A review of 41 Will Come by Chuck E. Tate

41willcome41 Will Come by Chuck E. Tate is an encouraging book on the importance of waiting for God’s breakthrough in life’s tough situations. Tate is the founding pastor of RockChurch in Illinois.

Tate bases his book on the premise that in the Bible, 40 days (or whatever period) of a trial is followed by the 41st day, a time of God’s intervention, blessing, and work. Tate is correct in seeing this pattern in Scripture. It is why I always take note when I see the number 40 in the Bible. Tate focuses on the story of Goliath defying the army of Israel for 40 days until, on the 41st day, David in faith faces him.

The Good

Tate is a “warm and friendly” writer, encouraging. It is obvious that he has concern for people. The writing style reminds of that of Craig Groeschel and Matt Batterson. The book is illustrated not just with Biblical stories, but also with the lives of people today. The reader passing through difficult days will likely find some encouragement in this book. (I did.) The book is very practical.

But…

Sometimes it is practical to point of passing over deeper theological truth. For example in the chapter on the Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (another 40 in the Bible), Tate emphasizes Jesus use of the Word in terms of claiming God’s promises and launching toward God’s purpose. All of that is fine and well, but a deeper theological truth is at work in that passage. Jesus was tempted as we are, but without sin. He faced what the first Adam faced and did not sin as Adam did. Because He was sinless, He was worthy to be our Savior. He still is.

However…

Tate’s purpose was not to write a systematic theology but to encourage those waiting for God to help them or to fulfill their dreams. Such people are looking for encouragement based upon God’s Word that will them get to their 41. This book fits that need, and I recommend it.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Tyndale’s Blog Network program in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

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Understanding the Temple: A Review of The Temple and the Tabernacle

IMG_0771The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation is an excellent resource for pastors and Bible teachers. J. Daniel Hayes, a dean of the School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University, is the author. I will not make my usual list of strengths and weaknesses simply because there were no weaknesses evident. Instead, I will share what I liked about the book and why I think it is important to read.
What I Liked
Despite having dealt with such a magisterial topic, Hayes is surprisingly brief. If you have read my other reviews, you know that I am not a fan of long books. Brevity is a sign of excellent organization and clarity of language. Hayes’ writing is a model for those who, like me, are trying to master the craft. The book is easily assessable to most readers who are familiar with the Bible beyond a cursory understanding.IMG_0772
The structure of the book follows a chronological narrative of the temple as representing God’s presence with His people. While some may object to seeing the Scripture as a story because they think it is a capitulation to post-modernism, the fact of it is clearly evident. Many themes and images serve to unite the narrative of the Bible—the temple being one. Like all of those, the consummation of the imagery is found in Jesus who is God’s presence with His people and will be for eternity. The book includes photographs and diagrams that are helpful for picturing the physical elements of the tabernacle. The final chapter with implications of the truth discussed in the book is worth the price but read the rest of it so you can see how the author got there.
Who Can Use This Book
Though accessible and readable, the book is not for everyone. Some familiarity with the Bible, particularly the connections between the Old and New Testament would be helpful. This book is an excellent reference for Bible teachers, Sunday-School teachers, and pastors.

(Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

 

 

Review of Unchanging Witness by Fortson and Grams

unchangingwitness

Unchanging Witness by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams desires to answer the recent challenges to traditional evangelical views regarding homosexuality. The authors seek to respond to the challenge not only by examining pertinent biblical passages but also by looking to the traditional teachings of the church. They hope their book will be a resource book for those who hold the traditional view.

Strengths

If the intent was to become a resource book, the authors are successful. A 380-page book is remarkably brief to reach the desired goal of the authors. The structure of the book is easy to follow. Pastors and Bible teachers looking for resources to help shape their response to attacks on the church’s views of sexuality will find this book to be a valuable resource. The structure of the book, which begins with the historic church views moving to modern views and then concluding with sections regarding the Bible’s teaching, is easily followed and can be quickly referenced.

