Review: Crazy Love

My small group is going to be reading Crazy  Love together starting sometime around late January, so I decided to get a head start on the book so I could effectively lead the discussions about the chapters.
Two sittings later, I was done with this quick, easy-to-read plea from Francis Chan’s heart.
He is essentially calling the Church to follow Jesus radically and do crazy things for God. He tells stories of people starting orphanages with no money, selling their house to move into a smaller one and giving all the extra money away, living in the cab of their pickup and giving away their food to the homeless, and other “crazy” acts designed to impact the world for the Kingdom of God.
In fact, the chapters that were built around those stories (chapters 7, 8, and 9) were by far my favorite in the book. They challenged me and made me think about what I am or could be doing to step out on faith and trust God more in order to impact people with his love.
The first six chapters of the book, to steal a saying from Randy Jackson, were just all right for me. I could take them or leave them. I was really confused for a while about why, in a book entitled “crazy love” that was supposedly about the passionate love God has for us, the first several chapters instead focused on how God was holy and pure and we were nothing compared to him. God was so immense that we should have a healthy fear of him and if we didn’t like how he did things, well, too bad because he is God. Suck it up and deal with it, puny humans!
It was bizarre and not at all what I expected. In fact, even the latter chapters didn’t really contain that many references (or focus at all) on the passionate love God has for us. The prime motivator Chan uses to propel people to live these radically crazy lifestyles really seems to be that fact that God is so much bigger and holier than we are, and when he tells us to do something we absolutely have to take his instructions literally and obey him.
A better title for this book might have been “Crazy Faith,” because that’s really what Chan is calling us to. And it is definitely a needed and worthwhile call to issue to the church: forget about your comforts for a while and go attempt something crazy and truly worthwhile for God. Chapters 7-9 in Crazy Love will give me a lot to process and pray about as we begin to envision what 2011 is going to look like for us!

Review: Crazy Love

My small group is going to be reading Crazy  Love together starting sometime around late January, so I decided to get a head start on the book so I could effectively lead the discussions about the chapters.
Two sittings later, I was done with this quick, easy-to-read plea from Francis Chan’s heart.
He is essentially calling the Church to follow Jesus radically and do crazy things for God. He tells stories of people starting orphanages with no money, selling their house to move into a smaller one and giving all the extra money away, living in the cab of their pickup and giving away their food to the homeless, and other “crazy” acts designed to impact the world for the Kingdom of God.
In fact, the chapters that were built around those stories (chapters 7, 8, and 9) were by far my favorite in the book. They challenged me and made me think about what I am or could be doing to step out on faith and trust God more in order to impact people with his love.
The first six chapters of the book, to steal a saying from Randy Jackson, were just all right for me. I could take them or leave them. I was really confused for a while about why, in a book entitled “crazy love” that was supposedly about the passionate love God has for us, the first several chapters instead focused on how God was holy and pure and we were nothing compared to him. God was so immense that we should have a healthy fear of him and if we didn’t like how he did things, well, too bad because he is God. Suck it up and deal with it, puny humans!
It was bizarre and not at all what I expected. In fact, even the latter chapters didn’t really contain that many references (or focus at all) on the passionate love God has for us. The prime motivator Chan uses to propel people to live these radically crazy lifestyles really seems to be that fact that God is so much bigger and holier than we are, and when he tells us to do something we absolutely have to take his instructions literally and obey him.
A better title for this book might have been “Crazy Faith,” because that’s really what Chan is calling us to. And it is definitely a needed and worthwhile call to issue to the church: forget about your comforts for a while and go attempt something crazy and truly worthwhile for God. Chapters 7-9 in Crazy Love will give me a lot to process and pray about as we begin to envision what 2011 is going to look like for us!

Review: Marley & Me

This was one of the books on my original List of 14, and I finally got around to reading it at the end of the year here. It is definitely going on my top 5 books of 2010.

I laughed and I cried while reading this book. It’s been a really, really long time since a book has evoked such powerful emotions in me like Marley & Me did, and that was a refreshing experience.

John Grogan is one of the best pure writers I’ve ever read. He has such a way with words and an ability to express things that just make a story come alive and completely draw you in. It is fantastic.

I decided to read this book after I did the good husbandly duty of taking my wife to see the movie. The movie was good, but as is nearly always the case, the book is infinitely better.

If you’re looking for a good read to kick off 2011 and you haven’t read Marley & Me yet, do yourself a favor and get this one. It’s great!

