Saturday, August 06, 2005

They Can Go, But will we Send Them?

Revolution in World Mission, by K.P. Yohannan

This is the best free book I've read all year.

Dr. Yohannan presents his case for supporting native missionaries in Asia. A native of India himself, he tells interesting stories from his own missionary experience, including the inspiring ways that God has helped him through difficult times in his life.

Dr. Yohannan points out something that most of us Westerners don't realize--white men with Pith hat are not the only ones God uses to spread the Gospel overseas. We are now living in the "Third Age," so to say, of missions.

The first age began with the apostles. The second involved the colonial missionaries like Hudson Taylor and William Carey.

But something drastic happened to missions as a result of World War II; the colonies were separated from their mother countries, resulting in resistance to attempts to send Western Missionaries to the Third World.

In this book, Dr. Yohannan is trying to make people aware of this cultural paradigm shift. He is not, however, against the work of traditional western missionaries.

The missionaries of Gospel for Asia are used to living in the Asia culture--cheaply (living on
about $120 a month). They are making a great impact for the sake of the Gospel in Asia.

This book isn't hard to read, and reads fast. Best of all, it's free! Click here to request your own free copy. It's a book must-read for anyone who has a heart for spreading the Gospel around the world.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Not your Ordinary Dreamer.

The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson with David & Heather Kopp (Multnomah, 2003. 157 pg.)

Enter into the world of Ordinary, who is a Nobody living in the Land of Familiar. Each day he goes to his Usual Job, each evening he eats almost the same meal as every other night, after which he sits down in his recliner to be mesmerized by a box in his living room.

One day, however, Ordinary awakes to discover that he has been visited during the night by the Dream Giver, who has left him with a dream for the future and a feather on his windowsill. Ordinary, after being spurred on by his father, decides to forsake the Land of Familiar and venture out to “do” his dream.

Along the way, Ordinary encounters opposition and discouragement, many times wishing that he had never left home to begin with. Ordinary’s journey takes him through the bully-filled BorderLand, across the desolate WasteLand, and, after taking a brief but beneficial respite in the Sanctuary of cleansing and consecration, through the ominous final stretch into the Land of Promise, where he encounters ferocious giants, such as fierce giant Moneyless, who give him the struggle of his life.

Has this #1 New York Times bestselling author resorted to penning fairy tales? Not quite. In this book, Bruce Wilkinson tries to convince us that every person, no matter how much of a Nobody he or she is, has a God-given dream hidden in some corner of their heart which, when accomplished, will bring tremendous joy to their life.

“The better you understand the journey to your Dream and what God is doing in your life, the less likely you are to abandon your Dream”

To accomplish this goal, Dr. Wilkinson reaches back into the great classics of Christendom, from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, to snatch a literary device – the parable – which has proven itself incredibly effective time and time again. In fact, the device is used so effectively in this work that one can be left wondering why it has not been used more frequently in the literary works of more recent years.

After devoting the first seven chapters to the parable, Dr. Wilkinson takes off his storyteller hat and introduces himself as a personal dream coach, ready to equip the reader for accomplishing his or her dream. The final seven chapters of the book mirror the first seven, as Dr. Wilkinson takes the reader on a personal tour of each stage of the journey to one’s dream.

While honestly labeled as being of the “Personal Growth” genre, this work seems rather autobiographical, more so than any of Dr. Wilkinson’s major books thus far. In his first #1 New York Times bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez, we are given glimpses of how he is ushered into a life of increased blessedness and opportunity. Secrets of the Vine, on the other hand, seems more pedantic in nature, as does Dr. Wilkinson’s second #1 New York Times bestseller, A Life God Rewards, which is largely an argument that good deeds will indeed be rewarded. But in spite of the copyright page’s insistence that the opening parable is fictitious, anyone who knows much about Dr. Wilkinson might have trouble believing that the writer is not, perhaps even subconsciously, using the parable to describe the birth and ongoing fulfillment of his own vision – the path of which may not be as universal as he believes. But even if this is true, it does not negate the appeal of a highly successful person giving instructions on how to be successful.

In this work, Dr. Wilkinson retains those essential qualities which have, in part, made him such a successful writer. His sentences flow habitually with ease. He finds interesting ways to say even the most ordinary things. While his diction seems impeccable, His Continual Use Of Capitalized Words May Leave The Reader Thinking Entirely In Capital Letters After Putting Down The Book. It is true, as one reviewer points out, that his writing “veers toward [being] childish” in some passages. But the pages of his book exude an unmistakable warmness, which flows, without doubt, from his genuine care for the state of humanity, one person at a time.

His genuine compassion is evidenced by the material he introduces in the latter part of the book, where he begins to describe his own journey of faith and the current progress of his own dream. As one reviewer notes, one fulfilled dream “serves as a launching pad for a bigger dream.” That is exactly what has happened in Wilkinson’s life recently. He tells how, at the height of the ministry which he and his wife Darlene had started out of their basement, he is senses the call of God to forsakes everything, and then move his family to Africa to conquer the giants of misery, starvation, and death permeating the continent, forsaking the Land of Familiar to bring his Dream to fruition.

This not only adds credibility to his words, but it also helps him to accomplish his personal vision of bringing relief to Africa, as the many people who will read his book are bound to be stirred by the images he shares and the significant progress he has been making in a place where “eight thousand people . . . die of AIDS” each day. He leaves us with an image of an African boy who was found dead of starvation and exposure on the streets, and shares his belief that this is a consequence of someone’s neglecting to live out his or her dream.

If you have a dream (and Dr. Wilkinson insists that everyone does) this book is for you. After reading such a work, it should be difficult for any of us, no matter how much of an Ordinary we are, to refrain from living out our dream to perfection.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Are We There Yet?