Weaknesses

The book is high on doctrinal truth. It is weak on pastoral care for those who are dealing with homosexual desires. It was not the intent of the authors to write a manual on pastoral care; so, I recognize that my criticism is not entirely fair. I bring it up to say that ministers will want other tools on their bookshelf to go along with this one. Also, this book is not accessible to just anyone. The language is technical and theological. Pastors and teachers will need carefully and respectfully to convey this material to their congregation or class. The book is ideal for a seminary class or college level class on the subject of Christian ethics.

Analysis

This book contains nothing new, and that is precisely the point that the authors want to make. Through the centuries, the church has had one authoritative voice on the issue of homosexuality. I am most qualified to analyze this book from a missiological perspective. New teachings regarding the acceptability of homosexual behavior are what missiologists call local theologies. They are developed to answer questions that arise in a particular culture. In this case, the culture is our own, and the theology is that homosexual behavior in a committed relationship is biblically acceptable. Fortson and Grams say “no” to that conclusion.

Fortson and Grams bring the local theology that homosexual behavior is acceptable into dialogue with the rest of the church’s teaching. Many proponents of accepting same-sex marriage argue that evangelicals no longer have a universal view on the subject, and therefore, freedom exists for evangelical churches to sanction same-sex marriage. However, Fortson and Grams demonstrate that they assume too much.

The fact that disagreement exists does not make all views equal and warranted. Missiologists and theologians have devised various dialogical methods for analyzing local theologies for the purpose of determining if a local theology is worthy of either universal acceptance or, at the very least, toleration. Part of that dialogue includes not only the witness of Scripture but also the historical teaching of the church. Fortson and Gram initiate the conversation using both history and the Bible. They find the case for same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexuality to be wanting. This book is one of the most important recent books on this subject.

(I received a free copy of this book from B&H Academic in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

My Sunday Prayer Time

This morning I did my usual. Every day I read several chapters of the Bible and one chapter from Proverbs. Most days I do more, but on Sundays I do that and focus on praying for the service at our church, the Bible study classes, and for our pastor and staff.

This morning was different in one way. I was impatient with God. We’ve been waiting on God for an answer to prayer for some time now, and this week, I had grown tired of waiting. So I started my prayer, “It’s Sunday, Lord, and nothing has changed since last Sunday.” It wasn’t long after those words passed through my mind that a couple of questions popped into my mind. “Have YOU grown more like Christ this week? Have YOU drawn nearer to God?”

Romans 8:29 states that God’s purpose is to conform believers to the image Christ. All things—even waiting for God to answer prayer—work toward good according to that purpose. (Romans 8:28) So, if nothing has changed, it is not God’s fault. It is a failure on my part to accept His purpose, to submit myself to Him, and to be transformed by the Spirit’s work through God’s Word that I spend time in each day.

God answered my prayer of complaint, though that is more than I deserved. Because He did, I am reminded what to do as I wait for His response to my other one. I hope that my experience will help others who also find themselves waiting.

When My Heart And His Word Disagree

This morning I studied Psalm 57. Psalm 57:7 in the English Standard Version reads:

My heart is steadfast, O God,
My heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!

Those words struck hard. My heart is not steadfast. I doubt. I worry. I despair. Like the words of the hymn, “Prone to wonder, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

How can a heart be steadfast? David had every reason to feel as I did this morning when he wrote this Psalm. In fact, he had more reason. He, the man anointed to become king, was hiding in a cave from jealous King Saul. David likely wrote this Psalm around the events of either 1 Samuel 22:1 or 1 Samuel 24. God anointed David for kingship, but instead, David was hiding like a criminal. The quickest way out was to compromise his beliefs and to kill God’s anointed King. He would not do so. Despite his circumstances, his heart was steadfast. How could that be? A few other verses point us toward understanding.

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness. (vv. 2-3)

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (v. 10)

David’s heart was steadfast because of his faith in the steadfastness of God. God would be faithful to fulfill His promise, His purpose for David’s life. David trusted in God’s constant love and perfect, unchanging nature. David had faith because even hiding in a dark cave he could see the light of God’s faithfulness. When I was younger, I used to have a poster hanging above my bed. It was a picture of a tall mountain with words written above, “Our faith does not rest in our feelings: it rests in the unshakeable character of God.”

Steadfast hearts do not come from willpower or training. They come from resting in God and His unchanging love.

