Review of School of the Prophets by Kris Vallotton


Genre: Charismatic Interest

schoolofpThis book was not what I expected. Vallotton spends the most emphasis making a stark juxtaposition between the Old and New Testaments, and OT and NT prophetic attitudes. I do not agree with his theology on this, even though I do come to his same conclusion that prophecy must highlight and reflect God’s love in a beneficial and uplifting manner.

I prefer to focus on the unity and continuity of the Scriptures, and think it would be helpful for believers to recognize and embrace the abundant love, grace, and goodness of God even before Jesus enters the scene in human form. I felt like Vallotton was reacting to the modern “judgment prophets,” which he reveals a personal bias against, rather than giving a thorough exegesis. He seems to resist drawing the connection between God’s forever goodness in order to avoid embracing the continuity of judgment and justice into the contemporary realm. I would argue that we just need to define and understand judgment in a healthy way, recognizing that this part of God’s nature has always stemmed from His great love for the whole world.

Once Vallotton really settles into his message regarding the role of the modern prophet, his teaching is really excellent: encouraging, thought-provoking, inspiring, and helpful. As always (I have read a handful of his books), his personal stories and analogies are insightful and engaging.

The book becomes stronger as it goes along, and I especially loved his commentary on Joseph and Daniel toward the end. He describes the interesting dynamic these men had of being God’s prophets in the midst of pagan nations, and what it looks like to bless and honor pagan leadership, thus earning a voice and attention.

I also really liked his list of six prophetic models based on the OT prophets (e.g. prophets who served leaders regarding governance, prophets who served leaders regarding only their personal lives, prophets who led countries themselves, and so forth). He wrote only briefly on this, but I think it could be a work in itself.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Chosen Books.


Review of The First Principle by Marissa Shrock


Genre: YA Fiction/Futuristic


FirstPrinciple-258x400Vivica Wilkins is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a prominent governor, and presidential candidate, in the futuristic “United Regions of North America” where government control is out of hand (but not unrealistic). The population is controlled through pregnancy-preventing vaccinations, so that only women within a particular age range are propagating, with a high tax on families with more than two children.

Vivica is a hacker (mostly using her skills to change the grades of other students), but she otherwise is okay with the “system”–that is, until she discovers she is illegally pregnant, and is no longer sure she is comfortable with the mandatory abortion. The baby’s father is a repentant Christian, working with an underground group of “Emancipation Warriors”.

I love how this book deals directly with Christian issues and political scenarios within the futuristic, government controlled setting that is so popular amongst teen literature. The faith element is not subtle. The characters talk and question God and faith in a way that is great for young readers. And despite dealing with the difficult topics of abortion and teen sex, there is not a sexual or even emotionally-romantic vibe to the story, which I really appreciated as it kept the emphasis on the more important issues of politics and faith. There is a little bit of purposefully placed violence as the story moves rapidly in an exciting action-oriented mystery and chase.

This would be enjoyable for teens or adults because of the thought-provoking themes and action packed plot. Adult readers could finish this in a day or two. I also think it could be a great resource for parents and teens to discuss some of these issues together.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications.


How Much for Healing?


I saw a commercial today for some kind of medical drug claiming to help with whichever illness it was, followed by a good 20 seconds of warnings of terrible side effects, and potentially death. I know I’ve seen similar commercials before, but this time I began to think about how terrible the people with that illness must feel in order to take such heavy risks with potent drugs.

The idea of trading one bad thing for another “lesser” bad is quite common. I learned as I was researching for a seminary paper on biblical authority over demons that one of the primary methods of spiritualist and Jewish healers in casting out demons would be to scare them out with other more powerful demons. These practices emphasized Jesus’ remarkable spiritual authority, especially since He held visible power over all demons and illnesses. It is no wonder that He was also mistaken as using the authority of the ruler of demons in Matthew 12:22-30, since His power was so beyond the norm.

Sometimes it feels like anything is better than whatever we are going through. But the Lord is the only one who can truly heal–the illnesses, the emotions, the soul–and to direct us into the methods and processes that will catalyze that healing. The safest place to be is within God’s rest: whether He directs us to traditional medicine, alternative medicine, unusual and nonsensical healing strategies (and miracles!), or if He works to redirect our focus entirely.

I have dealt with continuous chronic health issues with better and more difficult moments, and can empathize with wanting change. An experience I had a couple years ago ironically changed my heart from seeking “solutions” and helped me to push through those feelings of “what else can I do?” to the new challenge of trusting God as I rest in “the best that I can.” I had been praying to God when I clearly heard a demonic spirit say that if I would renounce God and re-join his army he would heal me in a moment. The call was so audible and so far out of the realm of possibility–God having given me so much, and the enemy having stolen so much–that I was able to put my situation in perspective. Whatever reason for being sick, whatever reason for the delay in my prayers being answered, I realized that the situation was not in my control.

Healing does not come through control, but by complete release and trust in God.


