Month: December 2017

Review: Concordia

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions
based on the translation by William Hermann Theodore Dau and Gerhard Friedrich Bente; Revised, Updated, and Annotated by Paul Timothy McCain, Robert Cleveland Baker, Gene Edward Veith, and Edward Andrew Engelbrecht

Five hundred years ago, a group of people sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church. These reformers were forced, time and again, to present what they believed, what they didn’t, and why. These people eventually became known as Lutherans, and this book collects their confessions. These writings bind the Lutheran church; if a person denies them, he may be a Christian, but they cannot say they’re Lutheran. For that reason, this collection is incredibly important for my church body, particularly pastors! This edition includes a new and updated translation using modern English, as well as historical introductions for not only each confession, but for each article within each confession.

Before I continue, I should say: I have a very… contentious relationship with the writings collected in this book. While I value a united statement of beliefs and find such unity necessary to declare fellowship with any church body, my history with these writings in particular is rather rocky. You see, I’ll get into discussions with other pastors within my church body, and often enough they’ll bring out quotes from the Confessions. When I respond with Bible verses, I’m often either seemingly ignored or told that while sure, maybe I’m right there, the Confessions say…

Basically, because some people use these writings to say things that I honestly do disagree with and even find harmful, I approached this particular book with… suspicion. (more…)

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“Jesus is Savage!”

Remember all those pictures of Jesus as a nice man, just being kind and gentle, and hugging kids and stuff like that?”

The eighth-grade boy across from me brightens. “Oh, yeah! Like, all the time!”

His dad nods along, wondering where I’m going with this.

Yeah. Jesus wasn’t like that. He was a man! He loved kids, too, and he did bless them. But he didn’t look nice. He was a carpenter! He had calloused hands. He had muscles! And there was this one time. He came to the Temple. You know, place is supposed to be a place of prayer? Quiet, so you can read the Bible and concentrate? Well, he came in, and it was almost like a farmers’ market. People selling animals. Money changers. And he got so angry he made a whip and used it to chase people out. He flipped tables over! How angry would you have to be to flip a table over?”

Dad looks confused. “What? Really? Where is that?”

John 1. Maybe John 2. Let’s check it out.” (more…)

Review: Fulcrum

Sorry — I couldn’t find a picture of the cover. 

Fulcrum: Crossing the Generations
by Roger Hirons

Seth Bosch, son of German immigrants who was born in the late 1800’s, attempts to find his way in life. Restless, he pursues several fields. Along the way, though, he continually connects younger generations to older. He assistant teaches. He visits older members of his church. He connects older, experienced mentors in the trades with younger students wanting to learn more. Seth becomes a fulcrum, leveraging the generations to work together.

I have no idea where I got this book. I’m pretty sure it’s self-published, though I could be wrong in that. I think it was a free book available to seminary students; my seminary would often enough have ministry days when various groups could set up booths, showing students what they had to offer. I probably grabbed the book off a table and hadn’t thought of it much. There it was sitting on my shelf, though, and I wanted a quick read (as I’m still making my way through the Lutheran Confessions, after all). So I plucked it off its place and gave it a quick read.

The back of the book gives no clues to the content. Other than the title and the author, I had no clues. I figured maybe it would be a guidebook on how to connect old and young members in churches; this is something I could use. Or maybe it would just urge connecting generations. That, too, could be useful.

Nope.

It’s a biography! (more…)

Not About

A Great Light

Christmas worship should be epic.

Wednesday I watched a concert livestreamed. The main artist was Andrew Peterson, singing his Behold the Lamb of God album. I highly recommend it. During the first half of the concert, he debuted a new song. It’ll be on the album Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 coming out at Easter. I wish I could link you to the song. It is… powerful. It asks some very difficult questions:

Do you feel the world is broken?”

We do.”

Do you feel the shadows deepen?”

We do.”

But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from shining through?”

We do.”

Do you wish you could see it all made new?”

We do.”

Those are the opening lines of this incredible song. And as Andrew leaned into the song, speaking about how Jesus answers these longings, how he is worthy of praise and glory and honor… he begins to weep.

He is responding to my Jesus. (more…)

It’s Not Enough

Immanuel

The Prince took off his crown. He set the gleaming band on the table and regarded it. The symbol of all his power. The symbol of who he was: The Prince, the sovereign of the Kingdom. It was time to walk away. There was a price to save his people, and he would pay it.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

His gaze swept the throne room. The center of his power, where all his glory resided, where he proclaimed judgments and justice and condemnation as his righteousness saw fit. Here his subjects came to give him honor. Here his enemies shook in fear.

He nodded and stepped away, leaving the throne, setting its power aside.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

The Prince stepped into his home. Here was all his comfort. Here was anything he might desire. Yes, to rescue his people, he would give this up, too. His riches shone around him. No, if he were to stand as their substitute, if he were to ransom them, he must become poor. He took off his robes. His rings. His sandals. Beggar’s clothes wrapped his shoulders.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

Powerless. Without glory. No honor. No comfort. Poor.

Still, he became less.

He gave up the ability to stand. He fell to his knees, unable to support himself any longer. His head fell to the side, his neck unable to hold it up any longer. He felt thirst and could not raise a cup to his lips. He gave up the power to even ask for a drink. He cried out.

The Prince needed someone to pick him up.

It was finally enough. He had become less. He had set aside so much. And now, at last, now he was able to begin his greatest quest, his greatest desire, his greatest payment.

He became one of us.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

Review: Because I Said So

Because I Said So – and Other Things Christian Fathers Say
by Dan Madson

Christian fathers can say and do some funny things. Dan Madson writes a series of vignettes talking about some common struggles of fathers everywhere, and uses those struggles to illustrate Christian lessons. Originally a regular article in Lutheran Parent, the best articles over many years are brought together in this slim volume.

As I read this book, I could almost hear Garrison Keillor narrating the little stories. There’s this very comfortable sense of humor that runs throughout the book that brings a warm laugh. Madson’s grounding in Scripture and in Christian community informs his stories and his illustrations.

The problem is… these were written as short little articles to amuse. Taken that way, the writing is pretty good. It achieves its purpose well. 

As a book, though? (more…)

Review: Of Other Gods and Other Spirits

Of Other Gods and Other Spirits
by E. H. Wendland

E. H. Wendland served as a missionary, stationed in Lusaka, Zambia, during the 1960’s and 70’s. In this book, he speaks of what he’s discovered of the people he was sent to share Jesus with. He focuses on their culture and religion, talking about both good and ill. As he goes through, he shares many excellent evangelism principles. Short chapters address the general attitude toward religion, spirituality, marriage, children, and so on. Wendland constantly returns to Scripture to guide his discussion, always trying to find the best way to share Jesus.

I’m currently also reading the Confessions (you’ll hear more on that in upcoming weeks!), so I wanted to grab something short and sweet. This slim book was certainly a fast read, but it’s anything but shallow! As I read, more and more quotes popped out at me.

When speaking about the necessity for the African church to stand on its own, to be self-supporting, Wendland writes, “A church can be ever so self-supporting, yet if it is simply a carbon copy of something soming [sic] out of another culture, a mimicry of expressions from another society, the local people will never really feel at home in it” (87). Should the African church look like the churches that planted it? Should it look European, or should it be its own thing? Wendland clearly advocates that it should find its own way – though in context, he clearly intends that it stays in Scripture and base what they do in what God has clearly spoken in the Bible: “Lutheran World Federation members were similarly reminded not to start with culture, but with Scripture, not to look for an ‘African theology,’ but a ‘theology in an African setting’” (89). (more…)