Straight-forward, practical, convicting, and filled with both Biblical and contemporary illustrations; all these describe this small and very readable volume. As usual, in The Church God Blesses, Jim Cymbala keeps the focus on issues that really matter. For example, he reasons from the fact that most of the books of the New Testament are letters to churches; “It is evident that nothing is more important to the Lord than the spiritual state of the local churches that bear his name” (p. 10). And since churches are made up of people following Jesus, Cymbala describes plainly what kind of discipleship is needed in the lives of individuals in churches to truly open the way for God to bless.
Chapter 2 describes our diet. “’You are what you eat’ is all too true in the spiritual realm, but many believers are living in a state of denial about the real cause of their problems” (p. 44). The chapter is a strong reminder to actively read God’s word, and pray daily. “To grow into spiritual maturity we need to be conscious every day of the needs of our inner man and the scriptural reminder that “it is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” [Heb. 13:9] (p. 48).
“Heaven’s Guide to Proper Fashion,” the title of chapter 3, is itself a thought provoking exegetical hint for understanding the key text of that chapter (Col. 3:12, 14). Pastor Cymbala uses our interest in external fashions to remind us that the kind of fashion statement that God most desires from us will be a heart statement written in the characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.
In chapter 4 the Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor admonishes, “Confession of sin is the most important key to being a people and church that lives continually under the blessing of heaven” (p. 91) “The great danger is for us to cover up sin, lessen the seriousness of it, or justify our behavior because of special circumstances” (p. 94). He suggests that just as the church has rediscovered the power of praise, we need to rediscover what happens when we are honest with God and agree with Him about our sin.
In chapter 5, he talks about the fact that the church God blesses and the pastors and people God blesses have a special kind of heart. They are excited about Jesus, and submitted to the Holy Spirit. “Selfishness and ‘comfort zone’ religion are being replaced by the same sacrificial love God gave to Paul” (P. 116).
In the last chapter called breakout power, Cymbala starts with the story of David’s victory over the Philistines (1 Chr. 14:11). One key lesson he draws is that leaders especially need to be open to God’s guidance. That is the key.
I believe this book will be a challenge and a blessing to everyone who reads it. I highly recommend it.