Book Review – “Practicing the Power” by Sam Storms

practicing power

My background is interesting.  I was raised Southern Baptist (and cessationist), became a Christian at a Pentecostal revival, began attending an Assembly of God church (and became a continuationist), and now am back in a Southern Baptist church, though not back in my cessationist roots.  Needless to say, I don’t feel I fully fit in with either group.  I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today, but I also feel there are many excesses and abuses that occur in many churches that practice them.  I cannot agree biblically with cessationism in total, but I cannot merely accept everything that passes itself off as being Spirit-led today, either.  Trying to find material that bridges that gap is very difficult.  Now, however, I have one book I can certainly point to as a starting point for those interested.

Practicing the Power by Sam Storms is, in my opinion, a wonderful book that is a great balance between theology and Scriptural exegesis with an emphasis on embracing God’s ongoing movement through the gifts of the Spirit.  I am very glad I was able to read and review this book published by Zondervan.

Let me preface by saying that the book is, in some ways, surface level.  But I believe that was the book’s intention.  There are other books out there that go deeper, and Storms points out several throughout this book.  But as an introduction to the issues, this book excels.

For those concerned that this book may be too excessive and perhaps not biblical, let me assure you that Storms is Reformed and the foreword is written by Matt Chandler.  While I may be wrong, I don’t think Chandler would have written the foreword for something that he felt was unbiblical.

Throughout the book, Storms tackles issues like prayer and fasting, deliverance, and especially the prophetic, which is where he spends quite a bit of time, as there are many issues surrounding that gift.  I think Storms does a great job throughout at tackling objections and concerns with continuationism, and I believe he does an outstanding job of bringing Scripture to bear on the issues.

For example, when talking about healing, Storms does not shy away from the fact that not everyone we pray for is healed.  But it doesn’t prevent him from pointing to the Scripture verses that say we should be praying for healing anyway.  He does not move so far to the God’s sovereignty side that he is hesitant to pray for healing, but he also does not move so far to the healing side that one feels healing must come no matter what.  I like Storms’ balance.

I think that Appendix 2 was probably one of the most helpful parts of the book.  In that appendix, Storms lays out 12 bad reasons for being a cessationist and 12 good reasons for being a continuationist.  Since it is an appendix, the reasons given must necessarily be brief, but I liked his overview.

I have often lamented that most doctrinal/theological churches tend to neglect (intentionally or otherwise) the reality of the Spirit in our lives, while most churches that are more open to the Spirit tend to neglect deep doctrinal/theological study and thinking.  Storms has done a wonderful job of bringing the two together in this book, and I hope it is the beginning of a merging that will be very powerful in the Church as a whole.

If you are interesting in understanding why some are convinced the Spirit still operates with the gifts mentioned in the Bible today, and you want to do so from a balanced, biblical, and well-thought-out perspective, Practicing the Power is a good place to start.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.

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God with us!

One of the most amazing aspects of Christianity is the fact of the incarnation.  That the God who creating everything would Himself become human, all the while remaining full divine, should never cease to amaze us.  When Jesus became a man, we learn that “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, ESV) and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19, ESV).  When we look at Jesus, we are seeing God.  Jesus was and is the clearest revelation of who God really is.

I was thinking today about living the “with God life,” to borrow a phrase from Richard Foster and others, and I began thinking about a verse from Matthew 1.  At the beginning of his gospel, Matthew tells us that when Jesus was born it fulfilled a prophecy that “‘they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (1:23, ESV)  I have read this verse many times before.  Probably so many that I need to slow down and think about the importance of that verse again.  God Himself came down to be “with us.”  God’s love drove Him to reach out to the very creation that turned against Him by coming to us in the most personal way He could, as a human Himself.

What struck me as I was thinking, however, was that Matthew did not just begin his gospel by telling us that God was with us.  He ends it the same way.  The very last words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s gospel are an assurance to His disciples (and to us) that He is “with [us] always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV)  Did Matthew intend to start and end his gospel with a reminder that in Jesus God is with us?  I’m not sure, but it stands out all the same.

Not only was God with us in Jesus when He was born and walked among us, but He is with us even now, after the resurrection, and He will continue to be with us until the end of the age!  What a powerful truth if we could grasp it fully.

What is interesting is that I have found myself thinking many times that if only Jesus were here, I could follow Him better or be influenced by Him more.  Jesus, however, told us the opposite.  It is by His going away that we are truly able to be influenced by Him.  Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, ESV)  We often wish we could have Jesus here in person like the disciples did.  Christ, however, told us that “it is to [our] advantage” (it is better) that He left and sent the Holy Spirit.  While He was here, he was localized; He was only in one place at a time, and only those near Him could benefit from His presence.  After the ascension, however, He can be with and in all of us at the same time and at all times through the Holy Spirit.

Let us always live with the knowledge that God is with us.  Not that God was with us in the past when Jesus was on Earth, but He is currently with us now through the Holy Spirit, and He is with us in a deeper and more intimate way than He was when He was with the disciples before He ascended.  What a wonderful truth!