Some scars run deep.

man and woman sitting in front of table with books and cup of coffee facing each other

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

So he started by telling me that Goliath was the descendant of aliens that sought to enslave mankind. He showed me all this, um, proof that there were giants that were from other worlds. He went on to tell me that Jesus was not God, and that he got all his ideas from Buddha.”

I look around at the council. All of it is true. He had wanted to talk to me, and we’d arranged to meet at Waffle House. (Look, if you want to see Jesus quicker, eat at a Waffle House. You’ll be dead soon enough.)

I continued, “When I shared the Gospel with him, he insisted that we couldn’t trust the Bible anyway. I lined up all the textual and manuscript evidence we have. He accepted that Jesus was seen after the crucifixion, but only because Judas purposely betrayed the wrong man, and the rest of the apostles had paid off some guy to die in Jesus’s place. After Easter, Jesus went to France and had a bunch of babies with his wife.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Also, this man claims to be Roman Catholic.” (more…)


Review: The Monday Morning Church

The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary and Into the Streets
by Jerry Cook

The church’s power isn’t in what happens Sunday, but in living Christian lives and loving on Monday. But how can the church be empowered to be the church on Monday? In this book, Jerry Cook takes us through the book of Ephesians, showing how God has transformed who we are. Being the church on Monday is simply knowing who you are in Christ.

Let me sum up my thoughts on this book: kljalkjaslkjjash;kjblvlkj

Approximately. (more…)

Review: Move Toward the Mess

Move Toward the Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life
by John Hambrick

Jesus wasn’t boring. If he was, he wouldn’t have had the following he had. If Jesus was boring, the religious leaders would not have sought to kill him. So why is it that so many Christians are bored in their faith lives? John Hambrick tackles this challenge, pointing to grace from God and grace to our fellow humans as a stunning answer.

Overall, this book is pretty solid. I appreciate Hambrick’s repeated stress that we are forgiven in Christ, and that motivates us. He includes a chapter on guilt, showing that it should not be our motivator. We don’t do anything to gain forgiveness, after all! “God is bigger than the mess. And that confidence enables us to invest in things like self-control. It’s not so we can earn God’s favor. It’s because we already have it” (64). (more…)

Review: Gospel Reset

Gospel Reset: Salvation Made Relevant
by Ken Ham

The gospel message hasn’t changed, but the way in which it needs to be presented in a secularized culture does need to change” (10). Ken Ham attempts to show why our culture has changed and the necessity of changing how we present the Gospel, and then shows how that change should occur.

I got this book free in the mail, unsolicited. Apparently Answers in Genesis will occasionally send out free copies of books to local pastors, and I qualified! The entire book took me maybe an hour to read; it’s slim!

Ken Ham compares the Acts 2 sermon that Peter gave to Jews to the Acts 17 sermon that Paul gave to the Greeks. Ham rightly says that Peter didn’t have to explain concepts like God or sin because the Jews already had that basis; Paul had to set out the foundation because the Greeks had not been taught them. Ham then shows evidence that we now live in an Acts 17 culture, and as such we cannot assume that those we speak to understand basic concepts like God and sin.

So far so good. (more…)

If Jesus Is Real

brown wooden church bench near white painted wall

Photo by Nikko Tan on Pexels.com

I would be willing to die for my faith. At least I think I would be; if God is real, he is worth dying for. But watching adults who have lived twenty or thirty years longer than I have act as they are acting right now makes me wonder if this whole Christianity thing is real at all. If older Christians are showing me where this faith is going, I don’t want to go with them. I don’t want to be on that team.

That’s Rebecca K. Reynolds quoting a college student she worked with in her book Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World (my review shall be forthcoming!).

The young woman’s emotions strike me. I agree with her.

I look at the many apathetic Christians that line the halls of the many churches I’ve belonged to. Don’t the get it? Jesus is so much bigger and more exciting and important than weekend sports (every weekend) or work (did you ask about getting the shift off or did it not matter?) or sleeping in (I get it. Sleep is important. I’m a new dad again. I miss sleep.).

I think about how many leadership teams are stressed about what’s going on with the church-as-organization but don’t seem to get invested in Jesus-as-head-of-church.

I think about how many people seem to limp through worship. The Law doesn’t seem to cut. The Gospel doesn’t seem to revive. The music doesn’t seem to touch them, and the prayers are something to be mumbled. And Communion? Oh, it’s Communion week again. Sure. Whatever.

