Today is my ninth anniversary and I am 8,000 miles away from my wife.
I have known my wife for over twelve years. We’ve been inseparable throughout that time.
But for this season, God has called me to Vietnam.
I miss my friend.
Especially on our anniversary.
I am reminded of John Donne’s poem A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. Donne, separated from his wife by a great geographical distance, uses a math compass as an image of their love. The further the two points are apart, the further they lean toward the other. The distance draws their hearts closer.
The stationary arm, the wife, causes the writing arm to circle back to its origin. To return home.
So, on the other side of the world where God has deemed me to be separated from my wife during our anniversary, I hold onto the beautiful image John Donne has given me.
Happy Anniversary, Kristin. May our love and friendship grow even more.
"Our math classes tell us 1+1+1=3, but 1x1x1=1. God is "the three times God." When you talk to Jesus, you are talking to God. When you talk with the Father, you are talking to God. And when you talk with the Holy Spirit, you are talking with God." - Rodrick K. Durst, Reordering the Trinity
Summary: Recognizing the deep importance of the doctrine of the Trinty Rodrick K. Durst identifies six orders of the Trinitarian persons in the Scriptures and demonstrates what the biblical authors are emphasizing in these orders.
Review: Reordering the Trinity focuses on historical, contemporary, and practical issues, but its main thrust is to identify the six orderings of the Trinitarian Persons, then interpret the significance behind these particular ordering.
The orderings are as follows:
1. Father – Son – Spirit
2. Son – Spirit – Father
3. Son – Father – Spirit
4. Spirit – Father – Son
5. Father – Spirit – Son
6. Spirit – Son – Father
I am indebted to Durst for pointing out these different orderings. While I have observed these differing orders in Scripture before, I never thought much of it. Durst argues throughout the book that these different orders actually communicate different things. The biblical authors very intentionally selected the order the Trinitarian Persons to communicate specific themes.
For example, the classic “Father – Son – Spirit” order is what he calls “The Sending Triad.” It has a missional purpose behind it.
The “Father – Spirit – Son” is what he calls “The Shaping Triad.” There is a spiritual formation process in this ordering.
The data Durst provides is comprehensive. He explores each Bible passage in extensive detail. I think in general he’s onto something. Some of the specific passages are a bit of a stretch when it comes to Durst’s thematic categories. Largely, though, I found myself in general amazement seeing how the biblical authors (under the guidance of God the Holy Spirit) used these orders to convey God’s work in humanity and his church.
I wish the practical side of this book was stronger. Durst is intentional at the end of the major chapters to offer “Sermon Starters”. He also has a closing practical section. These all contain helpful material to glean from, but I found the analysis sections more practical than the practical sections.
Reordering the Trinity was extremely helpful to me. In my personal and professional life, I have seen a number of Christian leaders and organizations deemphasize the Trinity, or dismiss the doctrine altogether. This trend caused me to update some of my submission requirements on my podcast, and required other organizations I work with to do so as well.
I have a deep affection for the Trinity. I have a deep desire to delve into the mysteries of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This desire is coupled with an understanding that many of those mysteries will still remain mysterious.
Durst has revealed something about the Trinity I have never seen before.
As I wrote before, I am indebted to him.
Rating: 4.5/5 (I Really Liked It)
The Trinity is "riddled" with wonderful mysteries!
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
I discovered Write This Down a few years back and purchased every album I could find.
I come back to them often when I listen to music. They're heavy and impassioned. They understood how to create tension in both their lyrics and music.
I bought the EP as soon as the pre-order was up. I've been listening to it for the last few days. The vocals are still strong, and the band still sounds like Write This Down even with the absence of Johnny Collier. Musically this EP still feels like the band. The five songs sound like slightly rougher productions than their previous two albums, and they tend to sound a little too similar to each other.
Lyrically, the band continues to mature. "Foundations" the title track explores the daily grind most of us experience just trying to provide for our families. Several songs discuss the loss of a relationship and difficulties (anger) behind it.
And while the band was never terribly explicit in their discussions of spirituality, this EP only has a passing reference to God. I wished there was more. I also wished they featured one of their signature slower-but-powerful songs like "Citadel" and "Cheap Affairs". I could listen to those songs all day long.
There is some extremely mild language in one of the songs for folks who care about such things.
