Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Notes: Safely Home by Randy Alcorn (5/5 - one of the best)

On the way home from East Asia in November, I read Randy Alcorn's novel Safely Home.  After my exposure to the underground church in Asia, this book hit me especially hard.  Though written in 2003, the narrative still accurately describes some of the challenges facing the persecuted church around the world.  Alcorn's book captures the tension that I have written about before - a nation whose economy is rapidly growing while the government continues to tightly control all freedoms of expression.  Many in the West have believed that as Asian economies were opened to the world, its people would experience greater freedom.  While the people have experienced growing exposure to Western companies and products, they have not experienced a corresponding growth in freedom - see the recent restriction of house-church leaders from attending the 2010 Lausanne World Evangelism Conference or the recent crackdown on political dissidents in light of the Nobel Peace Prize award to a pro-democracy advocate or the recent announcement that the government had designated all house churches as "cults" as evidence of the government's heavy hand.

Where Alcorn's book succeeds is giving us a person and a face and a story that grips our hearts related to the persecuted church.  It is hard to feel compassion for a number.  When you and I hear that millions of Christians face opposition because of their faith in Jesus Christ, we feel concern, but not deep, heart-rending compassion.  We need a name, a person to move the information from our heads to our hearts.  This was my experience in East Asia - I got to know people who are leading the church and got to spend time hearing their story.  Randy Alcorn has done all Christians a favor by giving us a story that, though fiction, could be the story of any number of Christians in persecuted countries.  A story of joy and victory, loss and pain, and most importantly - an eternal perspective.

Alcorn's ministry is called Eternal Perspective Ministries, and if you have never heard his personal testimony, I would encourage you to visit his ministry website and learn his story.  Through some fascinating life-experiences, Alcorn is required to give away all of the royalties of his books, which he has written keeps him daily focused on his eternal rewards and not his earthly rewards.  This understanding is important as you read Safely Home - you sense Alcorn's desire throughout the book to lift our eyes to the eternal scenes - to see persecution and evangelism and suffering through the eyes of Jesus Christ.  The heavenly scenes in Safely Home are the most powerful - the ones that led me to tears as I read them.

I won't say any more because I don't want to give away the story of the book.  However, I do pray that each of you will read this amazing work.  I pray that I will not soon forget the images that Alcorn has left with me.  And I pray for each of us to live every day in light of what is eternally significant, not temporarily seen as important.

I watched a TV special last night on the president's photographer - an interesting report on the people whose job it is to capture in pictures every moment of a president's term.  As I watched it, a thought hit me that was embedded during my reading of Safely Home - though a photographer tries to capture every moment of a presidency, he can't see everything.  And though a photographer wants to record significant moments for future historians to look back at, most images will be quickly forgotten and never looked at again.  But there is One who sees all and remembers everything.  And one day we will all meet Him face to face.

Are you living your life in light of this reality?

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