Review: Martyn Lloyd-Jones – A Family Portrait

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Family Portrait by Christopher Catherwood

“The private man behind the Great Man”

Christopher Catherwood is the grandson of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and he has set out to give a familiar perspective on this very public figure. Whereas Iain Murray’s David Martyn Lloyd-Jones the First Forty Years 1899-1939 (v. 1) and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (v. 2) are the definitive biography at the present time, Catherwood set out to “complete the picture; to portray the private man behind the Great Man.” (p. 15) As described throughout the book, Lloyd-Jones had an intimate relationship with all of his family, especially his grandchildren, and this colors everything Catherwood writes, as he reflects on his experiences growing up and relating to this “Great Man.”

The general outline of Lloyd-Jones’s life is preserved, though the private side is emphasized. Those who aren’t familiar with his life will not be lost – they will be able to follow his upbringing, schooling and medical career, the first church in Aberavon, and his transition to Westminster in London. The major “events” are covered – the Puritan Conferences, his involvement with IFES, his preaching on the Holy Spirit and “charismaticism” (as found in The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit), and the fallout with John Stott and J.I. Packer when Lloyd-Jones made a call to “come out” of evangelically compromised denominations (particularly The Church of England). In all these subjects Catherwood is highly sympathetic to his grandfather, as is to be expected.

The last chapter is entitled “Grandfather” and is the longest chapter in the book. It really is a testament to the man. So many preachers have a vibrant pulpit, or an active ministry, but sadly neglect or hurt those closest to them. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was not this type of man. The evident love and admiration that his grandson has for him, and the many stories and examples of how he lived that out in his family, are inspiring and moving.

I recommend this book because I recommend Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as a preacher, an expounder of the Bible, and as an example for us to follow. Also recommended is 5 Evangelical Leaders also by Christopher Catherwood, which gives a broader perspective of Lloyd-Jones, Packer, and Stott, as well as Francis Schaeffer and Billy Graham.


Review: The Holy Spirit (TGC Booklets)

The Holy Spirit by Kevin DeYoung (ed. D.A. Carson, Tim Keller)

A good, basic, brief introduction

This is intended to be a brief introduction to the Holy Spirit, expounding on The Gospel Coalition’s doctrinal statment. DeYoung starts with “Who is the Holy Spirit,” and discusses that he is a Person, that he is God, and distinct from the Father and the Son.

The Work of the Holy Spirit takes up the rest of the booklet: convicting, converting, applying salvation, glorifying Christ, sanctifying us, equipping us, and being the seal of the promise of our future inheritance.

He briefly touches on the “controversial gifts,” and doesn’t take any sides (TGC doesn’t take sides). Here’s his conclusion:

“I believe both sides have come to see that they agree on more than they once thought. One of the encouraging signs in the evangelical world is how cessationists and continuationists have been able to partner and worship together in recent years, realizing that their commonalities in the gospel are far greater than the issues that separate them with regard to the spiritual gifts.” (p. 22)

I certainly hope for more of this!

The book is loaded throughout with biblical references to look up if you want. There are glimpses of DeYoung’s style and humor, but it is largely subdued and he is focused on his topic. I didn’t laugh out loud, like I have in The Hole in Our Holiness, or Crazy Busy, but that wasn’t the point.

This is a good, basic, brief introduction. To go in depth from here, I heartily recommend J.I. Packer’s Keep in Step With the Spirit, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit.

Review: The Indwelling and Outflowing of the Holy Spirit

The Indwelling and Outflowing of the Holy Spirit by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“May you get your share of the streams!”

I haven’t listened to this audio cd, so I can’t comment on the audio quality, whoever it was that read the sermon, or anything like that.

My review is of the sermon itself, which can be found in 12 Sermons on the Holy Spirit. All 12 sermons are excellent, but this particular sermon is the cream of that choice crop.  It can also be found as an individual booklet from Chapel Library.

Spurgeon’s goal in this sermon is to show us the vital necessity of being filled with the Holy Spirit. You can be saved – have had a drink – without being filled with rivers of living waters flowing out from your life. He shows us the excellency of the gift of the Spirit, and then lays out how to seek more of the Spirit in our lives and our churches.

“Instead of worshipping more than God, I fear we worship less than God. This appears when we forget to pay due adoration to the Holy Spirit of God.”

“The operations of the Holy Spirit are of incomparable value. They are of such incomparable value that the very best thing we can think of was not thought to be so precious as these are.”

