theology

Words of Grace by Scott Patty: A Book Review

Words of Grace by Scott Patty

                                            (Photo Courtesy of LifeWay)

Written prayerfully and from the heart, Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional, penned by Scott Patty, pastor of Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee and a graduate of Belmont University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a powerful spiritual devotional that illuminates the most essential message of the Bible: grace. Through the devotional pieces in this book, Patty strives to “open up the meaning, relevance, and application of God’s Word of grace to people” (xi). The author hopes readers “hear God’s Word, see the grace of Christ in it [the Bible], respond to him [Christ] in faith, and come to know him [Christ] personally” (xi).  

As a minister and theologian whose teaching praxis and theology centers on grace, this book is a welcome addition to my library. Each devotional piece begins with one or two scriptural verses, and then Patty starts teaching the reader critical truths and principles based on the verse(s), triggering valuable spiritual reflections and personal calls-to-action. When reading Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional, therefore, don’t think you’re about to pick a book that’s not about to challenge you to experience spiritual renewal and transformation. This book has the power to produce a truly new you; a new you in virtually every area of your life.

One of my favorite devotional pieces in the book is “God, the Just and Justifier,” based on Romans 3:21-26, which is arguably “the most important paragraph on salvation in the Bible” (9). This portion of the book is a beautiful (and brief, of course) explanation and reflection on how God’s grace has liberated those who believe His grace is sufficient to forgive and cleanse their sins forever. Patty writes, “As such, when Jesus died on the cross he took our sins to himself, bore the punishment of God against our sin in his body, and thereby freed us from condemnation for our sin. God sent Jesus to be our substitute. This is the definition of grace” (9).    

In short, I highly recommend that you purchase and read this book. As you read this work, you will grow deeper in your comprehension and appreciation of grace. To help facilitate a critical review of Patty’s work, B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay supplied me with a copy of Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Between Pain & Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering: A Brief Review

Between Pain and Grace

(Photo Credit: Design Corps)

In Pain & Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering, Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer offer a thorough and astute assessment of Scripture’s treatment of pain and grace.  Although many readers, especially those who are not advanced bible students or theologians, will find Peterman and Schmutzer’s assertion that God experiences suffering unsettling, their argument on this topic is worthwhile to consider. For those of us who understand the realities of anger, the scholars’ view of anger as a type of suffering may be satisfying.  They discuss mental health and sexual abuse in the context of suffering. What one will discover from this text is his or her faith in what grace has made available will lead him or her to triumph over pain and suffering.

Unlike most books concentrating on pain and suffering that relate them in such generic ways, this work concatenates biblical truths and evidence with clinical research about pain and suffering. I found this book to demonstrate how powerful the grace of Christ is in helping believers to overcome the challenges and problems they experience. As Peterman and Schmutzer explain, pain and suffering are unavoidable in this life. How we elect to confront them will determine our outcomes, however. After reading this book, many readers are likely to increase their faith and trust in Christ’s ability to enable them to rise above pain and suffering.

I highly recommend this book. In a nation and world where elevating violence and hate can seem unbearable, Peterman and Schmutzer remind us that the Finished Work of the Cross has already conquered the pain and suffering we face. It is our job to partake of the grace Jesus has extended to defeat pain and suffering.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His ( by Max Lucado, the popular author of numerous Christian books, presents the dominant thesis that God loves you the way you are but He does not intend to leave you the way you are.  Lucado contends that God wants you to develop a heart like Jesus and He wants to make you just like Jesus.  The author asserts that the central focus of a true Christian’s life is patterning his or her thoughts, words, and actions after Jesus.

I found Lucado’s book to provide a substantive understanding of how God will assist you in becoming what He wants you to be.  At the end of the book, there is a “Study Guide” for each chapter that enables the reader to engage in critical thought about each chapter.  By including this “Study Guide,” the writer evinces his serious desire for the reader to grasp the importance of each chapter’s primary messages.  I agree with Lucado’s overriding thesis that God loves you just the way you are but He does not intend for you to remain the way you are.

Too often religious leaders don’t let people know they have greatness already within them.  When Jesus comes into their lives, He activates the greatness that lies within them.  Lucado’s book is vital reminder to readers that God can use them for His glory as He transforms them into the people He needs them to be.  I found his argument that God longs for total control of humans’ lives to be at the core of what it means to be a Christian and a significant message for postmodern Christians to contemplate and embrace.

I highly recommend you purchase this book today!  The book can be purchased here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/just-like-jesus-5.html and you can read other reviews of this book here: http://www.booksneeze.com/reviews/bybook/9780849947438.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

God is More than Enough by Tony Evans: A Review

God is More Than Enough

In God is More than Enough (2004), Tony Evans, president of The Urban Alternative and Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, offers readers a powerful explication of Psalm 23.  The book is published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.  Although the book is only 90 pages, it unpacks Psalm 23 in such a sophisticated manner while still being able to be easily understood by the average reader.  Many readers will be fascinated at how much meaning is packed into the six verses that compose Psalm 23, and one is sure to gain a new appreciation for it or reaffirm its significance to the Christian’s spiritual walk with Jesus.  In the troubling times in which we live, this book extends to the reader comfort and hope to face these disquieting times.

