Sunday, February 17, 2013

Confess and Believe

Does Paul give us a checklist or a way of life?

Text: Romans 10:8b-13

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I think I've said this before, but I love me some Tosca Lee.

. . . ahem

That sounded better in my head before I typed it out. Let me rephrase:

I am a huge fan of Tosca Lee's writings. I was mesmerized by Demon: A Memoir.I absolutely adored Havah.When she started talking about the "Big Scary" on her blog, I wondered what on earth it could be. Then she announced that she would be tackling the life of Judas Iscariot.

Holy cow!

And now we finally have the fruits of her labors. I simply devoured Iscariot: A Novel of Judas shortly after it arrived. I simply couldn't help myself.

We all know what the Bible tells us about Judas which is, basically, nothing. He's called Judas Iscariot. His dad's name was Simon. He's the treasurer of the disciples and a thief. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And he later regretted his actions and killed himself.

That's not a lot to go on, but Lee did an incredible job with less when it came to Eve.

The picture she paints of Judas is one of a man consumed by his own uncleanness and insufficiency. Caught up in the revolts that took place after Herod the Great died, young Judas finds himself defiled by the actions of his family, particularly his mother. Worse, bitterness and rage consume him in his adult life, thanks to the actions of Pontius Pilate. He's a pious Jew, one who yearns for salvation for his people. More importantly, he needs that salvation for himself.

It's little wonder that he winds up gravitating toward a certain itinerant preacher from Nazareth.

In Lee's book, Judas comes to life as a man who longs for what he sees to be true, but who continually stumbles over himself. Even though we know how this story is going to end (a fact that Lee tips her hat to by starting the book with the "Epilogue"), you want Judas to find what he's looking and longing for.

But what I find truly fascinating is Lee's portrayal of Jesus.

This is always a bit of a risk, when an author tries to write for Christ. Stray from the Biblical text too much, and Jesus comes off as unrealistic. Stick to it too closely, and the reader has little reason to, well, read. But where Lee really succeeds is bringing out the nuance to what Christ was teaching. Specifically, she dwells on how the crowds would receive His ministry.

In short, this is a fantastic, stupendous book. Sure, there are some points that I'd quibble over. For example, I personally believe that Judas betrayed Jesus to "back Him into a corner" and force Him to act as the Messiah, a plan that backfired on him horribly. But those are minor, microscopic flaws in an otherwise outstanding piece of Biblical fiction.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Undead: Revived, Resuscitated, and Reborn

Lately I've had zombies on the brain. Part of that is because I've been working on the final edits for "Failstate: Legends," which has zombies in it. Maybe it's because a few weeks ago, I put "The Walking Dead" on our Netflix queue and I keep wondering if I should watch it. But in the last week, my preoccupation with the undead has been because of Undead: Revived, Resuscitated, and Reborn by Clay Morgan. It's a fast read but very worth it. I mean, how often do you find a book about zombie non-fiction.

Specifically, Clay takes a look at the numerous "zombie" stories that we find in the Bible, namely the times when people are brought back from death to life. Sure, we usually call those instances "resurrections," but the metaphor works. I mean, when I teach confirmation and I tell my students about the resurrection on the Last Day, they freak out because they think I'm saying there's going to be a zombie apocalypse. Clay looks at the stories of Elijah and Elisha, as well as the New Testament stories of the widow's son at Nain, Jairus's daughter, Lazarus, Tabitha, and Eutychus. Clay spends a few moments retelling the Biblical story and then spends the rest of the chapter teasing out spiritual truths and insights about how we are too live as reborn people of God.

I really did enjoy the book, especially the personal stories that Clay wove into the text. In many ways, this book reminds me of Matt Mikalatos's Night of the Living Dead Christian. They both cover the same territory. But both books are an excellent reminder that God calls us not to just exist as half-dead creatures, but to live as new creations. I highly recommend this book!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Iron Pillars

We may not all be called to be prophets, but we are all called to take our stand.

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10, 17-19