Making Pentecost Your Story: 50 Days of Reflection and Prayer, Robert Menzies, Xanesti Creative Solutions, 2015. Kindle edition or wireless download from Amazon for $2.99, 190 pages (estimate). ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number): B00VCUS3J2.
Reviewed by Peter S. Anderson
Dr Menzies’ Making Pentecost Your Story: 50 Days of Reflection and Prayer, designed as a devotional companion volume to his book, Pentecost: This Story is Our Story, begins with a brief but very helpful overview of the church in China. Menzies speaks with credible firsthand evidence and accurately points out that the house church movement, in particular, is strongly Pentecostal in flavor. He states that the “Pentecostal faith is rooted in the Bible and flows from the conviction that the stories in the book of Acts are our stories: stories that provide models for life and ministry.”
The daily devotional readings cover seven weeks (Sunday through Saturday), each day beginning with a well-chosen Scripture passage. A short story follows, based on Dr Menzies’ own experiences. Over many years, he has obviously had many very interesting contacts with Christians in China. He records valuable lessons learned from his interaction with all kinds of people including leaders in various house church networks. These often moving personal stories give an accurate and balanced picture of what believers in China have experienced in the past, and what they experience today. Menzies also tells stories of how people from various backgrounds have come to faith—great snapshots of God at work in China. In several of his devotionals, Menzies quotes from the songs of Xiaomin, the well-known house church hymn writer. Along with each story, Menzies seeks to bring home a relevant application for the reader and then concludes with a final prayer—all truly excellent.
Preachers looking for a China-related illustration to include in a sermon would find the index of Scripture verses at the end very helpful as Menzies obviously chose the Scripture passages to fit with his stories. The tone of the devotional is truly uplifting and challenging.
Undoubtedly, most believers in China believe the Holy Spirit is very much at work today as he was in the book of Acts. The vast majority of Chinese believers are certainly not “cessationists,” but this does not mean the majority are “traditional” Pentecostals either. Menzies admits that, although the leaders of one of the major house church networks claimed to be Pentecostal in outlook, a survey of 20 students in one of their seminaries revealed only seven viewed tongues as a sign of Spirit baptism while only nine said tongues occurred in their churches often or occasionally.
At the start of each week of readings, stories and prayers, Menzies has a section with questions relating to his book, Pentecost: This Story is Our Story. He asks many important and challenging questions, but his occasional (to my mind) over-emphasis on speaking in tongues was, for me, the only slightly negative aspect of this otherwise excellent devotional. I highly recommend it.
Image courtesy of Glasses by Poul-Werner Dam, on Flickr
Peter S. Anderson, a former International Director of Jian Hua Foundation (JHF) has been in Chinese ministry for over 45 years. Peter and his late wife Geralyn served with OMF in Taiwan (1976–82) followed by service in Hong Kong and mainland China (1982–2005) with Friends of China and JHF. From 2006–2016 …View Full Bio