I am a huge fan of transparency. Prior to reading “The Grand Paradox” by Ken Wytsma* I had just finished reading his first book, “Pursuing Justice” and immediately began making plans to attend this years Justice Conference in Chicago, IL. Recently, I have started receiving pre-release copies of books about social justice, global missions, and Christian theology, especially with the recent launch of my new website, www.jeremywillet.com. Not only do I enjoy reading these books, but it is also very helpful in my work of advocating for justice for the poorest of the poor to stay educated about current issues, trends, strategies, and philosophies in missions. You can look forward to additional blog reviews for new books coming soon**.
I was immediately drawn into Ken’s new book when I read his honest confession about taking a “prayer fast – a break from all public prayer” because of his struggle with the hypocrisy of prayer-posture, elegant word choices, and pride when praying around other people. I personally don’t know many pastors or justice-leaders that would admit such an intimate detail of their prayer-life. In addition, I don’t know many (any) authors that would write “Maybe the only thing you needed to get out of this book was the permission to close it.” It is obvious that this book is not about the author.
Ken’s frequent mention of Brother Lawrence and his classic “The Practice of the Presence of God” was especially appreciated as a spiritual discipline reference because that small book has had a profound impact on my life! I really appreciated the thoughts on “hearing God’s voice”, and the encouragement to listen for “where God is already speaking” (nature and scripture), as I believe this is an area that all Christians desire to grow in. You can easily sense Ken’s heart for justice as he writes one of the strongest lines in the book;
“For all the tension and debate around the term, what we can’t miss is that justice in the social arena – that is, social justice – is part of a biblical justice mandate. We can debate strategies, political platforms, best practices for economics, job creation, and aid programs, but at the end of the day, what is nonnegotiable is God’s heart for justice at the center of our cities and as a part of His Kingdom.”
“The Grand Paradox” spent a fair amount of time discussing the theme of doubt and faith. I paid special attention to this chapter as my wife and I have experienced our share of doubts and faith-testing through our 4+ years in our Ethiopia adoption.
“Faith isn’t destroyed or diminished by doubt. The opposite is true; faith is the answer to doubt.”
Another very special section of the book focuses on “What is God’s plan for my life?”. Rather than provide quotes or give a synopsis of this particular part, I would HIGHLY encourage you to purchase the book to spend quality time with the verses and stories shared. I would never encourage you to buy something that hasn’t first impacted me, and many readers of this blog are followers of Jesus that are walking with our family’s missionary journey on our prayer-support team or our financial-support team, so I love to recommend resources that may be helpful for your journey too. Ken states later in the book:
“What if heaven is not so much a different place as a different way of existing?…Eternity starts now!”
Theologically, you may not line up here (and that’s OK). Honestly, since I’m writing this, and you’re reading this, that means that we still have breath in our lungs, and therefore, neither of us have the “inside scoop” on the afterlife. But, all I know is that you and I still have breath in our lungs for a REASON, and I believe that our valuable time on earth should not be spent so much on talking about a Kingdom yet to come, but rather spent building Jesus’ Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” Perhaps, that is a part of heaven? Perhaps that is heaven? I’m not sure, but I will always stand by Christians attempting to bring “heaven to earth” by feeding hungry children, caring for orphans and widows, preventing human trafficking, healing the sick, visiting the prisoners, clothing the homeless, and reaching the lost.
After reading “The Grand Paradox”, the one word that God left me challenged with was: humility. In fact, I wrote it on my hand when I finished the book to serve as a reminder to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8b). Not only does the book encourage humility, but the little that I’ve gotten to interact with Ken through email and social media, I sense a man of humility. In fact, he gave me a little twitter-love on the launch-day of my new website!
I HIGHLY encourage you to grab a copy of this book on amazon for your E-Reader or a physical copy. It will deeply strengthen your walk with Christ. In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote from the book:
“If we have realistic expectations and make justice more a part of the natural rhythm of our life, we will be on a much better trajectory to finding peace, endurance, and courage in the midst of our fatigue.”
For the least of these,
*Ken is the lead pastor of Antioch in Bend, Oregon and the president of Kilns College where he teaches courses on philosophy and justice. Ken is also the founder of The Justice Conference–an annual international gathering that introduces men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations related to biblical justice and the call to give our lives away.
**I received a free copy of “The Grand Paradox” from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review of the book, and I do not receive any compensation from you reading this review or pre-orders / purchases of the book in any way. In my role as Worship and Community Transformation Coordinator for New Mission Systems International, I attempt to keep my eye out for new resources, books and publications in regards to justice, missions, and poverty. I was thankful for the free copy of this book, and I hope this review shows you how I was inspired by Ken’s story and work on behalf of the Gospel.