When Satan strikes at God-fearing Job, this man of great sorrows tries to understand why God has allowed all this evil befall him.
Review: The book of Job is what theologians call "complex wisdom." There are no easy answers in this book. Just like there are no easy answers in life in the face of suffering.
Modern readers often find the biblical book difficult to access because it begins as a standard narrative, then shifts into a series of long discourses, before shifting again to standard narrative.
Ben Avery's script in this graphic novel, Job, is very true to the text. He follows the basic outline of the book in this hyper-faithful interpretation. There's plenty of artistic interpretation and imagination in this comic, though. Satan is seen in opening (and closing) scenes lurking in the background of the frames. The settings Avery chose to hold the discourses communicates the dire situation Job is in.
Jeff Slemons' artwork is awesome. His characters communicate a wide range of emotions that help the reader feel their pain. Likewise his action scenes are as powerful as they are imaginative. His scenes of the heavenly council show both the majesty of the sons of God, and Satan's out-of-place presence there. The accuser looks arrogant, while the angels look peaceful. Slemons drew in some wonderful subtleties into the comic the enhance the overall experience.
I think the real value of this comic is that it helps modern readers conceptualize what is happening in the biblical book. Ben Avery faithfully summarizes the discourses, which readers often get bogged down in.
Job is a faithful adaptation that translates an ancient text for contemporary audiences.
Readers young and old trying to understand the biblical book will find a wealth of helpful imagination in this comic. Likewise, those struggling with the "problem of evil" or personal tragedy will also find great wisdom in these pages.
Find it here on Amazon.
A friend of mine who goes by the handle Hawkman once told me he'd rather hear testimonies than sermons in church!
He was saying there is a particular power in hearing a person's transformation story.
Here are a few that I have run across that have particularly resonated with me, convicted me and humbled me.
1. Born dead and handicapped for life...
2. Abandoned by his mother and became a terrorist...
3. His mother was raped and told to have an abortion...
4. The most unlikely of converts...
5. God didn't take his same-sex attraction away...
I've always been a DC Comics guy. Now, I'm leaving them for someone else.
And no. It's not Marvel.
I grew up with DC characters. I love them. I like Marvel stuff too, but the truth is I have a limited budget (because I'm a pastor) and limited time (because I'm a pastor). Because of this, I just stuck with DC so I wouldn't get sucked into another universe and buy more comics than I could afford, or could read within my limited schedule.
Lately, though, I haven't been enjoying the books coming out of DC. With constant creative team change-ups, character re-boots (and re-re-boots), and massive 18-part crossover mega events, I'm just tired of the whole rigamarole and not loving what I'm reading.
Well, that's not entirely true. The books that I thoroughly love have been cancelled. Reading has become a chore instead of a joy.
I was ready to just throw in the towel and give up.
Then I checked out Valiant.
It wasn't a whim. I used to buy comics from their sales manager Atom! Freeman back when we both lived in Southern California. I'd kept up with his goings-ons via Facebook. I wasn't interested in jumping onto a new upstart, re-booted company, though. So I never gave it much thought.
But when the frustration grew, I turned to Doug over at my new comic store, Top Comics and asked him about this whole Valiant Universe thing.
He raved. He made suggestions. I bought trade paperbacks.
I fell in love.
(Not the kind of love a man has for a woman, or even a man has for his numerous cats. No this is a different kind of love. Like the love a man has for his sports team, or his car... only deeper.)
I've now made the decision to ditch DC and jump into the Valiant Universe.
1. Full Universe Submersion
Because there's only eight on-going series right now, I can afford to be fully involved in the universe. Unlike the Big Two companies, I don't have to make sacrifices and hard decisions on which characters to follow. I can follow them all.
2. Character Driven
So far, the vast majority of issues I've read are dedicated to character-driven stories. While the series all have very interested premises of their own, the plot devices don't drive the story. The story isn't about the technology. It's about the characters. (Even in the case of Bloodshot where the character is the technology.)
I haven't read anything I didn't like. The writing is solid. The art is great. Certainly there are issues better than others, and weaker storylines than others, but it has all been enjoyable. Never a chore.
