It's been interesting for me to go back and reread one of the first distinctly Lutheran pieces of writing that I had ever put my hands on (even before getting my own copy of the Book of Concord and Small/Large Catechism) back when I fully embraced becoming a Confessional Lutheran.
As is typically the case, there's a lot I noticed this time around that didn't impact me or stand out the first time. Take, for instance, this this section from the Introduction...
"He learned a lot in the next few months. He watched Zeitgeist: The Movie on YouTube and learned that Jesus was just another version of the pagan gods. He read about Martin Luther and how he was a Nazi. He wanted to stop. He wanted to find something to tell him that what he read was wrong. So he went and talked to his youth pastor." pp. 10-11
I don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't read the book yet, but what follows is an all-too-common exchange between a well-meaning, but unqualified (and un-Biblical) youth pastor and a Christian who's experiencing a crisis of faith.
As a result, the conflicted soul we're introduced to here in the Introduction we're told "was a good kid" although "his faith in Christianity was broken." I wonder, how many people feel the same way today?
For the next several pages, Pastor Fisk proceeds to paint a picture that accurately reflects this true spiritual epidemic.
"Worse than that, it's not just happening to kids. It's happening to college students and senior citizens. It's happening to emerging adults and the midlife-crisied. Christians are losing faith. Christians are falling away. Christians once on fire are burning out." p. 13
This comes from my favorite passage in the Introduction called "Dirty Crow Tricks" and "Stolen Seeds" that is brilliantly written! Maybe I'll do a separate post on that after this series. Oh yeah, there's also a powerful metaphor about how Christ's Church is like the girl who wants to be the life of the party.
Wait -- wasn't this supposed to be a review of Chapter 1? Yes, but the Introduction is also where we're introduced to the lie that "God wants you to find Him somewhere other than in His Word" (p. 17) and from there we can segue into a closer look at Chapter 1.
The bottom line? "There aren't any real answers being given, just a warmed-over, squishy-spiritual sermon of Rely On Yourself done up with enough lipstick and a low-cut bodice to keep them coming back because there's no one else to dance with anyway" and "this is why Christians are losing faith in our age" because "they give up on dancing with the Church because the kind of Christianity she is preaching is BROKEN" and "a superficial spirituality filled with words that are not the words of the Bible is a counterfeit Christianity" (p. 17).
All in all, this concludes a sobering Introduction that I think accurately identifies the traditional tactics so often used by the Father of Lies, Satan, and that also describes just how easy it is for us believers to fall for his subtle half-truths.
What is Pastor Fisk's ultimate goal with this book?
"In this book, I will dissect this tactic of the thief. We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit 'Christian' rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The crow comes cawing, promising you freedom, but telling you that YOU mus earn it. He promises you suprnatural wisdom, but tells you that YOU must figure it out. He promises you comfort, but insists that YOU find it inside yourself. He tells you that you're just on the other side of glory, if only YOU can create it. He offers you the world, but he leaves you hanging on a cross all by yourself, fed up with it all and wondering in anger and frustration where Jesus is. He was supposed to make it all better. He does this the only way he can: he steals Jesus' words, and he uses YOU to do it. I am not going to let that happen." pp. 21-22
Ok, but what about Chapter 1?
Here's the promo video that was produced to help promote it...
Never #1: Never follow a rule that follows your liver, your heart, your pancreas, or any other bodily organ that could conceivably have its mind changed by the shifting of the wind.
So Chapter 1 introduces us to the first rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible -- Mysticism, or the incorrect belief that direct knowledge of God can be attained through your subjective experiences of God or something godlike.
In short, Mysticism is nothing more than worship of your emotions.
Personally, I was glad that he began the book with a close look at Mysticism, because it seems to be so predominant within Christianity today, and is definitely the type of teachings that are coming from some of the more popular so-called "preachers" like Joel Osteen and Beth Moore to name only two.
Mysticism is the most dangerous because "once you've given her your heart, she is more than content to show you God's presence in just about ANYTHING" (p. 31).
While that's spot on, what Pastor Fisk wrote next is particularly why I loved that he opened the book with this lie/rule.
"For many, Mysticism dances with them through decades of church attendance, purposeful living, and chasing after a successful life. For many, it isn't until they're sitting alone in a nursing home, forcing down fifteen pills a day, and hoping for a visit from anyone, that the despair and doubts about God buried beneath endless rays of sunshine come flooding back as the perfect storm of a broken life. Sometimes it's sooner, but it is inevitable that the lows tip the balance back from the highs. How many times can feelings fix the real questions of faith? What about after the divorce, after the layoff, after the bankruptcy, after the SIN? Though he will rarely admit it to himself, the Mystic Christian wakes up every day feeling a little bit weaker, needing to try something a little bit newer, in order to recover the emotions he was convinced he had finally captured in a bottle the day before." pp. 32-33
Powerful stuff right there.
He even includes a section about "anointing" and "in our hearts" (which are things you hear so often from far too many Christians today who are heavily influenced by Mysticism) and clearly explains what the Bible means when it talks like that and how it differs from what many people mean when they talk like that.
For me, this chapter is all about the importance of the WORD OF GOD and how that must always be our firm foundation for what we believe (and think we believe). Furthermore, it also emphasizes the importance of reading God's Word IN CONTEXT at all times too.
Just stop and marvel at that for just a moment.
How rare is it for a Christian book (mainly the bestsellers) to start by reviewing the basics and encouraging us to keep that in mind at all times? I think this lends instant credibility to the book from the get-go and I was very pleased that it started out this way, especially when it was the first Lutheran book I read after escaping American Evangelicalism.
Remember, "but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:2). We need to recall this truth whenever Satan wants to use Mysticism to whisper to us, "Did God really say...?" (Genesis 3:1).
Finally, I have to say something about the manner in which the book ends. Fisk perceptively comments on the connection between Baptism and Mysticism.
I don't want to ruin it for you, but not only does it underscore the points he had just spent nearly 20 pages making about the dangers of Mysticism, but it also serves as a powerful introduction to the importance and role of the Sacraments in a believer's life.
Of course, all of this was completely new to me when I first read it, so my mind was definitely blown during that part.
Yes, I realize that we're only an Introduction and a single Chapter into this book review, but what I wrote at the end of these sections in the book's margins still holds true today: "Nice to read a book by a Pastor who rightly divides the Word of Truth like Fisk does! So refreshing to read a book by a faithful man of God who GETS IT!"
In a Lutheran layman's terms, please stick around for more on this exceptional Christian book; a book that you need to add to your own personal library right away if you haven't already.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!