Monday, 12 March 2018 05:53

Books to Read

Written by  Tim Challies
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Kiss the Wave

by Dave Furman


None of us makes it through life without suffering. None of us escapes physical pain, emotional distress, or spiritual agony. At some times and in some ways, we all suffer. No wonder, then, that so many authors have turned to the subject. As Christians, we are well-served with books to help us suffer well and books that help us grapple with the deeper theological questions that inevitably arise in the midst of our darkness.


New to the market is Dave Furman’s Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials. The title is drawn from a quote generally attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Furman explains, “When I am in the midst of suffering, I am doing my best just to keep my head above water as the stormy waves of suffering crash over me. I have often longed to be lifted out of the rough and dark waters that feel as if they are engulfing me. I have spent many long nights despising those waves. I have never thought about kissing them.” What he has come to see, and what he wants the reader to know, is that “God is doing more in our suffering than we can see with our eyes.” Instead of flailing against our suffering, we need to learn to embrace it as a mysterious part of God’s will for us.


Furman does not write this book from an abstract perspective, but a deeply personal one. For many years he has experienced debilitating nerve pain that has left him in constant pain while stealing his ability to carry out many normal functions. Yet while his experience is woven throughout the book, this is in no way a biography. Instead, it is a popular-level theology of suffering. It takes on the big questions and provides answers that, though simple, are satisfying. Why do we suffer? Where is God in our suffering? Would a good God actually permit suffering? Will we suffer forever? He answers these questions and many more.


While he writes as a fellow sufferer, he also writes as a pastor charged with caring for others as they endure trials. He does this well, always remaining clear and winsome. If you are currently going through a time of trial, Kiss the Wave will prove a blessing to you, calling you to endure and persevere to the end. If you are currently not going through a time of trial, Kiss the Wave will equally prove a blessing to you as it will arm you for the inevitable and equip you to help others. Whatever the case, I gladly commend it to you.



John G. Paton:  Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas

by Paul Schlehlein


There are some figures who tower over the history of the Christian faith. They are marked by their courage, their godliness, and their sheer faithfulness. There are many missionaries in this number and John Paton must rank high among them. Few have carried out a more difficult, costly, or perilous ministry. Few have suffered to the degree that he did. Few have seen so many won to Christ. His story is now told anew in Paul Schlehlein’s John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas.


Schlehlein, himself a missionary to the Tsongas in rural South Africa, offers four reasons for preparing his book. First, he wishes to contrast Paton’s indomitable courage and indefatigable moxie with the “diplomacy and emotional sensitivity” that marks the world and, indeed, the church today. Second, he believes Paton’s pen can arrest today’s audience as it did more than a century ago. For this reason, Schlehlein often allows Paton to speak in his own words. Third, he means to encourage missionaries and gospel workers who are fainthearted and weary with their task. He hopes that when such readers learn what God did among the cannibals of the South Seas they will be encouraged to press on in their own work. Finally, he is convinced there are crucial lessons to draw from Paton’s life. For this reason, only half of the book is biography while the rest is dedicated to lessons the biography displays.


Paton was convinced God had called him to be a missionary to the South Seas, and went accompanied by his teenaged bride and their infant son. This was known as a particularly dangerous area for it was populated with cannibals who had already shed much missionary blood. Within six months both mother and son had died from disease and Paton was left alone. Despite a double-blow that might have ended the ministry of a lesser man, he pressed on in his work. In fact, he labored there for decades, eventually accompanied by his second wife, Margaret. He lived to reap a great harvest of souls with almost entire populations coming to faith in Christ. His indomitable courage receives a chapter-length treatment as does his theology of risk, his strategy for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, and the Calvinistic beliefs that fueled his evangelism.


Paton’s story is powerful and is worthy of a new telling. Schlehlein has done the church a great service in telling it again and telling it well, for “just as stars shine brightest in a moonless sky, the grace of the Lord Jesus flashes most brilliantly before the man-eaters of the New Hebrides.”



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