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Book Review – Preaching with Cultural Intelligence by Matthew D Kim

With a clearly stated purpose – “to prepare twenty-first-century preachers for the realities of congregational diversity in North America and beyond” (p. xiv), Matthew D  Kim systematically walks the reader through the process of sermon preparation and delivery, recognizing various aspects of cultural intelligence and sensitivity. He masterfully weaves in his own experiences as an ethnically Korean and culturally American pastor with graciousness and authenticity.

Drawing upon the classic preaching textbooks and yet also attuned to current trends and discussions in preaching, Kim writes with clarity a superb textbook for teaching preaching. Likewise, his acrostics – HABIT and BRIDGE – facilitate learning and memory of key aspects of preparing and preaching biblically faithful messages and applying them accurately. Within each chapter, Kim also demonstrates how the principles apply to a specific Scripture passage, selecting details of the contexts that relate to the particular cultural concept being discussed. Not only does this allow the reader to understand the sermon preparation process more fully, it turns the theory into practical example.

I highly recommend this book, whether for the novice preacher or the experienced pastor looking to connect in a multi-cultural context.

Note: This book was provided to the review by Baker Books in exchange for an unbiased review on the blog.

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Finding a Common Thread

When I met with a mentor a few weeks ago, he suggested looking back over my life and examining any common threads that kept repeating. As I did so, one common thread emerged: computers.

old computer.jpg

You may be thinking that’s a bit of an odd item to identify for a person nowadays. After all, everyone owns and uses computers. True. Yet when computers were just becoming commonplace in workplaces and homes, I was a teenager-young adult.

My first summer job during high school was working with a database. I don’t remember what brand of “old clunker” computer it was – though it was a bit faster than a Commodore 64! I processed and printed mail merge letters for a non-profit organization. After completing university – where I got a degree in sociology, not in education as I had initially planned – I returned to my hometown and got a job working in education. How? Because I had computer skills. The computer skills enabled me to work alongside a gentleman who was soooon retiring and gradually take over some other responsibilities, in addition to the data entry and database management.

Fast forward almost twenty years. After teaching for ten years in a post-secondary institution, completing a PhD, getting married and starting a family, and serving in an administrative position with a school, I find myself unemployed. After a couple months, I get a call “out of the blue” to work in an office because… I can manage this person’s computer needs. As a real estate agent, he needs someone who can assist with a client management database, produce newsletters, create brochures, etc.

I am not a techie in any sense. When I can’t figure out how to make my smartphone work, one of the international students living in our home helps me. After they are done laughing at “what an old phone you have!” and asking “Why do you not have any memory with it?” they help me figure out how to save my files or download the best app for what I want to do.

And the artistic gifts in the family – or anything else related to design – went to my siblings!

weaving patternYet the ability to use computers productively has continued to open employment and learning opportunities that would not have been accessible otherwise. As I reflect upon this common thread, I thank God for the little details of life that He weaves masterfully to form a beautiful pattern.

As you look back over your life, do you see a common thread(s) shaping your life?

It may seem like nothing, but when an element keeps appearing over and over, its more than coincidence. Feel free to share how the Master Designer has woven the threads of your life story together (using the form below).

Teaching Generosity to Rich Kids

child too many toys.jpgHow do you teach generosity to rich kids? I use the term “rich kids” to mean children between the ages of 6-17 who have everything they need – and most of the things they want – because they have been born into a first-world situation. Their parents can provide the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare while also giving them many extra-curricular opportunities such as sports, music lessons, artistic endeavors, etc.

Sure, a parent can get grandma & grandpa to tell them how hard they had it growing up when “they had to walk five miles to school, use hand-me-downs from their older sibling when they played [insert sport], and hang out all their laundry on the clothes line to dry after they hand-washed it.”

At best, a child will give a polite, “Wow! That sounds tough grandpa!”

child-wire-bicycle.jpgOr you can show them movies (or YouTube clips) about life in a developing nation and remind them, “Those children look happy and the only toy they have is one made of wires they found and made into something.”

Again, an awkward smile may be the best response a parent gets.

But really… how can a parent or teacher help students to be grateful for the privileges they enjoy, and go beyond thankfulness to cultivate a generous spirit towards others who are less fortunate, whether next door or around the world?

Expect Thankfulness

The first action parents/educators can take is to expect thankfulness. After a meal, children can say thanks to the person who prepared the meal. After a special outing (whether with family or school), again children can be expected to say the two littler words “thank you.” Its two words that most two year-olds can say, and yet we (myself included) often let our children get away without polite appreciation. And then we wonder why they take things for granted!