Do they not get it? (more…)

Review: Meet Generation Z

Meet Generation Z
by James Emery White

Millennials are important, but they’re no longer the largest generation. That would be Generation Z, those born from 1993 to 2012. They are the first truly post-Christian generation in the West, and they will change how churches speak and do evangelism. Who are these people who are already changing our culture, and what should churches do?

Most of this book is fantastic. It uses population and census data along with some well-researched surveys to show how the upcoming generation is different than previous generations. It highlights the differences between Generation Z and Millennials, showing that churches that are going after Millennials may well miss the next generation. It makes fantastic applications of this information, as well.

For instance, the book shows that the majority of those who are Generation Z have not even heard of the shadow of the Gospel. That changes how we do evangelism; we cannot assume any base of knowledge. “The heart of any evangelistic process is going to have to major in explanation. Everything must be explained, from music to messages, symbols to ritual, because so little is understood” (110, emphasis in original). I have to admit that the book is really preaching to the choir with me on this particular point, but I think it needs to be stated over and over again. As someone who moved recently, I think I drove the PTA president up a wall because I kept asking what certain things were that he assumed everyone knew. Sorry, I’m new here! And how much more frustrating if the place doing it is a church! (more…)

And No One Came

baseball bleachers chairs close up

Photo by Bahram Jamalov on Pexels.com

I invited four families. Not one came. One responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” to the invitation, and that was the only one I really counted on showing up. But… not even them.

And it wasn’t even to church.

Sure, it was a church outing. It was to a baseball game with tailgating ahead of time. And the church was covering all the expenses. Free.

So at this event designed to just introduce guests to our church family… I brought no guests. And at this great event… there was exactly two guests. Plenty of members, but only two guests.

This whole “Go into all the world thing” ain’t working out so well. (more…)

Review: Other Sheep

Other Sheep
by Arnold H. Schroeder

Pastor Arnold Schroeder served as an institutional pastor for forty-two years, starting in 1938. In Other Sheep, he talks about the many different people he brought the Gospel to, from asylums, to hospitals, to rest homes, to orphanages. Throughout, he continues to praise God for loving sinners and calling lost sheep back to their Shepherd.

I was honestly surprised about the content of this book; I had expected it to be sharing how to share the Gospel in some very challenging situations, with some real-world examples. Instead what I got was story after story of how the Gospel worked. Schroeder tells most of his stories within one or two pages, but don’t think you’re getting Chicken Soup for the Soul here. This is not only heart-wrenching, but drenched with the Gospel. Schroeder isn’t afraid to let us see what sin has done, but he also shows how wonderful Jesus’s forgiveness really is. More than once tears came to my eyes as I read his vivid descriptions. He talks about veteran’s homes, asylums, hospitals, and the people that lived there.

The book isn’t just amazing stories. It shows pastoral care in action. It talks about how a pastor talked about Jesus, how the Holy Spirit used that Word, and how that Word grew into action in many people’s lives. I’m actually sad that I hadn’t had this book recommended to me at the Seminary; it provides so many good case studies!

I also enjoyed seeing history come alive in this book. This man started his ministry before the States entered World War Two! There’s been a lot of change in how we as a nation treat those who are unable to care for themselves. Our culture has changed so much, too. This is no nostalgic look back, nor is it condemning, but a simple, “This is how things were.”

And over and over again, Schroeder shared not only the stories of the people he ministered to, but how he shared Jesus with them. This is the Gospel in action, connecting Jesus’s death on the cross with living people and changing them.

If you’re looking for a straight-up practical theology book giving direct pointers, this isn’t for you. But if you want to see theology in action, to see how Jesus touched people throughout the 20th century, this book is well, well worth your time.

As Serpents

We had a visitor at church tonight! He showed up with ten minutes left of worship. Came in huffing and puffing. Joined the conversation and the singing and the praying. He joined us for our confession of sins and our absolution, hearing directly what Jesus did for us.

After worship, my evangelism chairman introduced himself and a couple other people. I let them take point; it’s good for others in the congregation to get involved. After taking care of some other business with members, I approached and this visitor told me his sad, sad story: He rode the bus all the way to our town from the other side of the state and walked from about two miles away to get to our church (which is why he was so late), but he left the envelope with his money on the bus and now had no way to get home. (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…)