Overall, I really enjoyed this album. I hope they release a full-length album sometime soon.
Find it here on Amazon
Rating: 4/5 (I really liked it)
“There are always great men, and they always need support,” said Haakon.
Summary: In the near future, suicide is a constitutional right. Tom Galloway is just an ordinary single parent, trying to keep his rebellious and depressed teenage daughter from going to the Happy Endings Clinic. If there's one thing he doesn't need, it's a tenth century Viking time traveler dropping into his world. But Tom is about to begin the adventure of his life, one that will change the whole world.
Review: Lars Walker crafts a chilling dystopia in Death’s Doors. Unlike many contemporary stories with similar settings, this novel goes into the grim details of what this future-version of America looks like and why. Religion is heavily regulated so-as not to cause discomfort to others. Infants may be disposed. Autonomous persons, even children, can opt for physician assisted suicide. People will do anything to avoid pain. There are no heroes anymore. Everyone is looking for comfort.
Greatness does not arise from comfort.
And in this context, Walker utilizes an old speculative fiction device. He brings a man of the past into the present. I almost skipped over this book because of this plot point. I’ve seen it done too many times. Walker, however, turns the device on its head. He doesn’t bring a good man back to the present. He brings back Haakon, a tenth century Viking. Haakon hates Christians. He is brutal and violent. He treats women like objects to be won or used.
Haakon isn’t a complete villain, though. He brings perspective into this comfort-obsessed dystopia. He is a complex character who I found myself simultaneously applauding and condemning. By coupling this Viking with our well-meaning but powerless protagonist the character dynamics become quite dramatic.
Death’s Doors contains aspects of both science fiction and fantasy. I dare not say more than that, lest I ruin the plot.
I found myself highlighting numerous passages in the book. Like C.S. Lewis I find Lars Walker quite quotable. Typically, I don’t go out of my way to notate fiction. I marked twenty-nine passages in this book.
My only complaint is that the book is available only in an electronic edition. While I enjoy reading digitally, I also like to place great books on my bookshelf. Death’s Doors should sit right next to my Charles Williams collection.
Even though the novel is a work of speculative fiction it is grounded in reality. Death’s Doors was so wonderfully crafted that I would love to sit down for a meal with Lars Walker someday just to pick his brain.
I’d even be willing to eat Lutefisk to do so.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It!)
Find it here on Amazon.
Doctor assisted suicide is starting to gain support in the United States. I think it's important to divide these types of issues into two parts. There needs to be an intellectual answer to these questions as well as an emotional answer.
Below are a few bullet points addressing the intellectual question:
We are largely living in an emotionally driven society, though. Our decisions are often driven by our emotions over and against any intellectual arguments. And because of this, I offer two resources that address the emotional problem of doctor assisted suicide.
The first is Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers.
Yes I will have to check in my man-card for suggesting this, but if you want to read a contemporary story that addresses this issue, this is your book.
The second is Death's Door by Lars Walker (review forthcoming). This is a speculative fiction story set in a near-future dystopian America. The end results of a constitutional right to die are horrifying.
Additionally, I would ask if anyone knows of a good speculative fiction short story dealing with doctor assisted suicide, please let me know. I would love to produce it on the Untold Podcast.
Today The Crossover Alliance releases their third book, Beast by Mark Carver and Michael Anatra.
Beast is a character driven, action novel set on a massive oil rig.
Here's the blurb:
Peter Younghusband, the Christian fiction review guru, has a great review over at his blog.
A few months ago, we produced an action-pact excerpt over at the Untold Podcast. You can listen to it here.
Summary: Aaron Lunsford, drummer for the indie Christian rock band As Cities Burn, writes a memoir following the band's pursuit of success, bitter failures, and difficult relationships.
Review: I have enjoyed As Cities Burn for a number of years now. In particular, Come Now Sleep and Hell or High Water. The brutal honesty of this group's lyrics resound with me. They are transparent with their spiritual struggles with Christ, as well as their struggles with the Church. Their instruments are the perfect vehicle to communicate this struggle.
And then, in the midst of the difficult relationships, the lyrics and music explode the grace of God on the listener. We see a glimmer of the light of things hoped for.
