Kind of describes some of the roads we traveled in Kalmykia, Russia, and a few at home in MA.
Book Review: Without Warning: A J. B. Collins Novel, by Joel C. Rosenberg
Like the previous books in the J. B. Collins series, Without Warning is a white-knuckle thrill ride you won’t be able to put down. It blends front-page headlines with thrilling suspense. It begins with an attack on U.S. Capitol during the President’s State of the Union address by ISIS forces and doesn’t let go until the final page.
Without Warning is the latest offering by author Joel C. Rosenberg. It is the third and final book in the series on the Islamic State involving New York Times foreign correspondent J. B. Collins as the main character. The book picks up where the previous book, The First Hostage, leaves off.
In the first book in the series, The Third Target, Collins is reporting from the scene of a devastating attack by ISIS terrorists on an Arab-Israeli peace summit in Amman, Jordan. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are critically injured, Jordan’s king is fighting for the survival of his kingdom. And the U.S. president is missing and presumed captured. The second book, The First Hostage, tells the thrilling story of the search for the President. In this book, J. B. Collins is part of a team searching for the ISIS leader, Abu Khalif, in an effort to bring him to justice. The hunt goes from the U.S. Capitol to Bar Harbor, Maine, to Tel Aviv to Cairo to Istanbul and beyond.
As Rosenberg has proven in his previous books, he has the unique ability to blend fiction and non-fiction. He weaves the reality of current events in the Mideast with a fast paced, believable story. The author also laces spiritual principles and a gospel message into the pages of the story. You find yourself on the edge of your chair wondering how the story will turn out.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Here are the pictures from the week in Elista, Russia. I had 12 people in my class on Romans and John Musgrave had 6 men in his class on church leadership. We were staying at City Chess, a complex built in 1998 and the host of the World Chess Championships in 2006. It was a great week. Thanks for praying.
Today was the final day of our class in Elista. A few of the students came early and were led in worship by Slava, who brought his guitar.
We spent the first hour talking about Romans 16. I explained that often we want to skip the first part of the chapter because it is just a list of names. I emphasized the words Paul uses to describe these individuals—hard worker, risked their lives, servant, chosen, beloved, kinsman, approved. I also pointed out that some of the folks are not named, just referred to. In this life, people may not remember your service, but God does, and he will reward us for what we do for him.
After spending 15 chapters teaching sound doctrine and how to practice it in daily life, Paul then warns the Roman church of the danger of false teachers. I stressed that we need to be vigilant and on guard against those who will seek to divide us over minor, non-essential issues. I encouraged them to work towards maintaining unity.
Since I ended early, I gave them a 15-minute assignment to think about two things—(1) What are the lessons you learned from our study of Romans? and (2) What is one lesson you want to put into practice this week? When we came back together, they shared some very personal lessons and heartfelt desires for growth. Rather than try to apply a dozen lessons, I encouraged them to focus on one. We then closed with a time of prayer for one another.
After lunch, the two groups (my class on Romans and John Musgrave’s class on church leadership) gathered for a group picture. Sandzhik gave thank you gifts to John & Naomi Musgrave, Lena, my translator, and me. He said he had asked people what they were learning and he was impressed and encouraged by what they were taking to heart. He closed by saying he was looking forward to our next visit and the classes we would offer.
The afternoon was spent relaxing, reading, and running errands. In the evening, we had dinner at the home of Mergen and Elza.
We start the homeward journey tomorrow morning. We will drive from Elista to Krasnodar on Friday, and then to Anapa on Saturday, where I will catch a flight back to Moscow. On Sunday, I will make the long journey home—Moscow to Amsterdam to Boston.
Thanks for praying.
In Tsibanobalka, we had one man who was going through a divorce unwillingly. John tried to explain how the process works in Russia, but I could not wrap my head around it. In a convoluted or twisted approach to “no child left behind,” each member of the family is granted equal ownership in the house. In this case, the man, his wife, and three children under the age of 12 all own 20% of the house. Since the wife has custody of the children, she controls 80% of the house, and their joint business venture as well. Who can sell 20% of a house? is his dilemma. If he wanted to be vindictive, he could sell his 20% to a drunken person who could make life hell for the rest of his family. In situations like this, you need the wisdom of Solomon to sort out what to do.