Brian Buffini shares that people congratulate him on his amazing children being remarkable citizens. As a dad, he realizes his own bias to believe his children are great and so asks friends what exactly they mean. Many people simply tell him, “Well, they say please and thank you. They use manners and call you Mister or Miss when you talk with them.”

Model Sharing

Whereas the first activity can be something we ask our children to do, the second practice “rich kids” need is to see generosity modeled. If we want our children to not take “their stuff” for granted, we need to make sure we communicate in word – and even more importantly in deed – that “our stuff” is not really ours.

Maybe it is our home that we share openly with their friends – even when it is not really convenient for you. It might be an after school playdate for an elementary child or teenagers watching movies in your home on a Friday night? Perhaps its having guests in town for a school, church, or community function, stay in your house rather than expecting them to rent a hotel room. Our family has had the privilege of hosting international students over the past few years. As a result, our children have a handful of older “sisters” in Asia.

What about your vehicle? Is it available for a neighbor to use when their car is getting repaired or the battery dies?

And of course, how do we share “our” money? Sure, we might give some to charitable causes and even encourage our children to do likewise when the opportunity arises.

But do we offer our $5 bill when the person in front of us in the grocery line is just a bit short on cash for what they are buying? Or when the tenant renting out the basement suite is a little tight and asks for some mercy getting the second half of the month’s rent to us, do we grin-and-bear-it when talking with him but slander him in front of the children? (And do we make sure we let them know when he pays the balance a couple weeks later?)

We can talk all we want to our children about being generous, but if they do not see it lived out before their eyes, it will just be wasted words.

Serve Together

Finally, part of modeling generosity involves doing things together. While youngsters may not have money to give, they do have time and (usually) an abundance of energy. So why not put that youthful exuberance to good use for a variety of service projects to work together on giving to your community.

It could be planting and harvesting a community garden. Or it could be working at the local Food Bank for a couple hours. Or it could be visiting a hospital or nursing home and singing or visiting to the residents.

Even better than doing it with one young person and parent(s), get a group of families together and do any of the above. More hands makes lighter work and gets more done. But it also shows that working together with others in service of others can be enjoyable as well as meaningful.

Other Examples

Certainly there are other valuable ways to help your children learn generosity in an affluent context like many of us enjoy in North America. Opportunities to sponsor a child in a developing nation, join a work project in another country for a week or two, and many other examples may come to mind. You can have an annual (maybe quarterly!) de-cluttering day when the clothes that no longer fit and the toys that are no longer played with get taken to the new & used store so that others can enjoy them.

While these activities or special events have a place, it is important to show children of any age how to begin a lifestyle of gratitude and generosity in daily living. Helping them utilize the resources they have already can help them understand the privileges they have received, simply because of where they have been born.

I would be glad to hear some of your ideas on how you try to teach children to be generous. Thanks for leaving a comment below.

 

Book Review – Eyes to See from Compassion Canada

Eyes to See is a six-week (30 day) study helping the reader – or possibly a small group – to see poverty through the eyes of Christ. Online clips are available for viewing to accompany each week`s theme. Using stories from their global connections through Compassion, the study poignantly and effectively communicates various concepts relating to poverty, social justice, and the Church.

After a short reflection on the day’s topic, each chapter concludes with three Reflection questions, one Action step, and a prayer. Various days reflections include interaction with current literature relating to the topics. Likewise, when one is open to the challenge presented in the book, Spirit-led conviction is probable. Finally, the book does well in making the issues not just personal, but also finds ways for them to be applied in/for a local faith community.

I highly recommend this book for personal study and moreso for a small group study, whether in a home, adult education (eg. Sunday School) class as well as a youth or young adults curriculum.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer in exchange for an unbiased review by Graf-Martin promotions through the Nuts About Books blog review program.

Book Review – Armed and Dangerous by John Ramirez

Armed DangerousAccording to the publisher John Ramirez is “an internationally known evangelist, author and highly sought-out speaker who has been teaching believers around the world how to defeat the enemy.” Without doubting the sincerity of his faith journey from a satanic background to trusting in Jesus, if this book is any indication of his speaking content, I have serious concerns about what believers are being taught.

While Ramirez includes a healthy dose of Scripture, he regularly uses it out of context and creates new biblical concepts such as the “spirit of Jezebel” from passages. Then in defeating these self-developed evil spirits/demons he describes key prayer points to defeat them. One fears these “prayers” quickly become a script to be rattled off when faced with an opposing evil spirit.