So may it be! So may it be! May springs begin to flow in all our churches, and may all of you who hear me this day get your share of the streams.”

I liked this so much, I ordered 30 copies of it in booklet form from Chapel Library to give to those in my church. I highly recommend this sermon, in any form you can find it.

Review: 12 Sermons on the Holy Spirit

12 Sermons on the Holy Spirit by Charles H. Spurgeon

“God send us a season of glorious disorder.”

I love Charles Spurgeon. Possibly more than any other man, he has shaped my thinking and preaching and understanding of the Bible and the God who wrote it. He was called “The Prince of Preachers” and the title is apt. His sermons bring Bible truth home to the heart, and enlarge for the mind the glories of God. He relates to the inner experience of the soul in its many varieties and subtleties. How often have I discovered some shining nugget of truth from a text, only to read Spurgeon and see that he has already found that nugget and put it on full display. His sermons are a delight to read, and I try to read him as much as I can,  whatever subject is on my mind. The “12 sermons on…” series is a good topical collection of his sermons, and this particular collection on the Holy Spirit is no exception.

Spurgeon believed that the Holy Spirit was absolutely crucial to the life of the believer. His sermon “The Indwelling and Outflowing of the Holy Spirit” expresses this most forcefully and masterfully.

The Spirit is the Comforter – “Think not, O poor downcast child of God, because the scars of thine old sins have marred thy beauty, that He loves thee less because of that blemish. Oh, no! He loved thee when He foreknew thy sin; He loved thee with the knowledge of what the aggregate of thy wickedness would be; and He does not love thee less now.” (p. 11, from “The Comforter”)

He speaks to the ups and downs of a believer’s life as it ebbs and flows in our direct experience of the Spirit of God. You read him, and you sigh as you realize, “He knows what it’s like!” He is surprisingly relatable, especially when you think that he preached 150 years ago.

He provokes us to seek the Spirit without reserve – “We have grown to be so frozenly proper that we never interrupt a service in any way, because, to tell the truth, we are not so particularly glad, we are not so specially full of praise that we want to do anything of the sort. Alas, we have lost very much of the Spirit of God, and much of the joy and gladness which attend His presence, and so we have settled into a decorous apathy! God send us a season of glorious disorder.” (102, from “The Pentecostal Wind and Fire”).

He exhorts us to be led by the Spirit: “I wish Christian people oftener inquired of the Holy Ghost as to guidance in their daily life. Know ye not that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? You need not always be running to this friend and to that to get direction: wait upon the Lord in silence, sit still in quiet before the oracle of God. Use the judgment God has given you; but when that suffices not, resort to Him whom Mr. Bunyan calls ‘the Lord High Secretary,’ who lives within, who is infinitely wise, and who can guide you by making you to ‘ hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.'” (140, from “The Covenant Promise of the Sprit”).

A few months ago I was preparing to preach, and had a particularly clever turn of phrase in mind. Then I read this: “May we never have this thought, – ‘I will put that bit in; it will tell well. The friends will feel that oratory is not quite extinct, that Demosthenes lives again in this village.’ No, no. I should say, brother, though it is a very delightful piece, strike that out ruthlessly; because if you have had a thought of that kind about it, you had better not put yourself in the way of temptation by using it… It may be very admirable, and further, it may be a very right thing, to give them that precious piece; but if you have that thought about it, strike it out. Strike it out ruthlessly. Say, ‘No, no, no! If it is not distinctly my aim to glorify Christ, I am not in accord with the aim of the Holy Ghost, and I cannot expect His help. We shall not be pulling the same way, and therefore I will have nothing of which I cannot say that I am saying it simply, sincerely, and only that I may glorify Christ.” (150, from “Honey in the Mouth”).

I cannot recommend Spurgeon in general, and these sermons in particular, highly enough. They will thrill your soul with the truth regarding the Spirit of God.

Some of these sermons have been published individually in booklet form by Chapel Library, for easier distribution, though I recommend this book as well.

