**spoiler alert** SPOILER ALERT!!! The story is unoriginal: the Matrix's "human batteries" meet Soylent Green's "meat". There's no robot overlords, bu...more**spoiler alert** SPOILER ALERT!!! The story is unoriginal: the Matrix's "human batteries" meet Soylent Green's "meat". There's no robot overlords, but a monolithic evil government that controls 90% of the globe. The story was predictable. I guessed the hero would battle the villain, escape, and then find a resistance movement where he would join them in sticking it to the tyrannical government by blowing something up. The writing was par for a self-published author and the editing was better than most in that category. There was little character development. You hear very little of what is going on inside the character's minds. The author reports the plot more than he describes it. It was a somewhat entertaining fluff read and quick at 110 pages. I would give it 2.5 stars if I could. Final thought: Windigo Soul is not good, not terrible, just predictable.(less)
[This introduction of "Broken" is taken from my congregation's newsletter "The Seed of Life" under the section heading "From Pastor's Bookshelf."]
This...more[This introduction of "Broken" is taken from my congregation's newsletter "The Seed of Life" under the section heading "From Pastor's Bookshelf."]
This month’s selection from my bookshelf is not your ordinary Christian theological work or devotional book. Lutheran pastor Rev. Jonathan Fisk, the creator and host of the popular YouTube “addiction” Worldview Everlasting has published his first book and its odd title is only a foretaste of the wildness within. Replete with postmodern graphics on almost every page and ample use of different fonts "Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible" is new ground for our Missouri Synod’s publishing arm Concordia Publishing House. It might be the first and the last CPH book with a Star Wars reference weaved throughout an entire chapter. While I have been very impressed with CPH’s offerings in the last decade I am glad to see them trying to reach a wider audience with Lutheran theology. Broken is attempting to do just that as CPH for once sent out review copies and purchased full page ads in a popular Evangelical youth leader magazine.
So, what can you expect to find within Broken? Seven popular counterfeit rules that try to pass themselves off as authentic Christianity complete with personifications of each one and tons of metaphors to explain them. Fisk loves metaphor and personification and you will get them both in heavy doses in this volume. This is one of the books strengths in that it can take complicated ideas and explain them in a narrative style. Readers who generally choose novels over non-fiction will very likely find this book more congenial to their reading preferences. Jonathan’s writing style is entertaining and he introduces chapters in a way that had me wondering how he was going to make his point.
Pastor Fisk writes with a heart for our youth which the Church has been losing. Why have we been bleeding our youth when they enter adulthood? Fisk’s answer is their Christianity is broken by the false rules being pawned off as real “Christian” spirituality. All these rules have two things in common: 1. they take the centrality of God’s Word away from the Christian. 2. They are centered on you not Christ for you. Fisk’s main point is that God can not be found in your emotions, heart, works, mind, mission statement, or your desires. Yet, the ways you become the center of your spirituality are sneaky. Each chapter shows how true spirituality is found in Christ alone whom the Father reveals to us in His Word and Sacraments through the Holy Spirit.
I was pleased to see that important Lutheran doctrines like the distinction between the Law and the Gospel, the Sacraments, and Justification were clearly presented in an unapologetic fashion in this book. Some authors and publishers are tempted to keep doctrine at the lowest common denominator when attempting a book that is intended for a wide audience. Evangelical Christians of the non-Lutheran stripe will likely chafe at what the Bible teaches about Baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and true presence in the Lord’s Supper among other things expounded in this book. Yet, these things need to be said as they are what make up a distinctively Christian spirituality and are taught clearly in God’s Word.
This is not to say that non-Lutheran readers will not benefit from the content of this book even where they may disagree. I would hope that this book might serve as a primer and may wet non-Lutheran palates to learn more of what our church body believes, teaches, and confesses. Even some Lutherans will be irritated by what Jonathan has to say about the importance of tradition and the underlying motivation behind the church growth and contemporary worship movements. I welcome his insights as these things need to be discussed out in the open in our Synod and many (including myself) agree with Jonathan’s concerns.
One of the book’s strengths mentioned above is also one of its biggest weaknesses. Some of the personifications and metaphors are extended for several pages which can exhaust a reader’s attention. Certain ideas and concepts such as rationalism and pragmatism in “Never #3” could be explained much more concisely and clearly. Also, the narrative style does not lend itself to the kind of depth some readers may desire. I was disappointed that there was no direct interaction with the thought of the “New Atheists” in the section on rationalism. While Fisk certainly points out the err in thinking that our reason and rational mind can get us to God or disprove God’s existence there are better books out there on the problem of rationalism. I can forgive this as Jonathan was not attempting to give an exhaustive apologetic (defense) for the Christian faith against our detractors. His concern is exposing how certain worldviews influencing the Church lead to a false spirituality.
I hope you might give this book a try. Its style is not for everyone, but I think it might reach some readers that CPH otherwise has not. I highly recommend using the free downloadable discussion guide available at the CPH website.
SDG - Rev. Eric M. Estes
For more information, videos, and to purchase the book visit www.cph.org/broken or call 1.800.325.3040. Broken is also available at Amazon.com and other book distributors. It has been released in a Kindle edition (minus the snazzy graphics).
Fisk, Jonathan. Broken : 7 Christian rules that every Christian ought to break as often as possible. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2012.
