Mark's #50 - Unto Death: Martyrdom, Missions, and the Maturity of the Church by Dalton Thomas (2012)

Gripped by fear and an overriding goal of self-preservation, few Christians today will pursue dangerous or even "risky" situations to advance the Kingdom of God

Unto Death is 27-year-old Dalton Thomas' passionate plea for Christians today to turn their eyes to Jesus, see His all surpassing worth, and joyfully and boldly go to the most difficult places on earth with the proclamation of the gospel.  More than just an emotional plea however, Thomas grounds his convictions in the Word of God and the testimony of followers of Christ who "loved not their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11)".  Along the way, we are reminded of the worth of Christ, the continual presence and purposes of God in the martyrdom of His saints, the joy, love and grace of martyrdom, the role of martyrdom in the fulfilling of the great commission (Mt. 18:19-20), and how the maturity of the church of Jesus hinges on our growth toward embracing the cost of following Christ, even unto death.

In spite of his youth (27 - I'm 37), Dalton Thomas writes clearly and convincingly about an essential issue for us in the church in the west today.  I stumbled upon this book when my friend Buddy posted on his Facebook wall as a free kindle book.  I almost didn't read it because it was free and I had never heard of the guy. However, when I saw that one of the recommendations of the book came from David Sitton, I decided it would be worth my time.  I'm glad I did.  This is one of the best books I've read this year.

Here's a few more quotes that grabbed my heart while reading:

"Death is a means.  Christ is the end.  Joy is the motive.  And glorious is the journey."

"Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every Church a martyr-mandate, and every ministry a martyr-theology."

"The gospel is so valuable that no risk is unreasonable"

Here's a short trailer for the book by the author: httpv://

Mark's #3 - Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ:The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)

This book is part of John Piper's short biographies of great Christian men and women in church history.   Each book summarizes the life, faith, experiences, and lessons we can learn through the lives of three people.  The theme of this book, as the title suggests, examines the lives of three men who gave up everything to follow Christ and proclaim His name to the nations.  I enjoy these books as they serve as quick snapshots of significant lives that were not wasted.  Often, I am motivated to go on and read the more in-depth biographies as a result (as I have already done with Judson, and plan on doing with Paton).

The first person Piper addresses in this book is William Tyndall (1494-1536).  As English Catholic priest who began to read the works of other reformers of his day, God gave him a passion to translate and mass produce copies of the Bible in the english language.  To the modern man, this seems like a rather benign pursuit, but in Tyndall's day, this was an offense punishable by death.  Tyndall was forced to live the bulk of his adult life in exile on the European continent.  There he translated the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament, which were subsequently smuggled into England by friends.   Tyndall and most of his cohorts were put to death by St. Thomas More (and to think that was the name of the Catholic church I grew up going to!).  Most people think of the authorized version of the King James Bible (1611) as the dominant influence of the spread of Reformed Christianity in the english speaking world.  however, Tyndall's Bible set the foundation, as nearly 80% of the KJV is directly from Tyndall's translation.

Next was the life of John Paton (1824-1907), missionary to the New Hebrides (present day Vanuatu).  Again, through much hardship, tribulation, persecution, God was glorified in his life.  A couple things of note: First, it is interesting that Paton had already a very successful inner-city ministry in Scotland.  When he felt called by God to go to the islands full of cannibals, almost everyone in his life tried to persuade him to stay in his fruitful ministry.  Nevertheless, strengthened by his parents faith and encouragement, Patton followed God's lead to a life of incredible hardship and incredible fruit.  Today, 91% of the people of Vanuatu identify as Christian.  Second, Patton said that when his life was on the line (which was quite often), it's in those times that he experience the presence and peace of God like no other.  He was convinced that if the rich and comfortable people back home could just have one such experience, they would gladly leave it all for the sake of following Christ.

Finally, Piper summarizes the life of Adoniram Judson (1788-1855), the first missionary from American soil.  I had already read the main biography on Judson's life - To The Golden Shore (which I highly recommend), so this short recap served mostly as a reminder for me.  Again through much hardship and tribulation, which included the death of three wives and many of his children, God was glorified in Judson's life as he took the gospel to Burma (present day Mynamar).  Here he was able to translate the Scriptures for the Burmese people.  Though Burma is currently under a communist dictatorship, Judson's legacy lives on today through the lives of more than 3,700 baptist churches.

If  you don't want to read long biographies, I would recommend all of the Swans are Not Silent series by John Piper.  They will challenge and encourage you in your faith.