When Julia asked if children who die young go to heaven, it was not a theoretical question. Naomi explained that Badma and Julia lost a child before the age of one, and Badma was not able to give her a satisfying answer as to the child’s eternal destiny. It was a question she was deeply concerned about.
On the way home from dinner at Sandzhik’s home last night, a comment was made about speed bumps. (Elista has more speed bumps than any city in the country. John counted 23 behind City Chess and Sandzhik’s home.) I thought Sandzhik said speed bumps were the only honest policeman, one who didn’t ask for a bribe. Turns out he said a policeman laying on the road was the only honest one. Sandzhik went on to explain that jokes and stories making fun of government is part of their culture since they cannot organize groups to protest or speak out against government. He said that in America, you pay bribes to do things illegally. In Russia, they pay bribes to get legal things done. People don’t pay taxes because it just lines the pocket of a bureaucrat. If taxes actually were used for repairing roads, improving electricity or other basic services, people would be happy to pay taxes. Withholding taxes is their only form of protest. Should lead to an interesting discussion of Romans 13.
Jordick, or George as they nicknamed him, asked about people who have never heard the gospel. I referred him back to Romans 1 where Paul said that the truth about God is evident in nature, but people suppress the truth. Therefore, we are all without excuse. If people desire to know God, God can send them a witness. I said there were stories of missionaries who went to remote jungles and found tribes expectantly waiting for the gospel. They were aware of a movie, The End of the Spear, which tells of the five missionaries martyred by the Auca Indians.
On Wednesday, the group gathered again at 10AM and we tackled Romans 12. I ended Tuesday by explaining verse 1-2. I began Wednesday by asking what challenges they face in applying these verses. We talked about the nature of commitment and the need to be diligent and constant in maintaining it. One person wanted to know how to raise her teenage son. Another asked how to gain victory over superstitions.
12:3-8 talks about spiritual gifts and 12:9-13 give several “one another” commands. As part of their assignment, I asked about the relationship between the two. I gave them a copy of the many one another commands in the New Testament. I also gave them a chart I made comparing the list of spiritual gifts with the commands of Scripture. All of the gifts except for the more miraculous ones (apostleship, healing, tongues, interpretation) have a corresponding command. Just because I don’t the gift of ______, I still have a responsibility to serve in that area.
After enjoying lunch from 12-1PM, we tackled chapter 13. We wrestled with the challenge of obeying a government you don’t agree with. One shared that the government issued a tax bill that was 2-3 times normal. They were told to pay the bill and then sue the government to receive a refund. Her husband didn’t want to pay the bill. Her dilemma was whom she should obey—the government or her husband.
In our discussion of chapter 14 and the weak and the strong, one asked about the issue of alcohol. Should we drink or not drink? What if it causes a friend to sin? I told of a church in Spain that changed their observance of communion from wine to grape juice because they recognized there were some alcoholics in the church and they didn’t want to cause them to stumble and fall back into alcoholism.
After our discussion of chapter 15, I ended the class early at 5PM. I gave them an assignment to read chapter 16 and look for three things—what did Paul praise the individuals listed for, what did Paul warn the church about, and how did Paul praise God at the end?
At 7PM, Sandzhik brought a group of 7 African students to our flat for dinner and fellowship. They come from Congo and Zambia and are students at the local university, Sandzhik has befriended and is ministering to the group. It was a unique Acts 2 moment to hear songs of praise in Russian, French, English, and other native languages. The men asked Sandzhik to share his testimony and he told of being a committed Buddhist and discovering the gospel by reading through the New Testament. Elza shared how the gospel delivered her from the many superstitions that had kept her in bondage. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship.
Thanks for praying. I’m in your debt.