Harvest of Hope: Stories of Life-Changing Gifts
Kay Marshall Strom, InterVarsity Press, 2007, ISBN 9780830834426, 200 pages, $15.00 softcover.
In Harvest of Hope, Kay Marshall Strom investigates firsthand the problem of "donor burnout" in America. She says that many people are hesitant to give their resources to charitable organizations because they are skeptical about how they will be used and feel no personal connection to their donation.
In light of this, Strom decided to examine the problem by partnering with several mission organizations (Samaritans' Purse, Partners International, etc.) to follow up on overseas donor gifts. Her findings were nothing short of astounding. Individuals as well as communities were being dramatically transformed all over the world by the small donations given by regular families in America. The gospel is being shared tremendously in areas like Sudan, Cambodia, Senegal, China, and other impoverished nations, just a few dollars at a time.
Strom's book is filled with story after story of God's provision. She tells about Ramadu who after his Bible training came back to minister to the idol-worshiping village that had aggressively rejected him for being Christian. Another story involves an AIDS sufferer named Kamala, who learned about the Lord and how to be financially self-sufficient through learning trade skills in an AIDS victim program named Oasis. Harvest of Hope has so many uplifting tales that show how financial gifts, great or small, truly can change someone's life for the present and for the eternal.
At the end of the book, Strom also gives practical advice on how to donate wisely and personally, based on the specific ministries the donor is interested in helping. She advocates making sure to check the financial accounts of the organizations you give to, as well as any "fine print" or "disclaimers," to ensure you know how your dollars are being used.
This book will give hope and inspiration to pastors who are looking for a way to encourage the congregation in giving to make a personal connection with their donations. In our affluent society, it is easy to forget about Christ's command to care for the poor. Connections like the ones Strom describes serve both to awaken the Church to action and to open long-closed doors to the gospel message.
Her message is summed up in this comment from a Pakistani Muslim who survived the severe earthquake there in 2006: "The Christians are different. They genuinely care by hugging us, praying for us, and tending to our needs. They don't just give relief and then leave."
Type: Giving / Missions
Take: Highly Recommended
The Crucifixion of Ministry
Andrew Purves, InterVarsity Press, 2007, ISBN 0830834397, 152 pages, $15.00, softcover.
In this appeal to ministers, Purves contends that the ministries of many pastors fail to give proper honor to Christ. He recommends that ministers examine their present program of service to see if it is honoring to Jesus-and if it found wanting, that minister should allow Christ to "crucify" his ministry and make it conform to His ministry.
Purves argues that the pastor must come to grips with the truth of the deity of Christ-Jesus did not become God when He was born; He was God who came from heaven into human flesh. This living God lives in His servants; He is their inner dynamic. He is not a person who was, but the Living God resurrected from the dead.
True service for Christ, Purves shows, allows the resurrected, living Christ to work His will through us. In a very real sense, ministry cannot be ministry unless it is ultimately the work of Christ through us. That presence of Christ in us the Bible describes as being filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ is God, so too is the Spirit. The Spirit works the works of Christ in and through His servants.
The premises covered in this book are foundational to the Christian life, but we so often forget them that Purvis' work should be an excellent call for pastors to return to Christ-centered ministry.
Glen H. Jones
Time Peace: Living Here and Now with a Timeless God
Ellen Vaughn, Zondervan, 2007, ISBN 0310267269, 250 pages, $14.99, hardcover.
Time fashions our activities. Unlike God, who is timeless, we humans must face the possibilities and limitations of time. God in His wisdom has given us all the same amount of time each day, and we are stewards of that time.
In Time Peace, Vaughn examines four aspects of time: experiencing time, managing time, reviewing time, and enjoying time. Considering the first aspect, experiencing time, the writer advises us to look at the wonder of time that a timeless God has created. This God-created time also hurts because it reminds us of unpleasant things in our past.
Humans have devised many ways to measure time. Clocks and calendars have a long history and have become fairly universal in today's world. Timepieces, however, do not regulate how we manage our personal time-that we must do for ourselves.
Time will run out one day-it will be no more. Jesus will return and God's timelessness will become ours as well. Scientists study and wonder at our universe; they speculate and posit theories about creation, human existence, and the future. But science has its limits, and the Everlasting God calls the final shots.
Finally, the author recommends that we enjoy time. We have a responsibility to fulfill, a goal to attain, and a spiritual victory to achieve. Ultimately, God controls our time. No matter how we dream or how we plan, He may say, "Today your time on earth has expired."
Glen H. Jones
Type: Time Management