Review: Blessed

Blessed by Christopher Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a long time to get through. I just couldn’t quite get into it to breeze through it. However, it was full of good information and insight.

“Blessed” was an interesting word study of how the Hebrew word brk is used in Scripture. I love the conclusion:
“[God] comes to us with blessing through a virgin’s womb and a Father’s love, by His promise and benediction, in good times and in bad, and death shall never part us. May God look upon us and all nations with His favor and give us His peace. Amen.”

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Review: The Messengers: Discovered

The Messengers: Discovered
The Messengers: Discovered by Lisa M. Clark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this story. It is a dystopia with real hope, because the secret faction is comprised of Christians trying to preserve the Word of God.

Simon Clay loves to find hidden pamphlets, but it can get him into serious trouble with the government. When he finds out by accident that his father aids the Messengers at night, he discovers a Word that offers Truth that he wasn’t sure existed anymore.
Simon begins a journey of faith and true knowledge that leads him to share the Word to his own peril.

This novel could have used a better proofreader, but it was well-written and a quick read. I am looking forward to the next installment.

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Review: The Executioner’s Redemption: A Story of Violence, Death, and Saving Grace

The Executioner's Redemption: A Story of Violence, Death, and Saving Grace
The Executioner’s Redemption: A Story of Violence, Death, and Saving Grace by Timothy R Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was convicting for me. I realized while reading that I hoped to read carnal stories about people’s crimes that brought them to death row. What I got was a kick in the pants about how little I seek God’s kingdom in His Word and through prayer on a daily basis. Thank you to Rev. Carter for giving me Law and Gospel in this book.

I would recommend this book to any police officer, correctional officer, etc. that deals with inmates and law enforcement on a regular basis. I can think of a few people that work in that industry that I will be recommending this book to. It is a good reminder of how a Christian is called to love even the human wolves among us.

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Review: Being Lutheran

BeingLutheran The first half of Being Lutheran has a lot of history of the Reformation and information about the time of Martin Luther (the 1500’s) and how Luther’s teachings were different from the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. However, in its talk of how Lutherans challenge being closed, lukewarm, ignorant, lazy, and pastel (which are the titles of the first five chapters) it doesn’t sound very specifically Lutheran.

A. Trevor Sutton uses a lot of modern language and wording in his descriptions. He certainly prefers the term “follower of Jesus” over the term Christian, which has been used since the time of the Apostles. Which is not incorrect, just trendy. Some of these modern words, phrases, and comparisons can be helpful, but some things like the mention of cat memes may not be understood by readers that don’t use social networks on the Internet.

My biggest issue is that the first half of the book doesn’t really make being Lutheran sound any different than other Bible-believing Christians. Of course any Scripture loving Christian is going to fight the impulse to be exclusive and to reach out to others who are different. Of course any lover of Jesus is going to see that sitting around the house and never praying or doing anything of service for anyone is a slap in the face to the freedom from sin that Jesus won for us on the cross. Of course any knowledgeable Christian is going to do his best to speak up in the face of mockery, try to remember to pray before meals in a restaurant, and not accept the scientific penchant of the day when it goes against God’s Word.The first half of the book should more appropriately be renamed “Being a Bible-Believing Follower of Jesus.”

The second half of Being Lutheran finally explains the doctrines that set Lutheranism apart. Lutherans take Jesus at his word and believe what he says about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution, worship, etc. This section was very good. I would recommend lifelong Lutherans to actually read this half first. It’s a little easier to hear what you should be doing (the first half) when you’ve been filled with the Good News of God’s Word (the second half). Other Christians should read the book in order because you can see what Lutherans and other Christians have in common before reading about our differences.

My only issue in the second half of the book is in the chapter titled Ordinary. Sutton says, “The flashiest thing you will find amongst Lutherans is an overly polished pectoral cross.” That’s not an accurate or fair statement. Plenty of Lutheran churches have beautiful windows, fancy processional crosses, and pastors wearing beautiful robes. Christian freedom allows for these things. So saying that Lutherans aren’t flashy writes off a good portion of Lutherans that retain more of the “high church” things than others. So unless his definition of “flashy” is simply to mean that Lutherans don’t do or have these things for the reason that they are earning God’s favor, then fine. But if he means that we so value simplicity that you won’t hear the majesty of a pipe organ with a timpani on Sunday morning, then we have a problem.

