Book Review: The Search for God and Guinness

I recently listened to an unabridged audio version of Stephen Mansfield’s book. I actually stumbled across it looking through the “Biography” section of my library’s online collection.

As a pastor, I’m interested in God (that should come as no surprise).

And when I saw the word “God” on the cover alongside a pint of Guinness Extra Stout, I was intrigued.

A pint of Guinness on tap is still, by far, the best tasting beer I have ever experienced. And I’m not alone in this. It is estimated that over 10 million pints of Guinness Stout (or porter) are enjoyed every day.

I’ve enjoyed Guinness for over 25 years. But even I was dumbfounded to find out that the Guinness story is over 250 years old!

Stephen Mansfield – who admits he’s not a beer drinker – dives deep into the history of beer (which goes back over 6000 years) to set the stage for the Guinness story.

This story has in its roots the history of the Church, particularly the Reformation, and the social concerns – and needs – of 18th and 19th Century Great Britain.

What intrigued me the most was the reach Arthur Guinness – the founding father of the brand – had in subsequent generations.

His Christian faith was the foundation of all that he did – from brewing beer (picking up on Martin Luther’s doctrine of Christian vocation) to “loving God and loving neighbor” (see Matthew 22:36-40).

So much so that not only did sons and grandchildren follow in his brewing footsteps, but also became doctors, medical missionaries, and clergymen.

While Mansfield’s book is an interesting history and biography of a man and his brewing empire, it is also an intriguing book on the formation of faith within a man’s family.

I highly recommend Stephen Mansfield’s In Search For God and Guinness.


“On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.”
Job 41:33

Knight George had been there the entire summer. And he was getting extremely frustrated.

He wanted desperately to return home and get back to work. But he couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

He tried to spend his days wisely. He studied Greek and Hebrew and set out to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the language of his people.

He had made good headway towards the end of the summer and was nearly done translating the New Testament by the time the snow was flying.

His days were occupied with studying, writing, and translating.

But nights were something else entirely.

He would try to sleep. But his foul mood and his deep depression at being away from his home and work weighed on him like an oppressive millstone.

He also felt oppressed and attacked by Satan himself. He knew he was doing the work of God. He knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to be who he was. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

But still Satan attacked! Breathing the flames of doubt and accusation like a fire-breathing dragon!

Night was Satan’s favorite time to attack. Knight George was tired, hungry, cold, bitter, and depressed. And Satan would use this time to press his attacks.

On one such night, Junker Jörg was feeling attacked by Satan. So much so he was provoked to violence. He picked up the nearest thing to him – an inkwell – and hurled it at Satan.

It smashed against the wall, staining it.

Within a few months, Junker Jörg, Knight George, would leave the Castle Wartburg, return to his post at Wittenberg, and resume his true name – Martin Luther.

The story of the inkwell is a legend, most likely based on his own statement about his stay in the Castle Wartburg where he had “driven the devil away with ink” (quoted from Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach’s website here:

But what is not legend is that Luther fought against Satan, as do we all! Satan is real. He is a fallen angel – and thus a creation of God and under his authority. He hates God and also hates us!

In Job 40, God describes Satan – so it is thought – as Behemoth. This is likening Satan to a wild and ferocious land beast.

In Job 41, God describes Satan – again, so it is thought – as Leviathan. This is a sea monster of some type. A giant sea serpent or squid. But one that has scales like armor and breaths fire.

This brings to mind a dragon. And this fits in with how Satan is described in the Book of Revelation.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him (Revelation 12:7-9).

At the end of Job 41, God says that there is nothing like Satan on the earth.

Martin Luther – who fought the devil all his life – would describe Satan this way: auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen. This is commonly translated “on Earth is not his equal” (from stanza one of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, composite translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868).

God’s point in Job 41 – and Luther’s in stanza 1 of A Mighty Fortress is Our God – is that left to our own resources, we are powerless in fighting Satan.

Only God can defeat Satan.

And he did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us!

That one little word – Jesus – defeats Satan every time. And that one little word is ours through our baptism into Christ!

Satan may be able to take away all that we have. He took away Job’s wealth, children, and health. Luther poetic states that Satan could take away “our life, goods, fame, child and wife.”

But because of Christ, we will live forever and Christ’s Kingdom will be ours!

©2017 True Men Ministries


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The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries


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The Rock, Part 1

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. – Psalm 40:2

In my mind it is a picture without words. It is a powerful picture.

In the movie “Anna and the King”, the king of Siam arrives and everybody bows low to the ground. Everybody except the Englishwoman Anna. She continues to stand in his presence.

In the movie “Monsignor” Christopher Reeves’ character is ushered into the office of a Cardinal. The Cardinal holds out his ring for Reeves to bow down and kiss. Instead, Reeves remains standing and shakes his hand.

Fictional events from Hollywood, to be sure. But they make a powerful statement about pride and confidence in belief.

Fact often proves more powerful than fiction.

In the city of Worms, a professor of religion stands before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He is asked to bow down to the teachings and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

martin-lutherWhat brought this professor to this point was an event that happened on October 31, 1517. He invited a debate on the teaching of the sale of indulgences, the idea that a person could buy forgiveness and time off in purgatory.

By 1521, Luther was convinced he was right and the Church was wrong. When asked to bow down, to recant, he replied:

“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right not safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”

I am writing this devotion today because Luther took a stand. He stood firm on the Word of God. The Word of God lifted Luther out of hopeless despair and placed him on a rock. Good thing, too, because Luther set in motion a maelstrom of events that toppled anyone not standing firm on the truth of God’s Word.

God opened the door once again for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to enter the world. The mud and mire that was the Middle Ages for so many now had a rescue plan. People wallowing in despair of war, plague and cruel hardship from the Church were saved by the pure, sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Luther did almost five hundred years ago was not a one-time event. The Reformation he sparked continues today. Or at least it should. The Gospel is the only answer for a dying world beset by war, terror and despair.

Luther’s stand is our stand, too. Standing on the promises of a loving God keeps us firm and “rock steady.” Because we are, others can know the sweet Good News of a God that loves them.

Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

©2016 True Men Ministries


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