Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Books Read in 2016

In 2016 I read a total of fifty-three books. Forty were new to me and thirteen were books I reread. I’ve selected the best of the books I first read in 2016:
1. A novel about the plight of Christians in China.
2. A biography about a doctor’s help to poverty stricken people in Haiti.
3. A book by a black woman about the negative effects of government help to the poor. 
4. A book on hearing God speak to us.

Each book is well written and each is packed with information and wisdom. Enjoy!

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Safely Home is a profound and brilliant novel about the plight of Christians in the house churches in China. The story revolves around an American executive and his Chinese college roommate – twenty years after they have graduated from Harvard. Woven throughout are delightful Chinese proverbs, intense meaningful conversations between the two roommates, the truth of the Bible, and many trials and adventures. The book gives insights into various Chinese eras and subjects including Buddhism, the Dali Lama, Mao, the Boxer rebellion, and Tiananmen Square. The corruption of people in power and the blind collusion of big business are vividly shown. Safely Home beautifully depicts the humble acceptance of suffering for Christ by the Chinese house churches. The ending gives a thrilling view of the doorway to heaven.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

By Tracy Kidder

This is an amazing book about an amazing man. Dr. Paul Farmer is a unique and fascinating person; he is brilliant, kind, funny and tireless in his pursuit of health care for the poor people of the world. The book gives excellent detail about Farmer’s life and work. His unusual childhood and family of origin set the stage for his adaptability to living with poverty stricken people and truly connecting with them.

Paul Farmer is a Harvard professor, infectious disease expert and an anthropologist. He lives and works in a remote town in Haiti and develops a health center there lifting the health of the region and saving many lives, though utter poverty continues. As an infectious disease specialist he and his organization, Partners in Health, create many changes worldwide in the policies for treating TB and Aids. The struggles around this are detailed.

Farmer seems to thrive in all environments and to have unlimited energy – sleeping little and working always to serve the poor. He hikes for seven hours to see two patients. If anyone questions this he says, “You’re saying that their lives matter less than some others, and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” Pg 294

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes you through Farmer’s experiences in Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. Though not a professing Christian he lives out a life of service given with love and respect. He has been called a saint and I would say he is close to this yet more fun than you would expect a saint to be! This book will change your views and may unsettle you.

Uncle Sam’s Plantation:
How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What to Do About It
By Star Parker

Uncle Sam’s Plantation is a very important and comprehensive book about the negative effects government help has on the poor. Star Parker gives historical background on Roosevelt’s New Deal, President Johnson’s War on Poverty and about current government programs. She offers facts and figures that clearly show government programs do not help. In fact, they are keeping the poor from freedom and personal responsibility and wasting tax dollars.

Parker writes “In multiple studies for the Heritage Foundation, means-tested welfare spending in America exceeds $400 billion annually. That’s a whopping 14 percent of the federal budget. That’s more than a billion tax dollars per day being spent on various poverty programs yet…the data shows that less than twenty cents of each dollar actually gets into the hands of the people society is trying to help. Eighty percent is bureaucracy.” Pg 5

The author, Star Parker, has been there herself. She tells of her rebellious youth in which she stole, did drugs, had random sex, four abortions and didn’t care about life. She lived on welfare and knew how to work the system. Parker turned her life around and is now helping others do this. She is a champion for changing the system.

Toward the end of the book she writes about protecting freedom. Regarding education she says: “Our country needs to be free but not value-free. I don’t want to force my views on my neighbor. What I do want, and what is essential for the future of our country, is the freedom for my neighbor and me to choose where to send our children to school, and for our children to learn there is such a thing as right and wrong.” Pg. 233 This book shows us how to restore freedom with responsibility to our way of life.

Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere

By Samuel C. Williamson

Samuel Williamson in his book Hearing God in Conversation affirms the primary importance of hearing from God via Scripture but goes on to encourage believers to cultivate an ear for hearing from God and having conversations with God in a variety of ways. His parents taught him how to hear God and he assumed everyone expected to hear from God directly.

This is an excellent book, true to the Word and also citing the fact that God wants a personal relationship with us. This means we can converse with him daily; we can dialog with God, not just share our thoughts but “hear” (in our minds) from him as well. The author’s convincing unfolding of this idea is inspiring. He weaves his own life stories thorough out as well as citing many biblical examples.

Chapter titles include: The First Time I Heard God’s Voice, Conversation is the Point, How to Recognize the Voice of God, What are Scriptures for?, Brainstorming with God, God Speaks in Our Detours, Hearing God in the Ordinary, God Shouts in His Silence and The God Who Guides and more. He also includes two excellent appendixes Answers to the Arguments and Questionable and Excessive Practices.

Williamson says that sometimes God will nudge us to make a phone call, sometimes we’ll hear a verbal message and sometimes we see a picture. He tells of his grandfather in 1915 seeing red capital letters which spelled the name of a province in China. He prayed and felt called to be a missionary. He lived in that very province for two decades and planted four China inland churches. Pg 31

Williamson notes that God guides us with his voice in conversation but he also carefully orchestrates our lives. There is much good information in this book that can teach us how to hear God in conversation and recognize and better know our mighty God.

“Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NRSV

Blessings, Dottie

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