Review: Keep in Step With the Spirit

Keep in Step With the Spirit by J.I. Packer

Crucial and Vital

“Understanding the Holy Spirit is a crucial task for Christian theology at all times. For where the Spirit’s ministry is studied, it will also be sought after, and where it is sought after, spiritual vitality will result.” (p. 235)

“CHRISTIANS WAKE UP! CHURCHES WAKE UP! THEOLOGIANS WAKE UP! We study and discus God, Christ, body life, mission, Christian social involvement, and many other things; we pay lip service to the Holy Spirit throughout (everyone does these days), but we are not yet taking Him seriously in any of it. In this we need to change.” (236)

This is Packer’s purpose and theme throughout the course of this book, and this is indeed the effect that this book has had in my own life. Written almost 30 years ago, it carries the same weight today, and his analysis is still spot on. At nearly 300 pages, this book is thorough. Packer seeks to lay out for us a Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit, without leaving anything out. He wants us to view the Spirit and emphasize the Spirit the way the Bible itself does. He does so clearly and powerfully.

Along the way, he addresses various views and alternately critiques and commends them. Packer is at his finest here, his charitableness and finding things to praise are admirable, and to be emulated when we disagree theologically with others. The first main area of differing views is the area of “holiness” in a believer’s life. He evaluates the Reformed view, the Wesleyan view, and the Keswick/Higher Life view. This analysis is excellent, and is the first place where I’ve seen a thorough evaluation of Keswick theology (other than the e-book “Let Go and Let God?” by Andy Naselli).

The second area of differing views is the gifts of the Spirit, and the charismatic movement. This section was incredibly helpful to me. Packer is no charismatic, but he is so charitable in finding commendable things in the movement, even while critiquing what he disagrees with. Take this for example:

“If the charismatic handling of all these problems fails to grab you, what is your alternative? Any who venture to criticize charismatic practices without facing these questions merit D.L. Moody’s retort, a century ago, to a doctrinaire critic of his evangelistic methods: “Frankly, sir, I prefer the way I do it to the way you don’t do it.” The charismatic movement is a God-sent gadfly to goad the whole church into seeking more of totality before the Lord than most Christians today seem to know. Face the challenge!” (232)

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to better understand the Holy Spirit, different views of holiness, and the charismatic movement. It has also been republished with an extra chapter added in as: Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God. I wanted the book in hardcover 🙂

“God just thinks His own way”

Another quote from the Q&A from the 1996 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, The Pastor and His Study.  Iain Murray was the featured speaker, and the biography was of Martin Luther.  I highly recommend the audio from the conference.

Q: With regard to signs, things such as falling down and whatnot, being of relatively low importance.  I hear people use the text on the counsel  of Jerusalem in Acts, where Paul addresses the Jerusalem church and there’s a hush over the crowd as he talks about the signs and miracles that were done  among the Gentiles.  And I hear people looking to that and saying, “something’s wrong in our time.”  Or at least something very, very significant is missing, when we have a situation where we’re proclaiming the gospel  and these things are not happening.  John or Iain I wonder if you could help me out there.

Piper: I do not accept the cessationist or Warfieldian argument that there are points in history at which time only there is a great flare-up of signs and wonders.  However, I do think there are seasons, for reasons, at which time there are great flare-ups.  In other words, God is not limited to the apostolic era, or Elijah, or some other time – the crossing of the Red Sea – at which we have a little flare-up of miraculous things.  

But I think while there’s nothing I can see in the New Testament that would limit signs and wonders to the apostles, I think there’s good reason to believe that they had something extraordinary going on upon them.  The drawing near of the incarnation, and the foundation of the church was unique,  and therefore it doesn’t trouble me as much as it does some that the quality and prevalence of miracles in the hands of the apostles should be greater than what we have seen typically throughout church history, I would expect that, frankly, I would expect that from what I see biblically.

However, from the other side, I think, probably, our low expectation of signs and wonders in the evangelistic enterprise is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a self-fulfilling low expectation.  If you don’t expect God to do a thing, He probably won’t do it.  And therefore I would think that we probably could expect more, that we could expect some remarkable turns of events and dreams like we’re hearing about among Muslims.   I read about this morning, that “the Lord bore witness with signs and wonders to the word of His grace.”  The Lord witnessed to the word.  Now you had the word right there being preached by an authoritative eye-witness you don’t  need anything else.  You don’t need signs and wonders in Acts.  That’s the last place in history that you need signs and wonders is when you have eye-witnesses to the resurrection.  And yet the Lord gave them.

