Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Team Arequipa! In the banner image above Abigail Froud makes her newsletter photo debut. By the end of January we will have welcomed Adileen Daggett (pictured above hiding under Katie’s red shirt). In this season of new beginnings we wanted to recommend to you 5 books, 2 video series, and 1 journal article that have impacted us in the past year and that may impact you in 2016. If you work your way through any one of these, please let us know how it went for you! What would you recommend we read or explore this year?
Wishing you a year full of hope, purpose, and joy. May God’s reign come here on earth—and may we all live as new creation in the midst of the old.
If you buy one of the books we’ve recommended through the links provided, you’ll help support the Christian Urban Development Association. It’s our favorite non-profit, one we work with here in Arequipa to manifest the in-breaking of the kingdom, to experience justice, wellbeing, and joy in the city. Thanks as always for your prayer and support!
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Out of Sorts is about allowing yourself the grace to question and challenge denominations and traditions in order to grow a deeper faith. Sarah Bessey uses her own personal story of faith lost and found as an example to invite you to challenge your own ideas.
“If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space. We can be afraid to question…[but] God isn’t threatened by our questions or our anger, our grief or our perplexed wonderings. I believe that the Spirit welcomes them—in fact, leads among them and in them. We ask because we want to know, because it matters to us, and so I believe it matters to God.”
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
As a new missionary wrestling with a new culture and struggling to speak the language, the words of BBT spoke to my darkness. Darkness, Taylor says is not necessarily chosen but descends on all of us. It can signify anything that frightens us and most importantly, where we fear God may not be. Yet it is in the darkness that we can find hope, healing, and of course our God. BBT challenges us to expand our traditional biblical views of darkness (e.g. sin, death, and ignorance). Though they have a seat at the theological table, they do not define darkness completely. Not all darkness is bad or evil. Key characters in the narrative of Scripture find God at work in darkness including Abraham, Jacob, and all of Israel. For many of us we prefer our “full solar spirituality” that exists within the light of the sun, yet BBT reminds us to seek the God who sees just as well in the dark as in the day. And what we find when darkness descends is that we need darkness just as much as we need light.
Reaching for the InvisiblE God by Philip Yancey
Our faith walk is ever changing and evolving. Our questions for God change depending on our life experiences, feelings and struggles. Reaching For the Invisible God gives a voice to some of these questions and gifts us with a collection of wisdom from world-renowned and not-so-renowned men and women as well as from the author himself. Yancey divides this passionate and discerning work into six parts: our thirst for God, faith when God seems absent, contact with the invisible God, union with God, stages of growth, and restoration. May this book inspire and uplift you as you continue reaching out to our great, powerful, grace-filled God.
BEST PRACTICES IN GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS: A REFLECTION ON LESSONS WE ARE LEARNING IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS BY JAY JARBOE IN THE MISSIO DEI JOURNAL
This is a great article highlighting the need for empowering local leaders on the foreign mission field. The tendency can be for the North American missionary to steal the spotlight in his or her work. Jarboe highlights a better way for the North American church to use its strengths in foreign work and still uplift the local church. What is the local leader’s vision for the church they serve? This article is of value for any potential future missionary, current missionary, and/or leader in a church involved in supporting long-term foreign missions.
A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller
Prayer with God is about our relationship with Him. He wants to be our father and He wants us to come to Him just as we are, in all our brokenness and doubt. In this book Miller speaks practically about how we can communicate in our daily lives to improve our relationship with God, even when we get caught up in the distractions of this world.
Part one of the book calls us to return to a childlike trust in God in order to have a real relationship with Him. Parts two and three reveal some of the issues that could be hindering our praying life. And then parts four and five are full of numerous practical tips intertwined with personal stories from Miller to help us discover the joy of a praying life. It is not an all-encompassing book on prayer because that would be impossible, but it lays a great foundation to help Christians begin to realize how our prayer fits into God’s story that He continues to weave through our lives while giving us practical advice in how to incorporate it into our daily praying life.
Stop pursuing prayer. Pursue God, and let Him pursue you.
If someone were to ask you, “what is the Gospel?” how would you answer? Could you do it in a tweet or on a 30-second elevator ride? I’ve often heard the Gospel shared as good advice: accept Jesus, get baptized, and you’ll go to heaven. Open up the Gospel (ha!) of Mark, though, and you hear Jesus announcing good news, that the reign of God was close by. How is what God began to do—2000 years ago in the Middle East through Jesus—news, and why is it good?
At the beginning of 2015, N.T. Wright came out with a short (170 pages!) little book called Simply Good News, which answers exactly that question. Gospel is great news. Good news about what has already happened in the Jesus story, what will happen in the future—the renewal of all things—and how we can live as “good news people” in the meantime. I think you’ll both enjoy it and find it helpful in nailing that faith-sharing tweet or elevator pitch, one that opens the door to further conversation. Bonus: there’s a short, online course that goes with the book.
“Helping Without Hurting” Video Series on YouTube by Life.Church
Last year I recommended the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in our “15 books for 2015” newsletter article. This year I am recommending this free online video series that is a supplement to the book. Both the book and the videos offer practical advice for anyone serving the poor. The video series would be great to work through with a small group, especially before starting a new service ministry or if you are planning to do a mission trip of any kind.
The Bible Project on YouTube
If you don’t know about The Bible Project videos on YouTube, you should drop everything and check them out now. Two guys from Portland, a theologian and an animator, are collaborating to do something really special. They produce free animated videos about the Bible. I love the way they explain things and the animation is really, really good. Some of their videos are focused on diagramming specific books of the Bible such as Genesis or Job. Others trace a theme throughout the entire narrative of the Bible, such as the videos on atonement and the covenants. My personal favorite is the theme video on the messiah. They plan to eventually produce videos on every book of the Bible. I like them so much I am currently using some in a class I’m doing with Peruvians who want to improve their English and get a better grasp on what the Bible is all about.