By Albert Tate
Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 25, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
In this powerful guidebook, the lead pastor of Fellowship Church demonstrates how the moments that test our faith are the moments God uses to direct our hearts to the one thing we truly desire most: a relationship with Christ.
When the people of Israel, those who had witnessed the most abundant and inexplicable acts of God, grew tired of waiting for Moses to come off the mountain, they made a calf of gold. It was easier for them to make a new god than to continue serving a God that didn’t conform to their schedule and expectations.
Just like the Israelites in the desert, we are all fundamentally longing for God… but who and what are we actually reaching for and serving? Disobedient God addresses the things we do when we feel ignored, inconvenienced and frustrated by God. What things are we reaching for in our life? Are we reaching for porn when we long for intimacy? Reaching for success when we long for security? We would never say that we have replaced God, but our actions tell a different story. Whether we are trying to replace God, trying to run away or trying to perform for Him, we have no mindset to deal with a disobedient God. Disobedient God is a book for people dealing with this disappointment and interested in properly understanding and loving the God they’ve misunderstood.
This is not a step-by-step instruction manual for how to react when things are difficult; rather, it is a way of understanding God that leads people to discover the relationship with God that they were always meant for.
Life’s hardest questions seek answers that land on solid ground for the sake of real life now. Questions asked over millennia, philosophical and practical, continue to be asked in part because they matter so much and also because they bring us in touch with mystery; so it is not necessarily easy and fast. Nothing is more profound to consider than whether there is a God, for example, and, if there is, what is God like? If God does exist, and if God is the God made known in Jesus Christ, then this profound good news lands in real time and space: where we all live. But what happens for us when God doesn’t act in the ways we might expect? When the satisfaction of knowing God can make us feel lost, disappointed, betrayed by God?
Albert Tate lifts up some of these complex questions about life, God, pain, suffering, limitations, doubt, and more—in order to help us get reoriented when God is the one who seems disobedient. That is, when it seems like God is not acting like God, not meeting what we expect or demand God to be. It can feel like God is doing the opposite of what we would imagine. In those really difficult times of disorientation, our lives can feel like they have been turned upside down, leaving us lost or even betrayed. What Albert offers here are pathways to admit these experiences as he is personally honest, passionate, and clear about the times when God has been “disobedient” in his experience and that of others he knows. In his provocative and candid style, Albert turns the spotlight on such “disobedience,” and points out many of the ways it seems our crises are about God’s disobedience, not ours.
What happens when God is the one who “goes astray” and fails to live out the story line we thought we could expect? We believe God is our protector, until suddenly pain, disease, or tragedy comes our way and it feels like God has gone off-script, disobeyed what we thought God would provide or prevent. We believe God is going to fulfill our dreams, or at least our needs, but we just feel abandoned, damaged, or even destroyed. God’s the one who went astray, isn’t He? These experiences raise all kinds of questions about God that we need to ask: What? Why? Who? We can find ourselves disoriented about the very thing we felt sure not to fear—until our life experience shocks and confuses us.
What you will find in this book is Albert Tate’s personal and pastoral grappling with these real experiences of disappointment and disorientation. He provides windows from his personal story, in season and out of season, when the anguish he names for us is the struggle he has passed through himself. He brings these human realities into practical conversation with the Bible and the Bible’s own ways of naming the same things over the long arc of Scripture’s narrative.
This is a book of honesty and a book of encouragement. We are not humanly alone with our pains and confusions—others are alongside us. We are not without a God who fails to see and feel and understand our anguish and need—Jesus Christ shares and bears the very struggles we know. In this combination of honesty and God’s revelation in Christ, and through the surrounding witness of the Body of Christ, we can “taste and see that the Lord is good,” even in bitter and difficult times. God is with and for us in the midst of life’s toughest stuff. Albert offers no easy answers. Instead, he bears witness to the freedom of God and the faithfulness of God that explains our hope.
God longs to speak to us in the midst of life’s most difficult times. May this honest and clarifying book help us to hear and trust this Word of Life.