Unlike the vast number of modern stories (movies, tv, books, comics) the Valiant Universe doesn't pretend like people's belief in God doesn't exist. Most people believe in the divine. And while I certainly wouldn't agree with all the theology of every book... Valiant at least acknowledges the existence of religion, and even gives Christianity a fair shake-down in characters like Archer in Archer & Armstrong. There's also been nods to Christianity historically in X-O Manowar. And a sympathetic Christian support character in Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps.
Moral conflict. Defeated heroes. Loss of dreams. Beauty in the midst of pain. This universe presents, what philosophers call "complex wisdom." It's not just a simple black-shirts versus white-coats sort of conflict. (Okay, there is some of that too....) Characters like Toyo Harada and
Aric of Dacia have some very positive and negative intentions lurking behind their actions. Just like in real life! We also get a glimpse into family life (which comics often neglect), which includes foster families!
Certainly humor is not in all the titles. But in particular Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody have moments where I laugh out loud. That's a hard feat to accomplish in book form. And Valiant does it consistently for me.
So, I've been reading Valiant now for about three months. I love it. I'm looking forward to continuing with them!
Don't get me wrong, I still love all my childhood heroes, but in the end story wins out. Story is king. And Valiant is telling extraordinary stories.
Summary: All of the Apostle Paul’s letters have a common theme of the overlapping ages – this present age and the age to come. This “inaugurated eschatology” was a tension that Paul addressed to believers in his epistle. This “already/not yet” also created tension in competing eschatologies which the apostle tried to dismantle in his presentation of the gospel.
Review: In the Apostle of the Last Days – The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul
C. Marvin Pate makes a convincing and exhausting argument for the apostle's inaugurated eschatology, meaning that Jesus has heralded the dawn of the age to come, but that age has not fully come yet.
From there, Pate systematically works his way through each of the apostle’s letters and demonstrates this inaugurated eschatology. He goes further, though and dives into the backgrounds of these letters and demonstrates how Paul’s eschatology is in direct conflict with the eschatologies of the various peoples he addresses. From the various eschatological views in Judaism to the emperor worship predominant in the Roman world, Pate shows how Paul’s Christ-centric eschatology opposed, threw down and ultimately defeated all other eschatological views.
The book contains quite a bit of technical data. The biblical data and support for Pate’s presentation is also very extensive, and sometimes exhausting to work through. But in the midst of all this information, Pate’s attention remains with the Apostle Paul’s focus. These epistles aren’t just about some events that will happen years from now. No, instead, Paul’s gospel is that the age to come has arrived in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Believers can have new life now, which will be fully realized and consummated when Jesus Christ returns.
In fact, even amidst the mountains of technical data, and extraordinarily helpful charts, Pate has some rather encouraging and even poetic lines of inspiration. For example, in his conclusion on the book of Romans, Pate writes, “Though Paul would meet his death in Rome at the hands of Nero in the 60s, before it was over Paul would have the last word because the mighty Roman Empire would bow in defeat before the cross of Christ in 313, when Constantine converted to Christianity.”
Pates concluding section is also very helpful as he takes an abbreviated look at Paul’s theology in a systematic overview.
Certainly, this title will be a difficult tome for many to work through. But to those willing to put the effort into this book, it will illuminate the Pauline epistles. Find it here on AmazonFind it here from Kregel
Rating: 4.5/5 (I Really Liked It)
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
This thing just keeps getting larger.
Last month I sat down and talked with Paeter Frandsen on the Spirit Blade Underground Podcast about "Disturbing Trends" in Christian Geekdom.
We ended the talk with a vision for how Christian geeks can use their geekiness to further the Kingdom of God.
You can listen to the conversation here: Spirit Blade Underground
On a similar note, I preached a sermon on false teachers a few months ago here: "False Teachers"
Summary: Dr. Robert L. Saucy explores the biblical concept of the heart, as the center of the person’s thoughts, emotions and actions. Focused on the heart, Saucy exegetes the biblical text to find the way of spiritual formation. From the text he shows how “treasures” are stored in the heart, why we act the way we do, and how God can transform a person’s heart (thoughts, emotions and actions).
