Best Books Part Five (and final) from Student Ministries

We hope these many best book titles piqued your interest enough to read some of them in 2015.

From College Pastor Jon Nielson

  • The Mission of God by Chris Wright. A well-written and substantive look at the whole sweep of the story of the Bible from the perspective of "God's mission"--his heart to save those from all nations by grace.
  • Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. A book geared for church leaders, helping them think through how to lead well and serve together in the context of the local church.
  • Paradigms by Joel Barker. A classic from the business world, designed to help readers understand the importance of paradigms--shifts and patterns--that can help them look ahead and discern opportunities in the future.
  • Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. A simple, yet profound, look at the centrality of God's Word in the lives of God's people.
  • Expositional Preaching by Dave Helm. A wonderful capturing of Helm's convictions about the importance and mechanics of expositional preaching.

From High School Pastor Ben Panner

  • Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman. A great reminder about the power and necessity of God's Word within the life of the church.
  • Marks of the Messenger by Mack Stiles. Very helpful insights about evangelism and witness. Practical yet theological and challenging.
  • The Story by Jon Nielson (yes, our college pastor). One of my most highly recommended books to parents for students. Clear resource that is faithful to God's Word and helps students get a great grasp of the story line of Scripture and how each passage relates to the gospel of Jesus.

From Junior High Pastor Tommy Johnston

  • From Heaven He came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological and Pastoral Perspective by David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson.

From Pastoral Resident Brett Eggerth

  • Evangelical Theology by Michael Bird. Even though he specializes in biblical studies, his systematic theology is refreshing for its clarity, insight and humor (yes, that's right, humor in a theology book.)



















Best Books Part Four from Board Chairs, Directors and a Pastor

As January comes to a close, the only blizzard we're happy to see is a blizzard of best books from 2014. As you read over these lists, perhaps you'll discover your best book for 2015.

From Randy Seager, chair of the Council of Elders

  • Faith in the Halls of Power: How evangelicals joined the America elite. Michael Lindsay provides a valuable perspective on evangelicals in key roles of politics, media, academia and business.
  • Lincoln on Leadership: Executive strategies for tough times by Donald Phillips. Insights through one of our nation's greatest leaders, with a view of how we can utilize these strategies in the organizations we lead and work.

From Anson Johnson, chair of the Board of Deacons

  • Trail of 32 by Paul Rega. A book Boy Scout troop from Wood Dale, Illinois that rode their bikes from Wood Dale to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1972. A great story from the view of one of the scouts on the trip. Can you imagine sending your 11-year-old son on a month-long journey of that caliber. I should make adventures for my sons of that magnitude.
  • Brief by Joseph McCormack. Say more with less. This is a great book for anyone who needs to present data or ideas to others. We all tend to be long-winded. This books helps solve that. I present to senior leaders and the board of directors in my job and this book has been insightful.
  • The Next Level by Scott Eblin. This book is designed to help us understand what is required at the next level. People are promoted because of hard work, effort and experience. The next level almost always requires a different skill set. This book helps us recognize the road signs on this journey and navigate new responsibilities.
  • Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell is about a Navy Seal who went on a mission in Afghanistan and was the only Seal to return home alive. This book inspires me when I feel like I am  having a bad day.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A great book and I will most likely not see the movie. My fear is that the images I drew in my mind from reading the book will be diminished by the movie. The climax of the story is how the main character is truly saved.

From Nancy Singer, Director of Administration and Finance

  • The Jesus Code, 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer by O.S. Hawkins. None of the questions was a surprise that it would be in the top 52, but the book gives more than simple answers to the questions. Providing background, context and Scripture, Hawkins provides answers that help the reader see how Scripture can be applied to his or her life as well as provide guideposts to point others to the saving faith of Christ.

From Wil Triggs, Director of Communications

  • Out of the Dark Night. A collection of stories, testimonies really, from Christians in Vietnam. I became friends with the publisher at LittWorld 2012 and it was inspiring to read God at work in the words of these believers. This was also our book of the month for July.
  • Seven Men by Eby William P. Farleyeven weeks this past summer. It was great to make new friends over this exploration of heroic lives. Thanks to all who participated.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I've been checking this out of the library and haven't finished it. That's okay. I check it out and read a few pages at a time. I've  heard the ending is sad. I don't want to finish it. I want to savor the writing--about a French girl who's blind and a German orphan boy in World War 2.
  • Mobile for Good by Heather Mansfield. Interesting overview and study of mobile and social communications and fundraising for non-profits and charities.
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. This contemporary novel was a best-seller in Korea. It reads like a modern-day riff on Proverbs 31 from a popular novelist there, also the January selection for the contemporary book group at the Wheaton Public Library.

