Month: November 2017

Review: Together But Alone

Together but Alone: When God Means Something Different to Your Spouse
by Donna Erickson Couch

So often, married couples share everything… but their faith. What happens when one spouse is devoted to God, but the other doesn’t care about religion or spirituality? How can a person remain true to God and not cause division in their marriage? Donna Erickson Couch writes this book to offer guidance to a spouse facing such a situation.

Except… don’t. Just don’t.

Listen, there is great need for counseling for those in marriages where one spouse wants nothing to do with Jesus. People in such situations need to be reminded that Jesus is not about earthly peace, but about something much more. Passages dealing with encouraging and loving those that are hard to love can certainly be applied, as well as talking about how much Jesus loves us, even when we feel alone. A book that uses such passages that offer real comfort based on God’s love for us, as well as practical ways to live that out, would be welcome.

This is not that book. (more…)

The Reality of Grace

You can get used to the idea of grace. It’s God’s undeserved love. It’s getting a gift you never earned and could never repay. And I pray you hear it every week in church. After all, that’s the center of the Christian message: While we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. And it’s nice, but… our sinful natures reduce the reality of grace to the idea of grace.

You can get used to the idea of grace. But the reality of grace always, always overwhelms.

I had a pastor’s car. It was… not in the best shape. Old by most measures of cars, the sedan had seen better days. In fact, the driver’s window had been replaced by plastic sheeting, so it was obvious just looking at it that it was not in the best shape. I didn’t mind so much. Retaping the plastic every week or two was a pain, but not the end of the world.

A member said he’d work on it; I accepted his offer. He came. Took the door panel off to see what he could see. Told me it was more complex than he could handle; he’d have to come back next week.

Not a problem. I’m pretty patient with these types of things.

And then… then God laughed. (more…)

Her Final Christmas Gift

Never mind the label… this is the best picture I could find of the type. 

We broke out the Christmas decorations tonight – it’s possibly the last night we could just breathe and enjoy the process. As always, there was some nostalgia involved.

Here’s the Charlie Brown tree topper my Bride made for our first Christmas together. Our tree was so sad it had to be anchored to the wall to keep from falling over. Yes, an artificial tree. It’s all we could afford – a tree so beat-up our Lutheran church was throwing it away, and we got to salvage it. As a sort of joke, my Bride made Charlie Brown ornaments by printing out pictures and laminating them.

Here’s an ornament given to me my intern year; it proclaims “Peace,” the name of the church, as well as what the angels proclaimed that first Christmas.

And here…


I pick up the lace snowflakes. They’re beautiful. And I’m pretty sure they were her last. (more…)

Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Ragamuffin Gospel
by Brennan Manning

The Gospel is only for the hopeless, for those who are ragamuffins. In this book, Brennan Manning brings hope to the hopeless, pointing to Jesus as the God who died for those who could not lift themselves up. Using a tender approach, Manning shows that the Gospel exists for the broken.

Not long ago I read The Wisdom of Tenderness by Brennan Manning and quite enjoyed it. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Rich Mullins lately, who loved this book of Manning’s. It’s been sitting on my shelf, so I thought I’d give it a read. (more…)

Wait — that applies to me, too?!

We’re all good with what God says until we realize what it says.

The couple came to faith recently. They want to get married. I’ve worked with them for a while, teaching them about Jesus, connecting Jesus with their everyday lives and what that means. We’ve struggled together over a good many things. I’ve learned that it’s wise to simply lay out what the Bible says, hear them as they argue, and then give them a few days. Usually the Holy Spirit works in those days, and by the time we get back together, they say that what the Bible says is correct.

After a few weeks of premarital counseling, it was finally time to talk about the wedding ceremony itself. I’ve made it a policy to not talk about the ceremony at all – except to select a date – until the premarital counseling is done. Let’s lay groundwork for a good marriage. The wedding is one day; the marriage will be for the rest of their lives. At least, that’s the plan. (more…)

Review: Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
by C. S. Lewis

Orual raises her younger half-sister Psyche when their father the king finds more important things to do, like ruling their nation. Disaster strikes, though, and Psyche is the scapegoat. She must be sacrificed to the god of the mountain. She is left chained to the Tree for the god to come and destroy. Or maybe marry. The priest isn’t entirely sure which it will be, or if it is somehow both. Orual sets out to save her sister and discovers that the god has indeed taken her in, shown her love, but forbids her from ever seeing his face. Well, that’s what Psyche says… Orual cannot see the mansion she claims to live in. Orual does everything she can to save her sister from these supposed delusions… but are they delusions? Or is Orual the god’s plaything?

OK, so this isn’t the normal kind of book I review here. I felt like reading some C. S. Lewis, and I had never read this novel. I figured it would end up being like his Science Fiction trilogy or the Chronicles of Narnia, where fiction is used to teach about Christ. Well, this kind of is like that. Kind of. (more…)

Review: Jesus Freaks

Jesus Freaks
by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs

The Church has always been persecuted. This book collects the stories of dozens of men, women, and children throughout the history of the Church, from Stephen, the first martyr whose story is told in Acts, until the 1990’s, when this book was published. Christians being imprisoned and killed from the ancient Middle East to 1500’s England to Cold War U.S.S.R. To modern China – and the book tells their stories. The stories range from six pages to half a page, meaning each one is bite-sized. Mixed in with the stories are commentary, quotes from Christians through the ages, and Bible verses. The book concludes with a list of modern nations persecuting Christians, as well as tips on how to help.

I bought this book when it was new and shiny on the shelf back in 1999. I started reading it at the time, but had to set it down. My old bookmark is still in it, in fact. I couldn’t handle all the stories of persecution. The narratives are written with strength, not shying away from the pain involved for those who stand on Christ. That intensity remains now as I read it through to the end, but now that I’ve been tempered with far more maturity than I had back then, I see some issues with the book (more…)