BUTTERFLY IN BRAZIL: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference
Author: Glenn Packiam
Reviewed by: Dr. Jean Williams
As we start a new year, many of us make several resolutions for change — most of which are sadly deserted shortly afterwards. Butterfly in Brazil can help you to create lasting change by starting with small acts and staying faithful. The book presents Biblical scriptures as a basis for life changes — changes that will last forever.
Glenn Packiam begins by giving the reader a look into growing up where Christianity is out of the ordinary as he reveals his life and that of his parents in Malaysia where several religions existed but where Christians were only ten to twelve percent of the population. He uses the story of Nehemiah’s life as an example of making a difference where you are, even as you dream of making changes elsewhere. According to the author “small changes at the beginning can lead to big differences at the end.” The author reveals much of his everyday life in an effort to show how God interrupts our lives but allows us free choice. Using a Biblical reference, he calls the feeding of the five thousand a “lunchbox miracle” where a small ordinary boy was God’s conduit.
The author uses the story of the missed messages between the Titanic and the Californian, a nearby ship that prohibited the Californian from helping in the rescue effort to show how faithfulness, or lack thereof, in the most ordinary moments can make a catastrophic difference. The radio personnel were irritated and sleeping on the job and were not attentive to communications that could have saved lives.
According to the author, “the biggest hurdle we face with creating small change is our inability to believe that small changes can make a big difference.” Nehemiah was a common cupbearer to the king and the king was impressed about how he had been faithful in small tasks. So when he asked the king for letters for safe passage and timber to rebuild the Temple gates, the king granted his requisites.
Packiam describes his experiences of meeting with college friends and jointly sharing big dreams of the future. He does not discourage dreaming but admonishes the reader that the fulfillment of the dream may start with a small step. He says that the next step is always to ask “Lord, what do I do right here?” Also, consider joining a work already in progress. Work with others to harness the strength of diversity and numbers. Packiam discusses the importance of being part of God’s church. He quotes Paul, “We are God’s workmanship; created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He also comments on the importance of love as our chief motivator— not just “love for humanity in general, but for the people we know in particular.” Lest we be left with the impression that change is easy, the author spends an entire chapter discussion the cost of change for Christ. He uses John the Baptist and Jesus as prime examples. Also, the author explains that following Christ in obedience is costly. Packiam’s final paragraph is an excellent summary:
Be faithful with the small things.
Act where you are.
Stay over the long haul.
Multiply your efforts.
Love people passionately and personally.
Lay down your life in obedience to Christ.
About the Author: Glenn Packiam is a the lead pastor of new life DOWNTOWN, a parish of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he also serves on the Executive Team. He is the author of Discover the Mystery of Faith (David C. Cook, 2013), LUCKY: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People (Cook, 2011), Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith (Cook, 2009), and Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference (Tyndale, 2007). Glenn holds a BA in Theological/Historical Studies, a Masters in Management, and, after doing two years of graduate work at Fuller Theological Seminary, is now a Doctoral student at St. John’s College at Durham University in the UK. Packiam is also a renowned musician.
THE FROG IN THE KETTLE
Author: George Barna
Reviewed by: Dr. Jean Williams
Have you ever been intrigued by a title? Well, as I was scanning the Center’s holdings to decide what to review, this title hooked me. I was familiar with the author and knew that I was perusing a theological library, so I knew that the title would lead me to serious content. The book’s subtitle is “What Christians Need to Know About Life in the Year 2000.” As I began to read it, I found that although we are now fourteen years into the century, the content is still very relevant. George Barna begins his book with a description of a day in the life of Jill who has a teen son and a live-in male companion. She is a very busy professional with lots of outside interests and obligations. She sees the Church as an outdated institution and thinks there probably is a God but holds that view as a private matter. Jill is presented as a model for our population that has “matured in technological sophistication and material comfort.” According to Barna, “Service to God has been replaced by a thirst for exaltation of self.”
The author uses the frog in the kettle (slow warming to boil) as a metaphor for the lack of our attentiveness to gradual societal change, especially change in the following areas:
- Values- more self-centered, less likely to make hard commitments and sacrifices.
- Currency- Time is replacing money as the currency of choice.
- Beliefs- Religion is viewed as a self-fulfilling process, without a requirement for sacrifice or commitment.
- Background- A new class system is emerging.
- Tools- Shift from innovation to an emphasis on application with technology being seen as a means to an end.
- Institutions- The local church must learn its place in people’s hearts. It must provide high quality service to the individual.
Barna describes several gradual signs of reduced commitments in life. They include, climbing divorce rate; fewer close friends, drop in brand loyalty, decline in people willing to join organizations, and drop in percentage of adults willing to fight for their country. Barna predicted the decline in traditional denominational churches. The author warns against wasting people’s time in church. He recommends that “we present a clear picture of how life can be more productive, less stressful, more meaningful and more enjoyable as a result of understanding how our faith integrates with our daily decisions and behavior.” In view of the spread of technology, Barna states that church leaders must be technologically literate and churches must manage technology effectively.
