Book Reviews, summaries, applications, and more
Author: Bruce Olson
Year of Publication: 1978
Number of Pages: 224
Description: Bruchko follows the missionar journey of Bruce Olson in his ministry to the South American jungles. It is full of his near life and death experiences, and in the midst of his doubts, and lack of support, Bruce Olson remains faithful to God's calling resulting in Him witnessing God do the miraculous: save sinners.
Pain, suffering, disease, imprisonment, uncertainty, grief, and so much more encompassed Bruce Olson’s ministry to the Motilones, the Yuko tribe, and so many more in South America. The life of a Missionary is a life of surrendering to God’s will and allowing Him to work through you in ministry. Bruce Olson’s ministry is one that is filled with a plethora of mission principles that could, and should be applied from this book. However, there are a few key repeated principles that particularly stand out: following the Lord’s call and not the call of man, reliance upon the Lord through trusting in God’s plan, and relating the Gospel and spiritual truths to the culture and audience. Bruce Olson’s ministry was one that often left him filled with doubt, but his faith could be seen through acting in the presents of these uncertainties.
The first mission principle of following the Lord’s call and not the call of man is the first step into the life of a ministry. Bruce Olsen inspired me in that when He heard the call, He reacted to the Spirit and went, despite the challenging of fellow missionaries and other Christians! Bruce went down to South America when he was 19 years old in response to God’s call! He went without all of the “missionary training” and without being supported by a large group of people. Instead he relied upon the Lord and trusted that God would take care of his needs because he was responding to the Lord’s call. Bruce Olsen’s call to the murderous Motilone Tribe was directly from the Lord and despite all of man’s efforts to thwart him, He followed the Lord’s call! This resulted in often less support from fellow missionaries, getting looked down upon by fellow believers, and a sense of loneliness that was hard to battle. However, Olsen’s demonstration of this call to follow the Lord is a great example to all believers by showing that the Lord’s call is far more meaningful than the call of man.
The second mission principle is strongly connected with the last. It is the reliance upon the Lord and trusting in God’s plan, timing, and will. Olsen felt a strong calling to the Motilone tribe, but it was years before this calling finally came into place. Be encouraged that sometimes the Lord’s calling upon your life is one that can often take lots of time before you see its fruition. There are numerous events where Olson comes so close to death from, dangerous snakes, to all sorts of diseases such as Hepatitis and being hours from death, to being imprisoned by wartime guerrillas. Olsen relied upon the Lord in these moments trusting that God would do what He had willed. This trust and reliance showed a deepness to Bruce’s relationship with the Lord in that it was one that relied completely on the Lord for sustenance. Bruce and the prophet Jeremiah share a lot in common. Jeremiah spent his ministry seeing no fruit from his labors and no converts, and yet he is able to write these amazing words from Jeremiah 17:7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him.” How could Jeremiah be blessed when his ministry from the world’s point of view was unsuccessful, and a lost cause? He was blessed because his trust and confidence were not in Himself but the Lord. In the world’s eyes, and even eyes of fellow believers, Olsen’s years of little to no success and his desire to minister to the Motilones seemed a like a lost cause, but Bruce kept his trust in the Lord and his reliance upon Him. This principle was largely effective for without it Bruce would have been relying on his own strength and not the Lord.
This last principle is essential to missions of any kind. Knowing how to relate the Gospel and spiritual truths to the culture and the audience you are ministering to is essential. My favorite chapter in this book is chapter seventeen “Jesus the Motilone”. Through this chapter the Lord sets up opportunities to use Motilone legends such as the Motilone who sought to help ants by helping build their home. But the ants were scared and thus the Motilone had to become an ant to help them and show them that he was there to help them. Bruce used this story to talk about the incarnation of Jesus. Another tradition of the Motilones was when they kill an animal they take its hide and make a headpiece that covers their ears (for in their culture evil comes from the ears). Bruce explained how Jesus was like one of these animals who was killed for them to cover over their evil. The truths of the Gospel being revealed in their culture, in a way for them to understand was amazing to see how God works and reveals Himself to people groups all over the world. Finally this last tradition Bruce used is my favorite. There is a large tradition within the Motilone tribe known as the “Festival of hammocks”. In this festival all of the people of the tribe climb to these very high heights in these trees, hang their hammocks, and begin singing together. Bruce however was afraid to go so high up in the tree as a fear of the rope snapping. Bruce asked his good friend Bobby (a Motilone) if he could have one foot on the ground and one foot in the hammock, to which Bobby responded with “You must be completely sustained by the hammock.” This idea of being completely sustained in the hammock is what Bruce used to talk with Bobby about the importance of being completely sustained by Jesus. You cannot have one foot in and one foot out. You must grasp onto the Gospel that Jesus came and died to cover your darkness and that He rose again. The effectiveness of this method was incredible to read about in seeing the explosion of Christianity that took place within this tribe. To see this tribe that was so lost come to Jesus and go on to spread Jesus as one who had been directly involved with their people was amazing to see. To see Jesus become a part of the Motilone people just showed proof to how the Gospel is meant to be spread to all people, for Jesus is not the God of civilized countries, but to even that of these rural tribes in South America! This quote from the book sums it up so well! “In Bobby’s eyes Jesus was dark skinned, his eyes were black, he wore a G-string, and hunted with bows and arrows. Jesus was a Motilone.”
