Review: “The Jesus Manifesto”

“So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person.” (xvi)

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola partnered to write the Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Sweet wants his readers to see Christ not as central to Christianity, but equal to Christianity. The book is written to combat a common Christian problem relayed in a simple story. Christians were touring Leningrad before the fall of the Berlin wall. The tour guide said, “You Christians have a great message, but we Communists will win the world. Christ means something to you. Communism means everything to us.”

I’d rate this book at five stars out of five if Sweet and Viola stuck just to that message. I’ve heard that every age tends to focus on one part of the Trinity. When you focus only on God the father, you end up emphasizing God’s justice and ending up at legalism. If you focus only on Jesus, you tend to end up at the opposite extreme of antinomianism. If you focus on the Spirit alone, you end up…Pentecostal?

Sweet and Viola do well to remind us to re-focus on Christ. We need to hear that call! At the same time, the book would have been more helpful if it had shown us how to do that without the neglect of the rest of the godhead. With that in mind, I give it 4 stars out of 5. It’s a good, quick read that is thought-provoking and should lead you into deeper study and thought about Jesus.

(Oh yeah — I reviewed this through BookSneeze. They gave me a free copy to review — but they don’t get angry if I don’t like their conclusions…)

Review: Take up the Shield by Tony Miano

I purchased this book as a graduation gift for a young man in our congregation who is hoping to begin the police academy soon. Miano writes as both a lawman and a chaplain, wearing two hats in his life’s work.

Miano entered the academy as a nominal Christian. His faith was surface-level, at best. It didn’t take long until someone taught him more about Jesus and everything began to change.

The book parallels the uniform of a peace officer and the armor of Christ in Ephesians 6. It is filled with scripture and anecdotes about those tools and is an easy read. The ideal reader would be any young person interested in law enforcement. Miano keeps his head on straight and is a straight shooter. You’ll enjoy this work.

Luther’s Qualities of a Preacher

In the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther taught passionately the importance of study. In contrast to the Catholic teachings of his day, he emphasized pulpit over altar, preaching over communion. (For good or ill, the pendulum now swings back!)

Luther gave nine “properties and virtues” of a good preacher. What say ye about them?

  1. Teach systematically
  2. Have a ready wit
  3. Be eloquent
  4. Have a good voice
  5. Have a good memory
  6. He should know when to make an end
  7. He should be sure of his doctrine
  8. He should venture and engage body and blood, wealth and honour, in the word.
  9. He should suffer himself to be mocked and jeered of everyone.

Luther’s Table-Talk: ‘Of preachers and preaching’ quoted in Stott’s Between Two Worlds

Book Review: Captivating

Captivating (Revised and Expanded Edition) by John and Stasi Eldridge

The subtitle says it all when it comes to this book’s goal: "Unveiling the mystery of a woman’s soul." The book didn’t so much unveil as it did remind. It would be the understatement of the century to say that men and women are different. (Remember Mars and Venus?) Man’s typical understanding of woman is the source of many a comedian’s jokes, but more significantly it’s the root of many of our world’s problems.

John and Stasi remind us men that women think, feel, and process differently. Being cherished isn’t a desire that’s on the top of my radar screen, but the Eldridges remind me that a woman want to be cherished. Remember dress up games and fairy tale endings? Life in the real world hasn’t crushed that innate feminine instinct.

Here’s a great quote that sums up a lot of the authors’ intent: "If we could read the secret histories of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostilities."

The book is a great conversation starter. It would be healthy for couples to read this alongside "Wild at Heart" to deepen our understanding of each other. The book is likely guilty of sweeping generalizations at times, but these don’t weaken the spirit of the book. Bottom line: it’s worth the read. Not earth shattering, but if it leads to more open communication between men and women, it could be life changing.

(Disclosure: I received a free reviewer’s copy of the book from BookSneeze.com. I’m allowed to review however I want…I don’t get fired for hating a book!)

Review: Same Kind of Different

Several weeks ago, James and Harriett drove to Nebraska for a funeral. The Nebraska-Tennessee isn’t just a hop down the interstate, so of course they brought reading material.

Harriett came back from their trip without a voice—because she was so engrossed in the book, that she read it aloud to James. That was endorsement enough for me!

The chapters alternate, telling the story of two different lives. What could a loaded art dealer have in common with a homeless sharecropper? Everything and nothing.

The story read quickly and well. It is an emotional telling of two men seeking God from different places and having different struggles. It will challenge your thoughts about service, wealth, relationships, and the homeless.

Just watch out, guys. You might, um…end up with something in your eye near the end…