Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Review: The Heavenly Man

It's been a while since I posted a book review (I have been reading lately, though not as much as I'd like), but since I'd written this one anyway for my office's newsletter, and since the book tells an incredible story of a remarkable man and some of the ways God is working in China, I thought I'd post it here, too. Enjoy!

In The Heavenly Man, Chinese house church pastor Brother Yun (with Pal Hattaway) tells the story of how God called him at the age of 16 when he brought revival to Yun's family and healing to his father's cancer-ridden body. Yun then gives an account of the Lord's faithfulness and mighty power displayed in his own life, that of his wife and family, and in the Chinese house church movement as a whole from his conversion in 1974 up until 2001. Brother Yun has endured the worst brutality imaginable from the hands of men, and has also experienced amazing healings and miracles from the sustaining hands of God. Yun narrates his compelling journey with humility and grace; while it would be easy to tell his story in a way that would bring glory and honor to himself, among the accounts of strong faith and incredible feats Yun includes his weaknesses, mistakes, and acts of disobedience as well. He emphasizes that God is the hero of this story, and Yun simply a flawed but willing servant.

If you love the Lord Jesus (and perhaps, even if you don't), I think it would be impossible to read this book without experiencing a breadth of emotions. While reading I felt shock, anger, awe, shame, admiration, excitement, and wonder, to name a few. This book took God out of the "Western box" I'd placed Him in and reminded me that He is so much bigger than my own experience of Him. In China today God is working miracles, giving dreams and visions, answering prayers that seem outrageous, providing for needs when resources don't seem to exist, and adding to the Church daily thousands who are being saved.

Brother Yun's account will cause you to consider what it really means to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings." He writes, "How we mature as a Christian largely depends on the attitude we have when we're faced with suffering. Some try to avoid it or imagine it doesn't exist, but that will only make the situation worse. Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief. This is better, but falls short of the full victory God wants to give each of his children. The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend. We need a deep realization that when we're persecuted for Jesus' sake it is an act of God's blessing to us."

As the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (Nov 11th) draws near, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It will open your eyes to the persecution Christians are facing today and may change the way you pray. I know it has for me. Brother Yun writes, "Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, 'I've been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.' This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down cursed on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. .Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God. Don't pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn't pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power. This is true freedom!"

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