Thursday, November 20, 2014

(Review) The Insanity of Obedience: Walking With Jesus In Tough Places by Nik Ripken

Publisher: B and H Books, January 1, 2014.
Genre: Non-fiction, persecuted Church, missiology.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 336.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
Source: Free copy from B and H Books in exchange for a review.

Barnes and Noble
Christian Book

The Insanity of God. My review from February 22, 2013.
All Christians are called to,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20. NKJV. 
I believe that most Christians think it is only a select few who are called to "Go therefore." The thought of leaving our comfortable safe society, and traveling to an unknown and unsafe place, is daunting and frightening.
The Insanity of Obedience, educates Christians in Western society by defining what it is really like for a Christian in an Eastern society. Further, how we can best share the gospel and minister to a person living in an Eastern society.
A strong element in the book is on suffering. Specifically in reference to the Western view versus the Eastern view.
The Eastern people groups in discussion are primarily Muslim, but the Hindu people are also included.
A strong foreword has been written by Brother Andrew.

My Thoughts:
The Insanity of Obedience is an uncomfortable read. It is not a motivational book with sentimental testimonies. It is a book describing a harsh, but normal reality for 80% of the world's believers. For the Western Church, suffering is viewed as abnormal and must be prayed over to disappear. For Christians who live in Africa, China, Afghanistan, Iran, or Communist nations, suffering is normal and expected. They pray that their tormentors will come to believe in Jesus Christ. They pray to forgive their persecutors. Ripken reminded me that people who do not know Jesus as their savior are "already suffering." One of the first lessons in The Insanity of Obedience is to re-define the term suffering.
There are several points in the book that stand out.

  • Obstacles that keep the gospel from taking root in a host culture. For example, "The knowledge of only one way to do church." 
  • "More than 80% of the world are oral communicators." Later in the book Ripken shares Muslim men are literate; whereas, Muslim women are often illiterate. Further, Muslim men most often share the gospel with their male relatives, but do not share the gospel with their wives and female relatives. 
  • The three major types of persecution. 
  • Faulty assumptions about conversion in Muslim Background Believers and Hindu Background Believers.
  • American individualism view versus an Eastern community view. 
  • Baptism issues.   

I had mentioned earlier in my review of being an "uncomfortable read." I'm sure you are wondering what is "uncomfortable" for me in the book?

  1. Some of Ripken's ideas feel foreign to me. I believe this is both normal and also a challenge. I have lived in America all of my life. I have traveled in Europe. I can remember being in a Brussels, Belgium train station surrounded by people who did not "look" like me nor speak my language. I was on their turf. It was a world made different by post 911. I was polite, overly polite, but very observant. I'd not thought, because of my ignorance, they were suspicious of my white Americanized body and clothing. It is books like The Insanity of Obedience that shine a light into the small box I live in. 
  2. I think too much, way too much. This is a hazard from being an introvert. I'm a planner and love to be organized. I like to have a plan A, B, C, and maybe D. Over-thinking causes me to talk myself out of what God has called me to do. A recent lesson, a lesson God has been trying to show me even before reading this book, is obey God the first time. 

My favorite quotes:

  • "God is a sending God."
  • "We go as sheep among wolves."
  • "God uses persecution and suffering for His purposes."
  • "The believer's task is to be part of a community who baptize and disciple those whom God brings to faith. Beyond that, believers are compelled to leave results in God's hands." 
  • "The greatest hindrance to the growth of God's kingdom globally is racism. Despite our protests to the contrary, there are sometimes deeper reasons behind our 'convictions.' And these deeper reasons are not unique to any particular groups or people. Human beings are naturally drawn to 'our own people.' But God seeks to transform what is 'natural' to us into what is more in line with His character and heart." 
  • "It is axiomatic to point out that we cannot bring into existence what we do not already know and do ourselves. It is simply not possible to model what we have not yet experienced."
  • "The testimony of our brothers and sisters thriving in persecution globally is compelling and their testimony reminds us we are always free to obey Christ. It is our high privilege to act on that freedom." 

Nik Ripken is the world’s leading expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. He is a missions veteran of 25 years, having served primarily in North Africa and the Middle East. He is the author of many articles and, along with his wife, has done extensive research on the persecuted church, and on Muslim background believers, in approximately 60 countries.


Open Doors website

Persecution in Belarus

Bible links from Bible Gateway. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogging Break

I will be taking a blogging break during December. I have scheduled a few posts, but for the most part the blog will be quiet.
January will mark eight years in blogging and writing book reviews. I've never taken a break longer than a week.
I plan to read during December, but will not be writing reviews for posting.
The break will give me time to enjoy my family and the holiday season.
The break will give me time to close-out any unfinished reading, organize for 2015, and take a breather.
I'm praying for all of my readers-

(Review) A Beauty So Rare, A Belmont Mansion Novel #2 by Tamera Alexander

Publisher: Bethany House, April 2014.
Genre: Fiction, post Civil-War, The South, mental illness.
Format: paperback
Pages: 400.
Rating: 3 stars for good.
Source: Free paperback copy from Bethany House in exchange for a review.