Review: Minding the Heart – The Way of spiritual Transformation is now on my list of books every Christian should read. (A distinction shared only by three other books).
A plethora of spiritual formation books have flooded the marketplace. Some of them are helpful, but many of them are over-glorified self-help or self-improvement books. Minding the Heart, however, is completely different.
Saucy explores the multi-leveled heart. He doesn’t just tell us that it is a person’s core, but he shows us from scripture how it is. Nor does Saucy give bumper-sticker theology here with band-aid advice. No. Instead he has presented a detailed systematic theology on the heart, its corrupt nature, and its transformation in Christ, as well as how the believer ought to go about opening his heart up to transformation under God’s grace.
What Saucy prescribes in the book is at once terribly difficult, and wonderfully simple. It isn’t so much a work, as a willingness to be worked on. It isn’t a matter of becoming moralists who will ourselves toward good behavior, but a matter of opening the core of our hearts through meditation on the Word of God, prayer, and living in Christian community.
Minding the Heart is a biblical book about spiritual formation. Unlike so many other books on the topic, I didn’t find myself at the end of the book trying to recalibrate my thinking to understand the concept being presented. Instead I found myself being enlightened with insights to the Scriptures. At one point I said to myself, “What Dr. Saucy is writing about is exactly what I’ve seen throughout the Bible.”
This book is brilliant in its simplicity. It gives believers a wonderful understanding of how spiritual transformation takes place. And most of all, it is richly biblical.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It!)
This book should win an award for the cover design!
Note: I received a physical copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Summary: Generations ago a group of Amish travelled through the stars to settle the planet of Alabaster. Once there, they continued to live their simple life. But when Jebediah Miller discovers that Alabaster’s sun is dying he uses forbidden technology to call for help. The transport ship that picks the group up seems to be their salvation. The ship, though, is also transporting something else. Something dark. Something that would make Jebediah Miller and the rest of the Amish wish they had stayed on Alabaster.
Review: It all began as a joke.
The farce is retold in the novel’s introduction. Kerry Nietz took the title Amish Vampires in Space and ran with it, though. When I first heard the name of the book, I naturally assumed it was a satire of the over-abundance of Amish romance titles.
Nietz took the satirical title and wrote a serious novel. And he succeeds. Big time.
I became familiar with Nietz’ work through his excellent Dark Trench Saga. I’d categorize his stories as hard science fiction, and he brings that same attention to detail into this novel. He writes about Amish culture effectively and accurately (I’m moderately familiar with Amish society). He has also crafted a future that is quite believable.
The story feels like very natural, in that, I believed that a group of Amish had once purchased a ride to a new planet to colonize with their way of life. I believed the conditions that caused Jebediah Miller to violate the rules against using technology. And I found the situation that led to the vampires on the space ship well grounded.
Amish Vampires in Space is almost equally character and plot driven. The plot takes slight precedence in the story, but the characters (both “Amishers” and “Englishers”) are likable and relatable.
This is a great novel. There are clashes of worldview. Conflicts within both the ranks of the Amish and the space-farers. Explorations of rules versus grace. And, of course, lots and lots of vampires to worry about. (And how do the pacifist-Amish respond to the violent outbreak?)
The only problem with the novel is one of its strengths… the title. Every time I have mentioned the book to someone, I’ve had to add, “but it’s a serious book.” Indeed, the first time I heard the title I thought it was a farce. Reading the history of how this book came about, though, the title makes sense, and I can’t imagine another title.
Amish Vampires in Space is a solid stand-alone novel. (A few loose strands have left open the possibility for sequels.) So who should read it? Science fiction fans should certainly pick this up. Especially fans of hard science fiction. Readers who also enjoy Amish novels will also find much to enjoy in this book… even if they’re not terribly interested in science fiction. Finally, readers who want to read something completely and utterly unique need to check this out.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It)
General Zod Approved!
Today was particularly terrible.