From Pastor Todd Augustine

  • Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us about Surviving and Thriving by Bob Burns, Tasha  D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie
  • Gospel Patron: People Whose Generosity Changed the World by  John Rinehart
  • How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  • Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions by Timothy Keller
  • Hidden in the Gospel: Truths You Forget to Tell Yourself Everyday by William P. Farley
  • The Tides of  Life: Learning to Lead and Serve as You Navigate the Tides of Life by C. William Pollard
  • Problems of Christian Leadership by John Stott.

More Things Are Wrought by Prayer

Writer Harry Genet gives insight into why praying for foreign rulers is an essential component of any global prayer ministry.

When the apostle Paul urged that prayers be made for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:12), the brutal Nero was empire of the Roman Empire. But Paul’s instructions to Timothy for the church were in line with Jesus’ own Sermon-on-the-Mount teaching to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). As we intercede in prayer for our gospel-sharing partners worldwide, do we also pray for those who have the power to persecute or protect the church where they are placed? Paul implied the strategic nature of such intercession when he requested prayer that God might “open a door” to him (Colossians 4:3) for proclaiming the gospel.

During Israel’s captivity in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7). The positive results are recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah as pagan kings financed the return to Jerusalem of large contingents of exiles, returned the looted temple treasures, and even requested prayer (as Darius did in Ezra 6:10) for their own regimes.

The potential power to persecute has begun to surface in India after the inauguration of Hindu nationalist Marendra Modi as prime minister last May. In a December 24 New York Times article, Gardiner Harris wrote that now hardline Hindu groups have begun a long-dreamed campaign to claw back some of their losses to what they call proselytizing by non-Hindus, particularly foreigners. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological wing of Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party reported converting nearly 200 Muslims en masse in Agra in December and announced plans to convert thousands of Christians to Hinduism on Christmas day. Some recent converts reported being tricked into the ceremonies with promises of economic benefits. RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat has promised to press ahead with what his group is calling homecomings.  “We will bring back those who have lost their way,” he said. “They did not go on their own.”

Also in December a spokesman for Vishna Hindu Parishad (VHP), another Hindu nationalist group, promised that Hindu converts will be allowed to choose their caste or social class, an extraordinary offer that would seem to overturn thousands of years of a system in which birth determines caste. On December 21, a VHP chapter In Kerala state, where Christianity arrived early and is widespread, conducted a conversion ceremony in a village temple for about 30 Christians. In an interview at his rectory, Cardinal George Alenchery of the Syro-Malabar Church noted that the conversions were unusual and divisive in a state in which different religions have long lived in harmony. “Why do they do it now, which they did not do one year back?” he asked.

 The stance of the political leadership in Turkey is more nuanced. Recep Tayyip Erdogan elected president last year, but prime minister since 2003—is said to back a campaign to convert Istanbul’s Aya Sofia, originally a Christian cathedral, from a museum back into a mosque. His Islamist Justice and Development party (AK) also has ignored repeated appeals to allow the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary to be reopened.

At the same time however, the January 10 Economist reports, the AK continues to win praise for its treatment of Christians, unlike previous governments that confiscated properties and did little to prevent pogroms. Recently Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced plans for a new church to be built in Istanbul—the first since the founding of Attaturk’s republic in 1923! This church will serve 25,000 Syriac Orthodox Christians who once flourished along the border with Syria. Last year the Syriacs were allowed to open a primary school where pupils are being taught in Aramaic—the language Jesus used--for the first time. And thousands of church properties pinched by the state are being returned.

Authoritarian leaders often grant leniency to Christian minorities to win their backing as a counterweight against major opposition groups. President Abdel Fattah al Sissi of Egypt has depicted the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists and largely purged its preachers from the country’s mosques. At the same time he has called for religious toleration, and on December 31 became the first Egyptian president to attend the Coptic Christians’ Christmas eve mass. This was a popular move among Christians—including the Coptic Church’s evangelical wing, the Salvation of Souls Society—to whom Sissi’s authoritarianism represents a bulwark against the return of the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise, Christians in Syria mostly support strongman Bashar al Assad for similar reasons.

A prominent current example of a change in leadership that provides protection for the church is in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Back in 2005, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was a mining consultant on his native island of Belitung, off the southeast coast of Sumatra. He was approached to run for local office in a district where 93 percent of the voters were Muslim. Mr. Basuki asked why they wanted him to run, since he is of Chinese descent and a Christian. “We don’t care,” they said. “We know who you are. We know your character.”

In 2012 Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, ran for governor of Jakarta, the capital megacity of 10 million people, and chose Basuki as his running mate because of his “get it done” reputation. They won, and Basuki became deputy governor. Now, with Mr. Joko’s election to Indonesia’s presidency, Basuki has become Jakarta’s governor.

