Passion

Review: Heartbeat!

Heartbeat!
By Stephen J. Carter

Do you long to live with passion for God’s Word? You know you’re supposed to, and you understand that the Good News that Jesus is your Savior is overwhelming, but something just doesn’t connect? In this book, Stephen Carter looks at the examples of those who live with passion for God’s Word, examines what lies in the way of our living with passion, the importance of confession, how to discover the Word of Christ, how to dwell in that Word deeply, and how to live out that passion in the world. Carter himself explains his goal: “God’s heart beats through His Church, gathered around His Word and Sacraments. His heart beats in you through Baptism as you immerse yourself in the Word of Christ. Consequently, your heart will beat with God’s passion for the world as you praise him, serve others, and bear witness to your faith in Christ daily and throughout your life” (22)

When I started this book, I quickly became very worried I was wasting my time. First off, Carter is fine with his theology. I didn’t notice him saying anything wrong at all. He’s very Gospel-centered, for which I am grateful. However, the first fifty pages are supposed to be examples of people who live with passion, which will show us why living with passion for God’s Word isn’t just some good ideal, but something we want to pursue.

Except… after reading those fifty pages, I was frankly bored. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 5: Ex Crucio

Listen.

Do you hear the sound of the serpent striking his heel? Do you hear the sound of King David crying out as he sings, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Do you hear Isaiah weep as he says, “He was crushed for our iniquities”? The Prince’s pain echoes down through time, to the very beginning. His fall is so great, because it is the center of everything that has ever happened. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, of your life, of the world.

Listen.

The Prince and the Father wove a plan throughout all history… and it all came to this. It came to his Fall. He has been betrayed. Arrested. Rejected. Denied. Condemned. And now he comes to his cross. Ex crucio. The Latin phrase literally means “from the cross.” It’s where we get our word “Excruciating.” And now… here his cries come, ex cruio, from the cross.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 5: Ex Crucio.

They led him out… to crucify him. As is normal for the Romans, they force the condemned to carry his own crossbeam. A hundred fifty pounds of already blood-stained wood. Jesus isn’t even worthy of a new cross; he gets one that has already been used to crucify… what? A dozen criminals before him? Two dozen? More? His arms are chained to the crossbeam, and as he falls… he can’t even use his hands to catch himself. He lands on his chest, all the weight of the crossbeam pressing down. The Prince is so, so weak. The soldiers have a job to do. They grab Simon. Force him to carry the bloody wood.

And the Prince… has so much farther to fall. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 4: Condemned

Listen. Do you hear the whispers of the Law? From the very beginning, it has whispered and it has shouted. It has always been very clear: Follow the Law, and you will live. Just do this thing. Just love God with all you are, holding nothing back for yourself. Just love every person around you, no matter how much they’ve hurt you, no matter how much they don’t deserve your love, always put them first and yourself last. Just do that… and you will live.

Listen. Do you hear what the Law says to you? You who have not loved God with all you are? You who have not loved those around you, putting yourself after them? Listen. The Law condemns. The Law says to you: You have failed, and so you will not enjoy the reward. Instead, you will receive wages. You will get what you have worked for. You will receive death. The Law is not your friend. It condemns. And you know that the Law is not lying.

But listen… there is another whispering on the wind, in the Word, whispered from mouth to ear across centuries. Another is coming who will carry our transgressions. Another is coming who will be wounded for our sins. Another is coming… and the Law will work on him instead of on us.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 4: Condemned (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 3: Denied

Listen.

The Father speaks. And he announces what will happen. And for as long as God announces what will happen, people have not trusted it. God said, “Do not eat the fruit of that tree, for when you do, you will surely die.” And Adam and Eve don’t trust him. They trust the serpent: “You will not surely die.” God tells Abraham, “You will have a child, and your descendants will outnumber the stars.” And Abraham doesn’t trust God and takes matters into his own hands, cheating on his wife to have a child. Why would it have been any different when Jesus walked the earth?

The Fall of Christ, Chapter Three: Denied.

The Prince, Jesus, as he walked this earth made a number of predictions. He told his disciples, “I will die.” Peter told him not to talk that way. Jesus told them, “I will rise again.” Peter ignored it. Jesus told them, “You will all run away from me.” Peter shook his head. “Not me! Even if everyone else flees, I won’t do it!” I can’t be that bad.

Jesus looked right at Peter. “I tell you, three times before the rooster crows twice, you will deny that you even know me.” And Peter? He refused to listen. He refused to trust Jesus that he could ever do anything like that. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 2: Rejected

Listen.

From the beginning of brokenness, the Father and the Prince made a plan. The Prince would enter the world. He would rescue it, by offering himself up. And part of that plan was telling people about what was coming. Through centuries the Prince whispered that he would come. That he would crush the head of the serpent. That he would be crushed for our iniquities. Through prophets he spoke, so that the people would be ready. And some… they listened. They valued the message. They held on to it. They held it close. And they waited. They ached to see the Prince come and keep all his promises. But when he finally came… he was rejected.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter Two: Rejected.

The man named Caiaphas awaits in the Sanhedrin chambers.

The Sanhedrin: The ruling council of the Jews, made up of seventy-one elders. And this is where they ruled. This is the chamber that his father-in-law, Annas, had made great. And though Annas’s term was up, he still controlled much power through Caiaphas. But he and his father-in-law had a glorious goal: Preach the Law that God had given them. Wait for the one that was promised, wait for the one who would bring them freedom, and teach the Law.

The oil lamps have been lit, and their flickering light fills the open-air gathering place. Caiaphas prowls the chamber, waiting for the soldiers to return. They were supposed to go and arrest Jesus.

It was time to end this. (more…)

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…)

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: 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…)