I can't go into all the details... I need to protect the guilty parties.
In a nutshell my day was characterized by doing favors for people taking advantage of me. Having my time disregarded. Having my work dismissed. Being shown incredible disrespect. And a bunch of financial craziness to top it all off.
Then I came home.
Actually, I couldn't come home because the private road I live on was a sheet of four inch thick ice.
So I spent nearly four hours with a coal shovel digging out my road enough to get the cars into the driveway.
When I came home and got stuck I was furious. Fuming. Frustrated. Other f-words. I was already exhausted and then I had to deal with this.
I was probably boiling for about an hour into my shoveling "adventure." I was wet (it started to rain), hungry (I barely ate anything all day) and upset (all I wanted to do was come home and read Amish Vampires in Space).
I started praying.
Not those nice, precious, sentimental prayers. No sir. It was one of those davidic, complain to God about everything that's going on sort of prayers.
I think I already mentioned... I was really angry.
Somewhere in my rabid ranting to the Living God of the universe he brought to mind a lyric from an older O.C. Supertones song, Jury Duty:
The chorus specifically came to mind:
You know I haven’t had the best of days
But I want to stop and thank you anyway
Cuz every single moment whether sleeping or awake
Is your creation
And what you’ve made is good
I don’t always thank you for the rough days and
The hard times in my life
Even though I should
And this just made me angrier.
But I said (still in my furious prayer-mode), "I am flaming-mad. I know I'm going to have to keep shoveling for hours. And I'm going to be angry the whole time, and I'm going to be angry when I come inside to my family. I don't want to be angry... I don't want to be furious, but I can't change. If you don't want me a ball of rage, you're going to have to change me." I shoveled a bit more, then added, "Please help me."
And I'm not sure when it happened. But at some point I started singing that O.C. Supertones song. Then I transitioned to sing the doxology . . . out loud:
Nothing has changed. All the drama and problems still exist. God didn't take away any of the circumstances.
He changed me.
So, while there's plenty of great philosophical evidences for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus . . . here is a simple personal evidence.
God changed me.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words.
2 Peter 2:1-3a
I posted this on my Facebook page a couple of days ago:
My wonderful network of friends and family members thought something physically had harmed my family and was relieved when I posted a few hours later that everyone was physically okay.
But, everything is not okay.
For the last five months I have consistently encountered Christian organizations (music companies, creative types, retreat centers, publishers, churches, etc.) who are promoting the works of non-Trinitarians.
Now let me pause here and say that I do not believe a person has to intellectually ascent to all the essential doctrines for salvation. A person needs to trust in Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and resurrected, for the forgiveness of their sins.
But, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for Christianity. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics agree on this. To reject the doctrine of the Trinity, is to take oneself outside of the realm of Christianity.
A person has every right to reject the doctrine, but they cannot simultaneously claim to be operating in the realm of Christianity.
Back to the story. As I have brought this issue to the various individual organizations, their leaders have consistently shrugged, yawned and said all they cared about was whether the person believed in Jesus or not.
This all came to a head for me a couple of days ago as I stumbled upon a non-Trinitarian author being promoted by a self-identified Christian publisher. A publisher I love. A publisher I have never bought a bad book from. So, I brought it to the publisher’s attention and he was unconcerned, and even celebrated the fact that we could come to the same Scriptures and draw different conclusions. I wrote a lengthy e-mail back, entreating him to talk to pastors, seminary professors and consult multiple systematic theologies about the importance of the doctrine… and he wrote a short response that he held an M.Div. from a Baptist seminary. He was “at peace” with his position.
At that moment I felt sick to my stomach. I was horrified. I actually began to cry.
After running across the rejection of the Trinity as an essential doctrine for five months, after not seeking this out but it just coming to my attention, after hearing a seminary-trained person dismiss the importance of the Trinity . . . I felt broken.
Every time I expressed concern, the issue was compared to things like baptism, interpretation of Revelation, music-style and even the color carpet a church chooses. This thing, they say, shouldn’t divide us.
Was I crazy? Was I wrong here? Does this really matter? I knew that it did, and I knew my church and associates would affirm my conviction.