The Road Ahead by Bill Gates (Viking 1995. 276 pgs. )

I know; I'm not supposed to beat up a book until I'm done reading it.

But who cares. It took me ten years to finally get around to reading this book, so I'd better get started reviewing it or who knows how long this will take.

A friend of mine said Gates completely missed the role of the internet. After listening to about a quarter of the book, I do sense that he seems to envision products that will appeal to some surreal customer of a utopian playland. This consumer will wake up each morning and ask "Where do I want to go today?" I wonder, however, if anyone besides Gates himself actually ever asks this question.

Nevertheless, Gates is not a bad storyteller, and he makes some keen observations about his success in the software industry. Gates predicts that the internet will be but a forerunner for the "information highway." This "highway" which he describes seems to be more like an advanced, on-demand television service than anything else. He predicts that "the highway" will evolve from the internet about ten years from the time he is writing (1995).

So was Gates just undergoing premature hyperventilation over TiVo?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Survival of the Cheesiest

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (Putnam, 1998/2002. $19.95, 94 pgs.)

THERE IS ALWAYS a reason for a best-selling book being a best-selling book. Dr. Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese is no exception. His book gets on the mat with a topic that a wide audience can relate to: change, and how to deal with it.

Change, Dr. Johnson intimates through a fable, is inevitable. Our favorite feeding grounds can become barren. It is then time to move on to better pasture. This is a message that many of the baby boomer generation - now on the verge of retirement - will find especially close to home.

Of course, Gen-X and Gen-Y have seen some degree of change in their lifetime. Yet it is the baby boomer generation that has experienced change most dramatically. Gone is the work-in-same-company-until-you-retire paradigm. Gone is the time in which one can support a family with a blue collar job without a college degree. Many boomers are now finding the advent of the internet, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, and new, increasingly-complex societal problems to be painfully intrusive on the mental-framework which they inherited from the 1950's and 60's, when optimism ran wild with the rapid advances of medicine, scientific achievement, and space exploration; much of which optimism, especially that of overcoming death and aging, has proved to be thus far unfounded.

Dr. Johnson's thesis is that the baby-boomer generation must adapt if it is survive (and prosper, for that matter). They must be willing to leave there comfort zones, and explore new horizons.

This is good advice, of course. But Dr. Johnson takes it a bit too far. Not only should one consider learning new skills, but perhaps one should consider forsaking one's spouse for another. At this point Dr. Johnson is injecting not an innovation booster, but a mutation which will lead to costly and painful consequences.

His work will encourage the reader to face change with a smile, which of course is commendable. Yet Johnson misses a crucial point: we should remain firm on principles, regardless of circumstances. The wars and tragedies of the past century have confirmed the need in our world for care and respect for our fellow man. Within the realm of principle we can help secure a better tommorow, regardless of external changes. Without principle, however, man will devolve into a most fearsome, cheese-eating monster.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A New Way of Looking at Rainbows...

Our Covenant God, by Kay Arthur (WaterBrook Press, 1999, $19.95)

For anyone unfamiliar with the nature and importance of covenants in the Scriptures, this is a great place to start. In this highly-readable book, Kay Arthur explores what the covenants of the Bible mean to the New Testament (i.e. New Covenant) believers.

Some may think that covenantology is the same as covenant theology - not so. Covenant is a highly personal and relevant topic for our day. Issues such the meaning of marriage, divine grace and retribution, and the permanence of salvation are difficult - if not impossible - to understand without a knowledge of covenant. In fact, the reader could almost wish that a little more in-depth exploration of the meaning and implications of covenant was contained in this book. Nevertheless, this book serves as an enjoyable introduction to the topic.

Think you know it all? Think again.

Knowing God, by J. I. Packer (InterVarsity Press, 1973, $16.00)

J.I. Packer has talent for conveying complicated truths using stellar imagery. Getting to know God, he explains, is an experiential thing - "knowing vs. knowing about," as he puts it.

I found his commentary on the meaning of wisdom to be especially relevant. Some of us, he explains, think of wisdom as if it were some kind of comprehensive understanding of how the world works, just like someone could understand how the York railway system works
if they crack into the central switchbox. Solomon shatters this reasoning in the book of Ecclesiastes:

"Apparently the young man [the reader of Ecclesiastes] (like many since) was inclined to equate wisdom with wide knowledge and to suppose that one gains wisdom simply by assiduous book work ([Ecc.] 12:12). Clearly he took it for granted that wisdom, when he gained it, would tell him the reasons for God's various doings in the ordinary course of providence. What the preacher wants to show him is that the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgement that this world's course is enigmatic..., that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences “under the sun" bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.... It is this pessimistic conclusion, says the preacher, that optimistic expectations of finding the divine purpose of everything will ultimately lead you (1:17-18)...."

This is the same conclusion to which modern science is finally coming: there is no crystal ball in nature. We can predict, but the farther out in time our predictions are, the more prone they are to error.

A scientist named Lorenz realized this fact. After creating a computer generated model of the earthly weather system, he found that very minute changes can, in the long term, produce incredibly large consequences. This phenomena is known as "the butterfly effect," after an old folk poem which declares that a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can cause a horrific storm on the other side (See Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Gleick).

We can't understand everything, yet Packer points out that this is no reason to despair. In answering the question of what wisdom is, he points to the preacher's admonition to "Fear God and keep his commandments.... Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do (9:10), and enjoy your work as you do it.... Leave to God its issues; let him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you. This is the way of wisdom."

Packer's book is packed with insight. Granted, he does seem to waste some ink on a questionable attack on Christian symbolism and art. Nevertheless, the soul of the book is a refreshing drink for our age of many running to and fro with knowledge ever increasing.