Review: Marley & Me

This was one of the books on my original List of 14, and I finally got around to reading it at the end of the year here. It is definitely going on my top 5 books of 2010.

I laughed and I cried while reading this book. It’s been a really, really long time since a book has evoked such powerful emotions in me like Marley & Me did, and that was a refreshing experience.

John Grogan is one of the best pure writers I’ve ever read. He has such a way with words and an ability to express things that just make a story come alive and completely draw you in. It is fantastic.

I decided to read this book after I did the good husbandly duty of taking my wife to see the movie. The movie was good, but as is nearly always the case, the book is infinitely better.

If you’re looking for a good read to kick off 2011 and you haven’t read Marley & Me yet, do yourself a favor and get this one. It’s great!

Review: The Emotionally Healthy Church

Peter Scazzero has done the Church a huge favor by writing this book. We need this book, and I would recommend anyone in any type of church leadership read The Emotionally Healthy Church.

Honestly, the title sounded too much like fluff for my tastes and so it sat on my shelf for the longest time before I decided to read it. And I am so glad I did.
Scazzero talks about his own experience growing up in the evangelical church, as well as the experiences of dozens more people he shepherds and is friends with. Simply put, we suck at the emotional stuff.

When someone has a problem, we have a tendency to overspiritualize things. We tell people just to give it to God. To pray more. To read their Bible more. We completely and totally ignore the fact that we are as much emotional beings as we are spiritual beings — and that causes deep-seated issues within us.

When you get a bunch of people together who are carrying around all this emotional baggage, it creates a tangled mess of unhealthiness.

Scazerro offers some principles for church leaders to work through their own emotional backgrounds, and for them to help shepherd their people through theirs as well.

One of my favorite sections of the book was where Scazzero talked about the Psalms in the Old Testament. Most of the psalms we have are lament psalms where David cries out to God and asks him things like why God has forsaken him and where God is and why God is abandoning him. Scazzero points out that the psalms are worship music — and then asks when the last time we sang anything like that in church was. We are so good at burying our negative emotions, doubts, and pain – and training others to do the same.

Understanding this forgotten (or maligned) piece of our humanity — a piece that was created in God’s image, too — has the potential to help people grow a lot closer to God’s heart and, as the subtitle suggests, truly change lives. Five stars from me for this essential read for church leaders.

Review: The Jesus Manifesto

This book uses a lot of words to say very little. But the little it does say is really good.

That’s the best way I can describe Jesus Manifesto.

The authors have a really great purpose in writing this book: to re-center the Church on Jesus and only Jesus as the path forward into the future. But this call loses something amidst all the rhetoric.

For example, Sweet and Viola say that we’ve got to stop following the morals of Jesus or the ethics of Jesus and just follow Jesus.

That sounds great, but what does it mean? Doesn’t following Jesus necessarily, eventually, mean pursuing his ethics or morals?

They say that we’ve got to stop working for justice and seeking justice issues and just seek Jesus.

Again, though, what does that mean?

There are some great sections toward the end of the book about the need to embrace mystery (probably my favorite part of the book), the need to follow Jesus in a close spiritual community of friends, and the need to lose prosperity gospel-like teachings of following Jesus for the blessings.

All in all, I am never going to bad talk a call for the Church to get rid of distractions and follow Jesus. That’s always a good thing. I just wish the authors would have been a little more clear in what their vision of that looked like.

Review: The Jesus Manifesto

This book uses a lot of words to say very little. But the little it does say is really good.

That’s the best way I can describe Jesus Manifesto.

The authors have a really great purpose in writing this book: to re-center the Church on Jesus and only Jesus as the path forward into the future. But this call loses something amidst all the rhetoric.

For example, Sweet and Viola say that we’ve got to stop following the morals of Jesus or the ethics of Jesus and just follow Jesus.

That sounds great, but what does it mean? Doesn’t following Jesus necessarily, eventually, mean pursuing his ethics or morals?

They say that we’ve got to stop working for justice and seeking justice issues and just seek Jesus.

Again, though, what does that mean?

There are some great sections toward the end of the book about the need to embrace mystery (probably my favorite part of the book), the need to follow Jesus in a close spiritual community of friends, and the need to lose prosperity gospel-like teachings of following Jesus for the blessings.

All in all, I am never going to bad talk a call for the Church to get rid of distractions and follow Jesus. That’s always a good thing. I just wish the authors would have been a little more clear in what their vision of that looked like.