But, I was utterly grieved. And not only that, but I decided that I needed to submit myself and humble myself, so I reached out to one of my seminary professors, Dr. Alan Gomes. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t becoming a heretic-hunting fire-breathing pastor.
Dr. Gomes wrote back almost immediately and said:
Do not be discouraged: your labor for the Lord is not in vain. You are fulfilling your calling by what you are doing. And I sense that you know this, deep down. Continue to stand firm and don’t let it get to you.
We live in an age of great theological confusion and muddle—in which the degree of “peace” someone has about his or her position is somehow the test of whether that position is true. What utter nonsense! Yet, when you keep encountering people who think like this (if one can really call that “thinking”) it can tend to make you wonder whether everyone else is sane and you are the oddball. Don’t second guess yourself on this. You know the truth about this and don’t budge on it even if it seems like you’re the only one out there. In fact, you’re not alone, but it may feel like it at times. But even if no other person in your orbit agreed with you, you’ve got the Apostolic witness on your side (Scripture). That was good enough for Luther, good enough for Athanasius, and it’s good enough for you and me.
I’m still weeping.
The doctrine of the Trinity, you see, isn’t a contrivance of the Church. No, it is richly testified to in the Scriptures. The basic definition is: one God who eternally exists in three persons. (This is by, no means, a technical definition).
We see three types of texts that show us the nature of God: 1. There is only one God. 2. The distinction of each of the persons of the Godhead. 3. The full divinity of each of the persons.
So, why is this an essential doctrine?
Because it matters which Jesus we follow.
Do we follow the jesus of Mormonism who was just a man who became one of many gods?
Do we follow the jesus of Jehovah Witnesses who was created by God, and not God himself?
Do we follow the jesus of Arius who was a mighty and powerful creature, but not God?
Do we follow the jesus of the modalists who crucify God the Father on the cross and taught us that jesus humbled himself by submitting to himself?
Do we follow the jesus of Pelagius who was merely a good moral teacher that showed us the best way to live.
No. No. No. No. No.
I follow the Jesus of the Bible. The Son of God! Co-equal. Co-Eternal. Who stooped down. Who humiliated himself by taking on human flesh! Lived the perfect life I could not live. Who willingly sacrificed himself in my place. And rose from the dead! Resurrected in a new, glorified body! I don’t believe in a jesus who showed me how to live… I serve the Jesus who gave me the power to live. I serve the Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit, also co-equal and co-eternal, who comforts me, leads me, guide me and transforms me!
I serve King Jesus: Fully God, Fully man. Fully God otherwise his sacrifice would be insufficient to cover over my sins. Fully man otherwise he could not atone for my sins.
Have I given an argument for the Trinity here? No. Only a brief note on why the Trinity is important. Much smarter and much wiser people than I have written much better presentations than I could present. I suppose if there is good interest in this post I will supply additional resources.
I also must note that I am still praying about releasing the names of organizations who have communicated to me their acceptance of non-Trinitarians as Christians. I don’t really want to do this, but I am consulting mentors who are wiser than me.
But, make no mistake, this is a serious issue.
A neighbor is running up to the gatekeepers of the sheep-folds. There are wolves among the flock. The gatekeepers look back into the pen, a wolf is approaching one of the sheep. The gatekeepers turn back to the neighbor and say, “That’s just a big sheep. We celebrate diversity.” The wolf grabs the sheep by the neck and starts carrying it off.
The neighbor screams, “He’s dragging off the sheep.”
The gatekeepers say, “They’re having a difference of opinion, just let them work it out.”
The neighbor yells, “That wolf just snapped the neck of the sheep… he’s eating his entrails!”
The gatekeepers don’t even turn around and say, “We’re at peace with identifying that as a large sheep. Goodbye.”
My family is safe, yes. But the gatekeepers are watching wolves fatten themselves on the flock.
This issue has already burned a number of bridges for me. Wonderful opportunities are no more.
But it is worth it.
I’ll burn every bridge I have to, and allow my name to be turned to ash… if only to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.