A Year with God by Richard Foster (Julia L. Roller, ed.)

I have long been a fan of Richard Foster starting back with the classic Celebration of Discipline (now a 25th anniversary edition) and the aptly named Devotional Classics. But I will admit that, despite collecting a number of his other books and the The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, I haven’t read as much of his work as I would like. 

So when I saw that he had come out with a daily reading orientated work, A Year with God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines, I knew I should check it out.  I am glad I did as it turned out to be just what I needed: a short but insightful and inspirational daily reading.

Here is the publishers description:

Many people are longing to find the footprint of God in their daily lives. This beautiful daily companion is comprised of 365 selections of scripture, commentary, meditations, and daily exercises to help readers see how they can bring their entire life into a life with Immanuel – a God who is with his people. In Richard Foster’s best-selling book, Celebration of Discipline, he explored the “classic disciplines,” or central spiritual practices of the Christian faith. Foster showed that it is only by and through these practices that the true path to spiritual growth can be found.

In A Year with God, the spiritual disciplines are presented in such a way that does not destroy the soul but enables the reader to enter into a transforming life with God. Through daily spiritual exercises and meditations, A Year with God explores eighteen spiritual disciplines. The inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study offer avenues of personal examination and change. The outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service help prepare one to make the world a better place. The corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration bring one nearer to others and to God. Each discipline will be given twenty days of readings, beginning with scripture and followed by commentary, a meditation, and a spiritual exercise. Practicing these spiritual disciplines will help readers live intentionally, contributing to a more balanced spiritual life and a reformation of the inner self.

For more of my thoughts, see below.

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The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus by Tom Breen

I won The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus: Dispatches from the Intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture by Tom Breen in a Facebook or Twitter giveaway from the good folks at Baylor Press. I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it but is sounded interesting and it was a quick read. So I bumped it up the TBR pile.

I am afraid I am going to offer one of my truisms again. What you think of it will have a lot to do with what you expect and the attitudes you bring to it.

Here is Publishers Weekly:

In this entertaining gem of religious satire, Breen, an AP journalist, skewers American Christianity from every imaginable angle. Calling himself the ‘Internet Theologian,’ Breen romps through the Bible, religious history, denominational differences. Halloween, contemporary Christian music and spectator sports, among other topics. Some of the book is pure silliness, but other sections achieve that elusive ‘perfect storm’ where humor is sharpened by raw intelligence and a keen knowledge of history and theology. Even Breen’s glossary of terms is hilarious. Heck, even his endnotes are funny and not to be missed. (One says merely, ‘Seriously. Wasn’t Calvin a nut?’) Readers seeking irreverent, laugh-out-loud musings on the sometimes ludicrous intersections between faith and pop culture will want to read this insouciant guide.

If you want satire, there is plenty of satire. And there is lot of humor that I found quite funny – from laugh out loud to quiet chuckle. But the larger question is whether the satire and humor adds up to something more than entertaining reading.

My take after the jump …

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The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus by Tom Breen

I won The Messiah Formerly Known as Jesus: Dispatches from the Intersection of Christianity and Pop Culture by Tom Breen in a Facebook or Twitter giveaway from the good folks at Baylor Press. I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it but is sounded interesting and it was a quick read. So I bumped it up the TBR pile.

I am afraid I am going to offer one of my truisms again. What you think of it will have a lot to do with what you expect and the attitudes you bring to it.

Here is Publishers Weekly:

In this entertaining gem of religious satire, Breen, an AP journalist, skewers American Christianity from every imaginable angle. Calling himself the ‘Internet Theologian,’ Breen romps through the Bible, religious history, denominational differences. Halloween, contemporary Christian music and spectator sports, among other topics. Some of the book is pure silliness, but other sections achieve that elusive ‘perfect storm’ where humor is sharpened by raw intelligence and a keen knowledge of history and theology. Even Breen’s glossary of terms is hilarious. Heck, even his endnotes are funny and not to be missed. (One says merely, ‘Seriously. Wasn’t Calvin a nut?’) Readers seeking irreverent, laugh-out-loud musings on the sometimes ludicrous intersections between faith and pop culture will want to read this insouciant guide.

If you want satire, there is plenty of satire. And there is lot of humor that I found quite funny – from laugh out loud to quiet chuckle. But the larger question is whether the satire and humor adds up to something more than entertaining reading.

My take after the jump …

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John The Baptizer by Brooks Hansen

John The BaptizerRegular readers will know that I have long had an interest in fiction that touches on issues of faith and religion.  On the other hand, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction; for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into right now.

But despite the countervailing habits when I heard about John The Baptizer by Brooks Hansen I was immediately intrigued. Here is the publishers description:

Traditionally, John the Baptist is seen as little more than an opening act—”the voice crying in the wilderness”—in the great Christian drama. In presenting the epic of John’s life, novelist Brooks Hansen draws on an extraordinary array of inspirations, from the works of Caravaggio, Bach, and Oscar Wilde to the histories of Josephus, the canonical gospels, the Gnostic gospels, and the sacred texts of those followers of John who never accepted Jesus as Messiah: the Mandeans.

Gripping as literary historical fiction, and fascinating as a diligent exploration of ancient and modern sources, this book brings to eye-opening life the richly textured world—populated by the magnificently sordid, calculating, and reckless Herods, their families, and their courts—into which both John and Jesus were born. John the Baptizer is a captivating tapestry of power and dissent, ambition and self-sacrifice, worldly and otherworldly desire, faith, and doubt.

A straightforward historical portrayal of John might be interesting in and of itself, but the unique and creative mix Hansen offered put this one on the top of my reading list.

Most of the time the publishers blurb has an element of hyperbole to it – depending on the quality of the book in question this can be annoying or flat out deceptive – but in my opinion this one really does capture the book.

More on why below. Continue reading