[This introduction of the "The Problem of Suffering" is taken from my congregation's newsletter under the section heading "From Pastor's Bookshelf.]
Fr...more[This introduction of the "The Problem of Suffering" is taken from my congregation's newsletter under the section heading "From Pastor's Bookshelf.]
From Pastor’s Bookshelf
Of all the books I have read this year this month’s selection from my bookshelf is likely the first one I would pick to reread before year end. In fact I might just do that, but admittedly there is a part of me that does not want to reread it. I do not want to because The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope is a book that does not dodge some of the most painful experiences one can imagine suffering. It does not take mercy on its readers by sparing them from feeling the despair of loss. Author Gregory P. Schultz in beautifully written prose and poetry unleashes the depths of a father crushed by suffering and death.
This book is Gregory’s meditation on the deaths of his one year old daughter and fourteen year old son. Most importantly it is his meditation on Christ in the midst of sorrow. He does not aim to make a theodicy or in other words a philosophy on the problem of suffering or evil. He does not come to tidy conclusions that leave no room for sadness, anger, or doubt. Rather, he speaks from the experience of suffering and shares it openly with those who are willing to hear.
While there is a part of me that does not want to read this book again anytime soon (as I shed my fair share of tears hearing of his family’s suffering) there’s another part of me that wants and needs to read this book. Gregory understands the comfort of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way only one who has suffered much in this vale of tears is able to.
As he puts it “We preach Christ crucified, not suffering justified.” Any attempts to find meaning in suffering apart from Christ’s death and resurrection for broken humanity will end in despair. There are too many contradictions, dead ends, and paradoxes to presume we can answer with finality why we suffer at a particular moment or in a particular way. Yet, if we follow Christ on the path to the cross and the empty tomb we will find God’s answer satisfies in ways philosophies and cliché platitudes can not. That does not mean the path won’t be easy. That’s why Lutherans call what Gregory describes the Theology of the Cross. That is that God’s goodness is seen and found in suffering; most especially in the suffering of His Son Jesus. Gregory takes you on his journey towards his own cross in the death of his two beloved children, but his journey begins and ends with all Christians at the cross and empty grave of God’s beloved Son.
With All Saints Sunday upon us I could not think of a better book to consider at the moment. One chapter of this book is dedicated to the power in the Word and the Sacraments to help us in our grief and likewise how they bring us true joy. Gregory teaches us how the living Christ we receive in the Divine Service is the same Christ whom all dead Christians now live before in His eternal peace and glory. The same presence in body and blood that you receive at the altar is the same Christ the Saints in heaven worship and adore. Together, the Church in heaven and on earth await Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
I hope you might consider reading this small book. It is not an easy read because it is painful in parts, but it is also comforting because it proclaims the truth of the gospel of Christ. It will be helpful to you whether or not you have suffered greatly like the author. Ultimately, I believe and hope it will bring you closer to the heart of your Savior Jesus who promises you His peace in your suffering. (less)
[This review was originally written for my congregation's newsletter.]
When it comes to prayer books I have yet to find a single volume that covers eve...more[This review was originally written for my congregation's newsletter.]
When it comes to prayer books I have yet to find a single volume that covers every blessing or trial a Christian encounters throughout his or her life. If there is one that is in the ballpark it is this month’s book from my bookshelf and it happened to be written almost 300 years ago. Do not let its age deter you though. The good folks at Concordia Publishing House have republished it in updated garb and translation from the original German.
Starck’s Prayer Book is a treasury of prayers and devotional reflections on the Scriptures divided into five categories. Each section is under a heading for the present condition of the Christian’s life, but whether one is in health, affliction, sickness, or celebrating a special occasion this book offers the Christian deep meditations on the Word of God and the life lived under the cross of Christ. These are not prayers to read quickly and then set aside. These are prayers to be pondered, even discussed with a friend, and will even draw the Christian to study the Scriptures to seek more understanding. If you let them, they will draw you into the life of our God in Trinity searching the magnitude of what He has accomplished in the gospel. I say “if you let them” because these prayers are challenging. They certainly contain pure spiritual milk, but they also contain filet mignon to be savored and 150 proof theology of the cross that can knock the wind out of you all the while uplifting you. As Rev. William Weedon commenting in the book’s preface begins, “I didn’t like it. Not at first…Starck’s prayers are meat for the soul in an age accustomed to devotional cotton candy…[but] the longer I lived with these prayers, the more I realized how great this work truly is.”
I have to agree with Rev. Weedon’s feelings and I have only been regularly using this book for the last couple of months. If you are an avid reader of Portals of Prayer or other small devotional books Strack’s prayers would be very helpful in rounding out your devotional time. I have found it a wonderful supplement to other resources I use such as The Treasury of Daily Prayer and The Minister’s Prayer Book. I have also used it for devotions during visitations and the Word of God contained in this book and alluded to in the prayers brought much comfort during various trials.
I hope you might give this resource a chance. If you would like to browse it before you purchase it feel free to ask to see my copy. I know these prayers will draw you into a deeper understanding of the incredible comfort of the gospel and the rich spiritual blessing God has given you in prayer. Starck’s volume makes a wonderful companion and teacher as we call upon God in all times of trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. (less)