Ramirez is to be commended to his consistent reference to the power and blood of Jesus Christ as the Source of Triumph and victory in defeating the Enemy (and the new demonic spirits). However, the lack of a clear explanation and theology of how Christ’s death has defeated Satan and how the Christian can live in this victory is sorely lacking.

While one can appreciate how an audience could be challenged by his preaching and excited by his passion, the book lacks a coherent framework or ordering of topics making it difficult to follow. Various claims are made regarding the dangers of such activities such as Halloween, reading Tarot cards, and Santeria with very little (if any) supporting documentation or references. He may indeed have a legitimate point for Christians to be properly informed about, but because he lacks any form of argumentation, his treatment of these topics – and the book as a whole – read like one long rant.

I cannot recommend this book and would point a person looking for a book on spiritual warfare or dealing with the demonic to various better resources, both in terms of theology, research, and readability.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer in exchange for an unbiased review by Graf-Martin as part of the Nuts About Books Blog review program.

My Reflections on Climate Change

A few months ago (June 1, 2017), American President Donald Trump’s decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The issue of climate change, the destruction of planet earth by people, and related concerns were once again brought to the forefront. As a proud Canadian and an evangelical Christian, I have a few observations and reflections…

1. Like Trump, I do not believe the Climate Change “industry” and their “research” about the state of the planet, the reasons for it, and its imminent danger. Admittedly, those of us who live in Canada have a lived experience resulting in skepticism about such claims. In other words, when you live in -20 degrees Celsius for 3-6 months of every year, its hard to believe the earth is really “warming”!

2. Whether you agree with his decisions or not (and there are certainly are many to debate), Trump consistently said throughout his presidential campaign that he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement and he has officially done so. You may not like the decision, but he did what he said.

3. Even if one were to accept the climate change data and ascribe to the alleged reasons for its continual increase (use of fossil fuels, coal, gasoline, etc), one has to wonder how changes from the G7 nations will make any significant difference. When one considers the same sources coming out of China (1 billion plus people) and India (an additional one billion people), the contribution of the USA (population soon to hit 330 million), Canada (population just over 36 million) or other G7 nations is barely a drop in the bucket. The G7 dealing with the issue is not really touching the (alleged) source of pollution and climate change. Unless the global community can find a way to convince China and India to deal with their part of the (alleged) problem, any solution is a barely a bandaid.

4. While recognizing that the Christian community, including evangelicals, has largely been opposed, if not silent, on climate change issues, and very few have even been involved in any discussions, now is the time for Christians to present a thoughtful and engaged position. On the one hand, the Christian community needs to stop reading Genesis as a command to “subdue” the earth in which subdue effectively means pillage, plunge, and use-until-its-all gone. Rather, the evangelical church needs to understand “subdue” properly – to steward, nurture, and manage effectively for the good of humanity.

On the other hand, Christians need to be wary in our regret, even embarassment, for past generations of failure to not concede to a new definition of “steward” which effectively becomes worship the earth and anything that grows or lives within or on the planet.

Neither false understanding of the Christian responsibility for the earth reflects the full teaching of Scripture.

I welcome your interaction with these reflections.

 

 

Book Review – Raising Men Not Boys by Mike Fabarez

Add another good resource to the list of books available for Christian parents seeking to raise their boys to be God-fearing young men. The clear purpose of the book is to explain biblical principles and illustrate various ways they can be lived out by parents as they seek to shepherd  sons into mature godly men in the 21st century.

In the introduction, Fabarez is clear (pp. 14-15) to recognize some of the ideas he suggests are simply applications of the way their family has sought to live out the biblical truths and principles. He recognizes some of the specifics covered are biblical and others are simply his interpretation and extrapolation of important areas of life and encourages the reader to consider the respective levels of importance in following the ideas.

In terms of strengths, there are many. First, the author covers all the key areas of raising a boy from infancy to early adulthood. In doing so, there are plenty of practical examples of how a biblical principle works out in practice. Fabarez included various “What About That…” sections within the book that were beneficial and helpful in dealing with sidebar topics related to the topic of the chapter. Fabarez also dealt with potentially touchy or awkward subjects with a good mix of sensitivity and reality (eg. single moms raising boys). Each chapter contained clear section markings and the topics were discussed logically. Thus, the book was easy to follow and a joy to read, without becoming  monotonous or repetitive.

There is little to offer by way of criticism for this book. Fabarez achieved his stated purpose. As noted in the introduction, parents should seek other sources of input and wisdom as their son matures. Likewise, while other parenting books may be foundational to reading a book like this (or complementary), this is one I will keep on my shelf, and gladly recommend to students or families with boys.

Note: This book was provided to the author by Moody Publishers in exchange for an unbiased reviews.

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