The Wounded Spirit
by Frank Peretti
This one isn’t fiction. Peretti is known for his Christian horror books such as The Oath and The Visitation. This time, though, he tells his own story of disfigurement and being bullied, and the bitterness that swallowed him up. He also tells how he was rescued from a life of anger, though he still bears scars on his soul to this day. He gives a rallying cry for the Christian church to preach against bullying and to call it the sin it is. In the end, he offers multiple resources for those who want help and for those who want to help.
This book made me weep. It recalled the many wounds I received when I was in grade school. I was not beaten as Peretti was, but the raw way in which he speaks about his past is something I identify with in great measure. Peretti underlines that his story is not unique; everyone has been wounded. Everyone has been broken. Everyone is a mess. (more…)
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
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…)
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
by C. S. Lewis
In a series of letters to a fictitious friend, C. S. Lewis writes about prayer. He talks about how he envisions God, what he prays about, how he prays, and in the process tackles such topics as worship, heaven, and repentance.
I enjoyed the format of this book. Lewis could have written all of this as essays, but instead formatted them all as warm letters. I didn’t find out “Malcolm” was fictional until after I’d finished reading this slim volume, so convincing was Lewis’s reactions to letters he apparently had never received, since there is no Malcolm! Each letter runs five to six pages in my volume, which is a perfect bite-sized length for me. (more…)
Ethics of Sex: From Taboo to Delight
Ed. By Gifford A. Grobien
What does God have to say about sex? Our world screams so many messages about what to do with our lust and our bodies, but God’s Word often says something very different from the world. Ten essays make up this book, pointing the reader back to what God says.
And as with any collection of essays, there’s good ones and bad ones.
One essay quoted The Catechism of the Catholic Church over and over again and very little Scripture. Another quoted a lot of the Lutheran fathers and very little Scripture. I have issues with this. It doesn’t matter if you’re quoting Roman Catholic sources or Lutheran ones; I’m suspicious if you don’t go back to the Bible. (more…)
Esther: Born for Her Time
by James A. Aderman
Esther knows that the moment she enters the king’s throne room, his guards will slay her. They are trained to kill any who approach the king, no matter who it is. And yet Esther moves forward, lump in her throat, determined to speak to her husband the king or die trying. And so begins the story of Esther in this volume of God’s People.
I have loved the story of Esther since I first encountered it as a radio drama on Adventures in Odyssey (a two-parter!). Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed retellings. There’s this fun Purim song (sung by the Maccabeats!). There’s a neat retelling set in modern day.
And now there’s this.
Aderman aims for a faithful retelling of the biblical narrative, and he does a fantastic job. There’s a bit more telling than showing than I prefer, but what he tells fills in gaps that I was unaware of – for instance, we find out where in Persia’s history Esther lies and how it compares to Persia’s conflicts with Greece. I’d never known that! (And now I imagine 300 going on in the background of Esther and it fits right in!)
Aderman makes a conscious choice (and makes it explicit) to leave mentions of God out of the story. After all, the biblical book Esther doesn’t mention God once! Yet he’s around in the background, and Aderman does a great job giving “hints” in how he writes.
Basically, this is one of my favorite stories, and this retelling is faithful to the original. I recommend it.
Jonah: Reluctant Prophet
by John A. Miller
The next volume in the God’s People series takes us to the man swallowed by a great sea creature as he tried to escape God’s command. It’s a story fairly well known, so what could this book add?
Honestly… quite a bit. Like other books in this series, Jonah reminds us how much of the Gospel God’s Old Testament people knew. They knew the promises. They knew the sacrifices were pictures of what was yet coming. They knew that God kept his promises and forgave sinners. And here, we get to see Moses not as a man motivated by the Law, but as someone who knew and valued the Gospel.
I appreciate that Miller shows us Jonah’s other ministry and puts the incidents he’s most famous for in context of a larger prophetic ministry. (Jonah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles a handful of times.)