As the structure of family and relationships change, Barna states that the Church must educate people about the benefits of permanent monogamy and of intense family relationships. Also, he indicated that the Church cannot reject people who are divorced. Additionally, the church must relate to children and help people who are lonely.
Barna indicates that churches must compete for time with so many forms of entertainment. Therefore, the church must offer extracurricular events that meet the interest of the people around it. Also, the Church must be contemporary, reshaping the value structure of America and engaging volunteers in various ministries to achieve this change.
The author predicted the major economic collapse that we have experienced. He recommended that the Church look for ways to help in hard financial times. He also, impresses the importance of ethical behavior in the Church as it will be under close scrutiny in tough financial times.
More people will become syncretistic, that is, they will examine many faiths and take what they like from teach one, says Barna. They will reject absolutes, viewing values a relative. Barna advises the Church to “describe the faith in ways which are clearly relevant to today’s circumstances and tensions, but without minimizing the hard truths that Jesus taught and demands of us. We must make absolutes seem not only relevant but natural and appealing. We have to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity in every dimension of our lives.’ Barna talks about the need for shifts in the values of Christians. According to him, in the future, Christians should shift from seeking comfort, security, love of self and recognition to seeking service to those around us, faith in God, love of others, and concern about the plight of others. He states “we must allow them [a hard and cynical world] to see how our struggles in life have been altered for the better as a result of our relationship with Christ.”
Changes in population centers and racial and age composition are issues surfaced by Barna. He indicates that the Church must be aware of these changes and provide ministries that meet specific needs of the people around them. Barna summarizes his recommendations to Christians and the Church by presenting the following ten ministry goals:
1. Win people to Christ.
2. Raise Bible knowledge.
3. Equip the Christian body.
4. Establish Christian community.
5. Renew Christian Behavior.
6. Enhance the image of the local church.
7. Champion Christian morals.
8. Live by a Christian philosophy of life.
9. Restore People’s self-esteem.
10. Focus on reaching the world for Christ.
The book ends with a revised story of Jill’s life where many of the goals stated above have been incorporated.
About George Barna. A native New Yorker, George Barna has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media, research and ministry. He founded the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group) in 1984 and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The company has served several hundred parachurch ministries and thousands of Christian churches throughout the country. It has also supplied research to numerous corporations and non-profit organizations, as well as to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. To date, Barna has written 48 books, mostly addressing leadership, trends, church health and spiritual development. They include best-sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, and The Power of Vision. His most recent book is Revolutionary Parenting. He has been hailed as “the most quoted person in the Christian Church today” and has been named by various media as one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders.
OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS
Author: James Gills, M.D.
Reviewed by: Dr. Jean Williams
This book is described as “thought provoking and challenging” by Billy Graham and depicted by Henry Blackaby as one that “will greatly challenge any serious Christian.” Dr. Gills invites you to “experience God the Creator at work, and in your daily life, and see God’s powerful thumbprint on everyday areas of your life.” The book, with its easy to follow logic, is divided into the following five stimulating parts:
I. Progressions to Living Faith
II. Understanding the Nature of Spiritual Blindness
III. Biblical Insight into Spiritual Blindness
IV. Understanding the Nature of Spiritual Vision
V. Your Spiritual Sight Determines Your Eternity
According to Dr. Gills, all of us have the need to progress from superficial, eternal, religious tradition to a satisfying experience of living faith. Part I explains signs of progression to full faith- from weak faith to a fully vibrant faith. Gills summarizes the progression as
Rejoice in Him;
Understand His Word;
Sing out to Him; and exhibit
Thoughtfulness of others.
To make the progression come alive, Gills presents various heroes of the faith in their various phases of progression. For instance, William Carey fought the battle of progressing from trusting in self to trusting in Jesus Christ. John Wesley was freed from self-righteousness and legalism to find peace in God. Adoniram Judson, an outstanding American missionary to Burma, was returned to spiritual faith by the death of an unbeliever who had turned him away from Christianity in his youth. The Christian transformation of many others is also described. The author devotes two chapters to a discussion of the human struggle between darkness and light. He uses cataracts as a metaphor for describing traits such as pride, love of money, hypocrisy, envy, legalism, unforgiveness, and other traits that block out the light of strong faith.
While Parts I and II thoroughly describe the nature of spiritual blindness, Part III begins to move the reader to spiritual light or vision. Here Gills shows the value of the Word of God in overcoming the blindness. Additionally, the section explains the essential roles of repentance, forgiveness, worship, prayer, and faith. Part IV explains the total movement to spiritual vision. It begins with a discussion of the value of inevitable suffering in enhancing spiritual vision. Part V connects spiritual sight to eternal life. Gills states that “transformation comes from the Spirit of God living within us, working in us, and providing there, complete satisfaction and peace.”
About the author. Dr. James Gills is an active author on spiritual topics with books on spiritual healing, spiritual gratitude, and thankfulness. He is also known for his acclaim as the most experienced cataract surgeon in the world.