The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

When my first, very small book, was published, I had to learn that not everyone would like the book. People had different reasons; from dislike and disagreement to indifference. However, you soon learn and have to accept that if you put your personal thoughts into print and make it public you have willingly opened yourself to other people’s response and opinions. You also have to remember that people are speaking about what they have read and the content of the book, not about YOU or who you are as a spouse, parent, friend etc.

I say this because as I read this book for  review for Thomas Nelson I knew it would be a very unfavorable review. What I am going to say is about the content of the book, not about the person.

This book is the authors experience and reflection on Holy Communion. It is almost a spiritual journal.

The problem is that it is theologically awful. Her understanding of God the Father, Jesus Christ, Communion and the gospel cannot be called historic Christianity. It is not what scripture teaches on these issues.

As a Priest in the Episcopal Church I really cannot endorse the views in this book.

Gallagher’s view of Communion is something “devised cleverly by and for human beings, to help us get in touch with the Holy.”

Devised by human beings? I think not. Communion and it’s practice comes from God himself, Jesus Christ, God as a human being, illustrating to his disciples the night before his death the significance of what is about to happen, and for this reason we are to remember it.

Gallagher’s view is that Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me” was meant to be taken “by the disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together.”

No, that is not what it means. The words are not meant to be a call to the benefit of community. It is about the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world; by the breaking of his body and shedding of his blood to free us from the dominion of sin.

More worrisome is her assertion about sin. She says that there is “too much focus on personal sin and especially sin having to do with sex… Sin has to be about larger matters, Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time talking about personal conduct (obey the commandments was his general rule); his teachings were more about justice.”

I am sorry, but the Sermon on the Mount is about personal conduct. Matthew 19 is about how we act with others and conflict resolution. There are so many more examples, but I’ll stop there.

Finally, I believe Gallagher’s view of who can take communion is unbiblical. She says that “Communion is so important to me that I don’t think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot… [And then, speaking in terms of feeding people in a soup kitchen where no questions are asked about who the person is or what they have done before they are fed she says] “It was not up to us to ask questions and be the judges of who should be fed. And this is true for communion as well. Jesus practiced a radical faith: everyone was welcome at his table.”

Really? Really? Yet scripture says “for the one who eats [the bread] and drinks [the cup] without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

There is a complete lack of the gospel message in this book. Jesus, Gallagher asserts, is a person of compassion, acceptance and the upholder of justice – which is true. But there is no mention of the other side of Jesus’ message – that people MUST repent or experience darkness and the gnashing of teeth. This Jesus says that one not dressed correctly for the wedding banquet will be thrown out. If you are unprepared, like the 5 unwise virgins, you will not be known by Jesus. The point of Jesus’ ministry – of the incarnation – is to show people that they are trapped in sin, in a darkness which will destroy them –  but there is good news. If people repent, turn to Christ, confess their sins, and give their entire lives to Jesus they will find the love and reconciliation of the Father in Heaven and the promise of eternal life.

I do not recommend this book.

Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ by Thomas F Torrance (Edited by Robert Walker)

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This volume (and the companion volume on the Atonement) is made up from the notes of the late Thomas Torrance, comprising of over 25 years of lectures given to students in Christology at New College Edinburgh.

Edited into the final book form by Robert Walker (and Torrance’s nephew) it reveals the deep and rich thinking of this great modern theologian. Through this book you encounter a level of interaction with the topic of the personhood and life of Christ rarely seen. Lecturers can (and most do) just regurgitate other scholars views and thinking giving overviews and comparisons, peppered with a little of their own thoughts. Reading this book, you realize that this was not Torrance’s method of teaching. He lectured from the depth of his own thinking and study, which makes him original. Yet it is not ‘original’ thinking in the sense of new, or divergent ideas that take you on strange and unfamiliar paths. No, it is rooted in scripture and orthodoxy and ultimately in Christ himself, God who became man. And so, on another level it is not original thinking. Torrance’s skill is to draw you into the ancient, established and eternal truths of Christ, but he does it in such a griping way as he weaves through each topic and chapter like a master weaver. A very simple and brief example of this is seen when Torrance writes:

Any Christological approach that starts from the man Jesus, from the historical Jesus, and tries to pass over to God  and so to link human nature to God, is utterly impossible. In fact it is essentially a wrong act: for it runs directly counter to God’s act of grace which has joined God to humanity in Christ. All attempts to understand Jesus Christ by starting off with the historical Jesus utterly fail; they are unable to pass from man to God and moreover to pass from man to God in such a way as not to leave man behind altogether, and in so doing they deny the humanity of Jesus.