Besides intercession for current national leaders, prayer should be a priority where leadership change appears to be imminent. An area to which this currently applies is the Arabian Peninsula. In Oman, the 74-year-old Qaboos bin Said al-Said has been under the care of doctors in Germany for six months for colon cancer. Sultan Qaboos has served as Oman’s absolute but benevolent monarch since overthrowing his father in 1970. He is seen as a visionary who has both unified and modernized his country. But he is single with no heir or designated successor.

Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud was admitted to hospital with pneumonia on December 31. Although now able to meet visitors, this benevolent father figure remains frail. His brother Salman, the crown prince, is himself 78 years old and said to be suffering from dementia. And under the kingdom’s complicated system, power is handed from brother to brother among the founder’s 45 or so sons. Inevitably power will soon pass to one of the hundreds of grandsons of the third generation.

Could God, responding to persistent prayer, open this hermetically sealed nation to gospel inroads? As Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote,

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain . . . night and day.  

The Scents in Our Celebration

Savor these reflections from one of our cross-cultural workers in Vietnam.

Sifting memories, the ones I remember most vividly are the times I’ve experienced the most change, the times full of “firsts” and “particularities.” And usually I unite those moments with a significant smell, sight, sound that I was experiencing at that time. Like how peppermint ice cream reminds me of when I learned to ride a bike. 

Celebrating Christmas in Vietnam, I often focus on the lack: there aren't enough candy canes or pine trees. But this year, thinking of our pending return to America, I am aware of the sensors that have made these Christmases unique. Perhaps, a burst of warm air on a Christmas Day to come will make my children remember life in Hanoi or the sweet taste of coconut will bring them back to Quy Nhon. Here are some sensors we've experienced during these Vietnamese Christmases.

Smoked Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Every evening, after Will gets home from work and right before dinner, our family takes a turn through the neighborhood. Everyone in Hanoi is out then, returning from work, running the final errands of the day or exercising. It’s Vietnam but chilly enough to wear scarves and layers and jackets. Our two boys, bundled like bunnies in the double stroller, always attract attention.

Sidewalks in Hanoi are used as parking lots, even equipped with a security guard to watch the motorbikes. On our block, one security guard always stops our stroller, spreading his arms as wide as his smile, and talks to our youngest son, Oren. His routine is the same. He checks Oren’s legs for added girth, pinches his cheeks and says, “Yeu qua,” “lovable!” And then he stands up to wave us on. We saw him once waiting at the food cart on our street corner. He bought a smoked, grilled sweet potato; then talked to Oren. We bought sweet potatoes, too, since they’re only offered on cold nights.The smell of it, steaming and smoking in the chilly air, will always make me think of those walks before dinner and Christmas in Hanoi.


Quyts are Vietnamese clementines, which I know we also eat around the holidays in America. We ate them so much for Christmas in Quy Nhon, that when I bit into one last week I was instantly transported back there. I remembered the market lady Lai who sold me the sweetest quyts and told me when batches were sour. Quyts are so delicious this time of year. There is an old Vietnamese saying to describe the pain of waiting that goes, “Cho den mua quyt,” or “like waiting until you can buy quyt.” This year my first batch of quyt was with my Korean friend, Ming Ju. She let our kids peel the juicy fruits by themselves and eat them all over her house, dripping sticky stains as they went. She was not stressed by this one bit. When I got home I let Ezra peel a quyt by himself and didn’t protest when he got juice on the floor.

“Happy New Year,” Abba

Prior to coming to Vietnam I had never heard of the band, Abba. I guess I hummed along to “Dancing Queen” once or twice in high school. But after attending one or two university ceremonies in Vietnam, I knew Abba and learned that their music is in all of the karaoke song catalogs throughout. Their song, “Happy New Year” is played all over Vietnam in the days surrounding Christmas and leading up to New Year’s. I always laugh when I hear it because in it they mention that it’s the year 1989. With those lyrics I bet members of Abba would be surprised to find their song survived 1990, let alone 2014.

Tea and Mochi

About two months ago, Thang, Will’s intern and our new family friend, asked if Will would teach him about the Word. Thang is seriously seeking the truths of our faith and wondering if he believes them. Will chose video lectures as the study’s medium, focusing mainly on recent talks given by Timothy Keller. Along with Thang, two of our believing friends Todd and Matthew have attended faithfully every week. They arrive at night after the boys are in bed, and I’ve gone off to a women’s study. 

When I return home at ten o’clock I’m ready for bed. But walking in on the guys huddled around the coffee table, eating mochi, sipping green tea and asking the big questions, I can’t resist.

I brew a fresh pot of herbal tea, pull out another sleeve of sweet mochi, and our conversation stretches far into the night.

The Best Books List Keeps Getting Longer

Pastor Dave Bullock's best book for 2014 was Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell. Says Pastor Dave about the book, "A thorough look at how the gospel should shape our worship, with a historical review that I found most helpful. Writes Chapell, 'we should not ignore the wisdom of church forebears just because it's old, or reject it because we didn't think of it' is his approach. I love it."

