil religion is built around personal subjectivity.
As followers of Jesus, we need to discover ways of speaking a fresh story into our culture: God created good things, which we broke through our self-centred search for identity within ourselves. Restoration calls for re-orienting our lives around Jesus and a focus on God's kingdom concerns, rather than our own. 
It is this focus - that we find truth and meaning in the person of Jesus, that is the foundation of social justice not personal, and often privatized, subjectivity.

Monday, September 21, 2015

scriptures for a Christian worldview

Scot McKnight reviews Brian Harris' new book The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View. The first part of Harris' book looks at the Bible & culture.
Brian contends the church needs to be revitalized and that begins by understanding that the faith itself is poorly understood by its adherents and the church’s experience falls short of genuine Christian experience. There are some gaps between the Bible’s vision and our way of life as Christians:
  1. When we sweat the ‘how’ of creation instead of the ‘why’ of creation
  2. When we idealize or villainize humanity
  3. When grace is trivialized to legalism
  4. When the Trinity is about mathematical improbabilities instead of transforming community
  5. When stewardship of the world becomes exploitation, and resisting change is assumed to be virtuous
  6. When eschatology becomes escapism instead of enticing invitation
Brian rightfully begins with the Bible, and he proposes “the first fifteen” passages or verses in the Bible that we need to factor into any genuine reading of the Bible’s story so that it becomes the story into which we live. The Bible is God-inspired; it is the source of revelation for us to speak of God and of God’s mission in the world.

  1. Genesis 1:1 An Opening: We are not alone
  2. Genesis 1:26-28 An identity: We are made in the image of God
  3. Genesis 2:19, 20 A task: To build a world with a better name
  4. Genesis 12:3 A responsibility: Blessed to bless
  5. Genesis 50:20 A conviction: God can bring good even from evil
  6. Exodus 1 An understanding: When the choice is between bad and worse
  7. 1 Chronicles 22:6-10 and 28:1-3 A value: The temple David didn’t build (or, not such a bloodthirsty book)
  8. Matthew 5:21-48 An investigation: Getting to the heart of the matter
  9. Mark 12:28-33 A summary: The Jesus Creed
  10. Romans 3:23 A dilemma: Actually, sin does matter
  11. Romans 5:8 The gospel: Christ died for us
  12. 1 Corinthians 13:13 A permanence: Three things that remain
  13. Galatians 3:28 An irrelevance: Goodbye to the old divides
  14. Colossians 1:15-20 A reconciler: Christ, through whom all things are reconciled and hold together
  15. Revelation 21:1-4 A vision: A new heaven and new earth

What do you think of these? Any other passages?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

title: A Walk Across the Sun
author: Corban Addison
publisher: HarperCollins
date: 2012

The trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is one of the many tragedies of globalization. A Walk Across the Sun, traces the movement of children from developing world countries like India to the United States where they can become slaves to the perverse desires of the pedophile. This novel is the story of Sita and Ahalya, who have barely survived the deadly tsunami of December 26, 2004 that's hit their village on the western coast of India. Numbed by the death of their parents and grandmother, they leave their destroyed house, and are kidnapped and sold into the sex trade.

Corban does not give into the temptation to be overly descriptive and therefore scare some readers away. Yet, he does not minimize the horrors.

Corban is an attorney involved with social justice causes. This book was written out of some of his work with International Justice Mission (IJM) India. 

This, and his other books are well worth reading.
I have read is 2013 book The Garden of Burning Sand about combatting the epidemic of child sexual assault in southern Africa. I am looking forward to his newest book The Tears of Dark Water on Somali pirates.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Last week we looked at the Doxology and how it can be a game changer for our motives, actions and perceptions. I suggested the “Word Emphasis” exercise of repeating the first phrase (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) and changing the emphasis on each word… except for the word “flow.”

Some of you may think I left that out by accident or couldn't think of a good way to describe it. Actually, I left it out on purpose. This 4-letter word has a significant impact on our lives and on the meaning of the Doxology.

Flow has several meanings and connotations:
  1. to issue or move in a stream 
  2. to move with a continual change of place among the constituent particles
  3. to proceed smoothly and readily
  4. to derive from a source

Flow brings to mind images of movement… continuous movement. Synonyms include pourrollrun, and stream. These are all active words. There is nothing passive about them.

Could you imagine the Doxology saying written to read:
   Praise God From Whom All Blessings Sit Tight
   Praise God From Whom All Blessings Stagnate
   Praise God From Whom All Blessings Are A One And Done
   Praise God From Whom All Blessings Have An Ending Point
   Praise God From Whom All Blessings Start But Stop

That would be depressing. Where is the hope in that? What can you count on? What makes you get out of bed without the promise of God’s blessings flowing?

This may seem basic to some… but, nevertheless, this is truth that provides hope… that helps us grow in our trust in Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I can get down and frustrated. I can feel like I am stuck. It sometimes feels like there is no flow. But the reality is, there is always flow… and it’s all of a result of God’s plan and blessings.

Keep on reading, reflecting on and praying these words:
   Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
   Praise Him, all creatures here below;
   Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
   Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Thomas Ken, 1674