Jim Cymbala, with Jennifer Schuchmann. Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.
Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, believes that a storm
is coming. It’s a spiritual storm. Christians with orthodox beliefs
are becoming a minority in the United States. Churches are in decline
and look to business models rather than God to solve their problem. A
number of Christians look to political activism and forsake Jesus’ call
to love their enemies in the process.
A lot of this book is Cymbala trying to encourage Christians to pray
for their church and for other people, to seek and to desire God’s
presence, and to preach the Gospel of God’s transforming love. Cymbala
also includes stories, perhaps to illustrate the sort of authentic
spiritual Christianity of which he speaks. One story is about a
homeless lady who started a ministry of giving furniture to the poor.
There are also stories about conversion to Christianity from Santeria
Cymbala also includes a chapter that highlights the differences
between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in the Bible. This, for
Cymbala, is not merely an intellectual exercise, but it has profound
practical ramifications. According to Cymbala, many are confused by the
Bible because there are a number of Old Testament rules that Christians
do not keep, and they wonder why, since those rules are in the Bible.
Moreover, skeptics attack Christians as being inconsistent in not
obeying all of the Bible. Cymbala also notes the ill results that have
occurred when Christians have imported Old Testament teachings into
Christianity: the prosperity Gospel, intolerance, war, cursing of
enemies instead of praying for them, legalism, and spiritual
insecurity. Cymbala is not against Christians learning from the Old
Testament, for he in the book draws frequently from the Book of I
Samuel. Cymbala stresses, however, that the message under the New
Covenant is different from the one of the Old Covenant, and that the New
Covenant message is about salvation through Jesus Christ, joy, and
eternal life. His rule is that believers should accept only the Old
Testament commands that are explicitly affirmed in the New Testament.
Cymbala’s love and hunger for God are contagious, and the stories
that he included were inspiring. Cymbala is also honest about his own
weaknesses and growth as a Christian, and his book contains valuable
insights, such as Martin Luther’s statement that God does many things in
response to people’s prayers.
I had, however, three problems. First of all, Cymbala tells about a
minister who said that he enjoyed spending time with God but not with
other people, and Cymbala replied that this is a problem, and that the
pastor should show love to God by helping and loving people. I
certainly agree with Cymbala that pastors should be loving, but I wish
that Cymbala had shown more compassion, empathy, and understanding to
that pastor, or had offered the pastor practical guidance on how to
serve his congregation as an introvert. Maybe Cymbala did so and did
not mention it. Second, while Cymbala made valuable points in his
chapter about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, I still have
questions. Should we assume that the New Testament was abrogating the
Old Testament, when the New Testament quotes Old Testament passages as
authoritative? Moreover, even if one shares Cymbala’s view that the New
Covenant is better, he should still address the question of why God
acted as God did in the Old Testament. Third, while I agree with
Cymbala that Christians in the political arena can easily become
acrimonious rather than loving, I do not entirely agree with his
criticism of liberation theology. The Hebrew Bible is often concerned
about societal justice, and I have my doubts that God discarded that
concern when transitioning to the New Covenant.
Overall, though, this is a good book.
Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers (http://booklookbloggers.com/)
book review bloggers program. The program does not require for my
review to be positive, and my review reflects my honest reaction to the