Reading Records

Surprised by Scripture by N.T. Wright

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Despite having graduated seminary, I still find myself wanting to read the books I didn’t get to in school. And have been meaning to. And those that I should. So i have committed myself, in addition to trying to translate the whole Bible from Greek/Hebrew is constantly do some type general reading.  Here my current FAVORITE book right now.

click book image to link to amazon

This book is part of a serious with “Simple Jesus” and “How God Became King” by N.T. Wright. In this book, it is almost a collection demonstrating how scripture shapes our lives. Also, while sky scrappers and cars may have not been around in the 1st century, the text written then can still connect to us out of tragedies like a car accident or even 9/11.

I highly recommend this book! fully accepting that I have not read the other books in this series. However, this book has some very good points of reference in addition to connecting you to several other N.T. Wright discussions that go more in-depth than this current book was able to do.  And like it says, it does engage contemporary issues and walks you through the bible verses they are associated with.  Like the title says, you will be “Surprised by Scripture.”


A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight

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As the quarter (and my masters program) come to close, I thought I would get back to one of the many reasons I started a blog–for book reviews.  And to kick it off I thought I would start with one of my books from class. Now-before you sit there and say “oh geez, another textbook” or “there goes sara off on one of her theological books again..” I want to assure you—this book is NOT like that. In fact, this book (and the class that got me in touch with this book) have been a blessing and an eye-opener to interacting with the death of Jesus and the Cross in the New Testament.

That being said–I do highly recommend this book. Mainly for the reasons this book was written–to show that there is a connection between the cross of Jesus and what it has done for us.  I know the first time I came across the word ‘atonement’ and its myriad of meanings, I was scared.  How could something so central to the christian faith be so confusing? Can’t I just believe that Christ lived, died, rose again and be done with it? Unfortunately- No.

But as this books reminds us (as well as the discussions in my class about the atonement)-atonement is NOT a black and white issue.  Jesus’ death SHOULD have meaning in every aspect of our lives and is meant to connect with us no matter where we stand.

McKnight’s point is that the community we are a part of the journey of Christ–that takes us through His life, death, and resurrection. And that all of these aspects connect to us in our communities. So–when you see someone suffering because of an unjust rule, we are compelled to reach out to that person as Jesus did-because he suffered as well.  And we can also have confidence in Christ for it is through his blood we are healed.  We also hold victory over death for Christ is victorious over those who seek oppression over the “innocent.”

So enjoy the read–its a short book you could probably finish in a week.  And next time you come to the table in church or make it through a Good-Friday service, remember that Jesus’ death is central to the whole Christian thing–whether it be to remember what is good, conquer what is evil, or provide everlasting life to those in need.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (#3 of Divergent Series)

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I have finally finished the divergent series–reading the last book called Allegiant.

click photo for amazon link

Though I wish very much to not give away any of the book (as I have several friends working through its 500+ pages), I will try my best to give a review without any shocking details. Anyways–here is my review:

I would have to say that this book takes a great leap of faith traveling down the road it did.  Though it was fairly predictable, the event that the character choose for themselves are very unpredictable. Especially one in particular that I had to read about 5 times to understand what had happened and its impact in the storyline. The book still involves of what I call “Harry Potter and Hunger Games meets The Giver” but no understands those books references (if you do, thank your English teacher for forcing you to read the right books.)   I do say, I read the reviews and I was disappointed that people critiqued so harshly.  For started, it is a “teen” book–and while many teenagers can say many wise thoughts, it is still meant to be a emotional, character-based plot and a series evaluation of the society it tries to engage.  Maybe that is what is left up to the imagination of the reader.  If I don’t say, I think it is better than the second book but not than the first, but then again, first books have the most story to tell and third books have the most to wrap up so, again slightly predictable.

I would be interested to hear the author’s take on her own books. I think there is an element of reflection throughout the series and that Tris, Four, and the others all represent something, or someone.

Overall: 4 of 5 stars.  definitely a must read and a must-read in cahoots with the WHOLE series. I do not recommend reading any of this without starting from the beginning or it does not make any sense.

Immanuel in Our Place by Tremper Longman III

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See on Amazon!

Last year I had the fortune of taking two Old Testament classes from one of the most prestigious scholars in the field and the author of this book.  Immanuel in Our Place is a book looking at the Sacred elements of the Israelite’s worship in the Old Testament.  Tremper reviews the set aside spaces, acts and how these connect to the Christian understanding of faith and worship.

Theologically it is an excellent book.  I know for me personally I struggled with hearing about the Jewish worship and teachings of the Old Testament and having a hard time figure out why every Jew wasn’t a follower of Christ.  This book 1) helped me bring that in perspective and 2) enlightened me on what items were not.  The descriptions and structure is also very easy to understand even if one has no knowledge of Jewish practices.  It’s also a reasonable length so good for a plane ride or a vacation read.