In the Introduction, Tony Evans does not waste time in evincing how he conceptualizes Psalm 23: he sees it as an “attack.”  He writes, “Beautiful as it is, this psalm is an attack.  It’s an attack on our debilitating lack of trust in God and the great trauma of insecurity that’s brought on by such doubts and disbelief.  Most Christians do not actually believe that God is more than enough” (8).  By reading Psalm 23 through the lens of an “attack,” Evans makes a valuable contribution to the discourse about Psalm 23.  Psalm 23 has not been traditionally viewed as an “attack.”  The author contends that the psalm had to be penned to respond to our proclivity to look for our needs and wants from everybody and everything except Christ.  The book aims to have Christians to eradicate their desire for and reliance on self-sufficiency.  This longing and dependency on self-sufficiency removes the believer away from his or her responsibility to trust God for everything.  Evans wants to remind the reader God is the source of everything we need and want—everything we have, need and desire comes from Him, and we should not look to ourselves for these things but only to God.

If I were writing the book, I would not have selected the word “attack” and would not have interpreted Psalm 23 as an “attack.”  Do not allow this to prevent you from reading and purchasing the book, however.  This particular lens enables you to see Psalm 23 in a new light and to understand the totality of what Christ can for do for you—no matter what problems you face.  The author gives excellent personal experiences, examples, and relevant scriptures to buttress the reader’s understanding of each verse of the psalm.

I highly recommend that you purchase this book.  Your comprehension and interpretation of Psalm 23 will be ameliorated after reading this book.  It can be purchased here: God is More Than Enough.  WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers provided this book to me for free to compose this review.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Toward A New Christian Approach

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Last week on Facebook, I engaged in a prolonged discussion with a young White male student who attends University of Wisconsin-Madison on the subject of Christianity. We had a passionate discussion about the existence of God and the usefulness of the bible. I am a devout and unapologetic Christian and he is an atheist. During our discussion, the guy tried to undermine the usefulness of the bible and the existence of God by selecting random scriptures and making interpretations about those scriptures that were totally out of context. During that discussion, an epiphany that I had when I was at the University of Arkansas in 2004 resurfaced: Do not wear yourself out with trying to convince people who do not believe in God that he is real and that the bible is right. While I have had some pretty sophisticated discourses with atheists in the past at Albany State University, Emory University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, University of Toronto, Harvard University, and the University of Arkansas, this discussion with this young first-year student at University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed to me that I was talking to a fool. You should never consume too much of your time arguing with fools because they are more skilled than you are with doing what they do best: engage in foolishness. The purpose of this article is to offer Christians a new approach to responding to non-believers who want to challenge the bible and the existence of God.

Instead of trying to defend the existence of God and what the bible says to non-believers who attempt to undermine both, change the discourse into a discourse that forces them to prove evolution or that there is not a God. As Christians, we often waste a significant amount of our time trying to make people think that God exists and that the bible is right. If people are not willing to hear you out about the existence of God and about your explanation of biblical scriptures, then devote your time and attention to someone else or something else. If people want to go to Hell, please learn to just pray for them, but you have to ultimately be willing to just let them go to Hell. Salvation is a personal choice; therefore, people have to make up in their own minds to get it. Some Christians will get all angry with people who challenge them about the existence of God and problems they have with what scriptures say. Again, I have to let you know that you should not be getting angry over people like this. Just let them go to Hell! Hell was created for a purpose. God already knew that some people were not going to make the decision to love and acknowledge him. Hell was created for those people who elect not to acknowledge, love, and serve God.

When I challenged the University of Wisconsin-Madison atheist student about proving to me that evolution is real and to disprove the existence of God, he started to get all angry and called me “the typical Christian.” I would like to inform this young White man that “the typical Christian” is not like me. The typical Christian is not willing to take the kinds of risks I do, he or she is not willing to break with tradition as I am, and he or she is not willing to have discourses about the topics that I do, so I’m not “the typical Christian.” I would love to see a day when more Christians are more challenging, bigger risk takers, and willing to break with tradition more. Fortunately, I cannot be accurately called “the typical Christian.” If you do not believe me, just read the articles on my blog and you will see that I am not “the typical Christian” and do not want to be.

I want Christians to put more of the burden on non-believers to justify why they believe what they believe. The burden has always been put on the believers to justify why we believe what we believe. It is time for us to change this reality. People think Christians, especially many professors in academia, are simple and unsophisticated thinkers just because we believe in what the bible says and because we believe in the existence of God. It is time for Christians to start to challenge this position. I contend that it is highly unsophisticated to believe in nothing. It does not take much intellectual thought to believe in nothing. For me, it’s simple and unsophisticated to believe in nothing. I am not saying that all atheists do not believe in nothing, but I am saying that some of them do believe in nothing. Christians need to rise up and challenge the belief in nothing that seems to consume so many non-believers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison