Monday, March 8, 2010

LHP Review: Joy in the Lord

Harrison, Matthew C. Illustrated by Kurt D. Onken. Study Questions by John T. Pless. A Little Book on Joy: The Secred of Living a Good News Life in a Bad News World. Bridgeport, TX: Lutheran Legacy, 2009. 212 Pages. Paper. $9.99. (Bulk orders are also available for a limited time at $5.99 from LOGIA.) (LHP)

This book sat on a stack of books to read and review for a couple of weeks before I got to it. I was having a bad day. No, to be more accurate, I was having a bad week. My call here as Pastor and Headmaster meant that winter weather (and its consequences on long-distance travel) sometimes interfered with my attendance at a party for my 5-year-old nephew's birthday. The snow was just enough to make the roads treacherous. And I was therefore in a bad mood. So, I sat and read this book. Thanks be to God!

Pastor Matt Harrison has seen tragedy up close as the Executive Director of World Relief and Human care for The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. His entertaining biography on the back cover notes that he "has administered nearly $100 million of charitable giving worldwide." That is quite a resume in itself. What a responsibility! The Asian Tsunami. Hurricane Katrina. Haiti. And it goes on and on and on.

One can have joy in the Lord in the midst of trials, temptations, unhappiness, and frustration. And one can have joy among the acknowledged blessings and good days, too.

Harrison opens the eyes of his readers to authentic Christian joy under the theology of the cross in contrast to the "theology of glory" pasted-on smiles and hypocrisy.

Look for this phrase repeated throughout the book: "The secret to living a good news life in a bad news world is..." (23). Don't be surprised when the answer is Jesus. :) He is a High Priest who knows what life is like in a fallen world. He has the nail scars to prove it. And His love endures forever, never leaving you nor forsaking you.

The author's chapter on worship culminates on pages 84-86. That will be of note to those who regularly follow this blog. Christian freedom still is given to serve each neighbor in love.

Harrison proves himself to be skilled with words, an author with the heart of a pastor, a theologian who realizes that "These are difficult times," to quote a friend of his. Adept with storytelling (especially personal, self-deprecating accounts) as he is with law and Gospel and the dual importance of Gospel Outreach and Human Care, he shows that Lutheran evangelism and preserving confessional, Biblical doctrine are not mutually exclusive.

Our congregation recently finished a brief midweek Bible Study on Job. This is a great "next read" for those participants. (Note the bulk discount above!)

It is a great joy to endorse Pastor Harrison's book on joy. It was the medicine this grumpy and disappointed uncle needed. It was a comforting message to a pastor weary at times in comforting others. And it was a balm of healing Gospel to yet another sinner in need of God's grace in Christ.

Add this "little book" to your Lenten preparations for Easter!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.