Archives For Book Reviews

Jesus Manifesto

andyallen —  October 12, 2010 — Leave a comment

Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola*

I was raised in church and the Christian faith.  I’ve spent most of my adult life and career in Christian ministry and service.  Many times I’ve shared from the stage that I believe we complicate our faith when we debate and argue over minor points of doctrine.  While theology and doctrine have their place, for me, it always comes back to this, “Jesus loves me.  This I know!”  Because of this, I was very intrigued by this book.

In Jesus Manifesto, the authors explore the possibility that the church today has lost sight of the fact that Jesus is the core of our beliefs and faith.  There are many detracting elements that we (people in the church) have allowed to become our central focus and sometimes basis of belief, when it’s Jesus we need to put our hearts and minds and assurance on.

While I was very interested in a lot of what the authors had to say, I was often lost a little in the lengthy attempts they went to in making their point.  I also felt like some of the language tended to be somewhat ‘churchy’ and a bit ‘lofty’ as if written by theologians for theologians.  I think the message of this book is solid enough to reach people outside of seminary theology departments and could have been written a bit more accessible for the masses.  However, having read books by both of these authors in the past, it’s not out of character for them to write in this fashion.

I really appreciated the heart of the message in this book.  I agree that Jesus is absolutely at the center of our theology, our belief, our faith.  I was challenged to continue looking to Jesus first and then figuring the other stuff out along the way.

Although there are some dry patches in the journey of this read, I felt like it was a thought provoking book.  If you’re looking at some of the ‘why’s’ in how we do things in churches or in our faith, this book could be a resource to help bring you back to center and help keep your heart and mind on what’s true and important…Jesus!

Publishers Info:

Christians have made the gospel about so many things…things other than Christ.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology and not a philosophy. Christianity is the Good News that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a Person. And conversion? It’s more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection.

It is with these issues that the authors feel a massive disconnect in today’s church. Their response? This manifesto emphasizing ten crucial areas of restoring the supremacy of Jesus Christ, noting

Christians don’t follow Christianity; they follow Christ Christians don’t proclaim themselves; they proclaim Christ Christians don’t point people to core values; they point people to the Cross Christians don’t preach about Christ; they preach Christ What is presented is razor-sharp, cut-glass clarity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has never been more valuable or more needed.

*I was given this book to review by The opinions in this review are mine alone and are not the opinions of the publisher.

Crazy Love

Andy Allen —  May 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

I first saw Francis Chan speak a couple years back at a conference in Northern California.  I was completely taken by his ability to be honest, transparent and vulnerable while presenting a message with depth and substance.  Since then I’ve seen a few video blogs, heard a podcast and read a few articles of his online and really enjoyed his consistent authenticity.

This book definitely had it’s engaging and sleepy moments for me, but I really feel the overall message is brought home with a challenge to leave the safe and expected for the risky and crazy journey of faith and love we should be on as followers of Jesus.  His writing style feels consistent with the conversational and relational way he speaks and conveys his message in a live setting.  One fun thing he did with this book was to have video chapter introductions on the book website.  Definitely a cool way to connect with who the author is and get a more personal sense of his heart.

One thing I appreciate here was Chan’s willingness to embrace a bit of controversy in some bold statements throughout the book.  There may be people who will fully dismiss his message because of one or two sentences in this book, but I believe that would shortchange the reader from some great challenges and insights throughout this read.

Crazy Love ultimately prods the reader to evaluate if we’ve chosen the safe and comfortable American dream in place of the radical call to actually love people the way Jesus did.  Are we willing to sell what we have, give away our stuff, love the poor, serve with our time, let go of our money and hang out with our enemies?  To live and love like Jesus…it will radically change us and wreck the security we’ve been told is what’s important.  It’s not a condemning message…convicting, yes…but kind of a reality check to look inside and see where our personal treasure is.

Well done Francis.

::: Have You Read This Book?  Post Your Thoughts? :::

Publisher’s Info:

God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it? It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response?

We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not…we all know somethings wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions?

God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts—it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.


Andy Allen —  April 27, 2010 — 1 Comment

This book took a while for me to get through because I wanted to kind of sit with the info presented and absorb it into my thinking and understanding.  I’m a guy who was raised in the Christian faith and has been part of a church from my earliest memories.  I’ve wrestled time and again with living in an isolated Christian sub-culture that is very disconnected to the ‘real’ world.  I’ve been guilty of being many of the stereotypes detailed in this book.  It’s been a process for me to try and get away from goofy thinking and unrealistic perceptions of what my life looks like and how I actually connect with the world around me.

