Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours Edited by Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry

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As well as being a tribute to Roland Allen’s excellent and lasting classic Paul’s Missionary Methods, this book brings Allen’s thesis up to date into the modern era. Each author shows how Allen’s insights gleaned from his study of the Apostle Paul (church planting; gospel centered preaching; spiritual warfare; suffering in mission; importance of the body of Christ; commitment to Christ; developing leaders etc) were not only relevant 100 years ago when Allen wrote, but just as relevant and needed today! This book brings everything into the context of the 21st century and the issues we are wrestling with in the context of mission. And what we discover is that while the culture has changed, the timeless truths which drove Paul’s missionary life are just what the Church needs to refocus on today.

 

This is a wonderful collection of essays. Not just informative but spiritually uplifting, exciting and energizing, especially if you are a church leader.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future by Os Guinness

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America is known as the land of the free. Freedom is one of the central planks of the American ideal. But how would the average American today define this ideal of freedom. Let’s say we ask the question: What does it mean to be free in America?

I would suggest that the basic response would be “I am free to do as I want”. And this is the very problem that Os Guinness writes about in this book.

To define Freedom as the ability “To do whatever I want” will eventually cause America to lose the very freedom which it upholds and holds dear.

It is also a complete misunderstanding of what the Founders intended.

Guinness writes that: We  are rapidly reaching the point in Western consumer societies where people confuse freedom with choice, as they are dazzled daily by an ever expanding array of external choices in consumer goods and lifestyle options. But the pursuit of freedom has led o a surfeit of choices and a scarcity of meaning and value – a point at which choice itself, rather than the content of any choice has become the heart of freedom. The result is that modern  people value choice rather than good choice.

And here is the issue – making GOOD choices.Unconstrained freedom is destructive. This is, for Guinness, the genius of the Founders. The Founders understood history and saw that all empires fell. They wanted to create a free society that would remain free – that would defy history. Reliance on the Constitution alone and on structures and laws alone will not work. In what Guinness calls the ‘golden triangle of freedom’ the Founders understood that the cultivation and transmission of the conviction meant that freedom requires virtue, which requires faith, which requires freedom which in turn requires virtue, which requires faith which requires freedom and so on.

In other words, freedom depends on the character of the rulers and the ruled alike and upon the trust which exists between them. Guinness writes: Leadership without character, business without ethics and science without human values – in short freedom without virtue – will bring he republic to its knees.

The danger for America, in Guinness’ eyes is that it has reached a point where virtue is hardly esteemed at all – or at least not welcomed in the public square. Greed is good, vice is flaunted etc, etc.

Freedom for you and I is the gift of self control, training and discipline – not self indulgence. And this is why to define freedom as “Doing whatever I like” puts the American ideal of freedom in jeopardy today. Those who founded this country always knew that freedom rested in the ability of it’s citizens to act selflessly, not selfishly.Unquestionably the framers knew from history and their own experience that the wrong relationship of faith and virtue to freedom had been and would always be disastrous for both freedom and faith.

This is a very powerful and sobering read – highly recommended.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

Overload is not having time to finish the book you’re reading on stress. Margin is having time to read

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So reads the back cover of Richard Swenson’s book.

Swenson, an MD, knows what life can be like when lived without margin. He saw patients daily who were stressed, depressed and exhausted – not just physically but mentally, financially and emotionally. And this is becoming a norm for 21st century living. Why?  For Swenson the absence of margin is linked to the march of progress. There are five axiom’s which for Swenson reveals why margin has disappeared for many.

  1. Progress works by differentiating our environment, thus always giving us more and more of everything faster and faster.
  2. The spontaneous flow of progress is toward increasing stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity and overload.
  3. All humans have physical, mental, emotional and financial limits that are relatively fixed
  4. The profusion of progress is on a collision course with human limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin
  5. On the unsaturated side of their limits, humans can be open and expansive. On the saturated side of these limits, however, the rules of life totally change.

Swenson is not anti-progress – quite the opposite in fact. Nor, for the most part, does he see stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity and overload as enemies. But when stress becomes distress, change becomes fear, complexity becomes unsolvable, speed becomes out of control and overload becomes crushed then margin has gone and life is now maxed out. And that is when we are danger.

We all need space to breathe, freedom to think and time to heal and develop deep relationships. But for so many people life is maxed out and so there is no space. Life goes from one event to the next without time to stop for significant space. He writes:

Progress’s biggest failure has been its inability to nurture and protect right relationships. if progress had helped here, I would have no quarrel with it. [P]rogress builds by using the tools of economics, education and technology. But what are the tools of the relational life? Are they not the social (my relationship with others), the emotional (my relationship to myself), and the spiritual (my relationship to God)? None of the tools of progress has helped build the relational foundation our society requires.

Swenson’s book is an appeal for re-direction, to stop and take stock. When our physical bodies reach their limit they hurt or even break and we realize very quickly that there is a problem. However, when we reach our limit emotionally, or mentally we tend not to realize it until we breakdown, by which time damage is often done.

Swenson’s book gives wonderful tools and suggestions for regaining margin back into life. There is a cost to regaining margin – a cost which Swenson himself happily paid and is now living a life which has margin.

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O’Brien

51rJmtpcFQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX240_SY320_CR,0,0,240,320_SH20_OU01_The concept of this book is desperately needed. The gap between the culture in which the scripture was written and our own day is often wide, complex and even at times confusing. Reading the Bible from our western perspective can mean that we miss some interesting and at times vital things simply because the Bible is NOT a western book. Richards and O’Brien will introduce and guide you into some of the important principles and issues at stake and to provide you with some basic skills to help you cross this ‘cultural’ gap.

I would have liked the authors to have engaged a little more with the Jewish Roots concept – that is that the Bible is primarily a Jewish book and therefore uses Jewish idioms, figures of speech etc. That being said, this is a great introduction in opening the exciting doors of even deeper understanding of the scriptures.