Bruchko challenged me greatly on a personal level. It called me to rethink my motivations for ministry, the purpose behind why I am serving as a pastor, and to find my reliance, trust, and call from the Lord. This booked drew me in so quickly and I could not set it down! My original thought was that I would read it over a period of time, but the Lord had other plans! The truths of the Gospel, the hardships of ministry, the love for others, and how to rely upon the Lord in a practical way were laid out so plainly that I learned so much about ministry and missions from the man of Bruce Olsen. This book shows the hardships of ministry, but also how rewarding trusting in the Lord is! I am inspired to trust the Lord more and more through the story of “Bruchko” (Bruce Olsen) and the thought of going “all in” to ministry is hard to think of knowing that hardships will come, but reading about men like Olsen stirs the call of ministry within me, as I hope it stirs the call of ministry within you. God is good and this book is very inspiring to put your reliance, confidence, and trust wholly in God!
Author: Matt Redmond
Year of Publication: 2004
Number of Pages: 112
Description: Facedown focusses on the attitude, practicalities, purposes, and means of worship. This book lives up to one of Matt Redmond's greatest songs by digging deaper into the concept of "The Heart of Worship."
Mankind Desperately Longs For Intimacy
The World is in a hole of depravity and has been since the fall of man. Since this fall mankind has sought to find the truest intimacy to satisfy their souls. No matter where man looked this hole in their heart could not be filled, for nothing in the world could fit it quite right. This depravity is a lack of intimate connection with the Lord, and Jesus is the only one who can fill this hole in our lives. So how does one grow in this intimacy?
Intimacy comes through worship. This intimacy can be ignored and thus worshipping God becomes hindered, or it can be grasped tight. This results in the complete surrender to God who deserves all our highest praise. So what is worship? The word “worship” brings so many images, circumstances, memories, and ideas by its mere mention. Worship is giving the highest glory to something, and is what man is created to do, and if man is not worshipping God he is worshipping himself or idols. This means that worship “begins with God” (M. Redman) and ends with God by the use of His creation. Thus intimacy of worship occurs when this is in place; man surrendered to God. God is a rightfully selfish being who deserves all the glory, for there is none higher than Him. In the words of J.I. Packer, “If man can have no purpose higher than God’s glory, how can God?” Moses states it like this, “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) Therefore since man’s highest purpose is to give glory to God and this is done through a lifestyle of worship, intimacy with the creator of the universe begins to grow the more one’s life is wholly surrendered.
There is a price to worship. The price of putting yourself below that which you are worshipping. To put oneself under God is man’s rightful place, for the creation is naturally below the Creator. Jesus Himself proved this ideal when He paid the price of His own death on the cross. Thus humbling Himself below God, becoming a servant in the likeness of men, living a life of obedience, under the will of the Father; to worship is to obey.
There is a strange atmosphere when it comes to worship depending on culture, denomination, and religious background. Despite all of these differences, God is still being worshipped all around the world. However, I often wonder if in our “Conservative Christian Values” we can sometimes lose the humility that is supposed to be coupled with worship. The very title of this book “Facedown” brings an imagery to mind of worshipping the Lord out of humility, and brings up the importance of body posture while worshipping. If Jesus humbled Himself to the point of the cross, why can’t we humble ourselves to get on our knees in worship? Bow our heads in prayer? Unfortunately, when worshipping the Lord, your mind can often be fixed on “how you sound/ how you look”. When this is the focus of how you conduct yourself in worship, you are worshipping. You are just worshipping yourself, and how you want others to view you.
Matt Redmond focuses on how worship is focused on the reverence and awe of God as seen in Hebrews 12:28; “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” This verse is practically played out by worshipping of the Lord in awe despite situations that arise and yet continuing to trust in Him and give Him glory.
God works in mysterious ways, for He is a mysterious God. Worship is not only a time for the worshipper to be fixed on the Lord, but it is a time of God reminding us of His intimate love, care, and plan for His people. Jesus is the mediator for this to take place and the price He paid on the cross made it all possible. This results in man living out the mission God puts upon our hearts; a mission of love. “For mission is love on its feet, running for the glory of God no matter what the cost” (M. Redman).
