review

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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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…)

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…)

Review: How you are Changing (Girls’ Edition)

How You Are Changing: A Guide for the Christian Family: Girls Ages 9-11
By someone. No author listed.

Girls change a lot during puberty, and it’s probably good to prepare them for it. This book aims to be read by parents and daughters either shortly before or during the opening stages of adolescence, explaining what is about to happen to them. It aims to guide using God’s Word, showing girls that their worth is not based on what they do, but based on Jesus’s love for them. It also explains that sex is a good thing, designed to bless husbands and wives in marriage.

So! A few weeks ago I reviewed the boys’ version of this book. The girls’ edition finally arrived in the mail! Silly backorder! Now, I gave the boys’ book a positive review. Is the girls’ any different? (more…)

Review: Teaching the Faith at Home

Teaching the Faith at Home: What Does This Mean? How Is This Done?
By David L. Rueter

Something has gone wrong with confirmation in the Lutheran church. Children treat the day of their confirmation as a graduation rite, and parents don’t seem to be helping. What happened? Is it these crazy kids and they just need to deal with it? Is it the parents? Is something wrong with our instruction methods? In this book, David Rueter takes a look at the goals of confirmation and asks if there’s a better way to attain those goals. In the first half of the book, he explains what catechesis is and why it must become a life-long process and not a two-year class. In the second half of the book, he addresses especially parents, walking through the Small Catechism and explaining how parents can teach it well at home through several different ages. In the end, Rueter urges parents to teach their children the faith, be good examples, and use the church to help children dig even deeper into God’s Word.

Short review: Pastors should read this, and then urge parents to read it as well.

Longer review: (more…)

Review: How You Are Changing (Boys’ Edition)

How You Are Changing: A Guide for the Christian Family, Boys Ages 9-11
by… someone. No author listed. Helpful.

A person’s body changes a lot as they get older. And as a person becomes sexually mature, they start realizing that the world is sending them more and more messages about what to do with that sexuality. This book helps Christian parents take their sons and talk about sexuality not only in a God-pleasing way, but in a way celebrates grace.

I happen to have a son, and it’s time we had “the talk.” Or rather, to start really having “the talk” over a period of time; to talk about something like this once and never again doesn’t really help kids. However, it’s nice to have a guide to help you through that. My dad took me through Dr. James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence back in the day, but I wanted something not only more current, but something that focused on an appropriate age. Concordia Publishing House has this series, “Learning About Sex,” in six volumes, and several of the volumes target a particular gender. Well, I thought I’d give it a try. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)