Dr. Mark Labberton, Clifford L. Penner Presidential Chair Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Fuller Theological Seminary
Hospitality and Closed Rooms
Sunday morning. As a kid growing up in Pearl, Mississippi, Sunday morning was the culmination of the whole week. Mom would wake us all up early, and immediately we could smell the fresh aroma of food coming from the kitchen. Now, you would think this food aroma was your typical Southern breakfast—smoked sausage, eggs, grits—but actually, no, this wasn’t that. We had pot roast, baked chicken, and macaroni and cheese—and this was Sunday dinner. See, my mother has always had the gift of hospitality. When she’d finally get us up, we’d find that she’d already been awake for hours cooking Sunday dinner. By the time we got back from church, the food just needed to be warmed up and it was all ready to go to bring to my grandmother’s.
When I tell you Sundays were an experience in our community, I really mean it. Our family would leave our double-wide trailer and drive a few miles up the street to Sweet Home Church of Christ Holiness USA. We’d usually make it to Sunday school and head to our Sunday school classes, and after that, we’d have a brief break. During the break most of the kids would grab snacks, candy, or gum—but what we really wanted to do was sneak and eat during the church service, which started at eleven o’clock. Usually the service would start with a few deacons singing a few hymns, and then they would open up the floor for what we call testimony service. Now, during testimony service, instead of a traditional sermon being preached, we would simply just stand and brag on God’s goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty. We would pass the mic. Different people would stand and share their stories: They talked about how they needed God to move in the doctor’s appointment they had coming up on Friday morning at 9:00. They talked about seeing God move and getting a great result from a test. They talked about how they needed a bill paid and they had more month than they had money, but a check came in the mail and it was the exact amount for the bill that needed to be paid. I can remember being a little boy sitting in these services, just being overwhelmed at how good, how faithful, and how kind God was. It was formative to me. We even saw miracles. I remember being in a church service one time and a man who couldn’t walk without a cane came to receive prayer and God healed his leg right before our very eyes. They hung his cane on the wall as a testament of God’s faithfulness and as the man walked back home healed, it was a celebration like I had never seen before. So, a part of my formative years and my development as a disciple was seeing and hearing the testimonies and the stories of God’s consistency, grace, mercy, and favor.
Truly, even our funerals were marked by God’s goodness. Some of my earliest memories are going to funerals of great-aunts or great-uncles. We called them homegoing celebrations. They were marked with great exclamation, great celebration, singing, dancing, and of course, tears. We cried and we mourned, but we did it with a hope and a joy that at times was absolutely unspeakable. So, when I think about how I was raised and the role that church played in my upbringing, I see that everything has always been pointing to God’s goodness, favor, and timeliness.
When it comes to God’s timing, one of the old things we would say is, He may not come when you want it, but He’s always, always right on time. I’ve always carried that with me.
Well, we’d wrap Sunday service up and we’d make it back to our homes and then, finally, we would sit and have Sunday dinner. Now, mind you, it was probably around two o’clock in the afternoon, but we called it dinner because by the time we got done eating, resting, and eating again, it would cover lunch and dinner and a late-night snack.
Now, another strong memory growing up was that when we would go to my grandmother’s house, there were rooms that you just weren’t allowed to go in and there were tables that you just weren’t allowed to sit at. At Grandma’s the tables were split into two places: the adults’ table and the kids’ table. So, the kids stayed at their table and the adults ate at their table, which was usually in the nice dining room where the good furniture was sometimes covered in plastic. The kids couldn’t go in there and you definitely couldn’t take any food in there. The room was absolutely off-limits, but sometimes I’d go and just stand in the doorway and look at it in awe. I would think to myself, “One day when I grow up, I’m gonna go in there and I’m gonna sit down.” One time while I was daydreaming, I heard my mother telling me, “Boy, get from over there by that room. You know you ain’t got no business going up in there!” There were just rooms that we weren’t permitted to go in, even though the house was marked by Grandma’s hospitality. Even though it was a time for great celebration, there were rooms and tables that we just didn’t go to or sit at. It was a spoken rule that we never broke. Now, as I reflect on what it meant to be discipled and informed by such great joy and celebration and testimonies of God’s faithfulness, I see that our faith can be a lot like Grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoon—I discovered that there are theological rooms that we just didn’t have permission to go in. There were tables of doubt and struggle that we just weren’t allowed to sit at.
