Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jesus Manifesto

This book is fantastic.

Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Let's face it, Christianity in the U.S. is pathetic right now. It's pathetic because the real Christ is nowhere to be found. Church is depressing.

We make idols out of beliefs and morals and principles and teachings. We try to imitate Christ instead of following Christ. We intertwine Christianity and politics. We have strategies to get people into the building. We offer them frills and entertainment to stay. We have CEOs and business models. We are against time theft.

Our gospel is false gospel.

Sweet and Viola get this. The message of this book is that Jesus has been completely abandoned by those who claim his name. They get this message right. The main thrust of their argument is found, I believe, in this quote:

"Today, many Christians are inviting God into their stories. But God is inviting us into His. And that story is Jesus Christ."

Christ is the focal point. When the idols are torn down, we will be back to being the body of Christ, living and moving in him.

This book is a good start.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

are you catholic or something?

I'll say up front that I rate this one 4 out of 5.

Ken Wilson's new work, Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer is one of those works that is needed most by the people who feel they need it least. Growing up in a mainstream conservative evangelical SBC situation, I was taught, at least by example, that usually prayer should start with "Dear Heavenly Father" and end with "In Jesus name, Amen." That was the long and short of it. Occasionally I would hear someone talking about listening more than speaking when you pray, but I still got the feeling it needed to be in between that specific prelude and postlude set.

There is a place for doggedly persistent verbal prayer, I'm sure. But it's more than that. The title will put off many by its use of the word "mystically," but if that bothers you, cover it up with some tape or something. You need this book.

I remember well the lowest point of my life. I had been doing all the things I thought were right. I was doing the quiet time thing for five to seven minutes and I found myself praying a lot. But I still fell into a deep depression and, though it wasn't a direct result of the prayer I was doing, I began to feel a miring sense of frustration with prayer. The cliche that my prayers were "bouncing off the ceiling" became all too real.

I needed what Wilson talks about. Prayer is an instinct, not a chore.

His most helpful point was possibly the most basic. He says that "learning to sit quietly alone in a room makes a big difference in your praying."

What an important statement. I am convinced that most of us go through life without ever really finding ourselves in the moment. We're not really there. We're driving to work, we're running errands before our feet ever hit the ground in the morning. To experience real, powerful prayer, we need to be in the present moment where we can genuinely meet God.

I don't wish to defend Wilson at every point, but there is much valuable guidance one can take from this book. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

embracing last night's late show

Just need to let you know one thing. I'm a guy. But I care about issues that face all of humanity and I appreciate gaining from the perspective of a female voice speaking to these issues.

This is a good book for women (or really anyone) who has reached a place in their lives when they need to reassess where they're going and what they're doing. While most books of this nature are written by homemakers to other homemakers, many of whom have no life outside their husband and children, this book is written to anyone at this place in their lives.

I like that this is not some woman who ignored herself and her calling as a human being for twenty-plus years to watch her children grow up. (Not that every homemaker does - I know many who have had vital, connected lives while doing a fantastic job with their families.) This is a woman who has lived with drive and purpose, but enters a time of transition.

Generally, I appreciated the author's candor. There were times, though, where the author rambled on in an anecdotal kind of way a bit too long. For me, this got in the way a bit. I'm pretty sure the book could lose about 20% of its content and be just as good, but I expect this aspect of the book would resonate more with some people that it does with me.

Some of these stories are a bit strange and disconnected from many people's lives, though. Like the one where she talks about her friend, Sandra, who is wealthy enough to fly to Paris to pick out a year's wardrobe. The author tries to relate it to the discussion, which was a good one about idols, but the comparison between this woman and the general population does not hold true.

Thank you for allowing a male perspective in this conversation. This is not the greatest book, but it is worth reading for anyone who is at life's "halftime."