I was impressed with the way the author’s were able to present research based information and extrapolate the message into an accessible discussion. A conversation looking at the actual perceptions people have of Christianity in America.  The heart of the message here is absolutely convicting, while hopeful.  Many people (while calling themselves Christians) haven’t done any favors to the ‘brand’ or perception of what Christianity actually represents.  The book suggests that if we begin to live like Christ and genuinely love people who don’t exclusively reside inside the Christian culture, we can change the negative image some people have.

I think that God followers who are really interested in loving people the way Jesus modeled for us should give this book a read.  It could also be good for people who are steeped in the Christian sub-culture; helping us get an accurate sense of how people on the outside of our faith really perceive us and how we might consider changing the way we view them and the lives they lead.

I’m busy evaluating and changing many of the ways I was taught to judge and keep myself separated from “the world.”  I’m hopeful that I can genuinely love people for who they are…even within and through our differences.

Publisher’s Info:

The New Testament writer Paul told the first-century Christians: “You yourselves are our letter . . . known and read by everybody.”

When a person “reads” your life, what does it say? What does your faith look like to outsiders?

A major new research project, unveiled for the first time in this book, describes the increasingly negative reputation of Christians, especially among young Americans.

The research shows that Christians are best known for what they are against. They are perceived as being judgmental, antihomosexual, and too political. And young people are quick to point out they believe that Christianity is no longer as Jesus intended. It is unChristian.

It shouldn’t be this way.

What Christians believe may not be popular, but Paul also advised the first believers to “live wisely among those who are not Christians” and to “let your conversation be gracious and effective.”

In this eye-opening book, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons–along with more than two dozen leading voices within Christianity–unpack the major criticisms leveled against Christians. Understand why those negative images exist and how you can best represent Jesus to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Your life is an open book. Is it unChristian?

Although I can’t remember who, there was someone who had mentioned this book to me a while back.  I recently picked it up as a diversion from some of the other types of books I’m currently reading.  Great decision!

The book is a sort of memoir written from the first person perspective of two men.  Broken up into short chapters recounting the journey of their lives and eventual friendship, I was quickly drawn into their individual stories.  I really enjoyed the writing style as it seemed to genuinely reflect the stark differences between these two guys.  Making it all the more powerful for me was the fact that this is a work of non-fiction.

The essence of the story is one of friendship, faith and belief in the value of people.  You couldn’t have selected more unlikely characters to find their way into each others lives.  A successful white businessman and a homeless, uneducated black man from the plantations of the South and an era that seems as if it should have been at least 100 years ago.  Destiny reached into their worlds and changed them both forever.

There were several moments in the book that moved me deeply.  Some of the profound observations grabbed me and may never release my soul from the truth within them.  Reading their story has reminded me of how comfortable I’ve chosen to live and challenged me to look again at what I am and am not doing to love everyone in my path.

An easy read and an easy recommendation.  Give this book a go…you won’t be disappointed.

Publisher’s Info:

A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery.

An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel.

A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream.

A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it.

It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana . . . and an East Texas honky-tonk . . . and, without a doubt, in the heart of God. It unfolds in a Hollywood hacienda . . . an upscale New York gallery . . . a downtown dumpster . . . a Texas ranch.

Gritty with pain and betrayal and brutality, this true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.

You Better Not Cry

Andy Allen —  January 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

My kids gave me this book for Christmas.  I’m pretty sure they got it on the merits of the cover alone, but my wife knew I’ve enjoyed the author so she signed off on it.  This is the third Augusten Burroughs book I’ve read.  While we don’t share moral or faith perspectives, I have have a strong appreciation for his talent as a writer.

This book is a collection of anecdotes from the author’s life, each having some connection with Christmas.  There were definitely some laugh-out-loud moments, along side of some well-crafted thought-provoking observations on his life and relationships.  I was particularly taken by his experience with the homeless woman who challenged him to not waste his talent and loose himself to his addictions.  His honesty in his failures was refreshing.

Burroughs has a conversational and engaging writing style that I really enjoy.  His approach and world view may be difficult for some of those who read this blog to connect with because he is blunt about his lifestyle and occasionally uses profanity.  Overall this was an enjoyable read and a fun departure from the other books I’m currently reading through.

Publishers Info:

You’ve eaten too much candy at Christmas…but have you ever eaten the face off a six-footstuffed Santa? You’ve seen gingerbread houses…but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You’ve woken up with a hangover…but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself? Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present—as only he could. With gimleteyed wit and illuminated prose, Augusten shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.