In church we talked about when God showed up on Tuesday at two o’clock, just like I needed Him. We talked about and would celebrate the times when we needed the doctor’s report to come back a certain way and it did. But we never talked about the times when we needed God at two o’clock on Tuesday and He didn’t show up. We never expressed the burden and the devastation of needing a bill to be paid and the exact amount not showing up in a check in the mail. When we wanted and needed it, there weren’t moments or spaces given to us for wrestling with the reality of disappointment. These were theological rooms that we didn’t go into.
These were tables of doubt that we were never invited to sit at. And when you’re excluded from these places long enough, it creates a challenge with our faith. It creates this unnecessary hypocrisy, if you will. It creates this unnecessary dichotomy in how we live. We can explain God when He’s on time. We can explain God when we know what He’s doing. We can explain God when He’s matching our prayer request to a T. But how do we talk about God when He doesn’t make sense? The moments when we really need Him in a certain time and a certain space, and He doesn’t show—how do we make sense of God? How do we deal with these places that we’re not allowed to go?
I want to grant us all permission to go to places in our relationship with God where, quite honestly, He doesn’t make sense.
I want to extend an invitation to tell the truth about those frustrating moments when He doesn’t come when we want Him—when it feels like He’s gone off-script and He’s doing what He wants to do and not what we want Him to do.
Joy, celebration, and excitement are all great attributes for our relationship with God, but there are more, too: There’s grief. There’s loss. There’s lament. Anger. Fear. Those are all emotional and spiritual postures that shape us throughout the many seasons of our life. But so often it feels like that room’s been closed off, that we don’t have permission to go there, especially not with God. I’m supposed to have faith, not fear. I’m supposed to have joy, not depression. I’m supposed to have hope, not despair. So when those realities hit us, I fear that we don’t have a place. We don’t have a table to sit at. We don’t have a room to go in. So we’re just forced to do one of the worst things we can do in our walk with God, and that’s to fake it till we make it. We’re thinking, “I guess I just gotta act like I have joy when I’m really struggling with depression. I’ve gotta act like I have hope when I’m really fighting back despair. I’ve gotta act like I’m thankful to God for what He’s doing when I’m really honestly angry at God for what He’s doing or for what He has allowed in His sovereignty.”
I think in order for us to really understand who God is, especially in the moments when He goes off-script, we’ve gotta give permission to go into rooms where grief is allowed, where lament is allowed, where our expression of our frustration and anger and disappointment, even with God, is allowed. In 2020 when the pandemic hit and everything was shut down abruptly, you remember that we all thought we were just going home for two weeks. That turned into two years. And now things are opening back up and life is heading toward a new normal because, let’s face it, I don’t think it’s ever going back to its old normal. But we have this new normal now, and we’ve been craving it because we’re still wading through uncertainty and pain and trauma. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and we still don’t know how devastating the effects have been or will be as time goes on. Personally, what’s amazing to me is that I’m still discovering loss. I’m still identifying areas in my life where I’m grieving things that I didn’t even realize I lost. For example, my daughter was supposed to start her first year of high school, but she, like so many other people, lost the opportunity to walk across the stage as she transitioned from junior high into her freshman year.