It’s almost poetry!

This is not a book for beginners. It is definitely hard going and it’s a book that you need to work at. It will stretch your thinking and your brain. But, if you are willing to make the investment of time and energy, you will reap a wonderful return in terms of understanding the person and life of Christ and the incarnation.

Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh & John Perkins

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I have been involved with the issue of reconciliation for about 5 years now. My wife and I (and our son who was 2 years old at the time) spent 3 months on an intense residential course on Biblical Reconciliation before we moved to the States. For three months I was steeped in lecturers and books on reconciliation. The paper that I wrote for the course, The Paradox of A Divided Church Called To Be Reconcilers To The World, was published as a chapter in a book. I also edited a resource book for schools on Biblical Reconciliation. It was for these reasons that I was excited to review this book.

Charles Marsh (Seminary Professor) and John Perkins (Civil Rights activist) team together to write on God’s movement towards ‘Beloved Community.’ As John Perkins writes, God is calling me to help churches see and incorporate as an essential part of discipleship. The captivity of the church to our culture has left us so divided.

The church has a massive, God given role in reconciliation and it needs to embrace this call. The gospel itself is a call to reconciliation – turn back to The Father who desires to be restored in relationship with his children through his Son Jesus Christ; The Church is called to be a blessing in places of brokenness, so God sends us to the jails. God wants us to interrupt this broken system with his love.

The chapters are shared between Perkins and Marsh. When you read Perkins chapters you literally hear his cry leaping from the pages – the cry for the church to get serious about true reconciliation; serious about being involved with a broken world; serious about community that is attractive, discipleship based and reconciliation focused. Christians have spent a lot of time talking about who Jesus is without paying attention to how he lived.

Community based church is a key feature for the authors. A Church that simply attracts people who commute in and out is not as asset to a community. They contribute very little, if not nothing to the community (accept traffic problems on a Sunday). A Church that is made up of people from the community is an asset to the community – investing time and energy in those with whom they live with to declare God’s reconciliation and to be an illustration of reconciliation to the community.

Of course the two key areas that need this is racial relations and those in poverty and time is spent on these issues. John Perkins insights into the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s are very insightful. Much has changed and much progress has been made since Martin Luther-Kings death some 40 years ago, but there is more to be done; We’re not there yet, but we are living in a new time. This is a time for re-building. I pray that every Christian, young and old alike, would have the courage to give themselves fully to God’s movement toward reconciliation and beloved community in society.

My only difficulty with the book was that some of the chapters were a little disjointed. Sometimes I was not sure where the chapter was heading. But overall this is a great little book. This book should be read by all Christians but especially pastors and church leaders so that reconciliation gets into the DNA of the church. Definitely recommended.

Lloyd-Jones: Messenger Of Grace by Iain Murray

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have read Iain Murray’s seminal two volume work on Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ML-J) that you do not need to read this book.

Much of the contents of this book do not appear anywhere else, and this work reveals something more about ML-J than the biography.

You sense the immense respect Murray (who was an assitant to ML-J for three or so years) has for this man, although this is not a sugar coated account of his work, Murray does not agree with ML-J on some issues.

This book tackles ML-J’s approach and views on three issues – the importance of preaching; the importance of assurance of salvation in christianity and ML-J’s view of the Holy Spirit.

The book is a mixture of analysis by Murray, especially on the controversial issues, such as his distancing himself from JI Packer, the call to evangelicals to leave their denominations and the effect it had on ML-J’s reputation (see the chapter entitled ‘The Lost leader or the Prophetic Voice’); notes taken from an address ML-J gave to pastors on preaching; quotes on various aspects of doctrine from ML-J and finally a book review written by Murray on Mark Noll’s book Is The Reformation Over. Why the book review? ML-J was strongly against Roman Catholicism and his decision to stop working with JI Packer on the Puritan Conferences was because of Packer’s commitment to an ecumenicalism which included Catholics.