Practical wise–Tremper provides not only questions at the end of chapters for a study group format, but also travels through each “sacred” element first through the Hebrew Bible Narrative and then through the Christian narrative.  One can see the importance for Christians of understanding Israel’s understanding of the Sacred and it also helps explains the important of Christ’s salvation & work.

Definitely check it out!

Red Moon Rising by Pete Greig & Dave Roberts

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My junior year of college after I returned from a semester in England, the Christian Fellowship group I was a part of went on a 10 day Prayer journey to munich.  As part of the group, it was recommended we read this book about the beginnings of the 24-7 prayer movement.  I can honestly say that his book changed my life–my perception of prayer, how it works and what really builds a community.  In fact, I help operate a 24-7 prayer room for 2 different weeks in a main street storefront.  Anyways,I wanted to express my deepest desire to recommend this book to anyone struggling with a church community.  I know personally, for me, it gave me both an outlet for my frustrations with the institutionalized church and yet help me strength my faith to help me love that same church and work with them even more.

The book begins with the author’s receiving a call from God to help the struggling church in Europe as it is crumbling slowly and losing members daily mostly to misconceptions and lack of life.  Greig and Roberts begin on a long, sometimes joyful sometimes painful road of building up what would eventually become the 24-7 prayer movement.  Today, this movement has merged into forming community church groups called “Boiler Rooms” built around the community prayer rooms.  The story is truly God-filled and amazing to read. I could not put down the book.  There are some moments I questioned the validity of what happened, but if you want to see where they are today, check the 24-7prayer website.


Exodus & Revolution by Michael Walzer

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As school season begins, the required reading reviews will begin to appear.  This quarter should be thoroughly interesting, as I will be taking German 101 (independent study) , Christian Ethics and World Religions through Christian Perspective (name could be better there but with the books I already have I’m willing to accept a more loving approach.)

This book, Exodus & Revolution is about the relationship between the biblical story of the Exodus (including from the Book Exodus through the arrival into the Promised Land at the end of Deuteronomy) and similarities it holds with political revolution. Walzer sticks mostly to the Biblical story and the Israelite people–what it means to be “in bondage in Egypt”, what the covenant and the story of the idol calf in the wilderness and how they can apply to a modern revolution.

From a theological standpoint–I love this book.  Walzer makes just enough of a connection not to disturb anyone but yet makes a strong enough stance to point out how the exodus story relates to the world’s history of revolution.  He admits he will not be able to fully review all revolutions, but he provides enough examples, first and third world, good and bad.  For example, he looks at Lenin’s response in Russia and the similarities and the purging Moses preforms after the Golden Calf.  He also discusses that just because someone sets you free doesn’t mean you do not have responsibilities and moral law.

Arguably the best part of the book is Walzer’s discussion about covenant.  Only recently did I discover the importance of an Ancient Near Eastern treaty and its similarities to the covenant God makes with the people of Israel in the wilderness.  It is not the first (see Abraham & Noah) nor will it be the last (see David.) But God’s covenant with his people provides the support for even the idea of revolution–that commitment and faith in the Lord can set you free.

Another positive regarding this book is its length.  Honestly, in theology and social sciences, there are too many 500-1000 page books.  Most people, in fact most theologians do not need every details every time a book comes out.  This book is less than 200 pages (including glossary and notes) with informative yet simplistic vocabulary. I highly recommend this book for ministers, seminary students and even lay people!

The God File, A Novel by Frank Turner Hollon (no spoilers)

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A long time ago in a … wait a minute.  J/K; One summer I decided to get a job at Barnes and Noble. I loved reading (admittedly) and wanted to get more into reading all kinds of books, not the just the occasion recommendation.  At B&N, they have a section called “Discover: New Writers” where maybe local or new upcoming writers get their chances to show off their stuff.  That is how I came across one of my most beloved books: The God File.

The story is about a man thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. He states from the beginning that his goal is to create evidence that God exists.  And not in the “happy ever after” stories where the man with a decent job gets cancer and has a huge support system that eventually helps him go into remission and become “cured.” No-Gabriel Black is going to search for God where he is–prison.  With the problems, enemies, the frustrations that come along with being placed in prisoner for something you did not do wrong.

My original copy is hardback, which I prefer in this case, because if gives you the feeling you have sheets of paper in a hard file, which is the way the book is set up. Chapters are short, there is a brief introduction in the beginning to give you the setting and each chapter is a description of Gabriel’s description of why that topic is included in his God File.  There are duplicates along with some “choice language (I would not let anyone under 14 read this) and a conclusion that, well, is interesting. (I try not to provide spoilers so you can read!)

I highly recommend this book. It’s short–only 147 pages give or take a page for publishing.  You can read it in a two hour flight.  It’s definitely deep and good to have on a reader’s shelf.

different cover now, but click to check out on amazon!