Many people have family members who died, and they lost the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones at traditional services. Legacies and traditions were lost. For two full years we lost the ability to see people at church. We actually lost people. There are some people who we haven’t seen or heard from. I’m sure they’re still alive, but we’ve just lost the community. We’ve lost the fellowship. We’ve lost their presence. And when you have lost so much, you see how underprepared you are to deal with what you haven’t practiced well. We haven’t practiced getting God’s permission to go into the rooms of grief and lament to express that loss. We’re so quick to go to joy and happiness and this creates two extremes: Either I’m all the way happy, or I walk all the way away from the faith. Either I walk in complete joy, or I just say, “This must not be for me. Something must be wrong with me.” And so we go to what we feel most naturally: depression and discouragement. But this isn’t the way because, if you didn’t know, living absent of God’s purpose and will makes you think and feel the same things—depression and discouragement. We find ourselves either walking fully toward God with a denial of the frustration we feel toward Him, or we walk completely away from God without acknowledging the complexity and the nuance that is following Jesus Christ.
We live in a time where we feel this pressure to say, “Everything’s going to be okay.” And you know what? That statement is true. I feel in God’s sovereign power and His reign, everything will be okay. But today, everything is not okay—and it’s okay for everything to not be okay today. It’s okay to not be okay.
One of the first messages that I preached during the pandemic was a message on how we get to grieve. We get to cry, we get to be frustrated. We get to sit in loss. We get to look toward heaven with more questions than we have answers. We get to have anger and frustration, even toward God. He’s not intimidated by it, but oftentimes we don’t give ourselves permission to sit and grieve because we think it’s disrespectful or ungrateful. But can I point something out to you? There’s a reason why there’s a whole book of the Bible called Lamentations.
The book of Lamentations is dedicated to lamenting just these moments. So, I want to give you permission over the next few pages: as we look at a God who is known for His goodness and His greatness and His kindness, we must also understand that He’s also known to make some turns that we don’t preapprove. He’s known for making stops along the journey that we didn’t sign off on. He makes calls that we would never make. He invites us to sit in what He would call the beauty of pain while we would see it as the threat of devastation. And in those moments where you find yourself experiencing pain and loss and devastation, I want to give you permission to go into the room of lament and grief, because your pain is worthy and you’re allowed to do both.
Your loss is worthy of grief. Your trauma is worthy of time. Acknowledging all that has happened to you and all that you feel is important and necessary, and my encouragement in the pages ahead will be to see how we can invite God into those moments so that we are not left to our own vices.
So how do we invite the God of all creation to sit with us in the dark? How do we do this while acknowledging and recognizing fully that in His sovereignty, He allowed this pain—but that we can’t go through it without Him? We need Him if we’re going to survive the pain itself.
Now, one last note as we conclude: math ain’t faith, and the two don’t necessarily go together. What I mean by that is that even after you lament and after you sit in some things that are undone and remain unresolved, it’s important to know that it’s not a math problem. All the numbers just may not add up. Two plus two may not always be four. Sometimes two plus two is one, sometimes two plus two is two hundred seventy-two. God’s economy and God’s math don’t always equate a full resolve or result in an even number. So, if you’re looking for math at the end of this season, if you’re looking for one correct answer, if you’re looking for one single number, let me tell you now that the power of faith doesn’t show up in one single resolved number. It’s not about the answer. Oftentimes it’s about the journey and it is on the journey that you discover the deep treasures of God’s faithfulness and His presence. This is where you find resolve.
When I was a kid, I struggled with math. I mean, if I’m honest, as an adult I still struggle with math. It was always a difficult subject for me. I still haven’t figured out the algebraic FOIL system with the inside first and the outside or whatever. Honestly, I don’t know. When I went to Bible college, the only math class I had to take was the book of Numbers and I passed that with flying colors. But I do remember as a kid thinking that I had found a breakthrough to my mathematical academic challenges. One day my math book fell open to the back of the book. And there I discovered the answers to all the math problems were in the back of the book. Can you believe this? Oh my God, I just struck gold! No one ever said anything about this. I’d been struggling trying to get the right answers, and they were all right there!
As you can imagine, my math homework went to another level. I started killing the game. I was getting right answer after right answer and I was turning my math work in and getting great scores. Until finally, my teacher called me and asked me to stay after class. I thought, “Oh, well, this is what happens to high-performing students. This is what happens to kids who get As. The teacher holds them after class to compliment them.”
- On Sale
- Apr 25, 2023
- Page Count
- 208 pages