This is the third novel I've read by Tamera Alexander. The previous reviews, links included:
  • Summary
  • In post Civil War Tennessee, Eleanor Braddock cares for her father who is mentally ill. Then, she makes the difficult decision to place him in an asylum. Eleanor's aunt is the feisty Adelicia Acklen. Aunt Adelicia is the wealthy owner of Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee. Eleanor with no place to live, becomes a guest in her aunts lavish home. Aunt Adelicia is insistent Eleanor marry a man of wealth. Meanwhile, an Austrian named Marcus Gottfried has recently moved to Nashville. He is an architecture of gardens. 

  • My Thoughts
  • There is an emphasis throughout the novel that Eleanor is tall and plain. However, the girl on the front and back cover of the book is not plain looking. She is also not "seen" as plain looking by the main male character named Marcus Gottfried. I'm not sure at the need to emphasize her plain look of appearance. Maybe it would have been better to show me she was plain and not tell me? It has been a burr in my saddle so to speak. Christian fiction book covers that have gorgeous women on the front and or back cover. It reminds me of fashion magazines, only the beautiful and thin are photographed. I'm not saying we should go the opposite way. But, why show a woman at all? Why don't we do something really amazing. For example, let a reader's imagination take over as to what the characters look like based on the descriptions. The publishers are in charge as to what the cover of a book entails. I'm hoping that in the near future Christian publishing will do something different. 
  • Eleanor's father is mentally ill. I feel the book needed a stronger study of mental illness in the 19th century. To explore the effects of trauma after the Civil War would have given another feature to the novel. 
  • The emphasis in the story is a love match. Two characters who are drawn to each, fall in love, there is a problem/obstacle, but in the end all will be okay. Life and relationships are so much more than this.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

(Review) The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard by Kara Tippetts

Publisher: David C. Cook, October 1, 2014.
Genre: Memoir, cancer, family.
Format: paperback.
Pages: 194.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
Source: Free copy from David C. Cook in exchange for a review.

Link @ David C. Cook. 

Kindle link: The Hardest Peace. 

Cara Tippett's website is (link included) Mundane Faithfulness. 

Facebook link: Mundane Faithfulness.
Twitter link: Kara Tippetts. 

Additional links to read interviews of Cara Tippett.
From Beliefnet. 
From Worldmag. 
From The American Conservative. 

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Kara, her husband, and four children had recently moved to Colorado to begin a new church. Within a week, a fire in the canyon where they live nearly destroyed their home. After working to clean the soot from their home, Kara took a shower, and feeling compelled to do a self-breast exam, she found a hard lump. She “just knew” what it meant. Two serious events so quickly after moving to Colorado was jolting. Kara's biopsy revealed stage IV breast cancer. Cancer, doctor appointments, and surgeries began a new journey in Kara's life.
Kara remarked early in her story, and in reference to other people writing accounts of the hardships of their lives.
I am certainly not the first to write on suffering. Many have done so before me with
more clarity and understanding. I come to you in these pages as a broken woman,
realizing that my brokenness may be my greatest strength-that it may be the
greatest strength of us all. In the depths of my illness, I have been able to set aside
my striving and look for God's presence in my suffering. My season of weakness
has taught me the joy of receiving, the strength of brokenness, and the importance
of looking for God in each moment.
The word cancer is frightening. It's a word I would love to remove from earth. Actually, I hate the word. But it is a word and a disease that has affected me.
We live in a fallen world. Sickness and disease reminds us of our imperfect bodies and our imperfect world. People regard hard stories in life as something they'd rather not read, because it reminds us of our weaknesses. But hard stories teach us how to live. Life is brief. Life is a gift. What we say and do in this life is of great importance. Kara's gift to us is her story.
Kara expressed a significant perspective, “we live for the graces that are here.” It's true. We hold onto this life as if that's all there is, as if there is no hope of grace for tomorrow.
There were so many moments in The Hardest Peace, when I had to stop reading and reflect on what I'd read. My heart was heavy. My eyes filled with tears.
Kara's story reveals a beauty that comes from the ashes of life. Knowledge and wisdom during a hard season in life is expected, but beauty is not expected. It's a beauty that is from the Father and poured through into Kara's family and friends, descending on Kara during her journey.
There is also beauty in the peace that God has given Kara during this time.
Kara reflects on her marriage and motherhood, especially in regards to the period after the cancer diagnosis.
Kara's story is personal, private, revealing, and intimate.
It's a story that shuffles my neat and controlled life.
It's a story that creates strong thought and conversation.
I believe most people who are going through what Kara is going through would retreat to their small world of close loved ones. Kara has instead reached out to the world to share her life story. 
At the end of each of the eight chapters several questions are asked. These questions ask the reader to remember their life stories and how God has shown grace.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Publisher: Zondervan, October 21, 2014. 
Pages: 304.
Website link for Philip Yancey.
Amazon link for Vanishing Grace.
Christian Book link for Vanishing Grace.  
Link to read a summary of Vanishing Grace.