Review: Why We’re Not Emergent

I read this book on the recommendation of an old friend who has serious misgivings about the emergent church movement. It’s an interesting debate that has unfortunately divided many in the Church.

If we set up a scale of 1-10 where 1 was conservative, fundamentalist church and 10 was emergent church, I’d say I was about a 7 before reading this book. Maybe an 8.

Reading this book confirmed that’s exactly where I want to be.

The authors make a couple good points throughout the book. My favorite chapter was probably the one on doctrine, which seemed to present some of the most honest critiques of the emergent movement.

Most of the other chapters, though, just stuck to all the usual talking points (including taking quotes from books and blogs out of context – sometimes wildly). For supposedly “researching” the emergent church, the authors seem to trot out the same old misunderstandings.

Sometimes it made me wonder if the authors actually read the books they quoted from – because I had read many of them, and I really don’t remember them being the pieces of heretical evil they were made out to be.

I think it would have benefited the authors (and their readers) had they interviewed (or contacted in any way) the writers and speakers they were writing against in this book. The emergent church movement isn’t perfect – just like the evangelical church movement – but it is incredibly valuable in the conversation of where and how the church progresses from here. I wish the authors of this book would recognize an ally in their quest to reach people for Jesus rather than a bogeyman to be fought against.

Review: Why We’re Not Emergent

I read this book on the recommendation of an old friend who has serious misgivings about the emergent church movement. It’s an interesting debate that has unfortunately divided many in the Church.

If we set up a scale of 1-10 where 1 was conservative, fundamentalist church and 10 was emergent church, I’d say I was about a 7 before reading this book. Maybe an 8.

Reading this book confirmed that’s exactly where I want to be.

The authors make a couple good points throughout the book. My favorite chapter was probably the one on doctrine, which seemed to present some of the most honest critiques of the emergent movement.

Most of the other chapters, though, just stuck to all the usual talking points (including taking quotes from books and blogs out of context – sometimes wildly). For supposedly “researching” the emergent church, the authors seem to trot out the same old misunderstandings.

Sometimes it made me wonder if the authors actually read the books they quoted from – because I had read many of them, and I really don’t remember them being the pieces of heretical evil they were made out to be.

I think it would have benefited the authors (and their readers) had they interviewed (or contacted in any way) the writers and speakers they were writing against in this book. The emergent church movement isn’t perfect – just like the evangelical church movement – but it is incredibly valuable in the conversation of where and how the church progresses from here. I wish the authors of this book would recognize an ally in their quest to reach people for Jesus rather than a bogeyman to be fought against.

Review: A New Kind of Christianity

Before I review this book, I have to share something with you so you’ll understand where I’m coming from. This is the fourth book by Brian McLaren that I have read. The first three – The Secret Message of Jesus, A New Kind of Christian, and A Generous Orthodoxy – were absolutely some of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. They are fantastic, though-provoking, challenging, and life-giving.

Which hopefully provides you some framework for my opinion of this book: it is simply awful.

This is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It is one of the worst books I’ve ever read and I would not recommend it to anyone. At all. I cannot think of a single useful, challenging, helpful, or inspiring thing I got from this book. I spent the entirety of my time reading it shaking my head in amazement and thinking, “What happened to Brian McLaren?” He completely went off the deep end while writing this book. (No comments necessary from those of you who thought he was already there.)

This book contains some of the absolute worst biblical interpretation I have ever come across. There are so many theological and Scriptural issues with this book that I cannot even begin to explain them all – this would be a 75 page blog post! But here’s just a taste of the heresies McLaren spouts in this book:

Apparently, in a new kind of Christianity, we find out that God never really ordered the death of people in the Old Testament; that was actually just the way the Hebrew people understood God to be, and by the time we get to the New Testament their thinking had evolved into a kinder, gentler version of God. Uh-huh. Yeah. In this new kind of Christianity, the creation story in Genesis was written to describe humankind’s ascent from hunter-gatherers into agriculturalists into city dwellers and so forth. Look, I don’t think Genesis 1-3 is literal either, but that’s a bridge too far even for me. In a new kind of Christianity, Jesus isn’t really coming back for us or to judge the world. That was all just pretty allegory to give hope to first century believers.

The real tragedy of this book, however, is that McLaren sets out to ask ten really important and good questions. But he’s not interested in dialog any longer. He sets out to answer them and, through use of phrases like “blatantly obvious” shows he’s got no room for other people’s opinions. I would encourage you to skim the table of contents and have some conversations with your friends about the questions; that is likely to be infinitely more fruitful than anything you find within the pages of this book.