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Sunday, June 25, 2017

"O Lord, Help and Govern..." - 25 June 2017


O Lord, make us have a perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Preserve those who are heading to Carnegie tomorrow. Thank you for the opportunity you provided for us; now provide us safe travel; enrich our service projects; bring our VBS time to have a powerfully positive impact on the kids; and give physical and emotional resilience in all we do that we may come back singing your praises.

On behalf of your Church throughout the world, as well as Westmoore Community Church; Wheatland Methodist Church; Wildewood Christian Church; and Word of God Church, we pray. Show yourself strong on behalf of those who are suffering for righteousness sake, show them a sign of your favor that those who hate them may see it and be put to shame, because you have helped and comforted your people (Psalm 86.17). Reclaim those who have lost their way and exchanged your glory for their own avarice or their own ambition; Fill up what is lacking and cause your work to prosper in the hands of those who are working and serving for your honor.

Look upon the President of these United States, the Governor of Oklahoma, the Mayors of Oklahoma City and Edmond, and all others in authority. So replenish them with the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit that they may always incline to your will and walk in your way. And may the inhabitants of our nation turn to you. We also ask you to steer the nations of the earth, and pilot the leaders of all lands, to include President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somolia; President Jacob Zuma of South Africa; and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea; into the way of uprightness and integrity, establishing among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, and guide them to love you and their neighbors. And send forth your Gospel and your enlivening Spirit, that Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Afghani warlords, Mexican drug cartels, Atheists, Agnostics and Secularists may come to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, turn from their gods, or godlessness, to the living and true God and be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1.9-10).

Rescue from sin, self-destruction, or heresy these for whom we now pray (…).

Merciful Father, you have taught us in your Holy Word, that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3.33): look with kindness upon the sorrows, pains, and needs of these for whom our prayers are offered (…). Look upon them in mercy, nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your face upon them, and give them peace and wholeness. 

We commend to your gracious care all those who have gone from us into the military, college, seminary or work; those who have moved away and those who have moved on (…). Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Research of Martial Arts" by Jonathan Bluestein. A Review

Research of Martial ArtsResearch of Martial Arts by Jonathan Bluestein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Research of Martial Arts” is compiled by Jonathan Bluestein, author, martial arts teacher and founder of the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy where he teaches the traditional Chinese martial arts of Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang. This 418 page monograph is a massive manual clearly composed over several years. It is ideally suited for martial artists looking for detailed and technical background information on external and internal martial arts.

“Research of Martial Arts” has three sections, one that is highly didactic, a second that is reflective and the final which is a record of six in-depth interviews with master martial artists. Bluestein meticulously weighs the pros and cons of the external and internal styles. Though it is clear that the author’s own preference is for the internal arts, yet he gives due consideration to the external and acknowledges “that there is no right or wrong in different approaches to training – there is only what is right for you” (68). The breadth of explanation goes beyond the normal range of martial arts and presents the reader with the unique and significant from a wide range of traditions, many I had never heard of before.

In the end to read “Research of Martial Arts” is to get schooled in martial arts. The student will come to appreciate the numerous approaches, traditions, and focuses whole gaining a wider perspective. Though this self-published manuscript has several editorial glitches, nevertheless the information is invaluable. I recommend the book.

Thanks to the author for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).


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Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Holy Father, the Benchmark of All Fatherhood..." 18 June 2017


Jesus told us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15.16). Let us pray:

Holy Father, you who are the benchmark, the high water mark of all true fathering: we are grateful for our fathers, especially when their firm love and care reverberated harmoniously with the melody of your own fatherhood. Help us to rightly honor our fathers and their memories. For those fathers in our lives who missed the mark – or worse – grant them to find you a true Father in Jesus Christ; repair that which they scarred or marred or broke, and heal the wounds. For the fathers in our fellowship we ask you to guide us by your fatherly hand that we will be – more and more – a noble and wholesome reflection of you to our children, whether they are still at home or out on their own.

Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with your glory; for the welfare of all throughout the world we beg you to restrain the brutality and viciousness skulking around or running rampant in the nations; we ask you to arm the leaders – such as President Andrej Kiska of Slovakia; President Borut Pahor of Slovenia; and Governor-General of Solomon Islands, Sir Frank Kabuiwith – arm them with the tools, desire and ability to establish and enforce real justice and integrity that all people may enjoy tranquility, prosperity, health and life.