Miller also excels in bringing the tactile dimension to this narrative. We feel the water slap Jonah as he’s thrown into the sea. We feel the inside of the sea creature. We feel the pain as Jonah is vomited onto land. These little additions to the story make it pop so much more.
The focus here is on what the Bible tells us. Unlike other books that might try to scientifically explain what’s going on or to defend what the Bible portrays, Miller simply gives us the story that the Bible presents. There are a few sidebars on what the identity of the sea creature was or Assyria’s place in history, but these aren’t the center of attention. We get to know the prophet and how he struggles with God’s grace.
This series just keeps getting better and better and I’m glad I picked up the box set last year. Though I’ve read the source material and know so many of these stories well, I don’t regret any of the time I’ve spent reading these books. Pick them up!
I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression
by Todd A. Peperkorn
Pastor Peperkorn was a pastor. That meant he should have everything together. That meant he shouldn’t struggle with things like depression. And then his life fell apart. On Good Friday, he considered suicide even as he considered Jesus’s death for him. How could something like this happen to a pastor? In I Trust When Dark My Road Pastor Peperkorn writes his true story of struggling with depression while in the ministry while addressing the topic from a confessional Lutheran standpoint. Each chapter ends with a prayer and discussion questions.
This week I’ve read four books dealing with depression from different angles (see the last reviews I’ve posted this past month). This book by far shows me Jesus best. While it didn’t touch my emotions as much as Courage, Dear Heart, it encouraged me the most. While a large chunk of that is the determined focus on Jesus, a large part of it is that my journey mirrored Peperkorn’s, at least in part. I understood exactly where he was coming from, though my depression was not nearly as debilitating. My depression could have been that bad so, so easily, though. (more…)
When God Becomes My Enemy: The Theology of the Complaint Psalms
by Ingvar Floysvik
And then there are the times that God attacks. There are the times when God has disappeared when he’s needed. There are the times when he is silent. And there are the times when he leads the onslaught on your life. What then? In When God Becomes My Enemy, Ingvar Floysvik (The o’s supposed to have a line through it but I can’t figure out how to do that) walks through psalms that wrestle with this seeming discrepancy between how God speaks about himself and how he acts. How did the ancient Hebrews deal with it? What can we learn?
First off, this is a professional book. Large chunks of the book are text studies of the original Hebrew. It includes quotes in Greek, German, and French, as well as English. The Hebrew and the Greek I could follow, but I had to skip the German and French quotations and I do feel like I missed out because of that.
Floysvik does a fantastic job analyzing the psalms in question. He doesn’t go in depth with every psalm that wrestles with God’s enmity, but he picks Psalms 6, 44, 74, 88, and 90. (I was a little disappointed he didn’t tackle Psalm 13, a personal favorite of mine, but he does address it as one of the complaint psalms.) He shows a dangerous truth: God will at least seemingly turn even on those who listen to him and obey him. This seems complete at odds with who God is. Isn’t he supposed to protect those who trust him? (more…)
Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World
by Rebecca K. Reynolds
The world is broken. I am broken. In so many ways, I recognize what is wrong with me, in me, and around me. Into this setting Rebecca Reynolds pens nine letters of encouragement, of understanding, of heaving deep sighs with you and for you. She brings comfort that is not surface as she points to true Comfort.
This little book sighs with comfort. The first letter had me in tears.
Before M [the author’s adopted son], I didn’t understand what fierce love God holds for those he has adopted into his family. I didn’t realize that when he pursues us,he knows all our damage and our defects – and he knows exactly where we rank on every system humans use to determine our value. He stars straight into all of the world’s opinions of us and yet proclaims that we are the wanted ones. No matter how anybody has let us down, hurt us, forgotten us, we are still longed for and beloved children. (39, emphasis in original)
Reynolds excels at using story to illuminate and make new truths that I have known for many years. The opening letter about rejection begins with a retelling of Jacob and his wives from Leah’s perspective. I hurt for her as I never had before. We hear about the history of Reynold’s adopted son. We hear about friends struggling with cancer. And throughout, Reynolds brings comfort. (more…)