And we are a generation who don’t have eye-witnesses, and you’d think logically, we need ‘em!  Well, God just thinks his own way, and if he wants to win Muslims through dreams, or if he wants to do something here through a healing.  So, what I’m saying is, if somebody says to me, “ we should be seeing lots of these things, we should see the book of Acts.”  I say, “well, wait, wait, wait, you don’t know that you should see the book of Acts.”  The apostolic age was unique and the signs and wonders done through the hands of the apostles may not be what  gifts of healings is about in 1 Corinthians 12.  Gifts of healings and miracles there in 1 Corinthians 12  may be of a lower order and less powerful, and less frequent.  So yes, probably we could see more, but don’t set up an ideal in Acts that you demand has to be, or the church is carnal and unbelieving.

“This is virtually Dr. Lloyd Jones own position”

From the Q&A from the 1996 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, The Pastor and His Study.  Iain Murray was the featured speaker, and the biography was of Martin Luther.  I highly recommend the audio from the conference.

Q: We’d love some more follow-up from you on your personal view of the Toronto Blessing.

Piper: My approach toward the third wave, even though now the Vineyard has disassociated itself from Toronto, has been what I have called all the way along a critical openness.   That is, I don’t rule out in principle that God is in the signs and wonders movement, or any other particular manifestation.  There’s nothing biblical that I can see that would hinder God from using healing, or prophetic utterances properly understood, or tongues, or laughter or falling down to manifest outwardly something that’s happening inwardly.  But, having said that, once you say what Iain Murray said, which I agree with, and what Edwards would say, is that these outward things prove nothing, and are therefore in a very low level of significance as far as what the Holy Spirit is really about in the world, namely holiness and salvation.  Once you say that it seems like you pull the plug for a lot of people because you are not manifesting the proper enthusiasm for what is viewed to be such a great blessing.

The reason I’m soft on this is because not only do I not see a biblical condemnation of it, but I assess movements doctrinally on the one hand and then what is being produced as far as holiness goes on the other hand.  And I simply know of too many people whose lives have been profoundly helped for good by lying on the ground for 45 minutes in a kind of laughter or peace.   I never have, I went over to the Apache Plaza here when the Toronto Blessing came to town, willing to expose myself to everything under the sun, just about, and had about five high-powered guys around me, praying like crazy, I’m sure, some of them wishing, “goodness I wish this guy would go down, because if he went down, then it would be all right.”  And a whole bunch of my staff went down, and some of you in this room were on the floor, and attribute right now a sweet fellowship with the Lord that is continuing and an enrichment of your own ministry because of what God did spiritually at that moment, and I enjoyed that 25 minutes of prayer that they did over me, and I felt great peace, but I didn’t get dizzy, and I really, really was not saying, “I’m not going down under any cost.”  I frankly, wanted to try it.  What is this “carpet time” that they do, you know?  So I’m very – excessively – open,  some would say.

My son Abraham is 16, and he read me in yesterday’s Tribune, and I said, “is this dealing with the Toronto thing?” He was reading to me out of the newspaper, he said “there’s not anything religious to it at all.”  It was a psychological study on laughter movements in history.  Zero religion.  It talked about this laughter movement in Indonesia or something that lasted for 6 months.  It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.  It was a little girl, started laughing, and there were these laughing fits that lasted in this community for 6 months.  And it had no religious connection at all.  So I just really find it hard to get excited about falling down or laughing.  I get excited about the Lordship of Christ, and taking risks for Jesus, and bringing people to Christ, and exalting the sovereignty of God. 

And so the other thing besides holiness in people’s lives which I’ve seen come of this, is preaching and the exultation of the word.  And I find it not very high.  I’ve heard stories, “you know the preaching was good.” But the thing that thrills people is the external manifestations.  I’ve watched it happen.  And so the word does seem to drift more into the background and the effort it takes to produce a good message from the book, the external word, is minimized.   and so those would be my concerns open and yet critically open. 

And so I don’t really make anybody happy, you know the cessationists – I got invited to wales a few years ago, to speak at the place where Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke often, and when they found out I had these kinds of attitudes, they withdrew the invitation.  It’s been real painful to have those experiences happen, and on the other side the people that prophesied over me over at Apache, saying, “The Lord’s hand is upon me to do this and that,” and I’m sure my lack of full bore engagement in the Pentecostal side is leaving them thinking I must be hardhearted or something.   And so I just kind of walk my own way and nobody knows quite whether they can trust me or not, I think.

Iain Murray:  I do think the brethren in Wales were confused, because this is really, this is more or less virtually Dr. Lloyd-Jones own position, I think they were really confused on it.