This book looks at ML-J from a different angle and it is fascinating. One of the bonuses of the book is that comes with a CD of an evangelistic sermon ML-J preached in the early 60’s. It is an amazing  sermon and worth the price of the book.

 

The Search For God And Guinness by Stephen Mansfield

41TTGsEZD5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_I confess that the package from Thomas Nelson sat on my desk for a few days. I had a tinge of regret in agreeing to review this book, which is why it remained unopened. However, once I opened up the book I was hooked.

Now, I knew Stephen Mansfield is a good writer. I have read his short biography of Winston Churchill, which was good. Also, I have met Stephen. I was on the management team at Derek Prince Ministries when we hired Stephen to write Derek’s biography.

And his writing skills are clear in this book. His style draws you into this story of the amazing Guinness family; the faith of Arthur Guinness, his legacy and how their faith translated into action. There are hardships; family struggles, disappointments and tragedy but you see God’s grace a work in this story, a story which is not that well known outside of Ireland.

Even the chapter on how beer was ‘discovered’ is so well told that you are fascinated. If only some of the major corporations in our day would take a fraction of the approach of Arthur Guinness and the example he left behind, the business world would be turned upside down and inside out.

A fun, informative, well written and enjoyable read.

Roadside Crosses by Jeffery Deaver

51ARc2+8D9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_Another fictional book. Jeffery Deaver (as I understand it) is a well know author and has many successful novels. Roadside Crosses, on one level is a good crime thriller. A series of attempted murders are linked to crosses which are left on the roadside. Unlike memorial crosses which indicate an anniversary of a road death, these roadside crosses have the current date on them – indicating that a killing will happen.

The agent in-charge of the investigation, Kathryn Dance, stumbles into the world of blogging and internet gaming. This forms a fascinating and very interesting sub-plot.

The prime suspect soon becomes a teenager who had been viciously attacked on a blog thread. Travis had been involved in a fatal car accident. His character is systematically attacked on the blog by other students from Travis’ school. It is these students who are now being attacked. The blog is hosted by a guy who takes pleasure in outing ‘injustice’ ‘hypocrisy’ and revealing ‘truth’ about people.

Deaver examines a ton of issues in this novel, including the ethical implications of blogging and how people regard what is posted on a blog as ‘truth’ without any thought that it might not be true; the intense speed at which rumors spread through blogging and the damage such rumors can cause.

Add the good writing and the wonderful twists, especially towards the end, then you have the ingredients of a great read.

Find Your Strongest Life Yet by Marcus Buckingham (Reviewed By Lauren Winslow)

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When I first started reading Find Your Strongest Life I wondered how a man could write a book for women and be able to really get at our issues.  Well, he did and I think too that a lot of the suggestions, ideas, and advice in this book can be for men also- they can at least understand the woman side of things by reading it.  Find Your Strongest Life also appealed to most genre of women- single, married, those with children and without, old, young etc.  Marcus is a visionary writer, the book was easy and fun to read.  It left me with a sense of betterment for myself and knowledgement about myself.  I know that I do contribute to my world and now I know more of how I do that.  I am able to develop this contribution more fully and peaceably.

I did however, felt like God should hold a bigger place in this book.  The book focused very much on individuals doing things for themselves, that we hold the power.  In some ways we do hold that “power” but I think we have it because of our spiritual beliefs.  I believe that God is someone we can turn to for help with our problems, getting insight, and more.  Spirituality gives peace and happiness and fulfillment to our lives.  God is our biggest stronghold and supporter.

I disagree with Marcus in that women are more unhappy these days because we are not supposed to be career women.  Marcus leans towards thinking that women need to be successful in their career and explains how to that.  Most women in our society are working mothers and it is just too much to handle.  Women were created by God to raise children, the next generation and be helpers for their husbands.  Children should not be raised in daycare’s or by anyone other than their parents.  Children are very much influenced by their environment and need to be nurtured as they grow up.  When women accept their responsibilities as a whole, our society and culture will flourish- children will be better off, marriages will be better off, because the woman’s will not be distracted by a career.