Review: Resurrection Letters: Prologue

Resurrection Letters: Prologue
by Andrew Peterson

You cannot have Easter unless you have Good Friday. Through five songs that begin with the last words from the cross, Andrew Peterson guides the listener to consider the impact of the cross and linger at its foot, watching until the stone is rolled into place and waiting for what will come next.

So, this is different for me. Usually I review books that I’ve read in pursuit of being a better pastor. Here I am with an album! Why would I do that? (more…)

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Worship, Comics, and Continuity

Batman… and church! 

I wish worship at my church was more like a comic book.

OK, hear me out.

So, if you were to try to get into comics, you would be met with some very different options. Some comics have been going on for well over fifty years. Action Comics, which has normally featured Superman as the main character, will soon celebrate one thousand issues. 

That’s a lot of comics. 

Some of these long-running comics can be near impossible to pick up without having an incredibly long history with that particular comic (and sometimes the entire company), a lot of patience and time on Wikipedia, or a willingness to have no idea what’s going on. I think about certain eras of X-Men in particular for this, though pretty much any long-running comic series can have this problem. It’s just not accessible; there’s so much continuity, character histories, and plotlines to follow! It’s like it’s a club only for the initiated. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows

Listen.

Listen, for what I am about to tell you is true. It is the heartbeat of the world. It is your heartbeat. These things are true, and they are the only reason we have hope. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, and every verse, every syllable leans in toward this story: The story,the true story, what happened in history with real people with flesh and bone and blood and hopes and dreams. The Fall of Christ.

Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows.

The Prince sat on the Throne in the City of Light, and he looked toward creation. His creation. His love. And what he saw was sorrow. His creation rejected him. And rejecting him meant they rejected every good thing, for every good gift comes from him. He and the Father wove a plan. It held a high cost, a dear cost, but it would be enough to redeem the entire world, to bring it back to them, to grow joy where sorrow had laid down deep, deep roots. The Prince was willing to pay that cost.

The Father whispered: “It’s time.” (more…)

Review: Noah

Noah: Obedient Builder
by John A. Braun

The Bible is filled with real people who faced real problems who had real emotions. In this book, John Braun walks us through the life of Noah, connecting this historic figure with real emotions. In short, he tells the story found in Genesis in a narrative fashion, connecting modern readers with this ancient man.

Northwestern Publishing House has this nifty series called, “God’s People.” Each book is relatively slim (this one’s only forty pages!), and keep the focus on one of the heroes of faith. These aren’t novels, though, nor historical fiction. If you’re looking for that, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This is far less imagination and much more, “What does God’s Word say about these people?” and then conveying that information in a narrative frame. (more…)

Review: Authentic Christianity

Authentic Christianity: How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World
by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and A. Trevor Sutton

People are burned out on churches. They’re taught that things are a matter of opinion, and what churches teach are spiritual, divorced from “hard reality.” Is the answer for churches to update what they do to try and reach the current culture? Authentic Christianity proposes something different: Teaching what Lutherans have taught for hundreds of years. It tackles big modernist and postmodernist beliefs, and shows how Lutheran theology perfectly answers both.

I’m not sure that the subtitle fits. While it does talk a lot about postmodernism and how it shows up in our world, as well as the vestiges of modernism that still attack, the focus seems to be in… a slightly different angle. Much of this book shows how Lutheranism is a physical religion that takes real things and deals with them in real ways. It shows how Jesus became flesh. It shows that the body is not a bad thing. That God chooses to become physical. The book then explores how that effects life in many, many ways.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying the book is bad. It was very good and gave me a lot of things to think about! I’m just saying I’m not sure the subtitle was the best choice to reveal what the book was about. (To be fair, a book talking about how Lutheranism combats neo-gnosticism probably wouldn’t sell well.) (more…)

The Last Enemy

Death is the final enemy. But if it is… why do we pretend it’s not there?