 

 

Reviewing The Bible Cause by John Fea

The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society by historian John Fea recounts the two hundred year history of the American Bible Society. As such, one might expect it to be rather bland. In my Ph.D. research, I have read a couple of “institutional” histories, and they tend to be dull accounts of buildings and donors. However, Fea is an excellent writer. He most well-known work is Was America Founded as A Fea manages to write a book a compelling account of the ABS story and its commitment to distribute the Bible in the United States and around the world. The book should be of interest to anyone who wishes to understand the influence of Christianity on American society. It should also interest to missiologists and church historians.

Strengths

What keeps this history from being dry is the narrative framework of the book. The narrative nature should keep the ABS story attractive to the average reader. At the same time, the story reveals key points mentioned in the introduction that Fea wants to get across. First, the Bible is the word of God with a salvation message. As such, it must be distributed widely in the common language of the people. (p. 3) Second, the ABS held to a cultural mandate of building a Christian society in the United States and around the world. (p. 3) Fea reiterates these points as they arise in the narrative. For those who see evangelical activism as something new and foreign to the American story (or only present during election years), these points may surprise.

Another key strength is the refreshing honesty of the history. In one sense, this book is an “authorized” biography of the ABS. The ABS asked Fea to write the book because wanted a scholarly history. As a historian, Fea was committed to academic freedom. The ABS allowed for that freedom. Therefore, the book contains the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ABS. Thankfully the story is mostly good.

My interest in ABS history comes from research into the expansion of Christianity in the American Midwest in the early 1800s, particularly in the work of John Mason Peck, whom Fea mentions in the book. Several individual stories from the ABS history can serve as missiological case studies. Though the ABS did not see itself as a missionary agency, its workers often faced similar struggles to those of missionaries. The work of Frances Hamilton in Mexico is particularly noteworthy for her cultural adaptation and commitment to reach the Mexican people.

Weaknesses

As someone who loves history, particularly related to Christian expansion and evangelical influence on American culture, it saddens me that this book will not have broad appeal beyond people like me. Despite the narrative nature, it is unlikely that a casual reader could pick this book up and stay with it for its 360 plus pages. Sections will come across as dry if one is not already interested in the subject.

Final Analysis

 Still, this book should be a valuable reference. The story of the ABS intersects with the whole of United States history including slavery and freedmen, Native Americans, mainline denominations, evangelicalism, fundamentalism (both small and capital “f”), politics, wars, and military excursions. As such, researchers could use it as a starting point to dig deeper in new areas. Missiologists should also take a look. Missiologists have noted the tie between Scripture distribution as extensive seed sowing of the gospel and church planting movement. Researchers could investigate correlations and causations between ABS campaigns and church planting and church growth.

(Full Disclosure: Oxford University Press gave me access to a non-corrected electronic copy of this book in exchange for review purposes. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

Finding Jesus in the Book of Job

Recently, I completed a personal study of the Old Testament book of Job. I have read it many times, and studied it at least once, but this study, perhaps because of recent life experiences, was deeply meaningful.

In the final chapter, particularly Job 42:7-9, I see a picture of Jesus in Job. Like Jesus, Job, a righteous man suffered greatly. Like Jesus, Job’s suffering was God’s will. (That point may be controversial to some. After all, Satan was the direct cause of Job’s suffering. Still, God granted permission for it to happen. Throughout, Job saw God as sovereign over the circumstances, and in the end, God said nothing to deny Job’s view.) Like Jesus, those around Job saw him as being cursed by God. And like Jesus, in the end, the Father both vindicates and exalts Job.

God confronted the “friends” of Job and said it was they who had spoken wrong about Him. In fact, God said that he was angry with them. It was not Job who had a broken relationship with God, which had been their assumption. Rather, they were the ones with the sin. In order to be restored to their relationship with God, they needed an intermediary. In order to be right with God, had to offer sacrifice through Job, and he had to pray for them. In this priestly role, Job is a picture of Jesus.

Just as Job’s friends needed and intermediary, so do we. We must go to Jesus, the sacrifice in our place, and be converted, repenting of our sins and putting our faith in Him.