Piper: That’s somewhat comforting.  Even the criticism I got from Iain, when I spoke on Lloyd-Jones here that I had not been completely just to him, was a grief to me because for the news to go out from this conference that Martyn Lloyd-Jones is anything other than almost a god, little “g,” would make me very sad, because I don’t have many heroes in the world, especially not many in this century, and for me to have my reputation go to Wales and elsewhere that I am mainly critical of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is sad.

Review: The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit



The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones


The Original “Cautious-but-Open” position.

This book was originally published in two separate parts: Joy Unspeakable, and The Sovereign Spirit: Discerning His Gifts/Prove All Things (same book, different titles). The Sovereign Spirit fits in between chapters 7 and 8 of Joy Unspeakable. The complete sermon series in chronological order is in this book, The Baptism and Gifts.  The 2008 edition of Joy Unspeakable also includes all 24 sermons, but the older Shaw Books edition must be supplemented by the other book.  Confuesed yet?  Me too.

Christopher Catherwood, in his biography of his grandfather Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Family Portrait, describes the two emphases that come out when the series is split into two books: “The more controversial Joy Unspeakable has outsold by a large margin its more cautious companion volume. Maybe those who wanted to believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit without qualification did not want to know of the equally biblical restraints!” (p. 132)

He also wrote the introduction to this book: “the Doctor realized that many reformed people had become dry and arid in their Christian lives – that although their doctrine was sound, their day-to-day faith lacked the fire and sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that should be present in the Christian’s life.” (p. 12)

This is the theme of the book. Lloyd-Jones brings you face to face with the reality of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible, and then looks at churches and believers around him and says “Why aren’t we like that?” He says “The great and constant danger is that we should be content with something which is altogether less than that intended for us.” (16). He addresses those who would simply dismiss the Scripture by saying “that was for a different dispensation.” “That is a very serious charge – namely that the Scripture does not apply to us.” (37) “Our greatest danger, I feel today, is to quench the Spirit.” (81)

He is constantly bringing out points from the Scripture, and examples from church history, and saying “If your doctrine of the Holy Spirit does not include this idea of the Holy Spirit, it is seriously, grievously defective,” (125) or “Think about it [the example of the puritan John Flavel] and work out your doctrine to account for something like this.” (85)

This is absolutely vital: “The greatest need of the church from every standpoint is a great visitation of the Holy Spirit, and it is only as she receives this she will be enabled to understand again, to grasp and to preach to others, the saving message of the gospel of the Son of God. So we shall go on with our study: nothing is more vital.” (320)

“This is New Testament Christianity! New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterizes it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigour, this abandon, this exuberance.” (361)

One might quibble with his precise teaching and terminology regarding the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I’m not sure I’m completely convinced myself regarding his terminology. When it comes to the substance of what he describes, I am in complete agreement. I want more of that! Whether you call it the “baptism” or something else, the point is we need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers. I started this book as a convinced cessationist. I finished it as someone desperately desiring more of the Spirit in my life, whatever that might mean.

Here is Lloyd Jones on the “controversial gifts”:

“We start then by saying that it is always possible that the Holy Spirit may give this gift to certain individuals. So that when we hear of any reported case, we do not dismiss it, nor do we condemn it. We must examine it. In the sovereignty of the Spirit he can give any one of these gifts at any time; we must therefore be open. But for the reasons we have already adduced we must also always be cautious and careful, we must ‘prove all things’, and only ‘hold fast to that which is good.’ (p. 271)

All throughout Lloyd-Jones is scriptural and he is balanced. He longs to see the Holy Spirit work in power. It is desperately needed in the church today. He says, “Anyone who cuts out portions of Scripture is guilty of a very grievous sin… we are probably quenching the Spirit, and are just desirous of going along in our undisturbed, self-satisfied, smug kind of formal Christianity.” (p. 268) He takes apart theological views that would limit and, in his words ‘quench’ the Spirit, a dispensational hermeneutic that says “that’s not for today.” Lloyd-Jones says this: “Let me begin to answer it by giving you just one thought at this point. It is this: the Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere.” (p. 159)

But he is also cautious – very much so. He examines and proves many teachings and practices that are prevalent in the charismatic or pentecostal movements, and subjects them to the piercing analysis of the Scriptures, and while he is open, he puts up with no nonsense. You cannot manipulate the Spirit – He is sovereign and does what He wants when He wants. You can’t put him in a box either way – by relegating his work strictly to the 1st century, nor by boxing Him up like a machine that responds if you push the right buttons. Lloyd-Jones had an incredible grasp of church history and shows many examples of what he means – good and bad – from history.

