Wineskins Archive

November 27, 2013

Book Review: The God of Second Chances (Apr 2013)

Filed under: — @ 12:57 am and

By Greg Taylor

What stands out about Ron Clark’s book is that he stands with one foot planted firmly in the world of the text and one foot planted firmly in the world of incarnational ministry. This reminds me of N.T. Wright, who has made it his life’s work to stand in the middle of the academy and the church. Sometimes neither of those worlds truly appreciates what is being done for us, but what Clark does is one notch up the ladder of concrete ministry from N.T. Wright.

Clark’s book is the first in a series of three for ministers, Christians and anyone wanting to participate in an incarnational approach to God’s mission in the world, “the vision Jesus has for all people.” Clark plans books on Luke and Acts as well.

Where Wright is dealing with the text for the academy and the church, Clark is dealing with the text for the church but also doing real incarnational ministry himself on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

In a way, Clark is doing what Charles Campbell calls, “Dislocated Readings.” He is taking texts of the prophets of Israel’s exile and bringing them to bear on the world today, on the streets, to and with people in pain, suffering. For example, he wonders what Obadiah would say to us when we form opinions or “positions” on illegal immigration.

<blockquote>When it comes to the current conversation about “illegal immigrants” in our country God’s people are forced into the discussion. While I understand both sides of the arguments involving the effects of having people come to the United States without the proper documentation, I know that Obadiah calls us to ask the question, what does compassion say to the issue? Are we bringing this question to the table when we work in our community?</blockquote>

What Clark does instead of taking positions is to go to the prophets. What did they say to these same kinds of situations, and he doesn’t do that by standing above the text but by loving the people in the Agape Church, neighbors, and friends. And it seems Clark knows no strangers on the streets of Portland.

<blockquote>I have for years taken homeless people in Portland to lunch and asked if they were safe. I have at times eaten lunch with them on the sides of streets. The homeless are correct when they tell us that people criticize them, ignore them, or look at them with disgust. I have sat by their side when this happened. It is intimidating. It is embarrassing. It sometimes is a reminder of what I have done to them in the past.</blockquote>

After surveying and deeply explicating texts from Jeremiah, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Joel, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, Clark turns to what these and other prophecies say about the Messiah, and he discusses Jesus Christ (Messiah) and his role as “Lord, Savior, and Messiah” and “The New Moses.”

<blockquote>Jesus came to save people. However, this salvation does not refer to a simple prayer or guarantee that we will one day go to heaven. Salvation involved restoration, reconciliation, and reunion with God. Jesus brought people into relationship with the Creator. Salvation suggests relationship and peace with God. The pouring out, baptism, and covering with the Spirit also symbolized human relationships with God through Jesus. Christians today must embrace Jesus as the God of second chances in both their own lives and the lives of others.</blockquote>

‘The God of Second Chances‘ by Ron Clark’
The crossover book is a difficult one for some people to swallow. Those who like Christian books that tell true stories from the experiences of the disciple writing the book, personal stories that show faith lived out, will find a book full of these challenging, inspiring stories that may even make you cringe, look at yourself and your own life and what the exilic prophets might say to you today. On the other hand, those who expect weighty biblical explications and not lightweight fluffy prooftexts — unfortunately too often found in a lot of popular books these days — will find in Clark’s The God of Second Chances a book that speaks truth through solid exegesis and exposition of the exilic prophets, who still speak to us today.

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