Mighty God, please keep us from slipping back into drought conditions; and please send all the necessary rain to this region. Also, watch over and direct our State; our leaders like State Representatives Cory Williams; Rande Worthen; Harold Wright; and George Young; our finances; our prisons and detention centers; our schools and universities; our farms and industry. We also pray for the air ambulances around the city. Preserve and protect the flyers and paramedics who travel in them. May the helicopters be kept in tip-top shape as they fly over the state providing important emergency services.

Lord God, we know you watch over your church, and so we join together beseeching you to preserve your people, specifically where their lives are threatened and their livelihoods are in peril. Show these brothers and sisters your gracious kindness, and set your angels around them as ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1.14).

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for this congregation; Waterloo Road Baptist church; Waterloo Road Church of Christ; Western Avenue Baptist Church; Western Oaks Christian Church; and Westminster Presbyterian Church. May we all be filled with the Spirit of truth who will lead us into all truth; who will build up and reinforce what is holy, good, and right; who will retrieve us from where we may have gone off the tracks; and who will ensure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our central focus. May we be filled with the Spirit of truth (John 16.13)! 

We ask you to protect our own people who are traveling for vacation, going to camps, heading off to meetings in other places. Preserve them and bring them back safely. And we pray for those in our church fellowship, those among our friends and those in our families, who are dealing with death; experiencing pain; undergoing medical treatments; (…). We implore your consoling care for them, bringing them health, or peace, or comfort as needed, while also lifting their hearts that knowing you have never left them nor forsaken them they may rejoice in your goodness and sing your praises. All we ask in confidence of our Lord’s promise. Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"O Lord, We Adore You" - 11 June 2017


O Lord, we adore you with the words of the prophet Isaiah who said, “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure” (Isaiah 25.1).

On behalf of your Church throughout the world, for this congregation along with Unity Baptist Church; University Fellowship Church; Victory Church; Victory Missionary Baptist Church; Village Baptist Church; Ware Chapel; and Waterloo Church of the Nazarene; we pray. For those of your people who are suffering for righteousness sake, show yourself strong on their behalf. With those who have lost their way and exchanged your glory for their own greed or their own reputation, reclaim them; for those who are working and toiling, spending and being spent for your honor, fill up what is lacking and cause your work to prosper in their hands.

May your protection be on our commissioners as they head to General Assembly, and when they return home. May the righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13) hover over them and fill their meetings, overture discussions, votes, decisions, directions, debates and determinations. And may the honor Christ reign supreme and the fellowship of Christ flourish.

Holy God, send forth your Gospel and your enlivening Spirit, so that Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Western Secularists may come to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ. And save these for whom we now pray (…).

Look upon the President of these United States, the Governor of Oklahoma, our State Representatives, such as Weldon Watson; Josh West; Kevin West; Rick West; and Tammy West, and all others in authority. Remind them that they lead and rule at your pleasure. Remind them that their governance is for the wellbeing of the people under their care. Remind them that their leadership is supposed to reflect your justice and righteousness. Yes, remind them and direct them. And may the inhabitants of our nation make considerable progress in honorable, upright lives and families.

With all the instability, insatiability, insufferableness and insufficiency in the world, we ask you to guide the nations of the earth, and leaders like President Danny Faure of Seychelles; President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone; and President Tony Tan of Singapore, into the way of justice and truth, establishing among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, and guiding them to love you and their neighbors.

Merciful Father, you have taught us in your Holy Word, that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: look with kindness upon the sorrows and needs of these for whom our prayers are offered (…). Remember them in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them, and give them peace and wholeness.

We commend to your gracious care all those in the armed forces, whether at home or abroad (…). Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be.

O God, whose never-failing providence orders all things in both heaven and earth: We humbly entreat you for ourselves and all whom we have mentioned, please put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which are truly profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Tai Chi in 10 Weeks" by Dr. Aihan Kuhn. A Review

Tai Chi in 10 Weeks: A Beginner's GuideTai Chi in 10 Weeks: A Beginner's Guide by Aihan Kuhn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you find getting to a Tai Chi class difficult or non-existent in your town, this may be just the guidebook for you. Dr. Aihan Kuhn, instructor in tai chi, qigong and tui na and president of Tai Chi & Qi Gong Healing Institute, has authored an easy to read and simple to follow manual that is crisp, clear and coherent; the 224 glossy pages of “Tai Chi in 10 Weeks: Beginner's Guide”. This work is meant “to help students, instructors, and practitioners understand taiji theory and technique, as well as help them to have a better experience with learning and practicing, both in a group and as individuals” (xiii).

