Window on the World - A Review

Finding helpful resources for discipling children can be a challenge. It is difficult to find resources that are reasonably up to date, engaging, and avoid theologically tendentious assertions.

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In particular, teaching children about other cultures and the pressing need for a broader vision and calling to cross-cultural evangelism, especially through international missions. One helpful resource has been the Operation World concept adapted for children in the Window on the World book. That full-color volume gives an introduction to world cultures, nations, and religious ideas in a brief, engaging manner. However, due to the passage of time and shifting of political winds, many of the entries had become outdated and factually inaccurate.

Thankfully, IVP has released a revised edition of the Window on the World book. This roughly 200 page volume has been updated with new pictures, correct sociological data, and different people groups. It, too, will need to be updated before long. In the meanwhile, this is a resource that missionally minded parents would do well to invest in.

Window on the World has ninety-two entries. There are fifty-two countries discussed, thirty-four people groups, and six discussions of major world religions.

Each of the entries is visually engaging with up-to-date color pictures, maps, and informational panels that offer specific prayer topics and important statistics. The text is simply written with an emphasis of personal accounts of families or children from within the given people group or nation.

At two pages each, the topics discussed in the book are far from exhaustive. However, they provide enough information to interest a young reader or listener in the world outside his or her own experience. It personalizes the lostness of the world, the ongoing persecution of Christians in other cultures, and the importance of praying for, given to, and participating in cross-cultural missions.

This volume is organized alphabetically, which means that linear progress through the volume can sometimes be uneven. It will take a bit of planning to study particular regions of the world in sequence. However, it is just this sort of shifting between the Hui people group to the nation of Iceland to the country of India that will keep some young readers flipping the pages.

Window on the World provides a way for homeschool parents to teach their children about the lostness of the world and disciple them toward prayer and engagement in cross-cultural missions. In addition to its information, it has specific suggestions for praying for each of the entries. The length is appropriate for reading at a meal time or including as a brief topic between other academic subjects. Similarly, it may be possible to incorporate this resource into a study of geography.

Parents who do not homeschool will also find this a helpful resource, since it could be used for a family devotional activities in the evenings or on weekends. It is friendly to a wide range of theological traditions, since it focuses on the socio-political information of each entry, but could be part of a regular pattern of teaching in the home.

This is the sort of book that will intrigue many children, especially those who find encyclopedias engaging. The layout, writing style, and brevity of the entries makes this a feast for those youngsters that find Usborne or DK books so entertaining. Even absent a parental strategy of organized teaching on world missions, this volume could accomplish the same ends merely by being placed on an appropriate shelf.

The church should be thankful for IVP for updating this valuable resource. The editors, Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall, have provided a service to the body of Christ as we seek to raise up another generation with a heart for seeing people from every tribe and tongue and nation come to Christ.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

If you are Christian that struggles with prayer, then Tim Keller’s recent book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, is for you. Of course, this means that I am recommending this book to every Christian on the planet because we all struggle with prayer at some point in our lives.

I like Keller’s stuff. I have read most of his books and have listened to many of his sermons. This is, perhaps, his best book so far. That is really saying something.

Despite my appreciation of Keller’s work, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when I picked up this book. Most books with the word “prayer” in the title end up being glorified self-help books that present a moralistic vision that guilts the reader about not praying enough or not praying correctly. Other books provide simplistic formulas for prayer that may be helpful in the short term, but which fall short of helping the reader construct a theology of and methodology for personal prayer.

Prayer is a masterpiece on this very important spiritual discipline. In a world filled with a myriad of views on the nature of prayer, the methods of prayer, and the efficacy of prayer, Keller’s book stands above the rest.

This book critiques the most common popular errors about prayer. Keller disabuses his readers of the notion that an omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign God would not expect his people to pray. Keller writes:

“If we believed that God was in charge and our actions meant nothing, it would lead to discouraged passivity. If on the other hand we really believed that our actions changed God’s plan––it would lead to paralyzing fear. If both are true, however, we have the greatest incentive for diligent effort, and yet we can always sense God’s everlasting arms under us. In the end, we can’t frustrate God’s good plans for us (cf. Jer 29:11).”

With arguments like these, Keller eradicates the notion that theology–-understanding what God is like––is unimportant to prayer. This book convicts the reader of the importance of prayer, but reminds the reader of the reality and availability of grace.

Keller seeks to present a vision of prayer that is theological, experiential, and methodological in one book. He does this well.

The theological frame for this volume is built from Scripture. Keller emphasizes that the Psalms are largely a collection of prayers. They provide examples of how God’s people have prayed in the past, which can be appropriated by God’s people today. Keller also explores what great theologians of the past have written about Prayer. Augustine and Luther both wrote letters to parishioners on the topic of prayer. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin has an excellent treatise on prayer. Keller summarizes and shares the pith of these pastor-theologians’ writing on prayer. The depth and breadth of the research are part of what makes this new volume a classic text.

The experiential aspect emphasizes the nature of prayer as a conversation with God. We speak to the God who hears and he communicates to us. Contrary to more theologically enigmatic perspectives on prayer, Keller rightly acknowledges that “if prayer is to be a true conversation with God, it must be regularly preceded by listening to God’s voice through meditation on the Scripture.” In other words, Keller’s vision of prayer is more holistic than others, because it includes substantial reflection on the Word of God as an essential part.

This book would be incomplete if it did not provide some helpful specifics that teach the reader to pray. He has chapters dedicated to theological and practical discussion on prayer as worship, as communion with God, and as a means of seeking help from God. Keller also provides some down to earth suggestions for making progress in this important spiritual discipline.

In a world where being Christian and popular at the same time often requires compromise, Tim Keller has managed to shatter the stereotype. Keller’s books sell well because they are well-written, thoughtful, and deal with culturally important topics. Keller’s books are worth owning because they winsomely communicate orthodox truths with depth and accuracy. This book is no exception on either count.

Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher. There was, however, no expectation of a positive review. All opinions above are my own.

Some additional helpful links:

1. A 1990 sermon by Keller on Prayer from Redeemer Presbyterian.

2. A host of resources on prayer from Redeemer Presbyterian.

3. An index of Tim Keller resources from Steve McCoy's personal site. Multiple linked sermons, interviews, articles, etc.

God's Mercies are New Every Day

My wife was out of town the past few days travelling with the kids for a family event. I found out on Saturday they had been on I-40, heading from Nashville to Murfreesboro to eat dinner, but they didn't make it there because the highway was closed down.

It turns out there was an accident. A six-car pileup only a little ways ahead. Instead of being the 2nd car, my family was in the 102nd car. They are safe.

In that wreckage was a student from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, his wife, and their kids. They all died. 

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