Pastor Eric Channing's best book was Seven Men by Eric Metaxes, with which the Summer Book Group would heartily agree.

Jeremy Taylor, chair of the Board of Missions, chose Prodigal God by Timothy Keller and Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud for some of his best books in 2014. "A work-related book I edited and really enjoyed working on was The Third Target by Joel Rosenberg," adds Jeremy. This book is published by Tyndale House.

Board of Deaconess Chair Mary Miller lists some fantastic titles to read.

  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This is the account of nine young men, all from working-class families, who earned places to compete on the University of Washington's rowing team, and ultimately, represented the U.S. at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The story is from the boys' journals and memories as they struggled to pay for their studies, to train and to go up against the well-financed and elite East Coast and British teams. Brown also describes the events in Europe as the Third Reich orchestrated the facade of its mission.
  • The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith is the latest book in Smith's No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Smith's main character, Mma Ramotswe of Botswana, at times mirrors the grace, sorrows and joys of African women. The pace of the book seems to flow with the rhythms of life as familiar and new characters encounter major crisis and everyday relationship issues.
  • A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison. Recommended after a missions festival, this book combines great historical background with current thought. If you pray for anyone serving in the Muslim world, work or teach with followers of Islam, Garrison's work is both a resource and an encouragement. I wish I had this book before I retired from public school teaching.
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This tragic story of friendship in German-occupied France during World War 2 features magnificent descriptions (ironically) of blind Marie-Luis' neighborhood in Paris, the walking route to the museum where her father worked, the French countryside and the walled citadel of Saint Malo. In addition to the interplay between characters who participated in the resistance and those who didn't, the role of music in the story fosters hope during those dark days.

Currently, Mary is reading For the Glory of God (Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship) by Daniel Block. 



A College Church MK Living in France Reflects on the Charlie Hebdo Tragedy

Shock was the first emotion that everyone felt, I believe. In the first moments of hearing the news, most could not believe what was really happening or how this could have happened.

In my high school this instantly became the main topic of conversation, debate and anxiety. The fear of further attacks, the tension between different opinions and viewpoints and the buzz of exciting news was everywhere you turned for the past several days. Mobile phones were being consulted regularly for any updates and the news was played everywhere. Lockdowns were happening to some of our friends' schools and everyone had things to say about the current situation.

The whole nation had a day of mourning and every school in the country observed a minute of silence. This situation brought together a normally individualistic nation as one. The overwhelming solidarity impressed everyone.

In the main hall of my school, a large blank poster was hung where we could write a note, attach a picture, a poem, all to express our solidarity and feelings about this terrible act of violence.

"12 people dead, 66 million hurt" is one of the many sayings going around on social media. Although only a dozen people died, the whole population felt attacked. Not only because it was on their soil, but also because one of their rights had been violated. Freedom of speech had been brutally attacked. Everyone felt impacted.

Many different discussions arose in the following days. Some argued that the terrorist cruelly killed perfectly innocent people while others protested that the victims got what they deserved for being so rude and disrespectful toward all the Muslims. So although the French stood together in an act of outstanding solidarity after this devastating event, this has also created gaps, resentment and frustration among the Muslim population and the rest of France, and the Muslims and the extremists. The people who are not Muslim resent those who are because they feel that the crime was somehow their doing. Because of this the Muslims feel targeted because of what the terrorists did, and this leads to tension between these two groups of people in France.

This is something I've seen at my own school and around me. Several Muslims in my class have spoken in defense of the extremists, mentioning the way the magazine so greatly disrespected their religion in our “free” country. Others say that the freedom of speech gives them the right to mock, say and draw anything they like. But is this respecting other people's rights by breaking their religious laws? Even if you are not a member of their religion?  It was impossible to stay away from the typically taboo (in France) subject of religion during the ongoing conversations at my French public school.

Some Muslims refused to do the minute of silence and hence walked out of the room during the time designated for that purpose.

Compared to 9-11, this could be viewed as minor. The death toll was not enormous, the killers were caught within three days and life continued. But it has become a part of France's history, and it has changed people's viewpoint of the world in which they live in. No one lives in safety, and people are killed for what they think, even in a free country like France. 

Note: This family lives 30 minutes from where the attackers were finally killed--bringing this national tragedy even closer to home.

Insight from an Artist as His Nation Mourns

John Maust shared his Facebook message from artist Didier Millotte with OneWord Journal:

Didier also wrote me to say, "One of the artists who died was an illustrator I watched on TV when I was kid. Everyone knew him here. Tragedy in France, tragedy in Europe. Dark time. We need the Cross. We need Christ, the life of the Savior. We need to work to share the gospel. Your job at MAI is part of it. So precious."