“Tai Chi in 10 Weeks” explains, in three chapters, the value of taiji and how it is related to, but differs from, qigong. Dr. Kuhn explains what jing, qi and shen are, and how they work together. She also gives some of the history of taiji and the five styles. The author’s knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, along with her western medical training, noticeably turn up throughout these three chapters.

The bulk of the book brings the learner, by way of simple lessons and clean pictures, through the various levels of warm-up, foundation practice, qigong form, thirteen movement taiji, until finally arriving at the twenty-four step Yang style taijiquan form. The build up to the twenty-four step form is meant to prepare and condition a practitioner to be able to move into the twenty-four step form with some confidence. When the reader arrives at the twenty-four steps, Dr. Kuhn has masterfully broken the learning process down into 10 week packages, with pictures and instructions for each week. As an aid to staying motivated in practice, there is even a taiji 10-week plan checklist at the back of the book. This checklist was a brilliant inclusion in the book, as it shows the student at a glance where they are, how much they have succeeded at and how close they are to their short-term goal of becoming proficient at taiji!

“Tai Chi in 10 Weeks” is encouraging because it shows an easy-to-accomplish way for beginners to actually learn taiji in a doable timeframe and manner. There will still need to be, at some point, expert instruction, as Dr. Kuhn notes; “Eventually, however, you will need a good teacher who can guide you to deeper learning and practicing” (133). Nevertheless, Dr. Kuhn has placed learning and grasping taiji within reach of the interested. I highly recommend the book.

Thanks to YMAA for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).


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Friday, June 9, 2017

"Paul's Theology of Preaching" by Duane Litfin. A Review

Paul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostle's Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient CorinthPaul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostle's Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth by Duane Litfin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A dear friend of mine sent it as a gift about Christmas time. After three months I finally got around to reading it and was elated with this thoughtful treasure trove! The gem I’m referring to is the paperback, “Paul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostle's Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth.” Here are 400 pages of careful expeditions into the ancient development of rhetoric and expansive reflections on 1 Corinthians 1.18-4.21. This masterful historical and theological work is penned by Duane Litfin, author and previous president, the seventh, of Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. It is a compilation, expansion and reworking of his doctoral thesis, articles and speeches from the past decades. The book is ideally suited for preachers, liturgists and homiletics professors.

The first third of “Paul’s Theology of Preaching” spends a whole nine chapters delving and deciphering ancient Greco-Roman rhetoric. Litfin cites a wide variety of sources from Isocrates to Cicero to Augustine. The middle portion of the material methodically works through and works out 1 Corinthians 1.18-4.21, showing the apostolic distinction between “words of eloquent wisdom” (1.17) and the “word of the cross” (1.18). The final section and five appendices delve into applications of Paul’s principle.

The aim of “Paul’s Theology of Preaching” is to explore “the origins of a crucial Pauline insight for ministry” (20). Specifically, how the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1.18-4.21) saw Christian preaching differ from classic rhetoric, why it mattered and why it still matters. Litfin tirelessly builds the case that “Paul’s difficulty was not that” the principles of classic rhetoric “were inherently immoral but that they were dependent on an essentially human dynamic” (358). That “essentially human dynamic” is the emphasis on doing what it takes to get the desired results. The author’s contention is that the ancient rhetoricians took the persuader’s stance – playing to the audience to get them to yield, whereas Paul saw his task as being a herald – proclaiming the Gospel and calling for repentance and faith without falling into the trap of nickels and nose; “The success of the herald cannot therefore be determined by measuring the listener’s acceptance of (yielding to) the message. It can only be measured by the degree to which the herald has satisfied the commissioner’s instructions” (280).

The gift of “Paul’s Theology of Preaching” was quite timely as I was beginning a new sermon series on 1 Corinthians. Though at times the historical aspects were beyond my ken and specialization, all together the work has been a valuable asset in my studies. And beyond the immediate research and preparations, it has been a constructive companion as I think, and rethink, my vocation as a preacher/pastor. Without hesitation I commend this book!


