Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: The Promise of Blessing


Not long after I became a Christian I started attending a wonderful Anglican church plant called St Barnabas, Kensington. I have lots of memories of those early years and one of them is of hearing the blessing from Numbers 6 for the first time. I had never heard it before and it would be periodically prayed at the end of the services and I grew to love it. I guess, as I look back 25 years, my lingering question about 'Blessing' was probably 'Will he? and more specifically 'How will he?'

This is the blessing:

“‘The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you
    and give you peace.’”

I do believe books can change lives, and even if you don't believe this, they certainly mark them. My friend Kate has written a book and I genuinely think it will mark your life if you read it. It will help you better understand God and his purpose for your life. It will help you understand the nature of God's blessing and his grace and how to face the mess of your past and the challenges of your future. Had I been given this book soon after I became a believer, it might have made my journey towards maturity a lot quicker and more comprehensible. I read this book in PDF format on my iPad during a day off. I finished reading it the same day sitting in a car in Richmond Park as dusk was setting with my wife feeding our newly born son next to me. I am still dwelling on the beauty and depth of the words it contains.

Here are seven reasons to buy it and read it:

It's full of God's word and alive with His Spirit

Too often with Christian books they are either too dry or too woolly. Kate's exposition of every phrase of this blessing is deep and rich and she peppers her narrative with a wonderful selection of quotes, stories and observations. She's a fan of C S Lewis.

It's practical

At the end of every chapter there is a section entitled 'Response' and you are encouraged to take some time to pray, think and to apply what you have just read. It works if you do that- I've tried it out.

It's rooted in the local church

It was such a joy reading the stories of people's lives -many of whom I know having worked with Kate in the same church together for six years. Kate isn't a Christian celebrity touting her signs and wonders from one conference to the next but is instead a local church pastor, school chaplain, wife, mother and friend. This saturates her book and is what makes it so real and interesting and vital.

It's beautifully written

Let's be honest- tons of Christian books are terribly written. This is a master class in good writing.

It's helps you understand suffering

The title of this book might lead you to think Kate has a bouffant hair do and a cable telly channel. The chapter on suffering and how we can comprehend blessing through all the pain and difficulty is worth the price of the book. As she writes, 'Tough times will come and you can name them and claim the blessing as loudly as you want but it won't make you completely immune to suffering. We are not promised undiluted health and wealth; what we are promised is the promise of a Saviour who comes to be with us and who can bring good out of the worst circumstances'

It's one you can give away to others (to believers and to not-yet believers) with confidence

You may, like me, struggle to think of good books to give to bright, broken and thinking people to help them engage with Jesus. You should add this one to whatever titles you already have on your list of those you give away. But give it away not just as an apologetic for the Christian faith but also as a tool for discipleship. Whatever church you're part of everyone in your church should read this book and you never know if they do some of them might even become Christians.....

It's all about the grace of Jesus

At one point (p.76) Kate writes this: 'I hope, as a result of reading this, that you will take time to consider how to put yourself in the place of grace. Where in your life do you make space for that encounter with God? If you flounder at the thought find someone you know who is a few steps ahead on their walk with God and ask them what to do. And be encouraged- God wants to meet with you. God wants to make his face shine upon you and through you to the world.

Now, I don't know if I am further along the road than you in my walk with Jesus but my advice to you is if you want to encounter God in the place of grace buy this book. The other funny thing is the blessing in my own life turns out to be that I now get to pray this blessing from Numbers 6 over a church of my own which I do almost every week. Who would have ever believed that 25 years ago?

You can get 'The promise of blessing' here and if you are at Focus then do go and hear Kate speak (29th July)

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