Review of My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich von Hildebrand trans. and ed. by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby


Genre: Autobiography/Historical

Highly Recommended!

My-Battle-Against-Hitler--202x300Dietrich von Hildebrand was a German Catholic philosopher, professor, and writer who recognized the dangers of National Socialism and Nazism from the start. He fled Germany in 1933 because he felt he could not remain under such a regime, and when his professorship at the University of Munich was threatened, he proudly chose to submit himself as a “non-aryan” even though he did not consider himself Jewish.

This book is a collection of pieces from his personal memoirs (which he wrote for his second wife, who was much younger and wanted to share in his experiences), followed by several short essays expounding on his beliefs. Interspersed throughout the memoirs, and as a preface to each essay are helpful notes by the translator/editor to set the scene and bring cohesion.

The writings themselves are like reading the diary of a giant in the faith, and I appreciate the editors’ choices of which of his vast writings to include. There are slower parts as Hildebrand reflects on day-to-day issues, touching personal reflections of his mistakes and the depth of his faith, exciting insights of historical moments, and brilliant commentary and philosophizing of important social issues and evils.

His life and words are a powerful and timely message for today as he urges the church not to compromise by making ungodly alliances, or by participating in social injustice by remaining apathetic. His bold warnings against anti-semitism and what he calls an “unfortunate peace” with Hitler (and thus, the spirit of the anti-Christ) are powerful, especially with the rise of anti-semitism today.

I particularly liked Hildebrand’s distinction of patriotism versus social nationalism, and his similar discussion on the value of a community in bringing out the individual, as opposed to the mass of people, which strips all individuality and diversity in order to create an enthusiastic wave of unity. Hildebrand was a significant voice in his time, even making it to the top of the Nazi’s hit list; and he is one worth taking the time to listen to today.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Image Books.


Review of Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen


Genre: YA Fiction

Not Recommended.

_225_350_Book.1438.coverThis story is intriguing: Clara is a teenage runaway who is traveling the world to get away from a tragedy in her past. On an airplane she meets Elias, who struggles with an unusual case of Dissociative Identity Disorder. The two accidentally switch backpacks, then become unlikely companions as they each search for healing, identity, and belonging.

I don’t expect Christian fiction to always be spiritually oriented (often the indirect message is more powerful), but I do expect it to be in some way edifying. As much as this story interested me–and would likely catch the attention of readers within the identity transition of young adulthood–the underlying spiritual message was not positive or beneficial. Elias has deep problems that are not appropriately addressed or resolved. Clara receives partial healing, but the Christian element is brought into her life awkwardly and without the necessary depth (actually, the “healing” spirit is more “New Age” than Christian).

The ending solidified my dislike for this book. Despite the difficult themes and attitudes of the characters, I think there was still room for a redemptive message. The circumstances of the ending did not bother me as they were true to the characters; but the overall spirit of the story was uncomfortable for me, as was the absence of God’s truth. The characters’ journeys were not completed in an inspiring or godly manner, rather in the poetic realism that often characterizes “good” secular writing. The writing itself is strong: metaphors and imagery are pulled together, the characters are vivid and likeable. But I would not recommend this to a Christian teen.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blink.


Crazy (Prophetic?) Superbowl


Superbowl Sunday is one of the great American holidays that I typically ignore. But as a Washingtonian at heart, I had to see how my home-team would compete. (Can I be a “fan” if I only watch the last game of the season? I won’t pretend I remember all the player’s names.)

The Superbowl is one of the times when so many Americans are focused on the same thing all at once that it becomes a sort of spiritual experience, with the halftime show and commercials a revelation of the state of our nation (for better or, usually, worse). And then there’s the game itself… I wonder how much God speaks to us through stuff like this? It seems frequent. I won’t say that I know what God is saying, or what the game means; but it feels significant to me that both teams received a last minute miracle.

Do we know that God is for people, giving each of us the miracles we will receive? Fans of each team may be praying to win games, but I don’t think God works like that. I think it’s more like His blessings are available without prejudice and part of the process is that we take those opportunities and make the play.

I was floored when Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse caught the ball even after he’d fallen. I had had a brief impression in the third quarter that the Patriots would have to win (I felt it was something about the team’s name, though that was just the feeling I had); so when the Seahawks made their way down the field I had hope that they would still win. With so little time left, the Patriots’ end of the game interception by Malcolm Butler was even more unbelievable. I believe God was working on both sides to give each player incredible opportunities.

After the game an interviewer asked Butler why he was so emotional, and he described how he’d had a vision that he would make a big play and was so blessed that it had come true (I wish I could find the full clip). Super touching, right?! Despite rooting for the Seahawks, I was moved by Butler’s humility and emotion.

Whether or not we can call this game “prophetic,” I felt like there was much to “hear” through it. We should listen for God to speak to us through abnormal situations and events, and watch for the opportunities the Lord is giving to step into new blessings in our lives.