Book Review: Church Behind the Wire

There’s something about the Christian life that is so contrary to the human disposition; there is something so completely backward about this life with Jesus. Barnabas Mam in his book, Church Behind the Wire, captures the discrepancy between the ways of God and the expectations of His creation, perfectly.

Born in Cambodia, Mam converted to Christianity in 1970, just as Communism sunk its teeth into his country. At the end of Pol Pot’s maniacal campaign, Mam was one of only 200 Christians remaining. His story is of the sheer grace of God.

During his arrest and subsequent displacement, Mam tells impossible stories of God’s goodness. He tells of food miraculously appearing in the form of fish that seemed to jump from a bush in front of him. He tells of Communist officers who befriended him and “took good care,” of him. He tells of God miraculously providing musical equipment for his worship ministry.

Church Behind the Wire, is a constant ebb and flow of tension. Each of these wonderful accounts is punctuated by long periods of starvation, isolation, loss of family, betrayal and despair. Mam learns to trust God’s favor, justice and mercy. He gains strength for the struggle as God proves His faithfulness through little graces and big miracles.

Mam’s book is a beacon on reality. We love books because they beckon us into another world. Church Behind the Wire, invites the reader to vicariously experience the world of Christians suffering for their faith. The result is a deeper sense of gratitude, compassion and activism.

The church in America has a general expectation of ease. Often times, ease blinds us the uncomfortable truth of people suffering in other countries. As I read, I felt convicted of my ignorance. I realized how little I knew of the Killing Fields. Mam’s book incensed me to learn more of the history of the church and its broader experience and impact.

On a technical note, my only disappointment in this book is that it is very disjointed. The author jumps from place to place, back and forth in time. This made it difficult for me to place certain events and people within the story. However, this gives the reader an empathy for the author. Mam conveys a feeling of wandering, lack of control and displacement.

book reviewed for Moody Publishers, complimentary copy provided

Perspectives of Pain and Perfection

Is happiness dependent on whatever life throws our way or do we have a say in the matter? We can find peace amongst chaos, contentment despite limitations, and joy even in our lowest moments. It all comes down to Perspective… Craig Groschel in his recent series on Philippians

Everyone is blinded by their own perspective. Perspective is the angle at which you view something. A pauper views a sandwich and shelter as the essence of life. A king views those same principles of sustenance as bland and ordinary, nearly an assault to his majesty. Before I lived in Georgia, I believed that Oklahoma was humid. An athlete views a difficult workout as a challenge and something to be mastered, a couch potato views the same drills as agony and next to death. Do you see where I am going?

Recently I brought you some stories about the persecuted church. After a few days of reading about the physical abuses that Christians in Nigeria and Egypt were enduring, we read about discriminative abuses against Christian businesses in the United States. I am not diminishing the pain of the Christian businesses, but put in perspective, what is endurance?

I am going somewhere with this (:

Craig Groschel has convicted me on many occasions through his online sermons at LifeChurch.tv, but his series on perspectives has been very humbling. I’ve begun to consider the privilege of pain. “Count it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials,” says James, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”            (James 1)

Like the example above, my own pain, in perspective seems minimal and sometimes petty. But my Father knows the testing that my faith requires in order to perfect me. Be it struggles in my marriage, the constant humbling need to destroy my personal idols of food and fitness, loneliness, feelings of failure or any other hurdle that God places in my path in the future, He is intentional.

Intentional. Intentional and repetitive. As He is known to do, God has been echoing this one message in my life from various angles. I am also preparing to lead a Beth Moore Bible study in my home. God chose the book of James this time. As I read through the first chapter, I was skewered by the passage I quoted above…

For you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.

That’s what I want. I want to be perfect, clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness, perfectly and contentedly reliant on Him for all my salvation and life. That’s going to require a change in my perspective – a new perspective on my own good works, my own sin, my own struggles and my own forgiveness of others. I hope you find the LifeChurch.tv catalogue of sermons effective for your own training in righteousness. Start with the series on Perspectives.

May I Join You for May?

I can’t believe May has nearly arrived. I don’t feel like I’ve exhausted April yet and it’s already time to take off into the wild-blue future. That said, I’m going to do my best to linger in the past a little bit longer. I want to talk a little bit more about the persecuted church. I want to dig into the persecuted church in America? Think it doesn’t happen? Think again. We’ll take a close look at the truth about our religious liberty in America, how it’s being threatened and increase our prayers for those who boldly protect and defend our freedoms.

I just finished a Bible study called Enhancing Your Marriage, by Judy Rossi. The last chapter reminded me of something I haven’t done in a while. Judy led participants in praying for their husbands using Scripture almost exclusively. Years ago, I read a book called Praying the Bible: Pathway to Spirituality.  Though I do not advocate all of the Campbells’ doctrine, this book changed my prayer life dramatically. Thanks to Judy’s reminder, I have  once again culled the Scriptures for God-sotted prayers. It makes praying easy, not to mention powerful and focused. I’ll share several prayers with you this week that I have written from chapters in the Bible.

Satanism is a topic that most Christians either rush toward out of gross curiosity and the tantalizing opportunity for debate, or they run the other way with tails tucked between their legs. “Flee, flee, flee evil!” I just picked up a gripping book called Ascent From Darkness. Author, Michael Leehan shares how “Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.” As Satan is the father of lies, there are few books more fitting to review on this blog. As I share my thoughts on this book, I’ll whet your appetite to devour it yourself.

And finally, if you’re being truthful, do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that when you’re the most out of control, you are the most primed for miraculous intervention? Just this morning, my entire day’s plans crashed and burned before 10 a.m. Being a woman of preparation and forward thinking (to a fault) I was tempted to go back to bed and just try again tomorrow. However, the dog needed out no matter how badly my day was going, so I took him to the trails. There, my miracle happened. The exciting thing is that this miracle bubbled over and blessed someone else too. I’ll share that story with you and in the meantime, I’m going to be on the lookout for many “mini” miracles. If you see any, will you share them too?

See you soon!