For me, As Cities Burn gives a pretty honest and typical portrayal of the Christian walk:
Struggle. Struggle. Struggle. Beauty. Struggle. Beauty. Beauty. Beauty. Rest. Struggle.
So I snatched up this memoir as soon as it came out.
The book spends most of the time exploring the difficulties of touring, starting a band, and the interpersonal conflicts that arise as a result of it. Lunsford gives a chaotic glimpse into the lives of a bunch of (mostly) Christian guys trying to find an audience for their music. There is very little reference to their faith, or walk, but when Lunsford does go there he has a fair amount of criticism for Christians and himself.
One poignant passage explains these young guys' dilemma:
Each member of As Cities Burn differed greatly from one to the next in regards to spirituality and theology. Sure there was plenty of common ground, but no real way to all be 100% behind every single action, thought, or word spoken by any one member of the band [...]
As Cities Burn's work has moved me incredibly at times. And I think it's because these guys are doing the very difficult task of living out their imperfect faith within a church-culture that has largely encouraged believers to pretend to be perfect in their walk with Christ. I certainly don't agree with Lunsford in all areas of orthopraxy (right actions), but I do appreciate his honesty.
Backstage is rather vulgar (not terribly profane, though). This doesn't bother my literary sensibilities too much, but it certainly isn't for everyone. And there were points where the vulgarity muddied the flow of text and detracted from his narration. (Oh! And he offers one band-hijinks image I would have been happy to have gone to my grave without ever visualizing).
Fans of the band will enjoy this fun and quick memoir. More than just a band book, though, voices like this are important in the Western Church these days. So much of our focus is on our actions as believers rather than the object of our belief, Jesus Christ. American Christians need to become much more honest disciples, who constantly point to their need for Jesus Christ.
Lunsford does a great job in the honesty department. The need for Jesus is only dimly implied.
Rating: 4/5 (I Really Liked It)
Find it here on Amazon.
Watch one of my favorite moments from As Cities Burn:
No Joke! A Fun and challenging memoir.
A few weeks back E. Stephen Burnett asked me to write a guest post over at the Speculative Faith blog. I agreed and had no idea what to write about.
For a few years I've kicked around a theory about horror writer H. P. Lovecraft and the simultaneously glorious and horrible Day of the Lord. My Lovecraft-reading Christian friends have summarily rejected this every time I've presented it, but I went ahead I put out my theory anyway.
I assume it will be further rejected and ridiculed. But now it will be done so on a larger scale!
Check out the article and explore this great blog and website!
Summary: Dr. John S. Hammett explores the two ordinances of the Church, the Lord's Supper and Baptism, from a scholarly Baptist perspective.
Review: As Hammett acknowledges in the beginning of the book, there is an irony found in the rites of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. Whereas these practices should bring about Christian unity, they have historically caused division among the universal Church.
40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord's Supper does not try to reunify the Church, but it does spend quite a bit of time offering presentation of the various perspectives rather than an ongoing polemic against every non-Baptist understanding. I found this refreshing.
Additionally, Hammett explores the terms for these rites (i.e. ordinances or sacraments) with a balanced perspective.
Now, being an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, I generally find myself in agreement with Hammett's conclusions. I'm not a hard-nosed Baptist, though. My theological convictions don't arise from historical Baptist roots. And because of this, I found Hammett's approach to the viewpoints on Baptism and the Lord's Supper intellectually and biblically honest.
I never got the sense that Hammett was out to prove the Baptist viewpoint, and demolish the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed theologies. On the contrary, Hammett approached the rites looking for as much common ground as possible, and only offered his evaluations after the common ground was affirmed.
I found the following questions of particular usefulness:
- Are Baptism and the Lord's Supper Sacraments or Ordinances?
- Is Baptism a Divine Means of Grace or a Human Act of Obedience?
- What Is The Correct Term for [the Lord's Supper]?
- What Is the Meaning of the Lord's Supper?
- In What Sense Is Christ Present in the Lord's Supper?
One last note, I began reading this book while waiting to have my tonsils removed and assumed during my recovery I would turn toward a more simple form of leisure. I returned to this book however. While Hammett is quite scholarly in his presentation, he's also very enjoyable to read.
Rating: 5/5 (I loved it)
Find it at Kregel here.
Find it at Amazon here.
Azrael Batman has my tonsils in a jar somewhere!
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.