This was the set of sermons that helped cause John Piper to change his position on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early 90’s. I highly recommend this as a balanced, Scriptural, yet reproving, and stirring call for more life and vitality that only comes by the Spirit of God.  I highly recommend it.


Review: A Sweet and Bitter Providence

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper


“Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face”

This is a popular level devotional commentary on the book of Ruth. It was originally 4 sermons preached in 1984 at Bethlehem Baptist Church. After reading Ruth: Under the Wings of God, I wanted a more in depth look at the things Piper was seeing in the book of Ruth.

Piper places the book of Ruth within God’s big picture of redemptive history, and shows how the events in this book relate in incredible ways to Jesus Christ. “Huge things are at stake. God is putting in place the ancestry of Jesus the Messiah, whose kingdom will endure forever.” (p. 24) However, this is not a “spiritualizing,” finding mystical and speculative references to Jesus hidden in the details of the story. Rather, John Piper is a master at seeing so clearly what is actually there: in the text, in the history, in the emotions of the characters, and in the purposes of God. He draws out details that I would normally miss and points to God’s perfect big-picture plan in a way that is breathtaking. “Elimelech and Naomi are from Bethlehem where we know Jesus will be born one day – which raises our awareness again of how explosive this book is with connections to the Messiah.” (25)

Along the way there are extremely helpful lessons on dealing with bitterness and suffering; a picture of Godly womanhood; God’s providence in the darkest of times – personally and nationally; God’s purposes to include every ethnos; how God’s own glory is at stake in your joy; the concept of “strategic” righteousness.

Usually, when I think “popular level commentary” I don’t expect much. I expect it to be “lite”, and not to get very much out of it. This book bucks that trend considerably. Piper’s insights are incredibly deep, but presented at a level where anyone can grasp them. I was greatly encouraged in my own life to trust God and His good purposes, even when I can’t figure it out for today. My eyes were drawn to Christ over and over again. This book is worthy of multiple readings, and I highly recommend it.

Review: Bruchko

Bruchko by Bruce Olson

From Minnesota to the Jungles of Columbia

This book has been on my radar for awhile. It is frequently recommended on lists of books on “missions,” and now I know why!

It tells the story of Bruce Olson: how a white boy from Minnesota ended up in the jungles of South America. It starts with the story of how he came to Christ from a Lutheran background. His testimony is heartwarming, and I can especially relate with the details, being from Wisconsin, and having a Lutheran background myself. He started attending an evangelical church, and then heard a missionary preach at a missions conference. He wrestled through whether he was “called” to the mission field, and finally decided to fly to Venezuela, planning to meet up with a missionary there.

Once there, things did not go the way he planned, and before long he was without friends, money, or direction, but God kept directing him. Seeing God’s providence and care for him in this time is wonderful, and stirs up faith in a good and faithful God who takes care of His children.

Bruce hears of the Motilone tribe and decides to try to contact them – no one else had done so. He plunges into the jungle, and the rest of the book is taken up detailing his adventures in meeting and assimilating with different tribes, learning their languages, earning their trust and eventually their love, and preaching the gospel to them. The story of his relationship with Bobby is moving and inspiring. Many parts read quickly, like an adventure or a mystery. I found the book very hard to put down, and would often keep reading several more chapters just to finish a certain segment of the story.

There is much to stir theological thought as well, particularly in the area of how to communicate the gospel cross-culturally, without just communicating your own cultural ideas. If God intends to be known and worshiped by every people group, what is the essence of what we communicate, and what is the American trappings of the way we currently understand it? These are the types of questions this book raised for me. The way Bruchko finally explained the gospel to the Motilones using stories and images from their own culture is very thought-provoking. Some of his methods would be considered controversial, I’m sure, nevertheless the effect they had was remarkable.

I loved this book. It is in the same vein as Shadow of the AlmightyThrough Gates of SplendorReckless Abandon, and Peace Child. I need books like this to inspire me, to remind me that the mission is not yet finished, and to bring real stories of real people directly to my mind. I forget so easily, about the billions of real souls that will not hear the gospel unless someone goes to them. I highly recommend this book as a means to stirring up your soul toward that end.