I remember Mike.* He was my first death. Pastors can say things like that; other than doctors, soldiers, and funeral workers, we probably see death the most. And Mike… he was my first. The doctors declared him brain dead, and after a fairly lengthy time, the oldest son decided to pull the plug. The son came, signed the papers, and then fled. He would not stay.

I sat in the room as the machines beeped around Mike. I was there with his younger son and a family friend. A CD player plunked out a version of “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.”

And Mike awoke in heaven.

I didn’t get to see that. I saw a younger son in great grief. I saw a family friend in pain. But I saw them there, in their pain, admitting it.

But the older son? I don’t think I ever saw him again, not even at the funeral. (more…)

I don’t get it.

The Art fell to earth and landed in a sixth-grader’s lunchbox. And that’s when the adventure began.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve been reading this week. I volunteered to read a book to my oldest son’s classroom, and the teacher allowed my suggestion of What Came from the Stars. If you don’t know it, it’s well worth your time. A great fantasy story that has really engaged the kids in that classroom. (It doesn’t hurt that the longer I read, the less time they have for math.)

It’s been fun going in every day. It’s part of my long-term strategy to simply be known and hopefully building relationships within the school, so if and when something happens and a family needs a pastor, they’re already connected with one. I’ve been praying that God uses me to connect with people in the school, and to then be able to share the Gospel with them.

But that’s a different post for a different day.

When my boy got home from school, I asked if his classmates enjoyed the time I spent reading. His response was not what I expected: “Of course they liked you! It’s what people do!”

I asked for clarification. What?

People like you, Dad! They always like you!”

I… what? (more…)

Review: Gory Deaths

Not-So-Nice Bible Stories: Gory Deaths
by Jonathon Schkade; Illustrated by Gleisson Cipriano

Ever notice that not everyone dies nice and pretty in the Bible? There’s some pretty gruesome deaths. This book takes the reader through nineteen of the most painful ways to die illustrated in Scripture, and then explains why each was included in our Holy Book. Throughout, readers are pointed to Law, to Gospel, and every time, to Christ.

This book is fantastic fun. Every chapter begins with a good retelling of the biblical account of the person in question, backing up to give all the background. Sidebars bring up other questions or biblical parallels with references to go digging deeper. Each chapter ends with a section entitled “Why is this in the Bible?” tying each story to the big story of the Bible: Jesus come to save sinners. After that there’s always “Bonus Features” that will take one aspect of the story and show other places in history that kind of thing showed up. For instance, the chapter on the stoning of Stephen includes a bonus feature of how other early Christians were martyred.

If you’re looking for a great survey of Bible history for someone who doesn’t like “boring parts,” this would be a great book to give. It’s engaging and speaks everyday language incredibly well. (more…)

A Prayer for One Dear to Me

Oh my dear, dear lady. What has been done to you? I remember your smile. I remember your laugh. I remember your trust, your faith, your reliance on Jesus. You are a chosen woman, brought out and faithful for so many, many years.

Your smile has curdled to bitterness. I see your hurt. I do. I see your frustration. The wages of sin may be death, but before that we are reminded of what is coming in so many little deaths. And just like we deny death when we grieve, we want to deny all these little deaths. The death of independence. The death of depending on self. And when we deny that… we clutch what we can to ourselves.

And I see that in you. I see that pain. That fear. And I weep with you.

But I weep for even more a reason. (more…)

Review: The Lay of the Lord


The Lay of the Lord

by Christopher Yokel

The true story of Jesus’s life remains an epic full of emotion, unexpected twists and turns, and tragedy and triumph. Sometimes its familiarity makes us forget, though. Christopher Yokel recasts the gospels as an epic poem, recapturing our wonder at what Jesus has done. Beginning with the announcement of John’s impending birth to Zechariah and ending Easter evening, the book walks with Jesus and leads us to gasp again at the story we have known for so long.

This book has power. I would not give it to a newbie Christian or someone who isn’t Christian unless they were the type of person who likes looking deeper and looking up allusions. It is filled with poetic shadows and illustrations and mentions that I understood, but would fly over the head of someone not familiar with the history of salvation. Scapegoats? Moriah? Fig trees? (more…)