Overall, this was a good book, though I’m not sure who the target audience would be. He probably was trying to write a little for everyone. For pastors and those with more theological knowledge he throws in Latin and German terms. For typical laypeople he uses simple language. For those very engrossed in current lingo he uses that kind of language, too. For all types of Christians this book can be a useful primer into how Lutherans belief, think, and act. And for Lutherans it can be the kick in the pants that you need to remember to fulfill your vocations and serve your neighbors “as for the Lord and not for men.

Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A week ago I set out to read Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. I read a few chapters, the story was interesting, but I just couldn’t quite get into the book. When Unbroken showed up at the library on the hold-shelf for me, I decided there was no sense in plodding through a book that I wasn’t into, and decided to return Ty Cobb and start Unbroken instead.

Unbroken may be the most amazing story I have ever read. Laura Hillenbrand is a fantastic author. Unbroken is the biography of Louis Zamperini: olympic runner, WWII veteran, POW in Japan. Zamperini’s story would be fascinating told by anyone, but with Hillenbrand at the helm this book was enchanting. Hillenbrand brought the story to vibrant life. Her retelling of the horrors that Louie endured, and the joy of the end of the war, were descriptively and captivatingly written. I read this 400 page book in 5 days. I probably could have read it even faster, but I am a wife and a mother of four children.

I wish I had made time to read this book sooner, since it is from 2010 and now six years old. However, I am so glad that I remembered this book and read it now. Zamperini’s life is a testament to the power of the gospel. Louie endured incredible hardship. A plane wreck, nearly starving to death for 6 weeks on a tiny raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, rescue from the raft only to be thrown into two years of grueling treatment in a POW camp in Japan. The victory of the Allies in WWII brought Louie back home to California, but his mistreatment by the Japanese prison guards left him with hatred in his heart for the next few years.

Remarkably, listening to Billy Graham preach brought redemption to Louie and forgiveness for his captors to his heart. When I finished reading the bulk of the book yesterday I thought of the hymn “Chief of Sinners, Though I Be” (LSB 611).

3 Only Jesus can impart
Balm to heal the wounded heart,
Peace that flows from sin forgiv’n,
Joy that lifts the soul to heav’n;
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

Verse 3 of the hymn really captures the change in Louis Zamperini when he clung to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his own sin, and then to give him the power to forgive the men who had so wickedly mistreated him in the POW camp during WWII. He even traveled to Japan in 1950 to forgive them while they were in prison themselves for their war crimes.

Louis Zamperini dedicated the rest of his life to speaking about his experience and his faith. Also, he helped troubled youth at his Victory Boys Camp. An amazing life, an amazing story, made perfect by the blood of Jesus.

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Psalm 16

Psalm 16 (ESV)

You Will Not Abandon My Soul

A Miktam of David.

16 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

This is a crazy year in the United States. We have two terrible choices for presidential candidates. We have inane fighting over what makes a male or female. We have class differences, racial differences, religious differences, moral differences, etc.

I worry for my children and what the world will be like for them. What decisions will they make as they grow up? Will they remember the truths that their father and I impart to them? Will they make good choices in choosing a spouse, a career, etc.?

Thankfully these worries and concerns have no bearing on my ultimate Confidence. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Whatever happens in this world, I know what the future holds. That Christ will return, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and that he will restore all things.

Review: The Choir Immortal

The Choir Immortal
The Choir Immortal by Katie Schuermann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book almost drew more tears than laughs, but it was full of the same realistic characters as House of Living Stones. It is refreshing to read a book that feels like I could really be a part of it. The plot threads ring true and the characters respond to their world like the broken sinners that they are, but they also remember they are redeemed. Never before have I read Christian fiction that so aptly portrays simul justus et peccator.

The reader takes an adventure that mixes the joys and sorrows of life, showing that those things are not clearly distinct seasons but the regular heartbeat of life within this vale of tears. We get to witness the simple romance of new relationships but also old relationships. We walk alongside the joys and heartbreaks of parenthood and childhood. We rejoice as characters grow in the subtle and gradual changes that accompany our years of life together in Christ. Yet we also see how nothing is new under the sun and sometimes things don’t change.

The Choir Immortal is a delightful story that will warm your heart and wet your cheeks. It cannot be fully appreciated without its predecessor House of Living Stones. So if you have not yet read these two books, be sure to get both. You won’t want any less time in Bradbury.

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