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

"God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views" ed. Chad Meister and James Drew Jr. A Review


God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views
Spectrum Multiview Book Series
Edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr.
IVP Academic
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
www.ivpress.com
ISBN: 978-0-8308-4024-3; $25.00; May 2017
5 Stars of 5

An age old conundrum that pesters Christians, either intellectually, emotionally or both, is the question of evil in the moral order and in creation. Not long ago a fresh 199 page manuscript rolled off of the presses at IVP Academic addressing this issue from within the Christian household. “God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views” draws together several philosophical and theological scholars who lay their positions out on the table for all to examine. The book is edited by Chad Meister, author and professor of philosophy and theology at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana, and James K. Drew Jr., author, associate professor of the history of ideas and philosophy and dean of the College at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The material between the soft covers is not overly academic and is accessible to most adult readers.

“God and the Problem of Evil” comes in two parts. In the first section each of the respective positions is put before the reader in detail covering anywhere from nineteen to twenty-four pages per position. In the second section the individual authors interact with and critique the other writers. The strength, or weakness, of this approach (depending on your temperament) is that the exchanges are corralled and congregated into single chapters in the second half of the book and not hotly debated at the end of each position.

Phillip Cary, professor of philosophy at Eastern University, presents the classic position that traces its lineage back through thinkers and theologians to Augustine of Hippo. The classic view says that “no evil takes place unless God permits it, and that God has a good reason for permitting evil, which takes the form of a greater good that he uses evil to bring about” (14). Cary masterfully weaves together theology, biblical tragedy, story and liturgy that sweep up the reader into hopeful prayer and prayerful hope.

William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, offers a position based on the work of Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina. Inside molinism is much that one will find in the classic view with the modifying addition of God’s middle knowledge in which “God has decided to actualize a world of libertarian free creatures and to skillfully play the hand that he has been dealt in such a way that his ultimate ends are achieved through creaturely free decisions, despite the sinful decisions they would make and the evils they would bring about” (39). Craig pulls together the theoretical, missiological, and statistical.

William Hasker, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Huntington University, unpacks an open theist stance with regard to evil. Here “the future is known by God as what might happen, and as what will probably happen, but not as what will definitely take place” and so “it is impossible even for God to know with certainty how those creatures will respond; there is a genuine possibility that they will not respond in the way he intended and desired for them to do” (60). Hasker disagrees with the determinism he sees in a specific-benefit theodicy and optimistically represents a general-policy theodicy of God as a risk-taker.

Thomas Oord, theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multidisciplinary studies who teaches at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, gives an account of essential kenosis. Under this concept, because God’s nature is “self-giving, others-empowering love” that is “necessarily uncontrolling” then God cannot unilaterally prevent evil (84). In other words, “God’s nature of love makes it impossible for God to withdraw, override, or fail to provide the freedom, agency, or basic existence of others” (85). As Oord works out his theory he makes other interesting and surprising assertions that swim against the vast majority of Christian thinking for two-thousand years (95).

Stephen Wykstra, professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, explicates skeptical theism. This particular outlook is not quite so alarming as the name might imply. As Wykstra notes, “so-called skeptical theism relies strongly on what I’ve here called “conditional theistic humility” – an affirmation that if the theistic God does exist (that is, if mere theism is true), then it is pretty unsurprising that the divine purposes for God’s “actions” will often be beyond our ken. This conditional, modest as it is, removes the sting from some evidential arguments that might otherwise seem lethal to theism” (117). Of all the chapters, Wykstra’s is the most abstract for the non-philosophically trained reader, and yet it is, concurrently, very human and personal.

Once all of the authors have unrolled and displayed their wares, then each gets the opportunity to walk around and point out the weaknesses and potential compatibilities of the other exhibits. It’s in the final section that it becomes clear how three of the positions can actually walk close together (classic, Molinist and skeptical theism) and how the other two are near cousins (open theism and essential kenosis). It is rather unfortunate how Hasker is downright dismissive and demeaning of the classic view, while giving the other positions thoughtful interaction. Beyond that, the rest of the contributors are gracious in their criticisms, while remaining unwavering and more-or-less firm.

I found “God and the Problem of Evil” useful and eye-opening in its design and dissemination. I became roused and reverently praying by the time I finished reading the classical position. I was positively challenged to think hard by several chapters, and was drawn to the outskirts of the ways of the Almighty (Job 26.14) and found my heart touched in places while peering over the edges of skeptical theism. I have no problem endorsing this book!

Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

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