Intimacy is what we long for in our relationships with others. Time spent is a common denominator in all relationships, so if you want to get to grow in intimacy with the creator of the universe you must spend time with Him. Time spent in His Word. Time spent in reveling in His mysterious nature. Time spent with Christ. Time spent in silence. Time spent being in true awe of who He is and the depth of what He has accomplished and done for us. To grow in your relationship with Christ is to spend every aspect of your life in worship of the only one worthy to be worshipped. This is true intimacy, and this what mankind truly deeply longs for. Worship.
So dear Christian, WORSHIP the Lord in Spirit and in Truth, not in the flesh and falsehoods.
Author: Lesslie Newbigin
Year of Publication: 1989
Number of Pages: 264
Description: This theological book focuses on how the Gospel affects a society where all views are considered to carry the same weight, and God's Word is truth combating relativism.
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Every choice, every decision, every moral standard, every political view, everything about what one believes is formed by their own plausibility structure. This structure is often formed through a variety of ideals taken from culture, religion, life experience, and much more. To understand what a plausibility structure is, Peter Berger, in Lesslie Newbigin’s book “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society” states, “A plausibility structure is a structure of assumptions and practices which determine what beliefs are plausible and what are not”. The question arises, “How then does one know what to assume, what to practice, and what not to practice?” This answer will differ from all assortments of people, but what is the greatest source? The plausibility structure in our culture determines this source to be whatever feels right in the current moment, to being nice to others, to tradition, to experience, to doing whatever it takes to become successful, to finding your own means of truth in anything you seem fit. Newbigin states how this relativistic idea is the fault of mankind. “The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about ‘what is true for me’ is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death.” This symptom of death spoken about shows how this plausibility structure in our culture is lacking something: true purpose.
The Bible is a purpose-filled book with hundreds of references to purpose. This ancient, yet active and reliable book has been proven to be a source for forming a plausibility structure throughout history, and in fact is still relevant today. This essential role the Bible plays in forming a plausibility structure that challenges our own pluralistic society and the structure that it holds is seen through Newbigin’s statement, “If we cannot speak with confidence about biblical authority, what ground have we for challenging the reigning plausibility structure?”. The worldview that begins to form from the Bible begins to challenge the current plausibility structure that your culture is found in because the Bible challenges everything that is in contrast to God and calls man to a higher purpose. Newbigin states it like this, “If I do not know the purpose for which human life was designed, I have no basis for saying that any kind of human life-style is good or bad.” Thus if life does not have purpose, then there is no explanation for evil in anyway. This explanation of good and evil choices shows that there is ultimately a good standard that the purpose of man must attempt to reach. The truth is however, that this standard is a perfect one that no man could ever reach, for it is God Himself. The Bible, however still calls us to this perfection. “Be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us. The one who says he abides in God ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 5:1-2a, 1 John 2:6, Ephesians 2:10) This standard is met through the power of God, and His tremendous grace.
The grace of God is seen at the utmost when Jesus Christ died on the cross to fulfill the payment for sin that was needed for mankind to pay to restore relationship to God that they could never fill. However the power of God is seen ultimately on the resurrection of Jesus, an acclaimed fact proven to be true. (Read the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel for further study). Now, since this relationship between man and God has been restored through the work of Jesus on the cross and resurrection, mankind is able to have the Spirit of God dwell within him to live out this life of true purpose. “For the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) The Spirit of God begins to transform your life into becoming more like Christ, and it is that purpose that fulfills the Creator’s will. This true purpose is to not remain in our culture’s plausibility structure, but rather to be transformed into God’s plausibility structure. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) This shows how Lesslie Newbigin was right in his words in the purpose for the believer. “The business of the Christian Church in any situation, is to challenge the plausibility structure in the light of God’s revelation of the real meaning of history because history has meaning in the sense that it has a goal.” History indeed echoes this truth of goal, and purpose, and this purpose affects the very core of one’s plausibility structure.
This ultimate goal, this true purpose, is seen through history, and the Bible contains thousands of years of history pointing to the purpose of having a relationship with God for eternity, followed by thousands of years of history of people doing this same thing. So what is this eternity? John 17:3 states “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is relationship with God. How this relationship with God is played out is becoming more like Him, through glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. (Westminster Shorter Catechism) Therefore, submit to God, and allow your plausibility structure to be reformed, into the ultimate goal and true purpose to have a restored relationship to the Creator as His creation living out its function.
Author: C.S. Lewis
Year of Publication: 1945
Number of Pages: 118
Description: This deeply theological book focuses on an allegorical story of life after death revealing the heart and motivations of man.
Content coming soon!
Author: Zack Eswine
Year of Publication: 2015
Number of Pages: 272
Description: The reality of pastoral ministry, and the importance of faithfulness in following Jesus daily are clearly laid out in an honest and practical manor in Zack Eswine's book "The Imperfect Pastor."
Content coming soon!