Sunday, June 19, 2011

Turning the Tide by Charles Stanley

Stanley believes our country is facing a storm. “We are experiencing a destructive, man-made tide that is deteriorating our country at a frightening pace.” (4) “If [Christians] don't act decisively and quickly, we will suffer loss and persecution as you and I have never experienced before.” (8) “There are crucial issues we absolutely must address if we hope to preserve the values and principles that have made our land great.” (9)
Stanley wants you to “consider this book a clarion call for you to speak up, stand up, and pray as never before.” (10) “The time for action is now.” (11)
Based on Daniel, Stanley gives a plan of action. What we are called to as believers, he says, is “to influence our communities and country by actively helping others and showing them God's love and the reason for our hope in Him.” (33)
“The United States is a Christian nation,” he says, but we have gone astray. (56)
“It is imperative that we change the course of this nation now,” Stanley says. “If we don't, we are headed for a terrible tragedy.” (57) “...[T]he United States is teetering on the edge of collapse.” (69)

Regarding money, Stanley says there are misconceptions, one of which is that we are to give unconditionally. There is a limit, he says. “There comes a point when giving to another person degenerates from ministry to dependency. … Therefore, we are not to give unconditionally; we are to do so with wisdom and spiritual discernment.” (74)
Another misconception is taxing the rich at a higher rate. Citing the parable of the talents, where faithful servants were given more, Stanley says of higher tax rates for the wealthy, “There is nothing biblical in this.” (75) (Hmmm. I guess he forgot Luke 12:48, to whom much is given, much is required...)
Stanley is hard, it seems to me, on the needy of our day. While the destitute should be welcome in our churches, he says, “...we should be firm with those who have simply become accustomed to a life of idleness and apathy.” (77) “With very few exceptions, everyone can learn the information and skills necessary for self-sustenance.” (78) (Ouch!)

Regarding the current state of our politicians: “...[I]t is our own fault. We are responsible for the character of our political leaders.” (119)
Stanley encourages individuals and churches to reach out and be the good influence this nation needs. He wants our leaders to be held accountable, but he also realizes that we must examine our own hearts.
He suggests that God may have very well allowed an ungodly leader to take power “to convict His people of their ungodly ways and lead them to repentance.” (168) “The Father is trying to get our attention, calling us to repentance and to a deeper relationship with Him.” (170) He explores what Christians can do to turn away from their pride and back to God.

Stanley uses much information from the history of Israel to describe how our nation and its leaders should behave. Stanley has assumed ours is a Christian nation (see page 56). He says our nation must align with biblical principles. (213)

He calls Christians to be faithful intercessors and gives suggestions on technique. He notes that we must bring “our own will and desires under submission” to the Father's will, even “when circumstances do not develop as we expect them to - taking longer than we thought they should or proceeding in an unexpected direction...” (239) Stanley says, “This is often the most difficult part for us... During these times it is crucial for us to remember that it isn't necessary for us to understand what the Father is doing – it is only crucial that we obey Him.” (239)
Praying for leaders, “'Change 'em or remove 'em, Lord,' is an effective prayer regarding any elected official who ignores God's commands.” (242)
He gives a twenty week period of prayer outline with a suggested emphasis for each week.

I am happy that Stanley does not make a candidate's stand on abortion the “litmus” test. He is more concerned with the candidate's overall character than the stand on that one issue. (224-5)

At the end of each chapter are a few questions to inspire the reader to take action.

Interestingly enough, Stanley acknowledges that “the Lord is never a mere bystander in any situation.” (18) He removes and established leaders (Dan. 2:20-21), Stanley reminds us. Voters may elect, Stanley says, “but ultimately, we must acknowledge that God is the One in control.” (18) He says that our confidence that “He is in control of the present and of our eternal future and that He always provides us with His very best.” (23) During elections, Stanley says, we must remember “Our hope is in Him, not in our candidate of choice.” (24) “The future of our nation remains safe in His capable hands. We may not always understand His reasons for allowing certain individuals to hold office, but we can be confident in His eternal purposes, nonetheless.” (25)
(OK, Stanley said, “The future of our nation remains safe in His capable hands.” (25) Yet he also says, our country is deteriorating at a “frightening pace.” (4) “...[W]e are headed for a terrible tragedy.” (57) “...[T]he United States is teetering on the edge of collapse.” (69) (So, which is it, safe in His hands or headed to terrible tragedy and collapse?)

Stanley says he agrees with Gamaliel's comments (Acts 5:38,39) and says, “No man can thwart the Lord's plans (see Job 42:2; Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 14:27).” (228) Yet, he relates the story of a prayer group in Germany, praying for the fall of the Berlin wall. He says, “Yet when believers cried out to God, just look how He was able to work through their prayers!” (223, italics added) Even though Stanley does not like the direction our nation is taking, he says, “I...have faith that His purposes continue to advance in our nation.” (274) (So, do I trust in God's plans that no one can thwart or do I believe God is able to work only when I pray?)

The last sentences in his book, “Godly citizenship can make a difference. All that is necessary is that you believe.” (277) (OK, so why all the chapters about intercession and godly action?)

As you can see, I am critical of Stanley's book. Stanley frequently falls off that tightrope of believing in God's sovereignty yet also wanting to believe in man's necessary intercession to enable God to work. Hence the often contradictory statements about the future of our country. More of my concerns about Stanley's (mis)understanding of God's sovereignty follows.
Stanley speaks of God's permissive will and His purposeful will. (144) In the permissive will God allows something to happen. His purposeful will cannot be changed or thwarted. (He uses as an example Israel in Babylonian captivity. Their going into captivity is an example of God's permissive will while their being in Babylon 70 years and then returning an example of God's purposeful will. Sorry: if it was part of God's purposeful will that Israel be there 70 years and then return, it also had to be part of God's purposeful will they get there in the first place!)
So which is it? Is the future in the hands of the voter and the Christian activist or in the hands of the sovereign God?

One caveat: Stanley suggests from Daniel's experience that God will reveal to us all we need to know, including the details. Stanley says we should trust that we have been given all we need to know to proceed. “Whenever the Lord gives us a command, we should do as He says immediately. We can trust that He will take full responsibility for our needs as we obey Him – including providing us with all pertinent information.” (31) (I cringe at the thought that I am to expect God will take “full responsibility” for actions I believe He is commanding me to do. Please do not look at Stanley's statements as permission to do anything you think God has commanded of you. Please, please seek the wise counsel of others before you do anything!)

Sometimes Stanley makes a blanket statement, such as, “...the Founding Fathers were believers – men who understood the life-changing influence the Savior could have upon each person.” (54) He says this, even though previously he admitted, “They were not all Christians, in fact, two of the most famous of our founders were Unitarians.” (51) Yet again he says, “There is absolutely no better way for a nation to function than with the Word of God as its guide and standard. … America's Founding Fathers understood this...” (266)

Also, when Stanley ran out of real concerns, he supposes some. “...I was suddenly struck by the awful thought that this could very easily happen in our own country... That is why I am so compelled to warn you and others about the restrictions the government could place upon the citizens of our nation.” (108, italics added) (Just remember that Stanley also said on page 25 that he believed our nation is safe in the hands of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder, does Stanley really believe we are safe in the hands of Jesus or is he really fearful of what could happen to this nation?)

Stanley says, “I've continually maintained throughout this book, you and I can change this country.” (242) (Hmmm, seems like a recent presidential candidate said something like that.)

Howard Books, 288 pages.

I received an egalley from Simon & Schuster for the purpose of this review.

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